Carolyn Ulstad earned a bachelor’s degree in geography and planning, with a minor in environmental science, from Grand Valley in 2011. She is passionate about sustainability and credits Grand Valley’s Geography Department with instilling in her the desire to create a better world by starting at the local level. This desire led to her current employment with the Macatawa Area Coordinating Council (MACC).
MACC is the Holland/Zeeland area’s metropolitan planning organization, and Ulstad joined the team excited to improve and further make the area she grew up in more livable and sustainable for all.
As a program assistant at the MACC, Ulstad works within their Transportation Planning Department. She annually collaborates with local road commissions and MDOT to rate road quality in their service area. She also spends time increasing her community’s awareness of the West Michigan Clean Air Action Coalition, working on Green Commute Week, and assisting with the department’s Long Range Transportation Plan.
Ulstad’s work at the MACC includes supporting the Macatawa Watershed Project, a project created in 1999 with the goal of reducing the amount of phosphorus that enters Lake Macatawa by 70 percent. Ulstad provides community outreach and education about the project. Furthermore, she is actively involved in the administration of the projects MiCorps Volunteer Stream Monitoring and Road/Stream Crossing programs, which includes training volunteers, sampling, and maintaining data records.
Ulstad’s passion for social, financial, and environmental sustainability has led her to sit as a board member on the City of Holland’s Sustainability Committee. This role involves her with Project Clarity, a $12 million community effort to restore the water quality of Lake Macatawa and the Macatawa Watershed. The Sustainability Committee also developed the Holland Sustainability Framework, a checklist for the city of Holland to use when planning projects. These efforts will not only lead to health benefits for the planet and its people, but also to positive economic impacts, improved quality of life, and the ability to attract new talent to the community.
Additionally, Ulstad has stayed engaged with Grand Valley since graduation. She has continued conducting research with faculty, including a trip to Peru to study various plant species in the Amazon, been a guest lecturer in Grand Valley classrooms about the environmental impacts of transportation, and sat on a panel of alumni, speaking to geography students about what careers in their field look like.
In recognition of her impressive efforts to improve her community through sustainability initiatives, as well as encourage the next generation of Lakers to pursue meaningful careers in her field, Ulstad received the 2017 Young Alumni Award. The award is annually presented by the Grand Valley Alumni Association to a recent graduate who is making outstanding contributions to society, and whose accomplishments and careers reflect favorably upon Grand Valley.