University of Vermont

University Communications


Students Win Prestigious Environmental Honor

By Jon Reidel Article published April 5, 2006

Two students majoring in environmental studies have been awarded $5,000 Morris K. Udall Undergraduate Scholarships, a premier undergraduate environmental scholarship. They are the first-ever winners from UVM.

Honors College junior Kesha Ram and sophomore Zachary Ewell were among 80 students from 59 colleges and universities selected by a 12-member independent review committee from an initial pool of 445 candidates. The were selected on the basis of commitment to careers in the environment; health care or tribal public policy; leadership potential; and academic achievement. The review committee also awarded 50 honorable mentions.

Winners received $5,000 scholarships from the Morris K. Udall Scholarship and Excellence in National Environmental Policy Foundation, authorized by Congress in 1992 to honor the former congressman’s legacy of public service.

"In addition to the personal honor and the recognition for the UVM Environmental Program, I am particularly grateful for the honor this gives to the student-run Slade Hall Environmental Housing Co-op," said Ewell in an email from Mexico, where he is participating in a UVM study abroad program. "Having two national scholars from one 24-person house is a real testament to the integrity, creativity and value of the Slade experience." Ewell credited Slade for exposing him to experiences related to local foods, community and advocacy that composed the bulk of his application.

Ram and Ewell will join the rest of this year’s winners in Tucson, Ariz., on August 2-6 to receive their awards and meet policymakers and community leaders in environmental fields, tribal health care and governance.

“This truly is the premier environmental scholarship that exists,” says Abu Rizvi, associate dean of the Honors College. “That’s a testament to the strength of the Environmental Program and the kind of students it attracts and to the quality of students coming into the Honors College.”

A three-person committee comprising Saleem Ali, an associate professor in the Rubenstein School of Environment and Natural Resources; Deborah Guber, associate professor of political science; and Rizvi looked for potential candidates for the award and facilitated the application process.

Robert Pepperman Taylor, dean of the honors college, said the awards are part of a larger effort by the Honors College and university as a whole to encourage students to apply for more scholarships and awards. He says the effort is making progress, citing recent honorable mentions for junior James Stephen and sophomore Heather McLaughlin in the Barry M. Goldwater Scholarship Program for students excelling in mathematics, science and engineering. Those students, along with 2004 Goldwater-winner senior Zuzana Srostlik, received assistance in their applications from Joel Goldberg, associate dean of the College of Arts and Sciences.

“UVM has always had the talent for this; we just haven’t had a systematic process for identifying, grooming and tapping into this talent pool,” says Taylor. “Abu has been doing this on a part-time basis for less than a year and we’ve already had a lot of success.”