2015 Career Discovery Tour


A small group of eight undergraduate students from the Nelson Institute for Environmental Studies was selected from a competitive pool of applicants for the Nelson Career Discovery Tour. In order to apply, students had to meet the following criteria:

In addition, students had to complete an application dependent on both answers to essay questions and student transcripts. The eight undergraduate students ultimately selected for the inaugural trip included:

photo of Ismat Bhuiyan smiling

Ismat Bhuiyan is a senior at the University of Wisconsin-Madison majoring in Biology with certificates in Global Health and Environmental Studies. On campus, she is involved in research at the Waisman Center where her lab studies Fragile X Syndrome and stem cells. She also works part time at the UW Hospital and Clinics assisting patients and visitors. These experiences have allowed her to understand the value of academic research and importance of public health care. In the fall of 2015 she will be attending graduate school at the Fairbanks School of Public Health at Indiana University for a Masters in Public Health. Ismat is passionate about linking aspects of the environment with health and disease prevention. She will specialize in Environmental Health Sciences with a goal of improving the quality of clean water and air in under-served and inner-city settings.

"This career tour was a phenomenal experience! Each and every alumni we met on this trip was insightful and inspirational. Listening to the different career paths everyone took was an opportunity I never would of received if it weren't for the Nelson Institute. I am grateful to be affiliated with this wonderful institution and I am enthusiastic to start my career path in the environmental field by attending graduate school this fall. With the information I learned from this trip I know I want to pursue a career in the non-profit field focusing on improving fresh water quality around the world. I would encourage all future students to start researching and networking early on in their educational career paths because it create a world of possibilities."

photo of Brian Brito

Brian Brito is a junior studying Atmospheric and Oceanic Science and Environmental Studies at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He has spent the majority of his academic career developing an understanding of scientific method and basic research principles. He currently works in the Land Cover Change Laboratory under Dr. Annemarie Schneider. Brian is intent on pursuing Ph.D. studies and has joined the Ronald E. McNair Post-Baccalaureate Achievement Program to ensure that his dreams become a reality. He hopes that one day his research on the atmosphere, land, and ocean will lead him into a career working with climate change policy regulation at the international scale.

"Although I did not know it at first, Washington D.C. is the place where I had always dreamt of going. I constantly envision myself becoming a powerful figure driving positive change in people and places around the world. I want to be someone that is considered important, someone that can lead people towards a vision and motivate others to achieve great things. In Washington D.C. I have learned that I do not have an impossible dream. Every day we would travel to world-renowned institutions with organization leaders and managers that devote their lives making the world a better place. Conservation International. The World Bank. NOAA. As we made our way through the high-profile institutions of Washington D.C., I realized that the people standing before me were everything that I want to become. The people we met were high-ranking officials leading careers that were dedicated to the protection of environmental resources, natural landscapes, biodiversity, and the people that depend on the land. These professionals were passionate about their causes and had the power to create radical policy change and influence people. The most inspirational aspect of this trip was the fact that we met with UW-Madison alumni. As a student committed to the protection of the environment and the implementation of sustainable living practices, this is the legacy I strive to uphold. I am indebted to the Nelson Institute for organizing this opportunity. It was more than just a trip to D.C. It was a glimpse into the life that I could possess. And I am confident, now more than ever, that I am capable of pursuing a career in environmental policy and bringing forth change to the field."

photo of Stephanie Dresen smiling

Stephanie Dresen is a senior pursuing her Bachelor of Science degree majoring in both Biochemistry and Environmental Studies. As an undergraduate at the University of Wisconsin - Madison, she has been actively involved in Undergraduate Research Scholars Program and has worked in both the Psychology Department's Addiction Research Lab and the Department of Family Medicine's Wilton Research Project. Stephanie served as the Recruitment Chair of the student organization Supporting Peers in Laidback Listening (SPILL) for two years and worked for the Institute for Chemical Education on campus leading summer chemistry camps. She is also a member of the Wisconsin Admissions Volunteers. During her junior year, Stephanie was admitted into the Nelson Institute for Environmental Studies' Community Environmental Scholars Program where she works to bridge her passion for the environment with her dedication to science communication within communities through a grant from the National Science Foundation. During her senior year, she has also served as a Nelson Student Ambassador, planning and coordinating campus events for students within the Nelson Institute. Stephanie spent her 2014 summer interning as a Quality Management Chemist for Cargill Corn Milling in Memphis, Tennessee and currently works as the Environmental Initiatives Intern for the Wisconsin Academy of Sciences, Arts, and Letters on their Waters of Wisconsin and Climate and Energy Initiatives. Her experiences have given her a technical background in the physical sciences and have strengthened her both her writing and public speaking communication skills. In the future, Stephanie would like to work with industry doing environmental consulting to assist companies in progressing towards more sustainable production operations and to continue doing scientific outreach, education, and advocacy specifically related to the environment.

