Tag Archives: Bioenvironmental Sciences

Honors Benefits: MSC SCONA 2017

The University Honors Program has been working this year to enlarge the list of benefits of being a student in the University Honors Program. Historically, we have focused on some abstract benefits of participating in the University Honors Program such as our interdisciplinary emphasis, strong community, and focus on personal, professional and intellectual development (see this link: https://goo.gl/TjIxOL). In addition to these benefits, we have also begun to make connections with programs around campus that we feel help students with their personal, professional, and intellectual development.

Many of these opportunities have been with programs run through the Memorial Student Center (MSC), including Opera & Performing Arts Society (OPAS), Wiley Lecture Series, L.T. Jordan Institute for International Awareness, Student Conference on Latino Affairs (SCOLA), Student Conference on National Affairs (SCONA), and Bethancourt, as well as the Southwestern Black Student Leadership Conference (SBSLC).

University Honors Students dressed up for SCONA 2017! Left to right: Sarah Kilpatrick ’18, Karla Valerie Melendez ’19, Grace Cunningham ’18, Nicole Guentzel ’19, Matthew Kiihne ’18

This year we were able to support seven students representing five of the academic colleges in attending SCONA. Below, we have reflections from six of those students on the impact of that experience.

Sarah Kilpatrick ’18, junior economics major

This semester, I had the opportunity to spend five days hearing eminent speakers and writing a brief policy proposal on the Intelligence Community with the help of other students at SCONA 62. The Student Conference on National Affairs brings together students from across the country to discuss, research, and attempt to find solutions for issues that are affecting our government and society. The Domestic Crisis Strategic Response Exercise was a two day pre-conference mock domestic crisis exercise that focused on negotiation, strategy, and teamwork to best allocate limited resources in a crisis event. In short, not once did my ability to take a test to prove mastery of coursework help me at all over the entire event.

What helped were the things that are either not taught in a classroom or not explicitly taught during classes. Things like risking misallocation of vital resources during a mock crisis in exchange for maintaining fairness between all partners, or risking a win (and your pride) while playing a game of 42 with strangers-turned-friends after the official conference day had concluded. The ability to stand up for your perspective when 14 other people hold a completely differing perspective also came in to play. Accepting mistakes but moving forward was important when my DCSRE group, representing the State of Texas in crisis, realized we did not get the resources we needed in time to help the state’s citizens. Most importantly, in my opinion, was having the ability to ask for help. The conference does not expect you to come in as an expert in whatever subject-based roundtable you sign up for, so they provide a plethora of subject-matter experts, people who work in the field, and guest lecturers so delegates can ask questions, get advice, and “pick their brains” (so to speak) from these people throughout the event.

Sometimes the advice they gave extended beyond just the scope of the conference. The most important thing that my roundtable’s expert told me was “Don’t let your coursework get in the way of your education.” The education you can receive here at A&M could just be whatever your degree requires, but when you sign up for things like conferences, organizations, and even spontaneous trips with friends, you are expanding your education into experiences and life stories. This conference also introduced me to a specific network of women within various branches of government that I can reach out to whenever I go to the D.C. area. SCONA strengthened both my interest in the field and given me some amazing memories I can keep with me long after graduation.

I would highly recommend going to SCONA next year, or any other opportunity that sparks your interest. You can meet people who challenge you and people who inspire you. You can find new applications for old goals, new friends, and even a newfound love for something outside of your major. Thank you to honors for providing me with this experience that I can genuinely say was one of the greatest experiences I have had here at A&M.

Karla Valerie Melendez ’19, sophomore international studies major

When we weren’t listening to speakers, we were in our roundtables, attempting to write a cohesive policy paper. My roundtable was Lady Liberties Promise, which basically called for a policy paper marrying the topic of immigration and national security. This is where I learned the most during the conference, and while it was frustrating at times, my team made it through and we managed to leave the conference with a policy paper we were proud of and friendships we didn’t expect to make even halfway through the second day.

