Katherine Bruni has always wanted to make a positive impact on the world. She is well on her way.
While UW-Green Bay was her first stop from her hometown of Baraboo, Wis., the world awaits this passionate Phoenix whose next destination is the Netherlands to study public policy and human development with a focus on risk and vulnerability studies. Bruni will be earning a master’s degree at Maastricht University’s Public Policy and Human Development program—a dual-degree program with the United Nations University—made possible through a prestigious and competitive Fulbright grant.
Specifically, Bruni will be focusing on man-made and naturally occurring risks and disasters and looking at how we can predict, manage, and mitigate their impacts through policy.
“Essentially, I am studying how to help countries become even more resilient and adaptable by increasing the efficiency, equity, and effectiveness of their responses to crises while also managing the adverse socio-economic impacts these disasters can have.”
Associate Prof. Elizabeth Wheat, who has been working with Bruni since her first-year seminar on focusing on environmental justice, describes Bruni as “a truly extraordinary student who has overcome tremendous personal challenges in her life and worked incredibly hard as a Phoenix.”
Bruni says she “squeezed every bit of knowledge and opportunity” that she could during her time at the University.
While she started as an intended education major, that first-year seminar with Prof. Wheat provided a new interest — environmental justice. “The course and the topics covered in it really just lit a fire in me that has continued to grow ever since.”
She quickly switched majors to Environmental Policy and Planning and added Public Administration to her academic profile. But it was a term paper written for Natural Resource Law with Prof. Wheat that provided the confidence to excel in this academic area.
“I wrote my term paper on the natural resource management of Biscayne National Park which is a marine park off the coast of Florida. When I got the paper back at the end of the semester, there was a note from my professor saying that she really enjoyed the paper and she thought that I should submit it to the Midwest Political Science Association’s annual conference and she said she would provide the help to do so. It turned out to be one of the largest political science conferences in the United States.”
While her paper was accepted, it also developed into a comparative policy analysis where she analyzed natural resource management strategies utilized in Biscayne National Park as well as the Galápagos Marine Reserve; a concept that developed through a study abroad trip to Ecuador with Prof. Marcelo Cruz.
Among her long list of accomplishments, a policy analysis for a course with Prof. Helpap on clean water access in Kewaunee County, eventually led to her being invited to speak on the floor of the Wisconsin State Assembly. In her “spare time” she ran the Public and Environmental Affairs Council, served on the University’s sustainability committee, was a Resident Assistant for a year, and served as an economic teaching assistant.
The Fulbright grant, she says, is validating. “Being a Fulbright grant recipient is affirmative reinforcement that I am on the right path and can make a positive impact on this world. It is validating. Particularly because with the competitiveness of the graduate school I applied to as well as the grant itself, having passed all of those checkpoints reenforces the idea that I do have what it takes, and these institutions see that in me. Even if I have not realized my full potential yet—they are willing to help me along in that process.
“This grant allows me to pursue my passions without the restrictions and financial burdens that normally accompany a graduate degree program. Also, by not having to work for a living outside of attending graduate school full-time, I will have the opportunity to pursue internships that will enhance my education in the field, as well as volunteer opportunities where I can engage with the community outside of academia.”
“My experience at UWGB provided not only the competence to pursue a graduate degree but the confidence as well—and that is the key piece of the puzzle. I am extremely grateful for my time at UWGB because of the relationships I formed with professors, administration, and fellow students because that is what really pushed me to be able to apply to graduate school in another country as well as apply for a Fulbright grant.”