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 Emiliana Almanza Lopez

Emiliana Almanza Lopez

What are your majors? Environmental Science and Sociology double major with certificates in Chican@/Latin@ studies and Environmental Studies.

Expected graduation: May 2020

What inspired your interest in the environment and/or community? My deep belief in the interconnected working of our universe has lead me to study ecosystems, societies and how their composition and functionality intertwine. On a more political level I have always been drawn to systems of oppression and how they affect groups of people. As I grew up I realized that my love for nature and my love for learning about societies were very connected. I started to read all I could about environmental racism and injustice. The more I read the more it made me want to do more, up until the want became a need and I went into college with the goal of becoming an Environmental Lawyer to fight for environmental justice. Today I work on and off campus to educate people about environmental justice and the need for a holistic approach to conservation efforts.

What would you say (or do you say) to other students about CESP and the Nelson Institute? CESP is a community of undergraduate students who share an interest in connecting communities to the environment, sustainable living, and practices that promote community health through a vast array of ways.

Something else about you? Something interesting about me is that I have torn both of my ACLS (left and right knees) and both Meniscus in my left knee. I don’t know if this is a fact or just wishful thinking but I can tell when it is going to rain by how bad my knees hurt.


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.


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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 the role sea spray aerosol plays in our atmosphere, particularly in the nucleation of clouds – integral regulators of how much radiation our planet absorbs. 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.

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


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.


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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 interest in the environment was inspired by my high school environmental studies class. 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. In CESP you will be challenged to find new ways to be involved in the community and/or the environment and be encouraged to continue with any involvement you may already have.

Something few people know about you: I love to learn and know random fun facts. Fun fact: the natural enemy of the naked mole rat is the rufous beaked snake… which is ironic for any Kim Possible lovers out there.

Something else about you? Completely unrelated to CESP, I have a form of Nystagmus where I can voluntarily shake my eyes and I have been able to do so since I was an infant.


photo of Nic Brown

Nic Brown

What are your majors? Environmental Studies and Anthropology

Expected graduation: December 2019

What inspired your interest in the environment and/or community? Community can take countless forms. Not all forms of community are conducive to every personality. It can take years of searching until we find environments that support our livelihoods and are filled with people who have the experience and desire to lift you up. I think environmental studies is so much more than learning about Earth’s natural systems; it encompasses the relationships and bonds all species make in order to survive and thrive. My initial interest in environmental studies derived from a curiosity and admiration for the ways nature interacts. My involvement with CESP has brought a smaller community of passionate people together which has taught me that we can fit into any number of communities to fulfill our life’s passions.

What would you say (or do you say) to other students about CESP and the Nelson Institute? CESP has brought a fun and positive community into my life that has been invaluable. Though the Nelson institute is already a community within itself, full of caring and innovative people, CESP gives you the opportunity to spend time working on interesting projects with people who are equally passionate about the community and the environment as you! The space provided by CESP is an awesome opportunity to brainstorm and try out new ideas pertaining to your personal interests or goals for the environment or community related aspirations.

Something few people know about you: I love Chen’s dumplings.

Something else about you? I am non-binary and use they/them pronouns.


photo of Breana Collins

Breana Collins

What are your majors? Environmental Science and Studies, certificates in engineering for sustainable energy and Afro-American studies, and sustainability

Expected graduation: May 2020

What inspired your interest in the environment and/or community? I am Breana and I am an Environmental Science and Environmental Studies major. Being part of a program called Chapter 220 which allowed me to see several inequities like education and overall resources between communities/cities sparked an interest to aid communities in receiving more resources especially in a time when the environment is so important. Joining CESP has a great opportunity to meet other students with the similar goals and mindset surround the environment and the community.

Something else about you? I am obsessed with cheese curds and Oreo shakes, but I am lactose intolerant and live in Wisconsin. What a way to live.


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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 eat Greenbush everyday.


