Current CESP Students

Views expressed here are those of the students and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Nelson Institute or UW-Madison.

photo of Luis Abreu-Socorro

Luis Abreu-Socorro

What are your majors? Wildlife Ecology

Expected graduation: May 2022

What inspired your interest in the environment and/or community? Ever since I was a kid, I’ve always had a passion for marine animals and their environments. I used to live in Florida when I was younger and went to many aquariums with my family. The first marine animal that I ever saw was the Killer Whale and soon enough it became my favorite animal. Growing up, I knew that I wanted to work with these animals, but I didn’t know how I would. Eventually, I realized that the best way to pursue my passion of working with these animals is to pursue a career in environmental conservation. With this, my plan is to finish my undergraduate career and attend graduate school for a marine biology/ecology related field.


photo of Emiliana Almanza Lopez

Emiliana Almanza Lopez

What are your majors? Majoring in Environmental Sciences and Sociology. Certificates in Chican@/Latin@ Studies and Environmental Studies

Expected graduation: May 2020

What inspired your interest in the environment and/or community? My interest in the environment stems from my Mexica upbringing, where I was taught to respect and love the world around me as it too is alive. This has translated into my passion for environmental justice, and my future career path of environmental and civil rights law. CESP is the birthplace of my environmental justice education workshops, and has continuously been where I have grown that curriculum. It has been a community of environmentalists that challenge the traditional idea of what that word means. I have met mentors and friends here and am always challenged to be the best version of myself, knowing I have people supporting me along that journey.

Something few people know about you: Something few people know about me is that I was featured on season 2 of PBS’s show SciGirls, and for about 6 months was on Netflix!


photo of Mariah Antigone

Mariah Antigone

What are your majors? Nursing and Environmental Studies

Expected graduation: May 2021

What inspired your interest in the environment and/or community? As a young paramedic, I worked in the Driftless Region of Wisconsin; in the Mississippi River Valley. It was here that I fell in love with the deep beauty of the earth and realized that our survival as a human species, both literally and figuratively, is dependent on our relationship to nature. Humanity does not exist in a vacuum, and the way we choose to build community (or fail to build community) determines our health outcomes. Working in emergency medicine taught me about the injustice that many of our community members face. Healthcare in America is rife with injustice and inequality, and I became troubled by the pain I saw each day. I obtained my nursing degree in order to work in health promotion, as I hoped to make more of a difference in this arena. Working as a nurse in a rural hospital solidified my belief that our healthcare system frequently fails the most vulnerable. I chose to go back to school full-time at 29 years old in order to become a better nurse, a better advocate, and a better human. Combining my BSN with a major in Environmental Studies will provide me with more knowledge of how to assist my patients live their most healthful and happy lives.

Something few people know about you: Something about myself that few people know is that I have an actual fear of mushrooms. I’m convinced that certain members of the fungal kingdom are close to sentient! Ask any mycologist and they’ll agree with me!


photo of Addison Arndt

Addison Arndt

What are your majors? Agricultural Business Management with certificates in Sustainability & Religious Studies

Expected graduation: May 2020

What inspired your interest in the environment and/or community? Growing up on a farm in the rolling hills of southwestern Wisconsin, I was taught to love the land that helped us make our living. My parents instilled the ideals of being a good steward to the earth around us and appreciating the divine beauty of nature. I spent much of my childhood out in the garden and fell in love with the process of growth and the intricacies of the living world around me. I continued to learn more and began participating heavily in FFA in high school where I found my calling in agricultural sustainability. Living outside of a town of 500 people, the importance of community was in all that we did. The neighbor helping neighbor mentality was of the utmost importance. We thrived together and lifted each other up as uniquely contributing individuals. This support system enabled me to give my all in everything I did and achieve more than I could have ever hoped to alone. Both the community and environment have each been integral pieces in making me who I am today.

What would you say (or do you say) to other students about CESP and the Nelson Institute? The CESP program has allowed me the chance of a lifetime to use the theme of sustainability to connect my passions for agriculture, religion, and the community. The diversity in majors and topics throughout CESP have led to learning unlike any other course here on campus. I find the program to be one of the most valuable in which I have participated throughout college.

Something few people know about you: I hope to one day become an ordained pastor in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.


photo of Cristina Bahaveolos

Cristina Bahaveolos

What are your majors? Chemistry with a Certificate in Environmental Studies

Expected graduation: May 2021

What inspired your interest in the environment and/or community? I grew up in a small town in Wisconsin where words like “sustainability” and “global warming” were not part of my daily vocabulary. When I came to UW-Madison, I learned how immediate the issue of Climate Change was and knew I needed to be a part of the solution. My passion for Climate Change mitigation lead me to the field of Atmospheric Chemistry, where I am currently researching how ocean composition (and how humans alter it) affects the type of aerosols the ocean emits into the atmosphere. My childhood experiences made me realize how important communities are in the education and values of the individuals who grow up in them. The more we can mobilize communities to care about Climate Change and implement mitigation tactics, the closer we will be to achieving a healthy and sustainable planet for everyone.

What would you say (or do you say) to other students about CESP and the Nelson Institute? If you are passionate about the environment, the Nelson Institute is an amazing place to develop the skills and network needed to have the impact you want. If your passion for the environment is intersected with a social commitment to your community, CESP is an incredibly nurturing and supportive environment that gives you the resources to start helping your community now, as well as the development opportunities to really grow as an agent of positive change.

Something few people know about you: I am a published poet!

Something else about you? I love to cook and am really interested in how to consume more sustainably in a way that both reduces cost and improves the health of the individuals partaking in the behavior.


photo of Sam Barendregt

Sam Barendregt

What are your majors? Environmental Science

Expected graduation: May 2020

What inspired your interest in the environment and/or community? My interest in the Environment stems from a life spent in nature. From hiking in National Parks to fishing in Wisconsin streams and rivers some of my favorite memories have been made while outdoors. I have used this as the motivation for choosing to major in Environmental Science and hope to use the knowledge gained to better protect our environment for future generations.

What would you say (or do you say) to other students about CESP and the Nelson Institute? CESP has been a great path for better involvement in the Nelson Institute community! I have gained valuable friendships and connections from the seminar program, while feeling like a valued member of a UW community.

Something few people know about you: Few people know that I have a twin brother who is also a student here at UW.

