Anne Wallen
University Honors Program

Student earns honorable mention for prestigious Udall Scholarship

Tue, 07/22/2014

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.

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Wanna Skype? Chancellor gets creative to surprise Truman winner. See it here:
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Ashlie Koehn, a University of Kansas junior from Burns studying in Kyrgyzstan, interrupted helping her host family prepare dinner to make a Skype call on Monday evening.

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Wanna Skype? Chancellor gets creative to surprise Truman winner From KU News Service: Ashlie Koehn, a University of Kansas junior from Burns studying in Kyrgyzstan, interrupted helping her host family prepare dinner to make a Skype call on Monday evening. To her surprise, Chancellor Bernadette Gray-Little was on the other end of the call letting Koehn know she had been named a 2015 Harry S. Truman Scholar. Koehn is the 18th KU student to be named a Truman Scholar and the only 2015 recipient from the state of Kansas. Earlier this month, she was also named a 2015 Udall Scholar. And in spite of a distance of more than 10,800 kilometers and 11 time zones, Koehn’s thrill from hearing the news from the chancellor came through loud and clear. “Ashlie’s experience at KU epitomizes a quality undergraduate experience. She challenged herself in her coursework, exposed herself to different research opportunities, studied abroad in Germany, Switzerland and Kyrgyzstan, and participated in both student government and community service projects,” Gray-Little said. “This is quite a year for Ashlie. Her hard work is a wonderful reflection on her and also a great reflection on the university, and we all congratulate her.” Each new Truman Scholar receives up to $30,000 for graduate study. Scholars also receive priority admission and supplemental financial aid at some premier graduate institutions, leadership training, career and graduate school counseling, and special internship opportunities within the federal government. Koehn, a member of KU’s nationally recognized University Honors Program, is majoring in environmental studies, economics and international studies. Her goal after earning her KU degree is to pursue a master’s degree in economics at either the London School of Economics or the University of Reading, with a focus on the economics of climate change. In 2014, she received KU’s Newman Civic Engagement Award for her work establishing the Coalition against Slavery and Trafficking. Her involvement with the issue was sparked by Hannah Britton, associate professor of political science and women, gender, and sexuality studies, who hosted national conference on contemporary slavery at KU three years ago. “Ashlie and I met several times to think about what KU students could contribute to the issue of slavery and human trafficking, and the result was her founding of KU CAST,” Britton said. “After a year as president, Ashlie successfully handed the organization over to the next student leader. She demonstrated her strong leadership qualities by setting a unique goal and then pursuing it with her sense of passion, engagement and dedication. No matter the country or context, her leadership strength is evident in her coursework, her public service and her work experiences.” The University Honors Program works with a campus committee to select KU’s nominees for the Truman Scholarship and supports them during the application process. Anne Wallen, assistant director of national fellowships and scholarships, noted it was an amazing ruse to pull off the surprise. Originally, the call was set up to be between Wallen and Koehn. “I was totally not prepared to be greeted by Chancellor Gray-Little, but it was an amazing surprise for sure,” Koehn said. “As a first-generation student, it took time to learn the collegiate system, but my parents taught me to be resourceful and independent from a young age and KU and the Kansas Air National Guard have provided me with the opportunities to drive me into the future, both at graduate school and in my career. I plan to use the Truman Scholarship to pursue a career as an environmental economist helping to shape future trade agreements and leverage action on important international environmental issues, particularly concerning climate change.” Koehn also had a surprise of her own for the chancellor — the meal she was helping to prepare was not exactly typical Kansas dinner fare. On the menu with her host family in Kyrgyzstan on Monday was a traditional Kyrgyz meal called Beshbarmak, or “five fingers,” because you eat it with your hands. The dish is made of horse and sheep and was being prepared as a birthday celebration for Koehn’s host mom. Chancellor Gray-Little, as she signed off from Skype, made sure to encourage Koehn to enjoy her Beshbarmak. Koehn is the daughter of Rodney and Carolyn Koehn of Burns. She graduated from Fredric Remington High School in Moundridge. She is an active member of the Kansas Air National Guard and currently on leave while studying abroad in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan. She is a member of the KU Global Scholars Program and a past member of the Student Senate. In addition to being named a 2015 Truman and Udall scholar, she was named a 2014 Boren Scholar and Gilman Scholar and in 2013 was named the Kansas Air National Guard Airman of the Year.

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