News Release

Senior Karen Choi presented 2017 Josef Mestenhauser Student Award

By Elizabeth Tollefson on
Thursday, March 30, 2017

Senior Karen Choi was presented with an award this spring for her contributions to international education at the University of Minnesota Crookston. She was one of only four students in the University of Minnesota system to receive the Josef Mestenhauser Student Award for karen choiExcellence in Campus Internationalization. She was recognized with the award in early March and continues to be actively involved in promoting environmental sustainability and building community for students from around the world.

Choi came to the U of M Crookston to study biology but added a second major in environmental science. Research projects span her years on campus and have opened the door to possibilities. For Choi the desire to work in an area with international impact that has the potential to improve the quality of life and enhance sustainability is important to her.

Originally from Seoul, South Korea, Choi has long loved mathematics and has a special interest in improving sustainable practices. She also appreciates the way her advisor Associate Professor Katy Chapman values international perspectives. An environmental science class taught by Chapman connects students in her class to students in France. That international class experience was a powerful one for Choi and it inspired her to spend the summer in France Karen Choiworking on greenhouse gas research.

“I think one of the big advantages of the Crookston campus is its size,” Choi explains. “It is easy in a small class to naturally learn from other cultures.”

She is currently enjoying a class research project in aquaponics under the guidance of Professor Joseph Shostell and Rick Abrahamson, a lecturer in the Agriculture and Natural Resources Department. “With my classmate, Heidi Shol, we have written our hypothesis and are working with four varieties of lettuce on a project that looks at how aquaponics may help increase productivity in agriculture.

What intrigues Choi is taking ideas or best practices from one country and exploring the benefit in another country. “Applying the best ideas from around the world makes sense,” she says. “It could benefit both people and the environment.”

Choi follows her own advice. She established a way for students to find rides, exchange books, and when a student is throwing something away that someone else could use, Choi set up a Facebook page to share those items. As a Mestenhauser Student Award recipient, Choi created a video to share her work and her perspective:

Along with an interest in research and environmental consciousness, she is active in the Multicultural International Club helping to organize activities for students.

Karen Choi with Mestenhauser AwardOne of the most memorable moments in her undergraduate career will be the presentation of the Mestenhauser Student Award. “I had friends who came to the ceremony from the University of Minnesota Crookston and from the Twin Cities,” she says. “It was a very special day for me.” 

Mestenhauser Student Award Background

The Josef Mestenhauser Student Award for Excellence in Campus Internationalization recognizes outstanding student contributions to international education. This award acknowledges important work being done by students at the University of Minnesota to internationalize the curriculum and campus. The Mestenhauser Student Award honors Dr. Josef Mestenhauser, Distinguished International Emeritus Professor, recognizing his long career of advocacy for and commitment to students. To learn more, visit

The University of Minnesota Crookston now delivers 34 bachelor's degree programs, 22 minors, and 40 areas of emphasis on campus as well as 14 degree programs entirely online.  These degrees are offered in the areas of agriculture and natural resources; business; liberal arts and education; and math, science and technology.  With an enrollment of 1,800 undergraduates from more than 20 countries and 40 states, the Crookston campus offers a supportive, close-knit atmosphere that leads to a prestigious University of Minnesota degree.  "Small Campus. Big Degree."  To learn more, visit

Photos at top: Karen Choi in the lab and in the photo bottom, left, Choi with her Mestenhauser Award and her guests at the award ceremony. 


Elizabeth Tollefson

University Relations