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 Gregorio Abrajan

Gregorio Abrajan

What are your majors? Zoology, certificate in Environmental Studies

Expected graduation: May 2018

What inspired your interest in the environment and/or community? As a kid I looked forward to Saturday mornings for three reasons: no school, sugary cereal and the Jeff Corwin Experience. For anyone not familiar with this show, it follows the host, Biologist Jeff Corwin as he explores the world and exposes and explains aspects of the diverse animal kingdom to his audience. His show was the start of my fascination with animals, especially exotic endangered animals. Of course to explore and research these rare and captivating animals one must understand their environment and how to protect it. Therefore, my joining of a program that is centered on the importance of the environment like CESP was inevitable.

What would you say (or do you say) to other students about CESP and the Nelson Institute? CESP is a great program to meet, interact, and connect with other students and staff that are passionate about the environment. It is a gateway to great opportunities, on-campus and off-campus, locally and nationally, throughout undergrad or beyond it. Furthermore, the people that form this program—students and staff—makes the program very amicable and fun!

Something few people know about you: You wouldn’t be able to tell from current penmanship but I used to have beautiful cursive!


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 Angela Baldocchi

Angela Baldocchi

What are your majors? Environmental Studies and Geography

Expected graduation: May 2018

What inspired your interest in the environment and/or community? As a child of the 80s, I remember the songs of the environmental movement namely, “This Land is Your Land”. I have always felt close to nature thanks to the efforts of my mother. She regularly took me and my sister to breath-taking landscapes to visit family in the mountains of Oregon, the farms of Arkansas, the coasts of Florida, and the urban areas of New York and Chicago.

What would you say (or do you say) to other students about CESP and the Nelson Institute? I consider the Community Environmental Scholars Program and the Nelson Institute a major turning point in my journey. If you are looking for direction, the Nelson Institute and the CESP community are a wonderful place to practice and observe while working toward our common environmental goals.

Something else about you? Favorite quote: “In nature nothing exists alone” - Rachel Carson, Silent Spring


photo of Patrick Bass

Patrick Bass

What are your majors? Zoology, certificate in Environmental Studies

Expected graduation: December 2017

What inspired your interest in the environment and/or community? What inspires my interest in the environment is the animals and the part they play within their own ecosystems. I think that the preservation of other ecosystems can help preserve the at risk and endangered animals and their natural environments to stop the high extinction rates from continuing to increase.

Something else about you? I am an only child and I think that it plays a big part of who I am and how I interact with others.


photo of Paige Becht

Paige Becht

What are your majors? Conservation Biology and Environmental Studies

Expected graduation: May 2018

What inspired your interest in the environment and/or community? Having grown up in the Kettle Moraine, my heart naturally fell in love with the environment. Being surrounded by nature and having the opportunity to work with the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources at campgrounds in the Kettle Moraine State Forest-Northern Unit has shaped who I am as a person. This influenced me to double major in Conservation Biology and Environmental Studies. These majors allow me to channel my passions towards conserving ecosystems and their wildlife. I firmly believe that the loss of biodiversity is something that needs to be prevented and I want to be on the front line combating this issue. Whether it be as a Warden, Natural Resources Educator, or any of the hundreds of other ways to be involved. I am ready to dedicate my time and abilities to helping better the earth under our feet. Being a part of the Community Environmental Scholars Program will help me find my place in the community and the world. Our discussions will expand my knowledge on current environmental issues and encourage me to believe that I can make a difference. “Believe in yourself and there will come a day when others will have no choice but to believe with you.” ~Cynthia Kersey

What would you say (or do you say) to other students about CESP and the Nelson Institute? I highly recommend joining CESP and the Nelson Institute because of the people you meet and connections you make. I have met people who share the same passion for the environment as I do and the professors are sincere, helpful, and supportive.

