Current Students

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.

Mariah Antigone

What are your majors? Nursing and environmental studies

Expected graduation: May 2022

What inspired your interest in the environment and/or community? As a young paramedic, I worked in the Driftless Region of Wisconsin, a glaciated landscape surrounding 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. The ways we build (or fail to build) community, as well as our relationship to the natural world, determines both our personal health outcomes and the health of the planet. Working in emergency medicine taught me about the injustices that many of our community members face.

Health care in America is rife with inequities, and I became troubled by the systemic failures I saw each day. Working as a nurse in a rural hospital solidified my belief that our health care 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? It is not an exaggeration to say that the Nelson Institute has been the best thing to ever happen to my educational journey. I had been interested in social and environmental determinants of health for years, but studying at the Nelson Institute broadened those concepts for me in ways I never imagined.

The staff and students at The Nelson Institute and in CESP are simply the best. I feel seen and cared for as a student at the Nelson Institute and I consider Science Hall my home away from home. I would recommend CESP and the Nelson Institute unreservedly.

Something few people know about you: Something about myself that few of my classmates know is exactly how much of a Star Trek fan I am. 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!

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 added on conservation biology because I am interested in gaining a more in-depth understanding of conservation’s biological aspects as well. One of my career goals is to work in habitat restoration, and my conservation biology courses have been some of the inspiration for that.

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!

Something few people know about you: This summer I knew nothing about insects, and now all of a sudden I have delved into the world of entomology. I am taking an entomology class and working in a research lab looking at leafhopper populations, and it’s really fun! Just goes to show all the things you can do with environmental studies and conservation biology.

Jessica Bedtka

What are your majors? Geography (people-environment), political science, and environmental studies majors, with a certificate in African studies

Expected graduation: May 2022

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 Wisconsin’s Driftless area.

After a spontaneous decision to spend a 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, peacebuilding, and the political ecology surrounding food systems.

Since then, I have had the chance to learn about direct environmental community actions from many opportunities including taking part in youth driven trail building across Wisconsin and Colorado, weaving baskets in a women-led cooperative in rural Rwanda, and farming veggies in the Green Mountains for a farm-to-hospital program.

Through these experiences and my studies, I have seen the power of community and am inspired by the amount of compassion people hold for one another as well as the environment. I am interested in the potential these place-based connections have in sparking change. I am passionate about breaking down the elitism and gatekeeping so often found in both higher education and outdoor spaces to give more people the opportunity to build these powerful connections.

Outside of my academics I am an avid reader, amateur chef, and long-distance hiking enthusiast who tries to spend as much time in the backcountry as possible.

What would you say (or do you say) to other students about CESP and the Nelson Institute? CESP is a supportive space to explore opportunities, hone professional skills, and expand your education outside of the lecture hall. This little community in the Nelson Institute has granted me the ability to connect with individuals from diverse backgrounds and differing paths who hold similar passions and goals to me.

Jordyn Benn

What is your major? Civil engineering

Expected graduation: May 2023

What inspired your interest in the environment and/or community? Growing up walking distance from Lake Michigan and right across the street from a county park, I have always enjoyed experiencing all the beautiful things Earth has to offer. I always loved walking through the woods, looking at flowers and animals, and watching the leaves change color in the fall. I believe everyone can benefit from learning more about the environment and how we can have positive interactions with it.

I enjoy working with communities and learning about different people and ideas. Through UW-Madison’s chapter of Engineers Without Borders I have worked with two communities in rural Ecuador since freshman year, and this has really inspired my interest in community and working with others. I am looking forward to learning new ways I can interact with communities in Madison.

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. 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.

What would you say (or do you say) to other students about CESP and the Nelson Institute? CESP is a fantastic opportunity to connect with peers and professionals who share similar passions for the environment and community. It is so much larger than a simple scholarship program, CESP is a great place to share conversation around different issues and topics affecting communities of color, rural communities, the environment and so many more urgent topics. If you enjoy discussion-based, student-led seminars then CESP is definitely the place for you!

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

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.

