Current CESP Students

Views expressed here are those of the students and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Nelson Institute or UW-Madison.

photo of Luis Abreu-Socorro

Luis Abreu-Socorro

What are your majors? Wildlife Ecology, certificate in Environmental Studies

Expected graduation: May 2022

What inspired your interest in the environment and/or community? After studying abroad in the Turks and Caicos Islands the summer after my freshman year, I decided that I wanted to continue advocating for environmentalism. This experience in the Caribbean exposed me to the field of marine ecology, which I would not have been able to pursue in Wisconsin. The class focused on Marine Megafauna (e.g. sea turtles, sharks, rays, etc.) and how they were being affected by ecotourism and resource management. The class and research related activities sparked my interest and I soon knew what I wanted to study. When I returned to UW-Madison after the program, I decided to declare the Wildlife Ecology major in the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences and the Environmental Studies certificate in the Nelson Institute for Environmental Studies. After graduation, I plan to attend graduate school and continue my studies in the field of marine ecology, specifically studying cetacean (e.g. dolphins, whales, etc.) populations and their behavior.

What would you say (or do you say) to other students about CESP and the Nelson Institute? CESP is a wonderful program that exposes you to different aspects of environmentalism that you normally would not learn about in class. Some examples of the assignments in CESP include reading and discussing books related to the environment and social issues and creating service projects dedicated to helping our local communities. I especially enjoy how people from different backgrounds with similar interests are brought together to become friends and collaborate.


photo of Mariah Antigone

Mariah Antigone

What are your majors? Nursing and Environmental Studies

Expected graduation: December 2021

What inspired your interest in the environment and/or community? As a young paramedic, I worked in the Driftless Region of Wisconsin; in the Mississippi River Valley. It was here that I fell in love with the deep beauty of the earth and realized that our survival as a human species is dependent on our relationship to nature. Humanity does not exist in a vacuum, and the way we choose to build community (or fail to build community) determines our personal health outcomes as well as the health of the planet. Working in emergency medicine taught me about the injustices that many of our community members face. Healthcare in America is rife with inequities, and I became troubled by the pain I saw each day. Working as a nurse in a rural hospital solidified my belief that our healthcare system frequently fails the most vulnerable. I chose to go back to school full-time at 30 years old in order to become a better nurse, a better advocate, and a better human. Combining my BSN with a major in Environmental Studies will provide me with more knowledge of how to assist my patients live their lives in accordance with the World Health Organization definition of health: “Health is a state of complete physical, mental, and social wellbeing and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.”

What would you say (or do you say) to other students about CESP and the Nelson Institute? The Nelson Institute has been the best thing to ever happen to my educational journey. I have been interested in social and environmental determinants of health for awhile, but studying at the Nelson Institute broadened those concepts for me in ways I never imagined. Also, the people at Nelson and in CESP are just the greatest. Our staff and advisors are totally dedicated to helping students and are so excited about the work they do. I feel seen and cared for as a student at the Nelson Institute and I consider Science Hall my home-away-from-home.

Something few people know about you: I am a MASSIVE Star Trek fan. Talk to me about Deep Space 9 or explain to me that the hate for Captain Janeway is rooted in toxic masculinity and I’ll be your friend forever!


photo of Cristina Bahaveolos

Cristina Bahaveolos

What are your majors? Chemistry with a Certificate in Environmental Studies and Chicana/o & Latina/o Studies

Expected graduation: May 2021

What inspired your interest in the environment and/or community? I grew up in a small town in Wisconsin where words like “sustainability” and “global warming” were not part of my daily vocabulary. However, a desire for and commitment to social justice was always a prominent force in my life. When I came to UW-Madison, I learned how immediate the Climate Crisis was and how it would only continue to exacerbate the social, economic, and political issues I cared about most – including those prevalent in my hometown. Having grown up deeply influenced by this community, I’ve always understood how important community is in the education and values of the individuals who grow up in them. My interest as a scientist in the intersection between the environment and community lies in scientists’ capacity to inform and empower communities to defend themselves against environmental injustice and implement effective and socially sustainable practices.

What would you say (or do you say) to other students about CESP and the Nelson Institute? If you are passionate about the natural environment, the Nelson Institute is an amazing place to develop the skills and network needed to have the impact you want. If your passion for the natural environment is intersected with a social commitment to your community, CESP is an incredibly nurturing and supportive environment that gives you the resources to start helping your community now, as well as the development opportunities to really grow as an agent of positive change.

Something few people know about you: I was originally a Political Science major.

Something else about you? I love to cook and am really interested in how to consume more sustainably in a way that both reduces cost and improves heath.


photo of MaryBeth Barker

MaryBeth Barker

What are your majors? Conservation Biology and Sociology

Expected graduation: May 2022

What inspired your interest in the environment and/or community? I remember when I was a kid my mom read The Lorax to me and I started getting really worried about the rainforests being cut down. I spent a lot of time outside, mostly daydreaming and rollerblading, and I didn’t want loggers in the rainforest to ruin that. Since then, I have spent a lot of time camping and hiking, and instead of being a worried kid, I am trying to make all the efforts I can through my career to keep the environment healthy and sustainable. I chose sociology as my other major because I feel that the answer to the climate crisis lies in people and the community, since we are the ones who can make change together. I recently added conservation biology because I am interested in gaining a more in-depth understanding of conservation’s biological aspects as well.