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. My childhood curiosity for wanting to know why nature is the way it is has given me a lifelong interest in the environment. I still fish and camp, but now that I am older, I have added hiking, traveling, and exploring national parks and monuments to the mix. My experiences have led me to pursue environmental economics. I am motivated by my roots and enabled by my education to hopefully help make a difference and protect our natural resources for the people of today and future generations.

What would you say (or do you say) to other students about CESP and the Nelson Institute? CESP is a great community to be involved with. It's nice being a part of a community of like-minded CESPers and being able to work with them to accomplish goals. CESP and the Nelson institute are both great ways to get involved and connected on our campus.

Something few people know about you: I’ve spent a few weeks each summer for the last few years sleeping out of my car and traveling the country.

Something else about you? I love to cook with seasonal produce that I find at different farmers markets.


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. 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 well as communities. 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.

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 took an animation class in elementary school and have been drawing ever since.


photo of Ana Diges

Ana Diges

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

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

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 term for deep space). Trying to enact my independence, I was initially 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. All 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 the dream to work with farmers to transition toward 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 Derek Gille

Derek Gille

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

Expected graduation: Fall 2019

What inspired your interest in the environment and/or community? My interests in the environment came for me a bit later in my life. I became more involved in environmental science in my sophomore year of college. After learning a bit more about climate change and its implications, I decided I wanted to pursue science that would benefit our environment! I’ve always been very passionate about connecting the community with science. My parents and most of the friends I interact with on the day-to-day don’t have access to the resources I do here at UW and I’m very interested in sharing that knowledge and bridging that gap.

What would you say (or do you say) to other students about CESP and the Nelson Institute? As a returning CESP student, the best advice I can give to incoming members is to get involved with the many volunteering and networking opportunities given to us by the program.

Something few people know about you: An unpopular opinion I hold is that day-old popcorn is better than when its fresh.

Something else about you? Currently I do research at the Wisconsin Institute of Energy, focusing on sustainability, more specifically on making the process of replacing petroleum made products with ones made of plant biomass more economical to compete with oil industries.


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!


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Clarissa Gomez

What are your majors? Geography and Environmental Studies with certificates in Global Health, Leadership, and Integrated Studies in Science, Engineering, and Society

Expected graduation: May 2021

What inspired your interest in the environment and/or community? Growing up, I was always spending time outdoors. Whether that was helping my mother with her flower garden or saving wild baby rabbits from local stray cats, I was (and still am) fascinated by the natural world and the community we live in. It wasn’t until college that I really rediscovered my love of the environment after taking a few environmental studies courses. But what really drove the nail home, was this past summer when I got the opportunity to study abroad in India. There, I spent two weeks in the Himalayan mountain range and engaged with local communities in order to learn more about the intersectionality of religion and politics. Coming back home, I gained a new sense and passion for the environment which inspired my interest in discovering more about the landscape and the integration of society.

Something few people know about you: I bullet journal to keep organized. So far, it’s working!


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Celeste Gunderson

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

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. One summer when I was seven years old my sisters, our neighborhood friends, and I decided that it would be a fun project to clear out invasive species from the river trail along our house. We trekked out to the woods with large garbage bags and pulled up the garlic mustard which had swallowed the bluff and choked out the native species. While weeding out the plants we played with our friends among the tall vegetation, pretending we were stuck in a maze. It has been positive experiences such as these which have developed my desire to protect and conserve the beauty of our environment.


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 (certificate in American Indian Studies)

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 the 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 both exploring and to enjoy communicating with others about those experiences. All of that led me to UW Madison and to this program, which allowed 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 wonderful program and I would highly recommend it to anyone who has in interest in either community, the environment, or intersectionality!

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 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!


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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.

Something few people know about you: I recently got published for the first time working in my lab at the UW- Carbone Cancer Center.


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!!!


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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 I guess ever since then I have just sought out ways to get involved and further help people and the environment.


