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Student Presenters

Krystal Dixon


I am a lot of things. I am a combination of experiences, identities, and passions. I am an 3rd year, International Studies major; a Jamaican-born enthusiast of traditional African music and dance; and a lover personal and cultural expression. Above all, I am global citizen sincerely concerned with the trajectory our world has undertaken and how that affects the foundation of humanity: people and their interaction with their environments. For this reason I have focused my studies in understanding how the developing world has gotten to its current socioeconomic situation and creating solutions the issues they face. This has further led me into service and internships wit non-profit organizations and businesses that address these major global concerns; namely, Rural Empowerment and Development Innovations, which brings development support to small businesses in rural Kenya.

Broadly, my passions lies in shifting our world’s trajectory to one of global cohesiveness; where as a unit we are at peace with our selves, each other, and our physical environment. I am passionate about saving the world because I am highly cognizant of my connectedness to the world as a combination of social, environmental, political, and economic systems. I recognize that the issues that impact the globe, be it population growth, poverty, food distribution, climate change, etc., is directly and indirectly affecting me. Therefore I know that the progression of our world in peace and cohesiveness is the advancement of myself and my community and our propensity for a gratifying existence. And alternatively, the degradation of our world is the deterioration of myself and my community.

Jared Blackburn


My Name is Jared Blackburn and I am originally from Winter Haven, FL. I am a second year student at the University of Florida, majoring in Political Science with two minors one in Public Leadership and the other in Leadership Development. I have held internship positions in Senator Marco Rubio’s office in Orlando working in the intake processing department, and I am currently interning with the Department of State with a project within the Department of Education researching post-secondary institutions and their occupational licenses with regards to the state’s requirements for those licenses. Also, during this current Spring Semester I am interning in Senator Marco Rubio’s Washington, D.C. office working with Social issues and other national policies. Then this summer I will continue my stay in Washington, D.C., by gaining more vital work experiences in the Department of States Bureau of Legislative Affairs within the Congressional Correspondence Unit.

My future aspirations are to be able to attend a law school and then either go into the JAG corps or jump right into a law firm to work my way up the ladder. So that one day I can potentially run for Governor of the State of Florida or become a Senator for the State of Florida.

I am passionate about saving the world because every generation should have an opportunity to live a life where they can truly enjoy all of its wonders and make an impact of their own. This is why in my presentation I am focusing on education reform because I feel that every student no matter where they come from should have the chance to pursue passions that interest them not just following the ones that seem to make the most money. So then by then pairing passions with conventional majors, then our future leaders should be able to adapt to any situation that the future may throw at them.

Heather Ryan


Throughout my first two years at the University of Florida, there has been a collection of incredible people and experiences that have helped me begin to find this answer. Recently, I changed my major to Agricultural Education with a concentration in Leadership & Communication Development and have loved every minute of it since. I am a follower of Jesus, spontaneous adventurer, Florida Gator, camp girl, intentional friend and hopeful world changer. I wake up everyday not necessarily having it all together but willing to listen and learn from others around me so I can relate in the best way possible. There is still quite a long way to go on this self-identity discovery, but I am beginning to see direction and I know the best is yet to come!

I believe the best investment any of us can make is not found in profit, fame or personal gain but in the hearts of people. Growing up, my parents always reminded me to not fear the size of the world’s problems as long as you have a big enough heart to match it. Whether it’s your roommate, grocery store clerk, bus driver, university president or stranger, we live together in a world where each day presents an opportunity for personal impact. There has never been another point in history with more potential for cultivating leadership among young people who will be the leaders of 2050. Our future is a product of our current actions; so let’s get started!

Shelby Thomas


I am a Marine Science and Microbiology double major, minoring in leadership and aquatic fisheries here at the University of Florida. I am twenty years old and from Daytona Beach Florida. I love anything active, outdoors, and anything that involves adventure. I have a love for traveling and emerging in different cultures. I am pursuing my PhD in Marine Science and I plan to conduct research on marine organisms defense chemicals to utilize for medicinal cures. I would also like to conduct research on coral reef restoration, specifically restoring reefs from coral bleaching.