What would you say (or do you say) to other students about CESP and the Nelson Institute? I would tell any student interested in CESP and the Nelson Institute to just take an environmental studies class and see how they like it. When I took my first environmental studies class on campus, it taught me so much about how many different perspectives there are in solving the climate crisis, and it was completely worth it. The great thing about environmental studies classes is that they are cross listed with tons of other areas of study, meaning it could probably count for required credit!


photo of Briana Bateman

Briana Bateman

What are your majors? Community and Environmental Sociology, Environmental Studies with a certificate in Food Systems

Expected graduation: May 2021

What inspired your interest in the environment and/or community? I cannot pinpoint one specific moment that I became interested in the environment and community as a whole, I believe that I came out of the womb with a special regard for the environment. When I was in first grade, I was asked to write a report on the subject of what I would do if I were president. I wrote simply that I would force half of the people in the United States to leave so that we could make “more room for nature”. While my plans may have been a little misguided, this is the first documentation of my commitment to the preservation of the natural world. My commitment to the community came later in my life when I realized the importance of togetherness and my passion for tearing down the artificially constructed walls that divide people. In order to solve the most important issues that we face as human beings, we must find a way to work together.

What would you say (or do you say) to other students about CESP and the Nelson Institute? There are few programs that better demonstrate the benefits of community based learning than CESP. In just one semester, I have begun to feel like CESP is more like a family to me than just a one credit course. As I have grown closer to my team members, learning more about them with each meeting, I feel I have a team beyond the classroom walls to assist me in my efforts to better the community. Additionally, the immersive, collaborative learning environment has equipped me with the confidence and knowledge to feel like I can grow to be a leader in movements of environmental progress.

Something few people know about you: I have a scar on my toe from an accident related to pretending to be an airbender as a child.


photo of Jessica Bedtka

Jessica Bedtka

What are your majors? Geography (people-environment) and Political Science double major, with certificates in Environmental Studies and Food Systems

Expected graduation: May 2020

What inspired your interest in the environment and/or community? Many of my most cherished memories from my childhood revolve around camping, picking berries in the woods, and exploring the creek near my childhood home within the Driftless area. These experiences along with my deep interest in philosophy inspired me to study political science and geography when I came to UW-Madison. After a spontaneous decision to spend a fall semester backpacking and kayaking while learning about people/land relations in Montana, through the Wild Rockies Field Institute, I developed an interest in sustainable development and the political ecology surrounding food systems. Since then, I have had the opportunity to learn first-hand about direct community action from opportunities including taking part in youth driven conservation efforts across Wisconsin, foraging medicinal plants with resilient indigenous leaders, and farming veggies in the green mountains of Vermont for a farm-to-hospital program. Through these experiences and my studies, I have seen the power of people and am inspired by the amount of compassion people hold for one another as well as the environment.


photo of Auttum Bowen

Auttum Bowen

What are your majors? English and Environmental Studies

Expected graduation: May 2021

What inspired your interest in the environment and/or community? My high school environmental studies class inspired my interest in the environment. I had never taken a class like it before and it taught me a lot about the world and what is going on in the world that I didn’t know before. I enjoyed learning about the issues of today’s world and how people are trying to solve them.

What would you say (or do you say) to other students about CESP and the Nelson Institute? CESP is made of a friendly, diverse group of people both in background and interest but we all come together with the common interests in the environment and community. CESP gives you a great opportunity to learn about and get involved in new things while also giving you the opportunity to express your creativity and have fun through class projects that allow you to connect with other CESPers and the community.

Something few people know about you: I have been volunteering at Slow Food- UW since my freshman year at UW-Madison. Slow Food is a great place to meet new, friendly people and gain some really great experiences working in a kitchen, meal planning, and working with other student organizations to create fun food events.


photo of Ronni Brent

Ronni Brent

What are your majors? Microbiology with certificates in Environmental Studies and Global Health

Expected graduation: December 2021

What inspired your interest in the environment and/or community? My interests in the environment and community sparked from my early childhood experiences in Chicago, IL. There is scarcity in fresh produce markets, community gardens and access to proper nutrition. As a child, I witnessed many of my peers and family members suffer from various chronic diseases, malnutrition and other unhealthy habits. This has inspired me to strive to work and improve nutrition at a community level which serves as the primary preventative measure for successive chronic illness. I aspire to work in Public Health fighting to diminish chronic illness primarily through nutritional improvements and implementation of organizations and centers for families to access fresh produce and develop healthy habits. In addition to improving nutrition, I want to seek out more environmentally friendly ways to grow and produce fresh fruits and vegetables slowly eliminating the carbon footprint of food production.

Something few people know about you: I secretly am a fashion enthusiast.


photo of Wesley Browne

Wesley Browne

What are your majors? Life Sciences Communications

Expected graduation: May 2022

What inspired your interest in the environment and/or community? When I took a science class back in high school, one of the topics was pollution and toxins. I always drew an interest to try and research impacts on pollution and toxins and what kind of effect it can make on the environment and community around us. Also, in high school, we had a day called “Edgewood in the Community” where we would travel to different areas of the community in Madison and work in the environment for a day. My most memorable trip would be travelling to the Arboretum to work on a project. The beauty of the Arboretum and other aspects of the environment drew interest to me and this inspired me to join the Environmental Studies Certificate.


photo of Lorenzo Contreras

Lorenzo Contreras

What are your majors? Environmental Science, certificates in Environmental Studies and Chican@ Latin@ Studies

Expected graduation: May 2021

What inspired your interest in the environment and/or community? Within communities I’ve spent time in, including my own, it’s been rare to find a person (much less a group of people) that realize the importance behind our ecosystems and the role they play for our society. Being able to see these connections is necessary in order to be able to appreciate nature and everything it provides for us along with all other living organisms. I grew up in a home where all these things were appreciated, and it made me realize how much it meant to me and made me want to play a role in the conservation of these environments. In the world we live in today there’s a declining number of resources we have at our disposal and not enough focus on those that are renewable. Eventually our useable water will deplete which is unfortunate as this resource is needed for an infinite amount of reasons which is why I find water treatment of extreme importance. You can be someone trying to make a change from an office but there’s nothing like making the change hands on.

