Current Students

Meet our 2019-2020 scholar-professionals who are gaining deep intellectual foundations and applied training in sustainability. Their diverse foci span ecology, business, communications, environmental science, urban design, and more. They combine passion and skills to be tomorrow’s changemakers.

Dugan Becker
M.S. Candidate
Renewable Energy and Efficient Design

Originally from Westwood Massachusetts, I have spent my life immersed in the natural beauty of New England, and have developed a strong passion for environmental protection as a result. This passion eventually led me to UMass Amherst for my undergraduate studies, where I received a B.S. in Natural Resources Conservation, and a certification in Public Policy. It was at UMass that I discovered energy efficiency and renewable energy were the primary niches of the environmental sector that interested me the most. Having previously witnessed the valuable knowledge and skills taught by the UMass ECo department first hand, I was eager to continue my studies in this setting at the graduate level via the MS3 Program. 

Rachel Berggren
M.S. Candidate
Sustainable Agriculture and Food Systems
Born and raised in NY, I graduated from SUNY Plattsburgh with a degree in Anthropology. Understanding human behavior and culture is what shapes my perspective and led me to pursue work in community development.  Over the years, I have worked at several non-profit organizations, learning about the interconnected nature of societal issues and how to best approach making change possible and sustainable. Through these experiences, understanding our food system continued to call to me. Through travel, work and research, I have had many opportunities to explore the intersection of food insecurity and a cultures approach to building community.  I moved to Western Mass to learn more about that and now here I am undertaking a structured approach to understanding our food system and how we can improve it. I can't wait to see how this degree program will carry me forward into the next part of my journey.

Megan Brockelbank
M.S. Candidate
Sustainable Agriculture and Food Systems
I am a homesteader, mother of 2 wildly beautiful kids, and a lover of food and nature.  I graduated from UMass with a Bachelor’s Degree in Sustainable Food and Farming in 2017 and I am excited to get back into the world of education.  I have a passion for learning and teaching, for the environment and how our food is grown and for creating a world that’s greener for future generations.

Morgan Carney
M.S. Candidate
Water Sustainability and Climate Change
Morgan is a Massachusetts native who comes to the MS3 program from the Boston tech scene after having obtained a MSc in Creative Writing from the University of Edinburgh, as well as a BA in English from Franklin & Marshall College. Prior to somehow working at a cybersecurity startup, he spent time in the world of educational publishing as the product manager for several earth and environmental science textbooks. It was through the combination of these experiences that he became interested in renewable energy policy and implementation strategies for sustainable business practices – areas which he is eager to further explore at UMass.

Barbara Chamberlain
M.S. Candidate
Sustainable Agriculture and Food Systems
For the past twelve years, I have worked at UMass Amherst in the IT department, managing the imaging software that helps departments on campus that want to go paperless, and also saves some trees in the process. I enjoy what I do and love being part of this community. I also live an environmentally-conscious, animal-friendly lifestyle. So the Sustainability Science degree program seems like a natural extension/progression of both my home and work life. I chose the “Sustainable Agriculture and Food Systems” concentration because I’m passionate about where food comes from and what happens to it before it reaches our plate. I’ve always been a firm believer that you are what you eat. Food matters. It can hurt us or heal us. It does make a difference what we put into our bodies. I am excited to begin this MS3 journey.
 
Liam Cregan
M.S. Candidate
Water Sustainability and Climate Change
I graduated from UMass with a B.A. in English in 2015. In 2017, I had the privilege of hiking the John Muir Trail, and I decided that I wanted to get involved in trail and wilderness conservation. Since then, I have spent the past two years doing work for the Appalachian Mountain Club, working in coordinator positions for the Volunteer Teen Trail Crew and Ridgerunner programs, and teaching Leave No Trace to a variety of age groups.  In my spare time, I am a competitive trail runner, a drummer in rock bands, and a cat enthusiast. I am looking forward to building more knowledge and experience through the MS3 program.