There were 5 roundtable sessions throughout the conference, and from the beginning it was expected that we would be working very quickly. Even a group that had been working cohesively from the beginning would have found the task a challenge. With the topic of immigration, we were excited to potentially be able to explore various topics that are of current international interest and tackle them. We came out of roundtable session 1 with a blank paper, but feeling confident about our discussion. It felt natural that we’d need an hour and a half to talk through potential topics, since there are so many of interest and find where we needed to focus. The problem emerged when we came back and out differing opinions started to clash. We had a page limit, and naturally couldn’t talk about everything, and several people had trouble letting go of their ideas or understanding that just because it wasn’t addressed in the policy paper, didn’t mean it wasn’t important. We kept seeming to settle on a topic, and then trying to write only to find ourselves still divided and working on completely separate things. We were given roles, but we didn’t understand them, we weren’t communicating, and despite writing a concise outline, somehow we hadn’t managed to come to a consensus. We found ourselves arguing at the end of the 4th roundtable and with a paper that was far longer than it needed to be with no clear policy (which felt worse than a blank paper to me).

We had to call in our facilitator, who had been working outside with the couple of STEM majors who didn’t feel their humanitarian backgrounds sufficed enough to help with the writing of the policy and instead opted to start writing the skit. When we finally had someone with a higher rank than all of ours, listening to her and compromising became much easier. We met during dinner (despite the fact that we were supposed to be eating and not working) and worked out what exactly we were going to be doing, with Dr. Aubone carefully making sure we stayed within the parameters of two, closely related proposals that would fit within the page limit. When we started working from there, in small groups meant to tackle the different sections of the proposal, and even smaller groups within that meant to either find research or be writing, we found ourselves getting things done. At that point, when we finally had a chain of command, a concrete goal and set roles within the team, we were able to start getting things done effectively. Somehow, we managed to complete the proposal within a couple of hours. Where we didn’t have a single point down by the end of roundtable session 4, but the end of session 5 we had a complete, cohesive policy proposal that all of us were proud of (mostly because of the circumstances with which we managed to complete it). Where we had been frustrated and arguing, after finally coming together to tackle and complete the paper, we were too relieved and amazed at our own accomplishment to feel anything but mutual relief and excitement that we conquered that hurdle together. I’m so glad I got to meet all of those wonderful individuals and work with them, and I’m excited to be able to see them again because I know we’ll cross paths.

It was overwhelming and frustrating and tiring and a whole lot of other things but that experience was something I needed. I got to be in a team that failed, and came back from it. I got to see the importance of roles and being on the same page in a team and having a leaders of some sort because when those things weren’t present we weren’t working and when they were we literally managed what none of us thought we’d be able to do. I’d know the importance of these things in theory. I’d seen how they worked and how they didn’t on television or in groups around me. Sometimes I’d have a group that didn’t exactly mesh together but worked something out anyway, but I had never been in a group that showed me both extremes of teamwork in a matter of days. It was kind of a shock, but I think even if I didn’t learn a single thing from the talks or a single piece of new information about immigration and national security (which I did), I learned more about teamwork in those 3 days than I have in 3 years of being a color guard captain, countless group assignment, and countless group tasks in subcommittees or officer positions of organizations.

To read Karla Valerie Melendez’s full SCONA reflection, visit https://goo.gl/Vozlw2

Grace Cunningham ’18, junior bioenvironmental sciences major

Every year the MSC holds the Student Conference on National Affairs (SCONA), with delegates from all over the country traveling to Aggieland to take part in remarkably curated programming. As a student-led and student-run organization, SCONA gives students the chance to discuss complex policy issues on a range of topics in an interdisciplinary setting. This year, at SCONA 62, we approached social, economic, and scientific issues with the theme Against All Enemies Foreign and Domestic: Securing the Homeland in mind. Each student was placed into a roundtable with a specific topic, such as cybersecurity or espionage that they then discussed in terms of national security. Ultimately, each roundtable discussion group was tasked with creating a policy proposal in the duration of the 3-day conference. My roundtable discussion, Mother Nature and Uncle Sam, focused our policy paper around the inevitable effects of climate change on national infrastructure. With the obvious impacts of a compromised infrastructure on national security, my group was able to make a sound argument for diversifying the US energy sources in preparation for extreme weather events and rising sea levels affecting coastal oil refineries. Through in-depth discussion and compromise, we were able to construct a policy suggestion that went on to win the conference-wide Policy Paper Award, judged by General William Rapp, Commandant of the U.S. Army War College.

