Profiles

Maria Brun ’08

“I’m not sure, but just having a wind turbine on the skyline makes one hopeful about the future, and able to conceive of how things could be different.”

Currently a doctoral candidate in the Ecology Graduate Group and Department of Environmental Science and Policy at the University of California, Davis, Maria Brun ’08 received her bachelors degree from Morris in economics, with a minor in mathematics. She has also studied at the London School of Economics and has worked as an independent consultant.

While at Morris, she conducted a year-long Biomass Economic Feasibility study. “I was going to just be doing a short analysis project for Arne Kildegaard before he left for sabbatical in Denmark that fall, but it turned into such an interesting engineering, economics, and community relations project that I joined forces with Lowell Rasmussen, and it turned into a whole-year endeavor!”

The project had two goals. “Given natural gas price projections, biomass costs, and the fact that the biomass would be sourced locally: first, what would Morris save over time by using biomass versus natural gas for heating the campus, and second, what would this mean for the community under different sourcing and contracting scenarios?”

Brun worked with the biomass plant design firm and the West Central Research and Outreach Center (WCROC) to nail down the conversion factors and other data comparing biomass to natural gas energy output. In addition, she researched sourcing biomass from the community. “I worked with University of Minnesota Twin Cities Department of Agricultural and Applied Economics to design a way to analyze all of this data,” she explained. She presented the results at the E3 conference at the Twin Cities campus.

Brun views problems from an economics and individual decision-making point of view. “I am particularly interested in the intersection of renewable energy, economic development, and community politics.”

She says her work in sustainability at Morris has changed her outlook and behavior. “I”m not sure, but just having a wind turbine on the skyline makes one hopeful about the future, and able to conceive of how things could be different. Having such a large emphasis on sustainability led me to reform my thinking to be not just about what my choices mean to me and how they impact my life, but their impact in the context of society, whether it be related to environmental or social concerns.”

Christopher Droske ’11

“After just one year in Morris, I strove to incorporate sustainability into my studies, my work, and my life.”

Now working in the sustainability sector, Christopher Droske ’11 got involved in sustainability at Morris early. “Morris provided a perfect chance to see many types of renewable energy technologies, along with opportunities for hands-on involvement. Both my education at Morris and service with the Minnesota GreenCorps led me to a job matching my technical background.”

“Nancy Carpenter’s course, the Chemistry of Sustainable Energy, was a great introduction to the methodology behind renewable energy development,” he says. “A few highlights were learning the efficiency of various production cycles, helping to bust myths regarding popular ‘silver bullet’ technologies, and we even had the opportunity to create our own solar cell!”

While his focus is on energy, his activities in sustainability extend beyond that. “A few of the things I’ve done in the last year are participate in a CSA, invest in utility renewable energy credits, and learn proper techniques for hyper-milling. After just one year in Morris, I strove to incorporate sustainability into my studies, my work, and my life.”

Rebecca Lindquist ’11

“My anthropology courses helped me to see the cultural connections in our need for a more environmentally sustainable and socially responsible community.”

Rebecca Lindquist ’11 credits sustainability for leading her to pursue her bachelors degree in chemistry and anthropology. “My first research experience on biodiesel at Morris encouraged me to pursue a chemistry career in research related to sustainability. The environment at Morris encourages students to understand sustainability as more than just a technological, political, economic, environmental, or cultural problem, but rather as something much more complex that includes all these factors.”

She is now studying for her doctorate in chemistry at Northwestern University, researching solar-driven water oxidation catalysis, but considers cultural concerns an important part of her focus in sustainability. “My anthropology courses helped me to see the cultural connections in our need for a more environmentally sustainable and socially responsible community.”

Lindquist also gives high marks to her teachers. “The professors at Morris are incredibly supportive, and Morris would not be such a strong university for sustainability—and driving students to pursue careers and lifestyles related to sustainability—without them.”

Marty Wolf ’85

“I’m glad my alma mater is really out in front on renewable energy.”

Marty Wolf ’85 was one of the first donors to the Morris Sustainable Green Fund. The fund, launched in 2007, gives donors a way to support renewable energy projects on campus.

Wolf grew up in Richmond, Minnesota, and graduated from Morris with a degree in chemistry and computer science. He earned a doctorate in computer sciences from the University of Wisconsin, Madison, and taught for eight years at Minnesota State University, Mankato. In 1998, he joined the faculty at Bemidji State University.

Supporting renewable energy fits right in with Wolf’s thinking. “It makes sense to produce energy where we use it. I’m very interested in initiatives that explore this. I’m glad my alma mater is really out in front on renewable energy. There’s not going to be a single solution to our energy needs. It’s going to take many people with diverse views and problem-solving skills to come together and be really creative.”