What would you say (or do you say) to other students about CESP and the Nelson Institute? For those that ask about the Nelson Institute; it’s a hive of minds coming together to push towards a common goal of a sustainable and protected environment. The Nelson Institute confronts the challenge that is brought upon us by the rapidly changing world through intersections of classroom learning and community engagement. This is the place to be if you want to make a change.

Something few people know about you: I was born in California but moved to Milwaukee at a young age. My parents worked hard after they came from Mexico but wanted a better future for my siblings and I. That is how we ended up here in Wisconsin.

Something else about you? I am extremely interested in water treatment. This is something that is going to blow up in the years to come just because the way that countries like the US are exploiting resources. It’s bizarre to me how something necessary to live cannot be provided to everyone in the world and is something that has to be paid for. I know there exists something that can be done and by joining CESP I know my fellow CESPers and I will be able to solve these kinds of problems.


photo of Daniel Darlington

Daniel Darlington

What are your majors? Environmental Studies and Economics

Expected graduation: May 2021

What inspired your interest in the environment and/or community? I have been fortunate enough to have the opportunity to enjoy the environment my entire life. Growing up, my family was always outdoor oriented—we would go fishing, camping, and many other outdoor activities. I have always been fascinated in learning about all aspects of the environment. I enjoy seeing and learning new environments just as much as the Wisconsin environment I have grown up in. Now, I am a senior studying Economics and Environmental Studies, and I hope to combine both as a means of finding practical solutions to pressing environmental issues.

What would you say (or do you say) to other students about CESP and the Nelson Institute? I would tell them that CESP and the Nelson Institute are great ways to meet people with similar academic interest as well as get involved on campus and learn.

Something few people know about you: I like cooking, spending time outdoors, traveling, and most recently with Covid-19, reading and birding.

Something else about you? I’ve been trying to start gardening and just growing plants in general; I’ve had varied success.


photo of Ana Diges

Ana Diges

What are your majors? Materials Science and Engineering, Certificate in Environmental Studies and in Global Health

Expected graduation: May 2021

What inspired your interest in the environment and/or community? My interest in the environment and its relation to community stems from my multicultural upbringing, where I was able to reflect on the places we live in through different perspectives. My father is the descendant of immigrants who cultivated their fate from the terrains of northern Wisconsin, passing on to me a strong land ethic. My mother had the habit of pointing out many plants for their medicinal, nutritional or aesthetic properties during our long walks around the small mountain ridge where we lived in Spain. Experiences like these taught me not only the value of our ecosystem services, but also pointed out the harmonious ways in which communities can inhabit the land.

What would you say (or do you say) to other students about CESP and the Nelson Institute? CESP is a fantastic program for those interested in the intersectionality between subjects surrounding science, society and environment. The Nelson Institute coordinates programs like these, as well as countless talks, conferences and resources to grow our knowledge about how people interact with their surroundings.

Something few people know about you: I love learning about a place’s history and culture through cuisine!

Something else about you? I’m a project manager for an Engineers Without Borders - Ecuador Camarones potable water project on campus, where I help coordinate the work to bring safe water to a town of 500 people.


photo of Andrew Dobbins

Andrew Dobbins

What are your majors? Agricultural Business Major with a certificate in Environmental Studies

Expected graduation: December 2019

What inspired your interest in the environment and/or community? I guess my family has always been into the outdoors. My father’s relationship growing up helping his grandfather with our cabin located in Cass County Minnesota and eventually my own summers there influenced our understanding in being land stewards to the next generation. Numerous summers planting trees, hauling boulders, and splitting so many bundles of wood, left all of us with an appreciation for the outdoors. I now enjoy fishing, hunting, bird watching, skiing, and the feeling of Waldeinsamkeit there. My great-grandfather’s work as a conservationist, visionary, and politician left a lasting impact in our community. Things like the formation of Deep Portage Natural Resource Center, ski and snowmobile trails, and local canoeing routes brought cross generational engagement for the state and many of its counties. That engagement is something I would like to create and proliferate in my local community so new stakeholders can experience and hopefully share their own legacy with the next generation.

Something else about you? I used to study Forestry at Penn State and here at UW, so I love trees. You can find me searching out the biggest tree in the forest and giving it a huge hug! Check out my selfie with a 300+ year old 55in dbh White Pine from Itasca State Park!


photo of Salma Florencio

Salma Florencio

What are your majors? Environmental Studies and Communication Arts

Expected graduation: May 2021

What inspired your interest in the environment and/or community? Just like many other people, I find comfort and relaxation in nature. I can remember many of my elementary school field trips to Cherokee Marsh where we would take nature walks, plant trees, and remove invasive species. These field trips began my appreciation for the environment and nature. I took my first environment-related class in high school and in this environmental science class, I learned about the many environmental issues we are currently facing. And most of our projects in that class were brainstorming different possible ways to mitigate the issues. I have been interested in environmental studies ever since. I want future generations to be able to experience nature and the environment in the same ways I did. I hope I can give back to the community and help take care of the environment.

What would you say (or do you say) to other students about CESP and the Nelson Institute? CESP is a great way to connect with many different people who have the same interests as you! It is a safe place where you can combine your strengths with others and find ways to give back and connect with the community.