Daisy Chew

What are your majors? Conservation biology

Expected graduation: December 2021

What inspired your interest in the environment and/or community? I’ve always hated how people pollute and destroy nature for selfish reasons, especially since nature can’t exactly defend itself against a hyperkeystone species. Caring for those who cannot adequately defend themselves, especially non-humans, is my purpose. Being in nature feels more right than being in the city at times and I’d like to protect our safe place.

MaKayla Erdmann

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

Expected graduation: May 2023

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

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

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

Kyle Fossum

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

Expected graduation: December 2021 or May 2022

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.

What would you say (or do you say) to other students about CESP and the Nelson Institute? It is such a unique program with the most fantastic people. It is an extraordinary experience that allows you to learn a lot in a laid back environment.

Something few people know about you: I have a pet dog living with me here at college!

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: Not many people know my favorite bug is the spittlebug! They’re small guys that hop around plants pretty quickly so they can be a little hard to spot. I recommend looking at a closeup of one — they’re really cute!

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 volunteered at the Wisconsin Humane Society Wildlife Hospital two summers ago and had the chance to care for a variety of adorable baby wild animals, including baby possums, squirrels, and goslings.

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!

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.

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).

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 and would love to complete a marathon at some point.

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.

May Jagodzinski

What are your majors? Global health and environmental studies with a certificate in food systems

Expected graduation: May 2023

What inspired your interest in the environment and/or community? I chose to major in global health and environmental studies because I believe access to quality and affordable healthcare is a fundamental right, and one of the many crucial aspects to making a healthy community. Equally, health is more than just the medicalization, and working to mend the systemic injustices in our food resources, education, and housing needs immediate action.

While federal level governance can be full of gridlock and polarizing, local governance offers an expeditious process in amplifying voices and seeing immediate change. A community only knows the needs of its own community best, and I hope to work in local policies that decrease systematic barriers that are limiting the process of change and increase inclusion.

Eryne Jenkins

What are your majors? Biology, 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.

What would you say (or do you say) to other students about CESP and the Nelson Institute? CESP is a great opportunity to connect and learn about relevant environmental efforts amongst peers and across campus. Both CESP and Nelson Institute are great at sharing information and opportunities to further learning!

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

Something else about you? This past fall, I connected with peers at the Midwest Climate Summit and together we launched an effort to collaborate and share waste-reduction initiatives across campuses in the region. I am motivated to continue this collaboration and further engage our local and regional community in waste-reduction.

Nessa Kana

What are your majors? Early childhood education

Expected graduation: 2023

What inspired your interest in the environment and/or community? I really love helping my community and hope to keep helping my community as I move on in life. I want people to be proud of me and want my community to look clean and respectful.

Edgar Kevorkian

What are your majors? Honors Mathematics Program majoring in mathematics, with a certificate in environmental studies

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.

What would you say (or do you say) to other students about CESP and the Nelson Institute? The CESP is an amazing program for those who seek to develop their leadership strategies, hone their communication and interpersonal skills, and deepen their knowledge in the social perspective of the environmental studies. The CESP has helped me to connect to a group of amazing people with whom I have worked on several projects regarding the environment.

Something few people know about you: I have published one research article about algebraic topology.

Something else about you? I work with another CESP member on a road salt community project for Marathon County (Wausau) to gather data and find environmental-friendly solutions to the spreading of road salt.

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.

Eliza Lindley

What are your majors? Environmental sciences; life sciences communication; sustainability certificate

Expected graduation: May 2023

What inspired your interest in the environment and/or community? Every time I am asked this question, it always comes back to a course I took in fifth grade called “Journaling, Biology, and Beyond.” I fondly recall assignments which entailed tromping around my backyard to listen to bird calls and identifying different types of evergreen needles.

But most important of all was the main text for the course — Aldo Leopold’s “A Sand County Almanac.” Wrapped up in vibrant prose detailing his observations of the natural world is Leopold’s thoughtful environmental ethic, an outlook that remains with me to this day. His work instilled in me a fervent desire to protect the wonders of our environment, large and small, with the recognition that we ourselves are embedded in that global ecology.

