Class: Haslam Scholars 2015
Hometown: Apison, TN
Major: College Scholars- Ecotoxicology and Environmental Conservation
While still a UT student Kenna took full advantage of the resources the university had to offer. By writing for the campus newspaper, The Daily Beacon, and becoming a research collaborator in the Classen Ecosystem Ecology Lab, Kenna set out to explore her love of the outdoors. Through connections and encouragement from Honors faculty and staff she went on to procure one of the most prestigious scholarships in the country.
During her time at UT, Kenna became heavily involved in soil toxicology research. By creating her own major through the College Scholars program, Kenna was able to zero in on a specific field and explore her passion for soils and the environment. Working in labs on campus and off, Kenna travelled the world to delve deeper into her field. Between her sophomore and junior year Kenna spent her summer collecting soil respiration data for a chapter of her thesis project at the Institute of Applied Ecology in China. The following summer, she established a project investigating the effects on climate change on ecosystem processes and plant communities along the elevation gradients of the Swiss Alps and the mountains in Artic Sweden. Kenna then spent the spring semester of her junior year studying Environmental Science of the Arctic in Copenhagen, Denmark. All of this dedicated work culminated in her recognition as a Fulbright Scholar.
“The Fulbright Program provides participants-chosen for their academic merit and leadership potential – with the opportunity to study, teach and conduct research, exchange ideas and contribute to finding solutions to shared international concerns.” As a Fulbright Scholar, Kenna will return to northern Sweden to study the impacts on climate change on the Sami, the indigenous people of the region. Specifically, she will conduct research on how lichen (a type of fungus) found in the area respond to warmer temperatures. Due to lichen’s status as the reindeer’s main food source Kenna believes that if affected by climate change, the depletion of lichen could wreak havoc on the Swedish economy and lifestyle. Taking the Haslam Scholars’ pillar of social responsibility seriously, Kenna wants her research to create recognition for the plight of the Sami people and affect the international arena in terms of climate change.
When reflecting on her Honors experience Kenna compares joining the Honors program to that of joining a team. With fellow Honors students as her teammates Kenna recalls that “My honors professors were my coaches, and my honors courses were my training schedule”. With her Honors ‘training’, Kenna has made it to the ‘Olympic’ stage and has now the potential to shape the lives of an entire people.