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 Nicole Adrian

Nicole Adrian

What are your majors? History and Conservation Biology with a certificate in Environmental Studies

Expected graduation: May 2019

What inspired your interest in the environment and/or community? I grew up on Lake Winnebago in Oshkosh, Wisconsin. I spent a lot of time with my two older brothers wandering the shorelines, swimming and being outside. As I grew older, I found myself appreciating nature and wanting to learn more. I took my first environmental studies course in high school, and since then I have found myself interested in questions of history, the Earth and their relationship. Walking through the woods is like seeing a living library and I want to learn about all its parts. I think the greatest way we are able to protect and conserve the Earth is through education and community.


photo of Rebecca Biggs

Rebecca Biggs

What are your majors? Linguistics and Environmental Studies, certificate in American Indian Studies

Expected graduation: May 2019

What inspired your interest in the environment and/or community? As far back as I can remember, I have always respected Nature and found great comfort within it. I want to make Nature, and the local policy supporting it, more accessible, especially for people of color and people entrenched in chronic poverty. Environmental issues, both local and beyond, have significant consequences for all populations, but they disproportionately affect these groups. I am amazed by the complex social dynamics between and within communities that speak different American English dialects, and I hope to tie this into my community outreach in order to boost effectiveness and inclusion. I am working both as a data-entry intern for the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources and an education intern for the UW Madison Native Nations Initiative.


photo of Collin Brehmer

Collin Brehmer

What are your majors? Environmental sciences with a certificate in global health

Expected graduation: May 2019

What inspired your interest in the environment and/or community? As a child, I spent much of my free time learning about the world around me. Much of my time was spent watching the science channel, reading Zoobooks/National Geographic, and visiting family in Wisconsin’s Northwoods. The more I learned the more I realized how much pain exists in the world, and over time I developed a strong sense of duty to help ease the pain in whatever way I could. This drove me to pursue a career in medicine, but I was left missing an environmental element. I eventually decided to merge my passion for the environment and people, and pursue a career in environmental health research.

Something few people know about you: I really like to cook, and love to bake. I see baking as an experimental food science with tasty products!

Something else about you? I spend most of my time researching air pollution chemistry, and I could tell you more than you’d want to know about the air we breathe.


photo of Martin Calderon

Martin Calderon

What are your majors? Environmental Sciences and Entrepreneurship

Expected graduation: May 2020

What inspired your interest in the environment and/or community? The 2005 Hurricane Season really opened my eyes to the intense power that more future hurricanes could have if we continue to warm up the planet. I knew I wanted to devote myself to helping to mitigate climate change.


photo of Breana Collins

Breana Collins

What are your majors? Environmental Sciences with a certificate in Afro-American studies and Environmental Studies

Expected graduation: May 2019

What inspired your interest in the environment and/or community? I was a part of a program called Chapter 220 which allowed me to see several inequities like education and overall resources between communities/cities; sparking an interest to aid communities in receiving more resources especially in a time where the environment is so important.


photo of Emily Conde

Emily Conde

What are your majors? Environmental Studies and Latin American, Caribbean, Iberian Studies and Certificate in Entrepreneurship

Expected graduation: May 2019

What inspired your interest in the environment and/or community? Ever since my freshman year in high school I began to compete in the school’s science fair. After competing at the State level my very first year it became my passion. I competed every four years and every year my topic related to the environment. More specifically creating artificial oil spills and finding the most efficient way to clean them up.

Something few people know about you: For about 12 years of my life I was addicted to eating ice, I would carry a bottle of ice with me everywhere.