Courtney Crossgrove
M.S. Candidate
Sustainable Agriculture and Food Systems
I grew up in a small town in the Finger Lakes region of New York. I completed my undergraduate degree in Nutrition and Dietetics from the University of New Haven in 2017. While interning at Illinois State University Campus Dining, I was involved in discussions around sustainability initiatives, sparking an interest in the field. After completing my thesis on the impacts of a plant versus animal based diet on the environment, I decided I wanted to make a difference in the world through food and sustainability. For the past year, I have been working for UNH Campus Dining as a manager and wellness educator, as well as providing nutrition education to youth as a Registered Dietetic Technician. I am looking forward to further exploring the world of sustainability through the MS3 program.

Claire Hutchinson
M.S. Candidate
Urban Sustainability 

I was born on Nantucket Island, raised in Granby, Connecticut, and attended the University of Washington in Seattle for my undergraduate degree. After a fantastic few years learning and exploring throughout the Pacific Northwest, I am super excited to be returning to New England. I have a background in biology, water science, organic farming, and nonprofit work. My love for the natural world has been fostered by the many beautiful and passionate communities I have called home. From the beaches of Nantucket to the summits of the Cascade mountains, I have found that I am happiest outdoors. I am so excited to be attending UMass Amherst as part of the MS3 program, and hope to better understand how to apply scientific information to policies and technologies influencing the environment. When free, I love hiking, swimming, skiing, exploring, and finding new good food and music.

Gaby Immerman
M.S. Candidate
Urban Sustainability
Gaby has been teaching the Horticulture courses and running the summer internship program as the Landscape and Education Specialist at the Smith College Botanic Garden for almost 20 years.  She also provides private residential landscape design and installation services all over the Valley with her business, Green Thumb for Hire.  A native New Yorker, she oversaw field operations for NYC’s community gardening program, and accumulated a range of professional experience in both horticulture and agriculture all over the U.S. before settling down in Northampton in 1999.  Gaby has served on the Board of Grow Food Northampton and played a leadership role in the development of their community farm for almost a decade.  She is also the Co-Moderator of the Mill River Greenway Initiative, a working group of local citizens who aim to protect the Mill River watershed, preserve its cultural artifacts, enhance its biological health and encourage recreational activity.

Chaitrali Ketkale
M.S. Candidate
Urban Sustainability
The environment and sustainability have always piqued my interest. I explored its realm through my undergraduate degree in biotechnology and the various internships during my undergraduate studies. After graduation I joined KPMG India as an analyst in their Sustainability and Climate Change practice, where I acquainted myself with the different aspects of corporate sustainability. I’m fascinated by what we can achieve through responsible corporate policies to help alleviate our toughest problems. Apart from work, I am an avid fitness enthusiast who enjoys travel, dance and art. I’m extremely excited about the journey ahead at the MS3 program.

Hannah McDonald
M.S. Candidate
Sustainable Agriculture and Food Systems
Passionate about connecting to our surroundings, and therefore the self, I've become dedicated to creating an intimate experience with the land and greater community. How to? Food! For a healthy diet is a healthy planet. I navigate this plane by spending time in the forest, gardening, writing poetry, doodling and dancing the ways of the wind. After receiving an undergraduate degree from UMass Amherst's Natural Resources Conservation program, working as an outdoor educator and several seasons as a farmer, I've noticed how purposeful life connected to the land can be, especially when working on a bioregional level. My greater goal: set an accessible foundation for future generations to thrive by the ways of sustainability, subsistence and spirituality, and to smile along the way.

Tiffany Menard
M.S. Candidate
Water Sustainability and Climate Change
I am from Western Massachusetts and graduated with a B.S in Regional Planning from Westfield State University last summer. I have become very passionate about issues surrounding sustainability and am very excited to learn so much more. My favorite things to do are kayaking, hiking, camping and traveling.

Charlie Misenti
M.S. Candidate
Renewable Energy and Efficient Design
I am from Massachusetts and recently graduated from the UMass Amherst with a BS in Environmental Science. I briefly attended the University of New England in Biddeford Maine and studied environmental studies before moving to Massachusetts. During my undergrad career I discovered a passion for renewable and clean energy, environmental policy and science communication along with the many environmental factors that impact society. I hope to expand my knowledge in these categories during my time in the MS3 program. When I am not in the classroom I like to spend time in the great outdoors, playing basketball and taking pictures.

