Women in Excellence: Abrina Leonhard

When our organization first met Abrina Leonhard, we immediately saw her as a force to be reckoned with. She was presenting to us on the work she was doing to get our small college town to commit to renewable energy. Her knowledge and passion were so impressive, and she could have easily convinced us to do anything. The environment is very lucky to have her for the cause.

Abrina’s passion for the environment began with how she grew up. She lived in a rural, excluded wooded area, 30 minutes from the nearest grocery store. She was taught that it is your responsibility to take care of the environment you live in, and the area surrounding you. She has always wanted to leave the world a better place for future generations.

Abrina is a very active member of the Stout community, serving as a Stout Ambassador and as a Senator of Sustainable Development in the Stout Student Association. She’s even the Vice Chair on their Sustainability Council. SSA’s outgoing Director of Sustainability, Jacob Nadeau is quick to sing her praises. “Abrina is great. She’s very good at her job, and she makes my life a lot easier."

One of the projects that is near to Abrina’s heart is the “Fridays for the Future” campaign, where people put aside their usual responsibilities each week to demand that we take better care of our planet. With Abrina’s passion and dedication, climate strikes at Stout have been nothing short of legendary. One of her colleagues on this project, Ethan Reed, describes Abrina as a, “powerhouse” and that “nothing can stop her”.

She’s a leader that believes in accountability and empathy over everything. Abrina can connect with people on an emotional level and also hold them accountable. She loves working with others, especially educating those that are new to the cause. She even ran for her Sustainability position by talking to those around her about environmental activism. She’s a strong leader that has overcome her fear of being called “bossy”.

The injustice of climate change is something that Abrina is passionate about, as many places around the world are more vulnerable to a changing environment. “There are people out there struggling due to the decisions I make essentially.” At the end of the day, she wants everyone to have fresh air to breathe, and clean water to drink.

Abrina looks up to conservation figures such as Gaylord Nelson and Greta Thunberg and admires their commitment to sustainability in every aspect of their lives. Abrina especially admires Thunberg’s fearlessness when it comes to standing up to such powerful people and showing that, “you don’t have to be big to be a big deal.”

Abrina herself is a pretty big deal in the Business Administration program, where her certificate of appreciation for being a Stout Ambassador hangs proudly in the Program Advisor’s office. Business Administration is one of the biggest programs at Stout, and Abrina is the only one who also studies Sustainability.

Her dedication to the sustainability movement on campus is far reaching, as she participates in listening sessions and talks to students about getting involved in environmental conservation and campaigns. With Stout's Sustainability office she also does waste reduction trainings in classrooms and residence halls.

Sustainability and conservation are very important causes for Abrina, and she recommends that anyone interested should follow activism campaigns on social media and educate themselves on the environment. People should not be afraid of failing in their dedication to environmental activism, as nobody is the perfect environmentalist, and everyone makes mistakes from time to time.

UW Stout is an amazing campus for having a dialogue about sustainability matters. As one of the nation’s leading polytechnic institutions, there is always a hands-on element to what students are learning in the classroom. For sustainability students like Abrina, this is seen in Stout’s active participation in the nation-wide “Recyclemania” competition, and dining services, which has 100% compostable plastic utensils and packaging.

Abrina and UW Stout are a perfect fit, and thankfully they’ll be together for a little longer as Abrina starts her Masters program in the Fall. She’s also been re-elected as a Sustainable Development Senator in SSA, so you can look forward to seeing more of her amazing work on campus very soon!