Midwest Energy News’ 40 Under 40 awards program highlights emerging leaders throughout the region and their work in America’s transition to a clean energy economy.

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Paritosh Kasotia, Founder and CEO, Unfolding Energy

Paritosh Kasotia is the Founder/CEO of Unfolding Energy. Previously Kasotia led the Energy Office at the Iowa Economic Development Authority. In this capacity, she worked closely with stakeholders to make clean energy commonplace. She has served as the Federal Programs Manager as well as the Statistical Research Analyst at the Iowa Energy Office. Kasotia has made several presentations, both nationally and state-wide on energy topics and is a published author. Kasotia serves on the Board of the Iowa Renewable Energy Association. She has an MBA from Drake, an M.P.A. from Indiana University, and a B.A. from Drake.

Dwight Stewart, Founder and President, Igor

Dwight Stewart is a serial entrepreneur and innovator, with a focus on building disruptive software and technology innovations that provide clear and unique value for the clean energy industry. He has a proven track record with companies he founded, such as Quality Attributes, which developed software that provided near-real-time energy or resource information, visualizations, and intelligence, and has grown into a multi-million dollar corporation with international brand recognition. Stewart’s current venture, Igor, is focused on developing the tools to provide intelligent automation and feedback of LED lighting fixtures to maximize user control and minimize energy waste.


Andrew Barbeau, President, The Accelerate Group

Andrw Barbeau is president of The Accelerate Group, a Chicago-based company working to accelerate civic transformation. He previously served as managing director and co-founder of Illinois Institute of Technology’s Robert W. Galvin Center for Electricity Innovation. He co-founded the Illinois Smart Grid Regional Innovation Cluster, a collaborative effort by more than 200 entities to make Chicago a global hub for smart grid economic and technology development. From 2005-2009, he worked as a policy advisor in the Office of the Governor of Illinois. Barbeau received his B.A. and M.A. from Loyola University Chicago in public policy.

Frank Bergh, Director of Engineering, SoCore Energy

As SoCore’s Director of Engineering, Frank Bergh oversees the design of solar systems, including interconnection, transmission and distribution systems. Prior to SoCore, Bergh was the Lead Engineer for Grid Interconnection of Nordex wind in North and South America; he oversaw electrical issues related including grid capacity, substation design, interconnection agreements, PPAs and regulatory requirements, and managed interconnection, transmission and regulatory affairs for a 2,000MW portfolio. Bergh holds an Electrical Engineering B.S. from Washington University in St. Louis and is a LEED AP. He speaks English and Spanish. Additionally, Bergh has held various leadership roles within Engineers Without Borders USA since 2005.

Jason Blumberg, CEO, Energy Foundry 

Jason Blumberg is CEO & Managing Director of Energy Foundry, a venture capital fund focused on transformational energy and grid innovations. He is Executive Director of ISEIF, the nation’s largest independent smart grid consumer education foundation. Blumberg is also a co-founder of Coalition: Energy and an Adjunct Professor at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business, where he teaches energy and cleantech entrepreneurship. He was named by NBC as one of Chicago’s top “Eco-preneurs” and WGN as their “Entrepreneur of the Week.” He received an MBA from the University of Chicago and a B.A. from Michigan State University.

Dick T. Co, Managing Director, Solar Fuels Institute

Co is a research associate professor of chemistry at Northwestern. He studies the interaction between light and matter to discover better solutions for solar energy conversion. He is a founding member and managing director of the Solar Fuels Institute (SOFI), a global consortium dedicated to commercializing a carbon neutral solar fuel. Co received his B.S. from the University of California, Berkeley, and his Ph.D. in chemical physics from Harvard. He is an Executive Scholar at the Kellogg School of Management in Nonprofit Management.

Leah B. Guzowski, Director of Strategic Projects, Argonne National Laboratory

Leah Guzowski is the Director of Strategic Programs in the Global Security Sciences Division at Argonne National Laboratory, an energy policy scientist at Argonne, and a Fellow of the Computation Institute at the University of Chicago. Guzowski’s research interest is in development of tools, methods, technologies and analysis to inform energy security with an emphasis on economic, policy, climate change, and geopolitical considerations. She is also co-leading research into urban scale science and engineering. Guzowski has degrees from Harvard University and the University of Wisconsin-Madison with post-graduate education at the University of Oxford.

