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K-State Today

March 3, 2016



Kansas State University nominates five students for Udall Scholarship

By Communications and Marketing

Kansas State University has nominated five students for the Morris K. Udall Undergraduate Scholarship: Jessica Jade Gittemeier, Leawood; Samantha Grieger, Manhattan; Jael Whitney, Overland Park; Mark Ronning, Prairie Village; and Justin Leon, Kearney, Missouri.

Awarded to only 60 students a year, the Udall Scholarship is a national undergraduate scholarship for students committed to careers related to the environment, tribal public policy or Native American health care. Scholars are awarded up to $7,000. Udall nominees must have at least one full year of undergraduate study remaining to be eligible for the scholarship. Each educational institution in the United States can nominate up to four candidates in the environmental category and up to four candidates in the Native American/Native Alaska tribal policy/health care category. Recipients are announced May 1.

Gittemeier, a sophomore in political science and pre-law, plans to attend law school and then begin practice in environmental law. She hopes to work for a nongovernmental organization or lobbying group to address environmental pollution.

Gittemeier is a member of Pi Beta Phi, Students for Environmental Action and the Honors Program and is a former member of the Hillary Clinton Fellowship. She is the president of the university's Young Democrats. She received the K-State Medallion Scholarship. A graduate of Blue Valley North High School, she is the daughter of Joe and Kristi Gittemeier.

Grieger, a sophomore in biology and natural resources and environmental science, worked in professor of biology Loretta Johnson's ecological genomics lab, where she collected and compared phenotypic data from various ecotypes of big bluestem grass. Her dream is to help people connect to larger-scale environmental challenges, such as climate change, by learning to love the everyday world they inhabit.

Grieger is a member of Students for Environmental Action; an intern for Eden Vigil, a local nonprofit; and a former member of K-State's Lab A and Housewrecker jazz bands. She received the Undergraduate Research Scholarship; wrote an environmental anthropology essay that was featured on Communitas, the K-State anthropology blog; and attended the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change Conference of the Parties 21 in Paris. A graduate of Manhattan High School, she is the daughter of David and Yvonne Grieger.

Whitney, a sophomore in marketing, is working toward a career in a governmental setting or cultural institution in a role that would involve knowledge transfer, collaboration and/or public outreach to resolve tribal economic development and cultural preservation issues to best serve her tribe, the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma.

Whitney is chair-elect of the Hale Library Ambassadors and vice president of the Multicultural Business Student Association. She is a member of the American Indian Science and Engineering Society and the Wildcats for International Development. She works as a residential learning assistant in the Strong Complex. She has received semester honors in spring 2015 and fall 2015 and participated in the Fulbright-Scotland Summer Institute. She was home-schooled, and is the daughter of Patricia and Nathan Whitney, Overland Park.

Ronning, a junior in electrical engineering, is doing research for the Flint Hills Renewable Energy and Efficiency Cooperative. He is gathering data on battery storage options for solar panels and allowing users to enter their panel array information into a computer program to determine if they can offset a peak load. Previously, he worked with Ruth Douglas Miller and another student to fashion a device that could measure the energy production of the solar panels on the roof of the engineering building.

Ronning was the scholarship chair of Acacia Fraternity, a member of the Student Alumni Board, the music manager for Cadence A Cappella, a member of the Flint Hills Renewable Energy and Efficiency Cooperative, a member of the Wildcat Wind Power Electrical Team and a former member of the Engineering Ambassadors. He has participated in the Collegiate Chorale and Concert Choir. He has received the Putnam Scholarship and the National Residence Halls Honorary's Diamond Powercat Award, and he has been inducted into Tau Beta Pi Honor Society and Eta Kappa Nu Honor Society. A graduate of Shawnee Mission East High School, he is the son of Eric and Margy Ronning.

Leon worked on an independent research project under supervision of Alice Boyle and Lorena Passarelli to find if grasshopper sparrow return rates were influenced by climate predictability. As a naturalist for Clay County Parks, he co-created a long-term herpetological observation field study to get a better picture of which reptiles and amphibians could be found on the Smithville Lake Nature Center's property. The study also is an educational tool for the public during guided hikes. After graduation, Leon would like a job with a state or federal wildlife related agency where he could raise awareness about the importance of conservation.

Leon is the newsletter chair for the K-State student chapter of The Wildlife Society. He is a former member of the Division of Biology Student Centered Tuition Enhancement Undergraduate Scholar's Program and the former intramural chair of the Marlatt Hall Floor Governing Board. He was selected to attend the 2015 Conservation Leaders for Tomorrow Regional Workshop, and he received The Wildlife Society's Robert Robel Scholarship, the 2015 Student Centered Tuition Enhancement Undergraduate Research Scholarship, the Purple and White Scholarship and the Kearney PTO Scholarship. Additionally, he was awarded semester honors in fall 2013. A graduate of Kearney High School, he is the son of Patrick and Sharla Leon.

To learn more about competing for future Udall Scholarships or other nationally competitive honors while a student at Kansas State University, contact Jim Hohenbary at jimlth@k-state.edu.