Current Students

Meet our 2020-2021 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. 

Zachary Bergeron-Clearwood
M.S. Candidate
Urban Sustainability
Originally from Maryland, I graduated from the University of Maryland, Baltimore County with a BS in Biology with a minor in Psychology, and from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign with a MS in Visual Ecology. Since undergrad, I have been interested in the intersection between build urban environments, nature, and sustainability -- how can we incorporate nature and natural processes into the build environment, how can we best use new research to improve the sustainable practices of cities, how do we democratize access and encourage engagement of city dwellers to natural spaces, etc. In the field of urban sustainability, I’m especially interested in sustainable transportation (not just public mass transit, but also promoting cycling and walking). In my free time I can be found playing a variety of stringed instruments, playing board games with my wife, and taking pictures of my polydactyl cat who might occasionally interrupt a Zoom class.

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.

Stephanie Camp
M.S. Candidate
Dual Degree - MS3/MRP
I am from Southern Connecticut and graduated in May of 2019 with a B.A. in both Environmental Studies and Urban and Community Studies from the University of Connecticut. My interest in learning about the environment began when I briefly lived in San Diego, California while I was in high school. Although I only lived there for a short period of time, it was there that I became vegan and environmentally conscious. I’m very excited to expand my knowledge in the environmental field, as well as enter the regional planning field as a dual-degree MRP/MS3 candidate.

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.
 
Dawn Costa
M.S. Candidate
Sustainable Agriculture and Food Systems
Dawn Costa is the Managing Editor of the Alternative and Complementary Therapies journal, a clinical journal providing authoritative, evidence-based information on integrative approaches to healthcare. She has over 14 years of experience managing health and wellness content in areas pertaining to nutritional, botanical, and mind-body therapies. Dawn manages teams of diverse global contributors in integrative medicine and has the honor of working with thought leaders in the field who are changing the current healthcare paradigm. She is currently in the University of Massachusetts Amherst Sustainability Science graduate program, with a concentration in sustainable agriculture and food systems, where she is excited to continue to explore the role of plants in human health and wellness. One of her goals is to help facilitate the shift toward sustainable healthcare with culinary, botanical, and nature-based therapies as a foundation.

Max Frank
M.S. Candidate
Urban Sustainability 
Born and raised in New Jersey, I graduated from UMass Amherst this past spring with a BS in Biology and a minor in Geography. I’ve always had a passion for renewables and sustainability, but having taken many courses on climate crisis, ecology, and human health, coupled with my interests with new technology and policy definitely furthered my passion to a new level. I hope to expand on my knowledge through the MS3 program and ultimately find new techniques to make space more valuable to the environment, especially in urban areas. Beyond academia, I love hiking, travelling, and aspire to visit all of the national parks!

Angie Gregory
M.S. Candidate
Urban Sustainability 

Angie has been a long-time advocate for sustainability and community organizing. As a mother compelled to steward a healthy world for future generations and convinced that socially responsible entrepreneurs have the capacity and responsibility to affect big change, she pondered how more people could feel the simplicity she did through sustainable diapering and founded the first zero-waste diaper service in Massachusetts that compost disposable diapers. Angie joined local networks supporting workplace democracy and reincorporated as a women-owned worker cooperative soon after its inception. The business ran its course over eight years and Angie developed a strong connection to the families, and local businesses of the Pioneer Valley. She is often engaged in local issues, advocating for the City’s bike/ped committee where she helped create a citizen manual for liveable streets, and is often supporting the City’s Reuse committee through advocacy and volunteering. Angie helped fundraise to secure farmland forever in Florence, MA during Grow Food Northampton’s capital campaign in 2011. During her time at Smith college as an Ada Comstock Scholar, Angie developed programmatic center partnerships across campus in advocacy for project-based curriculums that engage in civic projects in service to the SDGs. She makes far too many herbal products and medicine in her spare time, always looking for wild edibles, enjoys swimming in cool water on hot summer days, and trail running with friends in all seasons. Angie is grateful for her three children, ages 16, 12, & 8, and husband, who all love to play soccer and tolerate her repetitive uke playing and singing.

Ryan Griffis
M.S. Candidate
Dual Degree - MS3/MRP
A lifelong resident of Massachusetts, I graduated from Umass Boston in 2016 with my bachelors degree in Political Science. As an undergraduate I focused my time on different political campaigns and policy projects for groups focused on issues ranging from climate justice to electoral reform. After graduating I became interested in urban planning and addressing major problems at the local level. In 2018 I attended a hands-on program in New Mexico to learn about building regenerative housing, and in 2019 I was elected as a Town Meeting Member in my hometown of Danvers, Massachusetts. I am excited to study in the MS3 and MRP Programs, and believe they will help me to become a more effective proponent in my field.

