As the weather begins to change from summer to fall in Ashland, a new cohort of graduate students has settled in to the program at SOU. Find out more about theam and what brought them to our program!
Laura Bergner grew up in North Carolina, spending a good part of her childhood catching salamanders in the Appalachian Mountains. After leaving her hometown, she discovered that her true passion is helping children explore the outdoors and live in a way that feels connected to nature. Laura spent her early twenties managing farms and developing sustainable living skills in Oregon, Colorado, and New Mexico, as well as spending several years as an early childhood educator.
Living in a variety of places left her with a great love and respect for the Pacific Northwest, and in 2014 she left the southwest for good to study Biology at Southern Oregon University. She was so impressed by the diversity of life found in this tiny part of the world that she decided to stay here after receiving her Bachelor’s in Science and attend the Environmental Education Master’s program.
Laura is excited to bring her passion for nature to a community that is so driven to protect the environment and give children access to the outdoors. When she is not learning or teaching, she prefers to spend time with her enormous dog in open fields.
India Bolding grew up in the suburbs of San Francisco exploring the tide pools and redwood forests. She’s always viewed nature as a unifying force; anyone can find something they’re excited about, something to geek out about when they explore nature. She wants to help kids find that enthusiasm that was inspired by her parents at a young age. She believes that if kids get to immerse themselves with nature and learn the science that explains what they’re seeing they’ll develop a life long love for the environment. This encourages them to think and care for more than just themselves, ultimately making caring and thoughtful people that want to help the world.
Paige Engelbrektsson is a Virginia native who grew up finding the wonder in the wild places around her suburban neighborhood and childhood barn. After graduating with a B.S. in Biology from the College of William and Mary, she was elbow-deep in assisting museum researchers when she discovered two things. One, teaching visitors about the new and intriguing natural history facts she uncovered offered its own kind of wonder. Two, there was an entire country full of awe-inspiring, truly wild spaces she could live and teach in. So began a cross-country trip that has lasted four years and counting. From guiding backcountry pack trips in Yellowstone National Park to teaching outdoor afterschool programs as an AmeriCorps member in North Carolina, Paige’s pursuit of sharing the wonder of the natural world has led her through a checklist of mountain ranges and ultimately to SOU. She looks forward to using the skills and knowledge she will gain through the program to lead educational programming for audiences of all ages in even more beautiful wild places.
Angie Gornik is a Minnesotan from her accent to her snow driving abilities. She spent endless hours as a child running around barefoot both in her backyard and at summer camp. Angie attended Northwestern College in Orange City, Iowa and received degrees in Biology and Spanish. During her college years she called many places home from the tall grass prairie of Iowa, to the farm she worked on in Costa Rica, to the volcanoes of Ecuador, to the summer heat of Nicaragua, to the bayou of Louisiana. Angie blames her Costa Rican host mom, Doña Fatima, for igniting her love for environmental education and showing her what loving people and a place looks like. Upon graduating in December of 2016 Angie packed up her car and moved to Southern California to teach at an outdoor education institute. Nature exploration, outdoor adventure, and the laughter of students became an integral part of her life and pursing her Masters in Environmental Education became a part of her journey. Angie never ceases to be amazed by ferns and can’t wait to achieve her goal of visiting every National Park within the next 10 years.
Anna Kennedy grew up in a small town in Northern California, surrounded by redwoods, the Russian River, and a wild backyard full of endless possibilities. Whether hiking along the coast, camping in the redwoods, or building tree-forts, she found tranquility, inspiration, and a fascination for life in the great outdoors. This early love and curiosity led her Anna to pursue a degree from UC Davis in Wildlife, Fish, and Conservation Biology. Over the summers Anna worked as a Trips Guide at Skylake Yosemite Camp, leading kids on day and multiday backpacking adventures in the Sierras. Her longing to be outside and learn everything about the natural world evolved into a desire to help educate and engage children outdoors. After graduation, Anna continued to work with youth as a Montessori Assistant Teacher and as a summer Camp Director. This love for educating children and helping them build a relationship with nature is what guided Anna to the MS in Environmental Education program at SOU. Anna is loving exploring the incredible wilderness and biodiversity of Southern Oregon, and looks forward to continuing to combine her love for education and for being outdoors in a life-long career as an environmental educator.