Something few people know about you: I enjoy watching and playing different sports. It is a fun way to be active and outdoors. I play on the women’s rugby team here at UW-Madison and I play soccer during the summer and winter in Madison (when we are not in the middle of a pandemic). And I have been recently getting into basketball, but I sadly found out that I am a terrible shooter.


photo of Kyle Fossum

Kyle Fossum

What are your majors? Mechanical Engineering, with certificates in leadership, engineering for energy sustainability, mathematics, and environmental studies

Expected graduation: December 2021

What inspired your interest in the environment and/or community? My interest in environment and the correlating links to community stems from the urgency that today’s circumstances force upon the conversation of climate change. It has never been more important to prioritize these things than today, right now.


photo of Matt Fox

Matt Fox

What are your majors? Conservation Biology

Expected graduation: May 2022

What inspired your interest in the environment and/or community? As a kid, I was shown nature in my neighborhood and the beauty and mystery of life around me. That childhood wonder has been with me throughout my life, expanding as nature became something outside my neighborhood. Through varying outdoor activities and academic opportunities, a love for nature is what got me invested in environmental work.

What would you say (or do you say) to other students about CESP and the Nelson Institute? CESP gives back what you give to it. In other words, your experience is dependent on what you want to pursue, how you do so, and the way you relay that to your peers. It’s a place to comfortably challenge yourself and explore varying perspectives towards nature in general.

Something few people know about you: I am obsessed with making paper cranes. I make them in all sizes and colors and they’re scattered all around my room. I hope to make 1000 someday soon because then I get to make a wish.


photo of Clarissa Gomez

Clarissa Gomez

What are your majors? Geography and Environmental Studies with certificates in Integrated Studies in Science, Engineering, and Society, Leadership, and Design Strategies

Expected graduation: May 2021

What inspired your interest in the environment and/or community? Growing up, I was always really curious about the natural world around me. I remember I used to binge watch Planet Earth, eagerly looked forward to Springtime when I would help my mother plant her garden, and even went so far as to rescue abandoned baby wild rabbits and stray cats. If it involved the environment in some way, shape or form, I was all over it. It wasn’t until college that my love for the environment really blossomed and started to integrate the community. I began to seek fields that I was really interested in and soon, found out the many ways that the environment and communities can be interconnected.

What would you say (or do you say) to other students about CESP and the Nelson Institute? CESP is an amazing community. People here are supportive and inspiring in so many ways, it truly motivates you to do your best!

Something few people know about you: I was born on April Fool’s Day.

Something else about you? I’ve stayed in a cloud forest with no electricity and no cell service for two whole weeks before!


photo of Celeste Gunderson

Celeste Gunderson

What are your majors? People-Environment Geography and Environmental Studies

Expected graduation: May 2022

What inspired your interest in the environment and/or community? While growing up in the city of Milwaukee, I had the privilege of living next to the Milwaukee River green space, where I continuously interacted with nature and the wildlife of Wisconsin. Each walk in the woods presented a new and exciting discovery of our environment; a wild turkey, a family of deer, a great horned owl, a lone coyote, or a once endangered and still scarce Butler Garter Snake. This proximity to Wisconsin’s wildlife meant that the environment played a large role in my life from a very young age. These positive experiences have developed my desire to protect green spaces within every environment, therefore allowing everyone to have some form of access to the natural world.

What would you say (or do you say) to other students about CESP and the Nelson Institute? CESP is a wonderful way to meet other students who are interested in environmental issues. While we share the similarity of an environmental major or certificate, each student also comes with their own interests and majors which make discussions super interesting. The seminar highlights how career fields of all different backgrounds can be oriented towards environmental initiatives. CESP is also a great way to learn about environmental and community related opportunities offered at UW-Madison.

Something few people know about you: I am definitely a morning person and am most productive early in the day.

Something else about you? I love running (especially trail running) because it is a great way to relieve stress while also getting to enjoy the outdoors! I aspire to one day run an ultra-marathon, but I am not sure when I will ever have enough time to train for one.


photo of Ryan Holdsworth

Ryan Holdsworth

What are your majors? Mechanical Engineering

Expected graduation: May 2022

What inspired your interest in the environment and/or community? I grew up in the ‘environmental age.’ The importance of recycling was always emphasized in school, I saw the mass transition to more energy efficient lighting fixtures and other electronics, I saw the importance of moving toward renewable sources of energy. I also learned that the largest two hurdles toward both energy independence and a sustainable future are a lack of technology, and the politics of it. I have no patience for the politics, but I believe with a career in engineering, I can aid in the first great hurdle.


photo of Savannah Holt

Savannah Holt

What are your majors? International Business, Marketing, Spanish, and Sustainability Certificate

Expected graduation: May 2022

What inspired your interest in the environment and/or community? My interest in the environment was inspired by a lot of different events that built upon each other over the past couple of years. I'm also still trying to figure out how my future career path can incorporate both sustainability and community elements. Since studying at UW-Madison, however, I've been inspired by living and working with the GreenHouse Learning Community and being involved with the Ethical and Responsible Business Network (ERBN). I'm looking forward to meeting new people and learning more about environmental studies with CESP.

What would you say (or do you say) to other students about CESP and the Nelson Institute? CESP is a great way to meet a like-minded group of people on a large campus, and it has helped expose me to a lot of relevant material that is not covered in my traditional classes. If you're interested in the intersections of environment and community, you should apply!

Something few people know about you: I've run three half-marathons with my mom. I studied abroad in Buenos Aires, Argentina during winter break of my freshman year.

