2023 Political Science Outstanding Senior, Aidan Lyde

The Department of Political Science at Colorado State University is honored to recognize Aidan Lyde as the 2023 Outstanding Senior. Throughout his time at CSU, Lyde embodied the mission and values of the department—demonstrating excellence in academics, co-curricular activities, experiential learning, student leadership, public service, and a dedication to environmental policy.   

Lyde transferred to CSU during the pandemic—spending his first year at CSU online. In the Fall of 2021, he had his first opportunity to volunteer with the CSU Zero Waste Team at a CSU football game. Lyde was able to put sustainability into action—which became the basis of his studies at CSU.   

Lyde will be graduating on Saturday with a double-major in Political Science with a concentration in Environmental Politics and Policy, and International Studies with a concentration in Global Studies. He was named a 2022 Udall Scholar as well as a 2022 Truman Scholar Finalist. He wrote his Honors Thesis on Binational Water Augmentation Options in the Lower Colorado River Basin.   

In addition to his outstanding classroom achievements, Lyde interned for the U.S. Department of the Interior’s Office of Environmental Policy and Compliance, the Fort Collins Municipal Court, and worked as a research assistant for both the CSU Extension Internship Program and the Department of Political Science. He served as the Chief Financial Officer of the CSU Zero Waste Team and is the Rocky Mountain Representative on the U.S. Biosphere Network Youth Board. He recently completed a semester as a Legislative Intern for the Colorado General Assembly. 

Through his CSU Summer Extension Internship, Lyde worked for the Community Networks in Fire-Environment Resilience (CoNIFER) Project—which focused on improving the understanding of wildfire risk mitigation planning by studying stakeholders and their relationships in Community Wildfire Protection Plans (CWPPs) in Colorado. The internship gave Lyde the opportunity to work on tangible, real-world environmental justice issues—concentrating on bridging the disparities between wildfire-resilient and wildfire-vulnerable communities. 

“With a concentration in political science, I was really looking forward to engaging with the environmental justice aspect of the internship. Unlike many other opportunities, this internship promised the ability to engage directly with a diverse range of stakeholders and understand from their perspective how wildfires were impacting their communities,” he says.

Aidan Lyde conducting fieldwork on the impact of wildfires on the Colorado landscape

His primary focus during the internship was conducting fieldwork for the CoNIFER project—traveling across the state to interview key actors about their role in the development of the CWPPs including the planning process, as well as the effectiveness and extent of mitigation project implementation. As the youngest and most inexperienced researcher on the team, Lyde had to learn very quickly what it meant to design and carry out a research project. This experience strengthened Lyde’s commitment to a career in public service and community-engaged work. “I am committed to a career focused on environmental public policy. I think it is critical that I understand the values, needs, and perspectives of the communities that my work and policies may impact,” he says.  

Lyde will be attending Yale University in the fall to pursue a Master’s in Environmental Management with a specialization in Environmental Policy Analysis. He will be learning and studying alongside others who are just as passionate as himself about tackling environmental challenges and bringing about a more sustainable world. “Yale’s MEM program was really appealing to me because it puts so much emphasis on being interdisciplinary and applied, which I find important as I make my way into a public service career where environmental problems are increasingly complex and interconnected across disciplines,” says Lyde.