Something else about you? Throughout my time at UW-Madison I hope to increase the Latino’s involvement with the environment and sustainability.


photo of Sydney Copus

Sydney Copus

What are your majors? Conservation Biology

Expected graduation: May 2020

What inspired your interest in the environment and/or community? When I was in the first grade, I was introduced to the Ornate Box Turtle. My classmates and I were assigned a small research project on a native Wisconsin animal and I chose the box turtle. I had never heard of a turtle before and I was thoroughly intrigued. I made my parents buy me every book they could on turtles and I read each one from cover to cover. Ever since then I have had a fascination with turtles. Most people think it’s quirky, but turtles were the first thing that sparked my love for animals, the environment, and learning. My small town roots are what make me interested in community. I come from a small town close to Madison and my community is a close one. Going from a place where everyone knows everyone to a school where that isn’t the case is challenging. I have made it my mission to make UW-Madison/Madison my new community and I think CESP is the perfect place to start.

Something few people know about you: I am a huge book and movie nerd! I could talk for hours about my favorite books or movies.


photo of Kevin Crosby

Kevin Crosby

Expected graduation: May 2020

What inspired your interest in the environment and/or community? My initial interest in Nutrition and the body lead me to investigating the source of food, specifically meat production. After realizing the detrimental impact mass meat production had on the environment, I decided to learn more about the environment to see what other areas I was ignorant about and how to make a difference.

What would you say (or do you say) to other students about CESP and the Nelson Institute? I’d tell new CESPers to keep an open mind, and be willing to explore themselves and others.

Something few people know about you: I have a 6’8” wingspan.

Something else about you? I eat Greenbush everyday.


photo of Yeline Del Carmen

Yeline Del Carmen

What are your majors? Environmental Sciences, certificates in Environmental Studies and ISSuES (Integrated Studies in Science, Engineering, and Society Undergraduate)

Expected graduation: May 2020

What inspired your interest in the environment and/or community? My identity and experiences have shaped my passion for the environment and intense sense of community empowerment. Being born in the Dominican Republic but growing up in New York city has given me an interesting outlook on the idea of community and environment. My childhood was a mixture of eating fresh fruit on my grandma’s porch, waking up to palms trees, packed train rides, large crowds rushing to their next location, and yellow cabs taking over the city. I love seeing how groups of people navigate spaces, specially people of color in nature. I am very interested in the environmental justice movement; urban cities should coexist with the environment. It is so important for low income minorities to feel as if they have a voice when speaking about the environment. As an Afro-latinx womyn, I aspire to be an urban city planner fusing both the cultural rawness of human’s consumerist habits and lush green spaces. I want to explore how densely populated cities function and how we can incorporate more components that conserve our natural environment.

What would you say (or do you say) to other students about CESP and the Nelson Institute? As a returning CESP student, I would like to emphasize the notion that everyone experiences the environment differently; it is these differences that lead to a diverse and fruitful workspace. Participating in the CESP program allows you to encounter fresh faces in the environmental studies communities, giving students the opportunity to engage in dialogue about community involvement with the physical world.


photo of Kimberly Dornbusch

Kimberly Dornbusch

What are your majors? Atmospheric & Oceanic Science and Environmental Studies

Expected graduation: May 2020

What inspired your interest in the environment and/or community? Since the 1st grade, I have always wanted to pursue a career in the atmospheric science field. Other children my age wanted to be a professional baseball player or a teacher, but not me, I wanted to study the weather. I loved the way tornados could appear straight from the clouds and always stood in awe when it hailed. I enjoyed every rainbow and every spark of lighting during a thunderstorm. I have always been interested in the environment as, the environment generally effects the weather patterns. Without the environment, my childhood would not have been filled with the wondrous atmospheric phenomenon’s I still adore today.

What would you say (or do you say) to other students about CESP and the Nelson Institute? CESP is a great way to get involved around campus. You meet wonderful people and have a fun/engaging time learning about not only the Nelson Institute, but also the community you live in. I would recommend CESP to anyone who’s considering a major or certificate in environmental studies.

