Apr 12, 2006    #079
Contact: Michelle Hopkins

Morris K. Udall Foundation awards scholarship to Dustin Jensen of UMKC; Prestigious environmental honor given to only 80 students nationwide

In higher education, there are 12 national scholarships/fellowships regarded in highest esteem and most coveted by the nation’s high achieving college and university students. One of those is the scholarship awarded to only 80 students in the U.S. each year by the Morris K. Udall Foundation to honor academic achievement, leadership potential and commitment to careers in the environment and tribal health care and policy. Among this year’s Udall Scholars is Dustin Jensen of Kansas City, a student in the University of Missouri-Kansas City’s environmental studies program within the Dept. of Geosciences in the College of Arts & Sciences.

Nearly 450 students from 224 colleges and universities were nominated for the award.

Jensen hasn’t always aspired to be an environmental activist. He planned to be a journalist until his life hit a turning point. He spent most of a year on a motorcycle riding with a gang of tradesmen and war veterans. He took up work as a furnace technician and eventually settled on a small organic farm near Kansas City. The region was suffering a drought. His relationship with the land, even the universe, was changing. The period was 1997 to 2003.

Out of necessity for the farm, he said, “I applied myself to the systems of permaculture. I researched, designed and constructed a grey-water irrigation system and composting toilet for the farm. The synthesis of craftsmanship and environmentalism led me back to college.”

Also a Bloch Scholar, Jensen is working toward dual degrees at UMKC – a bachelor of science in environmental sciences and a bachelor of arts in urban affairs. (He also has associate in applied science degrees in both heating, ventilation and air conditioning and stationary engineering. He is pursuing an A.A.S. in environmental health and safety and plans to seek a master’s degree in public administration in non-profit administration.)

“It is my goal to develop a career in the non-profit sector promoting energy and waste conservation as applied to the residential and commercial building sciences and urban planning, and informed by green building principles of sustainability and social principles of community and cooperative action,” he explained.

He cites the lack of conservation requirements and incentives for improvements to existing homes as promoting a housing stock where performance issues of energy management, waste and safety are frequently neglected as a trade off for a price tag that will find buyer acceptance in the short-term. The non-profit sector is stepping forward to improve home performance, he noted, and he wants to help lead that effort.

Jensen has already contributed thousands of hours of service to community non-profit agencies, including the Metropolitan Energy Center, the Habitat for Humanity ReStore, and the Missouri Waste Control Coalition.

For the Metropolitan Energy Center, Jensen managed a grant to develop and deliver 25 public workshops on energy conservation in the home; currently he is developing seminars on green options for more environmentally friendly residences.

He does community outreach for ReStore, a public outlet for new and used building materials donated by residents and builders. Proceeds go to Habitat for Humanity projects. For the Missouri Waste Coalition, he first received the organization’s scholarship (in 2003) and was invited to join as scholarship chairman the following year.

In 2005, he worked with area students on the Metropolitan Energy Center's Project Living Proof. Jensen explained, “We are renovating an historic home adjacent to the Anita B. Gorman Conservation Discovery Center as a public demonstration of green and sustainable building and universal design as applied to energy conservation, waste management, material selection, mechanical equipment and landscaping.”

Harmony with the land, the water and the air is essential to Jensen’s view of the future. “For me, an education and career in the environment will better ground me to live lightly on the land.”

Jensen and other 2006 Udall Scholars and students receiving honorable mentions will be in Tucson, Ariz., August 2-6 to receive their awards and meet policymakers and community leaders in environmental fields as well as tribal health and governance.

The Morris K. Udall Scholarship and Excellence in National Environmental Policy Foundation was authorized by Congress in 1992 to honor Congressman Morris Udall’s legacy of public service. There have been 836 Udall Scholars since the first award in 1996. The current amount of the award is $5,000.


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