Three students named Udall Scholars

By Katherine Anne Robinson

Three University of Chicago students were chosen as Udall Scholars, the second highest number from any university in the country. Craig Segall, Justin Rolfe-Redding, and Sapna Thottathil, all third-years in the College, were among this year’s honorees, receiving up to $5,000 each.

Yale University had the largest number of recipients with four students being honored as Udall Scholar. At three, Chicago is tied with a number of other schools including Harvard University, Swarthmore College, and Pomona College.

The scholarships are intended to reward undergraduates who have demonstrated the potential to shape the discourse about and direction of environmental thinking and practice. The money can be used toward college expenses.

Scholars were selected based upon the nominee’s commitment to improve or preserve the environment, academic achievement, written statements, and personal characteristics based on references, volunteerism, activism, and well-roundedness.

Not expecting to be awarded the scholarship, Rolfe-Redding said the surprise of winning it reaffirmed his commitment to environmentalism. “It’s certainly nice to know that someone out there wants to reward you for the work you do on behalf of the planet,” he said.

Thottathil described the application process as similar to applying to college, explaining that applicants had to obtain three letters of recommendations and submit several essays.

Udall nominees were grouped into regions based on their legal state of residence and evaluated by a team of two readers. There were 26 regions.

Out of an applicant pool of 480 students from 217 institutions and 48 states, 80 individuals were selected as 2003 Udall Scholar recipients. This years winners represent 57 institutions and 32 states.

Illinois, with seven scholars and one honorable mention, is tied with Pennsylvania for the highest number of recipients this year.

Elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 1961, Morris K. Udall, after whom the scholarship is named, is considered to be one of the most productive members of Congress in the latter part of the last century. Chief among his accomplishments was the Alaska Lands Act of 1980, which doubled the size of the national park system, and tripled the size of the national wilderness system.

After a long bout with Parkinson’s disease, Udall died in 1998.

Rolfe-Redding who, unrelated to the Udall scholarship, will be studying environmental politics and movements in Leipzig, Germany this summer, explained that, “Morris Udall was able to make lasting contributions to the protection of the environment in this country, and I’m honored to think that I can be following in his footsteps.”

Fellow recipient Segall concurred.

“Udall was a very admirable human being,” Segall said, adding that Udall was not as much about prohibiting things but more about creating an eco-consciousness.

The Udall Foundation was established by the U.S. Congress in 1992 to honor Udall’s 20 years of Congressional service. Each year, it awards 80 undergraduate scholarships to students in their third and fourth years studying the environment, as well as Native Americans and Alaska Natives for studying health care or tribal policy.