Something else about you? I was able to find my current job working for an environmentally focused, Madison area non-profit because of a CESP connection.


photo of MaryBeth Barker

MaryBeth Barker

What are your majors? Sociology, certificate in American Indian studies

Expected graduation: December 2021

What inspired your interest in the environment and/or community? I remember when I was a kid my mom read The Lorax to me and I started getting really worried about the rainforests being cut down. I spent a lot of time outside, mostly daydreaming and rollerblading, and I didn’t want loggers in the rainforest to ruin that. Since then, I have spent a lot of time camping and hiking, and instead of being a worried kid, I am trying to make all the efforts I can through my career to keep the environment healthy and sustainable. I chose sociology as my other major because I feel that the answer to the climate crisis lies in people and the community, since we are the ones who can make change together.


photo of Briana Bateman

Briana Bateman

What are your majors? Community and Environmental Sociology, Environmental Studies with a certificate in Food Systems and plan on adding an additional major in Geography

Expected graduation: May 2021

What inspired your interest in the environment and/or community? I cannot pinpoint one specific moment that I became interested in the environment and community as a whole, I believe that I came out of the womb with a special regard for the environment. When I was in first grade, I was asked to write a report on the subject of what I would do if I were president. I wrote simply that I would force half of the people in the United States to leave so that we could make “more room for nature”. While my plans may have been a little misguided, this is the first documentation of my commitment to the preservation of the natural world. My commitment to the community came later in my life when I realized the importance of togetherness and my passion for tearing down the artificially constructed walls that divide people. In order to solve the most important issues that we face as human beings, we must find a way to work together.

What would you say (or do you say) to other students about CESP and the Nelson Institute? There are few programs that better demonstrate the benefits of community based learning than CESP. In just one semester, I have begun to feel like CESP is more like a family to me than just a one credit course. As I have grown closer to my team members, learning more about them with each meeting, I feel I have a team beyond the classroom walls to assist me in my efforts to better the community. Additionally, the immersive, collaborative learning environment has equipped me with the confidence and knowledge to feel like I can grow to be a leader in movements of environmental progress.

Something few people know about you: When I was young, my nickname was the “garbager” because I would always find trash that I thought was treasure and would turn into art because I felt that throwing anything that is not completely disgusting away should be a crime because even old bottlecaps can be repurposed if you are creative.


photo of Jessica Bedtka

Jessica Bedtka

What are your majors? Geography (people-environment) and Political Science double major, with certificates in Environmental Studies and Food Systems

Expected graduation: May 2020

What inspired your interest in the environment and/or community? Many of my most cherished memories from my childhood revolve around camping, picking berries in the woods, and exploring the creek near my childhood home within the Driftless area. These experiences along with my deep interest in philosophy inspired me to study political science and geography when I came to UW-Madison. After a spontaneous decision to spend a fall semester backpacking and kayaking while learning about people/land relations in Montana, through the Wild Rockies Field Institute, I developed an interest in sustainable development and the political ecology surrounding food systems. Since then, I have had the opportunity to learn first-hand about direct community action from opportunities including taking part in youth driven conservation efforts across Wisconsin, foraging medicinal plants with resilient indigenous leaders, and farming veggies in the green mountains of Vermont for a farm-to-hospital program. Through these experiences and my studies, I have seen the power of people and am inspired by the amount of compassion people hold for one another as well as the environment.


photo of Auttum Bowen

Auttum Bowen

What are your majors? English and Environmental Studies

Expected graduation: May 2021

What inspired your interest in the environment and/or community? My high school environmental studies class inspired my interest in the environment. I had never taken a class like it before and it taught me a lot about the world and what is going on in the world that I didn’t know before. I enjoyed learning about the issues of today’s world and how people are trying to solve them.

What would you say (or do you say) to other students about CESP and the Nelson Institute? CESP is made of a friendly, diverse group of people both in background and interest but we all come together with the common interests in the environment and community. CESP gives you a great opportunity to learn about and get involved in new things while also giving you the opportunity to express your creativity and have fun through class projects that allow you to connect with other CESPers and the community.

Something few people know about you: I really enjoy cleaning. As a child I would ask for cleaning supplies as my Christmas gifts and I wanted to be a maid when I grew up.


photo of Breana Collins

Breana Collins

What are your majors? Environmental Science and Environmental Studies with certificates in Engineering in Energy Sustainability and Afro-American Studies

Expected graduation: May 2020

What inspired your interest in the environment and/or community? I was part of a program called Chapter 220 program. The program was a voluntary integration program. But I took part of the lottery program due to the lack of quality education around my neighborhood. Through this program, I was able to attend school in a nearby suburban school. I saw many inequalities and inequity in education, housing, and environment between the two communities-Brookfield and Milwaukee. I have interned at the City of Madison doing Neighborhood Planning, RENEW Wisconsin working with renewable energy, REAP Food Group working on food equity. Through these experiences, I saw methods to address inequities.

What would you say (or do you say) to other students about CESP and the Nelson Institute? CESP and Nelson Institute are locations to have difficult conversations on things like addressing inequities in our environments and meet great people who are doing the work to accomplish creating a better environment for the future.

Something else about you? When I am not at CESP or the Nelson Institute, catch me eating cheese curds or ice cream even though I am lactose intolerant.


photo of Lorenzo Contreras

Lorenzo Contreras

What are your majors? Environmental Science, certificates in Environmental Studies and Chican@ Latin@ Studies

Expected graduation: May 2021

What inspired your interest in the environment and/or community? Within communities I’ve spent time in, including my own, it’s been rare to find a person (much less a group of people) that realize the importance behind our ecosystems and the role they play for our society. Being able to see this connections is necessary in order to be able to appreciate nature and everything it provides for us along with all other living organisms. I grew up in a home where all these things were appreciated and it made me realize how much it meant to me and made me want to play a role in the conservation of these environments. In the world we live in today there’s a declining number of resources we have at out disposable and not enough focus on those that are renewable. Eventually our useable water will deplete which is unfortunate as this resource is needed for an infinite amount of reasons which is why I find water treatment of extreme importance. You can be someone trying to make a change from an office but there’s nothing like making the change hands on.


photo of Sydney Copus

Sydney Copus

What are your majors? Gender and Women Studies and Environmental Studies

Expected graduation: May 2020

What inspired your interest in the environment and/or community? When I was in the first grade, I was introduced to the Ornate Box Turtle. My classmates and I were assigned small research project on a native Wisconsin animal and I chose the box turtle. I had never heard of a turtle before and I was thoroughly intrigued. I made my parents buy me every book they could on turtles and I read each one from cover to cover. Ever since then I have had a fascination with turtles. Most people think it’s quirky, but turtles were the first thing that sparked my love for animals, the environment, and learning. My small town roots are what make me interested in community. I come from a small town close to Madison and my community is a close one. Going from a place where everyone knows everyone to a school where that isn’t the case is challenging. I have made it my mission to make UW-Madison/Madison my new community and CESP was the perfect place to start.

What would you say (or do you say) to other students about CESP and the Nelson Institute? CESP and the Nelson Institute have introduced me to so many great people and issues. They have helped me find a community of people who care about the Earth and the people on it as much as I do and it has been great to learn from them.

Something few people know about you: I am a huge book and movie nerd! I could talk for hours about my favorite books or movies.


photo of Kevin Crosby

Kevin Crosby

What are your majors? Nutritional Sciences and Environmental Studies

Expected graduation: May 2020

What inspired your interest in the environment and/or community? My initial interest in Nutrition and the body lead me to investigating the source of food, specifically meat production. After realizing the detrimental impact mass meat production had on the environment, I decided to learn more about the environment to see what other areas I was ignorant about and how to make a difference.

