Jarrod Blundy: Outdoor Recreation
Jarrod Blundy, a junior Honors student from Ionia majoring in outdoor recreation has been nominated to compete for a scholarship from the Udall Foundation. He is the president of Outdoor Opportunities, a student organization dedicated to sharing their passion for the outdoors with youth, and a member of the Student Recreation Association and High Adventure Club.
In 2010, Blundy served as a staff member for the Boy Scouts of America's National Youth Leadership Training, a seven-day backwoods leadership camp. As a team guide, he facilitated various challenges designed to encourage teamwork and leadership development. In 2013, he was charged with recruiting and training staff members, and facilitating the entire week-long camp.
Blundy's involvement with the Boy Scouts of America has both strengthened his leadership skills and given him an appreciation for the wilderness; however, it was his experiences in a CMU Honors course - RPL 360: Advanced Wilderness Adventure Trip Facilitation – that solidified his passion for outdoor recreation and exposed him to the rigors of leadership through backpacking on a deserted island.
"I reflected on the meaningful relationships I formed in my outdoor experiences with others: scouts, youth, and professors alike, which confirmed that becoming an instructor who enables such relationships was my path," he said.
Blundy believes environmental education and experiential learning are his greatest tools in helping others understand their place in world. As a leader in the field of outdoor recreation, he hopes to inspire all people to be successful, compassionate, and ethical leaders through meaningful exposure to the natural world.
"My dream is for all people to respect and enjoy the beauty of nature, then feel moved to preserve it in their own individual ways," he said.
Blundy hopes to continue educating others as an instructor with the National Outdoor Leadership School. "It is imperative for us, as Earth's dominant beings, to care for its other inhabitants by minimizing our impact," Blundy said. He believes people form an emotional connection with the land after experiencing the untamed nature of the backcountry, which leads them to return at every available opportunity. "It is my goal to provide people with such opportunities," he said.
Amanda Slezsak: Exercise Physiology
Amanda Slezsak, a junior from Freeland pursuing a degree in exercise physiology has been nominated to compete for a scholarship from the Udall Foundation. She is a 2013 McNair Scholar, the treasurer of the American Indian Science and Engineering Society, a member of the North American Indigenous Student Organization, and has served in multiple leadership positions in the Student National Medical Association.
Slezsak is also involved in Native American Heritage month, an annual event organized by the office of Native American Programs. She has helped plan the Pow Wow and served on the Native American student panel for the past three years. Slezsak says these experiences have taught her more about Native culture. "I have become more educated and I have a much greater appreciation for the culture," she said.
Her Native American heritage and interest in health care drove Slezsak to learn more about health disparities within Native American communities. As a McNair Scholar, she worked with Dr. William Saltarelli to assess cardiovascular disease risk factors in Native American children. During her research, Slezsak found a limited number of studies existed concerning the health of the Native American population. "I want to make a change," Slezsak said. "I want to contribute more knowledge and research to this area."
Slezsak believes that continuing her education in a health wellness graduate program is the next step towards accomplishing her goal of helping Native Americans fight disease. She wants to learn more about chronic diseases, such as obesity, diabetes, and cardiovascular diseases, and the risk factors that contribute to their prevalence in Native American communities.
Once she earns her Ph.D., Slezsak intends to pursue a career as a researcher or clinician focused on Native American health. "I want to utilize nutrition, exercise science, and psychology to encourage individuals to integrate health habits into their lifestyles," she said.
Slezsak hopes to educate Native Americans about the health implications of chronic diseases and ultimately, reduce the rates of obesity, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease through intervention and prevention programs.