Jessica L. Friedman was sitting in her “Sedimentary Geology” class listening to Jennifer R. Smith, Ph.D., assistant professor of earth and planetary sciences in Arts & Sciences — who was subbing for husband Joshua B. Smith, Ph.D. — when Ian MacMullen, Ph.D., assistant dean in the College of Arts & Sciences, approached the sophomore at the end of the class.
After everyone filtered out of the room, MacMullen asked Friedman to stay back. He told her the good news: She was one of two Washington University students to receive a Morris K. Udall Scholarship.
The University’s other Udall recipient, junior Matthew N. Klasen, was a world away in South Africa, where he was spending the semester on a special research project.
“I don’t think any experience I’ve had at Washington University could even compare in terms of the surprise,” Friedman said. “I was not expecting to hear about it for a while, and I figured my notification would come in the mail, not from another person.
“Additionally, Jen (Smith) had written one of my letters of recommendation for the scholarship. It was neat to have her there and to feel like she was sharing in my success.”
In addition, three WUSTL Arts & Sciences undergraduates have been awarded prestigious Goldwater Scholarships. They are sophomores Jeffrey J. Marlow and Kathleen A. Schwarz and junior Amy Y. Liu.
For Friedman, another part of the surprise was overcoming the odds that she and Klasen, her Pathfinder Program colleague, faced in winning Udall Scholarships.
“Frankly, I was not expecting to get the award,” said Friedman, who is majoring in earth and planetary sciences. “I am passionate about the environment and I am a hard worker, but the (Udall) program is so competitive.
“Recently, the Udall foundation sent out the biographies of all of the recipients. I read theirs and I feel so humbled; yet I’m anxious to meet all of these amazing people in Tucson (Ariz.) in August.”
Klasen, who is majoring in environmental studies and political science, was runner-up last year for a Udall.
The Morris K. Udall Scholarship is administered by the Udall Foundation and the Excellence in National Environmental Policy Foundation. The scholarship covers tuition, fees, books and room and board up to a maximum of $5,000 per year.
Friedman and Klasen were two of 80 students to be awarded 2005 Udall Scholarships.
Udall Scholarships are granted to those who demonstrate a commitment to fields related to the environment, or to Native American or native Alaskan students in fields related to health care and tribal public policy.
Congress established the foundation in 1992 to honor Udall and his legacy of public service.
Marlow is majoring in earth and planetary sciences; Schwarz in chemistry; and Liu in biochemistry and molecular biology.
The Barry M. Goldwater Scholarship and Excellence in Education Foundation awarded 320 awards for the 2005-06 academic year to U.S. undergraduate sophomores and juniors.
The Goldwater Scholars were selected on the basis of academic merit from a field of 1,091 mathematics, science and engineering students nominated by the faculties of colleges and universities.
Virtually all of the Goldwater Scholars intend to earn doctorates.
Twenty-seven scholars are mathematics majors, 239 are science majors, 45 are majoring in engineering and nine are computer-science-related majors. Many of the scholars have dual majors in a variety of mathematics, science, engineering and computer disciplines.
The one- and two-year scholarships will cover the cost of tuition, fees, books and room and board up to a maximum of $7,500 per year.
Goldwater Scholars have very impressive academic qualifications that have garnered the attention of prestigious postgraduate fellowship programs. Recent Goldwater Scholars have been awarded 58 Rhodes Scholarships, 72 Marshall Awards (six of the 40 awarded in the United States in 2005) and numerous other distinguished fellowships.
Udall winners Friedman and Klasen have something in common with Goldwater winners Marlow and Schwarz: They are all members of the University’s Pathfinder Program, a four-year educational experience researching environmental sustainability.
Limited to a small number of students, the program reaches out to talented incoming undergraduates with interests in the environmental sciences. Pathfinder relies on case studies and field-based excursions to educate students about the issues surrounding environmental sustainability.
Over the years, Pathfinder students have found unique educational opportunities in such places as Hawaii and the Mojave Desert in California. This provides students the opportunity to meet and bond with a select group of students and faculty.
The Pathfinder Program provides an excellent introduction and education “path” in the Program in Environmental Studies in Arts & Sciences in either the natural or social sciences.
“I think that the best part of Pathfinder for me has been learning with a dedicated group of students whose passion for the environment is rooted in a diverse array of experiences,” Friedman said.
“I see my fellow Pathfinders who will go into law, biology, geology, physics, chemistry, anthropology, psychology and education, and I realize the various ways in which we can achieve environmental sustainability.
“Pathfinder has enabled me to look at the environment from a variety of angles, which I think ultimately helped me to get the Udall.”
Raymond E. Arvidson, Ph.D., the James S. McDonnell Distinguished University Professor and chair of the Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences, directs the Pathfinder Program.
“I know that Ray would not say this, but I will: Between the Udalls and the Goldwaters, Ray’s Pathfinder students may be winning more important awards than some universities,” said Edward S. Macias, Ph.D., executive vice chancellor, dean of Arts & Sciences and the Barbara and David Thomas Distinguished Professor in Arts & Sciences.
“That program has turned out some of the most impressive students one can find anywhere. The entire Washington University community is proud of their achievements.”