The rest of the state of Arkansas is quickly learning what the Ozarks community has known for some time: Nena Evans is passionate about conservation and the environment.
Nena Evans, a junior environmental studies major, was recently named the 2014 Student Conservationist of the Year by the Arkansas Wildlife Federation.
Evans, a junior environmental studies major from Bergman, Ark., was recently named the 2014 Student Conservationist of the Year by the Arkansas Wildlife Federation. Evans was presented the award during the organization’s annual Conservation Achievement Awards Banquet, held Aug. 23, in Bryant, Ark. Also at the awards banquet, U of O international studies office manager Lynne Slater was named the 2014 Rex Hancock Wildlife Conservationist of the Year for her work with the HAWK Center in Russellville.
Evans was nominated for the student award by alumna Lauren Ray, a 2013 graduate who won the same state-wide award from the AWF last summer.
“Lauren told me in May that she was nominating me, but I really didn’t think much about it,” Evans said. “When I found out that I had won, I was very surprised and deeply honored. Here I was just completing my sophomore year and am competing against college students from throughout the state for the award. I didn’t really think I had a chance, so when I heard I had won I was shocked. It was quite an honor and very humbling.”
In presenting the honor, the AWF said, “Despite just turning 20 and with only two years of college under her belt, Nena is an outstanding young woman with the virtues of a seasoned leader.” The organization cited Evans’ involvement with the University’s Ozarks Outdoors program and as president The Planet Club, where last year she led volunteer efforts in habitat restoration, environmental clean-ups, tree planting, removing evasive species and promoting recycling and conservation awareness. “Soon after she arrived at University of the Ozarks as a freshman, people began to notice that Nena was a natural leader,” the awards program stated. “She tirelessly steered The Planet Club toward achievement after achievement and event after event.”
Evans has a particular interest in sustainable agriculture, which led her to a six-week internship this summer at an organic farm in Vina, Calif., about 90 minutes north of Sacramento. The 15-acre farm, named Farmelot, grows organic produce —mainly lettuce and tomatoes but also bell peppers, onions, kale, garlic and cucumbers — to sell to local farmer’s markets.
“I’ve always had an interest in sustainability and in sustainable agriculture, so I went on-line and found an internship in that field,” Evans said. “I realize that it’s going to be up to our generation to figure out how we are going to feed a growing world population and within the context of all the climate changes that are happening. I think the key is locally produced, sustainable agriculture. My family always had a garden as I was growing up and we tried to be as organic as possible, but during my internship I learned a lot about organic gardens on a larger scale. I learned about crop rotation and the irrigation controversy in California. I learned that organic farming can be a lot of work, but that it’s definitely worth it. You get better quality and you get better yield.”
Evans has stepped down as president of The Planet Club but she is not slowing down her efforts in conservation. As a program coordinator for Ozarks Outdoors, she has several major projects to focus on, including improving the University’s nature preserve and helping create the college’s first campus garden.
“We’ve got a lot of good ideas for the nature preserve as well as the campus garden and I’m excited about being a part of that work,” said Evans, who hopes to secure an environmental studies abroad internship next summer. “I don’t see myself slowing down at all.”