Melanie Kistnasamy ’22 Makes a Global Impact Locally

The Gustavus junior's quest for environmentalism has taken her from Mauritius to the Minnesota River Valley.
Posted on March 3rd, 2021 by

Melanie Kistnasamy gathers samples in the 7 Mile Creek watershed as part of Dr. Laura Triplett's ongoing research project.

by Heidi Newbauer ’06

When she was young, Gustavus Adolphus College junior Melanie Kistnasamy would spend hours in the small forest nestled in her neighbor’s back yard. The environment of her home country, the island of Mauritius, is full of mountain ranges, coral reefs, shallow lagoons, and white coral sand beaches that meet the Indian Ocean. “Growing up, I was always a nature person and developed an immense appreciation and love for the environment.”

Kistnasamy in Mauritius off the coast of Île aux Cerfs.

Today she brings that passion to Gustavus as an environmental studies major and geography information system (GIS) minor, with the goal of helping her home country. “When I was younger, tropical cyclones were normal and the electricity would go out. We would use this as family time, playing games and lighting candles. Now the island is more prone to flash floods and people have died from them. It is a very different situation today.”

Nurturing her passion at Gustavus also brought Kistnasamy her first winter. “I enjoyed the cold because it is so hot in Mauritius,” she said.

First winter, first semester away from home…difficult adjustments for any college student. What she found unique in her first semester at Gustavus was the community.

“That’s the first thing everyone says, but it’s so true. The community is amazing. I did not expect professors to become family, and I did not expect people speaking French or meeting people from so many different backgrounds,” Kistnasamy said.

Her advisor, geography and environmental studies professor Anna Versluis, was a big help in her transition. “She is a wonderful resource,” Kistnasamy said. She also became involved in various student clubs and organizations, like the Center for International and Cultural Education, and has made friends from all over the world.

Language has been a fun part of her Gustavus journey. During her sophomore year, she had a work-study position at the Culpepper Language Learning Center and translated digital games into French and English. Then director Jeremy Robinson came across a golden opportunity.

“Jeremy has amazing connections and found someone who had made a game about Mauritius in English and suggested that I could translate it to Mauritian Kreol,” she said. Kistnasamy was able to learn how to write her local dialect and continues to work on digital games. They plan to present at the CALICO Conference in June.

The coursework taken has made a lasting impact on Kistnasamy. When she took Pre-Modern Asia with history professor David Obermiller, she learned to ask the “how’s” and “why’s” of history. “I found it helpful in learning how to write and communicate effectively.” She is now taking Environmental History with him and finds the social science aspect of her environmental studies major very exciting. “The social history of our environment really makes an impact on how we can look at climate change today.”

Kistnasamy was a member of the Gustavus St. Lucia Court as a sophomore.

Kistnasamy’s greatest source of inspiration is geology and environmental studies professor Laura Triplett. “She is an inspiring woman that handles things well and is active in things she believes in.” From camping outings in Triplett’s backyard with other students to getting help with coursework, that sense of community was nurtured. “I was able to complete an independent study on the geology of Mauritius with Professor Triplett. I had this opportunity to be at Gustavus and learn even more about my home country. How amazing is that?”

Kistnasamy continues to do amazing things. Just this past fall, she received the David Campbell scholarship from the Merjent Foundation, a Minnesota-based organization that is dedicated to fostering environmental stewardship.

This spring, she is completing her coursework online from Mauritius and working on two internships. One is a remote internship through the Johnson Center for Environmental Innovation with professor Jeff Jeremiason and sustainability manager Kari Wallin. “We just started working on STARS, which is a program through The Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education.” STARS acts as a framework for colleges and universities to measure their sustainability performance.

Her second internship is through Ecosis, a project consulting and management firm that focuses on smart sustainable solutions. “I’ve worked on several projects with public and private entities and am currently working on sustainability polls.” She wrote blogs and completed an informative video for Mauritians through Mauritius’ public broadcasting network. For Kistnasamy, the hope of these projects is to educate Mauritians, give them better access to public health, and to work on the systems.

Kistnasamy graduates this fall. “I am a bit sad about graduating. I’m so grateful for being a student here and meeting amazing professors, staff, and friends.” She plans to get her master’s degree after she works in the United States for a few years, eventually returning home to Mauritius to continue developing sustainable systems for the environment.

“Sustainability is confronting our present by resolving the current environmental injustices that are happening,” she said. “It is not just climate change. It’s our systems. We can be a part of the environment and not dominate it.”


Media Contact: Director of Media Relations and Internal Communication Luc Hatlestad


One Comment

  1. Lily Engebretson says:

    Well said, Melanie, you are an inspiration!