What would you say (or do you say) to other students about CESP and the Nelson Institute? I’d tell new CESPers to keep an open mind, and be willing to explore themselves and others.

Something few people know about you: I have a 6’8” wingspan.

Something else about you? I ate Greenbush everyday first semester in sophomore year.


photo of Daniel Darlington

Daniel Darlington

What are your majors? Environmental Studies and Economics

Expected graduation: May 2021

What inspired your interest in the environment and/or community? I have been fortunate enough to have the opportunity to enjoy the environment my entire life. Growing up, my family was always outdoor oriented—that led to us fishing and camping all the time. Now that I am in college, I still fish and camp, but I have also added hiking, traveling, and exploring national parks to the mix. My experiences have led me to pursue environmental economics as a way of hopefully helping make a difference and protect our natural resources.

What would you say (or do you say) to other students about CESP and the Nelson Institute? I would tell them that it is an awesome way to get to know people that have similar mindsets as you while also experiencing diverse perspectives. Both CESP and the Nelson Institute are great ways to get involved and connected on our campus.

Something few people know about you: I am addicted to coffee.

Something else about you? In the summer, I enjoy finding seasonally ingredients to cook with, and when I travel I find new foods that are unique to experience.


photo of Yeline Del Carmen

Yeline Del Carmen

What are your majors? Environmental Science with a certificate in ISSuES (Integrated Studies in Science, Engineering, and Society) and Environmental Studies

Expected graduation: May 2020

What inspired your interest in the environment and/or community? Being born in the Dominican Republic but growing up in New York City has shaped my passion for the environment and has given me a strong interest in community development, environmental justice, and accessibility. I come from a very large family where sharing meals, exchanging ideas, and learning is a part of the everyday routine. My childhood consisted of eating fresh fruits on my grandma’s backyard, rocky roads, and shady trees but also packed train rides with large crowds of people rushing to their next location. These experiences cultivated a desire to learn more about how people navigate different spaces, solve problems, and create community while being environmentally conscious. Continuing my studies in Wisconsin, has helped me expand my knowledge on the different types of environment one can experience. As of right now, I aspire to be an urban city planner, exploring how cities can be designed with the principles of sustainability and community empowerment at forefront.

What would you say (or do you say) to other students about CESP and the Nelson Institute? The Nelson Institute is a place of learning that fosters your love for the environment. There are a wide variety of majors, all relating to environmental studies. CESP is a community-based scholars program that allows you to engage with other students and explore different aspects of the environment through team building and collaborative work.

Something few people know about you: I hate peanut butter.


photo of Ana Diges

Ana Diges

What are your majors? Materials Science and Engineering, Certificate in Environmental Studies and in Global Health

Expected graduation: May 2021

What inspired your interest in the environment and/or community? I believe my family’s heritage and tradition unconsciously instilled in me a connection with the environment. My father is the descendant of immigrants who cultivated their fate from the terrains of northern Wisconsin, passing on to me a strong land ethic. My mother had the habit of pointing out many plants for their medicinal, nutritional or aesthetic properties during our long walks around the small mountain ridge we lived on. The climate in Valencia (Spain), where I grew up, also provided long and bountiful seasons in my family’s garden. I learned what interdependence with the earth meant from the moment I was assigned the official task of “gatherer”. I also enjoyed (and still do) going on long hikes with my aunt and uncle, attempting to learn from what seems to be their infinite knowledge on forests, geography and village living. I owe them my first encounter with their local co-op as well as other connections between environment and society, such as passing on the recipe of bitter orange marmalade or the importance of lessening our footprint in this world. Experiences like these taught me not only the value of our ecosystem services, but also the powerful ways in which organized community can sustainably manage them.

What would you say (or do you say) to other students about CESP and the Nelson Institute? CESP is a fantastic program for those interested in the intersectionality between subjects surrounding science, society and environment. The Nelson Institute coordinates programs like these, as well as countless talks, conferences and resources to grow our knowledge about how people interact with their surroundings.

Something few people know about you: I love any and all plantain based dishes, especially if they involve hot sauce.

Something else about you? I’m a project manager for an Engineers Without Borders - Ecuador Camarones potable water project on campus, where I’m mostly in charge of bridging the communications gap between our in-country partners and our engineering team at UW-Madison.


photo of Andrew Dobbins

Andrew Dobbins

What are your majors? Agricultural Business Major with a certificate in Environmental Studies

Expected graduation: December 2019

What inspired your interest in the environment and/or community? I guess my family has always been into the outdoors. My father’s relationship growing up helping his grandfather with our cabin located in Cass County Minnesota and eventually my own summers there influenced our understanding in being land stewards to the next generation. Numerous summers planting trees, hauling boulders, and splitting so many bundles of wood, left all of us with an appreciation for the outdoors. I now enjoy fishing, hunting, bird watching, skiing, and the feeling of Waldeinsamkeit there. My great-grandfather’s work as a conservationist, visionary, and politician left a lasting impact in our community. Things like the formation of Deep Portage Natural Resource Center, ski and snowmobile trails, and local canoeing routes brought cross generational engagement for the state and many of its counties. That engagement is something I would like to create and proliferate in my local community so new stakeholders can experience and hopefully share their own legacy with the next generation.

Something else about you? I used to study Forestry at Penn State and here at UW, so I love trees. You can find me searching out the biggest tree in the forest and giving it a huge hug! Check out my selfie with a 300+ year old 55in dbh White Pine from Itasca State Park!


photo of Ashley Doebereiner

Ashley Doebereiner

What are your majors? Legal Studies and History double major with a certificate in Criminal Justice and Environmental Studies

Expected graduation: May 2020

What inspired your interest in the environment and/or community? For as long as I can remember, I always loved being outdoors and in the water. Growing up on Lake Michigan, my parents would have to drag me out of the lake for dinner and bed because I loved swimming in the lake and investigating the creatures beneath me. Yet, I remember days as a child where I could not go in the lake because of too much pollution or other bacteria in the water. As I grew up, I became more interested in what made the lake this way. I was intrigued to know the human impact on the environment and what laws and policies are emplace to protect the environment. These questions that I was left pondering at a young age made me pursue majors in legal studies and history along with my certificates in environmental studies and criminal justice. By combining these studies, I will one day be able to continue my passions for protecting the environment and work towards my master’s in environmental policy and regulation, understanding the legal system and the history behind it.

Something few people know about you: I swam with dolphins in key west.

Something else about you? I like to watch crime shows on Netflix to help me relax.


photo of Kimberly Dornbusch

Kimberly Dornbusch

What are your majors? Atmospheric & Oceanic Science and Environmental Studies

Expected graduation: May 2020

What inspired your interest in the environment and/or community? Since the 1st grade, I have always wanted to pursue a career in the atmospheric science field. Other children my age wanted to be a professional baseball player or a teacher, but not me, I wanted to study the weather. I loved the way tornados could appear straight from the clouds and always stood in awe when it hailed. I enjoyed every rainbow and every spark of lighting during a thunderstorm. I have always been interested in the environment as, the environment generally effects the weather patterns. Without the environment, my childhood would not have been filled with the wondrous atmospheric phenomenon’s I still adore today.