Since then, I’ve come to realize that community is the foundation of what it means to be human, and safeguarding our planet for future generations demands that we lean into its undeniable strength.

Doran Mackowski

What are your majors? Mechanical engineering major, certificate in engineering thermal energy systems

Expected graduation: December 2022

What inspired your interest in the environment and/or community? I have been interested in the environment for as long as I can remember. I was raised in an environmentally conscience household at a time where environmental issues were constantly at the forefront of media, acid rain, ozone layer depletion, greenhouse emissions, etc. I have always appreciated nature and the outdoors and love to hike and camp.

What would you say (or do you say) to other students about CESP and the Nelson Institute? The Community Environmental Scholars Program is a supportive environment for growth and self-reflection. CESP is a fantastic opportunity to engage with a relatively diverse group of highly motivated and passionate people that share some similar interests. I was surprised at how much I could learn with such a short time commitment, all while still having a fun time with good people.

Something few people know about you: I have attended over 500 concerts.

Something else about you? My senior interdisciplinary design project is working with a team of fellow student engineers to design and layout an HVAC system for a 20,000 square foot single story office building with the intention of reducing energy consumption and running cost, while meeting or exceeding all the requirements of the client and applicable codes and standards.

Sherine McManus

What are your majors? Civil engineering with a certificate in environment studies

Expected graduation: May 2023

What inspired your interest in the environment and/or community? My interest in the environment started from a young age as I would spend countless hours outside with my dad and brother either exploring, fishing, camping, or hiking. As I grew older my dad and I would go out to events hosted by his work to help clean up parks and learn more about what is being done to take care of them.

Then during my senior year, I took a STEM seminar class and we learned about environmental issues as well as creating a science fair project. My project focused on creating an ocean water filter made of cheap, recyclable materials. My interest in improving upon water quality and building better filters stemmed from there and has led me into learning more about the environment and trying to help leave it better.

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!

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 absolutely hate watermelon-flavored Jolly Ranchers, and most artificial watermelon candy!

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 that environmental racism impacts people all over the world. I want to solve that problem and make sure the world is a better place for future generations.

What would you say (or do you say) to other students about CESP and the Nelson Institute? CESP is an amazing opportunity to build, grow, and learn about the environment and community.

Something few people know about you: I absolutely love cooking and ice skating.

Thomas Myren

What are your majors? Environmental science, with a certificate in sustainability

Expected graduation: May 2023

What inspired your interest in the environment and/or community? My interest in the environment stems from watching our environment and climate change as I grew up. I saw the winter become shorter and warmer even in just my couple decades on this Earth, and it doesn’t sit right with me. I’d like to help make a difference. I’m interested in community because I come from a small community. Everyone knew everybody and it was good for us all, because once one person needed help, we all stepped up.

What would you say (or do you say) to other students about CESP and the Nelson Institute? CESP is a fantastic program that can help you learn more about what it means to truly be a part of a community and inspire real change. CESP helps you build a network of like-minded individuals who all wish to make a difference in the environment and in their communities. CESP has helped me to feel more comfortable alongside my peers, as it has really helped me to get to know them. CESP has also helped me learn more about what holds value for me, and my morals. I am forever grateful to be a part of CESP.

Something few people know about you: Few people know that I have a twin sister, who is very different from me. We may argue and not get along sometimes, but we’ve got a bond where we’ll always have each other’s backs.

Breon Newble

What are your majors? Health promotion and 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.

Carmen Nightfall

What are your majors? Life sciences 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? As future ancestors, in CESP we learn to carry such a title with honor, compassion, and open-hearted eyes for our important legacy. The CESP family is a garden and corridor of learning, growth, and opportunity for the social and environmental ecologies of our lives and communities. The program helps us develop and hone our bearing, skills, and experience as we gain them while availing opportunities for applications and engagement experiences that serve our personal, academic, and professional lives as well as our communities.

Part of how we acquire these tools and experiences are through the valuable and unique interwoven mentorship strata and layers of methods built into the program and progression. In service of our values and communities, we collaborate and explore ways of bringing life-affirming change to issues that need a lighted path for new directions. Come add your light so that together they shine brighter — for finding steps in new directions as a future ancestor in training in CESP!

