2015 Award Recipients

Undergraduate Student Award - Sarah Graves, Senior, Chemical Engineering:  Sarah’s contributions to sustainability span a range of social and environmental issues and reach past the boundaries of the KU Campus.  Her first exposure to sustainability was on a mission trip, where she learned about engineering solutions to provide clean drinking water to impoverished areas in Guatemala.  Years later, that experience has inspired her to research the use of algae to treat wastewater and create biofuels through KU’s Alternative Fuel Research Lab.  She in turn hopes to inspire other young women to pursue STEM careers and sees a need for more female mentors in these fields.  But her interests at KU extend beyond the research lab. She has held leadership roles in the Coalition Against Sex Trafficking, Title IX, and her sorority, Delta Delta Delta, using her positions of leadership to inspire others to create a culture of sustainability.


Graduate Student Award – Katrina McClure, Human Geography: As president of the KU Student Farm, Katrina demonstrates their motto, “Growing Community, Cultivating Change” in all that she does.  She goes above and beyond the call of duty to mentor Student Farm members and get them involved in sustainable agriculture. She also provides leadership for projects that give back to the community, which include building compost bins at the local Lawrence Community Shelter and organizing days to prepare meals for Veggie Lunch, a free vegetarian meal served at the Ecumenical Campus Ministries building.  Katrina seeks out opportunities to make connections and bring disciplines together through her academic life as well. For example, she has built relationships with KU faculty to provide classes with interactive learning experiences at the student farm. She also she serves as program coordinator for the Haskell Environmental Research Studies Institute and is a trainee with the C-CHANGE program, which brings together graduate students from diverse fields to study climate change.


Faculty – Uma Outka, Associate Professor of Law: Uma has demonstrated how faculty committed to sustainability can have a broad influence in their field and in the local community. Her research on legal issues associated with climate change mitigation, renewable energy, and fossil fuels have garnered national attention. Here at KU, her colleagues seek her out as a resource on sustainability, enriching academic dialogue among disciplines. Her leadership in the field also translates into opportunities for the School of Law to offer courses on a wide range of sustainability-related topics.  Outside the classroom, Uma engages her students in real-world sustainability issues by taking them to hear oral arguments at relevant cases before the Kansas Supreme Court and to attend EPA “listening session.”   In addition, Uma is continually looking for internships, writing competitions, and job opportunities for her students, reflecting her commitment to sustainability education and to preparing students to integrate sustainability into their own careers. 


Staff - Kate Meyer, Assistant Curator, Spencer Museum of Art: In her role as the Assistant Curator of Work on Paper, Kate makes sustainability a key component of her work. She has taken on a major role of incorporating the regular collection, the print collection and rotating exhibits into the sustainability curriculum in environmental studies and other departments. Kate has also collaborated with faculty and students to integrate the arts and sciences.  Through the One Kansas Farmer project, she worked with Design students to help translate the social and natural science components of the BACC-FLUD project, an NSF-funded research project on farmers’ decisions to grow crops for biofuels, into beautiful posters.  She has also partnered with faculty on a student project pairing environmental sociology students with photography students to document environmental problems and solutions. Kate lectured on the collaborative processes, helped mobilize the library as a resource of illustration, and curated the resulting project.


Student Scholarship - David Szczucinski, Environmental Studies: David’s passion for reducing food waste led him to research composting behavior at KU dining facilities.  By placing compost bins in public areas, and making subtle changes to the bins over time, David’s project investigated the impact of physical features of the bin on maximizing food waste collections and minimizing compost contamination.  David’s project was supported by both the Undergraduate Research Award and the Ruben Zadigan Scholarship Research Award from Environmental Studies, which is a testament to the potential impact of his study and the rigor with which he approached it.  The results of this project could not only help inform future composting approaches here at KU, but may benefit programs at other universities as well. 


