Posted 9:43 a.m. Friday, Dec. 18, 2020

A view of the La Crosse River Marsh from Miller Bluff.

Two, $1,000 Prairie Springs Excellence awards will be given to a UWL undergraduate and a UWL instructor  

UW-La Crosse students or instructors who have made substantial and sustainable contributions to environmental studies and education, conservation, ecological technology or the protection of wildlife or their habitat are encouraged to apply for a new award. 

Applications for the inaugural Prairie Springs Faculty and Student Excellence Awards will be accepted through Friday, Feb. 12. Applicants should be directed to the UWL community engagement website. Specific criteria for the award are described below. 

There are two, $1,000 Prairie Springs Excellence Awards. One, $1,000 award will be given to a UWL undergraduate, and a second $1,000 award will go to a UWL instructor (including tenure-track faculty and instructional academic staff). Both awards are funded by Prairie Springs: The Paul Fleckenstein Trust. In 2018, UWL received $2 million from the trust, which named UWL's science labs building and is working to transform science education on campus. 

The awards are intended to encourage UWL instructors and undergraduates to continue the environmental education and conservation work that were the passion of the trustee, the late Paul Fleckenstein, and to inspire others to do the same. 

Award winners will be announced on or near Earth Day, Thursday, April 22, 2021. 

How to apply 

Encourage UWL students and instructors who fit the criteria for the award to apply by filling out the short application on the community engagement website. Applicants will also be required to submit two references. 

Questions? Contact UWL faculty member Sam Cocks at  

Application criteria

The awardees will have made substantial and sustainable contributions to one or more of the following areas: 

  • Environmental Studies and Education, including institutional outreach and resources for citizens
  • Wildlife Protection
  • Wildlife Habitat Protection
  • Conservation
  • Ecological Technology 

The criteria for both the student and faculty awards includes, in order of priority: 

  1. Impact of the individual’s environmental accomplishment(s): Original and inventive research that both advances the discipline, and results in tangible and practical contributions to environmental education, conservation, and restoration. The former could include endeavors that contribute to the advancement of public awareness for the betterment of the total environment. 
  2. Scope of environmental accomplishment(s): Demonstrated engagement with UWL and the broader Seven Rivers local community and stakeholders. 
  3. Sustainability of accomplishment(s): Accomplishments involve the creation of enduring opportunities/possibilities that make a substantive impact. 

The criteria for the instructors award includes the previous three listings plus: 

  • Fostering and promoting student environmental leadership: Pursuits that motivate, mentor, and inspire students to become influential environmental leaders. 

Who was Paul Fleckenstein? 

Paul Fleckenstein was a steadfast supporter of environmental education and conservation programs. As the executive director of the R.A. Stevens Foundation and through personal contributions, Fleckenstein supported organizations such as the Urban Ecology Center in Milwaukee, The Nature Conservancy, and the Denis Sullivan Schooner. Fleckenstein graduated from UW-Milwaukee with a major in urban education. The Prairie Springs name is the one that Fleckenstein gave his cherished home in Genesee Depot, Wisconsin and reflects the passion that he had for land and water conservation. 

What is the Prairie Springs Endowment Fund? 

In 2018, UWL received a $2 million gift from Prairie Springs: The Paul Fleckenstein Trust. In recognition of the donation, UWL named its science labs building Prairie Springs Science Center. The gift has also transformed science education on campus, creating the Prairie Springs Endowment Fund to support the areas Paul Fleckenstein designated in his trust: 

  • environmental studies and education 
  • wildlife habitat protection 
  • wildlife protection 
  • conservation 
  • ecological technology 

The Prairie Springs award is another way the endowment fund is transforming and inspiring UWL instructors and students.