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Wisconsin Energy Institute

A Blooming Environmentalist: Student Profile on Eleanor Bloom

By: 

Alexander Goke

April 29, 2014

Eleanor Bloom used the method of any good engineer to find her niche in college: trial and error. But it didn’t take long for her to discover the common thread that would guide her efforts throughout college – environmentalism.

Bloom, now a University of Wisconsin–Madison junior, explains that her father works for the Environmental Protection Agency and that she grew up in a family that highly valued environmental consciousness. Today, those values greatly influence Bloom’s current pursuits.

“It has always been a theme in my life,” says Bloom. “I came into school knowing that I wanted to work in an environmental field—something sustainable with science and math.”

Yet applying that passion to school was initially a struggle for Bloom. Upon entering the student ranks at UW-Madison, Chemical Engineering, Bloom’s initial venture, proved unsatisfying. It wasn’t until a dorm-mate suggested Geological Engineering that Bloom connected the dots to her post-graduation dream of environmental consulting.

Through an Introduction to Geological Engineering class, Bloom became involved with the Office of Sustainability after finding out that one of its directors was her current class instructor–Angela Pakes Ahlman. Becoming fully absorbed with the potential for Geological Engineering to satisfy her career interests, Bloom continued to explore the department and, during a Geological Engineering event, met with Pakes Ahlman, and shared her interest in the field, asking how she could get more involved. Pakes Ahlman offered her an internship with the campus’ Office of Sustainability.

Bloom now serves as the Student Leader on the STARS project – Sustainability Tracking and Rating System – for the UW-Madison campus. The project, led by the Office of Sustainability, will identify and encourage sustainable practices on campus while comparing UW-Madison’s performance to the other 597 participating institutions worldwide.

“Students have uninhibited creative thoughts on how our campus can be more sustainable,” says Pakes Ahlman, “or their communities or even the world for that matter.”

The STARS program was created to encourage colleges and universities to explore their sustainability practices and awards points to institutions in categories reflective of their efforts and initiatives. If an institution gains enough points they are then awarded a rank. Bloom’s goal is to earn the UW–Madison its first STARS ranking.

Finding herself in a position where her work is already creating positive change on campus, Bloom believes that getting to know the people who shared her interests was instrumental in guiding her toward her desired path.

From a helpful dorm-mate to a caring professor, opportunity presented itself to Bloom in an uncommon fashion – and she wouldn’t have it any other way.

Q&A

What makes UW-Madison a great place to study energy and sustainability?

EB: There are a lot of people involved in energy and sustainability here. You can pretty much get a connection in any department. Just say “I’m interested in sustainability!” and they’re like “oh here’s this course and this course and this course!” I’ve experienced it especially with my major. There is a huge sustainability track, there are always courses offered.

It’ a big school, which can be kind of daunting. But also, it exposes you to so many more people and so many more things. You have that capability to reach farther.

What/who has been your biggest help on deciding what to do with your time on campus?

EB: One of the kids in my dorm was Geological Engineering; he started yapping my ear off about it. I was like, “Okay, I think that’s more what I want to do.”

What sort of advice would you give to students looking to learn more about energy and sustainability?

EB: I’d like to think that, in all of the departments, there is always someone interested in sustainability. It’s just a matter of finding who that person is.

You can email strangers – they’ll be refreshed.

What songs best describe your typical day at UW?

EB: I wake up with Imagine Dragons “It’s Time”. Walking to class, it definitely has to be something upbeat and happy. Evening studying, no lyrics - instrumentals. I can’t handle words when I study. Late night, something mellow and acoustic.

Unless it’s Saturday, in which case we play Top 40.