Nelson Ambassadors

Each year Nelson Institute undergraduate students elect students from the undergraduate program to represent their interests and plan events. Elections for the following academic year are held each spring. If you are interested in being involved or, have questions please contact the ambassadors:

kai brito
Kai Brito
The complex interactions between land, air, sea, and people are what make nature so interesting. That's why I take an interdisciplinary approach to my study of the environment, integrating science, technology, and media to make new discoveries of the natural world. My goal is to craft an environmental narrative, incorporating elements of scientific understanding and naturalism to advocate for the Earth.

brittany cobb
Brittany Cobb
I became interested in the environment at a young age, I was always outside and was very curious about nature. After I graduated high school I joined the U.S. Coast Guard Reserves and one of our crucial roles is protecting the marine environment. From the Coast Guard, I have been exposed to the importance of our natural resources and the strong relationship we have with our environment. This was the start to my interest in environment studies. I remember the exact moment in a class for my global health certificate when we began talking about environmental justice that I knew this was going to be a part of my studies and future. This was the semester I applied for the Nelson Institute Community and Environmental Scholars Program and declared my double major in environmental studies.

chandler clayton
Chandler Clayton
Growing up I spent the majority of my days exploring the woods behind my house. The more I explored, the more curious I got about the inner workings of the woods and the changes being made to them. The Nelson Institute has allowed me to discover answers to my questions and discuss important issues regarding the environment with friendly, knowledgeable peers and staff. This has enabled me to grow my love for the world around me, while uncovering truths about the natural world. I am so grateful for everything the Nelson Institute has offered, as it allows me to travel and see the world with new perspective.

mackenzie hess
Mackenzie Hess
I developed an interest for environmental studies during my senior year of high school when I took my first environmental studies class. Once I started at UW-Madison, I was able to dive right into the Nelson Institute by taking an Environmental-themed FIG. The FIG was a truly amazing experience, from having the seminar taught by Director Paul Robbins to looking at environmental studies with an interdisciplinary approach, I was able to discover my passion for environmental history. In addition to Nelson Ambassadors, I am the president of Lean In @ UW, which is an organization that is focused on helping women achieve their professional and personal goals and dreams. I hope to start my career in Environmental Education and eventually work for an environmental NGO after attending graduate school. My advice for future Nelson Ambassadors would be to attend as many events as possible and use the events to get to know your fellow Ambassadors, environmental students, and Nelson faculty.

spencer jastrow
Spencer Jastrow
Family road trips and summer camping trips along with several dedicated environmental educators spurred my passion for the outdoors and environmental studies. My time with the Nelson Institute has expanded my concept of the environment to encompass far more than wildlife and protected areas, and I've had the opportunity to use my interdisciplinary classroom knowledge to work on issues like food access in South Madison, acid mine drainage in Appalachia, and solid waste management on campus. I am a House Fellow in the GreenHouse Learning Community in Leopold Residence Hall, a member of the BRIDGE program through International Student Services, and on the editorial board for Sifting and Winnowing: The Wisconsin Undergraduate Journal of Law, Political Science and Public Policy. My advice for Nelson students and future ambassadors is to challenge yourself to learn and work outside your comfort zone, travel, and grow your understanding of the connections in the world.

kyla kaplan
Kyla Kaplan
I became interested in the Nelson Institute before coming to UW-Madison because of my passion for environmental activism. The Nelson Institute and the environmental studies major has allowed me to expand my knowledge about the intersection between the environment and politics which has made journalism a great double major. Outside of school I have been involved with the Associated Students of Madison (ASM) student government, the Student Sustainability Council, Badger Volunteers and other fun activities around campus and the Madison area. After undergrad, I am planning on going to law school and focusing on environmental law and policy. I ultimately want to work on national and international environmental justice issues. I advise anyone who is passionate about the environment to get involved with the Nelson Institute, you will not regret it!

rita kawak
Rita Kawak
My interest for the environment arose through my relationship with the Middle East. Through my visits to my family in Syria, I have seen the the global consequences when environmental initiative is not widespread, fast-moving, or central in everything we do and this has inspired my future career goals. I have become involved in this field through many different ways. I am an intern at the Office of Sustainability where I currently work on waste, recycling, and composting trainings and presentations. I also work at the Nelson Institute as a student worker who spreads environmental opportunities and information to other like-minded students. I also work at the nonprofit "Defy Inertia" where I chair a subcommittee called "Human" that focuses on social and environmental education to the Madison community. In my future, I hope to work with remediation of harmful environments. Recently, I have developed an interest in health and I hope to further my studies so that I can work professional as an environmental health specialist/scientist. The advice I have to future Nelson Ambassadors is to get involved. Everyone at the Nelson Institute is extremely interesting, friendly, and easy to talk to. Making connections with fellow students and faculty has made the Nelson Institute a home to me where I know I'll see many familiar faces every day.

