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Kansas University

Two KU students win scholarships for next generation of environmental educators

November 10, 2008

Kansas University
1314 Jayhawk Blvd
Lawrence, KS 66045

Press release contact information

Mary Jane Dunlap, University Relations, (785) 864-8853,


LAWRENCE - Two University of Kansas students recently received scholarships from the North American Association for Environmental Education to encourage the next generation of environmental educators.

David J. Burchfield, Shawnee senior, and Gabriella Nina Kusko, Overland Park graduate student, each received $1,000 scholarships during the association's 37th annual meeting Oct. 14-19 in Wichita.

The association has awarded Environmental Education Scholarships for Academic Study to students in the state hosting the conference since 2006. This year, both winners were from KU.

Burchfield has a triple major in environmental studies, geography and English. He is an intern for the Heartland Tree Alliance in Kansas City and a volunteer for the Kansas City Workers Justice Clinic. His career goals include working toward environmental justice.

"I truly believe that many of our societal environmental problems come from misconstrued ideas about who we are individually as people and how we relate and fit into the natural world," said Burchfield.

At KU, he has volunteered with the Center for Sustainability. He is an Eagle Scout whose experiences include learning wilderness skills as well as teaching and mentoring younger Scouts in outdoor education, particularly at the Philmont Scout Ranch in New Mexico. Following his graduation in spring 2009, Burchfield plans to work at the Philmont Scout Ranch for the summer. He is the son of Ray and Dona Burchfield and a Shawnee Mission Northwest High School graduate.

Kusko is a student at KU's Edwards Campus in Overland Park, working on a master's degree to teach secondary science. She plans to graduate in spring 2009. She has a bachelor's degree from the University of California-Davis and has worked as a summer intern in the environmental and biomedical divisions of the Lawrence Livermore Lab in California. In greater Kansas City, she has worked with a program at Children's Mercy Hospital examining asthma and allergy triggers and with LeadBusters, an agency working to prevent childhood lead poisonings. Kusko now is volunteering with the Blue River Watershed Association to teach middle and high school students how to test water quality. She has also worked as a landscape designer. Kusko has traveled extensively in the United States and lived in Europe for two years. She is a parent with two teenage sons and wants to ensure that the next generation has opportunities to appreciate the natural wonders she has seen, such as Lake Tahoe, the redwoods of California and caves such as those found in Missouri.

The association selected Kansas as the site of its 2008 annual meeting and structured the six-day event around the theme "Environmental Education On the Prairie: Pioneering New Strategies." Sessions focused on the role of environmental education in building sustainable communities and contrasted plans to rebuild the southern Kansas town of Greensburg as a green community with a model of sustainable development in Malmo, Sweden. Conference field trips included visits to Greensburg; Salina's Land Institute; Quivira National Wildlife Refuge and Cheyenne Bottoms Wildlife Area, both in central Kansas; Wichita's Great Plains Nature Center; and Botanica: The Wichita Gardens.

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