Distinguished Alumni

Ryan Taylor, PhD

Dr. Ryan TaylorDr. Ryan Taylor received his MA in Environmental Studies from UIS in 1998 before earning a PhD from Oregon State. Now a professor at Purchase College, Dr. Taylor applies both social and natural science research methods to his public policy studies. He has enjoyed a successful career as an environmental planner, policy-maker, and manager for every level of government. This allows him to bring real-world experiences to the classroom, exposing his students to practical challenges they will face as they pursue their environmental careers. Visit his website for more information: http://openscholar.purchase.edu/ryan_taylor/home


Marc Miller, MA

Marc Miller is the Director of the Illinois IDNS Director Marc MillerDepartment of Natural Resources.  Director Miller has been a policy advisor for Governor Quinn since 2004, and has extensive involvement with conservation programs throughout the state. He has served as the Lieutenant Governor’s liaison the Illinois Rivers Coordinating Council, has worked on watershed projects in cooperation with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and was the watershed organizer for the Prairie Rivers Network from 1999-2004.

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Brad Muise, PhD

Brad Muise PhD. I am a 2000 graduate of the ENS Masters program. After coming from a very large university, it was refreshing to be in an environment where the student-to-faculty ratio was very reasonable. What also attracted me was the diversity of the program. I had heard that “Sangamon State” (UIS’ former name) was progressive in nature and indeed the courses reflected this fact. I did not have the “hard-science” background yet I was encouraged to enroll in several such courses including environmental chemistry and toxicology. During my time at UIS I worked for a local environmental consulting firm and utilized risk assessment skills gleaned from UIS course work. My advisor agreed to act as my chair and I conducted my first empirical field experiment. He allowed me to pursue research of my choosing in an independent fashion. Since then I have gone on to complete a second Master’s degree and obtain a Doctoral degree at another established University. I have published several quantitative experiments in peer-reviewed journals and currently conduct research at Cornell University. I urge all potential candidates to consider choosing the ENS program at UIS. It will give you the experience you need to prepare for a career in consulting or as a researcher in the academic field.

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Mark Danenhauer, MA

Mark Danenhauer, a 2005 graduate, received a Special Merit award for his thesis entitled ”Determining the Optimal Degree of Local Involvement in the Management of a National Park”. Before coming to UIS, Mark spent two years as a Peace Corps volunteer in Madagascar. He was awarded the Environmental Studies Alumni Award in 2004 in recognition of his exemplary dedication to environmental issues and demonstrated involvement in environmental projects. He is currently employed with the Utah Rivers Council.

Dannenhauer Family

“I graduated from the ENS program at UIS in 2005.  During my time in Springfield, Illinois I completed my Masters degree in Natural Resources and Sustainable Development and also gained valuable real world experience working at the Illinois EPA.  Graduate school was not easy, but it was a very rewarding experience that pushed me to better my academic and analytical abilities.  The education I received has given me a great background in my current work with the Utah Rivers Council, a non-profit organization working to protect Utah’s rivers.

Was graduate school easy?  Is it supposed to be easy?  I have always believed that anything worth having is not easy.  The harder you have to work for something the more it will mean to you and the more that you will get out of it.  Well, graduate school at UIS was not a walk in the park.  Receiving my degree required completing my Master’s Thesis, which entailed hard work and perseverance.  Luckily, thanks to dedicated, passionate professors I was able to complete my Master’s Thesis and receive my Master’s degree.

In many respects graduate school is simply an extension of undergraduate classes, with new classes, tests, research papers, and presentations.  However, the entire process of writing a thesis is unique to graduate school.  This entailed coming up with my own unique research question, doing the background literature review, developing a research methodology, conducting the research, and throughout the process presenting and defending my work to my fellow students and faculty.  I now have the confidence and skills to write research papers and to think critically.

Of the many skills I acquired, the most valuable was to think critically.  The class schedule gave me good knowledge in a wide range of areas, but working on and writing a Master’s Thesis was an incredible experience.  It made me learn to take criticism and to be humble.  At the time it was not easy to spend months working and writing my draft only to have it dismantled by my advisor.  However, now I am grateful for the criticism and assistance that I was provided in all of my classes and with my Thesis.  Without an advisor willing to put in the time and effort to improve my writing and work I would have never improved my own skills.

One of the things that I did enjoy about the ENS program was the small class sizes.  In undergraduate school I was one of the hundreds of kids sitting in class, hiding behind my papers.  At UIS the small class sizes allowed me to get engaged in classroom discussions, thereby gaining more from the classes, and to get to know the knowledgeable professors.

Another very unique bonus about being located in the State Capital is that many students are able to get a Graduate Public Service Internship.  This is a program that helps locate graduate students with state agencies.  Personally, I spent over two years working with the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency while I was in graduate school.  This is not an experience that most schools offer.  I learned what it is like to work for the State Government.

As I stated previously, I am currently working with a non-profit organization based in Salt Lake City, the Utah Rivers Council.  I have been with the Council for three years.  I am in charge of our River Solutions Program, which essentially advocates for water conservation and also for Wild and Scenic Rivers.  Both of these projects require all of my skills and involve research, writing papers, giving presentations to the public, working with the media to advocate for our campaigns, collaborating with other organizations, and the ability to think creatively and strategically.  I gained many of these skills during my time at UIS.

I would recommend the ENS program at UIS to anyone that is looking for a school where they can gain real world experience while at the same time going to graduate school.  The unique setting in the State Capital is a huge bonus to attending UIS.”


Gale Newton, MA 

In the late 1980’s I was working in a coal mine in central Illinois. I wasG.Newton_000 injured in the mine and realized that, due to my injuries, I needed to obtain a less physically demanding occupation. I had always wanted to attend college, so I attended a couple of classes at UIS to determine if I had what it took to obtain a college degree. UIS was perfect for my needs. The class schedules were flexible which allowed me to continue in my position as a miner while I studied for, and eventually obtained, my Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees. Every member of the faculty at UIS was not only extraordinarily knowledgeable in his or her area of expertise, but expressed a genuine interest in the success of each student. My degrees from UIS allowed me to continue my studies at Cornell University Law School. After graduation from Law School I practiced corporate law on the east coast for several years. I have since returned home and I am now an attorney at the largest downstate environmental law firm in Illinois.