"This tour was truly an eye-opening experience for me. I knew that the environmental field was diverse, but I had never been able to clearly see all the different paths available to me before coming on this trip. I am extremely honored to have been selected to attend the inaugural Nelson Institute Career Discovery Tour, and I know it will be extremely beneficial to my future career in the environmental sciences. The chance to meet with and learn from Nelson Institute alumni was an experience I would not have gained elsewhere, at least not in this capacity. I know I have made connections that will serve me for a long time to come as Nelson alumni are passionate about helping current students explore the many career options available in environmental studies. This tour has only strengthened my passion for environmental work, specifically communicating current environmental research to policy makers and communities world-wide so that it can be applied to meet the sustainable development needs of the future. I particularly enjoyed our time with the World Resources Institute as the organization is focused on communication and implementation of research on both the environment and sustainable development practices. That being said, I truly enjoyed meeting with all the alumni we had the chance to speak with and seeing all of the organizations we visited. It really was an amazing experience that I would recommend to all Nelson Institute undergraduates - you will not find an experience like this anywhere else in your undergraduate career!"

photo of Mackenzie Hess smiling

Mackenzie Hess is a sophomore at the University of Wisconsin-Madison double majoring in Environmental Studies and History as well as receiving a certificate in German. Her academic focus concentrates on the social construction of nature, environmental history, and the ever-changing relationship between humans and the environment. Her extracurricular activities include being the vice president of Lean In @ UWMadison, running in the Wisconsin Track Club, and volunteering on the Rooftop Ramble exhibit at the Madison Children's Museum. In addition to these activities, she will be studying abroad in Bonn, Germany during spring semester of 2016. Her current career plan is relatively undecided; however, she has plans to attend graduate school for either museum studies or environmental history. After graduate school, her plan is to pursue a career in museum curating or environmental consulting.

"This trip to Washington D.C. was truly an unforgettable experience for me. Before this trip I never could have imagined the diversity of jobs and organizations that contribute so heavily to the environmental field. The passion, enthusiasm, and dedication that was conveyed at each organization by Nelson Institute alumni was absolutely inspiring. The opportunity to see my aspirations and goals in action was such a motivating and energizing aspect of this tour. In addition to this, the willingness of the alumni to connect and network with us on a personal and professional level is something I could have only hoped for before this trip and is something I am so grateful for. This trip heightened and broadened my aspirations for the future and gave me an even more powerful drive towards a career in an environmental field. I so enjoyed seeing specific aspects of my career and educational goals, such as museum studies, being demonstrated so vividly by these organizations in unique and specialized ways in order to make their objectives clear and understood by others. I am so thankful for having had this opportunity to attend the inaugural Career Discovery Trip through the Nelson Institute and I look forward to utilizing and applying the knowledge I gained on this trip to all my future endeavors."

photo of Colin Higgins smiling

Colin Higgins is an Accelerated Master of Public Affairs student who is finishing his undergraduate triple major this spring (2015) in geography, history, and environmental studies with comprehensive honors at UW–Madison. He’s a Udall Scholar whose passions lie at the intersection of ecological resilience, public policy, and economic justice. During his time at UW, Colin founded and chaired the student government’s sustainability committee, helped to initiate the university’s green fund, and served as the Student Leader & Programs Coordinator at the UW's Office of Sustainability. He has also served on the board of directors for the student farm and helped lead a local food justice nonprofit. For the past two years he’s been conducting empirical research on market-based environmental policies, specifically on the development and implementation of the UK’s biodiversity offsetting program, with Professor Morgan Robertson. He plans to build off his research and public service experience to pursue a career in environmental public policy research and advocacy, within either the government or a non-profit advocacy group.

"This trip was a fascinating experience! While it's one thing to understand policy-making, environmental agencies and conservation NGO’s through theory and research, it's a different (and I think more grounding and rewarding) thing to understand these institutions and practices through the eyes of the people who make them function day-to-day. This process of understanding, admittedly, is aided when you have a tremendous network of alumni who are interested in seeing you succeed in building a more ecologically sound future (as I certainly experienced through this trip). And, I think in many ways taking this view from “within” institutions was incredibly useful for me in thinking about where and how I can attempt to create change as I move forward in my life. I'm particularly grateful for conversations I had with staffers within Senator Tammy Baldwin's office and with employee's of the World Resources Institute about different types of political change and how they are enacted (and on what spatial and temporal scales); these were invaluable in assisting my vision of the ways I can be a part of building a more just social and ecological future (within or beyond DC). Overall, it was an excellent experience, and I'm appreciative of all the people who took time to meet and connect with us! Thank you! I would strongly recommend this trip to anyone interested in influencing environmental policy on a national or international level."

photo of Josh Horman smiling

Josh Horman is a senior majoring in Environmental Studies and Sociology. As an undergraduate, Josh has been actively involved with research in the UW soil science department. He is part of the Sociology Honors Society, Alpha Kappa Delta. Josh volunteered through Badger Volunteers by educating kids at Wingra School in Madison about the environment and nature. Josh currently works part-time as an administrative intern at the law firm of Hurley, Burish and Stanton S.C. Josh's academic interests include environmental law and policy, alternative energy systems, economic development and climate change. Josh hopes to pursue a career in law, policy work, or as a research analyst to protect our natural resources and develop a sustainable future.

