MaKayla Erdmann

What are your majors? Biological systems engineering (natural resources and environmental engineering track) with certificates in environmental studies, public policy, and engineering for energy sustainability

Expected graduation: May 2023

What inspired your interest in the environment and/or community? Throughout my childhood, my parents instilled in me a love for nature that has significantly impacted my view on the world and my relationship to the environment. I grew up camping, hunting, boating, and travelling to numerous national parks while also growing food in our family’s garden and raising various animals. Not to mention, my father as an agriscience teacher emphasized the value of the environment and taught me how it can be negatively impacted by a multitude of other factors and how it is our duty to preserve it.

Growing up in a rural town also made it easy to notice this importance since environmental conditions determined the livelihoods of the farmers around us, and detriments to the environment itself impacted the condition of our local natural resources and the daily activities I’d come to love. This personal connection from my community to the environment motivated me to learn more about environmental science and the influence of public policy as well as localized community efforts in protecting the environment, and it continues to be a main interest in my college career.

The most pressing issues in society today relate to the intersectionality of race, public health, politics, and environmental concerns. Addressing these issues requires science and advocacy, but most importantly, it first requires community-based efforts that have direct impacts on the surrounding people and resources in order to establish truly sustainable changes.

What would you say (or do you say) to other students about CESP and the Nelson Institute? I would encourage anyone interested to get involved with the Nelson Institute through their classes or any events that they hold and to join CESP. CESP gives you the ability to meet so many interesting people from diverse backgrounds that all share a common interest in the environment and creating solutions to the challenges we face today. It is truly unlike any other experience I have had on campus and allows you to work on your personal and professional skills in a very collaborative setting.

Something few people know about you: From when I was about 6 up until the end of high school, I raised market pigs every summer to show at local county fairs. It was very challenging and took a lot of dedication, but it is one of the most impactful experiences I have ever had on who I am today. It also inspired my interest in the connections between agriculture and environmental stewardship and its related management practices.

Anything else: In high school, I reinstated our school’s environmental club and implemented a school-wide composting program to reduce the amount of cafeteria food waste from going into landfills. We diverted several hundred pounds of food waste that ended up being used to fertilize our school’s greenhouse plants. More recently, I have been involved in a coalition working with the Office of Sustainability to reinstate UW–Madison’s composting program as well.