Big Water Resilience Corps 2017-2018 Members!
The Big Water Resilience Corps consists of 8 VISTA members who began a year of service at the end of July. The cohort of members are gaining valuable skills while building resilience in the Duluth community. Each member is expanding anti-poverty programs through building capacity at their participating site.
Emilie Voight- City of Duluth Planning Technician
Emilie Voight is a Minnesotan who doesn’t talk like a Minnesotan. She obtained a Bachelor of Arts in Comparative Literature and French from Williams College (Massachusetts) and a Master of Arts in Geography from Queen Mary, University of London (England, U.K.). Emilie has professional experience in publishing, education, and event management, and most recently spent three years working for an international nonprofit organization based in Paris, France. As Planning Technician with the City of Duluth, her focus is on Imagine Duluth 2035, the City’s comprehensive plan update, and working to ensure that principles of health and fairness are reflected in the plan’s policies and strategies. When she’s not busy serving as a VISTA, Emilie likes running, trying exciting new sandwiches, and enjoying the beauty of Lake Superior.
Zoe Respondek- E3.17 Comfort Systems Energy Conservation Technician
Zoe Respondek is an Energy Conservation Technician with the Big Water Resiliency Corp. She recently completed her Masters of Science in Energy and Society from Durham University in England. This course of study taught Zoe how to take an interdisciplinary approach to looking at today’s energy issues and motivated her to accept the AmeriCorps VISTA position in Duluth. Previously, she studied biology at the University of Hawaii at Manoa, where she also competed on the university’s NCAA DI water polo team. Zoe’s professional interests include renewable energy, conservation, sustainability, and the environment. She also enjoys swimming, hiking, and spending time with family and friends. Zoe’s VISTA project focuses on the development of a low income energy conservation program through a collaboration with Comfort Systems, the public natural gas utility for the City of Duluth. Their goal is to facilitate the energy efficiency process and make it more affordable for households to save energy, reduce costly utility bills, and increase the overall comfort of homes in the Duluth area.
Erica Vatsaas- Comfort Systems Water Conservation Technician
Erica Vatsaas grew up in the Twin Cities, but has lived in Duluth for five years. She has no plans to leave this beautiful area after graduating from UMD with a degree in Environmental Science. Erica has worked at the Hartley Nature Center and previously served with the City of Duluth as a Minnesota GreenCorps member. She got married right before starting her VISTA service and has a pet bunny named Olaf and a minor obsession with dogs. Erica enjoys backpacking along the north shore, baking, trail running, and relaxing in her hammock with a good book. She is expanding her environmental experience from previous work on Duluth’s stormwater management to developing a water conservation plan for ComfortSystems. Her work will help economically disadvantaged families to reduce their risk of utility shut-offs and build greater financial sustainability by saving money on water and sewer expenses.
Mark Harris- Ecolibrium3 Giving Comfort At Home Energy Specialist
Mark graduated this past May with a B.S. in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Minnesota – Duluth’s Swenson College of Science and Engineering. At UMD a class in sustainable engineering sparked his interest in working with communities to improve energy efficiency at home. This lead him to the apply for the Big Water Resilience Corps, commit to a 5th year living in Duluth. Originally from Silver Bay, one-hour North of Duluth, Mark grew up with a great appreciation for the natural world around him. Since moving to Duluth his love of the lakes and rivers in the area has grown exponentially through his passion for surfing and whitewater kayaking.
Yodit Gidley- Lincoln Park Children and Families Outreach Coordinator
Yodi is an Americorp Vista at Lincoln Park Children and Family Collaborative (LPCFC). LPCFC is a nonprofit organization that is committed to strengthen the Lincoln Park community by connecting families who care about young children. As a Vista, Yodi will be working on capacity building at LPCFC by applying for grants, fundraising, recruiting volunteers and etc. Yodi has a Master of Arts degree in Public Health. Yodi is also a qualified health coach and holds Health Promotion certification.
Zach Shears- Lincoln Park Leadership Development Coordinator
Zach recently graduated from the College of Liberal Arts at the University of Minnesota – Duluth with his B.A. in Urban and Regional Studies. He came to Duluth by way of the tiny town of Cotton, MN. He currently resides in Central Hillside with his fiancée, Alexandria, and their Boston Terrier, Mack. Zach’s favorite thing about Duluth is the week of Homegrown Music Festival in April/May; during Homegrown 2017 he performed with the rock band Paper Parlor as well as reading some of his work at the Homegrown Poetry Showcase. Most of his free time that doesn’t involve creating or appreciating some sort of art is spent appreciating the natural world, especially the slices of it that lie along the Superior Hiking Trail. He finds Duluth to be a place of unparalleled synergy and play between wilderness and the built environment. As an AmeriCorps VISTA, Zach will be working to build capacity for leadership among the residents of Lincoln Park, and to identify possible neighborhood improvement projects. His work will enable these resident leaders to develop skills in project management, volunteer organization, government interaction, and more so that they can strengthen their communities going forward.
Jessy Carlson- Lincoln Park Food Systems Development Coordinator
Jessy Carlson comes from a long line of dairy farmers. Her early years were spent milking cows and growing raspberries on her grandparents’ farm in central Wisconsin. Jessy has a Master’s Degree in northern environments and cultures and has researched sustainable economic development and indigenous self-determination. Jessy’s professional experience includes kayak outfitting, outdoor and environmental education, greenhouse and nursery production, native garden design, policy analysis, invasive species control, and environmental decision-making processes. Her current role at Ecolibrium3 focuses on sustainable, restorative, urban agriculture and equitable food systems in the Lincoln Park neighborhood. She is also investigating the utility of green infrastructure for addressing storm water management in urban settings.