Something few people know about you: My left eyebrow curls up instead of down.


photo of Angel Beltran

Angel Beltran

What are your majors? Environmental Studies and Economics

Expected graduation: May 2018

What inspired your interest in the environment and/or community? As a kid growing up, I really hated going outside and soil especially. The only time I really did enjoy being outside was when I would go play soccer or football with my friends. That would usually be the only time I would get dirty. I was like this up until junior year of high school when I took an IB Environmental Studies class. This was the class that really got me hooked on learning more about the environment and its great importance! I learned a lot in that class that I see repeated over and over again in my current Environmental Studies classes. That was also the first time I ever went out to what is considered the “natural world” and explored different aspects of the environment and got dirty on purpose for the first time in my life. From that class on, I have committed to learn different aspects of the environment and the impact humans have on the environment. Currently our world is becoming very fragile and in my opinion the biggest thing that is currently stopping us from protecting the environment is economics. So I hope with the knowledge I will garner from my economic and environmental studies classes, I would be able to make a positive impact on the environment without affecting the economy, thus making everyone happy!


photo of Iffat Bhuiyan

Iffat Bhuiyan

What are your majors? Community and Environmental Sociology, and Environmental Studies

Expected graduation: May 2018

What inspired your interest in the environment and/or community? My childhood was filled with fresh air and sunshine; I was constantly interacting with the environment whether I knew it or not. Growing up, I became more aware of man-made disasters and climate shifts. In high school, courses that explored the human impact on the environment were offered to me and I was fascinated with the results. I wanted to pause human development and just let nature take its course. However, I knew that was impossible but I wanted to take the right steps to restore our surroundings and prevent further damage to the environment. So I have continued to study how humans interact with the environment, extinct/near extinct species and I am taking more steps to decrease my own ecological footprint on the environment.

What would you say (or do you say) to other students about CESP and the Nelson Institute? I would tell other students that if they are the slightest bit interested in learning more about our environment or our future, to get connected with the Nelson Institute right away. There are a large range of classes the Institute offers, many guest speakers are brought in from all over the world to speak to students and it allows you to begin to start thinking critically about your own role as an individual in the spaces you occupy.


photo of Rebecca Biggs

Rebecca Biggs

What are your majors? Linguistics and Environmental Studies, certificates in American Indian Studies and Material Culture 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.


photo of Darian Bjugstad

Darian Bjugstad

What are your majors? Zoology and Conservation Biology, certificate in Environmental Studies

Expected graduation: May 2018

What inspired your interest in the environment and/or community? I’ve always had a deep passion for the outdoors and all of the animals that are populated within it. Taking the class “Extinction of Species” on campus opened my eyes to the diminishing environments and increasing endangerments in the animals I so deeply care for. Since that moment, I’ve become an advocate for wildlife and the environment in my day-to day life. I plan to use the knowledge I gain while in school and in the CESP program to help with my future profession working in wildlife conservation.

Something else about you? I have two dogs that often mistake themselves as human children (e.g. while sitting on my lap in public).


photo of Brittany Cobb

Brittany Cobb

What are your majors? Biology and Environmental Studies, certificate in Global Health

Expected graduation: December 2017

What inspired your interest in the environment and/or community? Many experiences have inspired my interest in the environment. Growing up I was always outside and developed an interest at a young age. After high school I joined the U.S. Coast Guard Reserves and one of our crucial roles is protecting the marine environment. From the Coast Guard I have been exposed to the importance of our natural resources and the strong relationship we have with our environment. I continued my interest in college where my global health classes and volunteering in the community sparked my interest in sustainability and living green in order to have a happier and healthier community.

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 to connect with other students, the community and amazing faculty members. While I have always been heavily involved in my community, CESP has inspired me to seek a wide variety of volunteer opportunities and internships that are environmentally focused.


