Bemidji State Alumna Tessa Haagenson recognized as NWF EcoLeaders Top 50 Inspirations

Bemidji State alumna Tessa Haagenson has been recognized as an EcoLeaders Top 50 Inspirations honoree by the National Wildlife Foundation.

NWF EcoLeaders is the nation’s first project-based leadership development program for sustainability, leading to certification for college students and young professionals. EcoLeaders provides a career edge that helps the planet while helping thousands of emerging leaders do well by doing good for their communities.

In 2016, the EcoLeaders Career Center began celebrating the motivating stories and career accomplishments of past National Wildlife Federation interns, fellows and partners who are making an impact in the sustainability movement.

Haagenson, a principal planning analyst at Great River Energy in Maple Grove, Minn., has been leading efforts to educate people on climate change and renewable energy since her days as a 2005-06 Campus Ecology Fellow at Bemidji State. While at BSU, she helped institute a student fee to support wind energy, and in her current role she runs a resource-forecasting model that helps guide Great River Energy’s long-term resource decisions and tracks renewable energy standard obligations.

Haagenson’s motivation to pursue an environmental career came from a love of nature instilled by her parents.

“At the time I was approaching college/major selection, I thought environmental policy was the vehicle through which I could best achieve my goals,” she said.

She enrolled in BSU’s environmental studies program with an emphasis in policy and planning. After receiving her degree, she spent a semester in Denmark as a guest graduate student in sustainable energy planning and management at the University of Aalborg.

“Over the course of the semester it became clear to me that I needed a better understanding of the underlying science of the electric power system, so I decided I would pursue an engineering degree when I got back to the U.S.,” she said.

She completed that goal in 2011, earning her second bachelor’s degree — in electrical engineering — from the University of North Dakota, and credits her time at BSU for providing her with a springboard into her current career.

“I certainly had support when I was at Bemidji State from professors who helped me learn what I needed to — and wanted to — at the time, when I thought I may be going into energy policy,” Haagenson said.

Haagenson believes everyone should gain some knowledge of how electrical power systems work.

“For students who want to make a difference for sustainability in the electric power industry — even if you’re coming at it from a non-technical angle — gain at least a cursory understanding of the way the electric power system works and the regulatory world that governs many aspects of it,” she said.


Bemidji State University, located in northern Minnesota’s lake district, occupies a wooded campus along the shore of Lake Bemidji. Enrolling more than 5,000 students, Bemidji State offers more than 80 undergraduate majors and 11 graduate degrees encompassing arts, sciences and select professional programs. BSU is a member of the Minnesota State system of colleges and universities and has a faculty and staff of more than 550. University signature themes include environmental stewardship, civic engagement and global and multi-cultural understanding.