Rachel Nadolny
M.S. Candidate
Renewable Energy and Efficient Design
I graduated from Roger Williams University with a Bachelor of Science in Environmental Science and a minor in sustainability. I grew up in Dracut, Massachusetts in a woodsy neighborhood on a dead end. I was always outdoors which I believe led me to acquire an appreciation for the Earth. I developed my passion for sustainability after joining the eco-reps my freshman year at Roger Williams University. I enjoyed being a part of a group, working together towards making a difference. In my career I want to be part of the solution to one of the largest sustainability challenges society faces today, climate change. I hope that the MS3 program will provide me with the necessary tools and lead me in the direction where I can have the most impact. 

Vaishnavi Nandi
M.S. Candidate
Urban Sustainability
A resident of Mumbai, India, Vaishnavi received her Baccalaureate in Architecture from the University of Mumbai, where she developed a keen inclination towards Sustainable Design. After an academic design project for the Slums of Dharavi in Mumbai, which involved redevelopment, and building a clean and green ‘Live- Work’ community, she acquired a passion for sustaining communities, environment and economy. This culminated in her Thesis – Redevelopment of Municipal Markets, focusing on a zero waste and energy design. Her passion lies in studying the node between design, building information modeling, public policy, marketing, renewable energy and was thus admitted to the MS3 program at UMass Amherst with a concentration in Urban Sustainability and Renewable Energy and Efficient Design.
In her free time, she loves to talk, sketch, paint, dance, sing and play instruments like Casio and guitar. Jack of all trades master of none. Also, makes jokes that only she is proud of.

Christian Nielsen
M.S. Candidate
Dual Degree – MS3/MRP – Urban Sustainability
Christian Nielsen has a BS in Sustainable Business from Green Mountain College in Poultney VT, with a minor in natural resource management (2016). During his time pursuing his undergraduate degree he held several internships in the field of planning at Council of Governments’ in Connecticut. It was here that he was introduced to the field and cultivated his passion on the subject matter. After graduation he was retained by the Naugatuck Valley Council of Governments as a GIS Planning Assistant. Following this opportunity, he was awarded a position at the consulting firm AECOM and was brought on full-time as a transportation planner where he maintains a relationship on a part-time basis. He is now a dual degree candidate in the Master of Regional Planning and Master of Science in Sustainability Science (MRP/MS3) program where he hopes to better align his interests in planning and sustainability.

Alexia Perides
M.S. Candidate
Renewable Energy and Efficient Design
I completed my BA in Economics at UMass Amherst this August in order to enroll in the MS3 program fall 2019. In the past three years, I've worked anywhere from a local acupuncture clinic to the Student Government Association as Secretary of Sustainability. I've been able to curate my studies, work and extracurriculars to include sustainability in its many forms. I love to garden and read although I'm still working on doing them simultaneously, and I have the ambitious goal of becoming fluent in Spanish. I'm so excited to continue my studies of economic and policy driven solutions to our current social, economic and environmental climate.

Kelsey Perry
M.S. Candidate
Sustainable Agriculture and Food Systems
I was born and raised on Cape Cod, Massachusetts. Growing up in such an iconic, scenic peninsula allowed me to connect with our land and waters from a young age. In May, I completed my Bachelor of Arts in Chemistry with a minor in Business Management from Clark University. At Clark, I was lucky enough to conduct nutrient-uptake research on our campus’ Freight Farm. Being a hydroponic farmer opened my eyes to the hopeful possibilities that lay in new and efficient agriculture innovations. Over the past couple of summers, I have worked as Lab Assistant (II) under Ben Van Mooy at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution. Studying the lipidomics of our vast oceans has allowed me to strengthen my bond with our water planet. I am interested in how we can reshape our food systems to create accessible, healthy diets, as well as utilize our finite resources more efficiently. With new agricultural methods, hopefully we will be able to walk softly on our Earth’s ecosystems. In my free time, I enjoy listening to reggae music, making homemade face-masks, traveling with good friends, and hanging out with my leopard gecko, Rico. 