What would you say (or do you say) to other students about CESP and the Nelson Institute? CESP is a great way to get involved around campus. You meet wonderful people and have a fun/engaging time learning about not only the Nelson Institute, but also the community you live in. I would recommend CESP to anyone who’s considering a major or certificate in environmental studies.

Something few people know about you: I am addicted to buying succulents. I current have close to ten and continue to buy more to fill my porch.


photo of Annie Edwards

Annie Edwards

What are your majors? Soil Science and Environmental Studies

Expected graduation: May 2020

What inspired your interest in the environment and/or community? As a wee child, my mom was always trying to drag me on runs into the open space by my house. The “open space” being the golden terrain encompassing that landscape of my hometown in the San Francisco Bay Area (I explain this term as my roommate always tells me the word “open space” sounds like some astronomical word for deep space). Trying to enact my independence, I was resistant to joining my mom, but eventually gave in as my objections did not slow her offers. As I grew up, I hiked these hills with my friends, performed science experiments in their grasses, and escaped to them when I needed to clear my head. My experiences in the open space taught me the value of nature and sparked my interest in wanting to protect it in whatever way I could. My fascination in science and love for the environment has led me to become a soil science and environmental studies major with aspirations to help farmers transition to more sustainable farming practices.

What would you say (or do you say) to other students about CESP and the Nelson Institute? To other students, I would tell them that CESP is an incredible opportunity to be surround by a group of motivated people trying to better the world. In CESP, people from all different majors and backgrounds are linked by a passion to better the community and environment. In any problem, the best outcome arises from individuals with different perspective looking at the situation, a view that I believe CESP highlights and is a successful program because of it.


photo of Salma Florencio

Salma Florencio

What are your majors? Environmental Studies and Communication Arts

Expected graduation: May 2021

What inspired your interest in the environment and/or community? In high school, I took an environmental science class where I was exposed to many of the environmental issues we are experiencing in today’s world. Ever since then, I always knew I wanted to dive into this subject and try to make this world better. And throughout my time here at UW, I have learned about disparities within these broader issues and that is what inspired my interest in my community because I hope to be able to give back to the Madison community and help those who are facing the harsher side of environmental impacts.


photo of Matt Fox

Matt Fox

What are your majors? Conservation Biology with certificates in Scandinavian Studies and Environmental Studies

Expected graduation: May 2022

What inspired your interest in the environment and/or community? My interest in working with the environment has been present for all of my life. With my parents, I grew to respect nature and developed a passion to learn more about animals and habitats across the globe. After attending an environmental science conference in 2017, I knew that I wanted to do what I could to work with the environment. While at this conference, I learned that I love working first-hand with the soil to learn about different aspects of an ecosystem. This sparked my interest in restoration work and further my fascination with the boreal forest. With my ties to the Jewish community, I am interested in learning how I can combine these two passions in my life. From more sustainable practices to community volunteer work, I want to better environmental conditions as much as I can. I think that working with the members of your community builds a mutual interest and motivates all to continue their efforts.

Something few people know about you: I am obsessed with making paper cranes. I make them in all sizes and colors and they’re scattered all around my room. I hope to make 1000 someday soon because then I get to make a wish.


photo of Austin Gladden

Austin Gladden

What are your majors? Elementary Education (Middle Childhood - Early Adolescence w/ a content-focused minor in Specialized Science).

Expected graduation: Spring 2020

What inspired your interest in the environment and/or community? What inspired my interest in the environment and my community is the fact that I do not believe that a community can exist without an environment. Therefore, as a community, we must take pride in the resources that we have and protect them as if they are all we have. When we take our environment for granted, we see the results of it through global warming and other “natural” disasters that are seeming all too unnatural nowadays. I think that if we want to continue to be able to enjoy life, we have to respect that there is life all around us - even in things we do not wish to see it in - and we have to carry that tradition on.

What would you say (or do you say) to other students about CESP and the Nelson Institute? To all those out there in need of a home that also happens to shelter many faculty and staff who can offer you expert advice in all things “environmental” (and just about anything else, for that matter) you have come to the right place! Science Hall, in general, is a really cool building and if you happen to join CESP that is just an added bonus to all of the perks that come with being associated with the Nelson Institute.

Something few people know about you: My dream job is being a superintendent for a school district. #anythingforthekids

Something else about you? This semester, I am a part of Team Infinity. Thanks to Cathy, Molly, and Rob, and all of the wonderful support that they give, I have been able to make it this far with the program and I just want to let everyone out there know that once you are a part of the CESP family, you do not leave it. This group really does make a difference in my life, and I hope that if you choose to embark on this journey, it will do the same for you!


photo of Clarissa Gomez

Clarissa Gomez

What are your majors? People-Environment Geography and Environmental Studies with certificates in Leadership and Global Health

Expected graduation: May 2021

What inspired your interest in the environment and/or community? From a young age, I was always fascinated with the natural world. Whether that was binge-watching Planet Earth, helping my mother garden, or rescuing wild baby rabbits, I was keen on doing or learning more about the environment. However, it wasn’t until college that I rediscovered my love of the environment after taking a wide variety of classes as an undecided Freshman. From this and other experiences throughout my academic career, I gained a fresh outlook on how communities are interconnected with the natural world.

What would you say (or do you say) to other students about CESP and the Nelson Institute? For other students who ask about CESP or the Nelson Institute, I would say that these are amazing organizations! The people here rock and are constantly doing ambitious things which only inspires me to scope out new opportunities and do my best.

Something few people know about you: I’m a super heavy sleeper and can sleep through just about anything.

Something else about you? So far, I’ve been to two of the world’s greatest mountain ranges: the Himalayas and the Andes!


photo of Celeste Gunderson

Celeste Gunderson

What are your majors? People-Environment Geography and Environmental Studies

Expected graduation: May 2022

What inspired your interest in the environment and/or community? While growing up in the city of Milwaukee, I had the privilege of living next to the Milwaukee River green space, where I continuously interacted with nature and the wildlife of Wisconsin. Each walk in the woods presented a new and exciting discovery of our environment; a wild turkey, a family of deer, a great horned owl, a lone coyote, or a once endangered and still scarce Butler Garter Snake. This proximity to Wisconsin’s wildlife meant that the environment played a large role in my life from a very young age. Positive experiences within this landscape have developed my desire to protect and conserve the beauty of our environment.

What would you say (or do you say) to other students about CESP and the Nelson Institute? CESP is a wonderful way to meet other students who are interested in environmental issues. While we share the similarity of an environmental major or certificate, each student also comes with their own interests and majors which make discussions super interesting. The seminar highlights how career fields of all different backgrounds can be oriented towards environmental initiatives. CESP is also a great way to learn about environmental and community related opportunities offered at UW-Madison.

