Group photo of Community Environmental Scholars Program students in a classroom

Community Environmental Scholars Program

The Community Environmental Scholars Program (CESP) is designed for students who want to link their passion for the environment with a commitment to the community. The program provides undergraduates with the opportunity to work with community-based environmental organizations.

How it Works

Community Environmental Scholars take a one-credit seminar each semester that introduces them to local organizations, provides them with professional training, and gives them a place to discuss the links between environmental studies and community service.

As a Community Environmental Scholar, you will collaborate with a cohort of students dedicated to addressing environmental challenges.

CESP graduates with Bucky Badger

Three Reasons to Join CESP


As a CESP member, you will be a catalyst for change. Participants connect the wisdom, needs, and energy of community groups with the educational and institutional strengths of the environmental studies program.


Community environmental scholars participate in service-learning projects and use the tools of community-based participatory research to address issues such as environmental justice, food scarcity and policy, wildlife conservation and transportation equity.


CESP students also serve as informal recruiters, encouraging young people from all communities in Wisconsin to learn about the benefits of an environmental studies education at the Nelson Institute.

How Do I Join?

Iffat and Ismat Bhuiyan posing for a photo surrounded by lush plants

We welcome applications from all interested environmental studies and sustainability students. If you have unmet financial need, you also may be eligible for a scholarship (up to $4,550 annually) through CESP. The application for both the program and the scholarship is available through WiSH.

While we would like to enroll every interested student, space in the Community Environmental Scholars Program is limited to 10-15 new students per year. All applicants will be ranked based on their application essays and academic performance. Applications are due around mid-March for admission to the following fall semester and around mid-October for admission to the following spring semester.

Our Students in Action

Through CESP, Jackie Millonzi volunteered at an after-school program, where she worked with local elementary school students. By engaging in work outside of the UW campus, she developed a new sense of connection to the Madison community.

CESP cohort members teamed up to develop a food waste policy and practice event, which served as a community forum where scientific and business expertise merged with community knowledge to create change.

A student dressed in fire-resistant gear observing a controlled burn

CESP students led by Calla Norris assisted with a controlled burn at Goose Pond in Arlington, Wisconsin, which offered a new learning opportunity and a chance to educate others about the importance of proper land management.

How Can I Learn More?

For more information about the Community Environmental Scholars Program, contact Dr. Robert Beattie at

Support the Community Environmental Scholars Program

Gifts to the Community Environmental Scholars Program play a crucial role in helping our students build on their passion for the environment and community engagement. This cohort-based program provides a supportive and welcoming community for traditionally underrepresented students, such as first-generation, Black, Indigenous, Latinx, and veterans.

Make a gift today