mackenzie marcus
Mackenzie Marcus
My love for all things that grow began my freshman year of college where I worked on a non-profit Urban Farm with a community based mission. I am always my happiest when I am outside, and as a result, I declared my major in Life Sciences Communication and Environmental Studies. My Environmental Studies courses broaden my thinking about greater global environmental issues and inspire new ways of thinking about our natural world. I want to use my degrees to develop more sustainable farming practices and to provide greater food security, while creating a positive impact in biodiversity. My advice for a future Nelson Ambassador would be to travel and enjoy many natural environments because it deepens your passion and appreciation for Mother Earth.

elena mederas
Elena Mederas
I grew up as a mud-covered, nature-loving child of the woods, and though this gave me exposure to the natural world at an early age, I think what really drew me to environmental studies and eventually the Nelson Institute was early American literature. Ranging from detached descriptions of the natural world as a reserve of resources to passionate accounts of nature as a space of spiritual awakening, reading a variety of perspectives on the natural world revealed to me that what we perceive as 'nature' is continually changing and is influenced by historical and cultural factors. The Nelson institute explores these far-ranging perspectives of the environment and the relationship between people and the natural world, and as a part of the environmental studies program I can continue to read fascinating books and articles from disciplines that vary from economics to philosophy to biology to explore the many ways we conceptualize our environments. I really respect the Nelson Institute's all-encompassing, interdisciplinary approach to understanding the environment and am proud to be a part of it.

Elisse Pavletich
Elisse Pavletich
I'm a senior studying double majoring in Environmental Studies and Coummunity & Environmental Sociology. I switched majors my sophomore year in college and have been SO HAPPY WITH MY NEW MAJOR! I didn't realize how much I loved the earth and that some of my favorite memories and places were spent outside. This past summer I was in intern at Vitruvian Farms- an organic sustainable farm in McFarland, WI. Working outside all summer planting, weeding, watering, and growing vegetables was fun, educational, and rewarding. This sparked my interest in sustainable agriculture and I hope to work in this field after graduation! Other things about me: I work for Young Life in Madison with middle school children and I love dogs more than anything.

margaret radl
Margaret Radl
It is hard to not be connected to the environment growing up in such a beautiful state like Wisconsin. The pond near my home was where I spent my summers catching frogs, my backyard was where my father and I tried to see who could capture the most fireflies, and my cabin up north is where my cousins and I fished on the end of the pier. I always realized that I loved nature but it was not until I took AP environmental studies in high school that I learned how to appreciate it. I was only fishing for another AP credit to help me start college off right but taking that class shaped my future and lead me down the path to environmental studies and connected me with the fantastic Nelson Institute and I will be forever thankful for it. In the future I will hopefully be working for an international environmental organization where I can also utilize my Chinese major. Advice for future Nelson Ambassadors (and everyone!) is to never stop fighting for what's right.

amelia rossa
Amelia Rossa
My interest in the environment is rooted in my belief that our natural surroundings are essential to humanity and our interactions with nature will determine our success as a society and as stewards of this planet. The Nelson Institute has been and continues to be an informative, creative, and social space for me throughout my years as an undergraduate at UW Madison. Outside of being a Nelson Ambassador I am currently completing a Wisconsin Idea Fund project on water quality in disaster relief zones on the coast of Ecuador and enjoy playing ultimate Frisbee on the UW Madison women’s club team. I am planning on getting my master’s degree in coastal land management and working in that field either nationally or internationally.

jonathan vannucci
Jonathan Vannucci
Jonny is currently a junior at the University of Wisconsin-Madison studying Environmental Studies and Geography. He intends on completing his undergraduate degree in May 2018 and then continuing higher education in public policy. Jonny also works with the Associated Students of Madison as the Sustainability Chair, where he works on campaigns to promote a more sustainable community in Madison. Jonny has just spent this past summer working for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service at National Wildlife refuges on the East Coast, and hopes to continue working to protect the environment and wildlife in the future.

sara waters
Sara Waters
My name is Sara Waters. A little bit about me, I like spending time outside, on a bike, on my feet, whatever way I can make it happen. I'm all about exploring new recipes (takes a little more digging now since I am a vegan) and I enjoy company, lovely tunes, and learning about what is out there in the world. Currently, I am a senior studying Environmental Studies and Latin American and Iberian Studies with the hopes of a certificate in Gender and Women's studies. I am hoping to see you around the Nelson Institute and/or cool places on campus.

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