BOZEMAN – Two Montana State University students who were already recognized as inspirational leaders have won the prestigious Udall Scholarship from the Morris K. Udall and Stewart L. Udall Foundation.
Cara Thuringer of Sioux Falls, S.D., was named a Udall Scholar in the environmental category, and Emery Three Irons from the Crow Indian Reservation was honored in the Tribal Public Policy category. It’s the first time an MSU student has been selected in the Tribal Public Policy category.
“It is a remarkable achievement for any university to have two students named Udall Scholars in the same year,” said Ilse-Mari Lee, dean of MSU’s Honors College. “Both students are inspirational and transformative leaders who have already impacted our community and state, and who will undoubtedly continue to do so.”
Thuringer, a junior majoring in environmental studies and photography, said she initially thought she was the victim of an April Fools’ Day joke when she learned about her scholarship, but she quickly realized the news was true. Appreciative of the $5,000 the scholarship gives her, Thuringer said she’s even more excited about the opportunity to gather and discuss issues with the other 2014 Udall Scholars this summer. The 50 scholars will meet Aug. 5 through 10 in Tucson, Ariz.
“It will be exciting to get to know them,” Thuringer said, adding that they will be key players in the environmental movement in years to come.
Passionate about improving and preserving the natural world for future generations, Thuringer said her interest in environmental issues may have started at a very young age. Her family spent every weekend along Lake Pickerel where they owned a rustic cabin. It gave her a great childhood, she said, but her years at the 955-acre lake in northeast South Dakota also opened her eyes to the ways that people can hurt their environment.
That interest has led Thuringer to become involved in several MSU activities related to the environment. She was the sole student representative on the University Facilities Planning Board during the year ending in October, which allowed her to give input on the design and renovations of campus buildings. She has been a student senator with the Associated Students of MSU (ASMSU) and belongs to the Network of Environmentally Conscious Organizations (NECO).
Thuringer was one of two recipients of the Izaak Walton League of American National Scholarship in 2013. This fall, she will travel to Vietnam, Morocco and Bolivia to study climate change through a School for International Training program that will allow her to study how different cultures interact with the environment and how they respond to climate change. She plans to graduate in the fall of 2015 and continue her environmental activism in nongovernmental organizations.
Three Irons, who is a member of the Apsaalooke Nation, is pursuing a bachelor’s degree in geospatial and environmental analysis from MSU’s College of Agriculture. He is initiating a project to use geographic information systems, or GIS, mapping technology to chart where on the Crow Indian Reservation tribal members continue to show fluency in their native language. In addition to his language project, which is affiliated with a statewide effort to help Montana tribes preserve their linguistic heritage, Three Irons also will be working on assignments to clarify Crow political districts, subdivisions, historic sites and infrastructure.
“As soon as I heard about (the project) I told them ‘I’m in,’ because it’s a chance help my tribe preserve its language,” said Three Irons, a native Crow speaker who did not regularly speak English until he was in enrolled in the Head Start program as a preschooler. “I also am excited about the experience I’ll have learning to use this technology to determine language fluency, not just because I’m from (Crow) but also because I hope it will impact the younger generation.”
The thought of that younger generation is always with Three Irons, who is going through college as a single father with sole custody of his 8-year-old son, who lives with Three Irons in campus housing.
The journey toward a four-year degree at MSU began when Three Irons was a student at Little Big Horn College in Crow Agency. It was there that Three Irons first became acquainted with GIS. Despite some early misgivings about the complexity of the technology, Three Irons said he was drawn to the geospatial discipline because, as a veteran wildland firefighter, he’d developed a passion for maps.
It was also at the tribal community college that Three Irons first heard of a Udall Scholarship. When his instructor recommended he apply for one, Three Irons said he was intrigued about a scholarship for tribal students who wanted to help their communities. But he let the matter drop because felt he wasn’t likely to be a strong candidate. At MSU, 12 years later, when a professor again suggested he apply, Three Irons said he wasn’t going to let the opportunity pass him by again.
“I felt like I wanted to apply for it, not because of the (scholarship award) amount or because it was a prestigious scholarship, but because it was a chance to accomplish an old goal that I’d let slip,” Three Irons said. “I didn’t want to miss out on that chance.”
The Udall Foundation is an independent federal agency that was established by Congress in 1992 to provide federally funded scholarships for college students intending to pursue careers related to the environment, as well as to American Indian students pursuing tribal public policy or health care careers.
Evelyn Boswell, (406) 994-5135 or firstname.lastname@example.org