Great Lakes Writers Corps 2022


Lucy Baker

Lucy Baker is a sophomore, Program-in-the-Environment major at the University of Michigan specializing in Aquatic Resources Management and minoring in Sustainability. She plans to pursue a career in conservation and environmental journalism. Lucy was born in Grand Rapids, MI, and raised in a suburb right outside of the city. She frequents all five Great Lakes, especially Lake Michigan where she enjoys swimming, fishing, surfing, and exploring. Her favorite place in the world is Laketown Beach, a secluded public park on Lake Michigan, a quick 30-minute drive from home and a world away. At UM, Lucy is the founder and editor in chief of the Undergraduate Journal of Sustainability, a member of the Women’s Club Water Polo team, a member of PitE Club, and a frequent climate striker. Outside of school, Lucy is a frequent concert-goer, plays the acoustic and electric guitars, weight lifts, enjoys shopping (sustainably), hikes with her friends, and reads everything from contemporary fiction to travel guides.


Sadie Esch-Laurent

Sadie Esch-Laurent is a sophomore majoring in Environment Science and considering a minor in Computer Science. They plan to attend culinary school after undergrad and hope to find a path that incorporates both their passions for the environment and food. Sadie is involved with a few organizations on the U-M campus, notably Friends of the Campus Farm. This organization works with the student-run Campus Farm to set up weekly volunteering and agricultural activities available to all students. Sadie grew up at the “Tip of the Mitten,” right on Lake Michigan. The Great Lakes have been a major part of their life, as they grew up in a rural community with fewer than 400 people and countless miles of shoreline. In their free time, Sadie likes photography, working out, hiking, and reading. Two of Sadie’s most recent favorite books are Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys and The Dry by Jane Harper.


Alyson Gessner

Alyson Gessner hails from Northbrook, Illinois—one of the last remaining towns outside of Lake Michigan’s watershed to still pipe its drinking water from the lake. At the University of Michigan, she is a third-year Environment major with a specialization in Communications and a minor in Ecology & Evolutionary Biology. She is particularly passionate about making scientific information accessible and engaging and hopes to use her writing to introduce others to environmental and public health challenges. She is involved in a number of campus organizations, and most notably serves as Vice President of Communications for Epsilon Eta and Vice President of Academics for the Erb Institute Undergraduate Fellows. In her free time, she can be found cooking, taking a long walk during the frigid Midwest winter, or finishing her third cup of coffee for the day.


Meera Kumar

Meera S Kumar plans on majoring in Anthropology (and maybe Economics) and hopes to go into the field of urban planning. Growing up between southeastern Michigan, surrounded by freshwater, and Bangalore, India, which faces an extreme water crisis, Meera has a lot of questions about the Great Lakes. She is an Organizing Fellow for United Asian American Organizations and a DEI Co-ordinator for Planet Blue Student Leaders — she’s interested in the roles culture plays in sustainability and community development. Although she is Editor of the Michigan Daily Book Review, she doesn’t think of herself as a “writer” in an academic sense, but she loves getting to have conversations with people. In her free time, she likes reading magical realism and taking ridiculously long walks.


Olivia Long

Olivia Long is a sophomore at the University of Michigan studying English. Hailing from downtown Chicago, Olivia has always resided alongside Lake Michigan. With her recent residence in Ann Arbor, she has developed a newfound appreciation for the entire Great Lakes region. Her principal passion, however, is writing. For as long as she can remember, she has spent hours of her free time writing stories. She has recently advanced her affinity towards environmental writing, which she is exploring through GLWC. In addition to writing and reading, she has a strong passion for trivia. Her biggest aspirations are to one day publish a novel and to play as a Jeopardy contestant.


Noah Manuszak

Noah Manuszak is a sophomore at the University of Michigan studying Earth and Environmental Sciences. Having visited all five Great Lakes, he is fascinated by rivers and their watersheds. Growing up in Tecumseh, Michigan, Noah spent a vast amount of time training at the Crossing Trails Park right on the River Raisin and running Cross Country Meets at Sterling State Park, which is right on the water of Lake Erie. Currently, Noah is part of the Undergraduate Research Opportunity Program, co-authoring a review paper about lead contamination in the city of Detroit. He facilitates activities with the Planet Blue Student Leaders and the First Year Experience office, and plays violin for the Campus Philharmonic Orchestra.


Trinity Metcalf

Trinity Metcalf holds an associates degree from Schoolcraft College and currently studies Earth and Environmental Sciences at the University of Michigan. Growing up in the Great Lakes watershed in both rural New York and in Michigan, Trinity has spent a lot of time outside hiking, climbing, and exploring with her siblings and she has been to each of the Great Lakes with them. She has visited Niagara Falls in Buffalo, New York, the Ludington lighthouses in Michigan, and hiked on North Manitou Island in Michigan and in the Bruce Peninsula in Ontario, Canada. Trinity also enjoys being with family, crocheting, and cooking. Concerned with protecting and preserving the environment, Trinity hopes to advocate for protecting the planet through writing and teaching.