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.


photo of Yeline Del Carmen

Yeline Del Carmen


photo of Rachel Dietzman

Rachel Dietzman

What are your majors? Community & Nonprofit Leadership and Environmental Studies, certificate in Integrated Liberal Studies

Expected graduation: May 2018

What inspired your interest in the environment and/or community? During my freshmen year at UW, my interest in community was sparked by a FIG (First-Year Interest Group) called Music Movies and the 1960’s, which highlighted social justice issues documented through popular 1960’s works, and compared them to the social injustice within America today. Through that coursework, I developed a better sense of community relations what it means to work together as a civil society. I later went on alternative breaks through UW which involved volunteering with environmentally based nonprofits throughout the US. It wasn’t until I was wielding a machete in the bayous of Louisiana to help knock out invasive species, that I realized the intersectionality our communities and the environment share. During my time volunteering in New Orleans I learned that every fifteen minutes, a football field of natural wetlands disappears, sinking underwater. These surrounding wetlands of Louisiana act as a barrier which take the initial impact from any hurricane or tropical storm. I then looked around the Lower 9th Ward, a community still recovering from the social, economic and environmental impacts of hurricane Katrina, and knew that the relationship between our communities and the environment was something I wanted to further explore because I believe we cannot fully have one without the other, and that’s when I found CESP.

What would you say (or do you say) to other students about CESP and the Nelson Institute? The Nelson Institute has the best academic advising resources on campus.

Something few people know about you: My favorite TV show is and always will be Frasier.

Something else about you? The scholarship I revived from CESP helped me travel the world, visiting sixteen countries while studying abroad during my Spring 2017 semester.


photo of Kimberly Dornbusch

Kimberly Dornbusch

What are your majors? Atmospheric and Oceanic Science

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.


photo of Aida Farrokh Ebrahimi

Aida Farrokh Ebrahimi

What are your majors? Environmental Sciences, certificate in Digital Studies and Computer Science

Expected graduation: December 2017

What inspired your interest in the environment and/or community? My passion for the environment was sparked by many things in my life. I grew up in Iran and lived in Tehran where air pollution obstructs one’s view, basic recycling does not exist, and land and animal conservations are not respected. Seeing the negligence of people towards the environment and the surrounding spaces stirred me to learn more about different ways of connecting the community to the environment and to promote for a better health of the earth. Lastly, learning more about social environmental injustices prevalent in communities made me aware of underlying issues in environmental movements.


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.

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.


photo of Isabel Gunderson

Isabel Gunderson

What are your majors? Civil Engineering, certificate in Environmental Studies

Expected graduation: May 2018

What inspired your interest in the environment and/or community? I grew up in Milwaukee right next to the Milwaukee River, and it was in the woods behind my house where I learned to love the outdoors. My parents encouraged my love for nature and animals and led my sister’s and I in our efforts to be involved; from rescuing injured birds to helping remove invasive plants along the river path. My passion for the environment is what made me decide to get a certificate in Environmental Studies in the hopes that I will be able to use the knowledge in whatever I end up doing.

What would you say (or do you say) to other students about CESP and the Nelson Institute? CESP has introduced me to some of the best people I have ever met. Everyone is very passionate and open-minded and I would strongly recommend getting to know them while in the program.

Something few people know about you: During my childhood I had just about every pet imaginable at one point or another.

Something else about you? I love camping and hiking and most other outdoor activities.


photo of Eric Hammerer

Eric Hammerer

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

Expected graduation: December 2017

What inspired your interest in the environment and/or community? I have always had a passion for the natural world. I grew up watching Zaboomafoo, The Crocodile Hunter, Jeff Corwin, and many other natural history documentaries that helped me enhance my knowledge of the life on our planet.

What would you say (or do you say) to other students about CESP and the Nelson Institute? I would tell other students that CESP is a great program that exposes students to a host of different environmental and community oriented ideas, projects, and people.

Something few people know about you: I am an Eagle Scout.

Something else about you? I worked in the El Dorado National Forest in northern California on Spotted Owl demography this past summer.