When we were not in our group discussions, the other delegates and I were attending talks from high-ranking officials, such as Admiral Michael Rogers, Director of the NSA and Commander of U.S. Cyber Command, and General Robert B. Neller, Commandant of the Marine Corps. A particularly notable experience for me, the talk and subsequent question and answer by Dr. Charles McMillian, Director of Los Alamos National Laboratory, provided interesting insights into the history of the Manhattan project as well as the future of quantum computing. The most controversial speaker, Dr. Tawfiq Hamid, former Islamic extremist and author, provided interesting views on US tolerance. All of these experiences, from the thought-provoking roundtable discussions to the remarkable speakers, made for an informative conference. However, the most impactful part of the conference was the relationships we made with students from the other universities and the after-hours conversations we were able to have, learning about the other roundtable topics and discussions as well as the student experience at other universities.

Nicole Guentzel ’19, sophomore biology major

This semester I was fortunate enough to be sponsored to attend SCONA or the Student Conference on National Affairs. This year’s topic was “Against all Enemies, Foreign and
Domestic: Securing the Homeland.” I attended the second portion of the conference that revolved around roundtable discussions and keynote speakers. Delegates were mainly
from Texas A&M University, but many other universities were in attendance providing the opportunity to learn about how other universities are structured.

The roundtable I participated in was called “Under the Microscope: Epidemics and Public Health.” Our facilitator was Dr. Jennifer Griffith who is the Associate Dean for
Public Health Practice for the Texas A&M School of Public Health and the Associate Department Chair for the Department of Public Health studies. She had many contacts in
the Public Health sector and we actually had the opportunity to speak to one of these contacts on the phone to ask him about current problems and areas of improvement in the
Public Health sector. The main purpose of these roundtables was to draft a policy paper in three days between keynote speakers. Ultimately, we decided to draft a policy about
improving communication in healthcare by forming local coalitions to mitigate medical surge due to public panic. Medical surge occurs when there is an influx of patients at a
hospital typically due to a large-scale medical disaster. We then had to formulate a skit and present our policy to the other SCONA delegates and facilitators.

Participating in the conference was very intimidating. I do not know a lot about public policy and I entered the conference surrounded by people in Cadet uniforms and formal
business attire. Furthermore, my roundtable focused on Public Health, an area I am not actively studying because I am pursuing a non-medical Biology degree. Even though the
conference was completely different than anything I have ever participated in, the experience was amazing. I learned about how Public Health plays a role in Americans’
everyday lives, and that hospitals and other healthcare facilities practice to be prepared for disaster situations to efficiently treat patients. Additionally, delegates in my
roundtable were studying political science, chemistry, meat science, etc. so I was able to learn how their fields of study were influenced by Public Health.

Some skills I gained from attending this conference includes learning how to work in a team of twelve strangers from across the United States with different educational
backgrounds to draft a public policy in three days. It was stressful, yet rewarding because we finished on time with a product we were all proud of. I also had the opportunity to learn about the National Security Agency (NSA), Los Alamos National Laboratory, the Marine Corps, and Radical Islam. This conference made me aware of issues I did not know existed and broadened my perspective. I hope to participate in the conference next year and to try the Domestic Crisis Strategic Response Experience. I thank University Honors for my sponsorship and strongly encourage anyone who is interested to participate in the conference. Expanding your comfort zone allows you to gain many additional skills and acquire new knowledge that can be used both to decide on and excel in a career.

Matthew Kiihne ’18, junior computer science major

SCONA or Student Conference on National Affairs is a long running program put on by the MSC organization of the same name. It originally started 62 years ago under the vision of the MSC director at the time, Wayne Stark, and is based on a similar program started at the United States Military Academy at West Point. The conference this year was titled “Securing the Homeland” and consisted of two different parts both revolving around the topic. The first part was a DCSRE (Domestic Crisis Strategic Response Exercise) that was put on by the United States Army War College. This was followed by 3 days of roundtable discussions as well as listening to distinguished speakers.

The DCSRE was an amazing experience where several teams, acting as federal and state agencies as well as non-governmental organizations, worked to deal with a major crisis in the best way possible. I was a little wary starting as a Computer Science major in the midst Political Science and International Studies majors but I quickly learned that mattered far less than my ability to interact with people and communicate my position. The other important lesson I learned from this exercise was how teamwork is actually beneficial, a view that has been tainted by group projects at school. The other lesson I learned was to always be aware of resources at your disposal, especially people who already have the experience that you are lacking. The first day I was acting as the Adjunct General of Texas and was relatively lost until I talked with some of the experts about what were the powers and responsibilities of the office. Overall this exercise opened my eyes as to how the United States responds to disasters and crises as well as provided the basis to friendships that have extended beyond the conference.

