Sunday, July 10, 2016

LAKES REU Alumni Updates!

We asked past LAKES REU researchers to let us know where they are now and what they're doing.  Many of them were able to respond on short notice.  The overwhelming feeling is that they miss Menomonie and all of you in the Red Cedar Basin very much!  Please read below and reconnect with old friends. :)



MELANIE FORD
In summer of 2015 I was given the privilege of interviewing, discussing, and working alongside the LAKES crew and the Menomonie community. Weeks before I left for Menomonie I was engaged in a small research project understanding my local community and their perceptions of organic produce and sustainable agriculture. I wondered what influenced farmers to adopt sustainable practices, what did consumers think constituted “sustainable” produce, how do farmers work (physically and conceptually) with sustainability. Having only talked with farmers in local farmers’ markets, I was thrilled to fly to Menomonie where I would research alongside fields and with farmers. My project during the summer was not so much working with the farmers and agricultural sustainability as it was working with sustainable futures. At the time I thought of my project, the business and tourism impacts of polluted lakes Menomin and Tainter, to be fairly separate from “the future”. I understood the chain of connections between agriculture, phosphorus runoff, pollution, and fiscal growth, but it was only until I landed back in California that I began to see larger connections. In Menomonie I was so involved in the immediate project that at times I would forget our end goal. Whether it was uncovering the bacteria, social networks, technologies, or numbers that championed the need for a more sustainable Menomonie, everyone was working towards what we all hoped would be a sustainable future.

But what does a sustainable future entail? That is a question I and, I think, many in Menomonie are sill exploring. Our quest to implement sustainable best management practices led me to question what sustainable agriculture could be, so I began reading about sustainable agricultural technologies and futures. I ended up finding an interest in alternative spaces for sustainable agriculture, such as indoor vertical farming and farming in outer space. Because of my experiences in Menomonie, my questions have shifted and now I am asking how scientists transition into the additional role of also being farmers, how can scientists and farmers collaborate in re-imagining agriculture’s unsustainable status quos, and how extreme environments, like outer space and indoors, are manufactured as cultivable and sustainable futures for farming.

These questions and my experiences in Menomonie are taking me to Houston, where in less than a month I will be Rice University’s new PhD student in the department of anthropology. I am in debt to, and would like to thank, everyone who I encountered during my time in Menomonie, especially those who took time to listen to my interests in agriculture, helped me to discover and ask new questions, and gave me the encouragement to pursue my project and interests.



LANNA ANDERSON
I hope everyone is doing well. I just graduated Bennett College with a BS in Biology. It was an amazing yet overwhelming experience. Currently, I'm looking into grad programs and plan on starting grad school in the spring. I'm looking into DPT programs and environmental science programs (it's a tough choice lol). I miss everyone in the program and especially Menomonie. I hope all the new interns have an incredible and life changing experience as I did last summer. Love you all and I hope to hear from y'all soon.


LAUREN L'ESPERANCE
It has been two years since I called Menomonie home, but the LAKES project continues to have an impact on my life today. Following graduation in December of 2014, I began working with the Aquidneck Land Trust in Newport, RI in the areas of stewardship and farmland preservation. I used the knowledge and experience gained at UW-Stout to create and disseminate surveys to farmers in Newport County, RI. The results from this survey helped to inform and guide a farmland protection plan for the region.

In January of 2016, I traveled to the jungle of Panama for a 3-month Sustainable Agriculture internship. I studied the principles, ethics, and applications of permaculture while living off-the-grid in the tropical rainforest with a community that is aiming to build the world’s most sustainable modern town. I worked as a consultant to the community, learning what challenges the community faces as they develop a food system for a growing population and providing recommendations and action steps towards creating a truly sustainable food system supported by local farmers.
After a short stint exploring the wild beauty of the western US, I am now living in New Jersey where I am working with a team of passionate and intelligent social entrepreneurs to develop innovative and complementary business models that promote food justice, access, awareness, and education. Our current initiative aims to address the ever-growing concern over the decreasing number of farmers, the aging farming class nationwide, and a steadily increasing urban population by creating a new model for urban farming. These are issues that came to attention during my time at UW-Stout and continued to resonate throughout my work and passions.

It is amazing to see how the LAKES project has grown with the help of energetic students and engaging mentors over the course of three years. I am honored to have been part of this project in its humble beginnings, and thankful for the continuous influence it has had on my career. I am also incredibly grateful for the small Wisconsin town that welcomed us all with wide arms, open ears, and kind input. I am sure that the research and results of the LAKES project will continue to affect the community for years to come. And there is always more work to do!


AUSTIN GENTEL
Well its been about a year after taking part in the LAKES-REU program, and I have to say that year has blown by very fast. I am currently awaiting to go into my final year of college for my B.S. Degree in Environmental Science at Delaware Valley University where I have finally been accepted into a 4+1 Policy Study Program. This means I have the chance to achieve a Master's Degree in Policy by only adding on one year of school instead of two!! I have also been a busy bee in climbing the ladder of many clubs and organizations at Del Val such as becoming a Presidential Fellow (mentee of a member of School's Board), VP of Finance in the Inter Greek Council, and much more. Probably the best thing to happen to me during this past year is my class trip to Amsterdam and some of its surrounding areas, and to Mainz, Germany. While there I was able to explore and experience many different parks, museums, the culture, and to just see how the world is intertwined. It may have only been 10 days, but it was an adventure of a lifetime. My next big mission is to figure out exactly what the future holds for me.