Something few people know about you: I love running (especially trail running) because it is a great way to relieve stress while also getting to enjoy the outdoors! I aspire to one day run an ultra-marathon, but I am not sure when I will ever have enough time to train for one.


photo of Savannah Holt

Savannah Holt

What are your majors? International Business, Marketing, Spanish, and Sustainability Certificate

Expected graduation: May 2022

What inspired your interest in the environment and/or community? My interest in the environment was inspired by a lot of different events that built upon each other over the past couple of years. Since studying at UW-Madison, however, I've been inspired by living and working with the GreenHouse Learning Community and by being involved with the Ethical and Responsible Business Network (ERBN). I'm looking forward to meeting new people and learning more about environmental studies with CESP.


photo of April Hommerding

April Hommerding

What are your majors? Conservation Biology and Environmental Studies

Expected graduation: May 2019

What inspired your interest in the environment and/or community? First thing first, there is one thing I know to be true: you will not come across someone who doesn’t find some sort of beauty, enjoyment, or appreciation of being outdoors or within nature. I am thankful to have been a part of a generation that grew up spending as many hours of the day outside as possible. I found a love for nature by growing up spending time at my Grandparent’s house on a lake surrounded by woods. Second to my passion for nature, is a passion for animals. It has always been heartbreaking to me to hear news about our environment, especially as it relates to animals. The loss of coral reefs and forests, global warming, oil spills and water pollution, the list goes on… each one has some harmful impact on species and is an integral part to what may be the sixth extinction event on Earth. Loving animals as much as I did nature, I grew up wanting to become a veterinarian. To this day, I want to go to veterinary school, become a veterinarian, and educate others on the importance of conservation and thus the interconnectedness between animals and the environment.

What would you say (or do you say) to other students about CESP and the Nelson Institute? In this day in age, it appears our environmental priority has been swept under the rug and it may push people, including me, to feel small and helpless in terms of solving environmental problems today. CESP encourages optimism about the world’s ability to work together, care about the environment, and solve our environmental problems. As a member of CESP, I feel more hopeful for the future because I am surrounded by a group of people who share the same desires to solve environmental problems.

Something few people know about you: Most of my lifestyle is plant-based, and when I have the option to eat and drink vegan, I do!


photo of Margaret Johnson

Margaret Johnson

What are your majors? English – Major, American Indian Studies – Certificate

Expected graduation: May 2020

What inspired your interest in the environment and/or community? I grew up in the middle of nowhere… quite literally. Even now when I search for my old address on google maps I can rarely find it. Interestingly enough the nearest neighbor to my house (which was a long walk through the woods), was a young girl my age. I grew up exploring outdoors spaces year round with a companion by my side, whether it was my neighbor or brother. Playing make believe, falling through the ice in a nearby stream, and climbing trees until I could see for miles off in the distance made me the person I am today. Those connections and experiences pushed me to love exploring and protecting the natural world. All of that led me to UW Madison and to this program, which allows me to combine my passions with a wonderful community of like-minded people.

What would you say (or do you say) to other students about CESP and the Nelson Institute? It’s a unique space – I can’t think of any other time in my life where I’ve been surrounded by other people with such diverse backgrounds and interests. It has really changed how I think about the environment and how students interact with this area of study in different ways.

Something else about you? I’ve solo camped before, which was an AMAZING experience that I would highly recommend to everyone! Obviously you need good gear and a backup plan, but if you can do it, you learn a lot about yourself as a person and about the world around you.


photo of Jerimiah Koll

Jerimiah Koll

What are your majors? Economics, Environmental Studies, and Statistics

Expected graduation: December 2021

What inspired your interest in the environment and/or community? Some of my best childhood memories come from field trips to a nearby national forest, while ideas of how the forest has been preserved and changed by human presence came much later, I’ve always felt a connection to the area. Once I entered high school I spent a lot of time talking about environmental issues and it lead me to want to work in environmental policy. I knew that climate change was going to be the major issue of our day and I wanted to help solve it. I started to do some research in the topic and learned about community based solutions, to me they made the most sense, if a community is threatened by climate change they should have the final word into how it's fought.

Something few people know about you: Every time people ask how tall I am I’ll say I’m inch taller until people call me out about it.


photo of Eliza Kruszynski

Eliza Kruszynski

What are your majors? Majors: Political Science and Environmental Science. Certificates: Environmental Studies, Public Policy

Expected graduation: May 2021

What inspired your interest in the environment and/or community? After a stint in astrophysics, I decided I was a lot more interested in taking care of our home here on Earth! I realized the magnitude of how climate change will affect future generations and I knew I wanted to dedicate my life to mitigation efforts.

Something few people know about you: When I was little, science was my least favorite subject in school; I was much more concerned with reading all of my fantastical books from the library. I grew to love reading sci-fi in high school, which rapidly gave way to non-fiction science! The path I am on today would have been impossible without the generosity of public libraries.

Something else about you? I get as much of a thrill from looking out over a canyon as I do from looking at microenvironments in moss. Nature is astonishing at all levels!


photo of Craig Kunkel

Craig Kunkel

What are your majors? Environmental Science with an Environmental Studies certificate

Expected graduation: December 2019 or May 2020

What inspired your interest in the environment and/or community? When I was young, my mother called me “Huck Finn,” as I was constantly exploring fields, forests, and rivers on my own. I loved spending time outdoors watching animals, gazing at towering clouds, feeling the breeze on my face, and listening to the strange stridulations of insects. When camping, it was not uncommon for me to disappear after breakfast with at least one piece of gear: fishing pole, butterfly net, bucket, hand trowel, pocket knife, screen bug-hut, cloth pouch. Often, I would not return until sunset and usually with some sort of curiosity: a salamander in a bucket, a jar containing a rare insect, a snake coiled around my wrist (each of which I would of course safely release after a few moments of admiration), a beautiful stone or fossil, or maybe just the stick I used for walking and probing the depth of streams. I’m still in awe of the natural world and I take every opportunity to risk my digits wrangling large snapping turtles off the highway, ponder the bizarre morphology of fungi I come across while hiking, and watch in gleeful anticipation as thunderstorms plod ominously towards me over the horizon. As I grew older, firsthand experience and scientific curiosity allowed me to understand the intimate relationship between human health and the environment in which we live. I also began to see how, despite some improvements, we are not doing nearly enough. I would argue all biotic integrity, including human, starts with environmental quality. I would further argue that natural resource sustainability starts with sound conservation and science. When I returned to school, I decided to make Environmental Science and Ecology my career. I feel humbled by the opportunity to simultaneously pursue my passion for the natural world, indulge my scientific curiosity, and work towards elevating the standard of human health through ecological integrity. Plus I hope to get to catch frogs and play in the forest as part of my career!


photo of Chris Massey

Chris Massey

What are your majors? Biochemistry and Environmental Studies

Expected graduation: May 2021

What inspired your interest in the environment and/or community? Growing up on Long Island, nature and the environment were always part of my upbringing. I was surrounded by beaches, forests, and water. My childhood friends and I would spend countless hours inventing and playing games in the woods. As I got older, environmental activism caught my eye as I know how lucky I was to experience growing up in an environment like that. I began to volunteer for a pro-environment congress candidate and became an environmental sustainability chair for a dorm on campus. Taking on roles like these helped me realize that I can have an impact on how other people view the environment and has inspired me to continue educating others on environmental issues.

