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Celebrating our community

Gifts and gratitude, Nelson gatherings, and enhancing the student experience

Spring 2017

Thank you to our donors! We would like to extend sincere thanks to all those individuals who provided gifts of time, talent, financial resources, and introductions to new networks during 2016.

During the period of January 1-December 31, 2016, the Nelson Institute received 261 financial gifts and pledge payments to 28 different funds for a total of $588,935. We are truly grateful for your support! 



The Nelson Institute has long been active in the international arena, but our global network has been recently enhanced due to the tremendous appeal and success of our Environmental Conservation (EC) professional master’s program.

Nathan Schulfer
Nathan Schulfer

Nathan Schulfer, assistant director of International and Professional Programs, deserves specific recognition for his extraordinary networking and stewardship of our international partners and associates.

The EC Program has had the good fortune to draw in a large number of international students. It has had the even better fortune to be able to provide financial support to several of them as a direct result of philanthropy.

In 2016, the EC Program awarded two significant scholarships to international students:

The Emily H. Earley Environmental Conservation Scholarship, dedicated to providing support to either emerging conservation leaders from Latin or South America (preferable) or emerging conservation leaders who are interested in working in Latin or South America, was awarded to three students this academic year: Diana De Pierola (from Peru; interested in water issues), Elena Hove-Edens (first-generation student from Bolivia; interested in species conservation) and Ivan Polo (from Ecuador; interested in species conservation).

Sumaiya Firoze, an EC student from Bangladesh working in tiger conservation, was the recipient of a scholarship made possible by the generosity of Virginia and Warren Schwerin.

In addition to these two scholarships, the Nelson Institute has been able to award the Steven W. Lawry Wisconsin Distinguished Graduate Fellowship to students working in the international sphere.

Past recipients of the Lawry fellowship include Leelah Hazzah (executive director, Lion Guardians), Gina Collingnon and Gail Rosen. In case you missed it, Hazzah’s work with Lion Guardians was recently spotlighted in the university’s On Wisconsin magazine, which you can read here:


spotlight on kindness

Many alumni of the Nelson Institute’s graduate programs will fondly remember Barbara Borns.

Prior to her retirement in the early 2000s, Barbara – who was known among students, faculty and staff alike for her caring, compassionate nature and deep desire to help our students achieve academic and personal success – established the Nelson Institute Fund for Urgent Student Needs.

The sole purpose of this fund is to help the Nelson Institute respond to dire emergencies that periodically affect our graduate students, such as a death in the family or the effects of political upheaval in their country of origin.

In the latter half of 2016, the Nelson Institute made two disbursements from this fund.

While unfortunate that this was necessary, we would like to commend Barbara for her vision and for continuing to make a difference in our students’ lives.


centennial circle




In September, Janet Moore (ES ’13), Casey Sweeney (ES ’12), Brandon Weathersby (ES ’11), Darcy Widmayer (M.S. EC ’15), and graduate student Sarah Stefanos shared career advice with students from our Community Environmental Scholars Program and our Graduate Research Scholars Program. The panel discussion, Expect the Unexpected: The Adventures of Nelson Institute Alumni, preceded the annual Rendezvous on the Terrace. Thanks to Matt Dannenberg (ESC ’10) and George Reistad (ES ’11), both members of the Nelson Institute Board of Visitors, for helping to organize the event.

mentoring session


Nearly 200 alumni and friends of the institute gathered September 9 at our Rendezvous on the Terrace to catch up and to honor the new named professors and chair recently established via the Morgridge Match Program (made possible by a historic $100 million gift to the UW from John and Tashia Morgridge) and the generous philanthropy of John P. Holton, James and Renee Knight/The Bradshaw Knight Foundation, and John and Linda Nelson. The Nelson Institute is proud to recognize our newly appointed professors and chair:

2016 Rendezvous


We would like to extend our gratitude to Carl Korfmacher, Nelson Institute Board of Visitors member and owner of Midwest Prairies, LLC, who hosted a networking happy hour for alumni of Conservation Biology and Sustainable Development, current students (and alumni) of our Environmental Conservation professional master’s program, and other friends of the institute who were in Madison in July for the North American Conference for Conservation Biology.


In November, Nelson Institute Director Paul Robbins and Emily Reynolds, our events and alumni relations manager, visited with Nelson Institute alumni in Washington, D.C. Paul and Emily held a brainstorming session at The Wilderness Society and joined leaders of the UW International Division and Global Health Institute at a jointly hosted reception on behalf of the UW’s Wisconsin in Washington, DC, Internship Program. Thank you to all who joined us!

Are you in the D.C. area and interested in connecting with other alumni? Contact Emily Reynolds.




Our undergraduate program has had a banner year! Under the direction of Professor and Program Chair Matt Turner, the undergraduate major in environmental studies marked its fifth anniversary.

This major is offered in partnership with the College of Letters & Science and is the only major on campus that must be taken as a second major (the first major can be taken in any other school or college on campus). The Nelson Institute provides all student advising, infrastructure and staffing for this major.

Per campus policy, the major underwent a rigorous, internal self-review and, for the first time ever within the Nelson Institute, a team of external reviewers was brought in, as well. Special thanks go to Gregg Crane, University of Michigan; Richard Howarth (M.S. Land Resources ‘87), Dartmouth University; and Carol Wessman (M.S. Environmental Monitoring ‘84), University of Colorado Boulder, for their dedication and thoroughness.

The undergraduate environmental studies program has seen exponential growth over the past five years. With the increased student interest (we have over 700 undergraduates enrolled in either the major or certificate!), our need for dedicated programming, advising, community-building events, and scholarship support has increased, as well.

We hope that you will consider making a gift in support of this successful program to allow the program chair to address emerging needs and opportunities. Gifts in any amount are needed and appreciated!



Nelson students will have several opportunities in the spring semester to hear from alumni.

We are pleased to be able to offer another Expect the Unexpected mentoring panel in early April as part of our Earth Month Career Week. This event will feature lunchtime alumni speakers for our undergraduate students.

In addition, a brown bag lunch series for graduate students will take place throughout the semester, utilizing video chat to connect with alumni outside the Madison area.

Are you interested in sharing your experience with students at a future event? Please let Emily Reynolds know.

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