Something else about you? My favorite animal is a red panda, I love reading, and I'm an intern at the Office of Sustainability on campus :)


photo of Eryne Jenkins

Eryne Jenkins

What are your majors? Microbiology with a Certificate in Environmental Studies

Expected graduation: May 2022

What inspired your interest in the environment and/or community? While majoring in a life science subject is beneficial for my desired career, the past two years on this path have revealed how important it is to engage in beyond one discipline. It was mandatory for me to take Environmental Studies 112: The Social Perspective freshman year for a study abroad program I am a part of on campus. The class—and Environmental studies as a discipline in general—challenges me to harness both the tools from my major of study and social science perspectives to address and understand the complexity of environmental problems. This is realized when perspectives from multiple disciplines are used to address community-based environment concerns. Through my past internships with the Delaware Department of Transportation, I have engaged with the division to understand how the use of natural and synthetic resources by civil engineers affects local physicians’ patients of a certain age. Through similar and subsequent opportunities, I hope to use the interdisciplinary and critical thinking gained in my environment-based studies to effectively address the issues of equity, justice, risk reduction, and urban resilience through projects and studies as an environmental medicine physician.

Something few people know about you: I really enjoy learning languages. I am currently learning Mandarin Chinese and Serbo-Croatian.


photo of Edgar Kevorkian

Edgar Kevorkian

What are your majors? Pure Mathematics/Mathematics

Expected graduation: May 2022

What inspired your interest in the environment and/or community? I view the environment as a part of the community in which we all want to grow and flourish. For me, the environment is more than a place of trees, rivers, or mountains. Rather, it is a dynamic and complex organism without which human species cannot survive. My love and passion for the environment developed in an unusual and extraordinary way. First, I enjoy learning patterns, and pattern recognition is fundamental to studying mathematics. Second, the environment constantly gives birth to a variety of patterns, some of which we may know, and some we may not. In other words, I began to value the significance of the environment through the language of mathematics. I believe it is mathematics that brought me nearer to the wonders of nature. Since then, I developed my interest in learning about the environment such that I may better understand its strengths and weaknesses. I also realized that the basic knowledge of the environment is key to everyone in the world. The better we are educated about our planet as a single, global community, the faster we can confront the environmental challenges and offer sustainable solutions for all. Up to date, I strongly believe that the unity in the knowledge of the environment can make us better and caring citizens of the world.


photo of Jerimiah Koll

Jerimiah Koll

What are your majors? Economics, Environmental Studies, and Statistics

Expected graduation: December 2021

What inspired your interest in the environment and/or community? Some of my best childhood memories come from field trips to a nearby national forest, while ideas of how the forest has been preserved and changed by human presence came much later, I’ve always felt a connection to the area. Once I entered high school I spent a lot of time talking about environmental issues and it led me to want to work in environmental policy. I knew that climate change was going to be the major issue of our day and I wanted to help solve it. I started to do some research in the topic and learned about community based solutions, to me they made the most sense, if a community is threated by climate change they should have the final word into how it's fought.

What would you say (or do you say) to other students about CESP and the Nelson Institute? The CESP program has been a wonderful opportunity to truly integrate environmental studies ideas with other disciplines, in most other classes there is little discussion about community problem solving, getting the discussion about it helps foster a deeper understanding of these issues.

Something few people know about you: Every time people ask how tall I am I’ll say I’m an inch taller until people call me out about it.


photo of Eliza Kruszynski

Eliza Kruszynski

What are your majors? Majors: Political Science and Environmental Science. Certificates: Environmental Studies, Public Policy

Expected graduation: Fall 2020

What inspired your interest in the environment and/or community? After a stint in astrophysics, I decided I was a lot more interested in taking care of our home here on Earth! I realized the magnitude of how climate change will affect future generations and I knew I wanted to dedicate my life to mitigation efforts.

What would you say (or do you say) to other students about CESP and the Nelson Institute? Apply!!! CESP is an awesome opportunity here at UW-Madison. It’s a great way to apply and develop your knowledge. The community is wonderful sometimes it feels like I’m just attending a club meeting with friends rather than going to class!

Something few people know about you: When I was little, science was my least favorite subject in school; I was much more concerned with reading all of my fantastical books from the library. I grew to love reading sci-fi in high school, which rapidly gave way to non-fiction science! The path I am on today would have been impossible without the generosity of public libraries.

Something else about you? I get as much of a thrill from looking out over a canyon as I do from looking at microenvironments in moss. Nature is astonishing at all levels!


photo of Craig Kunkel

Craig Kunkel

What are your majors? Environmental Science with multiple certificates

Expected graduation: December 2020

What inspired your interest in the environment and/or community? When I was young, I was more interested in science and nature than I was people. As I grew older, my interactions with the natural world informed me of the connections between the environment, human well-being, and the strength of communities. Eventually, I became aware of how so many human problems could be mitigated, or at least alleviated, through environmental awareness, sustainability, and conservation. What better way to “raise all boats” than by ensuring environmental integrity and sustainability? We are beyond the critical point on many environmental issues, but we still have time to act before reaching the critical point on others: issues which impact millions, even billions. Each of us has something to gain with environmental stability, resource sustainability, and ecosystem integrity. Earth is a closed system with finite resources, and all ecosystems are connected. I hope to inspire people to carry even slightly more of an environmental conscience, if not for the sake of all than at least for themselves. This is what I tell people when they ask why I applied to the CESP and joined The Nelson Institute.


photo of Chris Massey

Chris Massey

What are your majors? Biochemistry and Environmental Studies

Expected graduation: May 2021

What inspired your interest in the environment and/or community? Growing up on Long Island, nature and the environment were always part of my upbringing. I was surrounded by beaches, forests, and water. My childhood friends and I would spend countless hours inventing and playing games in the woods. As I got older, environmental activism caught my eye as I know how lucky I was to experience growing up in an environment like that. I began to volunteer for a pro-environment congress candidate and became an environmental sustainability chair for a dorm on campus. Taking on roles like these helped me realize that I can have an impact on how other people view the environment and has inspired me to continue educating others on environmental issues.

What would you say (or do you say) to other students about CESP and the Nelson Institute? Being a CESP student is like being part of a big family, it’s an amazing program that brings together student leaders who are passionate about the environment and how it impacts the communities they are a part of.

