The Nelson Institute's Center for Culture, History, and Environment (CHE) draws together faculty, staff, graduate students, and others from a wide array of disciplines in the humanities, social sciences, and natural sciences to investigate environmental and cultural change in the full sweep of human history.

Latest News

Finding the Words: Erstwhile Blog editor Julia Frankenbach reflects on the CHE Symposium weekend

CU-Boulder graduate student and Erstwhile blog editor Julia Frankenbach was one of the many attendees at the March 4-6, 2016 CHE Graduate Symposium "E is for Environment: New Vocabularies for the Past, Present, and Future." In addition to describing the rich set of topics discussed at weekend paper workshops, panel presentations, and keynote from Dr. Kate Brown of University of Maryland-Baltimore County, Frankenbach remarks that the weekend was "a humbling place to be, think, and rejuvenate." But what new questions can one think on when, as Frankenbach aptly observes, environment's "capaciousness" as a term tends towards abstraction? Read more of her reflections and takeaways from the weekend in the article she has authored for Erstwhile.

Grads, faculty gather at UW to celebrate Gaylord Nelson's centennial at the 9th Annual CHE Graduate Symposium

Graduate students and faculty representing 13 different institutions from the US and Canada gathered in Madison for a rich weekend of conversation, debate, and service learning in celebration of Gaylord Nelson's centennial. The group, participants in the CHE Graduate Symposium, worked towards building a "new vocabulary" for the environment, a theme created by conference co-organizers and CHE associates Brian Hamilton and Kate Wersan.

Want to learn more?

Read an interview with Symposium participant Dr. Scott Kirsch. 

Peruse the full Symposium schedule and list of participants.

Read an interview with Symposium organizers Brian Hamilton and Kate Wersan.


Thanks to our many conference participants for joining us, and congratulations to the many CHE volunteers involved in hosting the event! 

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Upcoming Events

Madison Graduate Conference in English Language and Literature
Friday, February 17, 4:00 PM, Union South
CHE is pleased to co-sponsor this year's Madison Graduate Conference in English Language and Literature. The conference revolves around the theme "(Re)Vision: Past, Present, Future,” and will involve a keynote address "Invention and Critique: The Trouble of Historical Fiction” by Dr. Bruce Holsinger (English, University of Virginia) on Friday evening, followed on Saturday by conference panels and a plenary talk from CHE Graduate Associate Sarah Dimick, "Visualizing the Great Acceleration Through Time-Lapse: James Balog’s Extreme Ice Survey.” This event is co-sponsored by Associated Students of Madison, the Wisconsin Experience Grant, Medieval Studies, the Department of English. This event is free and open to the public. Please see the conference program for the schedule of speakers and additional information.

William deBuys on "Not Shutting Down: Staying Engaged in an Era of Environmental Loss"
Wednesday, April 5, 12:00 PM, Helen C. White, 7191
Terra Incognita Art Series Event
Can the beauty of Earth re-inspire us even in the most trying times? Environmental historians (and journalists) face the challenge of telling stories that are true (and therefore too often lack happy endings) and yet do not cause our audiences to go numb and stop listening. After writing recent books on climate change and extinction, William deBuys will speak about his efforts to grapple with these dilemmas and share his (admittedly provisional) answers. deBuys is the author of eight books including The Last Unicorn: A Search for One of Earth’s Rarest Creatures (listed by the Christian Science Monitor as one of the ten best non-fiction books of 2015), A Great Aridness: Climate Change and the Future of the American West (2011), The Walk (2008), Seeing Things Whole: The Essential John Wesley Powell (2001), Salt Dreams (1999), River of Traps (a 1991 Pulitzer finalist,) and Enchantment and Exploitation (1985). Please join us for a talk and conversation aimed at thinking through these topics together.

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