Sarah Norton was born and raised in upstate New York. Growing up, an interest and wonder about nature was instilled in her as she explored creeks and hiked with her family. Sarah graduated from Paul Smith’s College in the Adirondack mountains with a Bachelor’s degree in Fisheries and Wildlife Science. It was during her undergrad that she found a passion for raptor research and conservation. For the next eight years, she traveled around the country working various field jobs focused on avian research. From jumping in swamps for Snail Kite surveys in the Everglades National Park to trapping and banding Golden Eagles in the Rocky Mountains of Montana, Sarah has pursued her passion while also meeting amazing people along the way. After working with such diverse communities, Sarah discovered a lack of understanding between the public and scientific community. She also realized her greatest joy was interacting with the public and sharing experiences of her work. Finding her calling, Sarah switched her career to focus on environmental education. While pursuing her degree at SOU and beyond, Sarah hopes to bridge the gap between the public and scientific community through education programs and citizen science projects.
Sujan Subedi is from Pokhara, Nepal. Growing up in the tourism capital of Nepal, he was always attracted to hiking and camping. His inborn proclivity towards nature and environment was complemented by a BSC degree from Institute of Forestry in Forestry where he participated in various plantation programs, cleanliness programs, conservation rallies and extension programs. Later after graduation, he followed up on his education by joining several seminars, trainings and workshops organized by green groups such as Federation of Community Forestry User group Nepal (FECOFUN), National Youth for Climate Action (NYCA), and Clean Energy Nepal (CEN). His area of interest is studying the relationship and interactions between natural and human systems to better understand the world around him. He hopes to use his previous knowledge and the knowledge he obtains from S.O.U. to teach the next generation about the importance of forest management and sustainability for the future.
Ellie Thompson developed her love for nature and the outdoors at a very young age. As soon as she could walk, she began exploring the family farm in Eugene, Oregon and the ponds behind her house—collecting flowers, insects, and minnows to observe and marvel at. Her family vacations consisted of camping and hiking all over Oregon, spending days kayaking the remote Owyhee River, and visiting many natural history museums; learning about the land and its native flora and fauna. Her inquisitive mind and passion for learning about the world around her drove her to pursue a degree in biology at Portland State University. While she loved her major, she wasn’t sure what career to pursue after college. It wasn’t until she stood on the banks of the Kinabatangan River, in Malaysian Borneo, that she realized what she wanted to do. Witnessing the devastation of one of the oldest tropical rainforests in the world was a powerful experience that lit a fire of passion for conservation and education in her. She is excited to work to light that same fire in people of all ages after she graduates from Southern Oregon University’s Environmental Education program.
Alyssa Wiens grew up just outside of the Birthplace of Rock ’n Roll, Memphis, TN. Growing up, most of her free time was spent playing underneath the giant oaks in her backyard. Her love of nature and working with kids led her to pursue a degree in Environmental Conservation at Mississippi State University. She soon realized that measuring how many 2×4’s you can get out of a tree was not her calling and decided to switch majors. Careful deliberation led her to obtaining a degree in Wildlife, Fisheries and Aquaculture where she got to learn all the plants and animals, but didn’t have to measure any of them. During her undergrad, an internship with the U.S. Forest Service at Land Between the Lakes NRA in Kentucky solidified her path to becoming an environmental educator. She headed north after graduation to Wisconsin to work as an instructor for Nature’s Classroom Institute, a residential environmental education program for schools. Desiring a degree in what she intends to do with her life, Alyssa made the trek to SOU and is finally fulfilling her dream of living in the Pacific NW. She looks forward to a lifetime of inspiring children to love this planet we call home.
Heather Wilson grew up in the suburbs of St. Louis, Missouri. Nature was very tame in the suburbs, but she got her wilderness fix through her family’s frequent travels. (She still suffers from the travel bug to this day.) Visiting parks and experiencing nature all over the country showed her the power and importance of wilderness. Enthralled with the natural world, Heather studied Biology at Iowa State University. During her undergraduate career, she discovered a joy for teaching others through tutoring and teaching assistantships. After graduating, Heather decided to take on a new kind of educational role as a park guide intern at Mammoth Cave National Park. Guiding thousands of visitors through the world’s longest cave was an incredible learning experience, and gave Heather all kinds of exciting skills and confidence. She took these skills back home to St. Louis where she worked as an interpretation assistant at the Missouri Botanical Garden. Heather knew she had found something great, and decided she wanted to learn more. She applied to the Environmental Education program at Southern Oregon University and the rest is history!