Monica Guzik
M.S. Candidate
Sustainable Agriculture and Food Systems
I graduated from UMass Amherst with a B.S. in Sustainable Food and Farming.  I grew up in Western Massachusetts but since graduating I have had the chance to live and work from Cape Cod to Colorado and have had the opportunity to travel abroad.  When I started as an undergraduate I had little knowledge of what food systems were, nevermind the complexity behind them.  Since that initial exposure, local food systems quickly became a peak of my interest.  After taking a hiatus between my undergraduate and graduate career I am eager to start the MS3 program to delve into topics that revolve around policy, public engagement, and nutrition.  My goal of completing this program is to be part of creating and implementing community-based solutions that will help cultivate more resilient and sustainable food systems.

Katie Howe
M.S. Candidate
Sustainable Agriculture and Food Systems
I am from Malden, MA and recently graduated from the Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts with the class of 2020. In my time at MCLA I have taken part in a number of academic projects focusing on food waste and composting, food insecurity in the Northern Berkshire County, land conservation, invasive species awareness, and water quality testing in the Hoosic River. Environmental policy, social justice, leadership, and activism are great passions of mine. I look forward to continuing my studies in the MS3 program this academic year to strengthen my understanding of and exposure to topics of sustainability and food systems. I am excited to meet everyone! 

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.

Erica Light
M.S. Candidate
Water Sustainability and Climate Change
In my professional career I have focused on academic community development and inclusive biochemistry teaching in an instructional lab environment. Recently I have been interested in academies of science as potential sites of intentional social reproduction toward sustainability. In the next year I am most eager to explore the social constructions of Western knowledge production with implications for curriculum design and institutional change for social equity. In the long-term, I hope to build toward complex network analysis and holistic rehabilitation. My social-theoretical interests lie with equitable and empowering labor practices, needs-centric economies, decolonial human-land relationships, and resilience in diverse communities.

Christine McCorkindale
M.S. Candidate
Urban Sustainability
My background is in the performing arts, and from 1999 to 2015, in IT as a Technology Analyst at Harvard Business School. Originally from a small town in North Carolina, I studied dance in LA, and lived in the UK and other parts of Europe in my 20s and early 30s. I love to travel and have made Massachusetts my home for the last 20 years. A recent transplant from Boston to western MA, I'm thrilled to be part of the MS3 program. This latest chapter of my life was initiated through my interest in 'urban homesteading', living more sustainably, and the permaculture course I took in 2015. When not listening to NPR and fretting about our political situation, climate change, or the pandemic, I hike as much as possible in the hills around Greenfield. I also love SUP, kayaking, dancing, and windsurfing.

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.

Ainsley McStay
M.S. Candidate
Sustainable Agriculture and Food SystemsI recently graduated from UMass Amherst with a BS in environmental science and sustainable food and farming. As an undergraduate, I worked on multiple farms as a farm crew member and was involved with agricultural pest and disease management plans. I am now working in a biogeochemical lab analyzing the effects of heavy metal pollutants in edible plant growth and the bioavailability of heavy metals in urban community garden soils. I live in the Pioneer Valley, enjoying the hiking and local food scene. I am very excited to continue on with my education in sustainability, focusing on sustainable agriculture and food systems in the MS3 program!

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.

Jessica Mooring
M.S. Candidate
Urban Sustainability
I recently graduated from UMass in May 2020 with a B.S. in Natural Resources Conservation. I grew up in Western Massachusetts and my passion for sustainability solidified after spending a semester studying abroad in Bhutan experiencing the interconnectedness of community and environmental stewardship. I am excited to continue my studies as part of the MS3 program and look forward to expanding my knowledge and experiences.

Christine Nelson
M.S. Candidate
Urban Sustainability
I’m thrilled to be back at school after some years of raising a family and considering my next professional move. My background has been in communications; I earned my BA from Washington University in St. Louis. A love of plants and nature has been life-long for me, whether I have been gardening, beekeeping, educating others, or growing a field full of flowers. I am working towards a career and life that will enable me to have a hand in minimizing climate change. I’m especially interested in soil health and removing our excess atmospheric carbon dioxide through soil carbon sequestration.

