University of Vermont

The Honors College

Beyond the Dollars: Benefits of the Udall Scholarship

by Tad Cooke, 2012 Udall Scholar

Tad Cooke

If there is one thing I will remember from the Udall Scholarship application process, it's the word 'coalition'. Prior to my application, I thought in terms of creating a team and building support - but for Mo Udall, it was all about the coalitions. That coalition mindset – a way of building cross-disciplinary support from stakeholders on multiple levels – was a signature quality of Senator Udall throughout his illustrious, and impressively productive time in office. Coincidentally, the Udall Scholarship's most enduring legacy is undoubtedly it's diverse, multidisciplinary and thoroughly active community of scholars – a fitting tribute to the master of coalitions.

More so than its monetary value, the Udall scholar network provides all the ingredients for a successful, responsive coalition. Over the nine months I've been a part of the community, it's been my experience that if there's an environmental issue or social concern on the table anywhere in the world, there's a Udaller who knows about it, is working on it or knows just the right person to ask. With that kind of network available, the possibilities are far reaching.

Conversation on the Udall list serve varies from requests for a couch to crash on to inside offers for jobs high up in the federal government. Job offers are often preceded by the caveat that, “We'd love to hire a Udaller”; requests for advice usually return guidance from multiple perspectives, age groups and demographics. Questions are often followed up on almost immediately with two or three answers, new directions and offers for further advice.

One of my favorite examples from the list serve started with a call for help spreading the word on a small solar company called Mosaic. Mosaic is a company that facilitates crowd sourced funding for solar projects – essentially democratizing renewable energy investment for the rest of us. Following the plea from the company's founder (one of two Udallers working at the small firm) the first solar project was fully funded – for several hundred thousand dollars – in only a few hours. The company has since been featured in many of the major national news outlets, and has facilitated more than two million dollars in crowd sourced renewable energy.

With support like what I saw for Mosaic, the monetary award for a Udall scholarship pales in comparison to the ever-expanding network of passionate, capable people in the Udall community. As with other national fellowships – Truman, Marsh, etc – recipients almost universally cite the scholarship community as its most valuable benefit over money or recognition. From everything I've seen in a few short months, I could't agree more.

Last modified July 09 2013 09:45 AM