Something few people know about you: Carmen’s special human tricks are dexterous toes, for with either foot, I can pinch your nose! Naturally I love being barefoot when possible, and climbing trees.

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.

Isabelle Paulsen

What are your majors? Anthropology, classical humanities, and environmental studies with a certificate in archaeology

Expected graduation: May 2022

What inspired your interest in the environment and/or community? I have been interested in the natural world since before I can remember. I’ve been told many stories about me futilely chasing robins and eating tomatoes straight off the vine like apples. There has never been a period where I have not wanted to wander among the outdoors.

But ideas of the environment and community came to the forefront of my mind when I interned as a naturalist at a nature center in high school. I was able to engage in public workshops and help lead summer camps for young children. I interacted with kids who had never connected with the environment and helped show them the wonders it could hold. And in the process, I learned so much too. My entire perspective changed about what the environment is and what I can do within it and for it.

What would you say (or do you say) to other students about CESP and the Nelson Institute? I would tell them that this program really focuses on personal and professional growth in a low stakes environment. It is about building community with the groups around us and within CESP too.

Something few people know about you:  I have scuba dived in Lake Monona.

Nikki Prado-Solano

What are your majors? Geography with certificates in environmental studies and Chican@ and Latinx studies

Expected graduation: December 2021

What inspired your interest in the environment and/or community? In a way, being raised Catholic and Mexican rooted most of the things I’ve done to the Earth, the environment, and my community. We grew vegetables and herbs every year, took care of the land, and took care of those around us. From recycling to thrifting and re-using different items, my family was environmentally conscious years before I even had the vocabulary for it.

My family and culture show love through food so I’ve seen how food is such an easy way to build community and have been able to be a part of that community-building on my own for some time now. I’ve been interested in environmental community work for as long as I can remember and as I continue my education at UW, I continue to research the effects and intersections between community work, the environment, and public health.

I want a career where I’m able to work toward sustainable solutions. I want future generations in Milwaukee to be able to go on walks through beautiful parks, take bike rides through paths that cut through the city, and be able to walk to grocery stores packed with fresh food. I want more for my community and environment and I hope to help make the changes necessary to achieve it.

What would you say (or do you say) to other students about CESP and the Nelson Institute? Apply! Not only have I met some amazing people through CESP, I’ve also been able to build a small community of others who often share knowledge about topics I’m interested in through a different lens than I would’ve initially (all of us have environmental studies backgrounds, but with an emphasis on different things). It’s a lot of fun!

Something few people know about you: I love to build things with my hands! My dad and uncles love to put things together and have all of my life so when I’m home, you can catch me in the backyard with them, wielding a power saw and tool belt. My partner is also an amateur woodworker, which makes our date nights a blast.

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 percent Slovenian. I went to Slovenian school at a cultural center near my home town for eight years.

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

Connor Raboine

What are your majors? Human development and family studies, communication arts with certificates in food systems, environmental studies, and global health

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 and 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.

What would you say (or do you say) to other students about CESP and the Nelson Institute? With this being my last semester with CESP, I’m happy that we’re able to be together. After a year of being online, I am able to put a face (albeit masked) to a name, further cementing those community ties. As such, I am glad to have met so many incredible people through this experience.

Something few people know about you: Over the last year, I’ve written quite a few grants for a small student-run nonprofit. Since I’ve been a part of this organization since my freshman year, I wanted to give back somehow. Although we did not receive the first several, I just recently heard back about a pretty significant grant. It feels good to end on a high note.

Something else about you? Since the semester prior to COVID, a fellow student and I have been working with several student organizations and UW-Madison administration on bringing Swipe Out Hunger, a leading nonprofit dedicated to ending student hunger, here to campus. This semester (actually right now) is our first Swipe Drive, so it was great to see all that work come to fruition.