The second portion of this amazing, excused absence week was filled with roundtable discussions on a wide variety of topics, topical lectures by admirals and generals, as well as more informal events that gave the opportunity to interact with the facilitators brought in for SCONA. The facilitators had a wide range of backgrounds from military to academia to industry which was a great way to learn about career opportunities in all the areas as well as to just get general life advice about anything you might be unsure about. More than anything else, this was the most valuable portion of the conference as I am rapidly approaching my senior year trying to put together my life.

I am incredibly glad I attended SCONA not only because of the networking and friendships with similarly motivated people but also because it broadened my horizons as to what is possible to achieve. I am looking forward to at- tending the conference next year and I would recommend that anyone who is even slightly curious learn more and go as well. This applies to more than just SCONA though, even if an event or organization is not “typically” part of your major that doesn’t mean you can’t do it, in fact that is even more reason to do it!

Abby Spiegelman ’18, junior biomedical sciences major

I can easily say that attending MSC SCONA 62 as a delegate was one of the best experiences of my college career. I was introduced to several new viewpoints that had never occurred to me before on a variety of different topics. My focus group’s topic was “Good Morning America: The Hidden Agendas of the Media.” My group attempted to provide a solution to the, now common, phenomenon of “fake news”. After hours of debate we decided that the only real solution was for people to take responsibility for themselves and check their own facts. Though there is no practical way to enforce that it was heartening to see so many people passionate about making sure the truth continues to remain mainstream in the mainstream news.

In addition to my focus group I got to listen to amazing speakers that had experience in the things that we hear on the news. I enjoyed being able to hear what they had to say directly from them, instead of reading it later. It brought these amazing people out of clouds down to our level, but not in a negative way. Instead of being mysterious and completely unattainable, these speakers made it clear that they were just normal people that had worked hard and were good at their jobs. It showed that everything that is being dealt with in the world is being dealt with people, just like myself and the hundreds of other delegates that were around me. That was frightening, yes, because humans aren’t perfect, but it was comforting for that same reason. Mistakes will be made, yes, but as long as we have so many people willing to serve their country, I have faith that everything will work out in the end.

I’ve always known that it’s important to be a responsible citizen and to do my part, but being a part of SCONA made the problems of today, and the solutions, more tangible. It was refreshing to be actively trying to find solutions to the big problems that are currently affecting us. Instead of thinking in the abstract we were dealing with things we see and encounter every day. As long as we have so many dedicated people in our world, like the SCONA delegates, we should be able to handle most anything that comes our way.

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Texas A&M Nominates Three for 2017 Udall Scholarship Competition

Nominating outstanding students for nationally-competitive scholarships and fellowships is one way to showcase the world-class undergraduate experience at Texas A&M. Not only do the winners in these competitions receive valuable support for their educational expenses, but they also join professional networks that will continue to open doors throughout their careers. But a student does not have to win a competition to realize the value of the national fellowships application process. The applications for these awards ask students to reflect on their ambitions and how they are building knowledge, skills, and experience related to following their dreams. Students report that the application is a truly clarifying experience.

One of the awards that LAUNCH: National Fellowships serves as a nominating official for is the Udall Scholarship. This award, from the Morris K. & Stuart L. Udall Foundation, recognizes top students planning careers related to the environment, tribal public policy, or Native American health care. Students who are selected will receive scholarships of up to $7000 and join a community of scholars whose dedication to sustainable public policy honors the legacy of the Arizona congressmen.

We are proud to announce the nomination of three TAMU students for the 2017 Udall Scholarship competition: Charlie Arnold, Grace Cunningham, and Jasmine Wang.

2017 Udall Nominee Charlie Arnold ’19

Charlie Arnold ’19 is a mechanical engineering undergraduate in the university and engineering honors programs. He spends his spare time designing solar lighting shelters with Give Water Give Life to be used in rural communities in Burkina Faso Africa, and is the vice president of the cycling team. Arnold became interested in the environment through his cycling. His cycling throughout the country opened Arnold’s eyes to the environment and impacts of climate change occurring in the world today. His interest in engineering and energy spurred Arnold to become interested in renewable energy. After completion of his undergraduate mechanical engineering degree, Arnold plans on working for renewable energy companies before following his goal of starting his own net zero energy home company.

