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Sustaining impact

Posted noon Thursday, March 21, 2024

Pollard’s dedication and contributions surrounding sustainability earned them the 2024 Prairie Springs Student Excellence Award.

Blythe Pollard receives Prairie Springs Student Excellence Award

Blythe Pollard, a senior majoring in psychology with a minor in sustainability and environmental studies, is driven to share their passion for the environment with those around them. Pollard’s dedication and contributions earned them the 2024 Prairie Springs Student Excellence Award.

Established to honor the legacy of trustee Paul Fleckenstein, the Prairie Springs Student Excellence Award aims to inspire and support UWL students committed to environmental education and conservation. Recipients are recognized for their significant and sustainable impact in areas such as environmental studies, research, education and outreach.

Pollard has been deeply involved with the La Crosse community’s sustainability efforts. Through undergraduate research, co-chairing the Students for Sustainability organization, helping establish the Sustainable Community Collaborative, producing educational videos and volunteering with environmentally focused organizations, Pollard has already made a significant impact.

“I feel honored to be receiving this award,” Pollard says. “It feels uplifting to know that what I’ve been involved in at UWL has made an impact on the community, the campus and the environment.”

Their passion for sustainability traces back to their upbringing in rural Minnesota, where Pollard developed a connection with nature long before encountering the term sustainability.

“I don't think I learned what sustainability was until I took Introduction to Environmental Studies in college,” Pollard says. Since then, I have learned that people have lots of unique meanings for sustainability. I think of sustainability as a framework to create a way of life that is supportive and inclusive of nature and those with marginalized identities.”

Pollard is involved in campus and community sustainability initiatives, helping to educate and involve all who are interested.

Out of their many contributions, Pollard takes particular pride in their work with Students for Sustainability at UWL. 

“It has certainly not been easy, but I think I have learned a lot from this experience,” they say. “In this organization, I have been a member, a dorm sustainability officer and now a co-chair. It has been inspiring to learn about everyone's passions within sustainability. We have worked together to create a space for community and connection that is really unique to the college experience.” 

As co-chair, Pollard brings environmental speakers to campus, teaches students how to become engaged in the community and facilitates student involvement in larger community projects. Their hand in creating the Sustainabile Community Collaborative unites campus and community sustainability efforts. 

“My work in helping to create the Sustainable Community Collaborative (in partnership with Habitat for Humanity La Crosse, the Sustainability Institute and Strive 2 thrive Coulee Region) is the first step to enacting more organized and impactful sustainable efforts in the La Crosse community, as well as fulfilling the city’s climate action plan,” Pollard says. 

The community collaborative, Pollard explains, will gather all interested groups from small environmental nonprofits to government agencies to support each other on large projects and share information to enhance environmental action in the La Crosse community. 

Reflecting on the challenges ahead, Pollard emphasizes the importance of gender diversity and inclusivity within environmental spaces. They hope for a future where all voices are heard and valued in sustainability discourse. 

“All the projects and groups I have been a part of at UWL have helped me grow as a person,” Pollard says. “I appreciate all the opportunities others have given me to expand my knowledge and to be involved in what I am passionate about: connecting with the earth and environmental justice.”


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