Faculty Scholarship - Dietrich Earnhart, Professor, Economics: As director of the Center for Environmental Policy at the Institute for Policy & Social Research, Dietrich’s leadership contributes to KU’s national reputation for environmental and sustainability research.  His interdisciplinary research blends environmental studies, economics, and business to study the impact of regulation and decision-making on environmental and economic outcomes. Much of Professor Earnhart’s research focuses on companies’ efforts to reduce their impact on the natural environment by lowering their air pollutant emissions and wastewater discharges.  Understanding this form of corporate sustainability informs the larger research community on the benefits of sustainability for environmental resources and the corporate bottom-line. Professor Earnhart’s research influences environmental policy at the highest levels of government, including officials in the Office of Enforcement and Compliance of the Environmental Protection Agency and the Environmental Council of the States.  And, through his teaching and mentorship, Dietrich is inspiring the next generation of sustainability scholars: he currently heads a sustainability-related research team that includes undergraduate students in economics, political science, environmental studies, and engineering that is studying the impacts of the Clean Water Act on wastewater discharge. 


Social Justice - Liz Anstine, Graduate Student, Curriculum and Instruction: After leaving the International Marketing Profession to spend time with her children, Liz Anstine found a new passion in education.  She spent years volunteering, tutoring and substitute teaching, and eventually landed in her current role as Business and Technology Teacher at Leavenworth High School.  In this position, she strives to help her students to understand, appreciate, and embrace the value of equality and to treat all people the same regardless of race, gender, sexual preference, socioeconomic status, or academic level of achievement.  And she leads by example, demonstrating her passion for equality on a daily basis. During her first year at the school, she helped establish a closet of clothes for students in need, which has grown to include shelves full of school supplies, food, and personal care items.  She has also worked with students to establish a cultural festival highlighting different ethnic organizations from the school and the community.  Attendees reported that the festival helped them learn about cultural differences feel more comfortable approaching people from different cultures. Liz truly has a passion in teaching and instilling the values she lives on a daily basis, helping others embrace equality and compassion for humankind.


Greek Life - Sigma Kappa, Xi Chapter: The women of the Xi chapter of Sigma Kappa are being recognized for the second time with this award for their dedication to addressing environmental issues. Sigma Kappa has a strong recycling program, educating members on what can be and why recycling is important for the community and the environment. They also host the West Campus Read Cleanup, collecting litter from the neighborhood boarding campus. Sigma Kappa’s annual Ultra Violet Week features five days of sustainability-themed events, including “Black Out Day” when the use of lights is limited, a recycling competition, and a service project planting flowers with the elderly at the Neuvant House, a care facility for individuals with Alzheimer’s. Sustainability also took priority in a recent reconstruction of the house, adding more efficient windows, appliances, and HVAC systems as well as low flow showerheads and toilets. 


Project - KU Student Farm & The Roasterie: In 2014, KU Student Farm began a partnership with KU Dining Services Roasterie Coffeehouses to compost coffee grounds that were previously being thrown away. Since then, over 4,850 pounds of coffee grounds have been composted. KU Dining Services and Roasterie leadership and employees have put in extra effort to make sure the coffee is not wasted, and KU Student Farm officers have put in many hours working the coffee back into the soil. The effort of these two groups to find sustainable solutions for waste has made a difference at the student gardens and brought more awareness of sustainability issues to students at KU by giving them an opportunity to be involved in making the change.


Program - Centroamérica Indígena: Since August 2013, KU Geography professors Peter Herlihy and Jerome Dobson have led “CA Indígena," a multi-national effort to promote cultural and environmental sustainability in the lands inhabited by Central America’s diverse indigenous groups. The project has two major goals: 1) to better understand what makes some indigenous cultures enjoy more cultural, territorial, and environmental stability than others, and 2) to organize mapping projects to help indigenous communities prepare to govern their territories. To accomplish these goals, they have developed relationships with academic institutions in Central America and major indigenous leadership organizations of the tropical forest and savanna. Their work builds on pioneering participatory mapping efforts in the 1990s that helped sustain the region’s abundant wildlife and vegetative diversity.  Today, the program empowers communities to implement their own reserve management plans. A recent pilot project trained indigenous residents in field geography and mapping to conduct surveys and develop detailed maps which demonstrate their traditional and current land use, serving as the basis for the sustainable governance of their territory. 


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