2017 Udall Nominee Grace Cunningham ’18

Grace Cunningham ’18 is a junior bioenvironmental science major pursuing minors in Spanish and business. Cunningham hopes to unite professionals from varied disciplines—including science, business, planning, and design—across government, academia, nonprofit organizations, and for-profit businesses from around the world to work together to solve environmental problems in a more holistic way. A member of the University Honors Program, she served as a Sophomore Advisor and was inducted as a University Scholar in 2015. Cunningham has worked as an intern with the City of Dallas Trinity Watershed Management, conducted undergraduate research in Dr. Brian Shaw’s fungal biology lab. She has participated in a variety of study-abroad opportunities that include conducting tropical and field biology research on endemic species in the Commonwealth of Dominica, instructing a seminar in Italy as an MSC Champe Fitzhugh Honors International Leadership Seminar student leader, and participating in a student leadership exchange to Qatar in the Persian Gulf Coast; in 2017, she will be studying Spanish language and culture in Barcelona as well as conducting research on sustaining human societies and the natural environment in Antarctica. Cunningham is also a member of the sorority Alpha Chi Omega. After graduating from A&M, Cunningham hopes to pursue a masters degree in environmental management.

2017 Udall Nominee Jasmine Wang ’19

Jasmine Wang ‘19 is a sophomore political science major and sociology minor from Houston, TX. Wang is involved in and currently serves as a Student Senator and Chair of Diversity & Inclusion and the Chair of Sustainability through the Texas A&M Student Senate, Aggie Belles, a women’s leadership development and service organization, as well as multiple university-wide committees spanning a wide array of subject matter. Wang also serves as an intern through Texas A&M’s Office of Sustainability, a university institution devoted to fostering a culture of preservation and respect for environmental, social, and economic resources on campus. Just recently, she was a recipient of the prestigious Buck Weirus Spirit Award. Following her completion of an accelerated undergraduate program, Wang plans to attend law school in pursuit of a Juris Doctor with a focus on environmental and energy law and advocacy.

Since 1996, Texas A&M has had seven Udall Scholars and two Honorable Mentions. The most recent Udall Scholar was Victoria Easton ‘15, who was the first TAMU Udall Scholar selected in the Tribal Public Policy category.

For more information about the Udall Scholarship see http://udall.gov.

To read more about how LAUNCH: National Fellowships helps prepare outstanding students to compete for nationally-competitive awards such as the Udall Scholarship with the generous support of the Association of Former Students, please visit http://tx.ag/NatlFellows.

Four Outstanding Students Nominated for the 2016 Udall Scholarship

By Macy Moore –

One of the most gratifying elements of being an undergraduate student at Texas A&M is the opportunity to be nominated for various scholarships and fellowships. Receiving a scholarship or fellowship is financially fulfilling and opens doors for professional networking, but even the simple nomination is rewarding in itself. The application process allows students to reflect on their career ambitions, skills, and dreams for the future and has been proven to be an illuminating experience for many.

The Udall Foundation recognizes studious undergraduate students who are pursuing a career related to the environment, tribal public policy, or Native American health care. Awarding scholarships, fellowships, and internships to exceptional students, the foundation was established in 1992 to honor Morris K. and Stuart L. Udall’s influence on America’s environment, public lands, and natural resources, as well as their support for the rights of American Indians and Alaska Natives. Students selected for the Udall Scholarship will obtain scholarships up to $5,000 and an invaluable connection with the community of other dedicated public policy scholars.

This year, we are proud to announce the four Texas A&M students nominated for the 2016 Udall Scholarship competition: Omar Elhassan, Phillip Hammond,  Jaclyn Guz, and Alyson Miranda, .

