As student, teaching assistant, club president and Stillinger Herbarium employee, graduating senior Jaz Ammon has made a lasting impression during his two years at U-Idaho.
Jaz will graduate this December with a B.S. degree in resource recreation and tourism from the department of conservation social sciences, with minors in psychology and outdoor recreation leadership. Originally from Albany, Ohio, he transferred to the University of Idaho in January of 2011. He took a rather circuitous path to get here. After graduating from high school, he first attended Berea College in Kentucky, followed by stints at Ohio University, and at Hocking College in Ohio. It was there, that he first learned about U-Idaho’s College of Natural Resources. “There weren’t a lot of those kinds of programs,” Jaz recalled. “They had a flyer. They were always talking about the ability to transfer up.”
Jaz describes himself as an emerging social scientist with an interest in the interactions between humans and the natural world. His faculty advisors describe him as a person dedicated to learning, sharing, and serving.
“His goal is not simply to earn a degree; he is here to learn, understand, and to share and serve,” wrote Jaz’ advisor, CSS Associate Professor Nick Sanyal in the letter nominating Jaz for the Alumni Excellence Award that he recently received. “What sets him apart from just about any of his peers is his attitude towards life and learning—where so many of his contemporaries can be heard saying, ‘Why me?’ Jaz is out there saying ‘Why NOT me?’ He is the consummate worker—engaged and engaging.”
Jaz spent the past summer in Ecuador as part of a NSF Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU). He worked with Dr. Kelly Wendland to investigate how local communities use forest and water resources in three remote Ecuadorean villages. He interviewed residents of the area to determine if they supported efforts to protect the resources and what possible protection measures would look like. Jaz said having the opportunity to participate in the program was the highlight of his CNR experience. “So few undergraduates have that kind of opportunity,” he said. “As soon as I heard about the opportunity to study in Ecuador, I knew that’s what I wanted to do.”
Jaz has also distinguished himself outside of the classroom. He joined the Student Organization for People and the Environment (SOPE) shortly after arriving on campus, and led it to its 5th UI Sustainability Center Conservation Grant. He currently serves as SOPE President and has helped coordinate a variety of events. Working with the U-Idaho Sustainability Center, he helped put together a cooking class in the residence halls that was focused on locally grown/seasonally available food. He has also organized trail building and maintenance activities at Idler’s Rest and the Palouse Clearwater Environmental Center.
“I feel like I’ve had a lot of good opportunities made available to me,” he said. “I like to give something back when I have time to.”
In addition to taking classes and serving as SOPE president, Jaz works in the Stillinger Herbarium helping digitize their collection, and serves as the teaching assistant for CSS 235 and 287. He is the only undergraduate in over 35 years to ever TA CSS 287, which is an introductory class for the undergraduate curriculum.
CNR has recognized Jaz’ commitment to academic performance and growth with several academic and leadership scholarships. In the spring of 2012 the CSS faculty voted unanimously to award him the department’s 2012 Outstanding Achievement Award, recognizing him for his credible and sustainable contributions to the department, his peers, and his community. He has also received the Selway-Bitteroot Wilderness Scholarship, which recognized his service to a regional community, and CNR’s flagship award, the Monnet Scholarship, which celebrates academic, professional, community and campus involvement.
After graduation, Jaz will spend the winter working at a ski resort in Sun Valley. After that, who knows? Ultimately, he would like to work for the Forest Service or the National Park Service in a social sciences capacity.