What would you say (or do you say) to other students about CESP and the Nelson Institute? Being a CESP student is like being part of a big family, it’s an amazing program that brings together student leaders who are passionate about the environment and how it impacts the communities they are a part of.

Something few people know about you: I’m a member of Alpha Chi Sigma, the professional chemistry fraternity.

Something else about you? I have 2 published research articles.


photo of Cassandra McAnallen

Cassandra McAnallen

What are your majors? Geography, Sustainability Certificate

Expected graduation: May 2020

What inspired your interest in the environment and/or community? I love the outdoors and the environment and what to learn as much as I can about it. With the knowledge I gain here I hope to help leave the planet better for the generations that follow.

What would you say (or do you say) to other students about CESP and the Nelson Institute? For future students asking about CESP I would say it’s a great place to connect with other people and it also challenges the way you think about issues.

Something few people know about you: Few people know that I enjoy vacuuming.

Something else about you? I LOVE GARDENING!!!


photo of Katelyn McVay

Katelyn McVay

What are your majors? Majors: Horticulture, Environmental Studies. Minors: Global Health, Public Policy, Leadership

Expected graduation: May 2022

What inspired your interest in the environment and/or community? It wasn’t until my freshman year of college that I understood what the concepts of environmental justice and equity truly meant. During this time period, I declared an environmental studies major and started to do some in depth research on various environmental issues and how they impacted specific communities. Through my courses, independent study, and personal observations, I realized that there are a variety of different ways that people interact with the environment and communities around them, and there are environmental disparities associated with different demographics and locations. I have always had a deep passion and care for the world around me, and it is my personal mission to contribute toward something that allows people to have positive interactions with the environment as well as to promote wellbeing for communities and the natural world.


photo of Nat Meyer

Nat Meyer

What are your majors? Gender and Women’s Studies and Environmental Studies and a Leadership certificate

Expected graduation: May 2021

What inspired your interest in the environment and/or community? All my best memories growing up were outside; spending springs on the toddler swing under the big oak tree, picking mulberries and dandelions from the yard for my mom, and making stinky stews with all the neighbor kids. It really instilled a love of nature and community in me and since then I have sought out ways to get involved and further help people and the environment.

What would you say (or do you say) to other students about CESP and the Nelson Institute? CESP is a super supportive community that really helps keep you grounded (hah) while you go through school. It has helped me feel more connected to other environmental students and be prepared for greater opportunities outside of academics.

Something few people know about you: I can do some trapeze tricks, and I just love swinging.

Something else about you? My favorite flowers are morning glories, even though I am rarely up early enough in the summer to see them, and they take over my gardens.


photo of Jackie Millonzi

Jackie Millonzi

What are your majors? Environmental Studies and Geography (with a People-Environmental concentration)

Expected graduation: August 2020

What inspired your interest in the environment and/or community? I’ve been intrigued by the ways in which humans interact with the natural world since before I can remember. My eyes were glued to the window whenever I got into a car and I was always curious of the world I saw. As I got older, I realized the importance of teaching myself and others about environmental issues that related to everyday life such as recycling and composting, understanding where different items come from, and the impacts we have on the planet as well as its people. All of these I later understood to be topics of sustainability—or the intersection of economic, environmental, and social well-being. My interest in understanding our world and the complex relationship between humans and the planet has led me to believe in the importance of being conscious stewards of the earth. Growing up in a small, rural Wisconsin town made it easy to get involved in my local community. I tried almost every extracurricular that my school offered and was able to hold a leadership position in each activity that was near and dear to my heart. Getting to know a variety of people in my school and home community well is what made my childhood so enjoyable. It was truly inspiring seeing people with shared interests work together to reach common goals and I greatly appreciate taking part in those experiences. Coming to college has increased my passion for collaborating with people that want to help make this vast community a happy, healthy, and sustainable one.

What would you say (or do you say) to other students about CESP and the Nelson Institute? The Nelson Institute offers many courses, scholarships, and extracurricular activities allowing students and community members to learn every day, utilize their knowledge, and work together to tackle various environmental and social issues going on around the world. I feel very fortunate to have met so many amazing people with such strong ambitions and expertise in various fields of study. I have built a fascinating sense of community thanks to the experiences I’ve had while majoring in environmental studies through this institution.

Something few people know about you: I tried to teach myself how to play the trumpet so I could be in jazz band during middle and high school. I was really bad, but I liked music and the people I was with so much that I did what I could and sometimes pretended to play...

Something else about you? I’ve worked at the Office of Sustainability on campus for roughly the past 1 & ½ years and I can talk about waste management, education, and changing peoples’ habits for hours.


photo of McKenna Mulvey

McKenna Mulvey

What are your majors? Environmental Studies and Scandinavian Studies

Expected graduation: May 2021

What inspired your interest in the environment and/or community? After completing a service project in Englewood – which is known as the most dangerous neighborhood in Chicago, Illinois – I became infatuated with environmental justice and racism. Englewood has not had access to clean water in over 10 years, and the only food residents of the neighborhood have access to comes from a convenience store. As someone who currently experiences food insecurity, I want to find a way to provide for those who are unrecognized or cannot advocate for themselves.

What would you say (or do you say) to other students about CESP and the Nelson Institute? I am hoping that being involved in CESP will give me the resources and guidance I need to make a difference in the community.

Something few people know about you: I transferred from DePaul University in Chicago, but Chicago is where my interests shifted towards sustainability.


photo of Breon Newble

Breon Newble

What are your majors? Health Promotion & Health Equity and Life Sciences Communication with certificates in Global Health, Business Management, and Environmental Studies

Expected graduation: May 2022

What inspired your interest in the environment and/or community? My interest for the environment was inspired by today’s instances of environmental injustice and poor environmental planning. The way in which we handle the environments we live in is troubling, and have impacts that extend far beyond the condition of the environment. It wasn’t until I began studying here at the University of Wisconsin-Madison that I realized the intensity of these issues and realized that I need to be involved in addressing them. Showing concern for the environment is also showing concern for the health of communities and individuals as they’re directly related. I want to bring attention to how issues such as climate change and environmental degradation will be/are responsible for negatively impacting the health of thousands of people.