Omar Elhassan '17, 2016 Udall Nominee
Omar Elhassan ’17, 2016 Udall Nominee

Omar Elhassan ’17 is currently a junior environmental soil science major and bioenvironmental sciences minor in honors program of the Soil and Crop Sciences Department. Both a Cargill Global Scholar and Golden Opportunity Scholar, he has conducted undergraduate research in Dr. Gentry’s Soil and Aquatic Microbiology lab investigating the effects of urban wastewater treatment plants on increasing antibiotic resistance in the environment.  Aside from academics, Elhassan also works as the Sustainability Officer with the student run nonprofit Just4Water, which aims to provide self-sustainable water solutions to developing nations. He works to develop partnerships with NGOs, nonprofit, and businesses to assess the needs of rural communities to design site-specific water solutions such as drilling water wells, designing water distribution systems, and installing latrines for waste management. Following his undergraduate career, Elhassan plans to enlist in the Peace Corps to gain real world experience in the realm of international development, then intend to pursue a master’s degree in international development at Cornell University to become a driving force for sustainable development in emerging nations.

Jaclyn Guz '17, 2016 Udall Nominee
Jaclyn Guz ’17, 2016 Udall Nominee

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Jaclyn Guz ’17 is a junior environmental studies major with a minor in geographic information systems. Guz has previously conducted undergraduate research as part of the Michael E. DeBakey Undergraduate Research program in the College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences. She worked in the Cairns lab studying the tree line in Northern Sweden, which research formed the basis of her Undergraduate Research Scholars thesis. She also serves as a Supplemental Instruction (SI) Leader for the TAMU Academic Success Center. Guz completed a water quality analysis internship through a summer research program at the University of Vermont in Summer 2014, and served on the EPA Science Advisory Board as part of her participation in the Texas A&M Public Policy Internship Program (PPIP) in Fall 2014. She worked as a writing intern for Geography.com in Summer 2015, and is a 2015-16 Undergraduate Research Ambassador. Guz is currently completing a second capstone with the Undergraduate Leadership Scholars program working toward promoting undergraduate research opportunities in the College of Geosciences. After pursuing a dual master’s program in public policy and environmental studies in Washington, D.C., Guz plans a career using sound data analysis to craft economic and legal incentives to promote sustainable practices.

Phillip Hammond '17, 2016 Udall Nominee
Phillip Hammond ’17, 2016 Udall Nominee

Phillip Hammond ’17 is currently pursuing a bachelor’s degree in landscape architecture with minors in urban & regional planning and sustainable architecture & regional planning. He dedicates his spare time to the student chapter of the American Society of Landscape Architects as the active Vice President for the departmental organization. Phillip also serves as a University Scholar in the University Honors program after being inducted in 2014. His love of nature, architectural design, and philosophy has led him to aspire for a career designing sustainable communities following his certification as a registered Landscape Architect. After he receives his undergraduate degree, Phillip plans to complete a master’s degree in land and property development, then will follow his ambition of changing the way people live with designs that will improve transportation alternatives and provide better ecological infrastructure.

Aly Miranda '17, 2016 Udall Nominee
Aly Miranda ’17, 2016 Udall Nominee

Alyson Miranda ‘17 is a bioenvironmental sciences major and business minor from Missouri City, TX. Her environmental interests were spurred by her first experiences as a restaurant employee and her first national park experience (as a trip leader for TAMU Alternative Spring Break). Then, as an A&M Conservation Scholar, Miranda engaged in marine species risk research for the marine biodiversity lab at Old Dominion University in Norfolk, Virginia. Her research focused on current literature on Gulf of Mexico bonyfishes, as well as assessment review for other regional projects in the Global Marine Species Assessment (https://sci.odu.edu/gmsa/). Last fall, Miranda completed a separate internship at the U.S. Department of Energy in Washington, D.C. where she explored the connection between public policy, federal agencies, and science. Upon returning this semester, she joined the Environmental Issues Committee where she is excited to work on programs to educate students about sustainability and marine environmental issues. Outside of being a current University Scholar, Miranda is a musician in the TAMU Symphonic Winds and at her church, and she loves volunteering at the sustainable Howdy Farm on campus. This summer, she will serve as a business consultant for disadvantaged entrepreneurs in Cape Town, South Africa. Ultimately, Aly would like to work as a marine/wetland researcher or consultant to help people use land and marine resources in an environmentally and responsible way.

As of 1996, seven Udall Scholars and two Honorable Mentions have emerged from Texas A&M University. Most recently, Victoria Easton was selected as a Udall Scholar, making her the first Texas A&M Udall Scholar selected in the Tribal Public Policy category.

For more information about the Udall Scholarship see http://udall.gov.