William Orr

William Orr is a sophomore studying English and Journalism at the University of Michigan. He has lived in the Great Lakes Region his entire life, spending each summer with his extended family on the shores of Lake Michigan, swimming, sailing, and reading books by the literary greats – James Joyce, Ernest Hemingway, and Franz Kafka are some of his favorites. William also has a deep passion for music, especially the guitar. He is a member of the UM Classical Guitar Society which strives to promote the preservation and celebration of classical guitar and its many composers. In his free time, he also enjoys drawing, exercise, coffee, and most of all, meeting new people.



Great Lakes Writers Corps Alumni

Audrey Jacobsen

A Petoskey native, Audrey Jacobsen is a junior double majoring in History and in English with a minor in Community Action and Social Change (CASC). Her experiences living in a town heavily reliant on a seasonal tourism industry has sparked her passion for highlighting and addressing economic inequalities. Audrey hopes to further address and work with these issues in the future through the acquisition of a master’s degree in Social Work and/or a law degree. Audrey is a member of the Prisoner Creative Arts Project where she teaches a weekly poetry workshop at a youth detention center, and she  hosts a freeform radio show on WCBN. In her free time, she reads the works of her favorite author Kurt Vonnegut, and writes.

GLWC Research: Audrey is investigating the economic fault lines in the Great Lakes tourist destination of Petoskey, Michigan. She is interested in power structures, ethical tourism, and ways that tourism might more equitably benefit a wider community. Audrey also observes that her town has conditioned itself to express gratitude towards the summer visitors and she is curious about the relationship of power to gratitude.



Kianna Marquez


Kianna Marquez was actually born at the University of Michigan (well, at UM’s Mott Children’s Hospital), and growing up just 20 minutes away from Ann Arbor in the small town of Dexter, Michigan, UM has always been a big part of her life. She is currently a sophomore studying Chemical Engineering. On campus she is involved in the Latinx cultural group, La Casa, and she writes about environmental justice for the Op-Ed section of the Michigan Daily. Kianna is primarily interested in how disadvantaged communities are affected by climate change, and she joined the GLWC to hopefully focus her project around making discussions about environmental issues more accessible and open to the public. After graduation, Kianna wants to work in energy and make renewable energy sources more accessible to all. In her free time, she listens to and plays music. Her favorite artist is Lorde, and she primarily listens to indie pop and electro pop. She’s also teaching herself how to play the guitar. She loves writing (obviously) and even enjoys dense scientific writing. Her favorite book, though, is The Tiger’s Wife by Téa Obreht.

GLWC Research: Kianna’s work explores the Great Lakes as a major potential source for renewable energy, including bioenergy, hydroelectric, and wind power. She looks to unpack the history of these energy breakthroughs to explain where we are today and to reveal what could be the future of renewable energy in the Midwest.

Read Kianna’s Field Note: Trials and Tribulations at Barton Dam


Rachel McKimmy

Rachel McKimmy was born in Brunswick, Germany, and grew up in Northern California.  Her father moved her family into a mountain cabin in “the middle of nowhere” to escape the hustle and bustle of Sacramento, and proximity to forests and the Pacific Ocean taught Rachel to appreciate her natural environment. Rachel realized she wasn’t suited to remain “nowhere,” so she finished high school early, enrolled in college classes, and, after completing her Associate’s Degree in Humanities and Communications, transplanted herself to the Midwest.

Now at the University of Michigan, Rachel is pursuing a diverse education that blends her interests in the environment and global issues. She studies in UM’s Program in the Environment and is double minoring in Creative Writing and Earth Sciences. Rachel has studied global environmental issues at Oxford University in the U.K. and environmental history in Tokyo.

GLWC Research: Rachel has been studying water ecology and counting stonefly nymphs in Southeastern Michigan’s Huron River even as coronavirus inundated the state and her own body. She is interested in illness narratives and the environment.

Read Rachel’s Michigan Daily article about the Great Lakes Writers Corps, Immersion Writing During a Pandemic, or her Field Note Stoneflies


Regan Monnett


Regan Monnett is a first year student at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor. As a Planet Blue Student Leader, she goes to Residential Halls to educate students about sustainability. She hopes to influence people to produce less waste and be aware of both individual and university-wide initiatives regarding compost and recycling. She also writes for the Michiganensian, the University of Michigan yearbook, profiling student orgs. Originally from Kelleys Island on Lake Erie, Regan hopes to continue to connect to Lake Erie, maybe through the environment. In the meantime, she loves animals, playing Dungeons and Dragons, and reading fantasy novels, especially Harry Potter. She can also be found playing video games, hanging out, and watching movies with friends, fishing (both ice fishing and normal) and hunting.

GLWC Research: Before the pandemic hit, Regan planned to crew aboard the Great Lakes Tall Ship Niagara for the summer, but COVID has canceled the summer voyage. Now she is interested in recreational boating, from lake cruises to party boats, and its relationship disease transmission.