Something few people know about you: I want to one day own a company. My first business venture would probably be me creating my own skin care/health products line.


photo of Carmen Nightfall

Carmen Nightfall

What are your majors? Genetics

Expected graduation: 2024

What inspired your interest in the environment and/or community? Inspiration of my interests in environment and community began with my native culture. Then, later the impacts of environmental pollutants mismanaged for profit, impacting my communities and people, and learning of the repercussions and the same M.O going on in other under-represented/under-privileged areas furthers my determination to bring balance, reason, and compassion into science, courts, and capitalism. Corporate and justice system unaccountability, irresponsibility, and the regulatory policies allowing for environmental and resulting bodily contamination of humans, animals, and the plant and water they consume, in the name of “progress” and “profit” came to seriously impact my health and that of those in my communities. This ignites my need to educate the public, have companies held accountable, to change public policy and legislation for true justice, and to find solutions to the health effects and the environmental situations that contribute to them. The interaction of environment, health and genetics, (epigenetics,) is what brought me to UW. This has fueled by insatiable curiosity about, and desire to preserve our National Treasures and Capitol; the health of all populations- people, animals, beneficial bacteria and the like, and the environments that support them. The interconnectedness of all issues, beings, and environments drives me to illuminate and find healing strategies for communities and environments of all sorts. I hope to one day influence public policies for health of communities, human and otherwise.

What would you say (or do you say) to other students about CESP and the Nelson Institute? CESP is a treasure of people and opportunities that align with my environmental justice passion, and I’m so excited and grateful to be part of it!


photo of Calla Norris

Calla Norris

What are your majors? People-Environment Geography

Expected graduation: May 2021

What inspired your interest in the environment and/or community? I think that moving around so much while growing up gave me a deep appreciation of community. I was repeatedly being the new kid in an unfamiliar setting, and finally developing a sense of community was always such a gratifying (if not hard-earned) experience, not to be taken for granted. Growing up in this way really instilled in me the value of community. My kidhood, and my grown-up-hood too, have led me to some amazing landscapes and biomes, ––the desert biome, jungle biome, mossy forest biome, prairie biome, and now city biome–– from which I initially developed my love and respect for the natural world that I continue to play in and cherish, and From my exposure to these many wondrous landscapes I gained an appreciation for the natural world. This made it all the more impactful to learn, through studying the connection between people and nature, that this opportunity is not afforded to many. At UW Madison, I chose my majors in People-Environment Geography and Environmental Studies based on the disconnect between humans and our natural surroundings that I believe is at the detriment of ourselves–on both a personal and a societal scale–as well as environmental health globally. The connection between any life form — human or otherwise — and its natural surroundings is a fundamental pillar in developing an understanding of its importance; a concern for the environment’s wellbeing becomes a desire to respect and protect it.

What would you say (or do you say) to other students about CESP and the Nelson Institute? I would encourage asking lots of questions–– outside of class too, not just during our group conversations! The CESP community is made up of some super interesting and incredibly intelligent folks who have taught me so so so much! Your instructors and classmates alike have some incredible histories as well as current goings-on, and something as simple as striking up conversations with them can really broaden your horizons. Plus, they’re all so cute and friendly!

Something few people know about you: I often pretend that I live inside of a Laura Ingalls Wilder story; I live on a literal ‘Little House on the Prairie,’ and I recently adopted a bearded dragon that I sometimes call Half Pint (even though his real name is Pancake).

Something else about you? Last Summer I had an internship with the Prairie Partners in which our group of five interns did prairie restoration work in Dane and Columbia counties at Pheasant Branch Conservancy, Lakeshore Nature Preserve, Madison Audubon Society’s Goose Pond Sanctuary, and Empire Prairies State Natural Area/Patrick Marsh Natural Resource Area, and I’d like to spread the word to others who might be interested in this opportunity. I had such fun at this internship; I really liked the other interns I worked with ––one of whom was a current CESP member–– and I learned soooo much about land management, ecology, etc, and it’s a great opportunity for networking. (Also it’s a paid position.) Look into it y’all! :) Here’s a link to the job announcement from the Madison Audubon website: https://static1.squarespace.com/static/55c0d7e5e4b05b835010c1f4/t/5de7ef2a6dde150c1694a9cd/1575481140057/MA_Restoration+Intern+Job+Announcement+2020-up.pdf


photo of Nikki Prado-Solano

Nikki Prado-Solano

What are your majors? Sociology and Genetics with a certificate in Environmental Studies

Expected graduation: December 2021

What inspired your interest in the environment and/or community? I was born and raised on the South Side of Milwaukee, where despite living in an urban area, I was regularly immersed in nature thanks to my family and teachers. We had yearly trips to the horticultural conservatory, Sunday trips to local parks, and monthly visits to the scenic trails of the Seven Bridges that helped build my love of nature. As I came to UW, I began to see the intersections of public health, the environment, and the importance of having access to nature. This has encouraged me to pursue a career in public health researching the effects of environmental racism and working to increase access to health services for marginalized communities that are often affected by environmental degradation.


photo of Timothy Prestby

Timothy Prestby

What are your majors? GIS/Cartography, certificate in Environmental Studies

Expected graduation: May 2020

What inspired your interest in the environment and/or community? I grew up in a small community known as Pulaski outside of Green Bay, WI. During my childhood into my high school years, my brother Zachary battled two types of cancers and complications like kidney failure. My family and I faced tremendous adversity. However, the community of Pulaski and Green Bay helped us through the challenges. Often community members helped out with yard work, cooked yummy meals, and much more when our time had to be spent on taking care of Zachary. Until my senior year in high school, I did not realize just how much power communities have when I took an environmental science course. While learning about community supported agriculture, I began to recognize how communities can help others in diverse ways while enriching Earth. As Pulaski and Green Bay did to my family, I yearn to promote positive community change through the power of informative maps!

What would you say (or do you say) to other students about CESP and the Nelson Institute? Cathy and Rob are super awesome. Both have a strong passion for the course subjects and the students. They make the class fly by and want you to come back for more. Also, it is super great to make friends and network with the other CESP students who have a diverse background in areas of study.

Something else about you? I am excited for this semester since I now have the experience and connections to start making maps for real-world clients in environmental fields. I will also be going to attend the American Association of Geographers conference which will be awesome to learn about all the fresh findings related to environmental geography!!


photo of Grace Puc

Grace Puc

What are your majors? Environmental Sciences

Expected graduation: May 2021

What inspired your interest in the environment and/or community? Growing up I always had an intense fascination with the world and sought to learn, see and do as much as I could. My love for Earth was definitely fostered by my dad with whom I have spent my entire life hiking and travelling (to 10 countries!); I hope to never stop exploring our beautiful planet. Studying environmental science in college means becoming an advocate for the Earth. Climate change-induced environmental degradation is the most pressing problem the human race currently faces, and I have fervent aspirations to become a part of the remedial process; it is my intention to take advantage of my time here as I want to do everything in my power to preserve our world’s beauty, conserve its resources, and ensure its health for generations to come. My passion for protecting the environment has been prevalent since I was young. As kids, my best friend and I would take a bag and walk around our neighborhood streets picking up trash. We would also have lemonade stands to raise money for our "charity" we called “Pennies for Polar Bears” when we learned that they were endangered as a result of climate change. It wasn’t until AP Environmental Science in high school that I realized this passion was something that I could study and eventually turn into a career!