Kaleb Rakers

What are your majors? Environmental science and political science with a certificate in environmental studies

Expected graduation: May 2022

What inspired your interest in the environment and/or community? Since I was 5 my family took a vacation every summer in our pop-up camper. These vacations became trips to national parks since my parents want to visit every park in their lifetime. Seeing these most beautiful parts of America helped build my connection to nature and really want to preserve it so I could go on the same trips with my kids.

My favorite parks so far have been Crater Lake and Isle Royale. I also participated in Boy Scouts which gave me the unique opportunity to go backpacking in New Mexico. Being able to watch the sunrise from the side of a mountain and illuminate the mountains and desert in the distance deepened my appreciation for nature.

Jane Schaub

What are your majors? Environmental studies and business management

Expected graduation? May 2023

What inspired your interest in the environment and/or community? Growing up I had the opportunity to visit several state and national parks across the U.S. I found myself in awe of the beauty and strength of nature. As we hiked and explored, my parents taught me the importance of respecting these natural places so that future generations could enjoy them as we did. This idea of sustainability and respecting nature stuck with me as I grew up and led me to pursue a career in sustainability related work.

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.

Amanda Shalit

What are your majors? Botany and conservation biology

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.

What would you say (or do you say) to other students about CESP and the Nelson Institute? I would tell students who are interested in CESP or the Nelson Institute that no matter who they are or where they come from, there is a place for them. I would encourage them to look into CESP and all that it has to offer to both the students at Madison as well as the surrounding community.

Something few people know about you: I can’t swim!

Something else about you? I am conducting research with two labs at UW-Madison, the Damschen Plant Ecology Lab and the McCulloh Botany Lab!

Elizabeth Smith

What are your majors? Environmental science, zoology, environmental studies certificate

Expected graduation: May 2023

What inspired your interest in the environment and/or community? What inspired me most about working to take care of the environment was, as cheesy as it sounds, all of the Planet Earth episodes they showed us in elementary and middle school. Watching those videos which showcased such beautiful ecosystems and animals and then hearing about topics such as climate change motivated me to pursue a degree in something that I could use to help the cause in some way. I think it is important to take care of this beautiful Earth we were given, not only for ourselves, but for future generations, and I think taking care of the environment around us creates a sense of community, because it is something that all of us share, which is really cool.

Megan Spielbauer

What are your majors? Economics and environmental studies, certificates in public policy and Chican@ and Latin@ 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. That class showed me how social norms convinced suburban Americans 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.

In that class, we also discussed how much “choice” folks actually possess in a capitalist society, which made me question some of the fundamental principles of my economics 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. Thus, environmental justice is the only form of environmentalism that I consider to be meaningful as it combines environment and community, centers marginalized voices, and emphasizes accountability.

What would you say (or do you say) to other students about CESP and the Nelson Institute? I would tell other students that the Nelson Institute has some great professors and classes that will expand your understanding of what constitutes the “environment.”

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

Something else about you? I really enjoy folding origami, specifically cranes.

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? My family has a long history of engaging in the outdoors and so it was easy for me to find interest in the environment at a young age. I was always attracted to outdoor activities, but, when I began learning the science behind our environment, I quickly became fascinated with ecological interactions. The more I learned about these delicate systems, the more I realized how connected we are to our own surrounding environments. I was motivated to find ways to improve our impact, which inspired me to pursue a degree in civil engineering.

Since then, I have explored ways I can facilitate change in my own community. I have worked on local and international projects to provide infrastructural and ecological improvements to create a more sustainable future for the local communities. I am excited by the prospect of applying engineering to improve our effect on the environment and finding ways our community can engage positively with it.

What would you say (or do you say) to other students about CESP and the Nelson Institute? CESP is an amazing opportunity to find a community within a class. I have never experienced a more welcoming and inclusive academic environment. Everyone comes from different majors and backgrounds, and yet we all come together under our interest in the community and environment. With CESP being a multi-semester program, you get an opportunity to know your classmates and team members. I really enjoy the topics that we cover and the books we read. They provide so many great learning opportunities that lead to really interesting conversations.

Something few people know about you: I enjoy getting outside in any way possible. You will often find me hiking, biking, rock climbing, and skiing with any free time I manage to have!