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Laura Miller

What are your majors? Geography & Environmental Studies

Expected graduation: December 2019

What inspired your interest in the environment and/or community? I’ve always been interested in the environment and the various processes constantly going on around the world. Growing up in Washington, D.C., I have a profound love for my city, but there wasn’t much emphasis on environmental consciousness on a social scale. After coming to UW and learning about environmental injustices, various landscapes, and other environment-related issues, I gained a different perspective. As a result, I became fascinated with urban planning and design and how the environment and landscape play vital roles in community development.

What would you say (or do you say) to other students about CESP and the Nelson Institute? The Nelson Institute is one of the few places on this campus I feel comfortable and as a POC on this campus, it is exciting to find safe and comfortable spaces. Similarly, CESP is where I’ve been able to find like-minded individuals that share my passions. In both, I’ve been able to meet amazing faculty and students. From the advisors to the TAs and professors, I’ve learned so much and based on my experience, they tirelessly work towards helping their students, especially in CESP with Rob, Cathy, & Molly.

Something few people know about you: I love BBQ, so I can often be found at BBQ spots around the Madison area.


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Jackie Millonzi

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

Expected graduation: December 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. I focused my high school humanities assignments on topics like the cultural heritage and natural history of Wisconsin, environmental impacts of waste disposal versus recycling materials, the effects of stress on one’s body and mind, and educating fellow students and staff about recycling and composting. 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? CESP provides a neat space for folks that are often interested in similar topics to meet each week and talk about various issues related to people and the planet.

Something few people know about you: I tried to teach myself how to play the trumpet and it did not end very well.

Something else about you? I work at the Office of Sustainability on campus and can talk about waste management, education, and changing peoples’ habits for hours.


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Matthew Munns

What are your majors? Environmental Studies, Conservation Biology, Spanish, and Latin American/Caribbean/Iberian Studies (LACIS) along with a certificate in Education and Educational Services

Expected graduation: Fall 2019

What inspired your interest in the environment and/or community? I have always loved the outdoors for as long as I can remember, and being from Madison, I had ample amounts of opportunities to visit the Arboretum, Lakeshore Nature Preserve, and all of the wonderful state parks in Southern Wisconsin and I continue to do so today. My favorite thing to do outside is go searching for salamanders, especially the four toed salamander and the eastern red back salamander, and to go fishing.

What would you say (or do you say) to other students about CESP and the Nelson Institute? For those wanting to know more about the Nelson Institute or CESP, I think it would be good to know that everyone that I have met and interacted with in both the Nelson Institute and CESP are very outgoing, passionate, and dedicated people and are good connections to have. If you want to learn more about how the community and the environment are intertwined, CESP is the program for you!

Something else about you? I hope to go to graduate school and find a career working with conservation efforts in Latin America.


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Theresa Nepomuceno

What are your majors? Middle Childhood-Early Adolescent Education, Math and Science Education focus

Expected graduation: Fall 2019

What inspired your interest in the environment and/or community? I grew interest in the environment spending everyday outside growing up! My interest in the environment as an academic field started my Spring semester of freshman year when I took Geography 339. Since then, I have grown a great appreciation of natural processes and how these ideas can be applied in other fields. My focus in my studies is how I can apply experiential, outdoor learning to everyday science curriculum in our public schools! My dedication the environment is now renewed every time I learn something new about our ecosystem. Finding the similarities between the human ecosystem and the non-human ecosystem allows me to appreciate and analyze our behavior and societal structures!

What would you say (or do you say) to other students about CESP and the Nelson Institute? CESP is a place that you can be yourself and it is truly celebrated. Never have instructors gotten to know my passions so well and taken personal investment in my goals. The other students in this program celebrate every form of diversity in a way that pushes me to constantly evaluate, reevaluate, and challenge my beliefs.

Something few people know about you: I was a truly awful student in middle school, but that is what drives me to teach this age!

Something else about you? My life dream is to work in a self-sustaining outdoor school that uses nature and experiential learning to explore mathematic, scientific, emotional, social, and literary topics.