Erin Grossi, Chief Economist and Director of Innovation, UL LLC 

Erin Grossi has served as UL’s first Chief Economist for just over 2 years, taking the approach of breaking down mega-trend issues impacting the company and its customers and providing thought leadership on those issues externally with company partners. Internally, her work serves as the basis for new services development and innovation in key spaces. She continues to serve as corporate head of innovation, helping the business units with their innovation, venture, and acquisition strategies. Previously Grossi served in UL’s Government Affairs office helping design and execute the company’s trade policies and international government relations strategies. She has also served as a researcher for IMF, director of the Bretton Woods Committee, and as a consultant to banks and a trade analyst at a prestigious D.C. law firm.

Sara Hochman, Managing Director, Energy Foundry

Sara Hochman has worked in the energy and environment sector for nearly a decade, with a core focus on helping energy technology entrepreneurs with the development and execution of commercialization strategies. Prior to joining Energy Foundry, Hochman co-managed the government consulting practice for clean technology startups at Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati, where she successfully led multiple teams through more than two dozen federal and state grant and loan applications, including over $300 million in research grants, loans and guaranteed loan funding. She holds an MBA from the University of Chicago, Booth School of Business and a B.A. in Environmental Studies from Emory University. 

Kimberly Loewen, Manager of Construction Services, Elevate Energy

Kimberly Loewen is the Manager of Construction Services at Elevate Energy. She leads a team of five that provides critical construction oversight to ensure all of Elevate’s vendors deliver high-quality efficiency upgrades for building owners and homeowners. Previously, Loewen helped Elevate implement several multi-faceted and multi-stakeholder energy efficiency programs, including a $25 million federal energy efficiency grant, a state-funded weatherization program, and an initiative that developed energy plans for nearly 300 municipalities in the Chicago region. She holds two certifications from the Building Professionals Institute and a Bachelor’s degree in environmental studies from Goshen College.

Samir Mayekar, Co-founder and CEO, SiNode Systems

Samir Mayekar is the co-founder and CEO of SiNode Systems, a Chicago-based, venture-backed company developing advanced materials for the lithium-ion battery industry. Mayekar previously served as Deputy Chief of Staff of the Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC), the U.S. Government’s development finance institution, where he coordinated over $1 billion in financing for energy projects in emerging markets. He also served as the National Security Director of the Presidential Personnel Office at the White House. Mayekar holds a B.A. in Political Science and International Studies from Northwestern (summa cum laude) and an M.B.A. with distinction from the Kellogg School of Management.

Robert Taylor, Principle Transmission Strategist, Exelon 

Robert Taylor leads initiatives and advises senior Exelon leadership on broad energy issues including electricity generation, efficiency, finance, markets, transmission, regulatory affairs, strategy, and policy development. Prior to joining Exelon, he was an energy policy and programs manager with the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and also has a background in radiation health physics. He is a current Emerging Leader Fellow with the Chicago Council on Global Affairs. Taylor has a B.S. in nuclear engineering technology from Thomas Edison State College and a M.P.A. from the University of Missouri’s Truman School of Public Affairs.

Elena V. Timofeeva, Principal Chemist, Argonne National Laboratory

Dr. Elena V. Timofeeva received her Ph.D. in electrochemistry and physical chemistry from Moscow State University (Russia) and has more than 10 years of research experience in academia and national labs. Her expertise is in nanotechnology, material science, energy storage and thermal management. Lately, her research has been focused on functional nanomaterials and nanofluids engineering for energy-related applications. Timofeeva leads research projects in nanoelectrofuel flow batteries, energy harvesting, and thermal energy management funded by different DOE programs. She is the inventor of 7 patent applications and authored 39 highly cited research papers, 2 book chapters and more than 50 conference presentations.

Claire Tramm, CEO, and Co-Founder, Effortless Energy

At Effortless Energy, Tramm empowers homeowners to improve their sustainability and quality of life through tailored, zero-cost home upgrades. At the Chicago Infrastructure Trust, Tramm led project development and financing for a $10B portfolio of clean energy and transportation projects. Tramm previously worked at McKinsey and contributed to several reports on carbon and energy efficiency economics. Tramm has spoken at the World Economic Forum in Davos as well as the Milken Institute and was nominated for Forbes’ Top 30 Under 30. She is completing her M.P.P. at the University of Chicago.