Something else about you? I am a five-year member of Engineers Without Borders and am currently working on the Camarones Potable Water Project. The project is based in Ecuador and we are working on designing a distribution system to provide safe drinking water for the community.

Bri Stevens

What is your major? Landscape architecture

Expected graduation: 2023

What inspired your interest in the environment and/or community? In high school I volunteered as an assistant coach for Special Olympics swimming and really enjoyed the experience working with and being welcomed into the community. This was something I felt was missing from my first few years of my undergrad at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. CESP is a great organization that has created their own community within the program while also practicing community engagement off campus. Environmental science has been a growing passion of mine as I learn more about the importance of sustainability and environmental justice when designing spaces, especially with the growing threats climate change presents.

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 two 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.

Tien Vo

What are your majors? Environmental sciences and geography

Expected graduation: December 2022

What inspired your interest in the environment and/or community? I don’t know what inspired my interest in the environment, but I think a part of the reason is because of the summer camp I went to when I was a kid. Every summer for six summers, I attended a summer camp located in the woods of Wisconsin. The camp preached four virtues, one of which was: “Every living being has inherent value.” This meant that the other campers, the trees, and even the mosquitos that bit us had inherent value.

While I don’t exactly know what inspired my interest in the environment, I do know that my interest in the community was inspired by the environment. Throughout my college career, I’ve realized that I can’t address environmental issues with science alone. I need to approach these issues with the community and our society in mind. Environmental justice is inextricably linked to issues such as racial justice, workers’ rights, and health. To achieve environmental justice, we have to address the concerns that plague our communities.

What would you say (or do you say) to other students about CESP and the Nelson Institute? It can be overwhelming trying to find your place on campus at a big school like UW-Madison. CESP can help connect you to like-minded students and help you build a community that will support you throughout your years here. If you’re interested in the environment and community and want to meet people from a wide range of backgrounds, consider applying to join CESP!

Something few people know about you: I hate desserts that are too sweet!

Something else about you? I’m intrigued by the environmental impacts of war. When people think of environmentally destructive anthropogenic activities, they usually think of activities like farming, logging, and urbanization. However, I would argue that war is also a significant anthropogenic activity that we need to keep on our radar. As an environmental scientist, I would work to make war a more pressing issue in the scientific community.

Kalie Whitehorse

What are your majors? Psychology and environmental studies with a certificate in American Indian Studies

Expected graduation: May 2022

What inspired your interest in the environment and/or community? I’m from Madison, Wisconsin, so being near the lakes sparked my interest in the environment because I was seeing how poorly our lakes were being treated and how much the local ecosystems were struggling with algae blooms in the summer.

What would you say (or do you say) to other students about CESP and the Nelson Institute? This is my third semester in CESP and I have made so many connections with other students in the program and it feels like a family whenever I go to class. I really enjoy being able to see familiar faces and it helps make a large university feel smaller.

Something few people know about you: In my free time, I really like to read, take walks on the bike path along Lake Monona, and spend time with my two yellow labs, Jordy and Lola.

Sophia Ziehr

What are your majors? International studies and environmental studies; certificates in German and sustainability

Expected graduation: May 2023

What inspired your interest in the environment and/or community? When I was a kid, my parents started a grocery store that sells only just, local, and organic foods. I grew up in and around this store and quickly learned how important environmentally friendly foods were and how much they impacted the community.

In high school, I was able to travel to Germany. There I saw an entire country that made sustainability a priority and I was struck how accessible it was to every citizen. This experience opened my eyes to how it was possible for the environment to be a priority and how far the U.S. had to go to catch up. This experience, along with my love for travel and the natural world, cemented my desire to get a degree in environmental studies. I hope to help make sustainable living attainable for people around the globe.

What would you say (or do you say) to other students about CESP and the Nelson Institute? Being part of CESP broadened my view of environmental issues because this group of students are pursuing a wide variety of majors and have a wide range of experiences and viewpoints about these issues. Because of this, I have met people I may not have otherwise met and it opened my mind to how environmental issues impact areas in ways I would not have thought.