Marcie Gallo O'Connell
M.S. Candidate
Urban Sustainability
Marcie comes to the MS3 program with a background in Anthropology. Building on her undergraduate level certificate, Marcie is now also pursuing a Graduate level Certificate in Native American Indian Studies.  She brings over 20 years of food industry experience with her, including nearly 14 years of small business ownership. Marcie is also a certified Integrative Nutrition Health Coach. She is interested in the cross-disciplinary foundations of the MS3 program and the ability of those foundations to address global sustainability challenges, while also preserving cultural heritage. Her passion is focused on the crossroad space between sustainability science, urban sustainability studies, and traditional ecological knowledge. Active in her community, Marcie has coached several youth sports teams, and played an integral part in establishing a Certified Wildlife Habitat at a local elementary school. She has been a member of a local CSA for 8 years, and actively supports local businesses.  A New England native, Marcie loves the White Mountains, alpine flowers, hiking, snowboarding, laughing, craft beer, music, and her family.

Michael Persau
M.S. Candidate
Renewable Energy and Efficient Design
From New Jersey, I recently graduated from the University of Massachusetts Amherst summa cum laude with a bachelor's degree in environmental science. As an undergraduate, I worked in multiple research labs studying climate change impacts on coastal fish and seabirds, and sustainable fungicides and fertilizer. In the summer of 2018, I was part of a study abroad program in Iceland where I experienced first-hand the effects of climate change on the country's glaciers and water systems. I am very interested in studying renewable energy and climate change, and I believe that the MS3 Program will allow me to accomplish this and become an effective proponent in the field of energy and environmental protection. 

Heather Polson
M.S. Candidate
Urban Sustainability
I’m originally from Mercer Island, WA and grew up enjoying the lake and parks around me. After high school, I took three years off of work to: volunteer at music festivals and the 1990 Goodwill Games; and travel to Europe, the UK, and road-tripping around the U.S. Following all those adventures, I earned a degree in Outdoor Environmental Education at WWU, where I also worked for the A.S. Productions bringing in professional bands and musicians to perform on campus. It was a rich and varied college experience. My family moved to the Pioneer Valley in 2001, where I’ve been working primarily in higher ed, first at Amherst College in Student Activities and now at UMass at Isenberg. In between those two jobs, I took three years off and earned my Master Gardener status, traveled more (but this time with a family in tow), and volunteered at a local thrift shop and at my sons’s middle school, including a trip chaperoning eighth graders to DC. When I’m not at work, I enjoy drawing, painting with watercolours, and have recently started Urban Sketching. I also try to spend as much time as I can outside: cross country skiing and snowshoeing in winter; biking, swimming, and generally exploring in the warmer months.

Tony Rose
M.S. Candidate
Water Sustainability and Climate Change
I served in the U.S. Coast Guard and retired a few years ago after a career as a CT Environmental Police Officer. I love being outdoor in nature, and enjoying outdoor activities, especially hiking, biking, skiing and running. I did a winter outdoor Semester with NOLS in the Southwest and saw how beautiful but fragile our public lands are, especially without proper stewardship. My Buddhist practice teaches me that all beings and phenomena exist or occur because of their relationship with other beings and phenomena. I am grateful and excited for the opportunity to learn about water resources and climate change, and hopefully help improve our planet’s ecological system for future generations.

Kaveri Sastry
M.S. Candidate
Sustainable Agriculture and Food Systems
I am from Bangalore, India and I completed my Bachelors of Science in Chemistry, Zoology, and Environmental Science at St Josephs College in Bangalore. I am very interested in food systems and how the entire chain can be made more sustainable, from production to consumption. My interest in the field began after attending a talk on natural farming. Before pursuing the MS3 degree, I interned with an NGO that provides mid-day meals to children in government schools.