Sarah Wochos, Co-Legislative Director, Environmental Law and Policy Center

Sarah Wochos is the Midwest Co-Legislative Director for the Environmental Law and Policy Center. Wochos works to encourage clean energy development, energy efficiency, and global warming solutions throughout Illinois and the Midwest. She has spent years developing and implementing the Illinois Renewable Portfolio Standard, including the solar and distributed generation carve-outs, and breaking down regulatory and policy barriers to solar adoption throughout the Midwest. Wochos previously worked on energy policy issues at the Council of State Governments-Midwest and health policy issues at the University of Wisconsin Medical School. Wochos has a B.A. from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and a M.A. from New York University.


Jesse Kharbanda, Executive Director, Hoosier Environmental Council 

Jesse Kharbanda is the Executive Director of the Hoosier Environmental Council, Indiana’s largest environmental policy organization. He oversees HEC’s strategic and program development, legislative initiatives, operations, and fundraising. Kharbanda has spearheaded focusing HEC’s efforts on three core initiatives: clean energy, sustainable agriculture, and 21st century transportation systems. Kharbanda has been named to the “Forty Under 40” list by the Indianapolis Business Journal, a “Rising Star” by the Indianapolis Star, and was the sole Indianapolis-based community leader named to Delta Omega, the national public health honorary, in 2010. Kharbanda has a M.A. in economics from Oxford University and a B.A. from the University of Chicago.


Brandon Hofmeister, Executive Director of Policy Research and Public Policy, Consumers Energy

Brandon Hofmeister is executive director of policy, research and public affairs for Consumers Energy. Hofmeister joined Consumers Energy in 2013, responsible for energy policy analysis and strategy, and sustainability. A Frankenmuth, Michigan native, Hofmeister previously served as energy policy and law professor at both the University of Michigan and Wayne State University. Prior to that, he held positions as special counsel for energy and climate policy and deputy legal counsel in the administration of Michigan Governor Jennifer Granholm. Hofmeister is a graduate of both Harvard University and Harvard Law School.

Abhilash Kantamneni, Microgrids Researcher, Ph.D. Candidate

Abhilash “Abhi” Kantamneni was born in India, home-schooled, and did not speak English until 10th grade. He has gone on to earn a B.A. in Electrical Engineering from Anna University (Chennai, India) in 2008 and a M.A. in Physics from Michigan Technological University (Houghton, Michigan) in 2013. Kantamneni has contributed to the tripling of the installed aggregate net metered solar in Houghton County. Working with community partners, he led the application to the prestigious Georgetown University Energy Prize, a $5 million energy efficiency competition between cities and counties. Houghton County is the smallest, most rural, and the most economically disadvantaged community in the semifinals.

Aneila Kuzon, Manager of Smart City Initiatives, NextEnergy

Aniela Kuzon is the Manager of Smart City Initiatives at NextEnergy, one of the nation’s leading accelerators of advanced energy and transportation technologies, businesses, and industries. In addition to consulting for early-stage companies, Kuzon is responsible for developing and executing technology demonstration programs with partners including Fiat Chrysler, Qualcomm, DENSO, Bedrock Real Estate, and USDOT. Recent focus areas included advanced electric vehicle charging, vehicle-to-home communications, smart city infrastructure, and multimodal transportation systems. Kuzon has a B.A. in economics from Wesleyan University.

Kyle Meyaard-Schaap, Creation Care Coordinator, Christian Reformed Church of North America

Meyaard-Schaap is the Creation Care Coordinator for the Christian Reformed Church Office of Social Justice. He cut his teeth doing activism as a student at Calvin College around Mountaintop Removal coal mining—organizing his fellow students to do petition drives and travel to Washington D.C. After college, he continued to be a leader in the Christian creation care movement by joining the staff of the Christian Reformed Church, a largely conservative, evangelical denomination in North America. He has also served as a steering committee member for Young Evangelicals for Climate Action and serves on the leadership team for Climate Caretakers.


