HomeNewsStudents from all five UMN campuses recognized for sustainability impact

Students from all five UMN campuses recognized for sustainability impact

Students across the University of Minnesota recently received Student Impact Awards to honor their commitment to fostering sustainability within their communities.

The systemwide awards are presented as a partnership between the Institute on the Environment; Offices of Sustainability at the Duluth, Morris, and Twin Cities campuses; Center for Sustainability on the Crookston campus; and the Rochester Center for Learning Innovation to recognize students and groups who have made exceptional sustainability contributions on and around campus. This year’s award recipients received a monetary award alongside their recognition at IonE’s Sustainability Symposium, an event which showcases projects focused on social and environmental justice.

Read about the passions, initiatives, and transformative actions that earned these individuals and groups recognition as champions of sustainability below.

The following responses were submitted by award winners or nominators and may have been lightly edited for clarity and length.


Undergraduate students

Adhvaith Sridhar – UMN Twin Cities

Headshot of Adhvaith SridharAdhvaith was a part of the 2022–23 IonE Undergraduate Leaders Program, where he worked with a team of UMN Twin Cities students and White Earth Reservation leaders to combat food insecurity on the reservation. He helped the White Earth team develop a video series documenting traditional forms of food production for cultural preservation and sustainability efforts. Adhvaith has also volunteered at multiple community sites within the Greater Twin Cities area, organizing trail cleanups and buckthorn (an invasive species) removal events.


Amalia Galvan – UMN Morris

Headshot of Amalia Galvan smilingAs the Morris campus student sustainability officer, Amalia organized the 2022 Sustainability Forum under the themes of social diversity, Traditional Ecological Knowledge, and Native American sovereignty. Amalia has extended these ideas of cultural sustainability into cohorts, like the Intercultural Sustainability Leaders program and Morris Green Team. Additionally, as an environmental science student representative and a Native American peer mentor, she works to promote the wellbeing of students. In her environmental science work, Amalia makes efforts to decolonize the western scientific paradigm through inclusive research on the sacred Indigenous food and treaty resource, Wild Rice.


Anikka Bjornson – UMN Rochester

Headshot of Anikka Bjornson with image credit to Nicole MentjesAnikka was certified as a Minnesota Master Naturalist through the University of Minnesota Extension program in the summer of 2023, as part of her senior capstone experience. After her certification, she enrolled in PUBH3571: EcoliteracySCHOOL, an outdoor, place-based learning course designed to foster ecological literacy and environmental awareness in young adults. Her current vision is to propose a collaborative public engagement course at the UMN Rochester campus that would allow undergraduate students to earn volunteer hours and develop their own ecological literacy by engaging in park maintenance, natural resource stewardship, and public education projects in collaboration with local Master Naturalist chapters.


Catherine Fleischer – UMN Crookston

Headshot of Catherine FleisherDuring the past semester, Catherine coordinated efforts between the Gender Sexuality Alliance and Lambda Eta Phi Sorority to hold a period supplies fundraiser. This initiative coincides with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, specifically achieving gender equity and reducing inequalities. To support these goals, their fundraiser sought to provide menstrual products to the Crookston campus, educate students and faculty about issues surrounding period equity and how it impacts all gender identities, and normalize these conversations in their community. In doing this, they raised $2,000 towards supplying period products on campus and started the conversation surrounding access to period products.


Chaoxu Wu – UMN Twin Cities

Chaoxu collaborates closely with IonE Senior Research Scientist Deepak Ray to gather and analyze high-resolution crop data from more than 55 countries – enabling them to forecast future production, provide famine alerts, and contribute to global food security.


Ella McClure – UMN Twin Cities

Headshot of Ella McClureDuring the past year, Ella has had the opportunity to work with various Minnesota high school students to foster a passion for STEM, climate energy, and career knowledge. She has also created a curriculum that aids students in imagining carbon mitigation possibilities at the local and community level. Her goal when working with students is to answer their questions and provide them with resources to achieve their project goals and continue, or begin, their sustainability journeys.


Javi Xiong – UMN Crookston

Headshot of Javi XiongAs co-chair of the Campus Sustainability and Stewardship Department at UMN Crookston, Javi has led efforts to tackle unique sustainability challenges. This has involved organizing events, like a “make-your-own milk and cookies” day to promote less processed and additive-free foods. Additionally, Javi has spent the last year and a half researching fertilizer emissions with his advisor, contributing to the understanding of environmental impacts and advocating for sustainable agricultural practices.


Maia Bowman – UMN Twin Cities

Maia is a member of Students for Climate Justice at UMN, where she is involved with efforts to push the University to cut ties with the Hennepin Energy Recovery Center – the incinerator where trash from UMN Twin Cities ends up. As a group, Students for Climate Justice works to increase zero waste efforts on campus, like recycling, composting, and waste education to prevent the use of this incinerator from being necessary. They collaborate with the Minnesota Environmental Justice Table to connect their efforts on campus to the larger community campaign to shut down the trash burner and improve the way waste is managed in the Twin Cities.


Rachel Christenson – UMN Duluth

Headshot of Rachel ChristensonRachel’s involvement with sustainability at UMN Duluth stems largely from her work with SEE Change, a student-led advocacy organization. Through this club, she has had the opportunity to plan and host a showcase event named Arts for Activism two years in a row, an environmental summit,and has led action groups focused on opposing harmful environmental projects. She has also had the opportunity to work for the Minnesota DNR in preventing the spread of aquatic invasive species.


