Lily Herling

What are your majors? Community and environmental sociology with certificates in sustainability and German

Expected graduation: May 2024

What inspired your interest in the environment and/or community? Growing up, I gave little thought to community, beyond my personal family and friends, and minimal concern for the state of our planet, beyond my backyard. I had always enjoyed spending time outdoors — camping with my family, hiking with friends — but it wasn’t until high school that I learned about the climate crisis and its vastly unequal impacts.

During this time, some close friends inspired me to get involved with various environmental advocacy efforts in my hometown and I have continued participating in similar organizations throughout my time at UW. I credit those friends for sowing the seeds of my social awareness and for inspiring the passions that brought me to my major and CESP. Their lasting impact, as the people I surrounded myself with during those formative years, is an example I often return to when considering the power of community. Surrounding myself with a similarly like-minded community at UW is what empowers me to keep imagining and fighting for a more sustainable and just world.

A discussion of my interest in community would not be complete without thanking my mom, one of the most selfless and hard-working people in my life. I didn’t fully appreciate this example as a child but I seek to emulate her compassion in how I see the world and approach every interaction. I could name countless others who inspire me in similar ways. The most rewarding aspects of my involvement in environmental and community organizations at UW have been the lovely people I get to know and learn from along the way.

What would you say to other students who ask about CESP or the Nelson Institute? Regardless of whether you are looking to develop an awareness or further your passion for community and the planet, CESP is the place to be for a supportive and safe learning environment. Until joining the program, I didn’t realize how much I could benefit from having a smaller learning cohort within the larger university.

Something few people know about you: Last fall I hiked to the top of Mount Etna, an active stratovolcano on the east coast of Sicily, Italy. This makes me sound significantly cooler than I am but it is definitely one of the most memorable geographic locations I have encountered, as well as an impressionable reminder of ecological power and diversity.

Anything else? Something I really value from CESP are the ample opportunities for public speaking experience and professional development support. Growing up, my high school education failed to provided comprehensive guidance on applying for jobs, writing cover letters or resumes, interviewing skills, networking, etc., and my parents have always left me to independently navigate professional fields. CESP provides more personalized support in these areas than other offices at UW seem to have capacity for and also offers a low-stakes environment for developing foundational professional skills.