Becky Alexander, Designer & Researcher, LHB 

With a Master of Science in Sustainable Design supplementing her professional architecture degree, Becky Alexander combines sustainable building research with architectural design in her work for the architecture and engineering firm of LHB. Her research involves collecting, analyzing, visualizing, and synthesizing data at building, organization, and city-wide scales. Alexander plays a key role in several significant state-wide initiatives to reduce energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions in Minnesota. Alexander is the primary researcher for the Regional Indicators Initiative (RII), a program through the Urban Land Institute Minnesota.

Chris Baker, Principal, Weidt Group

Chris Baker, AIA, PE, BEMP, LEED AP BD + C, a Principal at The Weidt Group, specializes in energy and daylighting analysis, energy modeling expertise for software development of the WeidtSim® platform and WeidtSim-based applications. Since 2006, Baker has consulted on over 100 projects totaling more than 16 million square feet, including 32 LEED project submittals, 13 LEED gold and four LEED platinum buildings. Baker received an MBA from the University of Minnesota and a Bachelor’s degree in architecture and architectural engineering from the University of Kansas. He is subcommittee chair of ASHRAE SPC 209 Proposed Standard on Energy Simulation Aided Design.

Erika Bailey-Johnson, Sustainability Coordinator, Bemidji State University

Since 2008, Erika Bailey-Johnson has served as the Sustainability Coordinator for Bemidji State University and Northwest Technical College. She started her career teaching elementary school in Kuwait and Mexico. Bailey-Johnson has helped found the Bemidji Sustainability Committee, teaches sustainability courses, speaks at regional and national conferences on topics including carbon footprint reduction and BSU’s unique sustainability model, including an emphasis on integrating traditional and indigenous voices. Bailey-Johnson has a Bachelor’s degree from the University of Minnesota, Morris and a Master’s degree from Bemidji State University.

Carolyn Brouillard, Public Policy and Strategy Manager, State Regulatory Policy, Xcel Energy

Carolyn Brouillard joined Xcel Energy in 2007 and has held a number of positions related to policy, strategy, and planning. In her current role, Brouillard is focused on policy and strategy development related to regulatory and rate reform, grid modernization, distributed energy resources, and new utility business models. Prior to joining Xcel Energy, Brouillard coordinated energy and climate change policy and programs for the City of Boulder, Colorado. Brouillard earned her MBA from the University of Minnesota’s Carlson School of Management and her B.A. in Environmental Studies and English from the University of Colorado-Boulder.

John Farrell, Director, Democratic Energy Initiative, Institute for Local Self-Reliance

John Farrell is the Director of Democratic Energy at the Institute for Local Self-Reliance and widely known as the guru of distributed energy. Farrell is best known for his vivid illustrations of the economic and environmental benefits of local ownership of decentralized renewable energy. He is the author of Energy Self-Reliant States, a state-by-state atlas of renewable energy potential highlighted in the New York Times, showing that most states don’t need to look outside their borders to meet their electricity needs. Farrell has written extensively on the economic advantages of democratizing the electricity system, published a rich interactive map on solar grid parity, and polished the policies necessary to support locally owned renewable energy development.

Jamie Long, District Director, Congressman Keith Ellison 

Jamie Long is the District Director for Congressman Keith Ellison. He previously served as Legislative Director for Rep. Ellison, Legislative Counsel for Senator Whitehouse handling energy and transportation policy, and Legislative Counsel for Rep. Diana DeGette handling energy, environment, and transportation policy. Long worked for Morgan Lewis LLP in Washington DC as an energy and environmental litigation associate and worked in law school for the Climate Center at the Natural Resources Defense Council. He graduated Cum Laude from George Washington Law School and Magna Cum Laude from Carleton College with a Political Science major and an Environmental Studies minor.

Blake Nixon, President, Geronimo Energy

Blake Nixon started as an investment analyst with Investment Advisors, Inc., an asset management firm run by Geronimo’s Founder/ Chairman, Noel P. Rahn. In 1998, Nixon helped Rahn form The Rahn Group (venture capital, private/ public equities, farmland). Nixon managed all private investing for Rahn Group, ran the firm’s hedge fund, and led the deal and finance negotiations for the early stages of Geronimo Energy. Nixon is instrumental for Geronimo and oversees the company’s development portfolio, strategic relationships and financial structuring. Nixon has a Bachelor’s in Business Administration (Finance) from the University of Washington at Seattle and is a graduate of the General Course at the London School of Economics.