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.


photo of Kathleen Javenkoski

Kathleen Javenkoski

What are your majors? History and Environmental Studies

Expected graduation: May 2018

What inspired your interest in the environment and/or community? When I was a toddler Whole Foods was handing out free tree saplings for Earth Day. I was so excited to plant mine and to this day it grows in my childhood home’s front yard. My sapling and I grew up together and I felt a special connection to trees and the earth. When I was old enough to realize that trees around the world were being cut down in excess to make room for agriculture, etc. I knew that conservation was the path for me.

What would you say (or do you say) to other students about CESP and the Nelson Institute? The people are fabulous. I’ve really enjoyed working other students in CESP everyone has such diverse backgrounds of how they got to the Nelson Institute. If you want to expand your knowledge of the environment, meet some great people, and practice your leadership skills then this is the place to be!

Something few people know about you: Up until my senior year of High School I was planning to become a music educator. I took an AP Environmental Studies course and throughout my senior year I became incredibly invested in environmental restoration. I have never given up my dream of becoming an educator in some form and I am happy that I am working towards being an educator that integrates environmental topics across all subjects.

Something else about you? One of the main reasons I decided to attend UW-Madison was for the Nelson Institute! When I heard about CESP I was super excited to apply and I’m so happy to be a part of it.


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: May 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? I have always been interested in seeing people were affected by the community and how the community affects their environment. As a geography major, some of the things I learn in my classes are about just that. Through my time as a student, I have been wanting to explore how I can personally do something to help both the community I live in and the environment. I went on a service-learning trip last winter break that allowed me to see small changes being made to a community by students like me! This inspired me to try to do better for the people around me.


photo of Collin Kirk

Collin Kirk

What are your majors? Zoology and Environmental Studies, certificate in Digital Studies

Expected graduation: 2017

What inspired your interest in the environment and/or community? The environment directly effects every human being, even though we’ve been able to master so many parts of it. We can’t forget how much we affect it, and how much it truly means to our livelihood!

What would you say (or do you say) to other students about CESP and the Nelson Institute? CESP has known me since 2015 and I feel very lucky to have happened into this community.

Something else about you? Outside of my studies, I work with the Sierra Club and Wisconsin Environmental Initiative here in Madison.


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 Natalia Lucero

Natalia Lucero

What are your majors? Communication Arts – Radio, Television, Film and Environmental Studies, certificate in Digital Studies

Expected graduation: December 2017

What inspired your interest in the environment and/or community? My interest in Nature, as with many, began as a child. I would venture out by myself to observe as much of Nature’s wonders as I could for the time being. Ant hills became my favorite pieces of architecture, trees became my weather-indicator, and a spider’s dedication and precision in creating its web sparked for me enough admiration for Nature’s organization. With time, however, I have come to realize that the environment isn’t limited to Nature’s presence, but also its absence, and it goes beyond physical impact. The environment reflects the impacts organisms have on one another physically, emotionally, cognitively, and spiritually. The environment can be the animals you interact with on a daily basis or the energies people project onto you; it can be the fresh air you take in in the countryside or the smog you inhale in the city. The environment determines your development, and when we consider the historic boundaries created by governments and real estate agencies, the separation between classes and races become obvious. Environmental circumstances have become systematic and political, and with the years grow further away from Nature’s intended perfection.

What would you say (or do you say) to other students about CESP and the Nelson Institute? So far, I can be honest in saying that I have met some of the most genuine people in these two spaces out of the many spaces I participate in at UW-Madison.

Something else about you? I love insects. My favorite is the jumping spider because in Peru they signify good luck and because I find them so ugly that they’re cute. I also was fortunate enough to study abroad in Costa Rica during the Spring 2016 semester where I conducted research on the neotropical jumping spiders of the Monteverde area.


photo of Isabel Markowski

Isabel Markowski

What are your majors? Dietetics with an Environmental Studies Certificate

Expected graduation: May 2018

What inspired your interest in the environment and/or community? One of my favorite places to be is my grandpa’s farm. First of all, the drive out there takes you on a road banked by walls of trees that wriggle with the most beautiful colors in the fall. Second, being at my grandpa’s meant being outside working in the dirt and playing in the grass. Because of this, I respect the land and what it has to offer, but I also respect the influence that humans have on the land. And as I got more into growing food and cooking it, I also fell in love with how food brings people together, fueling my passion for the environment and the community because they truly are connected.

