Ameya Baxi

What is your major? Cartography and geographic information systems with certificates in data science and engineering for energy sustainability

Expected graduation: May 2025

What inspired your interest in the environment and/or community? My interest in the environment and community developed out of a culmination of experiences.

I grew up in and around urban environments, where it was typical to drive out of town to take a hike or see the stars. Despite having small nature centers and parks around, they didn’t match my perception of nature as “wild,” and spending time in green spaces wasn’t something I really saw the value in for a long time. Over the years, I grew to find peace among the trees and at the same time recognize that the environment encompasses more than just the woods.

I grew up in an immigrant household where clothes that no longer fit were turned into rags, plastic bags were hoarded, and you’d always find basmati rice in an empty mixed nuts container. It was ingrained in me to limit my waste, and after taking an environmental science class in high school, I realized this wasn’t just to save money, but also because of all the issues that face our world.

My freshman year, I was in the Earth Partnership Indigenous Arts and Sciences first-year interest group. It was the first time I was exposed to the idea that humans aren’t inherently fated to destroy the environment and that reciprocal relationships with the land can and do exist. This changed my view of people and nature being separate entities and made me realize I could do work for communities and the environment simultaneously.

This realization combined with my experiences living in the New York, Bombay, and Chicago metros led me to develop an interest in connecting urban communities to the environment, not just through the major endeavors of incorporating green infrastructure and creating equitable access to nature, but also by using environmental education to inspire interactions with the environment in the forms that are already accessible, even if that’s as simple as growing an indoor plant or pressing leaves from urban trees.

Later in college, student organizations and coursework sparked my interest in renewable energy. Renewable energy is often perceived as a largely technology-oriented field, but in fact the social aspect is just as important. For example, who do the energy systems impact, and in what manner? Every environmental issue has a social component, and understanding that has made me value the intersection of environmental work and community engagement.

What would you say to other students who ask about CESP or the Nelson Institute? CESP is one of the few classes you look forward to attending late in the afternoon. It’s a unique class in the sense that you’re never looking for a singular “correct” answer; instead, the focus is truly on learning, and what we learn and teach each other is directly applicable to our lives. Most of all, CESP is a community in itself, where you’re surrounded by inspiring, passionate, and caring people who give you hope for a brighter future.

Something few people know about you: You will find me with an iced coffee in hand even when it’s below freezing out.