Something few people know about you: I’m a member of Alpha Chi Sigma, the professional chemistry fraternity.

Something else about you? I have 2 published research articles.


photo of Katelyn McVay

Katelyn McVay

What are your majors? Global Health, Botany, and Environmental Studies with a certificate in Leadership

Expected graduation: May 2022

What inspired your interest in the environment and/or community? It wasn’t until my freshman year of college that I understood what the concepts of environmental justice and equity truly meant. During this time period, I declared an environmental studies major and started to do some in depth research on various environmental issues and how they impacted specific communities. Through my courses, independent study, and personal observations, I realized that there are a variety of different ways that people interact with the environment and communities around them, and there are environmental disparities associated with different demographics and locations. I have always had a deep passion and care for the world around me, and it is my personal mission to contribute toward something that allows people to have positive interactions with the environment as well as to promote wellbeing for communities and the natural world.

What would you say (or do you say) to other students about CESP and the Nelson Institute? Joining CESP or the Nelson Institute is a great way to connect with others who share similar interests and develop your own passions for the environment and the community. CESP has helped me learn how to collaborate with others, share my genuine passions and opinions on environmental issues, and be surrounded by a great community of people.

Something few people know about you: I have been a radio DJ for about two years now! I love music and talking about music, and my show has been a great outlet for me to express myself.

Something else about you? I love being outdoors, especially when I’m hiking or skiing!


photo of Nat Meyer

Nat Meyer

What are your majors? Gender and Women’s Studies and a certificate in Public Policy

Expected graduation: December 2021

What inspired your interest in the environment and/or community? All my best memories growing up were outside; spending springs on the toddler swing under the big oak tree, picking mulberries and dandelions from the yard for my mom, and making stinky stews with all the neighbor kids. It really instilled a love of nature and community in me and since then I have sought out ways to get involved and further help people and the environment.

What would you say (or do you say) to other students about CESP and the Nelson Institute? CESP is a super supportive community that really helps keep you grounded while you go through school. It has helped me feel more connected to other environmental students and be prepared for greater opportunities outside of academics.

Something few people know about you: I was born underwater when my mom took a spontaneous bath in the middle of the night, it ended up in the town newspaper.


photo of Joshua Mitchell

Joshua Mitchell

What are your majors? Life Science Communication and Environmental Studies, with certificates in Sustainability and Digital Studies

Expected graduation: May 2022

What inspired your interest in the environment and/or community? I have always been interested in the environment from a young age, from collecting snails and frogs to reading zoobooks to having zoboomafoo on repeat. My childhood fostered my love for the environment, but as I grew up, I realized all the environmental injustices going on, and I want to make sure the world is a better place for future generations.


photo of McKenna Mulvey

McKenna Mulvey

What are your majors? Environmental Studies and Scandinavian Studies

Expected graduation: May 2021

What inspired your interest in the environment and/or community? The volunteering experience I had in Englewood, a neighborhood in Chicago, sparked my interests in communities and the environment. Englewood hasn’t had lead-free water in over 10 years, and the only food the residents have easy access to comes from a convenience store at the end of their block. A woman from outside of the neighborhood purchased a house on their block and started a community gardening program to give the residents access to fresh food. She also provides the residents with water, and she does a lot to help the people living in the community. Seeing the impact that one person had on a whole community really inspired me, and being involved in CESP gives me the chance to accomplish similar, but smaller, goals.

What would you say (or do you say) to other students about CESP and the Nelson Institute? CESP has also given me a sense of community that I lacked before. As a transfer student, making friends as a sophomore on a large campus is not as easy as it seems. Joining CESP helped me easily connect with students who have similar interests and goals, and I am so thankful that I have had the chance to be a part of it.


photo of Breon Newble

Breon Newble

What are your majors? Health Promotion & Health Equity and Life Sciences Communication with certificates in Global Health, Business Management, and Environmental Studies

Expected graduation: May 2022

What inspired your interest in the environment and/or community? My interest for the environment was inspired by today’s instances of environmental injustice and poor environmental planning. The way in which we handle the environments we live in is troubling, and have impacts that extend far beyond the condition of the environment. It wasn’t until I began studying here at the University of Wisconsin-Madison that I realized the intensity of these issues and realized that I need to be involved in addressing them. Showing concern for the environment is also showing concern for the health of communities and individuals as they’re directly related. I want to bring attention to how issues such as climate change and environmental degradation will be/are responsible for negatively impacting the health of millions of people.

Something few people know about you: I want to one day own a company. My first business venture would probably be me creating my own skin care/health products line.


photo of Carmen Nightfall

Carmen Nightfall

What are your majors? Life Science Communications with a Certificate in Environmental Studies

Expected graduation: May 2022

What inspired your interest in the environment and/or community? The ecology of our Food, Community, and Environment are at the core for each to thrive, and overlap in areas among themselves as well. All three influenced and affected me as a child, and from this came my interest in all three individually, and also as a dynamic.

What would you say (or do you say) to other students about CESP and the Nelson Institute? Speaking of those three words~ a dynamic community and environment that-when in person- has special guest appearances of food, that’s CESP! There are so many amazing people, projects, networkings, job opps, professional developments, and you grow with it. I love my CESP family, and all the amazing things we have done.