What would you say (or do you say) to other students about CESP and the Nelson Institute? CESP is a program that genuinely exudes an openness that is hard to find in groups and people. It’s also a class that doesn’t function like a normal class, you learn with people and employ your own ideas, which makes it wonderful.

Something else about you? I love to dance hip hop and Latin-inspired dances, which is why I made sure to take a Zumba class while I was in Costa Rica.


photo of Adam Mastalir

Adam Mastalir

What are your majors? Civil Engineering and Environmental Studies

Expected graduation: May 2018

What inspired your interest in the environment and/or community? o At an early age, I observed my surroundings and was fascinated by the similarities between natural communities and the communities we established. What really sparked my interest is when I realized that each species in nature provide a benefit to the ecosystem without being aware of their impact. This lead me to question the human impact and redefine both the meaning and boundaries of community. Combining the works of Aldo Leopold and Frank Lloyd Wright, I am working to not only improve the sustainability of my own environment, but change the understanding of sustainability from an idea to a state of mind.

What would you say (or do you say) to other students about CESP and the Nelson Institute? CESP provides unique opportunities to learn through active and hands on participation that normally cannot be provided in a traditional classroom setting. Through critical thinking, professional development and active leadership, CESP allows you to learn more about your community, your environment, and how your role of working with others impacts each of these.

Something few people know about you: I tend to view things from a slightly non-traditional abstract point of view where I see beauty and symbolism not in the abstract idea itself, but the polar opposite of the things before me regardless of its style or order.

Something else about you? CESP has given me the opportunity to extend the Wisconsin Idea beyond an imaginary line and into future generations. It all beings with listening to your community and then asking yourself what it is that you are willing to do to be a part of it.


photo of Cassandra McAnallen

Cassandra McAnallen

What are your majors? Environmental Sciences, 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 me.


photo of Isabelle Mengesha

Isabelle Mengesha

What are your majors? Operations & Technology Management and Environmental Studies

Expected graduation: May 2018

What inspired your interest in the environment and/or community? I have always been interested in the interconnectivity between the environment and people. I noticed that, at times, people viewed the environment as a separate entity that they were not responsible for, instead of their home. This disconnect was interesting to me because I felt that this is where a lot of our problems, such as pollution, stemmed from. As I get older, I see the complexity of the problems but I have become increasingly determined to leave the world in a better place than when I entered it.

What would you say (or do you say) to other students about CESP and the Nelson Institute? It’s a fantastic program. Mostly because it is just a really good community of students who are as passionate as you are about making a change in the world and it’s really empowering.

Something few people know about you: My favorite number is 7, and I’m really not sure why.

Something else about you? I’m a very outgoing person, and I love that everyone in CESP is too!


photo of Naomi Miicke

Naomi Miicke

What are your majors? Botany and Environmental Studies

Expected graduation: May 2018

What inspired your interest in the environment and/or community? Plants, family and plants.

What would you say (or do you say) to other students about CESP and the Nelson Institute? CESP helps students focus their passion for the environment and community in meaningful ways that allow them to not simply talk about issues but also, “walk the walk” as active participants who improve environmental and community wellness.

Something few people know about you: I share my apartment with 45 plants, and 3 jars/tanks of algae.