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Breon Newble

What are your majors? Conservation Biology and Life Sciences Communication, certificates in Global Health, Public Policy, 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 UW that I realized the intensity of these issues and decided that I’d like 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.


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Carmen Nightfall

What are your majors? My major is in the sciences, I love them all, now just to decide…

Expected graduation: 2024

What inspired your interest in the environment and/or community? Inspiration of my interests in environment and community began with the blessings that are my grandmother, ours and surrounding cultures, our southwest communities, and furthered with seeing the real life impacts of environmental issues on individuals and communities. Later, the discovery of the contributions of corporate unaccountability, irresponsibility, and regulatory policies allowing for the environmental contamination that came to seriously impact my health brought me to want to educate the public, have companies held accountable, to change public policy, 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; the health of all populations- people, animals, beneficial bacteria, etc., and environments. 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. 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!


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Calla Norris

What are your majors? People-Environment Geography

Expected graduation: 2020

What inspired your interest in the environment and/or community? My childhood took place almost wholly surrounded by nature, first amongst New Mexico deserts where I was born, and soon after in the dazzling jungle sweep of Hawaii where I grew up. Later my family moved to the refreshingly biodiverse forests of Wisconsin. I spent a year as a highschool exchange student in the very green and almost unbelievably clean country of Sweden, and during my freshman year at UW Madison I was lucky enough to return to the desertscapes of the Four Corners through a semester long course with the Wild Rockies Field Institute. Throughout the assortment of regions in which I have resided, what struck me most were always the natural attributes that surrounded me. For myself, the natural world and its coinciding systems ooze an unparalleled charm. For this reason, the well being of the nature around me is something that I simply can’t help but view simultaneously with allure and immense vitality.

What would you say (or do you say) to other students about CESP and the Nelson Institute? Being a member of CESP has helped me to gain a sense of community that I have not been able to find elsewhere on campus at UW Madison. Not only do I love the sense of trust amongst my family at CESP, but I also cherish the conversations and subjects that we learn about during our weekly seminars.

Something few people know about you: Recently, I’ve been scavenging on the curbs and streets and dumpsters of Madison for house plants that others have discarded. Upon finding them, each of these plants was lacking in nutrients, water, sunshine, perkiness, love, and sometimes uprooted completely. I am happy to say that today my bedroom is packed with thriving vegetation; cacti, ferns, palms, and succulents, all salvaged from death row! :)

Something else about you? Another thing that I really love about CESP is that students are encouraged to volunteer and get involved with the community outside of our own group. In my past there had been some mystery and discomfort around doing so, but I’ve grown far more familiarized with taking an initiative in my community involvement through reaching out to local organizations for CESP projects. For my Team 3 CESP project last year, as my final project (to give back to the CESP community in some way) I organized and led a field trip to the Madison Audubon Society’s Goose Pond Sanctuary. There, my classmates and I got to do a prescribed burn on Goose Pond’s Sue Ames Prairie. Shortly afterwards I was contacted by a Journalist from the Nelson Institute about the event and they wrote this story about it! And then the Madison Audubon Society reposted it!!! It all made me so giddy. Check it out, there are fun pictures and there’s even a bad pun in the title! https://nelson.wisc.edu/news/story.php?story=3171


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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!!


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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!


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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.


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Camille Schmidt

What are your majors? Civil Engineering major with an emphasis in environmental engineering and a certificate in environmental studies

Expected graduation: May 2022

What inspired your interest in the environment and/or community? I have known for a while that I wanted to go into engineering & I have always cared about environmental sustainability but it was not until I watched a documentary about climate change that I had decided that I was going to make the career path I wanted to go down align with environmental sustainability which in part also helps the health of the community.

Something few people know about you: At my first internship two years ago I worked on an IP disclosure for a product I designed.

Something else about you? After getting my BS in Civil Engineering I hope to go to graduate school to get my MS in Environmental Engineering.


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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.


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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.


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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.