Something few people know about you: I love olives. If I had to eat one food the rest of my life it would most definitely be olives.


photo of Quinn Gavin

Quinn Gavin

What are your majors? Environmental Sciences and Biology

Expected graduation: May 2019

What inspired your interest in the environment and/or community? I grew up in Washington, DC so when I was a kid the only exposure I had that resembled nature was the National Zoo, but it fascinated me even then. I finally got out into nature when I was 9 with a sleepaway camp and realized there was an entire world I had been missing. Ever since then I have strived to spend as much time in nature as possible. Studying environmental science has added another layer to my interest because it’s now academic as well as aesthetic, and it always inspires me to learn new tidbits about the crazy natural world we live in.

What would you say (or do you say) to other students about CESP and the Nelson Institute? The CESP program is a great way to meet like-minded people who are concerned about the environment. It also gave me a chance to slow down my hectic life and think about the topics that interest me.

Something few people know about you: I’m happiest when reading a good book in a nice comfy chair.

Something else about you? This summer I was working in northern Alaska creating a dendrochronology of shrubs to measure their ability to survive when they are near vs. away from nitrogen fixers. This experience created another sense of wonder toward nature and made me painfully aware of the abundance of mosquitos in Alaska.


photo of Austin Gladden

Austin Gladden

What are your majors? Elementary Education (Middle Childhood – Early Adolescence/Content-Focus in Science)

Expected graduation: December 2019

What inspired your interest in the environment and/or community? What inspires me to be such a huge advocate for not only my community, but the environment that I live within as well is the constant reminder that without the environment there is no community. For a long time, an essential part of human life was knowing that no matter what, we had this beautiful planet called Earth to call home and if we really wanted to, we could “always” live here happily ever after. However, in the past few decades, we have seen the Earth change remarkably, rapidly, in numerous ways (climate, landscape, wildlife, etc.); and it’s certainly not for the better. All of these things are not just happening randomly because everything happens for a reason, and the root of this problem is mankind. I live with the constant reminder that if we are constantly taking away from and abusing the world around us, there will soon be nothing else left to take away. I would like to stop this or at least do my part to make the world a better place not only for those who live here now, but those to come in the future as well (and I am not just talking about humans!) through service, education, and fostering community where it is needed most.

What would you say (or do you say) to other students about CESP and the Nelson Institute? I would say that CESP is a great program of people coming together to learn about themselves, the communities that they live in, and how they can care for those spaces and nurture them. We all come from different backgrounds, but each of us cares about what we can actively do for our planet to make it a better place.

Something few people know about you: Only a few people know that I love to bake and that it is one of my favorite pastimes. If you’re lucky, I will bring something into class.

Something else about you? So far, I have really enjoyed all of the reading materials we have been learning from both last semester and this semester. I feel that they have lessons in them I will carry for a lifetime.


photo of April Hommerding

April Hommerding

What are your majors? Conservation Biology and Environmental Studies

Expected graduation: May 2019

What inspired your interest in the environment and/or community? First thing first, there is one thing I know to be true: you will not come across someone who doesn’t find some sort of beauty, enjoyment, or appreciation of being outdoors or within nature. I believe that something that can bring the entire population some form of happiness is something worth fighting for. That is the overall inspiration for my passion for the environment. More personally, I am thankful to have been a part of a generation that grew up spending as many hours of the day outside as possible, not with our eyes glued to iPads. My love for nature emerged from spending time at my Grandparent’s house on the lake surrounded by miles upon miles of woods. My favorite thing to do, second to walking through the trails of the woods with my Dad, was to go for pontoon boat rides on the lake with my whole family. As I grew older within more of a city scene, I spent most of my free time growing up biking the bike trails with my mom and brother, “camping” with my friends in their backyards, joining my Dad for walks on his favorite hunting and fishing grounds, and playing softball from the time the field thawed in the spring until the last of the smoldering hot summer days. It has always been heartbreaking to me to hear the news cover topics such as the BP oil spill, the loss of life in our Great Barrier Reef, the advancement of the Keystone XL and Dakota Access pipelines, and the numerous environmental threats due to climate change including the emergence of Hurricane Harvey and Irma. Loving animals as much as I did nature, I grew up wanting to become a veterinarian. To this day, I want to go to veterinary school, become a veterinarian, and pursue a career that connects my passions for both nature and animals.