To read more about how LAUNCH: National Fellowships helps prepare outstanding students to compete for nationally-competitive awards such as the Udall Scholarship with the generous support of the Association of Former Students, please visit http://natlfellows.tamu.edu.

TAMU Nominates Six for 2015 Udall Scholarship Competition

Nominating outstanding students for nationally-competitive scholarships and fellowships is one way to showcase the world-class undergraduate experience at Texas A&M. Not only do the winners in these competitions receive valuable support for their educational expenses, but they also join professional networks that will continue to open doors throughout their careers. But a student does not have to win a competition to realize the value of the national fellowships application process. The applications for these awards ask students to reflect on their ambitions and how they are building knowledge, skills, and experience related to following their dreams. Students report that the application is a truly clarifying experience.

One of the awards that Honors and Undergraduate Research serves as a nominating official for is the Udall Scholarship. This award, from the the Morris K. & Stuart L. Udall Foundation, recognizes top students planning careers related to the environment, tribal public policy, or Native American health care. Students who are selected will receive scholarships of up to $5000 and join a community of scholars whose dedication to sustainable public policy honors the legacy of the Arizona congressmen.

We are proud to announce the nomination of six TAMU students for the 2015 Udall Scholarship competition: Sean Castillo, Jaclyn Guz, Jessica Gwinn, Alyson Miranda, Alexandria Payne, and Jennifer Rangel.

Sean Castillo '16, Udall Nominee
Sean Castillo ’16, Udall Nominee

Sean Castillo ’16 is a junior bioenvironmental sciences major, minoring in geography. He served as a sophomore mentor for Aggies Selflessly Serving in Shaping Tomorrow (ASSIST). Castillo participates in undergraduate research in the Scholthof labs in the Texas A&M Department of Plant Pathology and Microbiology where he studies the Panicum Mosaic Virus, Citrus Tatter Leaf Virus, Tobacco Mosaic Virus, and Tomato Bushy Stunt Virus. He plans a career studying the effects of environmental toxins with the hope that his work will inform lawmakers and educate citizens about the need to reduce pollution.

Jackie Guz '17, Udall Nominee
Jackie Guz ’17, Udall Nominee

Jaclyn Guz ’17 is a sophomore environmental studies major with a minor in geographic information systems. Guz has previously conducted undergraduate research as part of the Michael E. DeBakey Undergraduate Research program in the College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences and is currently working in the Cairns lab studying the tree line in Northern Sweden, She also serves as a Supplemental Instruction (SI) Leader for the TAMU Academic Success Center. Guz completed a water quality analysis internship through a summer research program at the University of Vermont in Summer 2014, and served on the EPA Science Advisory Board as part of her participation in the Texas A&M Public Policy Internship Program (PPIP) in Fall 2014. Guz plans a career using sound data analysis to craft economic and legal incentives to promote sustainable practices.

Jesse Gwinn '16, Udall Nominee
Jesse Gwinn ’16, Udall Nominee

Jessica Gwinn ’16 is a junior bioenvironmental sciences and wildlife & fisheries sciences double degree student. She served as secretary and webmaster for the National Association of Environmental Professionals (NAEP) and is a staff member for Aggie RePlant. Gwinn is an undergraduate researcher in the Roelke Lab studying the  toxic effects of Prymnesium parvum, an algae with potentially useful biofuel applications that is known to cause massive fish kills. Gwinn is also employed as a student worker in Dr. Ong’s plant pathology lab studying Rose Rosette Virus and writing Extension publications about rose diseases. She plans a career researching the ecological relationships between micro- and macro-organisms and the importance of these relationships to humans.

Aly Miranda '17, Udall Nominee
Aly Miranda ’17, Udall Nominee

Alyson Miranda ’17 is a sophomore University Scholar, majoring in bioenvironmental sciences with a minor in business administration. She has served as a site leader and local service executive for Alternative Spring Break, volunteers with the Texas A&M Howdy Farm and Brazos County Senior Citizens’ Association, and is a sophomore advisor (SA) in the Honors Housing Community. She was also recently selected as a 2015 Public Policy Intern with PPIP. Miranda is conducting undergraduate research in the Lacher lab, performing regional extinction risk assessments for the Gulf of Mexico. She plans a career bridging the gap between science and policy in making food production chains more sustainable.