What would you say (or do you say) to other students about CESP and the Nelson Institute? CESP is more than just a seminar for an hour every week - it’s a network that has provided me with connections to events, organizations, students, staff and beyond that in a lot of ways is so much more valuable to me than traditional “school knowledge”.

Something few people know about you: Both of my dad’s parents immigrated here from Slovenia when they were teenagers making me 50% Slovenian. I went to Slovenian school at a cultural center near my home town for 8 years.

Something else about you? I am co-president of Campus Food Shed!


photo of Jeremy Sanford

Jeremy Sanford

What are your majors? Conservation Biology & Environmental Studies

Expected graduation: May 2020

What inspired your interest in the environment and/or community? A love for evolution and ecological systems along with animals inspired a passion in eco things.

What would you say (or do you say) to other students about CESP and the Nelson Institute? I would say to keep your head up and recognize that all of this connects. Each semester gives a new experience in community building that you can use to better your interactions with others.


photo of Camille Schmidt

Camille Schmidt

What are your majors? Civil and Environmental Engineering

Expected graduation: May 2022

What inspired your interest in the environment and/or community? I’ve always aspired to be an engineer but after further exposure to the different kinds I was really drawn to Civil & Environmental due to the idea of being able to be a part of such a large background in everyone’s lives while we try to progress towards being more sustainable in our infrastructure.

What would you say (or do you say) to other students about CESP and the Nelson Institute? Take advantage of this opportunity! It has been the first time in college that I have been able to actually develop a connection with my professors and be able to talk to them easily. It’s also been equally great to make friends within the program who I can talk to around campus and have also inspired me with their different backgrounds & areas of studies.


photo of Paige Taft

Paige Taft

What are your majors? Geography and Environmental Studies with a Certificate in American Indian Studies

Expected graduation: May 2020

What inspired your interest in the environment and/or community? I come from a very long line of environmentalists and people who are obsessed with the outdoors. I spent a lot of my childhood outdoors, especially since I lived near a large park and the lakefront in Milwaukee. The first time I knew I wanted to make a career out of Environmental Studies was in my IB Environmental Science class in high school. The relationship between people and the environment intrigued me and I found it very interesting how various cultures had a different experience and relationship with the world around them. Learning about various cultures and their take on the environment inspires me to pursue my interest in studying the environment and the people in it.

What would you say (or do you say) to other students about CESP and the Nelson Institute? The people are the best! All of the people in the Nelson Institute and CESP want you to succeed and be the best you can be. If you’re looking to meet some great people and improve yourself CESP and the Nelson Institute are for you.

Something few people know about you: I am in the UW Marching Band and I am a Nelson Institute Ambassador.


photo of Emma Rose VanDell

Emma Rose VanDell

What are your majors? Fine Arts with certificate in Environmental Studies

Expected graduation: May 2020

What inspired your interest in the environment and/or community? I spent my childhood camping, climbing the hills of the riverbed that my hometown resides in, kayaking, making forts and toys from the trees and brush by the river, and being a self-proclaimed “River Rat”. Luckily, I was raised in a big family that loved to travel and explore the American countryside via RV. Due to growing up in this way, I have always seen the environment and nature as a whole as a part of the community in which I lived. This inspired me to protect and advocate for the health of natural spaces through volunteering and advocacy. That is why I spent my entire high school career only taking natural science classes and art classes. As a fine arts major now, I am hoping to combine my love for the natural world, community involvement, and skills as an artist to invite all different kinds of people into the environmental conversation.

What would you say (or do you say) to other students about CESP and the Nelson Institute? Being in CESP has opened up a lot of opportunities for me around campus by just exposing me to people and events that I wouldn’t have seen on my own. As a student whose main major lies far outside of the realm of environmental studies, CESP has created a space for me to learn from my peers, have important conversations about the environment, and enjoy the company of like-minded people. This group is a truly special one in a campus as large as UW because the leaders want to know who you are, nurture your education, and inspire you to step into the community in a different way.

Something few people know about you: I have a long list of back-up plans for my future due to my inability to commit to anything. One of them is opening my own art café to combine my love for art with my love for cooking.

Something else about you? I never kill bugs. Spiders are my roommates. House centipedes are my friends. Worms are my sisters.


photo of Tien Vo

Tien Vo

What are your majors? Environmental Sciences

Expected graduation: May 2022

What inspired your interest in the environment and/or community? I have been interested in the environment for as long as I can remember. The earliest interaction with environmental conservation I can recall is buying a book from Barnes & Noble titled “How to Save the Earth Before You Even Turn 12” at the age of 10. I remember finishing the book and being so I inspired, I immediately tried to convince my dad to install solar panels onto the roof of our house. He quickly shot down the idea (“Wisconsin doesn’t even get a lot of sunlight…”), but I wasn’t discouraged. From that point on, I continued to read and learn more about the environment. Today, I am interested in how environmental issues interconnect with issues such as racism, imperialism, and capitalism.


photo of Kalie Whitehorse

Kalie Whitehorse

What are your majors? Psychology and Environmental Studies

Expected graduation: May 2022

What inspired your interest in the environment and/or community? I have always had a love for the environment and spending time outdoors by hiking, relaxing in a hammock, and spending time by or on lakes. While growing up here in Madison, I have noticed environmental issues that have become prominent in the community and it has pushed me to learn more about these problems and what I can do as a college student to make changes in my own life and promote changes for others to make in order to protect the Madison landscape, especially the lakes. Growing up close to Lake Monona, I have watched the water quality decrease from being able to go swimming and take my dogs to the lakeshore to now, in the peak of the summer algae blooms, not being able to enjoy the water. I decided I wanted to study environmental studies so I would be able to learn more about why this was happening. While taking these classes, I learned about more issues that concern other populations and some that concern the whole global population, which I found super intriguing and wanted to continue to learn about. Throughout the rest of my college career, I am excited to keep learning about environmental issues and ways to solve or work towards solving these problems.


photo of Carly Winner

Carly Winner

What are your majors? Environmental Studies and Elementary Education

Expected graduation: May 2020

What inspired your interest in the environment and/or community? I grew up in a family that drove my love for the oceans to an obsession. By the age of 12 I was certified to scuba dive and ever since have never wanted to stop exploring. I was fascinated by the beauty, life and diversity that was found in an underwater world that most are completely unfamiliar with. My interest with the environment started with a passion to expose everyone to the ocean and make it known that we must protect this fragile, and important ecosystem. However, the older I got my passion for the ocean began to stretch farther than that singular ecosystem. I believe that my love for children and the environment is a perfect fit to make the difference in people’s understandings of the environment.

What would you say (or do you say) to other students about CESP and the Nelson Institute? Attending a school like UW where there are thousands of students, it can be challenging to find “your people". CESP provides a safe space where both the students and faculty members are very inclusive and respectful of you. I feel CESP is perfect for students who are passionate about the environment in a scientific way, but also the social side of it. Sometimes science is overwhelming and traps us in a world that we forget about ourselves (humans). CESP is a place to discuss these issues and surround yourself with people who care about these critical matters.