Lake Champlain Sea Grant’s Kris Stepenuck Promoted to Extension Associate Professor

By Lake Champlain Sea Grant
June 16, 2021

Kris Stepenuck has been promoted to Extension Associate Professor of Watershed Science, Policy and Education in the University of Vermont (UVM) Rubenstein School of Environment and Natural Resources and UVM Extension. She also serves as the Extension Program Leader for Lake Champlain Sea Grant. 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, Kris was also promoted to Associate Director of Lake Champlain Sea Grant in October 2020.

“Kris has been absolutely instrumental in the recent growth and success of the Lake Champlain Sea Grant,” said Breck Bowden, Director of Lake Champlain Sea Grant and Rubenstein School Interim Associate Dean. “Her tireless efforts to inspire our staff, mentor our student interns, and collaborate with our partners are special talents that easily explain why Kris deserves these promotions.”

Since 2015 when she came to UVM, Kris has helped to lead the Lake Champlain Sea Grant. She steered strategic planning that reached 300 partners and stakeholders in the basin to define a new vision and mission and programmatic goals for the Institute. She co-led 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.

Kris led, co-led, or served on 11 hiring committees to build Lake Champlain Sea Grant staff capacity, including creation of the Watershed Forestry Partnership and establishment of both an Aquaculture Education and a Lakes Monitoring and Community Outreach position. She co-developed new fellowship programs in partnership with The Nature Conservancy of Vermont, Vermont Youth Conservation Corps, and Audubon Vermont. Kris also secured partnerships to establish an undergraduate Sea Grant Scholars program at UVM to increase diversity in STEM careers and to help retain students at the university.

“Kris has been an outstanding member of the Rubenstein School community,” said Nancy Mathews, Dean of the Rubenstein School. “In addition to her considerable efforts to build the Lake Champlain Sea Grant, she has established an expansive network and collaborations with extension colleagues throughout the country. The Sea Grant Scholars Program is particularly meaningful and an important program to help advance students of diverse backgrounds in the sciences and natural resource professions.”

For more than 20 years, Kris has focused her career to build community connections to and understanding of the impact human actions have on the health of streams, rivers, and lakes. Her research focuses on assessing impacts of land use on water quality, understanding behavior changes that result from watershed outreach programming, and learning about motivations of volunteers and outcomes of programs that engage the public in scientific research.

“It is an honor to be able to move through the faculty ranks at UVM,” said Kris. “I am passionate about working with communities and am proud to be able to serve as a liaison between the university and local communities in my position among the faculty.”

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 serving 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.