Two Rubenstein School Graduate Students Receive Thomas J. Votta Scholarships
- By Shari Halik
Chester Harvey and Laura Yayac, Rubenstein School graduate students, each received a 2014 Thomas J. Votta Scholarship which includes a $4000 award. In memory of Thomas J. Votta who completed a degree in civil engineering with an environmental option at UVM, the Thomas J. Votta Scholarship was created by Charles Walker (Tom's life partner), family, and friends following Mr. Votta's death to honor his wish to solve environmental problems using best practices and interdisciplinary thinking.
Chester is a Master’s candidate in RSENR, a graduate research assistant at the UVM Transportation Research Center, and a graduate fellow at the Gund Institute for Ecological Economics. His research investigates how the built and natural environment around urban streets relates to their livability for users, especially pedestrians. He has developed a novel GIS-based method for conducting automated widespread measurements of street environment factors. The goal of his research is to support design and policy that makes energy- and land-efficient dense urban environments more livable and reduces low-density development pressure on the urban fringe.
Chester has a diverse professional background including work as a renewable energy development consultant, an undergraduate instructor of GIS and cartographic design, a freelance cartographer, and an architecture and land planning researcher specializing in historical GIS.
Laura is a Master’s student in RSENR’s Ecological Planning curriculum which works closely with the UVM Field Naturalist Program based in UVM’s Plant Biology Department. She works as an assistant leader for the Land Stewardship program, or LANDS, which trains student interns to accomplish field and mapping work for conservation organizations.
For her Master’s project, Laura used the Vermont LANDS model as inspiration and worked with the Southern Maine Conservation Collaborative (SMCC) to develop a similar intern crew program. She spent the summer co-leading the LANDS VT program and meeting with SMCC land trusts to document their needs. She used the information she gathered to design a program to benefit both the land trusts and students in Maine.