What would you say (or do you say) to other students about CESP and the Nelson Institute? In this day in age, it appears our environmental priority has been swept under the rug and it may push people, including me, to feel small and helpless in terms of solving environmental problems today. CESP encourages optimism about the world’s ability to work together, care about the environment, and solve our environmental problems. As a member of CESP, I feel more hopeful for the future because I am surrounded by a group of people who share the same desires to solve environmental problems.

Something few people know about you: I am vegan!


photo of Lauren Jorgensen

Lauren Jorgensen

What are your majors? Agronomy, Community and Environmental Sociology

Expected graduation: May 2019

What inspired your interest in the environment and/or community? I have discovered my passion for sustainable community development across a variety of avenues, and have certainly secured it as a student here at UW - Madison. A summer position at a local hospital provided me with the opportunity to learn about the intricacies of food security in my local community. I carried the same passion that I developed during my years at my hometown hospital to my new community of Madison when I accepted a position for the Greenhouse Learning Community program assistant. My focus as the food and environmental justice centered program assistant is to develop events and seek out/provide opportunities for current freshman to uncover and reinforce knowledge and concern for environmental and food related issues. In the future, I hope to engage in an urban planning graduate program.

What would you say (or do you say) to other students about CESP and the Nelson Institute? CESP is a great place to interact with students that you probably have a lot in common with - but may have never met without the program. I love coming to class and hearing about all the cool stuff my peers do in their respective disciplines.

Something few people know about you: I dressed up as a carrot occasionally for that summertime job.


photo of Rita Kawak

Rita Kawak

What are your majors? Environmental Studies and Sociology, certificates in Gender & Women’s Studies and Global Health

Expected graduation: December 2018

What inspired your interest in the environment and/or community? I have always been interested in social justice issues and when I learned about the relationship between social issues and environmental issues I knew that I wanted to devote the rest of my life to making our planet a healthier and safer place for every person everywhere. I am especially interested in Environmental Health and how climate change and built environments affect disease and human health.

What would you say (or do you say) to other students about CESP and the Nelson Institute? I think CESP and the Nelson Institute provided me with the perfect home base at UW-Madison. This university is huge and it is so nice to have a small community of like-minded individuals here at the Nelson Institute, it truly is my home away from home.

Something few people know about you: Something about me that few people know is that I’m allergic to pineapple.

Something else about you? Other than CESP, I am involved the Office of Sustainability, the Environmental Studies undergraduate office, the nonprofit “Defy Inertia,” the student org “Sierra Student Coalition,” and the a cappella group “Under A-Rest.”


photo of Shannon Kim

Shannon Kim

What are your majors? Geography

Expected graduation: May 2019

What inspired your interest in the environment and/or community? My interest in the environment and the community stemmed a lot from wanting to get involved with social justice movements. I eventually learned that there are a lot of injustices around food security and other environmental factors in less affluent areas. This made me change my major to botany at first and then to geography, so I could focus more on how people interact with their environment and how humans cause some issues of food security. Admittedly, I was never super into the environment until high school, when I took AP Environmental Science. That was when it all clicked for me. Before that, I never really focused on how I was impacting the environment and community around me besides the occasional Milwaukee Riverkeepers volunteer time I did cleaning out rivers in my local community. Now, as a person who is more aware of my impact on the environment and my community, I try my best to give back more and to be more aware of how my behaviors affect the community and environment around me.

What would you say (or do you say) to other students about CESP and the Nelson Institute? The Nelson Institute is such a great way to connect whatever you’re studying, with the environment. All parts of campus can relate to it somehow and through the Nelson Institute, you are able to find people from disciplines all across campus. CESP requires that you are either getting an environmental studies major or certificate, but the other majors that people are pursuing come from all over campus. It is a great way to meet people in other schools or in other interests.

