Alumni Awards

Nearly 5,000 Nelson Institute alumni work in government, business, and nonprofit organizations, applying their knowledge and skills to make the world a better and more sustainable place. Many also volunteer with environmental or humanitarian causes, extending the community-based philosophy that is cultivated within the institute. Each year, the Nelson Institute shines a spotlight on alumni who are making a difference in the world.

2022 Recipients

Keefe Keeley

Keefe Keeley
(MS and PhD Agroecology ’14 and ’21)

Margaret Krome

Margaret Krome
(MS Land Resources ’89)

Nehls current job took her to scenic Breckenridge, Colorado, where she often spends her free time exploring the mountains. Photos courtesy of Breana Nehls

Breana Nehls
(Environmental Studies and Geography ’16)

O’Kane loves birds of all kinds, including her backyard chickens like Maeve, pictured here. Photos courtesy of Trish O’Kane

Patricia O’Kane
(PhD Environment and Resources ’15)

Robert Ribe

Robert Ribe
(MS Landscape Architecture ’81, MA Agricultural and Applied Economics ’87, PhD Land Resources ’90)

Ashok Sarkar

Ashok Sarkar
(PhD Environment and Resources ’97)

New for 2023: Nomination and Selection Process

The nomination process for the Alumni Awards will be changing. We will be accepting nominations January 18 through February 28, 2023.

Submit a nomination

Award winners are selected by members of the Nelson Institute Alumni Awards Committee and approved by the Nelson Institute Senior Leadership Team. Awardees will be notified of their selection by May 1, 2023.

Awards are presented at the Nelson Institute’s annual Rendezvous on the Terrace gathering for alumni and friends.

Award Process

Awards are presented at the Nelson Institute’s annual Rendezvous on the Terrace gathering for alumni and friends. The 2023 Rendezvous on the Terrace will be held Friday, September 29, in Madison.

Rising Star Alumni Award

The Nelson Institute Rising Star Alumni Award recognizes initiative as well as accomplishments of alumni who are making a significant difference in the world soon after graduation and who have attained a notable degree of success or impact through their professional accomplishments and/or community service.

  • Nominees must have earned an undergraduate major or certificate or a graduate degree or certificate from the Nelson Institute for Environmental Studies.
  • Nominees must be under 35 years of age OR have received their degree/certificate less than 10 years ago.
  • Special consideration will be given to those who have demonstrated significant initiative by starting innovative service or research projects, businesses, or other original enterprises.
  • All candidates will be considered regardless of race, gender, age, disability, marital status, sexual orientation, or religion.
  • Nominations may be made by any students, alumni, friends, and current or emeritus faculty or staff of the Nelson Institute for Environmental Studies. Self-nominations are accepted but require a letter of recommendation in addition to the nomination form.
  • Multiple nominations for the same person are highly encouraged.
  • The selection committee will select at least one undergraduate alum and one graduate alum to recognize.

Distinguished Alumni Award

The Nelson Institute Distinguished Alumni Award recognizes alumni who have attained a notable degree of long-term success or impact through their professional accomplishments and/or community service.

  • Nominees must have earned an undergraduate major or certificate or graduate degree or certificate from the Nelson Institute for Environmental Studies
  • Nominees must be over the age of 35 OR have received their degree/certificate more than 10 years ago.
  • Special consideration will be given to those who have demonstrated significant initiative by starting innovative service or research projects, businesses, or other original enterprises.
  • All candidates will be considered regardless of race, gender, age, disability, marital status, sexual orientation, or religion.
  • Nominations may be made by any students, alumni, friends, and current or emeritus faculty or staff of the Nelson Institute for Environmental Studies. Self-nominations are accepted but require a letter of recommendation in addition to the nomination form.
  • Multiple nominations for the same person are highly encouraged.
  • Once a person is nominated for the Distinguished Award category their nomination will continue to be considered in future years if they were not selected during the specific year they were nominated.

Please email Emily Reynolds, director for community engagement and alumni relations, with questions at alumni@nelson.wisc.edu.