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Alumni notes and awards winners

September 20, 2016


Karen Bednar (ESC ’11, M.S. WRM ’14) is now a water resources management specialist with the Lac du Flambeau Band of Lake Superior Chippewa.

Sam Campbell-Nelson (M.S. WRM ’12) is now a wastewater operator at the Montpelier Water Resource Recovery Facility in Montpelier, Vermont.

Dantrell Cotton (ESC ’14) earned a 2016 UW-Madison Graduate Peer Mentor Award, recognizing graduate students who have made positive impacts on their research-mates, advisors, program staff, undergraduates and others. A master’s student in Environment and Resources, Cotton is a STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) mentor with the UW-Madison Posse Program and the empowerment coach and director of the Madison Inspiration Community Choir through the Nehemiah Foundation.

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Jackie Edmunds (M.S. CBSD ’16) in May became the final student to graduate with a degree in Conservation Biology and Sustainable Development. Launched in 1990, CBSD allowed students to pursue either a professional or research track. With growing interest in the professional emphasis, the program shifted to the Environmental Conservation professional master’s degree, launched in 2014.

Anne Hubatch (ESC ’99), owner and winemaker at Helioterra Wines in Oregon’s Willamette Valley, returned to Madison in April for a dinner event featuring her wines at Harvest restaurant.

Holly Hughes (EAP ’05) serves as vice president of North America Operations for Natural Power, an independent renewable energy consultancy and products provider.

John “Jack” Jenkins (M.S. LR, EAP ’91) passed away in February at age 69. Throughout his career, Jenkins coordinated and taught programs through UW Extension to reduce energy usage and costs, developed market research for energy utilities, and as a consultant evaluated energy management programs. He was a passionate environmentalist, avid photographer and volunteer firefighter for the Shorewood Hills Fire Department.

Eric Kurtz (M.S. LR ’01) was named executive director of Mennonite Central Committee Great Lakes, a ministry based in Goshen, Indiana, that responds to basic human needs and works for peace and justice. Kurtz previously served as the organization’s assistant director and, prior to that, coordinated education and outreach programs for the Elkhart County Soil and Water Conservation District.

Stephen Laubach (M.S. CBSD ’00), outreach specialist with the UW-Madison Arboretum Earth Partnership program, was awarded an Ira and Ineva Reilly Baldwin Wisconsin Idea Endowment grant for the Art in Restoration initiative – a professional development training that empowers K-12 art teachers to integrate ecological restoration projects in school curriculum. Laubach also helped teach a one-week institute for teachers and youth in Lac du Flambeau last summer as part of the Earth Partnership Indigenous Arts and Sciences initiative. The program integrates indigenous knowledge and cultural connections to address the need for culturally relevant learning experiences and career exploration in tribal communities.

Justin Mog in Louisville Magazine
Justin Mog (Photo: Louisville Magazine)

Janet Moore (ES ’13), a nature-based artist and environmental educator, in July served as guest artist at Art in Restoration: Earth Partnership Institute for Art Educators, a weeklong training exploring the intersection of art, science and restoration ecology. She also led two classes this summer at Northland College in Ashland, Wisconsin, sharing in-the-field instruction in art, writing and nature journaling.

Justin Mog (M.S. LR ’99, Ph.D. LR ’03) was spotlighted in the annual fitness issue of Louisville Magazine for his commitment to bike commuting and his efforts to coordinate the University of Louisville (UofL) Earn-a-Bike program, which encourages faculty and students to commit to not driving to campus for at least two years in exchange for a $400 voucher to area bike shops. UofL, where Mog serves as assistant to the provost for sustainability initiatives, recently achieved a gold rating from the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education.

Jessica Price (Ph.D. ER ’16) has joined The Nature Conservancy Long Island Chapter as land- scape conservation ecologist. She is addressing ways to connect preserved areas on Long Island to help wildlife species move through the landscape and access additional habitat or relocate as necessary to survive alterations in their environment.

Sonja Reichertz (ESC ’11) is now city planner and economic development director for the City of Monona.

