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New scholarships boost environmental studies, community service

April 29, 2010 By Tom Sinclair

Seventeen undergraduate students at the University of Wisconsin–Madison are the first recipients of new need-based scholarships in environmental studies that promote community service.

Sixteen of the students are Wisconsin residents. All but two are either members of targeted minority groups, people with disabilities, or are of the first generation in their families to attend college.

“The Community Environmental Scholars Program is a key part of our effort to improve inclusiveness and diversity among our students,” said Gregg Mitman, interim director of UW–Madison’s Nelson Institute for Environmental Studies, which launched the program this spring.

Recipients are chosen for their commitment to community service as well as for financial need. Besides a scholarship, each student receives leadership and skills development training, participates in courses built around community service, and benefits from internship opportunities.

The Community Environmental Scholarships, averaging about $5,000 per academic year, help offset tuition and expenses. Six of the initial recipients are seniors, eight are juniors, and three, sophomores. Those returning to UW–Madison in the fall also will receive scholarships for the 2010-11 academic year, as will at least seven newly selected students.

Increasing need-based aid to undergraduate students is one of UW–Madison Chancellor Biddy Martin’s highest priorities.

The Community Environmental Scholars Program is funded from earnings of $100,000 annually from Wisconsin’s Normal School Trust Fund by way of the state Board of Commissioners of Public Lands.

This year’s scholarship winners from Wisconsin, and their hometowns, are Sarah Bartlett, Hartford; Laura Lee Berrey, Monroe; Travis Blomberg, Colfax; Camille Bruhn, Mazomanie; Danielle Dovnik, Waukesha; Matthew Dannenberg, Watertown; Evan Gutierrez, Glendale; Dakota Kaiser, Marathon; Toni Kaiser, West Salem ; Ashley Lee, Milwaukee; Michael Polich, Middleton; Azaria Posik, Wauwatosa; George Reistad, Milwaukee; Ella Schwierske, Mount Horeb; Casey Sweeney, Green Lake; and Kelly Sykora, Chippewa Falls. Christian Truong of Glen Ellyn, Illinois, also received a scholarship.

All Community Environmental Scholars are enrolled in the Nelson Institute’s Environmental Studies Certificate Program, an optional supplement to their undergraduate majors. About 320 students are currently in the program, which requires at least 26 credits of course work. More than 1,600 have earned the certificates since its inception three decades ago.

“Our student scholars will play an important role for the Nelson Institute,” says Mitman. “Besides helping us build stronger ties to underrepresented groups and community organizations, they will be ambassadors for the Environmental Studies Certificate Program, demonstrating the kinds of academic and employment opportunities that a UW–Madison and Nelson Institute education can provide.”

Established in 1970 as the Institute for Environmental Studies, the Nelson Institute offers interdisciplinary environmental courses, degrees, and certificate programs for undergraduates and graduate students. It also conducts environmental research and a wide range of community service activities. The institute was renamed in 2002 for Wisconsin’s Gaylord Nelson, the founder of Earth Day.