West Virginia University student Teagan Kuzniar was first drawn to environmental issues after a guest lecture in her high school science class from a member of the Friends of Deckers Creek, a non-profit organization that works to clean-up and protect the Deckers Creek Watershed from environmental degradation.
Soon after, she began volunteering with FODC and quickly developed a love for the environment. When Kuzniar came to WVU, she built on her environmental passion, conducting research on microbial responses to environmental disturbances.
In recognition and support of that research, Kuzniar has been named a 2021 Udall Scholar. A Morgantown resident, Kuzniar is an Honors junior majoring in environmental microbiology and minoring in Spanish.
“Like many other West Virginians, my family has been negatively affected by the exploitation of natural resources such as coal,” Kuzniar said. “With my work, I aspire to change these dynamics and advocate for improved environmental protection. Industry practices in the state of West Virginia have caused large scale disturbances that continue to affect the health of both the environment and many West Virginians. My work aims to better understand how these environmental disturbances can be remediated.”
As part of the Udall Scholarship, Kuzniar has been awarded up to $7,000 to be used toward her education. She is one of 55 students from 42 colleges and universities to have been selected as a 2021 Udall Scholar.
“The Udall Scholarship is the country’s most prestigious award to recognize young leaders who are committed to issues relating to Native American nations or the environment,” said Cate Johnson, assistant director of ASPIRE and Udall Scholarship campus advisor. “Teagan is the sixth WVU student to be awarded this honor and our first in five years. This scholarship is testament to the incredible environmental work Teagan has done already. We know it’s just the beginning for her.”
“Being selected as a Udall Scholar and representing both WVU and the state of West Virginia on a national scale is a tremendous honor,” Kuzniar said. “Going forward, I will strive to represent West Virginians in the call for better environmental protection and remediation.”
Kuzniar is currently the editor-in-chief of the Mountaineer Undergraduate Research Review, West Virginia University’s student-led undergraduate research journal, and a student in the Honors EXCEL program, which supports student development of experiential and community-engaged projects. As part of her Honors EXCEL project, Kuzniar is seeking to advance inclusivity in research in West Virginia by expanding MURR into a regional journal open to undergraduates from across the state.
The 2021 Udall Scholars will connect August 3-6 for the annual Udall Scholar Orientation to meet one another and program alumni; learn more about the Udall legacy of public service; and interact with community leaders in environmental fields, Tribal health care, and governance.
The Udall Scholarship is named for brothers Morris and Stewart Udall, who dedicated their lives to public service.
CONTACT: Cate Johnson
WVU ASPIRE Office
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