Katherine Schmidt awarded prestigious Lapham Fellowship at American Rivers

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Recent Master of Environmental Studies and River Studies and Leadership Certificate graduate Katherine (Katie) Schmidt has been awarded The Anthony A. Lapham River Conservation Fellowship at American Rivers! The Lapham Fellowship is awarded after a national competition to only one person every two years. Congratulations, Katie!

Katie is enthusiastic about this next stage of her career,

“I am excited and honored to have been selected as the Lapham Fellow with American Rivers and for the opportunity to work to protect and restore our rivers. I completed my Masters … with the intention to work in river conservation and this Fellowship will allow me to do just that.

Katie completed her M.Envs. in December 2019. While at VCU she supported outdoor education outreach at the Rice Rivers Center and served as a trip leader for the “Canyons of the Salmon” and as a teaching assistant for the “Footprints on the James” field courses. She was also a leader among the River Studies and Leadership Certificate students, helping organize RSLC events and participating in national meetings. As part of her graduate program, she completed an internship with American Whitewater about the potential for recreational dam releases on the Hiwassee River in Tennesse, North Carolina, and Georgia. After graduation, Katie leveraged her GIS skills into a position at Timmons Group.

Center for Environmental Studies Assistant Director, Dr. James Vonesh, commented,

“Katie brings a positive “can do” energy to everything she takes on. As a graduate student, she had a tremendous positive impact on our program. She was an enthusiastic student, always ready to engage in the classroom, even when at the edge of her comfort zone. She was instrumental in helping create camaraderie and esprit de corps among her fellow graduate and River Studies and Leadership students. She made invaluable contributions to our river field courses. She worked hard to develop a connection with American Whitewater which led to her internship, and that internship, I am sure, was key in her winning the Lapham Fellowship. It’s a perfect fit for her. All in all, she really made the most of her time with us, and gave back as much as she benefited”

The goals of the Anthony A. Lapham Fellowship Program are to develop the next generation of conservation leaders and to generate work products that directly support the mission and goals of American Rivers. Advancements in river conservation will be especially important during the coming years due to the extreme pressure on rivers, headwater streams and freshwater supplies brought on by climate change, population growth and demographic change, and development. The Lapham Fellowship program aims to develop the next generation of skilled leaders who can promote practical environmental solutions that achieve measurable results for natural and human communities.

The 24-month Fellowship will be supported by a team of conservation staff and members of the American Rivers’ Scientific and Technical Advisory Committee, which includes some of the nation’s foremost experts on freshwater conservation science and policy. Conducting an applied research project under the guidance of expert advocates will provide the Fellow with invaluable experience as they begin their career. In general, the first year of the Fellowship is spent researching the decided project, and the second year is spent implementing the project on the ground. Fellows will be provided with opportunities for professional experiences unique to Washington, DC, including legal and policy, economic, and scientific analysis of federal legislation and proposed rules, lobbying training, participation in meetings with congressional offices and federal agency officials, and attendance at congressional hearings and federal court proceedings.

Katie says she will be joining a team working on river restoration through dam removal and hydropower reform, which she studied while at VCU and while working with American Whitewater through an internship as part of the River Studies and Leadership Certificate program.

My academic studies at VCU as well as my position as a graduate assistant helped me to prepare for this position with opportunities such as teaching Footprints on the James with Dan Carr and teaching environmental education programs with the Outdoor Adventure Program at the Rice Rivers Center. These experiences helped to make me a highly competitive candidate and all of which I am very grateful for.”


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