Something few people know about you: I am double-jointed in my elbows!

Something else about you? Ever since joining CESP, I’ve become more aware of my impacts on the community! I realized that life is all just a learning process.


photo of Lianne Komen

Lianne Komen

What are your majors? Materials Science and Engineering, certificate in Environmental Studies

Expected graduation: December 2018

What inspired your interest in the environment and/or community? As a child, I was always loved to be outside in nature. I would often spend my time walking through a forest to a nearby park that was surrounded by wetlands. However, as time passed, I noticed that each year the wetlands would get smaller and smaller. As I grew up, I noticed more things changing. It made me sad to see such things like ponds drying up and the animals migrating. I think that it’s because of these reasons why I’m so fascinated about this subject and why I am so passionate in finding new ways to prevent these changes from occurring. My hope is that someday I will help find a sustainable and renewable energy source, along with creating products that are also sustainable and environmentally friendly.

What would you say (or do you say) to other students about CESP and the Nelson Institute? CESP is a class that inspires me to be something more than just a student earning a degree.

Something few people know about you: I’ve always wanted to create a short film.


photo of Cassandra McAnallen

Cassandra McAnallen

What are your majors? Geography, Sustainability Certificate

Expected graduation: May 2020

What inspired your interest in the environment and/or community? I love the outdoors and the environment and what to learn as much as I can about it. With the knowledge I gain here I hope to help leave the planet better for the generations that follow.

What would you say (or do you say) to other students about CESP and the Nelson Institute? For future students asking about CESP I would say it’s a great place to connect with other people and it also challenges the way you think about issues.

Something few people know about you: Few people know that I enjoy vacuuming.

Something else about you? I LOVE GARDENING!!!


photo of Justine Mischka

Justine Mischka

What are your majors? Community and Nonprofit Leadership, certificates in Environmental Studies and Leadership

Expected graduation: May 2019

What inspired your interest in the environment and/or community? When I was in high school, a group of my classmates and I went to Costa Rica on a service trip. It was the first travelling experience I had had that wasn’t to lay on a beach or go to Disneyland, and it woke up something inside of me that was sleeping my whole life - an adoration for the planet, the animals and humans living on it, and the joys that it creates. The world is big and beautiful and terrifying and magnificent and vulnerable and I intend to spend my life loving and seeing and serving it. I think the best ways to do that are with small groups of people who care a whole lot. I like to think that’s where I am right now.


photo of Matthew Munns

Matthew Munns

What are your majors? Environmental Studies, Conservation Biology, and Spanish

Expected graduation: May 2020

What inspired your interest in the environment and/or community? I have always been fascinated by the environment and the aesthetics and function of the environment I can’t get enough of. I love being outdoors and being on lakes, and would like to be out in nature as much as possible. I also am really interested in the community and how it co-inhabits the planet with environments. The play between the two is very interesting and something that is very complex and something I would like to know more about.


photo of Ilhulpachakatl Neubauer

Ilhulpachakatl Neubauer

What are your majors? Conservation Biology and Environmental Studies

Expected graduation: May 2018

What inspired your interest in the environment and/or community? My interest in the environment stems deeply from my culture, my community, my passion for environmental and social justice, and lived experience. For most of my life, my community and family taught me that true self determination, love, and power of the people is rooted in our collective relationship with the Mother Earth. Our relationship with food and the environment reflects our health and relationship with one another. I have meditated for six hours straight, understanding, deconstructing, and healing the mental shackles of colonial oppressions that undermine our communities. That was the beginning of my journey. I hope to extend and encourage new and returning CESPers to being Woke. No to the Dakota Access Pipeline. #NoDAPL. This is what Eco Terrorism looks like. Fight for the next seven generations. MEXICA TIAHUI.