Nicole Rom, Executive Director, Climate Generation: A Will Steger Legacy

Nicole Rom has been the Executive Director of Climate Generation: A Will Steger Legacy since 2006, starting and sustaining the organization by providing vision and development for the organization. Prior to Climate Generation, Nicole managed the education programs for National Wildlife Federation’s Great Lakes office and was a Peace Corps Volunteer in Kazakhstan. She received her M.S. in Environmental Policy, Behavior, Education and Communication from the School of Natural Resources and Environment at the University of Michigan and a B.A. from Bates College. Rom joined the Steering Committee of RE-AMP, a multi-state coalition of non-profit organizations, in 2013 and the organization’s Executive Committee in 2015.

Michelle Rosier, Senior Campaign and Organizing Manager, Sierra Club

Born and raised on the state’s Iron Range, Michelle Rosier is the Campaign and Organizing Manager for the Sierra Club Beyond Coal to Clean Energy campaign in Minnesota. Rosier has worked on clean air and energy issues for the Sierra Club since 2001. She left the Sierra Club between 2005-2008 to earn her Master’s in Public Policy from Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government focused on regulatory and industry analysis in energy and environmental policy. In addition to the Sierra Club, Rosier has worked as a program manager for the Consortium for Energy Efficiency advising on emerging natural gas energy efficiency, Transit for Livable Communities and the Minnesota Public Interest Research Group. Rosier serves as an environmental representative on Xcel Energy’s Renewable Development Fund Advisory Group.

Jamez Staples, President, Renewable Energy Partners 

Jamez Staples is President and CEO of Renewable Energy Partners, a minority-owned solar installation and development company, focused on creating opportunities for communities of color to participate in the development of renewable energy infrastructure. Staples holds an A.A. from Normandale Community College and a B.A. in Business and Marketing from Concordia University. He currently co-chairs the Energy Vision Advisory Committee for the City of Minneapolis Clean Energy Partnership. He was recently awarded the Minnesota Social Impact Center Change Maker Award for 2015 and identified as one of 12 Green for All Climate Champions.

Shengyin Xu, Manager, Sustainability & Capital Projects, Minnesota Historical Society

Shengyin Xu, LEED AP BD+P, has worked in sustainable design and research for eight years. She works with complex organizations to utilize energy, waste, and water data. Most recently, her work at the Minnesota Historical Society has been recognized in several industry publications. She co-chairs the American Alliance of Museum’s green museum professional interest group and has severed on a number of local advisory boards for energy topics. Xu also champions outreach and education in sustainability, including her recent appearance as a mentor on the PBS show SciGirls. Xu has a M.A. in architecture from the University of Minnesota.


Damian Beauchamp, CEO/co-founder, KAir Battery 

In 2013 Beauchamp received honorable mention from the National Science Foundation Graduate Fellowship committee and co-founded KAir Battery. Beauchamp led KAir to take first place at both the Ohio State and Ivey Business Plan Competitions, winning the U.S. Dept. of Energy’s Clean Energy Prize. In 2012 Beauchamp joined The Ohio State University as a materials chemistry Ph.D. candidate. His focus and passion are based on the discovery, development, and commercialization of sustainable/renewable energy production and storage solutions. Recently, Beauchamp was awarded the Ohio Student Entrepreneur of the Year Award from Rev1 Ventures and was featured in Forbes Magazine’s 2015 30 Under 30 list.

Butch Frey, Founder, Spark Clean Energy

Butch Frey is an organizer, advocate and activist. In 2013, he co-founded Spark Clean Energy, a nonprofit that works to empower the next generation of innovators and entrepreneurs. Before Spark, Butch served four years in the Obama Administration as an advisor to the Administrator of the Small Business Administration, the Under Secretary for Nuclear Security, and the Secretary of the Department of Energy. He started his career as a field organizer for Obama for America in the 2008 election and held a variety of positions on statewide and national campaigns. Butch remains passionate about the power of grassroots movements to solve the world’s toughest challenges.