Something few people know about you: I like to play some bass (stringed, not scaled).


photo of Calla Norris

Calla Norris

What are your majors? People-Environment Geography and Environmental Studies

Expected graduation: May 2021

What inspired your interest in the environment and/or community? My kidhood, and my grown-up-hood too, have led me to some amazing landscapes and biomes, ––the desert biome, jungle biome, mossy forest biome, prairie biome, and city biome–– from which I initially developed my love and respect for the natural world that I continue to play in and cherish. From my exposure to these many wondrous landscapes, I gained an appreciation for the natural world. This made it all the more impactful to learn, through studying the connection between people and nature, that this opportunity is not afforded to many. At UW Madison, I chose my majors in People-Environment Geography and Environmental Studies based on the disconnect between humans and our natural surroundings that I believe is at the detriment of ourselves–on both a personal and a societal scale–as well as environmental health globally. The connection between any life form — human or otherwise — and its natural surroundings is a fundamental pillar in developing an understanding of its importance; a concern for the environment’s wellbeing becomes a desire to respect and protect it. Moving around so much while growing up also gave me a deep appreciation of community. I repeatedly found myself playing the role of ‘new kid’ in an unfamiliar setting, and when I was finally able to develop a sense of community somewhere new, it was always such a gratifying (if not hard-earned) experience. Growing up in this way really instilled in me the value of community, as something not to be taken for granted. I find that this is a ceaselessly recurring lesson, especially in today’s societal goings-on.

What would you say (or do you say) to other students about CESP and the Nelson Institute? I tried and failed to answer this question without sounding super sappy. But if anyone deserves sap, it’s the folks that make up the CESP community. I cannot overstate the gratitude I have for this flock. I invariably leave our classes feeling better than I did prior. Returning to CESP every semester––but this semester in particular––for me, sparks a sentiment that is a combination of jubilation and relief. There is an invaluable closeness amongst the group; not only are the instructors chummy with the students, but they have a genuine interest in each individual’s wellbeing, and go out of their way to show their support. It’s a sentiment that one doesn’t come by too often.


photo of Nikki Prado-Solano

Nikki Prado-Solano

What are your majors? Sociology and Genetics with a certificate in Environmental Studies

Expected graduation: December 2021

What inspired your interest in the environment and/or community? I was born and raised on the South Side of Milwaukee, where despite living in an urban area, I was regularly immersed in nature thanks to my family and teachers. We had yearly trips to the horticultural conservatory, Sunday trips to local parks, and monthly visits to the scenic trails of the Seven Bridges that helped build my love of nature. As I came to UW, I began to see the intersections of public health, the environment, and the importance of having access to nature. This has encouraged me to pursue a career in public health researching the effects of environmental racism and working to increase access to health services for marginalized communities that are often affected by environmental degradation.


photo of Alina Prahl

Alina Prahl

What are your majors? Double Major in Environmental Studies and Anthropology, with certificates in Art History, Archaeology, and American Indian Studies

Expected graduation: Spring/Fall 2021

What inspired your interest in the environment and/or community? There was not a single moment that sparked a passion for environmental and community work- I cannot pinpoint a time it did not exist. It was certainly present by second grade when I began the “Healthy Earth Club” in my elementary school and has only grown and deepened since. I grew up hiking and paddling in Wisconsin with my family, which I am profoundly grateful for, and continue to try to be outside as much as possible. It has been a privilege and a joy to experience and learn about new elements of environmental and community work through the Nelson Institute.


photo of Grace Puc

Grace Puc

What are your majors? Environmental Sciences

Expected graduation: May 2021

What inspired your interest in the environment and/or community? Growing up I always had an intense fascination with the world and sought to learn, see and do as much as I could. My love for Earth was definitely fostered by my dad with whom I have spent my entire life hiking and travelling (to 10 countries!); I hope to never stop exploring our beautiful planet. Studying environmental science in college means becoming an advocate for the Earth. Climate change-induced environmental degradation is the most pressing problem the human race currently faces, and I have fervent aspirations to become a part of the remedial process; it is my intention to take advantage of my time here as I want to do everything in my power to preserve our world’s beauty, conserve its resources, and ensure its health for generations to come. My passion for protecting the environment has been prevalent since I was young. As kids, my best friend and I would take a bag and walk around our neighborhood streets picking up trash. We would also have lemonade stands to raise money for our "charity" we called “Pennies for Polar Bears” when we learned that they were endangered as a result of climate change. It wasn’t until AP Environmental Science in high school that I realized this passion was something that I could study and eventually turn into a career!

What would you say (or do you say) to other students about CESP and the Nelson Institute? CESP is more than just a seminar for an hour every week - it’s a network that has provided me with connections to events, organizations, students, staff and beyond that in a lot of ways is so much more valuable to me than traditional “school knowledge”.

Something few people know about you: Both of my dad’s parents immigrated here from Slovenia when they were teenagers making me 50% Slovenian. I went to Slovenian school at a cultural center near my home town for 8 years.

Something else about you? I am co-president of Campus Food Shed!


photo of Connor Raboine

Connor Raboine

What are your majors? Human Development and Family Studies, Communication Arts & Global Health with Certificates in Food Systems & Environmental Studies

Expected graduation: December 2021

What inspired your interest in the environment and/or community? Food. The first organization that I joined when I came here was Slow Food UW, a nonprofit dedicated to providing “good, clean, fair food for all.” Seeing what a great community SFUW was drove me to further understand what their mission meant to me. As I reflect, good food embodies flavor and creativeness, but also a satiation that isn’t just physical, but rather a sense of community. Similarly, clean food should not just only describe the physical nature of the food, but also the practices used in producing it. Farming methods should be sustainable with the health of not only those consuming the food in mind, but the environment as a whole. Lastly, fair means accessible to everyone regardless of socio-economic class. In a world that is increasingly championing exclusivity, the basic necessity that food is should not be a part of that trend. With this in mind, I see food as an underutilized tool that can reverse that trend and create a more cohesive & inclusive society. The relatability of food makes it the perfect catalyst for community outreach. We bond through experiences, and nothing is more prominent in our shared humanity than the desire for great-tasting food.


photo of Camille Schmidt

Camille Schmidt

What are your majors? Civil and Environmental Engineering with a certificate in Environmental Studies

Expected graduation: May 2022

What inspired your interest in the environment and/or community? Pursuing Civil Engineering has been a long term dream of mine, since holding multiple internships in the industry I have seen first hand how developments often overlook how they will impact both the environment and community. I wish to advocate for these injustices that are brushed aside. Since joining CESP a full year ago now, I have been exposed to so many students and faculty who share this same passion and they drive me to keep working towards a better future that I can create as an engineer.