photo of Calla Norris

Calla Norris

Expected graduation: 2020

What inspired your interest in the environment and/or community? My childhood took place almost wholly surrounded by nature, first amongst New Mexico deserts where I was born, and soon after in the dazzling jungle sweep of Hawaii where I grew up. Later my family moved to the refreshingly biodiverse forests of Wisconsin, and I spent a year as a highschool exchange student in the very green and almost unbelievably clean country of Sweden. Throughout the assortment of regions in which I have resided, what struck me most were always the natural attributes that surrounded me. For myself, the natural world and its coinciding systems ooze an unparalleled charm. For this reason, the well being of the nature around me is something that I simply can’t help but view simultaneously with allure and immense vitality.


photo of Tristan Persson

Tristan Persson

What are your majors? Environmental Sciences

Expected graduation: May 2019

What inspired your interest in the environment and/or community? Growing up in rural Wisconsin, I spent many summers enjoying all that nature has to offer. Going on multiple camping trips a year with my family also made me appreciate the outdoors and the beauty of Wisconsin. After high school, I began contemplating a career focused around the environment. My freshman year at UW-Madison, I found a service trip group called Badger Quest which offers multiple trips focused on the environment. I went to the Badlands in May 2017 and worked with a backcountry ranger for 10 days. I also was able to go to Costa Rica in January 2018 to work on an organic farm. Both trips opened my eyes about public lands, sustainability, and local environmental protection but also to not be afraid to live an unconventional life. After attending these trips, I decided on an environmental science major and I am looking forward to a career in conservation and ecology. Coming to UW-Madison, I also felt overwhelmed by the thousands of other students on campus and disconnected from the small-town community of my hometown. So, I searched for a group to join of environmentally minded individuals, which I found in CESP! I hope to learn more about the local environment and become more involved in the community on campus.


photo of Timothy Prestby

Timothy Prestby

What are your majors? Landscape Architecture, Certificate in Sustainability

Expected graduation: May 2021

What inspired your interest in the environment and/or community? I grew up in a small community known as Pulaski outside of Green Bay, WI. During my childhood into my high school years, my brother Zachary battled two types of cancers and complications like kidney failure. My family and I faced tremendous adversity. However, the community of Pulaski and Green Bay helped us through the challenges. Often community members helped out with yard work, cooked yummy meals, and much more when our time had to be spent on taking care of Zachary. Until my senior year in high school, I did not realize just how much power communities have when I took an environmental science course. While learning about community supported agriculture, I began to recognize how communities can help others in diverse ways while enriching Earth. As Pulaski and Green Bay did to my family, I yearned to promote positive community change through sustainable development. I decided that for my career, I will strive to foster community growth through sustainable food systems. Above all, I seek to design rural communities that house more edible gardens and/or parks. Likewise, I hope to bring a rural sense of place to Urban areas by planting green spaces filled with food, relaxation, and botanical gardens to cultivate well-being for people and mother nature.


photo of Emily Rau

Emily Rau

What are your majors? Environmental Sciences and Geography

Expected graduation: May 2019

What inspired your interest in the environment and/or community? As a young girl I loved to be outside in nature and I was consumed by my love for animals. The enjoyment I derived from being in nature developed into an interest in wanting to learn more about the environment. In high school I took Ecology and AP Environmental Science, and through these classes I was able to learn about the fundamentals of the natural environment along with how to identify bird calls and trees. College has allowed me to pursue my interest by taking a wide variety of classes on different aspects of the environment. These classes have made me realize that I want to have a career in the environmental field, and be an agent of change in helping to protect and preserve the environment from human impacts. The environment and society make up an interconnected web in which a change in the environment can have an effect on the community, while community alterations can in turn have strong repercussions on the environment. I believe that it is important for everyone to see and understand the connection between the two because as a society we cannot completely solve environmental problems until we consider the social, economic, cultural, and political consequences that shape our world.


