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May 2, 2005

Student Wins National Scholarship

Jessica Kukielka, a junior majoring in agricultural and resource economics, has been named a 2005 Morris K. Udall Scholarship recipient for her service and involvement in activities related to farmland conservation and environmental literacy at UConn.

Kukielka, a student in the Honors Program, was one of only 80 recipients nationwide. The scholarship of up to $5,000 is awarded to college sophomores and juniors who have “demonstrated outstanding potential and a commitment to pursuing careers related to the environment.” Udall, a U.S. Representative for 30 years, was responsible for many pieces of environmental legislation.

Kukielka is the first UConn student to receive a national award since the founding of the University’s new Office of National Scholarships just over a year ago. Directed by Kathryn Strother Ratcliff, an assistant professor of sociology, the office identifies, recruits, and mentors students to compete for prestigious national and international scholarships.

Lynn Goodstein, associate vice provost and director of Honors Programs, including the scholarship office, is pleased that the University is helping students receive the recognition they deserve.

“Historically, prestigious national scholarships have been awarded to students enrolled in private, elite universities and colleges,” she says. “As a public research university of the highest quality, we have many students here who have the talent, drive, and experience to be highly competitive for these honors.”

The seeds of Kukielka’s interest to pursue a possible career as an agricultural economist in the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Department of Economic Research were planted long before she came to UConn. While enrolled in Plainville Middle School, she took over her sister’s job at a stable in Cheshire, and watched as the open fields used for grazing horses were subdivided for housing.

The loss of agricultural land sparked her interest in the topic of land use. She enrolled in the Southington Vocational Agriculture Program to continue the pursuit of her career aspirations.

Kukielka is active in a wide array of activities. At the Connecticut Farm Bureau Association (CFBA) she assisted in a large fund-raising effort, and she is an active member of the Young Farmers Committee. She has supported the government relations director in CFBA by attending public hearings. She also monitors legislative proposals on agricultural, environmental, and land use topics.

At UConn’s Office of Environmental Policy, Kukielka has worked with the Land Use Sustainable Development Subcommittee to draft grant proposals for federal Environmental Protection Agency funds for landfill closure and mitigation projects. She also assisted the Community Outreach Subcommittee in an attempt to increase environmental literacy among students and faculty.

Kukielka has also volunteered at UConn. She is co-coordinator of EcoHusky, a student environmental organization that plans projects and events in coordination with the Office of Environmental Policy and other environmentally-oriented groups, both on campus and in the local community. She has been president and treasurer of the UConn chapter of Future Farmers of America, and helped coordinate the Campus Bike Plan/Support Ride and the UConn Landfill/Wetlands Plan.

Kukielka also volunteered at the 2004 Celebration of Connecticut Farms, Foods, Wine and Art, which raised money for the Connecticut Farmland Trust and open space preservation programs. She also was a volunteer for the Connecticut Farm Bureau/Connecticut Agricultural Education Foundation’s annual fund-raising golf tournament.