Kayla Vondracek, 2021 Environmental Studies graduate, is a shining example of how students can turn their college experience into big opportunities. After graduating in May, Vondracek began working full-time as a Hazard Mitigation and Emergency Junior Planner at JEO Consulting Group in Lincoln. She also runs an app called The Canopy, which she created and transformed into her senior thesis for the Environmental Studies Program.
During her junior year, Vondracek took a hazard mitigation planning class that sparked her interest and introduced her to opportunities in the field. She was approached about an internship through the class, and she began working at JEO Consulting Group as a hazard mitigation and emergency planning intern. This internship evolved into Vondracek’s current full-time position after she graduated. Vondracek works in JEO Consulting Group’s Lincoln office, one of their ten offices across the Midwest.
While at UNL, Vondracek began her work on The Canopy, a networking app that connects users to environmental organizations in Nebraska. The app hosts a calendar of events, including conferences, fundraisers, webinars, and volunteer opportunities. It also provides information about various environmental organizations, along with maps of where users can find them. The Canopy is currently free to download on the Google Play Store and is coming soon to the Apple Store.
Vondracek’s idea for The Canopy earned her a CASNR Changemaker Award in the fall of 2020. She then developed the app in just one semester as her senior thesis for the Environmental Studies Program. “My thesis project was a little unconventional, which made it both intimidating and fulfilling,” Vondracek said. “The best part of the whole thesis process was the flexibility I had in creating a final project to work on something I was passionate about.” Students in the Environmental Studies Program are encouraged to pursue capstone projects that are fulfilling to them. Vondracek succeeded in creating something truly impactful, both to her community and to herself.
Vondracek’s biggest advice to current students: “Don't be afraid to try new opportunities out because you never know where they will lead you!”
Read more about Kayla Vondracek and The Canopy here.