Something else about you? I enjoy foraging and learning about ethnobotany.


photo of Sanober Mirza

Sanober Mirza

What are your majors? Environmental Sciences and Geography

Expected graduation: May 2018

What inspired your interest in the environment and/or community? I took an Environmental Science course during my last semester of high school on a whim. I had no prior experience with the subject and just needed a class to fill up my schedule. I ended up falling in love with the subject and now still love learning about the natural environment around us. This interest has continued in college as I enjoy being involved with environmental student organizations and engaging in environmental research. My study abroad experience in Ecuador this past spring really taught me about connecting communities and the environment while I got the ability to travel to some of the most biodiverse places in the world! I am excited to bring back what I learned and share it with new CESPers while building upon the knowledge I gained this school year.

Something few people know about you: Although I don’t like ice cream, I have an extremely bad sweet tooth for anything chocolate.


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 Daniel Montez

Daniel Montez

What are your majors? Environmental Sciences, certificate in Environmental Studies

Expected graduation: May 2018

What inspired your interest in the environment and/or community? I have always had an interest in the environment and sciences, starting at a young age. My mother was heavily involved in an environmental education at my elementary school while I was there. Being able to be educated about the environment made me develop a deep respect for the natural world that we live in, as well as see how everything is connected to each other. It is this respect that pushed me to work to better understand the challenges we face and the ones we will face in order to create sustainable solutions for the future.

Something few people know about you: I played the trumpet for eleven years, starting in fourth grade.


photo of Brooke Nelson

Brooke Nelson

What are your majors? Biology and certificate in Global Health

Expected graduation: May 2018

What inspired your interest in the environment and/or community? Spending summers in Northern MN on Lake Superior inspired my passion for sustainability and volunteering throughout my time in high school helped me realize how much I had to learn from the beautiful people around me and the stories they have to tell.

What would you say (or do you say) to other students about CESP and the Nelson Institute? I would tell students who aren’t familiar with CESP or the Nelson Institute that both groups provide a strong sense of community at UW. The faculty and staff are excited to share resources and opportunities with the students. My fellow classmates are kind, supportive, inclusive, and their work inspires me! I feel lucky to have found a home in CESP.

Something few people know about you: I like to go dumpster diving!


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 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 Jordan Salinsky

Jordan Salinsky

What are your majors? Community & Environmental Sociology and Environmental Studies

Expected graduation: May 2018

What inspired your interest in the environment and/or community? I grew up in the city of Milwaukee, where my experience with the environment was shaped by spending time playing in local parks, sledding in the winter, and taking field trips to nature centers in less urban areas. During my high school IB Environmental Science class, I became enamored with learning about interactions between people and their environments, particularly with natural resource use and agriculture. I came to UW-Madison intending to study Civil/ Environmental Engineering but found myself missing the community-based aspect. Now, as an Environmental Studies student, I have learned all about intersections between humans, sustainability, and social and environmental justice thanks to the Nelson Institute and CESP.

What would you say (or do you say) to other students about CESP and the Nelson Institute? CESP has been a wonderful opportunity to work with other Environmental Studies students who I may not have gotten to interact with otherwise! I enjoy the classes and events where we network directly with CESP alumni, because the speakers provide valuable insight about transitioning from a student passionate about the environment and sustainability to using those skills in the professional realm.


photo of Lucero Serna

Lucero Serna

What are your majors? Conservation Biology and Environmental Studies, certificates in Gender & Women's Studies and Chican@/Latin@ Studies

Expected graduation: December 2017

What inspired your interest in the environment and/or community? Growing up on Milwaukee’s South Side, I thought the environment had little to do with where I lived. It was within the last few years that I began to realize that observing and studying the environment was not the equivalent of escaping the Milwaukee city limits. The environment is in the sick Gingko growing in the backyard of my childhood home, in the occasional hawk I see landing on my neighbors’ 10th-floor balcony, in members of my community’s dream to use an empty lot down the block from our neighborhood to create a community garden. The environment is inherently a part of my community. Recognizing that the many environments that surround me have shaped each of my experiences is what inspires my interests in studying the environment.