Daniel Steinfeld
M.S. Candidate
Renewable Energy and Efficient Design
I live in Boston and currently work as an accountant at the Appalachian Mountain Club. My passion for sustainability began in 2010 as I thru-hiked the Appalachian Trail. From this experience, I realized I wanted to live simply and plan my life around that desire. As an accountant at a conservation non-profit I have been able to combine my passion for the environment and sustainability with my skills for numbers and spreadsheets. I plan to pair the renewable energy and efficient design concentration with two graduate level accounting classes to finish my CPA certification. I am excited for this opportunity to further my career and knowledge through the MS3 program.

Justin Taylor
M.S. Candidate
Renewable Energy and Efficient Design
I attended Westfield State University (go owls!) for my undergraduate studies, receiving bachelor’s degrees in Regional Planning and Environmental Science and an advanced certificate in Geographical Informational Systems. While at Westfield, I published an article, with Dr. Rob Bristow of the Geography, Planning, and Sustainability Department, in a European Journal on how the architectural software SketchUp can be used in the recreation of archaeological sites, traveled to Belize to study a self-sustaining permaculture farm, and presented research at a national conference on comparing the emissions of a sustainable home with more conventional homes.

Naomi Valentine
M.S. Candidate
Water Sustainability and Climate Change
I have been working in the field of Ecological Restoration for the past four years. My focus in the MS3 program is Water Sustainability and Climate Change, which I hope will aid in my ability to better advise my clients of forward-thinking restoration practices. Often my work as a Project Manager and Ecological Restoration Specialist at SWCA Environmental Consultants, located in Amherst, focuses on restoring habitats to a pre-existing/pre-disturbance state. However, I am trying to move this focus towards improving the resiliency of our natural resources and arming wetland systems from the current and future devastations of climate change. I love living in the Pioneer Valley and am excited to study sustainable practices at UMass Amherst. I’ll be working full time while pursuing this career, so I might not have much free time over the next two years, but when I do I enjoy hiking and kayaking down the Connecticut River. I was fortunate to obtain an internship at Hasbro Toy Inc., where I worked on, and helped implement, sustainability initiatives that ranged from waste-to-energy measures, composting food waste, and increasing recycling of plastics throughout their US facilities. I always try to live with sustainability in mind, while also teaching others what they can do to reduce their global footprint. I am looking forward to attending UMASS to expand my skills and knowledge, while meeting other passionate students, and to truly make the world a better place in the process. 

Christopher Von Achen
M.S. Candidate
Sustainable Agriculture and Food Systems
Born and raised in central CT, I graduated from UMass with degrees in Food Science and Sustainable Food & Farming in 2017. Since graduating, I’ve spent my time working with the Food Science Extension Program here at UMass, focusing on food safety education for small and local food processors. I’m currently working on developing a food safety training course, focusing on scientific concepts of food safety and an overview of regulatory compliance, which is designed for entrepreneurs looking to start their own food business. My undergraduate and professional experiences have fostered a passion for working with producers within our food system, particularly with developing sustainable solutions to commonly-faced problems. While I have a strong background in food safety, I’m excited to branch out and learn more about how we can use food as a vessel for change within our community. When I’m not focusing on learning about, cooking, or eating food, I can be found enjoying the outdoors or pursing my interest in music.

Alex Ziter
M.S. Candidate
Dual Degree – MS3/MRP – Urban Sustainability
Western Massachusetts born and raised, I made the decision to stay local and attend Holyoke Community College. Obtaining an A.S. in Sustainability Science while also pursuing a certificate in Renewable Energy Resources. After my time in Holyoke I transferred to Westfield State University where I graduated with a B.S. in Regional Planning and Geography in 2018. During and after my time at WSU I was able to do some traveling in the states and abroad which, with the help of my professors enabled me to find my potential niche within the planning field. I am interested in studying what sustainable practices will be adapted for the newly legalized industry of adult use cannabis; specifically, the role communities have within the process. I enrolled in the MS3 program to further develop the skills and connections needed to be successful within this professional niche which I wish to carve out for myself.

 

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