Yasi Rezai (M.S. EC ’15), the U.S. administrator for Ceiba Foundation, is helping to lead the organization’s hurricane relief and recovery efforts in the central coast of Ecuador after a 7.8 magnitude quake devastated the region in April. The Madison-based nonprofit focuses on forest conservation in coastal Ecuador, so has long-established relationships in affected communities.

Brandt Richardson (M.S. WRM ’ 73) retired in May after 24 years as manager/administrator for Dakota County, Minnesota, bringing to a close a career of nearly 40 years in public service. Dakota County is recognized as a leader in protecting its natural resources and open spaces. Among many achievements under Richardson’s leadership, the county launched a voter- approved land conservation plan that has protected almost 11,000 acres from development; adopted plans for a county-wide system of greenways; worked with landowners to institute buffer protections for key water resources; implemented the state’s first bus rapid transitway; and constructed many miles of trails in parks.

Joe Van Rossum (M.S. ER ’14) now serves as University of Wisconsin-Extension Natural Resources Educator for the Rock River Basin, helping to imple ment the Rock River Recovery through community engagement and education. Van Rossum previously spent 11 years as UW-Extension’s Recycling Specialist with the Solid and Hazardous Waste Education

Olivia Sanderfoot (ESC ’15), who is pursuing her doctorate in Environment and Resources, was awarded a National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship to support her studies of the impact of air pollution on birds.

CeCe Sieffert (M.S. CBSD ’12) is now deputy director at International Rhino Foundation, an organization dedicated to the survival of the world’s rhino species through conservation and research. She previously worked at World Wildlife Fund, combatting the illegal wildlife trade and managing community-based conservation projects.

Steph Wester Peace Corps service
Steph Wester during Peace Corps
service in Tanzania.

Jack Sullivan (M.S.WRM ’79) is an inaugural recipient of the Climate Adaptation Leadership Award for Natural Resources, a national honor established through the Obama Administration’s Priority Agenda for Enhancing the Climate Resilience of America’s Natural Resources. Sullivan, who directed the Bureau of Science Services in the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR) from 2000 to 2015, played an integral role in establishing the Wisconsin Initiative on Climate Change Impacts (WICCI), involving the DNR with WICCI, and producing WICCI’s first climate assessment report.

Steph Wester (ESC ’11, M.S. EC ’16), who served with the Peace Corps in Tanzania as a biology teacher, was part of an on-campus panel of Peace Corps volunteers in March to share with students how their service has affected their lives and careers. “After completing my Peace Corps service, anytime I feel nervous or worried about something, I just think, I lived without electricity, water, and by myself in a foreign country for two years; I can do anything,” she said in advance of the event.



“I’ve been to some really grimy places,” says Don Wichert (M.S. LR, EAP ’87).

One of the first to join the newly established field of air quality management after the Clean Air Act’s passage in 1970, Wichert worked at Clean Air Engineering testing air pollution abatement devices and ensuring that power plants were following new EPA rules. But Wichert eventually grew tired of climb- ing smoke stacks and he longed to know more about energy technology, so he earned a second bachelor’s degree in thermal and environmental engineering.

Stints at the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources Air Management Bureau and Wisconsin Division of Energy (DOE) followed. At DOE, Don began taking graduate-level classes at UW-Madison and, six years later, earned a master’s degree from the Nelson Institute. Soon after, he was promoted to Chief of DOE’s Energy Resources Section – work he credits with igniting his passion for energy efficiency and inspiring him to found the nonprofit organization RENEW Wisconsin. Don continues to serve on RENEW’s board and is building an endowment fund to support an ongoing internship for EAP students.

-Olivia Sanderfoot

Alum’s love for waterfowl and conservation takes flight

Upon retiring, people often spend their time playing golf, reading books or traveling the world. Not so for Nichol and Craig Swenson. They opened Flyways Waterfowl Museum in Baraboo, Wisconsin, dedicated to North American ducks, geese and swans, and habitat conservation.

Craig and Nichol Swenson
Craig and Nichol Swenson

“I always wanted to give back to the state of Wisconsin, and I realized that I had the ability to do this,” says Nichol, who earned a master’s degree in land resources in 1985.

