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Fall 2020

On Henry Mall

Community and environmental sociology major Elena Haasl is pictured in front of the City-County Building in downtown Madison, Wis. Haasl represents District 5 on the Dane County Board of Supervisors. Photo by Michael P. King

 

When Elena Haasl BSx’22 came to UW–Madison in fall 2018, she never thought she would end up running her own political campaign. But she did — her very first. And she won. Thanks to her victory this past April, Haasl now represents District 5 on the Dane County Board of Supervisors.

Haasl is a junior majoring in community and environmental sociology (CES) and political science, and she’s earning a certificate in women’s studies. Her interests in environmental and social activism, which she nurtured throughout high school, drove her to take her first CES class. “I really liked the direction of the major and what it covers, and so I was like, ‘I think this is what I want to do. It’s really cool!’”

Given her fascination with politics, Haasl chose to pair CES with political science for a double major. She sees a connection between the two. “Sociology does a great job of outlining disparities when it comes to the environment and things like race or gender, anything like that where I can apply politics and policies in the future,” she says.

Haasl worked on a few political campaigns prior to her own. She most recently assisted with a Madison City Council campaign for Matthew Mitnick, a junior majoring in political science at UW.

“Elena is one of the most hardworking and dedicated people I know,” Mitnick says.

Mitnick later encouraged Haasl to run her own campaign. When Haasl found out that the previous District 5 supervisor wasn’t seeking reelection, she decided to take the leap.

“Being a woman and being biracial, I thought this would be a good way to amplify marginalized voices in the district,” she says.

District 5 is typically represented by a student — it’s the only district with a student majority — but no students were vying for the seat. This was another aspect of the race that drove Haasl to run.

“It would be silly to not have a student representing the only student district,” Haasl says. “Students have unique needs.”

Haasl says that participating in past campaigns helped her build relationships that contributed to her own campaign’s success. She credits her victory to UW, too. Through courses and interacting with others on campus, she learned how to probe ideas and issues that are important to her.

“It makes me realize that sometimes things aren’t as simple as they seem,” she says. “There’s a lot of history behind certain things, and it’s interesting to see different sides of arguments in my poli sci classes and to apply that thinking directly to my job now.”

Mitnick was ecstatic when Haasl won the seat.

“Throughout the entire time I have known her, Elena has put the needs of others above her own,” he says. “When helping Elena out with her campaign, I noticed how easily she was able to connect with constituents and students. This is because her efforts were solely for them — every part of her platform was carefully designed with the community in mind.”

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