Nelson Institute Community Environmental Scholars Program

The Community Environmental Scholars Program (CESP) is designed for students who want to link their passion for the environment with a commitment to the community. The program provides undergraduates with the opportunity to work with community-based environmental organizations. Community Environmental Scholars take a 1-credit seminar each semester that introduces them to local organizations, provides them with professional training, and gives them a place to discuss the links between environmental studies and community service.

As a Community Environmental Scholar, you will collaborate with a cohort of students dedicated to addressing environmental challenges. Participants will have preferred access to specially designed environmental studies capstone (Environmental Studies 600) courses that provide service-learning experiences with local environmental organizations.

Why should I join CESP?

Nelson Institute environmental studies undergraduate students

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

Environmental problems affect the places where all people live, work and play. Additionally, throughout the world there is an unequal distribution of environmental resources and risks across race, nationality and class lines. Community Environmental Scholars confront these challenges head on - they participate in service learning projects and use the tools of community-based participatory research to address issues such as environmental justice, food scarcity and policy, wildlife conservation and transportation equity.

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

How do I become a Nelson Institute Community Environmental Scholar?

We welcome applications from all interested Environmental Studies and Environmental Sciences students. If you have financial need and are either a Wisconsin resident or are a science, technology, engineering, or math (STEM) major, you also may be eligible for a significant (up to $8,000) scholarship through CESP. The application for both the program and the scholarship is available through Scholarships@UW-Madison.

Nelson Institute Community Environmental Scholars Program capstone course

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

How can I learn more?

To learn more about the Community Environmental Scholars Program, please contact Dr. Cathy Middlecamp ( or Dr. Robert Beattie ( at the Nelson Institute for Environmental Studies.


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