Madison Murdoch

Madison Murdoch, a prospective law school student, hails from Dearborn, Michigan. She is pursuing a personalized degree in Social Theory and Practice: Law, Justice, and Community Arts through UM’s Residential College. In collaboration with RC programs like Semester in Detroit, the Prison Creative Arts Program, and Inside Out, she has pursued learning via first-hand experiences of systemic injustice. Madison and her current roommates are alumni of MCSP, a group emphasizing social justice and community service. She hopes to one day craft a podcast out of their nightly dialogues, discussing everything from the persistent inequities created by capitalism, systemic racism, and an elitist academic system; to the logistics of building raised beds in their front yard. As an only daughter and granddaughter, her life was shaped by strong ties to her family, fueling creative arts projects that grapple with themes of mental health, familial relationships, and the harsh realities of aging. In her spare time, Madison enjoys reading and writing poetry, trying out new recipes, and moshing at concerts (or, during quarantine, in her living room) to Beach Bunny and The Frights.

GLWC Research: Under revision due to Canadian border closure.



Miriam Saperstein

Miriam Saperstein is a junior at the University of Michigan, originally from Metro Detroit. A Judaic Studies major, Miriam is also very involved in writing on campus, and has won several Hopwood awards for poetry. They are a fellow for New Voices Fellowship, with an internship at Jewish Currents, a Jewish magazine covering news and culture, and they facilitate a monthly Jewish ritual group in Ann Arbor. Some of their favorite things to do include singing, writing, cooking, and creating mixed-media art.

GLWC Research: Miriam is interested in agriculture in the Great Lakes. They are interning at a farm in Dexter, MI, which specializes in seed saving. They will be conducting interviews about the history of seeds in this part of the Great Lakes.


Kathryn Sullivan

Kathryn Sullivan was raised by a family of biologists in a tight-knight community on Lake Michigan. She grew up appreciating the beauty of the Great Lakes environment around her. This passion for the environment followed her to the University of Michigan where pursues degrees in the Program in the Environment and Biology, Health, & Society. She views her minor in Creative Writing as an escape from her science classes, although she often merges her two diverse interests. Outside of class, Katie enjoys playing on the University of Michigan Women’s Club Soccer Team and working in the Duffy Lab and Green Lab, researching insect ecology and evolution.

GLWC Research: Kathryn is researching the relationship between socioeconomics and climate change in the Great Lakes Region as an intern for the American Meteorological Society.  Through this research, Kathryn hopes to more accurately understand the role climate change plays in exacerbating and reducing inequalities.

Read Kathryn’s Field Note (that instead ran as a statement piece in the Michigan Daily): A World in Need of Respite



Kate Walsh

Kate by Lake Erie

Hailing from a suburb of Dallas, Texas, Kate Walsh has found her place as a student, community member, and environmental enthusiast here at the University of Michigan. Kate is a junior majoring in the Environment  with a specialization in Environmental Policy. In addition, she is minoring in Writing and in Water and the Environment. Having visited four out of the five Great Lakes thus far, she credits her passion for water and for the environment to the valuable time spent with her extended family residing in Michigan. Kate fulfills her many other passions by involving herself in several different student organizations at this university, such as the Student Ambassadors admissions program, the Sustainability Without Borders outreach program, the Writer to Writer literary journal, and the Campus Band for non-music majors. In her free time, Kate enjoys listening to music, generally alternative-rock, and playing strategy board games and card games. In reflecting on why she chose to join the Great Lakes Writers Corps, Kate comments on the power that communication through writing can have as she is given the privilege to express herself in the most personal and informative way possible with her written voice.

GLWC Research: Kate is conducting research on the efficacy of environmental education programs in the Great Lakes region, and seeking stories where such programs have altered participants’ relationship with the environment and changed lifestyle or other behaviors.


Ben Biber

Ben Biber

Born in Canton, Ohio, and raised along the Rouge River in Westland, Michigan, Ben Biber is no stranger to the Great Lakes region. Ben is a rising junior studying English Literature and Education at the University of Michigan, and plans to complete the Creative Writing program in his final year. Academically, he’s interested in questions of freedom, style, and metafiction in literature. Outside of school, he spends much of his time playing piano, guitar, and cello. He particularly enjoys amateur tree climbing and hyper-amateur bird watching (in which one points at a bird and says, “Wow, that’s a cool bird.”) After graduating, he plans to pursue a graduate degree in education.

GLWC Research: Ben is exploring the Great Lakes soundscapes, specifically the composition of ambient music and its relationship to nature, bioacoustics, art and artifice, and environments human-made and otherwise—both the environment from which it is derived and the environment it creates.


Katy Rossing, 2020 Graduate Assistant


Katy Rossing, a PhD candidate in UM’s Department of English, assists the Great Lakes Writers Corps with research and writing support. Her own research focuses on the environmental humanities, form, ethics, and containment systems. Before joining GLWC, she worked as a community-engaged learning consultant and was a Mellon Public Engagement & the Humanities Fellow. Her summer goal is to watch every film Brian de Palma ever made.


Great Lakes Writers Corps Faculty



The Great Lakes Writers Corps is directed by Molly Beer (UM faculty website). Molly has written award-winning place-based literary nonfiction from Tibet, El Salvador, Mexico, and elsewhere, but home is her family farm, upstream from Ontario, downwind/snow of Erie.