Alexia Perides
M.S. Candidate
Renewable Energy and Efficient Design
I completed my BA in Economics at UMass Amherst last August in order to enroll in the MS3 program fall 2019. While at UMass, 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. Through my internship at the UMass Clean Energy Extension and MS3 coursework, I've discovered my passion for data analytics and research which I'll pursue beyond this program. 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.

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.

James Siakakaba
M.S. Candidate
Sustainable Agriculture and Food Systems
I am from Sioma District, in the Western Province of Zambia. I hold a bachelor’s degree in Agriculture with specialization in Plant Science. The passion to pursue studies in Sustainability Science stems from my eight-year work experience with the Agricultural sector in Zambia. I have seen several challenges faced by numerous small-scale farmers in my community. Shifts in the rainfall pattern, increased occurrences of droughts/occasional floods, prolonged dry spells, soil degradation and escalations of high temperatures are some of the challenges exacerbating the vulnerability of resource-poor smallholder farmers. The MS3 program gives the opportunity to broaden my understanding on how modern and advanced technologies can be applied to enhance the adaptive capacity of rural and resource- poor farmers in Zambia through Sustainable Agriculture. The knowledge and skills I will acquire from this programme of study, when blended with that from my agricultural background, will make me to be a proactive and effective agent of change in my community and country at large.

Gretchen Siegchrist
M.S. Candidate
Urban Sustainability
I grew up on a farm in Vermont, and have lived in western Massachusetts for the past 16 years. My background is in communications, and I have worked for magazines and newspapers, run a video production company, and produced documentary films. Currently I work in the UMass undergraduate admissions office, producing videos and managing digital communications projects. I am on the urban sustainability track, and am interested in developing skills and knowledge so that I can effectively communicate about sustainability, and turn research and best practices into reports and stories that can be easily understood and acted upon.

Emma Sylvia
M.S. Candidate
Renewable Energy and Efficient Design
I grew up in a little corner of the world known as southeastern Mass. At a young age, I’d spend hours outside in imaginative play with nature as my inspiration. I still find such magic and kinship in nature, especially while walking along the many forested trails throughout New England. I decided to stay local for my bachelor’s degree, and in 2019 I graduated with a B.A. in English and a minor in Sustainability from UMass Dartmouth. Having always maintained a respect for the environment, it wasn’t until my junior year of undergrad that I learned about the field of sustainability. I’m excited to join the MS3 program and come into it with a keen interest in community-wide waste reduction strategies; green-building technology; renewable energy; and the socio-cultural and spiritual facets that underpin the viability of the field. I hope to someday share what I learn through research or teaching at the university level. Though my penchant for plucking recyclable objects out of the trash remains my true passion, I also enjoy linguistics, history, film, video games, drag culture, and, most importantly, cats.

Oscal Vidal Rubio
M.S. Candidate
Sustainable Agriculture and Food Systems
I was born in Peru but was raised in Western Massachusetts. Recently, I graduated from UMass Amherst with a B.S. in Computer Science. Prior to that, I attended Holyoke Community College where I earned an A.S. in Programming and an A.S. in Mathematics. Growing up, I always enjoyed experimenting with different ways of growing food and being outside, looking for different bugs. I am really excited to study sustainable agriculture and food systems because my goal is to be able to create software that helps educate people about the Earth’s resources. My favorite things to do are traveling, exploring new places, and hydroponic gardening. I am also an avid soccer fan and skier.  

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 recently finished 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. We’ve been successfully piloting it this year, and are currently looking for ways to disseminate the course through the northeast, which is quite exciting. My undergraduate and professional experiences have fostered a passion for working with producers within our food system, and in the future, I hope to expand that focus to work with a community-based organization that focuses on food access across the different parts of the food system.

Jonah Vorspan-Stein
M.S. Candidate
Urban Sustainability
Jonah is a Massachusetts native who comes to the MS3 program with an interest in the human side of sustainability. He is committed to building a strong labor-climate partnership, to fight back against the dual crises of environmental destruction and inequality. Jonah is a former culinary worker, union organizer, and Vice President of his local: UNITE HERE! Local 164 at Hampshire College. He is currently a Senior Paralegal at Curran, Berger & Kludt immigration law, where he performs research and case work for a variety of family- and humanitarian-based immigration matters. He is also completing his M.S. at UMass' Labor Studies program.

Alex Ziter
M.S. Candidate
Dual Degree – MS3/MRP 
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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