Graduating senior Allyse Barnowski had several schools to choose from when she graduated high school, but the Redbird experience of someone close to her led her to Illinois State.

“My mom actually came to ISU, and it held a really near and dear place in her heart,” Barnowski said. “So when it was one of the schools I was looking at, she was excited. It ended up being a great fit with distance from home and the new plan of study they were implementing.”

That new major is environmental systems science and sustainability, which was in development when Barnowski was making her decision. The Round Lake native has had a love for the outdoors instilled in her from an early age and wants to do her part to protect the environment.

“My dad is really into hiking and all of the National Parks. He’s been taking me hiking for as long as I can remember,” she said. “It breaks my heart that because of climate change and what we are doing that these places might not exist. It gave me a charge to want to work, to educate, to do something to make a difference and not just stand by and let it happen.”

Barnowski has been heavily involved on campus. Barnowski has been a member of the Honors Program throughout her Illinois State career and has worked for them for the past three years. She was also a part of the Welcome Week Student Crew, joining her sophomore year after her wonderful Welcome Week experience as a new Redbird.

Some of Barnowski’s favorite memories and most transformative experiences came from her participation in Alternative Breaks. Her first project was working with Living Lands & Waters to help clean up the Mississippi River in Memphis, which aligned well with her career and service goals. Barnowski would go on to become a student leader for two other trips, the first to help the community of Arapahoe, North Carolina, in the wake of Hurricane Dorian and the second one closer to home in McLean County serving with the ParkLands Foundation.

“When I first joined Alt Breaks, people told me, ‘This one week will change your life,’” she said. “I didn’t believe it. How could a few days change my life? They were right. Not only do you get to travel with like-minded people and grow close to them, but you also get to do good.”

Now that she is graduating in winter commencement, Barnowski plans to look for work in the rapidly growing field of sustainability. Her dream job would be to merge her love of animals and sustainability into a role at a zoo or a conservation organization.

“I would love to be able to work in a zoo as a sustainability consultant to help make sure the animals are being cared for in a sustainable way, that the public is being educated about climate change, and that the zoo is using renewable energy,” she said.

Barnowski urges new Redbirds to get involved on campus to make the most of their Illinois State experience.

“Years and years and years from now you are not going to look back and think about the chem test you studied for or the papers you wrote,” she said. “The moments you are going to remember down the road is how you got involved, the people you met, and the experiences that you had.”

This story is one of a series of profiles on Redbirds who are graduating this December. For more information about how Illinois State is celebrating commencement this semester, visit the Graduation Services website.