Ventura awarded Nelson Distinguished Professorship

September 10, 2013

Steve Ventura, known widely for his work in land and food systems, has been named the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s next Gaylord Nelson Distinguished Professor. 

A professor of environmental studies and soil science, Ventura serves as director of the Nelson Institute Land Tenure Center and the Land Information and Computer Graphics Facility

“Steve’s work on soils, environmental management and urban agriculture encapsulates everything that makes our institute great,” says Paul Robbins, director of the Nelson Institute for Environmental Studies. “We are very proud to be able to honor what Steve does for the institute, the university and the people and land of Wisconsin.”

"We are very proud
to be able to honor
what Steve does for
the institute, the
university and the people
and land of Wisconsin." 

Ventura’s current research examines innovations and successes in community and regional food systems, opportunities and constraints in the production of bioenergy crops, and the development of local land use planning tools. His expertise also spans water quality modeling, geographic information systems and environmental impact analysis.

Ventura leads a consortium of UW-Madison researchers studying sustainable food systems in urban areas such as Milwaukee, Chicago and Detroit where food insecurity is considered extensive. The research, supported by a $5 million grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, is conducted in partnership with University of Wisconsin Extension; Growing Power, Inc., a farm and community food center in Milwaukee; the Michael Fields Agricultural Institute; and a range of community organizations.

“When Steve is researching these things, he's really working to understand how to socially and politically negotiate community dynamics to reach fair and sustainable outcomes,” Robbins adds. “For Steve, soil is a window into relationships between people.” 

The Nelson professorship is awarded to members of the Nelson Institute faculty for innovative thinking, research excellence and significant contributions to its broad range of interdisciplinary academic, research and community service programs. 

Ventura, who is an alumnus of the Nelson Institute, having earned a master’s degree in Environmental Monitoring (‘83) and a doctorate in Land Resources (‘89), will hold the honorary title for the next four years. The award includes an annual stipend for flexible research support. Ken Potter, a professor of civil and environmental engineering and environmental studies, previously held the professorship. 

The Nelson professorship, like the Nelson Institute, is named for Gaylord Nelson, a champion of environmental stewardship. As governor of Wisconsin and a three-term U.S. senator, Nelson left a rich legacy of achievements in conservation and environmental protection. He is best known as the founder of Earth Day, launched in 1970.