Community Sustainability 2024 Graduate Endowed Award Winners

The Department of Community Sustainability announces the seven endowed graduate fellowship award winners for 2024. Congratulations to these excellent graduate students!

CSUS Graduate Endowed Award Winners. Pictured- Erin Budzyn, Rafael Lembi, Maheshwari Elapata, Hunter Lee
CSUS Graduate Endowed Award Winners. Pictured- Erin Budzyn, Rafael Lembi, Maheshwari Elapata, Hunter Lee

The 2024 Endowed Fellowship Award winners were presented on March 15th, 2024 for six endowed awards within the department. These awards have been created throughout the years from generous members, friends, and families of CSUS to support graduate students in their pursuit of their scholarly work to advance the mission of CSUS. Below, the graduate recipients share what receiving the award means to them in terms of their professional development and their future pursuits.

Nancy and George Axinn Award in International Scholarship

About the award: Professors Nancy and George Axinn were committed to international development, and to improving life conditions of poor people in developing countries. Professors George and Nancy Axinn endowed this scholarship to support graduate students who are pursuing careers in international development.

  • Winner: Jonathan Vivas

“Receiving the George and Nancy Axinn International Scholarship is a pivotal moment in my graduate journey. It’s more than just acknowledgment of what I’ve accomplished so far; it’s a significant boost for my future projects. It's like people saying, 'Hey, we believe in you and what you can achieve in international development.' This scholarship is a reminder that I've got what it takes to make a real difference in tackling big global issues. It’s inspiring me to pursue my research with even greater dedication. It’s an incredible encouragement.

Looking towards next steps, I've been chosen to be part of the inaugural group for the Feed-Care-Protect Global Collaborative PhD platform. This is an initiative organized by the University of Montpellier and the University of Pretoria and funded by the French National Research Agency. I can't wait to bring an international dimension to my research in agricultural systems and build up my professional network.” – Jonathan Vivas

Gilbert W. Mouser Memorial Scholarship in Conservation and Environmental Education

About the award: The Mouser Memorial Scholarship was established by Dr. John McVickar to recognize outstanding graduate students in CANR who focus on the study of conservation and environmental education.

  • Winner: Ross Greedy

Harriette Barbara Sherman Scholarship in Recreation and Tourism Systems

About the award: The Harriette B. Sherman Fellowship was created by Mr. Robert Ruigh to recognize non-traditional students who are enrolled in the Department of Community Sustainability and who are working toward a graduate degree in Sustainable Tourism and Protected Areas Management.

  • Winner: Erin Budzyn

“This award has allowed me to afford the day-to-day expenses that come with being a commuting graduate student. This in turn has allowed me to reach my thesis deadlines faster and less stressed.I will defend my thesis in a few weeks and graduation is around the corner in April!” – Erin Budzyn

The Frank Fear Fellowship for Excellence in Community Engagement

About the award: The fellowship fund has been created in honor of Frank Fear by his colleagues and friends to recognize outstanding graduate students in the Department of Community Sustainability who excel in scholarship that reflects the democratic practice of community engagement.

  • Winner: Hunter Lee

“I appreciate this recognition for the work. Much of my work prior to grad school emphasized partnering with communities, so I was heartened to see that I can translate that knowledge in an academic setting. Of course, none of it would have been possible without the strong support of those I work with - we share it. My future plans are still in the works. This summer I'll be working at Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore with the PC lab, followed by a fall of travel plans. I hope to pursue a PhD in a year or two focusing on peace processes, justice, representation, and how they are approached in different cultural contexts.” -Hunter Lee

Mllton H. Steinmueller Fellowship in Natural Resources and Environmental Policy

About the award: The Milton H. Steinmueller Fellowship was established with gifts from alumni, colleagues, and friends wishing to honor the career of Dr. Milton Steinmueller, who served for over 30 years as Professor in the Department of Resource Development (now CSUS).

  • Winner: Maheshwari Elapata

“Receiving the Milton H. Steinmueller Fellowship award is a stepping stone toward greater accomplishments and a chance to contribute meaningfully to the field of Natural Resources and Environmental Policy. My focus lies in understanding farmers’ decision-making processes regarding pesticide use. This critical investigation allows me to explore sustainable alternatives and advocate for a shift toward ecologically based pest management. Armed with the fellowship, I am poised to make a lasting impact, bridging theory and practice in the realm of environmental stewardship.” – Maheshwari Elapata

The Malcolm and Ann Kerr Award for Excellence in Scholarship

About the award: Malcolm and Ann Kerr devoted their professional careers to improving people’s lives through education and understanding. This commitment was based on a belief that education helps us to see ourselves and our humanity through understanding others.

  • Winner: Rafael Lembi 

“Being awarded the Kerr Fellowship is a great honor, especially because teaching is also a central component to my work. I have a teaching degree in Science and Biology, but I have not yet had the opportunity to teach at the undergraduate level. My career goal is to become a professor in the field of sustainability science. Hence, being awarded the Kerr Fellowship will directly contribute to achieving my goals by giving me my first experience as the instructor of record for an undergraduate level course. 

For the next months, I am looking forward to taking my comprehensive plans and defending my project proposal. My plan is to dissertation fieldwork during Fall 2024 and come back in Spring 2025 to teach a class as part of the Kerr Fellowship. I am excited to spend a more lengthy period of time in the field building relationships with community partners and experiencing life in the Brazilian Amazon.” – Rafael Lembi

Congratulations to all award winners!

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