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Nelson Institute students awarded summer fellowships for community-based projects

April 14, 2016

Environmental studies students Maria Castillo and Katherine Piel have been awarded 2016 Wisconsin Open Education Community Fellowships to support community-based projects across the state this summer.

Castillo will work in partnership with the Monona Sustainability Committee to support sustainability transportation planning and development in Monona, while Piel will support after-school sustainable food education in Milwaukee in partnership with the Urban Ecology Center.

The Wisconsin Open Education Community Fellowships (WOECF) challenges undergraduate students at UW-Madison to work with community partners outside of the university to develop a community project in a Wisconsin town that the student has a connection to. Projects must be designed around the content provided in one of six massive open online courses (MOOCs) offered by UW-Madison’s Division of Continuing Studies during the 2015-16 academic year. Each fellow will receive a $3,000 stipend and up to $1,000 for project expenses.

Throughout the duration of the fellowship, each student will work to implement their project with a UW-Madison faculty mentor and a community partner organization. Fellows were required to work with both their community partner and faculty mentor from the beginning of the project design, although for most fellows, they have known and been working with both their mentor and their community partner for much longer.

Community partners will also receive $1,000 for participating in the fellowship, with UW-Madison faculty/staff mentors receiving $1,000 as well. The WOECF is a collaboration of the Division of Continuing Studies, Educational Innovation, and the Morgridge Center for Public Service at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Project details:

Monona Sustainable Transportation: Building Community Engagement

Student: Maria Castillo
Hometown: Bucaramanga, Colombia
Project Title: Monona Sustainable Transportation: Building Community Engagement
MOOC Topic: Climate Change and Public Health Policy
Faculty Mentor: Carolina Sarmiento, Civil Society & Community Studies
Community Partner: Monona Sustainability Committee 
Project Location: Monona, Wisconsin

Maria Castillo, a junior environmental studies major, will be working with the Monona Sustainability Committee in Monona, Wisconsin. The committee, part of UW-Madison’s UniverCity Year program, works to create a shared, forward looking culture of sustainable and active transportation in the Monona area. Maria will complement the committee’s efforts by better mapping existing needs and interests among local stakeholders. After an initial meeting with city and committee officials, Maria will create and manage an inventory of local individuals, nonprofit groups, and businesses interested in the project. Once these actors have been identified, Maria will organize and facilitate a series of focus groups to allow their voices to be a part of the broader planning process in the area. These discussions will allow Maria and the committee to better understand the existing transportation culture as well as how they can most effectively and efficiently seek to improve it.

This process will also allow the committee to create important partnerships with related organizations such as the Wisconsin Bike Federation. In addition to these organizational efforts, Maria will also help coordinate the committee’s marketing. She will take a lead role in producing public service announcements targeting local youth, enhancing and expanding the committee’s social media presence and creating a series of outreach events to help Monona residents know about and embrace sustainable transportation options. In general, Maria’s efforts will also fill a key gap during the summer in which several other student-based resources in the UniverCity Year program will be limited due to the absence of related courses.

Young Sustainable Scientists Club

Student: Katherine Piel and Natalie Hogan
Hometowns: Piel – Wauwatosa, Hogan – Shorewood
Project Title: Young Sustainable Scientists Club
MOOC Topic: Climate Change Policy and Public Health
Faculty Mentor: Cathy Middlecamp, Nelson Institute for Environmental Studies
Community Partner: Urban Ecology Center
Project Location: Milwaukee, Wisconsin

Katherine Piel, a freshman majoring in environmental studies and communication arts, and Natalie Hogan, a freshman majoring in dietetics and Spanish, will be working with the Urban Ecology Center (UEC) in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Their fellowship work will center on enhancing the sustainable food components of UEC’s weekly science and nature-based after school program. The program currently provides weekly activities for local elementary school children to grow, cook, and eat healthy produce. Piel and Hogan will expand this experience for the students by providing them with hands-on, educational experiences about the broader environmental impacts that our food choices can have.

This information will help the students connect concepts of climate change and public health in at least three ways. First, students will be encouraged to become more thoughtful consumers of foods. Piel and Hogan will create lessons that demonstrate how the production of different types of food are closely interconnected and how students can independently identify products that are least stressful on the planet and society. Second, students will be taught additional gardening and cooking skills that allow them to improve the quality of their own diets. This effort will include visits to sustainable agriculture resources in the area. Third, students will be encouraged to be leaders in their own families, helping their parents and siblings make healthier, more sustainable food choices. Students will be provided with informational packets about sustainable food options in the Milwaukee area and will practice sharing these materials with others. Piel and Hogan thus hope to foster among these students an enduring commitment to improving the health of themselves and those around them through more nutritious and sustainable dietary choices.