People of USask: Karina Lenko

Karina Lenko (BSA’22) grew up in Calgary, hearing stories about the University of Saskatchewan (USask) campus from her mother. She is a third generation USask graduate after her mother, Brenda Kurtz Lenko (BE’86), and her grandfather, Victor Lenko (BSPh’60, BA’70).

Q. Why did you decide to attend USask for your undergraduate degree?

I started my degree at the University of Toronto, and after my second year, I decided to transfer. I looked at two options, USask and the University of Calgary. My mom had a great experience at USask and always said how much fun she had at the university. With that and the fact that I had friends in Saskatoon, transferring to USask just made sense.   

Q. Why did you decide to pursue a Bachelor of Agriculture degree in Environmental Science?

 When I transferred to USask, I knew I wanted to continue pursuing an environmental science degree. The College of Agriculture at USask has a great environmental science program, and I ended up minoring in soil science and discovering my passion for it  

Q. Do you have any favourite memories of your time at USask?

We had a really fun field course. I remember taking a bus to different sites, digging soil pits, identifying plants, and having fun while learning. It was refreshing to learn outside of the classroom setting.   

Q. Was there anyone who influenced you during your time at USask?

My friends, Haley and Hannah Scheck, were part of the reason I decided to transfer to USask, and they helped me tremendously during my time there. In terms of professors, there are so many quality professors that it’s hard to name just one. The College of Agriculture and Bioresources has so many female professors in a profession that tends to be male-dominated. It was inspiring, and it influenced me to further my education.   

Q. As a third generation USask alumni, do you remember hearing stories about campus growing up?

My grandfather [Victor Lenko] passed away when I was young, so I don’t remember much about his stories of campus, but when I was younger, I remember going to the pharmacy building and looking at his photo on the wall with my dad. I’m proud to be a USask graduate and to honour my grandfather's legacy in that way.  

My mom told me many stories about her time on campus when I was growing up and how she enjoyed earning her civil engineering degree at USask. My parents and I went to the College of Engineering at my convocation to look at her class photo.  

Q. Do you feel that USask has a strong connection with families?

Saskatchewan and USask are unique because even if you aren’t directly related to someone, they tend to know someone in your family. Family and community are strong values everywhere you look.  

At the College of Agriculture and Bioresources, there are a lot of families that have attended USask. Some of my friends at USask knew professors personally because they were family friends, which strengthened the sense of community on campus. 

Q. What inspires you to do what you do? 

My family. Growing up, my parents worked hard to give me the opportunities I had. They are both engineers and have instilled a strong work ethic in my siblings and me. Regardless of what I was doing growing up, they were always supportive, telling me their belief in me never wavered. They supported my decision to move from Toronto to Saskatoon and continue to support me as I pursue my Master’s in Soil Science in North Carolina. I recognize that not everyone has a family like that, and I’m eternally grateful I have the support I do.   

It’s the People of USask who enable us to be what the world needs.  

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