Courtney Gras, COO, Design Flux Technologies

Courtney Gras is an electrical engineer by training and an entrepreneur by nature. Having founded a cleantech startup in college, Gras is a recognized evangelist for the cleantech industry in NE Ohio. She raised nearly a quarter-million dollars for her startup during her college years and after, while she was sustaining a full-time job at NASA. Recently given the ComEd Female Founder award at the Chicago Clean Energy Challenge, Gras’ passion for the cleantech industry is evident through her continued efforts to support her own startup, while also taking time to engage with student entrepreneurship programs at local universities and mentor other startups. Gras holds a B.S. in electrical engineering from the University of Akron.

Shanelle L. Smith, Deputy Director, Department of Sustainability, Office of Cuyahoga County Executive Armond Budish

Shanelle Smith is the inaugural deputy director of Cuyahoga County’s new Department of Sustainability. Prior to her role with Cuyahoga County, Smith was the head of Emerald Cities Cleveland, part of a national energy efficiency initiative. Smith was instrumental in building consensus among a diverse community and civic leaders around the goals of sustainable economic development and creation of jobs in green building for disadvantaged county residents. A native of Lima in western Ohio, Smith earned a B.A. in political science at Kent State University, a M.A. from the University of Toledo.

Yiying Wu, Professor, The Ohio State University 

Prof. Yiying Wu received his Ph.D. in chemistry from the University of California at Berkeley in 2003. He then did his postdoctoral research at the University of California, Santa Barbara, and joined The Ohio State University in the summer of 2005. He was promoted to associate professor in 2011 and full professor in 2014. He received a Cottrell Scholar Award from Research Corporation in 2008, a CAREER award from National Science Foundation in 2010, and a CAPA Biomatik Distinguished Faculty Award in 2014. Commissioner Brooks of the Franklin County of Ohio also award Prof. Wu a Commissioner’s award for his contribution in renewable energy technologies.


Matt Neumann, President, SunVest Solar

Matt Neumann is a lifelong Wisconsin resident who lives with his wife, Amy, and three young children in Nashotah. Although his business achievements list is extensive, his commitment to faith and family are what makes him the person he is as a leader. Neumann earned a Bachelor’s degree in Business Economics from Wisconsin Lutheran College in 2004, then an MBA from Marquette University with an emphasis in Marketing and Finance in 2006. Shortly after college, Neumann joined his father running a land development company. Neumann’s land development company strives to develop relationships and build communities of lasting value all while preserving thousands of acres of Wisconsin’s land.

Derek Supple, Business Development Manager, Federal Government Agencies, Johnson Controls 

Derek Supple is a Business Development Manager at Johnson Controls, where he helps Federal agencies save tax dollars and create better workplaces through building efficiency strategies. Prior roles at JCI include driving sustainability-focused innovation and leading a national engineering team that designs energy savings projects for corporate clients. Before joining JCI, Supple worked for Rocky Mountain Institute’s Energy & Resources consulting practice. He has held positions at MIT’s Lab for Energy and the Environment and at the Illinois Clean Energy Community Foundation. Supple received his BS in Biomedical Engineering at Northwestern and his SM in Technology and Policy at MIT.

Tyler Huebner, Executive Director, RENEW Wisconsin

Tyler Huebner joined RENEW Wisconsin in June 2013. After graduating in electrical engineering from the University of Iowa, Huebner earned an M.S. at Stanford University’s  Atmosphere & Energy Program. While there, he co-founded a student group called Energy Crossroads (now Stanford Energy Club) focused on the intersection between business, national security, and environmental interests in clean energy. Prior to joining RENEW, Huebner worked with ICF International on energy efficiency projects with utility companies, ran grant programs at the U.S. Department of Energy, and worked for the State of Wisconsin’s Division of Energy Services.

Nick Hylla, Executive Director, Midwest Renewable Energy Association

As the Executive Director of the MREA, Nick Hylla leads the organization’s strategic planning, manages the budget and finances, and serves as the staff representative on the MREA Board of Directors. He is currently the Priniciple Investigator on two U.S. Dept. of Energy awards through the SunShot Initiative, working to grow solar photovoltaic markets in the Midwest as part of the Grow Solar Partnership. Hylla has also led the MREA’s regional instructor training efforts as part of the Solar Instructor Training Network. He is a Returned Peace Corps Volunteer and is active in the local food movement as a founder and board member of the non-profit educational organization Farmshed. Hylla has a M.S. degree in Natural Resource Management from the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point.