photo of Jeremy Sanford

Jeremy Sanford

What are your majors? Conservation Biology & Environmental Studies

Expected graduation: May 2020

What inspired your interest in the environment and/or community? I’ve always been interested in the process of evolution but never seriously thought about pursuing the study of it as a career until recently. As I’ve taken more classes about it, the importance of biodiversity and conservation of habitats really struck me. After this, I decided I wanted to focus on the preservation of ecosystems and the species that inhabit them in order to leave the planet better than my generation found it. I truly believe this is the most important issue of our time, and there needs to be an influx of people into this field in order for the earth to remain hospitable for millennia to come.


photo of Hannah Sigg

Hannah Sigg

What are your majors? Environmental Studies and Geography

Expected graduation: May 2019

What inspired your interest in the environment and/or community? I’m not really sure when I became interested in the environment. I just kind of showed up and thought it was cool, and then some things like internships and research just fell into place and now I can’t imagine myself doing anything else. I remember when I was little, I would see things on the news about oil spills and other environmental degradation and thinking something along the lines of “ah jeez, I hope someone fixes that!” but eventually learning that I can be the person that fixes that. A switch flipped in my brain, and I realized that I wanted to do everything in my power to preserve and restore the natural landscape around us. Now I work in land restoration and I love that there is a tangible difference before and after working with a plot of land. Knowing that I can make a visible difference in a place is incredibly gratifying, and I’m proud that I can help to restore Wisconsin’s prairies to the way that they were 200 years ago.

Something few people know about you: I’m weirdly susceptible to mosquito bites. One time I was working out in the woods and I got over 150 bites, while my coworkers only got one or two. My arm was so swollen that I couldn’t bend it!

Something else about you? My favorite plants are any of the four Silphiums because they have very rough leaves that are good for scratching mosquito bites.


photo of Paige Taft

Paige Taft

What are your majors? Geography and Environmental Studies with a Certificate in American Indian Studies

Expected graduation: May 2019

What inspired your interest in the environment and/or community? I come from a very long line of environmentalists and people who are obsessed with the outdoors. I spent a lot of my childhood outdoors, especially since I lived near a large park and the lakefront in Milwaukee. The first time I knew I wanted to make a career out of Environmental Studies was in my IB Environmental Science class in high school. The relationship between people and the environment intrigued me and I found it very interesting how various cultures had a different experience and relationship with the world around them. Learning about various cultures and their take on the environment inspires me to pursue my interest in studying the environment and the people in it.

What would you say (or do you say) to other students about CESP and the Nelson Institute? The people are the best! All of the people in the Nelson Institute and CESP want you to succeed and be the best you can be. If you’re looking to meet some great people and improve yourself CESP and the Nelson Institute are for you.

Something few people know about you: I speak fluent German and I am in the UW Marching Band.


photo of Steven Touney

Steven Touney

What are your majors? Geoscience

Expected graduation: May 2019

What inspired your interest in the environment and/or community? Growing up all across the United States I have had the privilege to experience more communities and parts of the environment than most my age. From the rocky, tree lined shores of the San Juan islands of Washington to the Rocky Mountains of Colorado to the sand beaches of North Carolina this was my classroom and my playground. I learned to grow my roots wide rather than deep in communities. Easily torn up, but broad and expansive cherishing each portion of life. Though I have moved on from many parks and communities, I still remember the people, the places, and what I’ve learned from them.

What would you say (or do you say) to other students about CESP and the Nelson Institute? CESP is a place to voice an opinion, listen, and discuss ideas surrounding the environment at the core, but often reach into many other disciplines. Through engaging conversation, we educate each other and bring in a multitude of perspectives and backgrounds.

Something few people know about you: I am both a tortoise and car enthusiast.


photo of Shannon Triller

Shannon Triller

What are your majors? Anthropology and Environmental Studies

Expected graduation: May 2019

What inspired your interest in the environment and/or community? I became interested in the environment with a community centric aspect back when I was in 7th grade when I had a social studies teacher teach my class about how environmental factors affect different places and communities in disproportional ways.

