Environmental Conservation Graduate Student Wins $26,000 Edith Robinson Fellowship

Mackenzie Consoer

Mackenzie Consoer, a second-year doctoral student in the department of environmental conservation, has been selected for the Edith Robinson Fellowship by the Graduate School. The one-year award will provide Consoer with a full tuition scholarship and a stipend totaling more than $26,000.

“Kenzie is an outstanding student with exceptional credentials,” said John J. McCarthy, vice provost for graduate education and dean of the Graduate School. “I am delighted that this funding from the Graduate School will allow her to concentrate exclusively on her research during the next academic year.”

Consoer’s dissertation, which spans the disciplines of ecosystem study and environmental policy, examines how the impact of natural disasters such as large-scale flooding is shaped by the social response to these events. By investigating the ongoing recovery from Tropical Storm Irene in Vermont, Consoer will develop a theoretical model for understanding the role played by community groups during massive flooding, how relationships within these groups influence decision-making regarding disaster recovery, and the factors that help mitigate the consequences of environmental calamities.   

“Through its integration of empirical research and theoretical analysis, Kenzie’s work will be a major contribution to the understanding of human adaptation to climate-related catastrophes,” said Anita Milman, assistant professor of environmental conservation and Consoer’s doctoral advisor. “This project is significant because the frequency and intensity of precipitation events on the East Coast is expected to increase during the coming years.  As a result, Kenzie’s dissertation topic is extremely timely and has considerable relevance for academic discussion and public policy debate. Because Kenzie brings great analytical rigor, strong intellectual curiosity and highly developed people and interview skills to her work, I anticipate that her research will have a substantial impact in both of these arenas.”

Milman’s high expectations for Consoer’s dissertation stem partially from the graduate student’s stellar academic record.  During her first year in the department of environmental conservation, Consoer maintained a perfect grade point average while impressing faculty members with her ability to digest voluminous amounts of literature on environmental governance and natural disasters. Her current success is mirrored by her earlier achievements at the University of Minnesota, where she excelled in her master’s program in science, technology and environmental policy.

According to Milman, Consoer’s accomplishments reflect her underlying qualities. “From the time she entered the graduate program, Kenzie has been a joy to work with,” Milman said. “She has dedicated herself to making a positive difference in her field, and that determination shows in her strong work ethic and high degree of engagement with her subject matter.”

Having begun her UMass career auspiciously, Consoer believes her Robinson Fellowship will facilitate further academic progress. “Much of my research takes place in remote locations, far away from the campus community, so this award provides me with vital encouragement to continue my work on its current trajectory,” she said. “Equally important to the vote of confidence it has given me is the freedom the funding will afford to engage deeply with my work. The year of fellowship support will allow me to explore as many ideas as possible and think with a maximum degree of creativity. ”

One of two endowed awards given by the Graduate School, the fellowship was established in 2011 through a bequest from Edith Robinson, a former director of International Programs.  Robinson created the fellowship for UMass graduate students who have completed at least one year of study, are residents of Vermont or New Hampshire, and are pursuing a degree in the health sciences, environmental science or psychology.

“Because she is a New Hampshire resident who is also a stellar UMass environmental science graduate student conducting research in Vermont, Mackenzie Consoer is, in many ways, an ideal choice for the Edith Robinson Fellowship,” McCarthy said. “As New England’s largest public research institution, the University of Massachusetts attracts many students from neighboring states to complete graduate degrees on the Amherst campus. Funding programs like the Edith Robinson Fellowship help the university provide invaluable research support to these students and amplify the school’s stature within and beyond the region. They reward outstanding young scholars like Kenzie for their work while enhancing UMass’ ability to attract and retain top academic talent.”