Vanderbilt University junior Andrew Harwell has been awarded a prestigious Udall Scholarship for his dedication to environmental conservation efforts locally and globally. He will join a national cohort of exceptional undergraduates for seminars, workshops and professional development over the course of his year as a Udall Scholar, working with other dedicated student leaders on environmental issues and policy and health issues related to Native American communities.
“The greatest environmental challenges of our generation demand a unified, large-scale response, so I applied for the Udall hoping to engage early with the incredible environmental network that the Udall Foundation facilitates,” said Harwell, a double major in environmental sociology and ecology, evolution and organismal biology. “I am incredibly excited to join the network of Udall Scholars and can only hope to live up to the mighty legacy set by those environmental visionaries who have come before me.”
Fifty-five students from 50 colleges and universities were selected as 2019 Udall Scholars. A 14-member independent review committee selected this year’s group on the basis of commitment to careers in the environment, native health care, or tribal public policy; leadership potential; record of public service; and academic achievement. The review committee also awarded 55 Honorable Mentions. The Udall Foundation reported that 227 institutions nominated a total of 443 students for the Udall Scholarship, and 38 scholarships were awarded in the Environmental category. Each scholarship provides up to $7,000 for the scholar’s junior or senior year.
Harwell, from Pulaski, Tennessee, is a recipient of the Maggie S. Craig Memorial Scholarship at Vanderbilt. Throughout the course of his time at the university, he has displayed dedication to the pursuit of sustainability on campus, in Nashville and across the United States. While working in Vanderbilt’s Sustainability and Environmental Management Office (SEMO), he developed initiatives to improve sustainability on campus. He also conducted research under David Hess, who holds the James Thornton Fant Chair in Sustainability Studies; served as a board member of the Vanderbilt Green Fund; and spearheaded an initiative to fund a covered bike shelter prototype through the Residential and Environmental Affairs Committee of Vanderbilt Student Government.
Harwell’s impact extends to the broader Tennessee community as well. As an intern with Tennessee Conservation Voters, he worked to develop a scorecard of legislator environmental policy stances and promote conservation efforts in the policy arena. Through his work as a seasonal interpretive ranger at Tims Ford State Park, Harwell helped Tennessee residents appreciate the natural beauty and conservation efforts ongoing in the state.
Harwell spent the entire 2018-19 academic year overseas to deepen his understanding of international approaches to environmental conservation. In Copenhagen, Denmark, he studied sustainable development and the cultural, political and business factors that have influenced Denmark’s progressive “green” initiatives. Harwell is currently abroad in Christchurch, New Zealand, exploring local public-private partnerships focusing on environmental conservation and how this model might be implemented in the United States.
The Career Center supported Harwell and other Vanderbilt nominees studying abroad through remote one-on-one coaching, application review and feedback, and facilitation of the faculty review process that provided critical support to applicants. Harwell noted that applying for the Udall Scholarship prompted him “to draw out the most important themes and tell a cohesive story about my past, present and future goals in conservation work.”
He applied for the Udall as a sophomore as well, and decided to reapply this year as a junior. “Encouraging messages from Dorrie Presson at the Career Center and Dr. David Hess, my academic adviser, spurred me on to reapply with a stronger application this time around,” he said.
Following graduation from Vanderbilt in 2020, Harwell hopes to join the Peace Corps, helping to promote food security in Africa, followed by pursuing a Ph.D. in environmental management and ultimately working in a land trust to protect ecologically significant lands.
“The choices our generation makes in the coming decades will shape the future of the natural world,” he said, “and I plan to be there every step of the way, playing a small part on the journey towards a sustainable and just society, ablaze in the light of that green fire.”
About the Udall Foundation
Established by Congress in 1992, the Udall Foundation awards scholarships, fellowships and internships for study in fields related to the environment and to Native Americans and Alaska Natives in fields related to health care and tribal public policy; provides funding to the Udall Center for Studies in Public Policy to conduct policy research and outreach on the environment and related themes and to the Native Nations Institute for research, education and outreach on Native American and Alaska Native health care issues and tribal public policy issues; and provides assessment, mediation, training and other related services through the U.S. Institute for Environmental Conflict Resolution.