I would also like to say that I greatly miss everyone and everything about Menomonie, especially everyone I got to meet and spend my summer with last year. I hope to visit Menomonie as soon as I can, but until then I wish everyone the best of luck and hope y'all enjoy the rest of your summer!!!

ANDREA TWIST
Things have been very busy since the end of my time at LAKES last August. I finished my last semester at Gustavus Adolphus College and graduated in December 2015. Upon graduation I began work as a district executive for Northern Star Council Boy Scouts of America. Here I serve about 1,000 youth and coordinate 500 volunteers as an account manager focusing on membership, financing, and unit service in order to deliver great program that instills citizenship, leadership, and environmental integrity. I hope all is well in Menomonie and that the lake isn't smelling too bad (yet)! Best wishes to all and thank you again for the experience.


NICOLE LOEVEN
Since I finished the LAKES REU last August I have graduated from Wells College and I am now on to graduate school (terrifying)! I will be attending Stony Brook University’s PhD program in Molecular Genetics and Microbiology. On the 9th I am moving to Long Island to a cute little house and new roommates (also, terrifying). I am doing a lab rotation before the fall semester starts and using that time to get settled in my new home. I hope the LAKES students all get some time to explore Wisconsin, the cities, and maybe do a little work! I cannot wait to see what is achieved this summer, I will be thinking of you all.

This is from my graduation in May. It is a Wells tradition that seniors get to ride in the Wells Fargo stage coaches on graduation day.

YANIRA CAMPOS
Much has changed since last year, but nothing to drastic. I have become a total expert in social networks and I will be replacing Mark Zuckerberg as the CEO of Facebook. Only in my wildest dreams of course! Currently, I am on summer break and will be returning back to school in August as Senior at East Carolina University. Right now, I am not doing much, except trying to work as many hours at my job as I can. However, I am conducting interviews this summer for my senior thesis on self identify in the Latino community. I am super excited to be conducting interviews again- collecting qualitative data during the REU program was one of my absolute favorite parts of the research process. 

I will also be graduating with B.A. Sociology and a minor in Psychology this fall.  After graduating, I have decided to not purse a law degree just yet.  Instead I will be pursuing a Masters in Sociology. So I am also preparing for the GRE this summer and deciding on schools that I want to apply to. 

I am really happy see everyone's posts and all the adventures that the group has taken on. This REU provided me with knowledge and research experience, but one of the greatest things that I took away from the program were the friendships that I developed. I may have only lived with this group of people for two months, but I am extremely proud to call them my friends. I hope each and every person is able to develop the same kind of bond that I did with my fellow peers. I am excited to see the results of the research and I know it will be nothing short of amazing!

LISETTE SOLIS
After leaving Menomonie last year, I went back to Berkeley to finish my last year of school.  I don't know how four years passed so fast, but in May I walked across the stage and now I just have to wait for my diploma to come in the mail.

Since May, I have been working with a clean energy non-profit in Nicaragua.  My work here has been eclectic, but interesting.  I’ve put some of my survey making skills from last summer to work while designing questionnaires for an impact analysis of solar panel installations.  I also helped design a kitchen extension and assisted on a solar panel installation.  While far outside of my comfort zone, I think the installation really helped me gain some practical life skills.  Who knew that a light switch just has two wires inside to turn the lights on or off?

I’ve really enjoyed getting to know Nicaragua—learning how to salsa and cook with coconut.  I’ll be sad when my summer position here ends next week, but also happy to go home, see my family, and eat American food. (I’ve really been missing Wisconsin cheddar these past couple of months).  The next step is still TBD, but I’ll be looking for a more permanent job when I get home.  I’m hoping that I can find something in the environmental economics field and continue learning about environmental policy. 


CASSANDRA BECKWORTH
Hello All. I worked under Dr. Nels Paulson with Alison Anson for the 2014 project. I graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Stout with a degree in Applied Social Science, Sociology and Anthropology in 2015. Currently I am working as a data specialist on a National Science Foundation grant through the College of St. Scholastica. The goal of this grant, titled Mobile CSP, is to develop and disseminate a high school level curriculum that utilizes mobile devices to teach computer science principles to students. This program is also affiliated with the TeachIT and CS10K programs which aim to promote the development and implementation of computer science courses in rural and underrepresented areas. My primary responsibilities revolve around ensuring our teachers and their students feel supported when learning and implementing the curriculum as well as collecting all the necessary pieces of information we need to understand the effectiveness of the curriculum. This includes developing and issuing assessments for our online participants as well as managing their involvement in the project.  At this time, we have 110 teachers from all over the United States that are undergoing a professional development session to learn our curriculum and who will be implementing the curriculum during the 2016-2017 academic year. We expect these participants to collectively be teaching over 2,000+ students.

While this job isn’t anything near what I expected to be doing after graduation, I am definitely having a great time and learning a lot. Within the few months that I have been working on the grant, I have had the opportunity to travel to both Las Vegas, NV and San Diego, CA. I’ve met educators from all over the United States with a wide range of teaching experience. I’ve helped host workshops, presented material at meetings (topics including how to create a welcoming environment in the classroom and how to deal with stereotype threat), developed mobile applications, and created awesome interactive websites. It’s been a wonderful experience.

I am currently living in Moose Lake, MN which is about 3 hours away from Menomonie. If any current or former LAKES members are looking to explore the Northland, I’m happy to provide you with some ideas of must-see places. Luckily I haven’t had any injuries as of late. Still working on that smiling in pictures thing but otherwise life is good! I am looking forward to coming down to Menomonie for the end of the summer poster session and seeing all of the hard work students have devoted to their projects.



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