MSU ‘science fair geek’ in Glamour’s Top 10
Michigan State University (MSU) environmental economics and policy junior Elizabeth Brajevich, a self-described science fair geek never figured she would one day be in Glamour magazine.
April 9, 2015
Michigan State University (MSU) environmental economics and policy junior Elizabeth Brajevich, a self-described “science fair geek,” never figured she would one day be in Glamour magazine.
But that’s exactly where she finds herself this week.
The Los Angeles, California, native was named one of the magazine’s Top 10 College Women. The competition recognizes students from across the country for their campus leadership, scholastic achievement, community involvement and unique, inspiring goals for 58 years.
“I’ve just always done things that I love,” Brajevich said. “I love science and what humans do impacts the environment, so I have followed those passions.”
Brajevich and her counterparts will be honored at an awards ceremony and panel discussion April 13 at the Museum of Arts and Design in New York City. The April 14 edition of the magazine will feature a 12-page spread on the Top 10 College Women.
Brajevich received a scholarship, a trip to New York City and introductions to top professionals in a variety of fields. She was paired with celebrity mentor Laurie David, producer of documentaries including “An Inconvenient Truth” and “Fed Up!”
“Liz is an extraordinary student who radiates her passion for the environment and all living things,” said Ruthi Bloomfield, who is Brajevich’s academic advisor in the Department of Agricultural, Food and Resource Economics.
“She has the ability to get others excited about her work – whether it’s about her work with worms or her vision for a sustainable planet – Liz is that rare student who represents all that is best about the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources (CANR),” Bloomfield said.
Brajevich was recognized by Glamour for her “Worms Eat My Garbage” initiative for which she wrote a grant and founded at MSU. Students in the Worms Eat My Garbage, group compost coffee grounds, apple cores and food waste in their rooms, with the help of a worm bin through a process known as vermicomposting. The end product is a nutrient-rich organic fertilizer. The fertilizer created helps grow produce in the Bailey greenhouse, a joint project between the Residential Initiative on the Residential Initiative on the Study of the Environment (RISE) and MSU Residential and Hospitality Services. Food grown in the greenhouse supplies some of the cafeterias on the MSU campus.
“The worm bin project was my answer to ‘how can I do a science fair project in college’ question,” Brajevich said. “I just loved doing the science fair growing up, and I didn’t see any reason to stop just because I went to college.”
She presented this work to the Tokyo University of Agriculture in the fall of her sophomore year.
“What makes Liz so unique is her highly developed leadership skills,” said Laurie Thorp, director of the RISE program. “She thinks strategically about how to implement large scale environmental change at a level beyond many of my peers. Liz persists when the going gets rough and is a master at networking. Couple this with her profound sense of social justice, and you have a young woman who epitomizes an engaged scholar.”
Through several undergraduate research opportunities in the CANR, Brajevich found another outlet for her love of science fairs. She studied the decision making process for Michigan dam removals and presented her work at the University Undergraduate Research and Arts Forum.
Through the Honors College, she received the Schoenl Family Undergraduate Grant for Dire Needs Overseas to help Cambodian farmers raise and pass on swine. Sixteen farmers were given two female pigs apiece. The farmers give one or two piglets back once those females had reproduced, as well as use new techniques for waste management and attend meetings where they can share their experiences with other farmers.
Brajevich recently led a group of student volunteers in a bike build to assemble and donate bikes for children in foster care in the Lansing area. That event, which took place in Case Hall on the MSU campus, built 27 bikes for Lansing area foster children. She worked with Together We Rise, a national non-profit that helps improve the foster care system, to coordinate that project.
The rest of Brajevich’s MSU resume is impressive:
- As a freshman, she was named a Demmer Scholar and interned for the summer in Washington, D.C., with the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation.
- She was nominated for the prestigious Udall Foundation scholarship as a sophomore.
- She received an Honors College National Scholarship, the Lewis W. Kaminga Alumni Scholar Award, the Ralph and Patricia Hepp Environmental Economics and Policy Scholarship and the John Cherney Humanitarian Award.
- She has been a member of several student groups including MOSIAC, First Year Council, Honors Students Actively Recruiting, Honors Times Two and the Fisheries and Wildlife Club.
- Brajevich has been a resident assistant in Case Hall for a year, and served as a mentor in the RISE program.
- She teaches hip-hop dance to fifth graders at three schools in the Lansing School District.
- Brajevich, through the Worms Eat My Garbage group, she has brought the vermicomposting project to 300 children in the Lansing School District.
Brajevich will complete her undergraduate degree this year, and stay on for a master’s degree in human and family studies. She hopes to work for a corporation in a social responsibility capacity following her graduation.