Environmental studies bachelor’s degree graduate jumps into PSM in Environmental Assessment, preparing for a career in research
Courtney Becker, Overland Park native, transferred from Johnson County Community College to the KU Edwards Campus at the age of 23 to apply her love of outdoors to earning her bachelor’s degree in environmental science.
“I am genuinely so proud of myself for going back to school at 23,” she said. “I did not think that I would do as well as I did, and at the time it was such a scary decision, but ultimately, this degree changed the course of my life.”
For her capstone project, lauded by her professor, Mark Jakubauskas, Becker developed a plan for an “urban food forest” for the City of Lenexa, focusing on a site at Sar-Ko-Park Park. The project required calculating current maintenance costs for the park area, developing a soil remediation plan, and then a planting plan to create “guilds” of plants that would provide food, fix nitrogen, promote pollinators and suppress plant pests.
Becker is now pursuing her PSM in Environmental Assessment, well on her way to her goal of a life of research.
Learn more about Courtney Becker and her journey at KU.
What is a typical day in your life like?
I try to spend a little time outside every morning with my rescue pup, Laika. When I am not working on coursework, I love to tend to my jungle of houseplants and my garden.
What makes you the happiest?
Anytime I’m able to spend time outside with my loved ones, whether that be through hikes or just visiting a local park, I feel the most joy.
What motivates you?
Especially in the context of environmental studies, I love identifying problems in a system and brainstorming multi-pronged, holistic solutions.
Why did you choose KU and the Edwards Campus?
As a working-class student, I needed a campus that had night classes and online options for courses. Similarly, the ability to seamlessly transfer credits from Johnson County Community College helped to make the transition to a bigger school less stressful.
How did KUEC meet your personal and/or academic needs?
How has your degree prepared you for the future?
Pursuing a degree in environmental studies helped to contextualize how climate change might impact this region, and what I can do to better prepare this region for climate change impacts.
What was the most difficult part of earning your college degree and how did you overcome it?
The most difficult part of earning this degree was finding the balance between working full-time and maintaining grades. I think pushing through the busiest days and rewarding myself with small moments of rest helped significantly to keep me motivated.
What is your proudest accomplishment?
I am genuinely so proud of myself for going back to school at 23. I did not think that I would do as well as I did, and at the time it was such a scary decision, but ultimately, this degree changed the course of my life.
What is your favorite memory of your time at KUEC?
I will always look back fondly on memories from Field Ecology. Putting up field cameras that captured deer, coyotes, and more, and taking stream samples were two of my favorite activities that we did.
What are your long-term career goals and how do you plan to achieve them?
I would love to pursue a doctorate in the environmental science field and become a professor somewhere in order to continue conducting research. I completed an independent study, in which I researched if seeding prairie grasses in urban soils has the capability of reducing compaction. This feels like a small step towards pursuing a life of research.
What advice would you give others who are thinking of earning a degree, whether a first-time bachelor’s, a second bachelor’s or a master’s?
Change is scary, but remaining stagnant is even scarier! Pursuing a degree is a huge step towards investing in yourself, your community, and your environment. Stepping outside of your comfort zone to work towards a degree will challenge you immensely, but simultaneously it will be the most rewarding experience of your life.
This program is supported by the Johnson County Education Research Triangle.