What would you say (or do you say) to other students about CESP and the Nelson Institute? CESP offers a space to begin thinking about the connection between community and the environment outside of the traditional classroom. As we explore this concept with peers, we can begin taking action in the communities around us or our home communities and demonstrate how important and relevant making this connection is.


photo of Teal Staniforth

Teal Staniforth

What are your majors? Community and Environmental Sociology, certificate in Environmental Studies

Expected graduation: December 2017

What inspired your interest in the environment and/or community? I have always loved being outside. Growing up my mother and great grandfather had prosperous gardens—in which I would spend my afternoons eating and exploring the diverse beings of plants. Through my interest and exploring many places I have became engrossed in the connection and language that we use around the environment and all things that help to benefit current and future populations. We separate ourselves so much from nature that we don’t realize or understand how much we are taking advantage of and depleting it. I am drawn to how interactions between people, poverty, food and the environment can intertwine and be cohesive complications. I realize that there are some missing links and I want to help figure it out. Talking about the challenges that are to come and figuring out alternatives and ways to move forward is no easy feat, but we have to start somewhere.

What would you say (or do you say) to other students about CESP and the Nelson Institute? CESP offers a space for people of like minds and many different majors to come together and talk about environmental discrepancies within our communities and beyond.

Something else about you? My favorite food is the Honeycrisp apple. I could eat them all day, they are perfect!


photo of Paige Taft

Paige Taft

What are your majors? Environmental Studies and Gender and Women’s 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.


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.


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 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 Miranda Winkelman

Miranda Winkelman

What are your majors? Community and Nonprofit Leadership and Environmental Studies

Expected graduation: May 2018

What inspired your interest in the environment and/or community? The summer before my senior year in high school, I was fortunate enough to have the opportunity to go backpacking in Colorado. I had never been so immersed in nature before. I thought going more than two days without showering would deter me, but the opposite happened and I fell in love with the mountains, trees, and the peace. The deeper I got in nature, the closer I got to the people around me. I didn’t know everyone coming onto the trip, but we left a community. We each played different roles to survive out in the mountains. I was able to see how being out in the wilderness changed me and everyone around me. From then on I wanted more people to have that experience in the wilderness and especially with building a community.

What would you say (or do you say) to other students about CESP and the Nelson Institute? CESP has been an amazing experience. Being involved in this program has given me the opportunity to be surrounded by students that share a passion in the environment despite our different majors. Both CESP and the Nelson Institute provide a community where I can share my ideas/passions but also gain new ones through those around me. I absolutely love it and would encourage anyone that shares the same passion for the environment to apply.


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.


photo of Gabriela Zaldumbide

Gabriela Zaldumbide

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

Expected graduation: May 2018

What inspired your interest in the environment and/or community? I have loved animals and nature ever since I was a little kid. Most of my childhood was spent collecting stuffed animals and building forts in the woods. For a long time, I thought that only veterinarians could have careers with animals. However, I knew I would never want to be a vet. In high school, discovered jobs with wildlife. I owe many thanks to my favorite science teacher, Mr. Thompson, for opening my eyes to the possibility to work outdoors and with animals. I gradually became more and more interested in the environment. My passion was fueled by two Wild Rockies Field Institute (WRFI) courses: environmental ethics and restoration ecology. My WRFI experiences were significant to my college career because not only did they show me what backpacking in the backcountry for a month is like, but because they also taught me the importance of community, teamwork, outdoor education, involved learning, and minimalism. They also made me recognize how crucial wildlife management and environmental education is today.

What would you say (or do you say) to other students about CESP and the Nelson Institute? For any student who cares about people and the environment and is wondering if CESP is worth it, it is! The Nelson Institute and CESP are extremely knowledgeable groups full of kind hearted, hard working people. Everyone here wants to help you succeed. Cathy, Molly, and Rob do an amazing job of creating a comfortable classroom space full of passionate, caring students. You feel right at home.

Something few people know about you: I’ve gone 22 days without showering!