LAWRENCE — A theme of the University of Kansas strategic plan, Bold Aspirations, is Sustaining the Planet, Powering the World. The university’s commitment to environmental awareness and research is embodied by KU’s newest Udall Foundation honoree. Jenny Stern, a junior in ecology and evolutionary biology from Lawrence, received a Udall honorable mention this spring.
Each year the Udall Foundation awards around 50 scholarships of up to $5,000 and 50 honorable mentions to college students around the nation dedicated to careers involving the environment. Stern said she decided to apply after talking with Jonathon Earle, then-director of the KU Honors Program, and Anne Wallen, honors assistant director for Scholarships and Fellowships.
“When I visited with Dr. Earle he asked if I was applying for any national scholarships. I said I considered the Udall but figured I wasn’t eligible. He suggested I look at the website one more time. So I went to see Anne Wallen, and she said I had enough time to put together a strong application. I had generous professors willing to write my letters of recommendation, and from there, everything just fell into place.”
Wallen and Earle decided to surprise Stern with her honorable mention by organizing a meeting to talk about “future scholarships." While Wallen and Stern were making small talk, Earle walked in and shocked Stern with an announcement about her achievement.
“We are so pleased that Jenny was recognized by the Udall Foundation this year,” Earle said. “The Honors Program had several remarkable students apply for the Udall, which is a sign of KU’s strengths in research connected to the environment. It is wonderful to see so many students preparing for careers that will benefit the environment and even more wonderful that one of our very own was nationally recognized.”
The application process involved a summary of Stern’s research, leadership and community service experience as well as an 800-word essay on a speech, legislative act, book or public policy statement by former Arizona U.S. Rep. Morris Udall or former Arizona U.S. representative and Secretary of the Interior Stewart Udall. She met with Wallen multiple times to edit and discuss all of the materials.
Stern plans to use the Udall Foundation feedback to rework her application and apply again next year. Next time she will be able to include a new environmental experience. This summer, Stern is serving as an intern at the New England Aquarium in Boston as a Marine Science Summer Camp Intern.
Stern has demonstrated commitment to the environment in her various activities on campus. She has been an environmental opinion columnist for the University Daily Kansan, environmental chair at Douthart Scholarship Hall, a Prairie Park Nature Center volunteer, and she is conducting undergraduate research with Joy Ward on how tree physiology is affected by climate change. Stern is also one of twenty 2014 University Scholars.