Nelson Ambassadors

Each year Nelson Institute undergraduate students elect students from the undergraduate program to represent their interests and plan events. Elections for the following academic year are held each spring. If you are interested in being involved or, have questions please contact the ambassadors:

danielle acker
Danielle Acker
I first became interested in the environment when I was young and I would go for walks with my dad on trails through the woods surrounding my house in rural Wisconsin. My parents didn’t allow much technology usage until I was almost in high school and needed to use a computer for homework, so I spent almost all my free time outdoors. I didn’t see it at the time, but what my parents did really helped me to appreciate the natural world around me. I was always running barefoot through the yard and walking the different trails surrounding my house, picking berries and planting acorns. Growing up I really learned to appreciate the beauty of my surroundings and grew increasingly motivated to preserve that beauty for everybody to enjoy. I am now a senior, majoring in Spanish and Environmental Studies, and am hoping to be able to help others find a love and appreciation for the environment as well.

sara adler-rephan
Sarah Adler-Rephan
My interest in the environment started at age 4 with my first summer canoeing in the boundary waters and exploring superior national forest. Ever since my interest in the environment has grown with my love of wilderness and desire to explore and protect it. The more of the natural world I explored the more I wanted understand and learn about the interconnections and changes occurring in it. I hope to pursue outdoor environmental education because i believe that exploring the natural world can change kids lives and that kids can change the future of the natural world.

brittany cobb
Brittany Cobb
I became interested in the environment at a young age, I was always outside and was very curious about nature. After I graduated 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. This was the start to my interest in environment studies. I remember the exact moment in a class for my global health certificate when we began talking about environmental justice that I knew this was going to be a part of my studies and future. This was the semester I applied for the Nelson Institute Community and Environmental Scholars Program and declared my double major in environmental studies.

hanna deporter
Hanna Deporter
I am a senior double majoring in Environmental Studies and Conservation Biology. After living in the greenhouse learning community freshman year and taking some environmental studies courses I knew that this would be my path in college. I specifically focus on sustainable agriculture and food policy—I love spending time outside growing food and practicing land stewardship. Now as a senior, I have worked in a plant breeding lab, on a student farm, and started the UW Food Shed—A project redistributing free produce around campus. Next year I plan on going to law school to study environmental law and feel very confident having the Nelson Institute as springboard for my future.

annabelle eggert
Annabelle Eggert
Hey all! I’m a senior studying Environmental Studies, Communication Science, and African American Studies. My passion for studying nature stems all the way back to my childhood, where I spent most of my time camping, climbing, biking, and learning in the Wisconsin wilderness. I’m incredibly enthusiastic about spreading my love for the environment, and I spent this past summer as a climbing and backpacking guide, teaching kids about the outdoors in Colorado. I’m a firm believer that experiencing the powers of the great outdoors should be accessible for all, and I’m working to become an environmental educator in the future. The Nelson Institute has really allowed me to grow in my love and knowledge for the environment, and is a wonderful place to meet others who feel the same. Hope to see you around!

kate faryniarz
Kate Faryniarz
My youthful appreciation for the environment turned into passion for environmental advocacy during my environmental studies FIG that focused on different methods of communicating climate change and influencing public opinion. While learning about the different ways I could serve as an environmental advocate on my own I became interested in actually developing the laws and policies that affect the environment in the first place, which influenced me to declare my majors in Environmental Studies and Legal Studies. My courses in the Nelson Institute have inspired me to think about, discuss, and explore potential solutions to global environmental issues in new ways. After graduation I am planning to attend law school or get my master’s degree in public policy, either of which I will use to work in political consulting/advising for campaigns that promote sustainability, environmental justice and global health. My advice for anyone passionate about the environment is to spend time abroad if you can! There is so much to be learned from other countries around the world in all regards, but especially when it comes to the environment.

jordan hersh
Jordan Hersh
My name is Jordan Hersh, I am an Environmental Studies and Geography Major. I am graduating in May of 2018. I am very excited to be a Nelson Ambassador this year!

lauren jorgensen
Lauren Jorgensen
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 in Environmental Studies. Specifically, I am interested in ensuring sustainable food systems as urban sprawl across the United States and other parts of the world intensifies. 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. Beyond being delicious, food is ultimately the hearth of success - and therefore it must be regarded as a human right. However, rapid rates of environmental degradation are reducing our ability to farm and feed the world population. Ultimately, I would love to work for a world organization in order to reduce the impact of environmental apartheid on starving, marginalized populations.

Lauren is an undergraduate studying Agronomy, Community and Environmental Sociology, and Environmental Studies. She has been involved in multiple research labs that analyze the intersect of environmental and public health. In her studies, her objective is to deepen an understanding of the interaction among people, policies, and the built environment – as well as the relationship between these interactions and a robust community food system. She is also engaged in the Greenhouse Learning Community and teaches a seminar on the implications of our food choices as a society and as an individual.

rita kawak
Rita Kawak
My interest for the environment arose through my relationship with the Middle East. Through my visits to my family in Syria, I have seen the the global consequences when environmental initiative is not widespread, fast-moving, or central in everything we do and this has inspired my future career goals. I have become involved in this field through many different ways. I am an intern at the Office of Sustainability where I currently work on waste, recycling, and composting trainings and presentations. I also work at the Nelson Institute as a student worker who spreads environmental opportunities and information to other like-minded students. I also work at the nonprofit "Defy Inertia" where I chair a subcommittee called "Human" that focuses on social and environmental education to the Madison community. In my future, I hope to work with remediation of harmful environments. Recently, I have developed an interest in health and I hope to further my studies so that I can work professional as an environmental health specialist/scientist. The advice I have to future Nelson Ambassadors is to get involved. Everyone at the Nelson Institute is extremely interesting, friendly, and easy to talk to. Making connections with fellow students and faculty has made the Nelson Institute a home to me where I know I'll see many familiar faces every day.