What would you say (or do you say) to other students about CESP and the Nelson Institute? I am looking forward to learning more about my place in the Nelson Institute and at UW Madison as a whole through my time in CESP. I think that the thing I can bring best to CESP is my drive and motivation to get stuff done and to stick it out until I am satisfied with my work. I’m excited to learn and grow from this amazing group of students and faculty members.

Something few people know about you: I really want to work somewhere else besides America in an anthropological job once I’m out of school.


photo of Emma VanDell

Emma VanDell

What are your majors? Fine Arts with certificate in Environmental Studies

Expected graduation: May 2020

What inspired your interest in the environment and/or community? As a very young child I was exposed to the expansive natural landscapes that cover this country. I have countless memories of going on long road trips to national parks and various outdoor recreation sites with my family in our beaten down, old RV. These trips sparked my passion for exploration, spontaneity, and the environment as a community rather than a place. I spent my childhood camping, climbing the hills of the riverbed that my hometown resides in, kayaking, making forts and toys from the trees and brush by the river, and being a self-proclaimed “River Rat”. I taught myself to make tea from the fresh stream water boiled with pine needles and chives that grew in my backyard (it was not the best tea, but I was sure proud of it). Due to growing up in this way, I have always seen the environment and nature as a whole as a part of the community in which I lived. This inspired me to protect and advocate for the health of natural spaces through my life. That is why I spent my entire high school career only taking natural science classes for fun and immediately declaring a Wildlife Ecology degree upon entering college… which I have only recently realized was not the path for me.


photo of Jazmin Vargas

Jazmin Vargas

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

Expected graduation: May 2020

What inspired your interest in the environment and/or community? I lived in Mexico for a few years during my childhood. When I moved to the U.S, I was intrigued to see how different the environment was used and valued. It was then that I became interested in what factors caused these differences. As I started to learn more through my education, I began to realize the harms certain practices or surroundings have on human health and the environment. It was with all this additional information that I understood the strong link between the environment and the communities it surrounds.


photo of Sara Vega

Sara Vega

What are your majors? Horticulture, certificate in Environmental Studies

Expected graduation: May 2018

What inspired your interest in the environment and/or community? My interest in the environment comes from my fascination with plants and animals. Crawling around on the floor, looking for bugs and other small creatures was a great passion of mine in infancy. As I became older, my fascination grew outwards towards nature as an ecosystem and as a result, I cultivated many passions involving the environment: gardening, rock collecting, insect collecting and rearing, flower collecting, cooking and eating things I grew or my grandmother grew, stories about nature etc. Nature has enchanted me so readily because my world has always been set in the city. A Non-city setting made my imagination go wild, it made everything un-urbanized feel coated in magic.

What would you say (or do you say) to other students about CESP and the Nelson Institute? I am enjoying meeting other likeminded students through CESP and interacting with people across the board. I wish that we could have more opportunities to get to know each other and form more bonds that could manifest outside of CESP. Also, CESP has provided me a platform to flex my leadership muscles when others are too shy or feeling uninvolved. Roping people into conversations happens to be one of my specialties.


photo of Carly Winner

Carly Winner

What are your majors? Environmental Studies and Conservation Biology

Expected graduation: May 2020

What inspired your interest in the environment and/or community? I grew up in a family that drove my love for the oceans to an obsession. By the age of 12 I was certified to scuba dive and ever since have never wanted to stop exploring. I was fascinated by the beauty, life and diversity that was found in an underwater world that most are completely unfamiliar with. My interest with the environment started with a passion to expose everyone to the ocean and make it known that we must protect this fragile, and important ecosystem. However, the older I got my passion for the ocean began to stretch farther than that singular ecosystem. I found the urging problem of climate change to be something in particular that I was passionate about and cared enough to try and make a difference at a young age, and my passion for it has gotten stronger ever since.