Alex Payne '16, Udall Nominee
Alex Payne ’16, Udall Nominee

Alexandria Payne ’16 is a junior University Scholar, double-majoring in bioenvironmental sciences and wildlife & fisheries sciences. She is the president of the Human Environmental Animal Team (HEAT) and is the Department of Bioenvironmental Sciences representative to the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences (COALS) Student Council. Payne has conducted undergraduate research related to plant virology in the Scholthof labs, on the invasive Tawny crazy ant as part of an NSF-REU at the University of Texas with Dr. Edward LeBrun, and most recently in the Honey Bee Lab at TAMU with Dr. Juliana Rangel. She plans a career researching the mystery of honey bee Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD) in order to create a healthy bee population and stable food supply.

Jennifer Rangel '16, Udall Nominee
Jennifer Rangel ’16, Udall Nominee

Jennifer Rangel ’16 is a junior recreation, park & tourism sciences major with minors in sociology and urban & regional planning. She is the coordinator of registration for the Student Conference on Latino Affairs, an officer for Going Out and Leading from the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences and a member of Future Former Students from the Association of Former Students, and the I Lead Maroon program. Rangel serves as an intern with the Family and Consumer Sciences Program as part of the TAMU AgriLife Extension. She is particularly interested in the intersection of a community’s space and infrastructure design, and the implications of this intersection for human behavior. Rangel plans a career educating people about the positive impacts of green space in a community, especially for low-income and high-risk families.

Since 1996, Texas A&M has had seven Udall Scholars and two Honorable Mentions. The most recent Udall Scholar was Victoria Easton ‘15, who was the first TAMU Udall Scholar selected in the Tribal Public Policy category.

For more information about the Udall Scholarship see http://udall.gov.

To read more about how Honors and Undergraduate Research helps prepare outstanding students to compete for nationally-competitive awards such as the Udall Scholarship with the generous support of the Association of Former Students, please visit http://hur.tamu.edu/National-Fellowships.

Angelyn Hilton “Plants” Herself a Spot at the American Phytopathological Society Conference!

By Hayley Cox

Angelyn Hilton - Bioenvironmental Sciences as an Undergraduate
Angelyn Hilton – Bioenvironmental Sciences as an Undergraduate
Angelyn Hilton, currently a first year Master’s student in the Plant Pathology and Microbiology Deptartment at Texas A&M University, participated in the Undergraduate Research Scholars Program. She was a student in Honors and Undergraduate Research (HUR) during her undergraduate career in Bioenvironmental Sciences

Hilton heard about the American Phytopathalogical Society (APS) Conference through the professors in the plant pathology and microbiology department who were also attending. She was given the opportunity to attend the conference in Austin, Texas from August 10th-14th after she was granted the HUR Travel Scholarship.

According to the APS website (apsnet.org), the 2013 APS Conference was the first time that the Mycological Society of America and the APS held a joint meeting since 2006. “This year’s Special Sessions consist[ed] of invited speakers and topics chosen by the Annual Meeting Board under the guidance of Director Scott Adkins and 2013 APS President-Elect George Abawi.” APS MSA Joint Meeting Special Sessions included the topics of The World of Fungi, Food Safety and Biosecurity, Crop Protection Tools, Education and Outreach, Viruses, Tree Diseases and Stresses, Cell Biology and Plant Symbiosis, and Bacteria.

The APS Conference serves as a means to bring phytopathologists together from around the world. Researchers can present their findings and establish networks with others in their field of study. Hilton said, “A typical day would include attending a number of seminars on different topics, including mycology, bacteriology, virology, and agriculture.” She said, “The end of the day usually consists of poster sessions and mixers. It was not only informative and a great learning experience, but also tons of fun.”

BESC Poster Symposium Winners - Angelyn Hilton Pictured on Far Right (http://plantpathology.tamu.edu/besc-poster-symposium-award-winners/)
BESC Poster Symposium Winners – Angelyn Hilton Pictured on Far Right
(http://plantpathology.tamu.edu/besc-poster-symposium-award-winners/)

Hilton is now continuing onto study plant diseases in graduate school at Texas A&M, and she plans to attend the next annual APS meeting in 2014. Hilton said it is still too soon to know where she will be in 10-15 years, but she would like to continue research in an agricultural-related field. She said the APS Conference was a “fabulous opportunity.” She said, “I was able to do it with the help of HUR and TAMU professors and staff. I would recommend HUR to any high-achieving student at TAMU.”