Remi Foust – UMN Duluth

Headshot of Remi FoustRemi is involved in student government and serves as the UMN Duluth sustainability director for the 2023-24 school year and secretary for SEE Change, an environmental activism organization. She is also the RA for the Sustainability Living Learning Community. Remi’s commitment to making a difference on campus is clearly shown through her involvement and initiatives within a variety of groups.


Victoria Johnson – UMN Morris

Headshot of Victoria JohnsonVictoria is the event planning and outreach intern in the Morris Office of Sustainability – where she has completed a variety of projects. She has also participated in the Germany: Leading the Renewables Revolution program, where she was able to combine her project for the program with her Environmental Studies major senior seminar, which focused on improving the energy literacy of the Morris campus.



Graduate students

Caitlin Hughes-Parry – UMN Duluth

Headshot of Caitlin Hughes ParryCaitlin has worked on a community-centered interdisciplinary research project exploring mercury bioremediation in the St. Louis River watershed. The energy, curiosity, and authenticity of the team of faculty and students has been a highlight of her learning and growth at UMN Duluth.



Catherine J. Bruns – UMN Twin Cities

Headshot of Catherine BrunsCatherine is a researcher with the University of Minnesota Climate Adaptation Partnership, where she conducts climate communication activities that aim to understand and influence how climate science is used by journalists, decision-makers, and broader communities. For the past three years, she has been steeped in a community-engaged dissertation that explores adaptation decision-making in the winemaking community of Andalucía, Spain. As part of this work, she has been gathering stories, memories, and other cultural touchstones from Andalusian community members in order to reflect those ways of life that are at risk due to climate change. In addition to her research efforts, Catherine has offered her thought leadership during recent terms on the University of Minnesota Water Council, the Twin Cities Sustainability Committee, the Open Rivers Graduate Student Editorial Committee, and the International Environmental Communication Association Board of Directors.


Fatima Tufail – UMN Twin Cities

Headshot of Fatima TufailFatima leverages her knowledge, experiences, and perspective on leadership development, gender equity, racism, social justice, and sustainability to elevate people and to improve programs. For the Institute on the Environment, Fatima serves as co-leader of the Undergraduate Leaders program, as staff leading the UMN observer delegation to the climate negotiations, as an inclusive mentoring expert for a National Science Foundation climate education grant, as a contributor to IonE’s Equity Statement, and as an environmental justice instructor for the SUST 4004 Sustainable Communities course. For the UMN Graduate School, Fatima contributed a student-centered, inclusive advising approach to a recent faculty development project.


Fouzia Bashir Bhat – UMN Duluth

Headshot of Fouzia BhatFouzia is an environmental education graduate student fellow for the Center for Climate Literacy. Previously, she worked as a graduate research assistant for Minnesota Sea Grant, where she assisted with the Recreational Land Managers Survey and Charter Captain Survey projects. During her time there, she examined the impact of increased outdoor recreation during the COVID-19 pandemic on natural resource management.


Roger Faust – UMN Twin Cities

Headshot of Roger Faust with image credit to Slikati PhotographyRoger is an enrolled member of the Winnebago Tribe of Nebraska. A PhD candidate in Conservation Sciences, Roger collaborates closely with Anishinaabe and Dakota partners in the Upper Midwest to co-produce information vital to address chronic wasting disease on reservation and ceded territory lands. Over three years, Roger led coordination with numerous Tribal partners, conducting extensive CWD education and many community-listening sessions at powwows, veterinary clinics, and community meetings and workshops, engaging over 200 community members and 140 hunters. His extensive community engagement ensures that CWD outreach and developing management plans are tailored to meet unique community needs, values, and contexts, and fosters trust between the University of Minnesota and Tribal Nations. Roger’s work protects animal and human health and well-being, and lays the foundation for continued collaborations between the University and Tribal Nations.


Team Awards

Center for Climate Literacy Undergraduate Assistants – UMN Twin Cities

Headshot of undergraduate studetns that work for the Center For Climate LiteracyThe Center for Climate Literacy’s undergraduate assistants have presented on climate literacy to over half a dozen UMN undergraduate classes. They have written dozens of articles for Climate Lit and the Center’s academic journal, Climate Literacy in Education. Their writing has appeared in the Center’s newsletters and marketing materials. They have facilitated webinars with world renowned scholars and authors, including the first-ever Library of Congress Ambassador for Children’s Literature, Jon Scieszka. The undergraduate assistants present to student groups, table at career fairs, and produce videos stressing the importance of climate literacy education.


Cheng-Hsin Huang & Riley Lewis – UMN Twin Cities

Headshots of Cheng-Hsin Huang and Riley LewisDoctoral candidates Cheng-Hsin and Riley have focused on developing sustainable solutions for addressing per- and polyfluoroalkyl substance contamination in the environment by harnessing the power of plants and nanotechnology. They have worked to develop a system using phytoremediation, a process that uses plants to remove pollutants from soil, and carefully designed nanoparticles. With the ability to be taken up by plants, these nanoparticles are developed to have affinity for PFAS, allowing them to serve as carriers for PFAS from contaminated environments into plants for proper processing.


Plant the Revolution – UMN Duluth

Members of Plant the Revolution holding up garlicPlant the Revolution offers students firsthand experiences engaging with the food system by organizing opportunities for students to familiarize themselves with different aspects of regenerative agriculture. This year, they prepared, sold, and planted garlic; organized a community-wide pumpkin collection and composting event; organized volunteer work days at the Land Lab; and organized an apple picking and cider making event. Their members learned from real organic farmers by having knowledgeable campus community members share their experiences, and by visiting the Duluth farmers forum and the regional Marbleseed organic farming convention.

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