Kenzley Defler – Student
William Olson Student Achievement Awardee
Auburn University, Auburn, AL
At the time of nomination, Kenzley was a senior in Environmental Science, and she now serves as a Peace Corps volunteer in Tanzania.
During her time at Auburn, Kenzley was a fully engaged student, working with joyful determination and discipline to expand sustainability at Auburn University and in the greater community. Through her research, an internship at the Office of Sustainability, and leadership for The Campus Kitchen Project at Auburn University, Kenzley showed the ability to solve problems and generate new innovations at every point of the Sustainability Compass.
Her research was located in the town of Fruithurst, Alabama, where a disproportionate number of rare leukemia cases have occurred. She analyzed water samples and led community meetings to determine the source of the potential cancer cluster. This research had a great impact in the small community. She provided and explained valuable information to the community, empowering them to address environmental problems that threaten their health and wellbeing.
During her two years as an intern with the Office of Sustainability, among many other things, Kenzley helped design and implement an employee engagement program, the PEERS Network, to recruit faculty and staff to learn about, develop, and implement sustainability practices in offices around campus. She also designed an outreach campaign for No Impact Week to encourage students and employees to consider their lifestyle choices in an effort to reduce and eliminate negative impacts, and to adopt behaviors that deliver positive impacts.
After becoming Vice President of the Campus Kitchen Project, she managed most of the daily operations, including managing 30 shift leaders and recruiting new shift leaders, added a new packaging shift to expand capacity, and created the first off-campus partnership in the history of the organization. She subsequently added three new community partners. She greatly expanded capacity while co-leading the club, almost doubling the previous record number of pounds of food picked up in a single year. Under Kenzley’s leadership, in 2017 the organization recovered 24,537 pounds of food and served 19,541 meals. Because of Kenzley’s hard work to expand the program, the community and the environment reap substantial benefits. She has positively impacted hundreds of people, engaged new partners to expand the number of people served, and done so while creating a more sustainable food system.
Kenzley demonstrates how much substantive success one person can generate through dedication, passion, commitment, and selfless service to others.