elisa koppel
Elisa Koppel
My name is Elissa Koppel, I'm an Environmental Studies and Sociology major. My academic interests have revolve around food policy and urban planning. I hope to have a career in law or policy that focuses on alleviating class disparities in health as a result of unequal access to healthy, affordable food.

shea lawrence
Shea Lawrence
I have always had a love for the environment. Growing up, I loved exploring the outdoors and visiting national and state parks. When I got to UW I had no clue what I wanted to major in. Then, second semester of my freshman year, I took my first environmental studies class and I was hooked. The courses I have been able to take here have only helped grow my appreciation for nature and passion for environmental causes. This past summer I had the opportunity to intern at a botanical garden in my hometown where I got to teach 300 elementary school students, who visited the gardens on field trips with their summer school class, how to compost, garden and cook. This experience sparked an interest in environmental education and recreation for me. I hope to continue in the environmental education and recreation fields after graduation.

August mcginnity-wake
August McGinnity-Wake
I always knew I wanted to be involved and politics and major in Political Science. My interest in Environmental Studies came later. In December 2014, I went to see Naomi Klein speak on campus about her book This Changes Everything. After listening to her lecture about the links between climate change, policy, and capitalism, I was hooked. I went on to take an introductory Environmental Studies class and declared the major shortly thereafter. I've so enjoyed my time with the Environmental Studies program and the Nelson Institute, as a whole world of knowledge has opened up to me in an area I was all but ignorant. Being involved in the environmental community on campus, primarily with the ASM Sustainability Committee and Sustainability Council, has occupied my time on campus with work that felt deeply meaningful to me.

sanober mirza
Sanober Mirza
I wasn’t one of those kids who grew up outdoors. I created a relationship with the environment after falling in love with the science behind it. Knowing I would have a science-heavy undergraduate experience, I was drawn to the Nelson Institute to learn more about how to connect the science with all aspects of society and how it functions. The network of Environmental Studies and its students has enhanced my overall learning and undergraduate experiences by constantly challenging me to think beyond my own biases. Outside of being a Nelson Ambassador, I am involved in Geography Club, REthink Wisconsin, and the Environmental Sciences Organization. Using networks similar to these in my career, I hope to tackle intertwined social and environmental issues to move forward with responsible and ethical climate decisions.

jenna mrotek
Jenna Mrotek
Though I’ve always enjoyed the outdoors, I became interested in studying the environment during my senior year of high school, taking AP Environmental Science with one of my favorite, most influential teachers. After being exposed to the brutal reality of environmental degradation, as well as the concepts of environmental justice and advocacy, I became intent on using my preference for the humanities to influence environmental attitude and policy. Hence, I am currently studying both environmental studies and political science, with a certificate in gender and women’s studies. Through these disciplines, I’ve learned that tackling environmental problems requires interdisciplinary action by dedicated members of a myriad of professional fields. Meanwhile, as its own field, environmental studies involves science that must be responded to by those who are not necessarily well-versed in the technicalities of scientific knowledge, let alone scientists themselves. This is why I find studying the environment to be a particularly interesting and challenging focus, and why I chose study and am thrilled to work within the Nelson Institute.

anna ostermeier
Anna Ostermeier
Anna has been frolicking in Madison's natural areas since childhood, and now gets credit for it by studying Geography and Environmental Studies. To complement her majors, she is also minoring in Digital Studies, developing her graphic design and cartography skills to better communicate environmental and social issues. Anna has been involved with several sustainability organizations, including UW-Madison's Office of Sustainability, the Wisconsin Environmental Initiative, UpTica, and most recently the Center for Sustainability and the Global Environment, and the Center for Climatic Research. Anna is excited to add "Nelson Ambassador" to the list, and hopes to force her own passion for the Nelson Institute onto any and all other students who can't run away fast enough.

jordan salinsky
Jordan Salinsky
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 through participating in CESP and the Nelson Institute. Growing vegetables is one of my passions. I am also a House Fellow in the GreenHouse Learning Community and the Urban Agriculture Director for F.H. King Students for Sustainable Agriculture, where I work closely with other students excited about the environment!

jonathan vannucci
Jonathan Vannucci
I will be a senior at UW-Madison participating in the La Follette School of Public Affairs’ accelerated Master’s program. My undergraduate studies have been in political geography and environmental studies. I spent much of my undergrad years working for the student government (ASM) in many different facets, including Sustainability Chair and Vote Coordinator. This summer, I completed a foreign policy internship with the U.S. Department of State. The experience with the State Department allowed me to enhance my diplomacy skills, as well as employ my research on international climate and refugee policy. During the Spring semester of 2017, I studied abroad in Copenhagen, Denmark, though an EU politics program, focusing my policy-research on climate refugees. This past year has been most formative for me. When I am not pursuing academic and professional passions, I enjoy traveling, playing soccer, and happy hour with friends.

Visit us on Facebook to learn about our upcoming events.