Kris Stepenuck Promoted to Lake Champlain Sea Grant Associate Director

By Julianna White, Research Program Coordinator (Email the author)
October 27, 2020

Kris Stepenuck was promoted to Associate Director of Lake Champlain Sea Grant in October in recognition of her leadership to help develop the Lake Champlain Sea Grant Institute to benefit the environment and economies of the Lake Champlain basin.

In its annual meeting in August, the Lake Champlain Sea Grant Steering Committee unanimously supported her promotion from Assistant Director, citing the breadth and the success of Kris’s work.

“Kris’s leadership in Extension has contributed to the national recognition of the Lake Champlain Sea Grant and is helping to grow a science-driven portfolio of activities to benefit the Lake Champlain basin,” said Leslie Parise, member of the Steering Committee and Dean of the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences at the University of Vermont (UVM). “We fully endorse the promotion.” 

“Kris has worked tirelessly to identify knowledge resources and build partnerships that will help people make informed decisions about challenges that affect the futures of their communities,” said Breck Bowden, Lake Champlain Sea Grant Director. “As a result, Kris has rapidly established herself as a trusted and knowledgeable authority in the region.”

Following are just a few of many highlights of how Kris has helped lead the Lake Champlain Sea Grant Institute since 2015:

  • Led strategic planning that reached 300 partners and stakeholders in the basin to define a new vision, mission, and programmatic goals for Lake Champlain Sea Grant.
  • Co-led planning and implementation of two national site reviews. The first earned the program Institute status and an annual budget increase of $600,000, and the second “exceeded expectations by an exceptional margin in most areas/aspects” and earned an annual budget increase of $179,000.
  • Led or co-led seven hiring committees and served on two others to build Lake Champlain Sea Grant staff capacity, including creation of the Watershed Forestry Partnership.
  • Co-led establishment of an Aquaculture Education Specialist position.
  • Co-developed a new fellowship program, which has supported two fellows to date, in partnership with The Nature Conservancy of Vermont and the Vermont Youth Conservation Corps.
  • Co-developed and secured partnerships to establish an undergraduate Sea Grant Scholars program at UVM to increase diversity in STEM careers and to help retain students representing a broad diversity at UVM.

“It is a privilege to work with the Lake Champlain Sea Grant team to define and implement a variety of programs that reach diverse audiences and address local issues across the Lake Champlain basin” said Kris, who also serves as Extension Assistant Professor in the UVM Rubenstein School of Environment and Natural Resources and in UVM Extension.

Kris holds a BS in Water Resources Management from the University of New Hampshire, an MS in Natural Resources from the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point, and a PhD in Environment and Resources from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. She has served on a variety of boards, including most recently as chair of the Citizen Science Association. She is currently a member of the Education and Outreach committee of the Lake Champlain Basin Program and of the board of directors for Watersheds United Vermont. 

Her research focuses on assessing impacts of land use on water quality, understanding behavior changes that result from watershed outreach programming, and understanding motivations of volunteers and outcomes of programs that engage the public in scientific research.

Kris values the vigor and passion of the Lake Champlain Sea Grant team to address environmental challenges within the Lake Champlain basin. Her colleagues describe her tireless leadership and commitment to the prosperity of our region as paramount to meeting common goals for environmental and economic sustainability in the Lake Champlain basin.