Justine Mischka, 2021 Cohort

Image of Justine Mischka, current MES student with her dog

I grew up in Whitewater, Wisconsin but have called Olympia home for over two years now. I entered the MES Program in the Fall of 2021. I was drawn to the MES Program at Evergreen because I fell in love with the ecosystems of the South Puget Sound and Olympic Peninsula after my two years of doing stewardship on these important lands. I wanted to gain a deeper connection of the workings of these systems, so I can better serve them for my entire life. I can't think of a better fit than a beautifully forested school in the heart of the city I have grown to call home to gain my Masters in Environmental Studies. Prior to starting MES, I received my undergraduate degree from the University of Wisconsin-Madison where I studied Community and Nonprofit Leadership, and Environmental Studies. Once graduated, I moved to Olympia and served two AmeriCorps terms with Capitol Land Trust as their Restoration Coordinator where I led on-the-land volunteer stewardship. I love forests and all those who call forests home. Particularly I love to learn ethnobotany and the gifts plants give to us, and reciprocal stewardship to the earth for lasting heath for land, wildlife and it's people.

Things that fill me up: coffee, reading, looking at and acquiring art that elicits joy, long walks in the woods, dipping my feet in clear water, and looking at beautiful things with my wonderful boyfriend. In MES, I hope to gain a deeper understanding of the WHY that conservation/restoration draws upon while creating long-term plans for our lands. With this understanding, I can use my knowledge to work towards sustainable solutions and inclusive conservation honoring and using traditional ecological knowledge. 

My heart’s work is to share the outdoors with as many people as my lifespan will allow. I grew up on a 50-acre family farm in South-Central Wisconsin. We had horses, cows, chickens, terrific trees to climb, and more land than I was able to understand as a child.  And yet, in my young adult life, I found myself spending my time outside walking the Ice Age National Scenic Trail that followed the boundary of our farm.  Whenever I was spending time outside, I wanted to be on that trail. I loved to see other people on their through-hike journeys, and to share a moment with others outside. That was only the beginning for the love that I have and wish to share about the outdoors. Although our farmland has a special place in my heart, publicly accessible land is the foundation of community as I know it. I love hiking and what a beautiful thing is it that Evergreen has hiking trails as educational spaces!