HomeEducationGraduate ProgramsIntroducing our 2020-2021 Cohort Program Participants!

Introducing our 2020-2021 Cohort Program Participants!

This semester, the Institute has launched several new programs to better empower graduate students, professional students, and postdocs to create a sustainable future. We have eight inaugural Institute on the Environment Graduate Leaders who have been facilitating these programs for graduate students while developing their own leadership skills.

Two of the cohort programs being managed by our Graduate Leaders are the IonE Graduate Scholars and Acara Graduate Changemaker Lab. This year’s interdisciplinary IonE Graduate Scholars program is exploring and advancing the role that the agricultural sector will play in addressing climate change, and the members of our Acara Graduate Changemaker Lab program are working on various environmental equity projects. 

We’re impressed by their dedication to creating change and the wide range of disciplines our students represent. Read ahead to learn about their projects and how they aim to make a positive impact!

Acara Graduate Changemakers Lab:

Davide Povero is a Labovitz MBA student at the University of Minnesota Duluth. Davide has an MS in Molecular and Cellular Biology and PhD in Biomedical Sciences. Davide is interested in finding solutions to reduce medical and lab waste, especially from plastic and glass products that are used everyday.

Sienna Nesser is a Master’s student in the Applied Plant Sciences program at the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities. Her research focuses on silflower, a perennial wildflower, with the goal of using it as an oilseed crop. 

Jessica Thompson is a PhD student studying higher education with an emphasis on marginalized student engagement, inclusive academic advising, and student activism. Jessica is the founder of Co-Creating Through Design, an organisation with a goal to increase the academic outcomes for marginalized student populations by addressing critical barriers that impede their success.

Wajeeha Usman is second year graduate student studying Applied Materials Science at the University of Minnesota Duluth. Wajeeha’s project aims to increase awareness of toxic and harmful chemicals in cosmetics and cosmetic waste management. She hopes to create a digital platform to help people identify harmful chemicals in the cosmetics they buy.

Jenny Norman is a first year doctoral student in the STEM Curriculum and Instruction program in the College of Education and Human Development. Her project involves creating a digital storytelling platform centering people’s experiences, interests, and cultures as the foundation for scientific exploration and environmental innovation. Through her project, she hopes to increase STEM identity in high school students.

Karla Godoy is a Master’s of Development Practice student in the Humphrey School of Public Affairs. In 2019, Karla co-founded the startup EcoCiclo, which aims to develop and produce biodegradable sanitary pads in Brazil. She aims to employ women in vulnerable conditions and reintegrate them into the labor force.

IonE Graduate Scholars:

Jessica Yescas is studying Environmental Health in the School of Public Health. Her main interests within agriculture include sustainable food systems and agricultural workers’ rights. She also aims to understand the disproportionate health effects that pregnant women and young children in agricultural communities face due to pesticide drift and climate change. 

Tara Conway is a first semester PhD student in Applied Plant Sciences, where her research focuses on the scaling of novel crop varieties for ecosystem services through the establishment of sustainable supply chains. Through this program, Tara hopes to delve into research regarding the potential for alternative governance models and participatory action research in scaling climate change mitigating agricultural technologies. 

Michael Karavolias is pursuing a PhD in Chemical Engineering studying polymer physics for nanotemplating. He is currently partnering with the Center for Urban and Regional Affairs on a solar mapping project in central and northern Minnesota. 

Elizabeth Magnuson is working on a Masters in Community Health Promotion at the School of Public Health. She is an advocate for positive change and fostering collaboration across disciplines to achieve equitable outcomes. She is excited about bringing ideas such as seed sovereignty and indigenous food sovereignty into the Graduate Scholars Program.

Rebekah Schulz is a Food Science graduate student and a prospective RDN in the College for Food, Agriculture, and Natural Resource Sciences. She is passionate about connecting the work that she does in nutrition education and food science development to its impact and role in addressing climate change, specifically through agricultural development and how recommended reference dietary patterns directly impact climate change. 

Xiating Chen is a PhD student in the Civil Engineering program at the College of Science and Engineering studying water resources engineering. Her current research draws in concepts from network science to understand land covers and underground stormwater systems’ impacts on urban hydrological networks in the Twin Cities metro area. Through the Graduate Scholar program, she wants to sharpen her skills on communicating climate-related water issues and their cross-sector implications.  

Carlie Cervantes de Blois is pursuing a PhD in the History of Science, Technology and Medicine at the College of Science and Engineering. Through her research, she wants to answer the questions: How do dams and rice build a post-colonial nation? And, what does the damming of water systems tell us about  “progress” in an ecological and political sense? 

Terin Mayer is a PhD student at the Humphrey School of Public Affairs. His research focuses on the overlap of city, county, and special district governments and their role in shaping land use and water stewardship. He is excited to explore how food and farming landscapes can build resilient, sustainable, and inclusive prosperity for rural and urban communities alike.

Dillon Ackerman is pursuing a Masters in Science, Technology, and Environmental Policy. He is especially interested in non-point source pollution and its impacts on large-scale environmental systems. Through this program, he wants to explore policy tools for advancing sustainable agriculture.

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