"The Nelson Institute Career Discovery Tour exemplified the UW alumni network in Washington D.C. Graduates of the Nelson Institute have a variety of jobs in D.C. The network opened my eyes to the various opportunities that are available in Washington D.C. I received insightful guidance about career paths, job searching, and professional networking from the alumni we talked to. I especially enjoyed the reception at the Wilderness Society that included many alumni. It was exciting and fun to connect with alumni who shared my passion for environmental studies. This tour reinforced the wide array of opportunities with an environmental studies degree from the Nelson Institute. I encourage everyone to take advantage of this awesome experience!"

photo of Jina Schoenborn smiling

Jina Schoenborn is a senior pursuing a double degree in Environmental Studies and English graduating in May 2015. She has focused her studies on biodiversity and natural resource management, as well as public speaking and effective communication. She has an internship with the Wisconsin DNR this spring 2015 semester doing environmental education and outreach for one of their nature centers, and is also working on a project doing carbon foot-printing research for their maple syrup program. Jina is passionate about the outdoors and helping people connect to the world around them, and is interested in the relationship between people, the environment, and wildlife. She hopes to pursue a career in environmental education or program development when she graduates in May, and would love to incorporate writing/editing into her career as well.

"This trip to DC was an experience of a lifetime. I would never believe that I would get the opportunity to sit down with individuals who represent some of the world's most influential non-profits and government organizations. The Nelson Institute created a great program that incorporated many different avenues of environmental work, and it was really inspiring to see people doing many different things with a degree similar to the one I will graduate with. This trip has helped me realize how much I would love to pursue a career in environmental non-profit work. It was also really nice to be able to see some historical sites and do some sight-seeing in our free time. Washington, D.C is such a dynamic city, and it was a privilege to be able to represent UW-Madison and the Nelson Institute in our meetings and adventures. I would recommend this trip to everyone who is looking for an exciting way to experience D.C and it's endless opportunities!"

photo of Jina Schoenborn smiling

Carly Vinkavich is currently a fourth year undergraduate at the University of Wisconsin-Madison triple majoring in Conservation Biology, Political Science, and Environmental Studies. Her passion lies in approaching conservation practices from multiple disciplines in order to be more effective in protecting key ecosystems for the benefit of generations to come. In 2013 she was an intern for the Wisconsin Integrated Cropping Systems Trial (WICST) in Arlington, Wisconsin. WICST was her first interaction with science in the field and the inner workings of industrial agriculture and the huge environmental implications associated with the field. She has since worked for Wisconsin Clearinghouse for Prevention Resources, which again opened an entirely new approach to environmental issues, this time in public health. In the Spring of 2014 she studied abroad in Ecuador with the Ceiba Foundation for Tropical Conservation where she developed a love of ornithology, sustainable small-scale agricultural practices, and Ecuadorian chocolate. On campus, Carly has been involved in a number of organizations and activities. She has been a Nelson Ambassador since Fall of 2014 where she acts as a mentor to interested Environmental Studies students. She is also a member of the Community Environmental Scholars Program in which she volunteers in the Madison community and engages with other like-minded students to solve environmental problems. From these organizations Carly has learned the importance of networking and community involvement in pursuing positive change for the future. In the summer of 2015 Carly will be studying California Spotted Owls in Northern California as an intern for UW-Madison's Zach Peery Laboratory. After graduating in Spring 2016 Carly hopes to join the Peace Corps to work with rural communities and participate in environmental education. In the future, she hopes to work in environmental advocacy either through policy or sustainable enterprise development.

"The DC Career Discovery Tour is definitively one of the highlights of my undergraduate career. I came into college looking for a degree that would translate into a good-paying job that I would work forever. I discovered quickly that my interests lied in politics, policy, environmental education, ornithology, conservation, and agriculture; none of which translates easily into any particular job. I have since been fighting my own doubts that my interests will get me anywhere. The DC Trip did not expel all of my worries, but it gave me incredible insight into the people that form these amazing organizations and how they got where they are. Almost none of the people we met with got their job straight out of college or had any idea they would end up where they are. These remarkable people for the most part took advantage of the opportunities that presented themselves, worked incredibly hard and live interesting lives. The main career advice I garnered was to travel, learn languages, work any field job that comes to you, make important contacts, and leave yourself open to opportunities as they come. This trip gave me insight into these organizations, opened my eyes to new and exciting places to work, connected me to incredible Nelson alumni and gave me the courage and confidence to pursue new opportunities as my undergraduate career comes to a close."