Alumni Awards

Nearly 4,000 Nelson Institute alumni work in government, business and non-profit 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 Nelson Institute.

Each year, the Nelson Institute shines a spotlight on alumni who are making a difference in the world.

Rising Star Alumni Award

This award recognizes the accomplishments of alumni who are making a significant difference in the world soon after graduation.

Distinguished Alumni Award

This award honors alumni who have demonstrated considerable professional achievement and/or community service.

Nomination Process

Nominations for the 2020 Nelson Institute Alumni Awards are now being accepted.




Nomination deadline: Friday, May 29, 2020.

Selection Process

Award winners are selected by members of the Nelson Institute Alumni Awards Committee and approved by the Nelson Institute Senior Leadership Team. Awardees are notified of their selection by July 1, 2020.

Award Process

Awards are presented at the Nelson Institute’s annual Rendezvous on the Terrace gathering for alumni and friends. The 2020 Rendezvous on the Terrace is tentatively scheduled for Friday, September 11, 2020.

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.

It is expected that the recipient of this award will be present to accept the award during the Nelson Institute’s Rendezvous on the Terrace event on Friday, September 11, 2020.

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.

It is expected that the recipient of this award will be present to accept the award during the Nelson Institute’s Rendezvous on the Terrace event on Friday, September 11, 2020.

Previous Award Recipients

Past Alumni Award recipients represent a variety of sectors and hail from local and global locales. Learn more about our past winners.

  • 2019: Jane Elder (MS LR ‘91), Paul Denholm (PhD LR and EAP Certificate ‘04), Erik Olson (PhD ER ‘13, MS ER ‘10), Ashely Lee (ES Certificate ‘11)
  • 2018: Aaron Wolf (WRM ‘90 and PhD LR ‘92), Rebecca Wodder (WRM ‘78), Kevin Gibbons (CBSD ‘12), Aszya Summers (ES ‘14)
  • 2017: Lea Shanley (PhD ER) and Lynn Price (MS LR ‘82)
  • 2016: Amy Kesling (ES Certificate ‘09), Ron Meissen (PhD LR and EAP Certificate ‘06) and Roberto Lindig-Cisneros (PhD LR ‘00)
  • 2015: Jami Morton (MS ER ‘11) and Neva Hassanein (PhD LR ‘97), and honorary award winners Claus Moberg and Matt Luedke
  • 2014: Matt Dannenberg (ES Certificate ‘10) and Lynn Hobbie (MS LR ‘84)
  • Questions

    Please email Emily Reynolds, Assistant Director for Community Engagement and Alumni Relations, with questions.