I am passionate not only for people but our planet and all of the variety of life that thrives upon it. Unfortunately we as a species have caused a lot of harm in our wake, in which will cause huge altercations if actions are not taken soon. I want to contribute as much as I can to helping make our world a better place, and fix some of the things that we have caused. Because if not me, then who? If its not I or you then whom do we choose? If its not us or them then what team will do? If there is no team nor group we have sure got a lot to lose. I think it important for each person to take their part in saving this world, big or little we all make a difference. So if I contributed more today than I did yesterday then I am doing alright. I want to make a difference and inspire those that will too.

Audrey Batzer &
Avalon Hoek Spaans


Audrey Batzer is a second year student from Venice, FL, majoring in Environmental Science here at UF. Her research interests include sustainable food systems, ocean pollution remediation, and ecosystem responses to a changing climate. Her past research experiences include sea turtle nesting behavior with Mote Marine Labratory.

Avalon Hoek Spaans is a third year Environmental Science student from Miami, Fl. She is a Challenge 2050 Scholar, and comes from a farming family. Her research interests include urban agriculture, land development, and climate change. She has previously done research at the National Ecological Observatory Network on underground biomass in the United States.

As environmental science majors, we learn about the infinite amount problems plaguing our world. In our field we often experience a culture of extensive research and thinking about these problems, without any application to solve them. We want to lead and become apart of a new generation of scientists, who not only value research but strive to DO.  Climate change and global food insecurity are impending crisis. It is time to stop passing down the torch, the time to solve these problems is now.

Jack Yang &
John Hursh


Jack Yang: I’m a Ph.D student at University of Florida majoring in Agriculture and Biological Engineering, my research was focus on regenerate alternative and sustainable energy by recycling agriculture waste and food waste. In four years, I’m lucky to involve in many projects related to some practical research about municipal waste. This help me better understand the importance of the ecosystem.

John Hursh: At the University of Florida, I pursue Chemical & Biomolecular Engineering. When I’m not pouring over classwork, I’m fulfilling my duties as a Research Assistant in the school of Agricultural and Biological Engineering, Peer Advisor for Chemical Engineering, or a Resident Assistant (RA) with on-campus housing. I call Winter Park, FL home but I’ve had the privilege to both live and travel abroad. Gainesville quickly became a cozy home away from home in addition to providing me an exceptional educational experience.

Jack Yang: With the evolution of human beings, more and more inventions have been developed, more and more technologies are serving the community. But the waste produced by people is growing exponentially, and the natural resources we can get from the earth become less and less. The environment we live in is limited.

After a couple of years doing my Ph.D. research on Dairy Farm waste energy re-generation, I realized that finding ways to get energy recycled from the livestock waste is not the only problem we confront. The nutrients (Phosphate, Nitrogen) lost to the ground water are another problem. These can directly lead to severe environmental problems and water contamination.

Preserving the water on Earth is very important. But how can we preserve clean water and also the nutrients from the livestock operation? This is why I was so excited when I first became involved with the algae project. This species of algae can help treat the all the waste water from the livestock industry. This might seem like just one small step for saving the world, but it could benefit all humankind if it’s successful. I’m very grateful for the wonderful chance from ONE WORLD to present our work and idea to other people. I hope our work can at least inspire and encourage people to take their own steps to start saving the world!

John Hursh: Last fall I won an essay contest on the topic of sustainable energy technology for space colonization. It made me realize that before we even consider looking at other planets, we need to be doing the best we can for our own.

To diversify fuel options, conserve freshwater and increase food security, my lab investigates biofuel and fertilizer collection from dairy farm runoff with microalgae. In the process of saving the world, we hope to use isolated algae cultures to remove the waterborne nutrients leading to harmful algae blooms. Additionally the farmers would then be in control of an algal biofuel source while having the capability to collect their own biodegradable algae beads to use for crop fertilization rather than the use of expensive, harmful fertilizers.