The museum, open from spring through fall and by appointment in the off-season, contains three major sections: waterfowl science, waterfowl art, and a history of conservation and environmental regulations in North America. Guests can view more than 80 migratory ducks, geese and swans, listen to the birds’ calls, learn about waterfowl migration patterns, and explore habitat management topics. The art collection includes antique and collectable decoys and duck calls, as well as prints of federal and state duck stamps.

The museum has drawn hundreds of visitors from across the country and also hosts symposiums for teachers, as well as personalized tours for student, senior and civic groups.

-Melanie Ginsburg


Martha Goodell (M.S. ER, EAP ’14) loves finding creative solutions to complex challenges. And after nearly 20 years working as a business consultant and investment analytics specialist, she grew thirsty for something new.

“I was fascinated by the bridge between environmental topics and business and investing,” she says. Frustrated by what she saw as a divide between “tree huggers” and “business people,” she decided to look into graduate programs that would help her employ business tools to solve pressing environ- mental problems.

Goodell was drawn to the Environment and Resources and Energy Analysis and Policy programs because of the flexibility and multidisciplinarity of their curriculum, and the diversity of student experiences represented. “I was never in a class where I wasn’t blown away by the people next to me,” she says.

She recently established her own freelance consulting company, Goodell Consulting, LLC, supporting clients in “completing due diligence on clean energy projects to determine investment potential.”

-Olivia Sanderfoot


ES denotes environmental studies undergraduate major; ESC, environmental studies undergraduate certificate; and SC, sustainability undergraduate certificate. Graduate programs: CBSD, Conservation Biology and Sustainable Development; EAP, Energy Analysis and Policy certificate; EC, Environmental Conservation; EM, Environmental Monitoring (through 2005); ER, Environment and Resources (after 2007); LR, Land Resources (through 2007); and WRM, Water Resources Management.


Sustainability advocate, corporate leader and restoration ecologist honored with alumni awards

2016 Nelson Institute Alumni Awards winners

Amy KeslingRoberto Lindig-Cisneros and Ron Meissen (pictured above, from left to right) in April received the third annual Nelson Institute alumni awards, established in 2014 to spotlight alumni’s accomplishments and impacts.

Kesling (ESC ’09) is the recipient of the Early Career Alumni Award. For six years, she has led administrative and program coordination at the Madison-based nonprofit organization Sustain Dane. She is also a cofounder of Step Up: Equity Matters, a series of workshops and community conversations aimed at helping employers address equity in the workplace and advance solutions to create inclusive, welcoming and thriving work environments.

Lindig-Cisneros (Ph.D. LR ’00) is the recipient of the Distinguished Alumni Award. A professor with the Institute of Ecosystem and Sustainability Research at the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, he has published more than 100 papers in English- and Spanish-language research journals. His forthcoming textbook, Apuntes de Ecología de Restauración y Restauración Ambiental, translated to Notes on Restoration Ecology and Environmental Restoration, is believed to be the first Spanish-language text on the subject.

Meissen (Ph.D. LR, EAP ’06) is also a Distinguished Alumni Award recipient, honored for his more than 30-year career with Baxter International Inc. As Baxter’s senior director of sustainability, Meissen leads a number of global corporate programs to integrate sustainability practices and enhance long-term business value, including managing greenhouse gas emission reduction strategies and championing the company’s use of renewable energy.

Learn more about the awards program and recipients.



Hoax or horror? Reality or imagination? The tales of Science Hall are as tall as its towering, castle-like walls at the base of Bascom Hill.

Lecture room in UW-Madison Science Hall

To share the love – and lore – around the building’s storied past and iconic architectural details, in February the Nelson Institute Student Ambassadors hosted a Science Hall Fright Night.

Stephanie Dresen (ES ’15) prepared the tour script as a student at UW-Madison, sifting through a bevy of legends and little-known details. (For example, did you know that room 15, the present-day environmental studies student lounge, originally served as a morgue?) Student Kai Brito also produced an American Horror Story-inspired video to welcome guests.

See Brito’s video and reminisce through the building’s hallowed halls with ten tour highlights. And let us know at if you have a Science Hall story to tell!