The Sigurd Olson Environmental Institute has been a part of the Northland College student experience for the last forty-six years—from speakers, conferences, and campus events in the physical building to research and internships with one of the many outreach programs. Sigurd’s wife, Elizabeth, contributed $50,000 to the Sigurd F. Olson Endowment, a program to offer paid internships to students to give them the needed experience. Looking back, we’re not surprised to discover that many of these student interns have gone on to careers in social justice, conservation, and public service. Here are just a few examples.
Tara Ward ’83 is the program coordinator at SEEDS, a program to provide high-quality programming for high school and middle school students in Traverse City, Michigan. This includes creating opportunities for students and community members wishing to learn more about sustaining and supporting our natural and human environments.
Kary Schumpert ’97 worked for eleven years as a classroom-based and outreach environmental educator at Eco-Cycle in Boulder County, Colorado; and for two years with BioVan, focused on the Rio Grande and its watershed. She taught zero waster concepts, including composting, recycling, source-based reducing, and reusing. Her specialty: composting with worms. This year she made a big switch and is working as a freelance educator and writer while she’s in massage therapy school.
Abe Lloyd ’02, ethnobotanist and director of the Salal Cascadian Food Institute, recently completed his master’s degree in ethnoecology at the University of Victoria. Lloyd now lives in his hometown of Bellingham, Washington, where he researches, promotes, and eats the indigenous foods of his region.
As the community programs director at Walking Mountains Science Center, Lara Carlson ’03 is an interpreter and environmental educator with a passion for introducing others to the beauty and wonder found in nature.
Stacy Schaefer Craig ’04, coordinator of applied learning at Northland College, is currently pursuing a masters of divinity degree through the United Theological Seminary of the Twin Cities.
Anna Hochhalter ’06 is a designer in landscape architecture at AECOM New York Metro. She has a particular interest in the confluence of the public, infrastructure, and ecological projects.
From his college years to his current job, Adam Yates ’07 has worked to make the world more inclusive—through an alternative spring break in the Blue Ridge mountains to his current position as an openly gay pastor at the Episcopalian Church of Connecticut (He received his master of divinity from Chicago Theological Seminary in 2010).
In 2017, Yates assisted with the coordination of the River of Life: Connecticut River Pilgrimage, a forty-day spiritual journey from the headwaters in Canada to the Long Island Sound. The pilgrimage was focused on the connection between faith, creation, and political issues, all within the framework of the Connecticut River.
Last year, Yates was also the instigator for an ecumenical open and affirming vision for the Christian church called the Connecticut Statement. The statement “expresses a constructive theology that is not just about gender and sexuality, but also about our humanness and how all beings are part of creation,” Yates said.
Scott Wold ’09 earned a Juris Doctor in environmental law from Vermont Law School and is the director of planning and environmental services in Redwood Falls, Minnesota
As the climate program manager for the Neighborhood of Affordable Housing in the Greater Boston Area, Gabriela Boscio Santos ’09, is the climate and sustainability expert with a keen interest in social and environmental justice, racial and gender equality, resilience, sustainable food systems, and urban agriculture.
Tiffany Kersten ’10, pictured above, first became hooked on birds at age twelve, after witnessing a flock of thousands of dancing sandhill cranes in a Wisconsin cornfield. She interned at the SOEI as a student and currently is the manager at the McAllen Nature Center in Texas and spending most of her free time fighting the proposed border wall since the proposed wall cuts Santa Ana National Wildlife Refuge—the largest contiguous tract of native habitat along the river in the entire region—off from any visitor access.
Jennifer Courtwright ’10 worked as a student intern at the SOEI for three years that gave her skills in wetland and river ecology “that enabled me to get into an REU and then subsequently into a master’s program in aquatic ecology,” she said. Since getting her masters I have been working for five years as an aquatic ecologist and program manager at the National Aquatic Monitoring Center, which is a partnership between the Bureau of Land Management and Utah State University. The main focus of her work is building a monitoring program for the Bureau of Land Management’s streams across the west. “I currently do this work remotely from San Antonio, TX and in my spare time do research with my husband on water quality issues around San Antonio, which is one of the largest and fastest growing urban centers in the country,” she said.
Amanda Wold ’11 is a district technician at Brown Soil and Water Conservation District in Sleepy Eye, Minnesota.
If you were an SOEI intern, email us and share your story. We’d love to add you to this list.