ERIE, Pa. — Celeste Makay, a senior majoring in environmental science at Penn State Erie, The Behrend College, has been named recipient of the 2020 Ralph Dorn Hetzel Memorial Award.
Named for Penn State’s 10th president, the Hetzel Award recognizes a combination of high scholastic attainment together with good citizenship, and participation and leadership in student activities.
A nominator said Makay is passionate about sustainability, which comes out in full force during her volunteerism. Since 2018, Makay has worked with the Behrend Campus Sustainable Food Systems Program and was selected by the Council of Sustainable Leaders for the John Roe Sustainability Champion Award.
Makay was praised for her leadership in encouraging the campus and community to adopt sustainability practices and for addressing often overlooked blind spots such as the true costs of the goods we consume. Makay demands of herself a high level of creativity in supporting ecological and social injustice, inspiring those around her to do the same, a nominator said.
“Makay’s understanding of the broader implications of sustainability beyond the narrow view of only the environment has proven priceless as we seek to extend that perspective across campus and into our surrounding community,” a nominator said.
To add a sustainability focus to a local event, Makay brought local foods and educational speakers such as beekeepers and local farmers to the Behrend County Fair, an event she helped organize. She worked with a local chef for a farm-to-table event that featured hyper-local foods, some of which were grown in the student garden Makay helps run.
Makay’s passions also spill over into her research efforts. In 2019, she worked with the Department of Environmental Protection to assess West Nile Virus prevalence in northwest Pennsylvania and traveled to the Bahamas to research coastal ecosystems. In 2019, she studied the effects of road salt on soil health.
In 2020, she traveled back to the Bahamas to help recover communities hit by Hurricane Dorian. This was part of a dual effort to gain and spread awareness of what climate change means for island people.