What would you say (or do you say) to other students about CESP and the Nelson Institute? There is always a place on campus to find “your people”. High school me envisioned being a part of solely engineering based organizations. While it is nice to surround yourself with people who are very very similar to you, joining CESP has been one of my best college decisions yet. While we all share similar interests and passions, I have been exposed to such a diverse group of people and different ways of thinking that it has helped shape me and my career path.


photo of Amanda Shalit

Amanda Shalit

What are your majors? Botany

Expected graduation: May 2023

What inspired your interest in the environment and/or community? From a young age, my mother instilled in me a sense of respect for the natural world around me. She taught me to take only pictures and leave only footprints, to leave my environment better than I had found it, and to listen to the wisdom of the Lorax in my favorite childhood book. I gardened with my mom every year and we spent time identifying the plants and animals we found as we explored the forest preserve near my house. As I grew up, I started learning about issues like deforestation, air pollution, and worse, all things that threatened nature. My hope in choosing my college, my major, and my steps forward from here is that I can do my part to help curb rising environmental concerns that exist around the world today and protect the planet however I can.


photo of Megan Spielbauer

Megan Spielbauer

What are your majors? Economics and Environmental Studies

Expected graduation: December 2021

What inspired your interest in the environment and/or community? Freshman year, I enrolled in an Environmental Studies class and learned about the popularization of monoculture grass lawns and their environmental costs. Growing up in a Minnesota suburb, I grew up playing on my lawn and making some money mowing it once I was older. That class made me realize that American society essentially convinced itself that grass lawns were a necessity despite their ecologically damaging qualities, which pushed me to look deeper into my understanding of human-nature relations and enroll in more Environmental Studies courses. Both my Economics and Environmental Studies classes show me how American economic development continues to rely on the exploitation of the environment and human labor force globally. Therefore, environmental justice is a serious priority of mine as it combines environment and community while centering marginalized voices.

Something few people know about you: I’m a pro on Wii Sports Boxing.


photo of Emma-Kate Stecker

Emma-Kate Stecker

What are your majors? Civil and Environmental Engineering with a certificate in Environmental Studies

Expected graduation: May 2022

What inspired your interest in the environment and/or community? For me, my interest in the environment was always obvious from a young age. I grew up in a very active family that valued integrating nature into our upbringing. As a kid I became fascinated by the natural world and every chance I got would be spent exploring a lakeshore, edge of a forest or an overturned rock. Eventually, I realized how important it was to protect these wonderful places so others, too, could make the same discoveries. This idea motivated me to explore ways I could instill change in my own community. Since then, I’ve worked on local and international projects to provide infrastructural and ecological improvements to hopefully create a more sustainable future for the communities involved.

Something few people know about you: I love bird watching!

Something else about you? I am the Vice President of the Engineers Without Borders Chapter on campus, and work on the Camarones Potable Water Project with fellow CESP member Ana! The project is based in Ecuador and we are working on designing a distribution system to provide safe drinking water for the community.


photo of Joseph Stone

Joseph Stone

What are your majors? Biological Systems Engineering

Expected graduation: May 2022

What inspired your interest in the environment and/or community? My interest in the environment started at a young age. I would spend countless hours with my family and dog at local parks. I now love to visit national parks and lakes around Wisconsin. With Madison having such good access to 2 lakes, I now find myself swimming at least twice a week in either Lake Monona or Mendota. This love of nature helped me to decide to major in Biological Systems Engineering. With my major, I plan to improve many of the agricultural machines to make them more efficient and environmentally friendly. I hope to one day make a noticeable impact on the environment.

Something few people know about you: I love to swim and am a current member of the UW Swim Club.


photo of Tien Vo

Tien Vo

What are your majors? Environmental Sciences & Environmental Studies Certificate

Expected graduation: May 2022

What inspired your interest in the environment and/or community? My interest in the environment stems from my love for people from so-called “developing” or “third world” countries. It breaks my heart to know that people of Global South countries have to deal with the consequences of capitalism and imperialism, in addition to the disproportionate effects of environmental issues such as plastic pollution, ocean acidification, and global warming. Throughout my college career, I’ve realized that I can’t address environmental issues with science alone. I need to constantly approach these issues with the community and our society in mind.

Something few people know about you: I love learning foreign languages, but I can never commit to seriously learning one.


photo of Kalie Whitehorse

Kalie Whitehorse

What are your majors? Psychology and Environmental Studies

Expected graduation: May 2022

What inspired your interest in the environment and/or community? I became interested in the environment during high school when I began to learn about climate change and environmental issues. When I came to college, I knew it was something I wanted to pursue and learn more about. I was really drawn to these topics because it affects how we live our lives and how the earth is going to look in the future. During my freshman year, I was in a First Year Interest Group on Native Americans and the environment. These classes really opened my eyes to how many issues there are in the environment right now and all of the social and political aspects behind the policies and actions taken to do something about environmental issues.

What would you say (or do you say) to other students about CESP and the Nelson Institute? When I learned about CESP my sophomore year, I was really excited to be in a small group setting again. CESP lets me connect with people who are passionate about the same things I am and is in a small group setting that allows for easy discussion.