LAWRENCE — Stewart Udall, former congressman and Secretary of the Interior, said, "Plans to protect air and water, wilderness and wildlife are in fact plans to protect man." For University of Kansas juniors Ashlie Koehn and Jennifer Stern, their commitment to studying and protecting the environment will be assisted by a 2015 Udall Foundation Scholarship.
Koehn and Stern are among 50 students nationwide honored as 2015 Udall Scholars. The honor comes with a scholarship of up to $5,000 for the scholar's senior year. The Udall Foundation honors undergraduate college students across the nation for leadership, public service and commitment to issues related to American Indian nations or to the environment. KU’s University Honors Program worked with Koehn and Stern to apply for the highly competitive award.
Koehn, a junior from Burns triple-majoring in economics, environmental studies and global & international studies, plans a career in environmental economics.
Her interest was sparked not in Lawrence, but in Germany.
"A unique, clarifying moment came last summer while I was studying abroad with Environmental Studies in Freiburg, Germany," Koehn said. "There, Professor Earnhart taught a class on environmental economics, and I began thinking more deeply about the potential of economic policy as a way to protect the environment. I am currently studying economics in Kyrgyzstan because I see it as a way to make a difference on issues like climate change. I am incredibly honored to represent KU as a Udall Scholar and humbled by the faith and support shown in me."
"In Freiburg, Ashlie excelled academically and creatively exploited the many opportunities to explore issues relating to environmental economics and sustainability," said Dietrich Earnhart, professor of economics. "While many perspectives help to promote environmental sustainability, economics provides a useful framework for identifying the underlying causes of environmental problems and constructing effective policy solutions. Ashlie demonstrates that she has a great ability to apply this framework effectively in order to help solve current and future environmental problems."
Stern was one of 50 honorable mentions recognized by the Udall Foundation in 2014. After spending last summer at the New England Aquarium in Boston as a marine science summer camp intern, she was eager to apply again this year. Her focus in graduate school will be the effects of climate change on arctic ecosystems, specifically beluga whales.
"I am so incredibly grateful for the opportunities that the Udall Scholarship will provide me," said Stern. "I’m especially looking forward to the Scholar Orientation this summer, where I can meet and connect with others who are just as passionate about the environment as I am. I am dedicated to pursing research and connecting the public with nature, and I have pursued activities that have allowed me to do both. In addition, I have had the privilege of working with phenomenal research advisors who have shown me the possibilities and progress that research provides."
"Jenny’s ability to take the diverse research opportunities available to undergraduates at KU to build a directed research program toward her career goals exemplifies what makes Jenny and KU great," said Leo Smith, assistant professor of ecology & evolutionary biology who is directing Stern's independent honors research. "Jenny’s strength is in her creativity and her ability to connect ideas and synthesize across her experiences. I have been fascinated by her early recognition that a scientific leader must be able to conduct research, teach the next generation of scientists, and explain scientific findings to the public."
Smith was joined by Joy Ward, associate professor of ecology & evolutionary biology and another of Stern's research mentors, and Anne Wallen, assistant director of national fellowships and scholarships for the University Honors Program, at an impromptu surprise ceremony at the KU Natural History Museum to present Stern with the news of her Udall Scholarship. Koehn, who is spending the 2014-15 academic year in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan, had a more intimate ceremony via Skype but was equally surprised by the news, which was delivered over a time difference of 12 hours.
Student applications include a summary of 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 Congressman Morris K. Udall or former Arizona Congressman and Secretary of the Interior Stewart L. Udall, as well as three letters of recommendation addressing leadership, public service and academic achievements. Applications were submitted March 4.
More information about KU's 2015 Udall Scholars is below:
Ashlie Koehn, of Burns, is the daughter of Rodney and Carolyn Koehn and is a graduate of Fredrick Remington High School. She is a triple major in economics, environmental studies and global & international studies. She is a member of the Kansas Air National Guard; staff sergeant, 177th Information Aggressor Squadron; Kansas Air National Guard-cyber intelligence analyst/aggressor and was named the 2013 Kansas Air National Guard Airman of the Year. She is currently on leave while studying abroad in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan, with Boren and Gilman scholarships. Koehn also is a member of the KU Global Scholars Program and was named a Newman Civic Fellow in 2014.
Jennifer Stern, of Lawrence, is the daughter of George and Joan Stern and is a graduate of Free State High School. She is majoring in ecology & evolutionary biology. She conducted original research on climate change and Ash trees with Joy Ward, associate professor of ecology & evolutionary biology, and on the evolution of venom across the sharks and stingrays with William Leo Smith, assistant professor of ecology & evolutionary biology and assistant curator at the Biodiversity Institute. Stern spent summer 2014 at the New England Aquarium Harbor Discoveries Camp as the marine science camp counselor intern. She is member of the University Scholar program and head peer leader for the Peer Led Undergraduate Supplements in Biology program. Stern received a 2014 Honorable Mention for the Udall Scholarship.