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News & Events

Human Ecology faculty, alumni featured in "On Wisconsin" Spring 2023 issue

Illustration of a school lunch tray with compartments filled with food items.
Illustration by Danielle Lamberson Philipp

The School of Human Ecology isn’t about just hoping for a better future. By helping create it, human ecologists help others reach their full potentials, too.

Such innovative thinking and initiative was on display in the Spring 2023 issue of On Wisconsin, UW–Madison’s award-winning alumni magazine, which featured several Human Ecology faculty and alumni.

A white woman smiling, with brown, straight hair, wearing a white shirt and gold necklace poses in front of a wall of large windows.
Jennifer Gaddis

Jennifer Gaddis, associate professor of Civil Society & Community Studies and Jane Rafferty Thiele Faculty Fellow, is an interdisciplinary scholar who studies school food policy and community food systems. In the article “Fixing the Future: UW researchers offer reasons for hope,” Gaddis says that what brings her hope is the increasing policy momentum for free school meals, local sourcing, and scratch cooking in U.S. schools.

This includes work done by Paige Anderson ’20, a graduate of the Community and Nonprofit Leadership program, as chief of staff for Wisconsin State Representative Kristina Shelton. Anderson aims to help bring healthy, free school meals to all Wisconsin K–12 students through the Wisconsin Healthy School Meals for All initiative, which would enable schools that participate in the federal school breakfast and lunch programs to serve meals free of charge to all students. California, Maine, and Minnesota have already enacted similar programs.

“To advance this movement, I’m confident that families, school staff, food-chain workers, social workers, labor leaders, anti-hunger advocates, and other stakeholders will unite as a powerful voice for change,” Gaddis says.

A black and white photo of a woman in profile with her chin resting on one hand as if she is thinking. The image is overlaid with a color photo of solar panels.
Cindy Torstveit ’91. Photo illustration by Bryce Richter; solar panels by Jeff Miller.

In the article “Into the Unknown: What’s the future of UW–Madison? Here are the experts’ best guesses,” Human Ecology alumna Cindy Torstveit ’91 describes how she is leading the way to reducing UW–Madison’s carbon footprint while providing reliability, redundancy, and resiliency in delivering power.

Torstveit is building on the skills she learned as an Interior Design student in her current role as the associate vice chancellor for facilities planning and management. This massive enterprise is responsible for the 936 acres that make up the UW campus and more than 1,200 employees.

Just over a decade ago, UW’s Charter Street Heating and Cooling Plant used 150,000 tons of coal a year. The university began phasing coal out in 2010 and recently has earned honors for its efforts to become more energy efficient.

“We don’t have a crystal ball, right?” Torstveit says. “We don’t know exactly what the future’s going to be, and we can’t predict it, but we are preparing for it.”

The article “How to Have It All” consults UW experts like Christine Whelan, Consumer Science teaching faculty and director of the Money, Relationships and Equality Initiative, about how to make ever-elusive happiness more achievable. Whelan, known as “the happy professor,” explains that a rise in Americans’ infatuation with self-help resources was almost certainly a byproduct of their attempts at retaining a semblance of control in lives that felt otherwise out of hand.

A smiling white woman with wavy brown hair and wearing a dark blue sweater poses in front of a wall of large windows.
Christine Whelan

Whelan points out that American individualism also conflicts with an inherent human affinity for connection.

“One of the core concepts of human ecology is that we are interdependent,” she says. “The key predictor of happiness is not money. It’s not success or fame. It’s the quality of the relationships that people have.”

According to Whelan, what we seek in self-help books and self-care purchases, we find in our own lives once we take the time to mindfully imbue them with purpose.

Read these three articles in full at On Wisconsin magazine’s website, onwisconsin.uwalumni.com.