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UA Students Take Three Udall Awards
Michelle Coe, Irene Liang and Carol Seanez, all UA undergraduates, have been named 2012 Udall Scholars.
Carol Seanez plans to, one day, develop programming around HIV/AIDS prevention on the Navajo Nation.
Michelle Coe wants to inform public policy decisions on the responsible use of national parks.
And Irene Liang aims to employ microbial methods to strengthen access to clean water around the globe.
For their professional commitment, the three University of Arizona students each have received scholarships from the Morris K. Udall and Stewart L. Udall Foundation.
The Udall Foundation, an independent federal agency, has named 80 students Udall Scholars. With three students, the UA tied with the University of Georgia for having the most students named of all 70 institutions.
In honor of the legacy of the Udalls, UA alumni, the foundation grants up to $5,000 in funding for each scholar – all students who have proven records of leadership and are committed to working in fields that center on the environment, health-care or tribal public policy.
Also, the Udall Foundation announced that UA alumna Letitia M. Stover is among one dozen students selected as 2012 Native American Congressional Interns.
A member of the Diné tribe, Stover received her UA degree in secondary education and now is studying at the University of South Dakota School of Law.
The 2012 Udall Scholars will meet in Tucson in August to receive their awards and meet policymakers and community leaders working in tribal health care, government and environmental fields.
Carol Seanez, an Honors College student studying physiology and public health
Seanez's devotion to working in a health-related field developed in childhood, as she and other relatives supported her grandmother who had diabetes.
Seanez did not have full knowledge of diabetes even as she counted out her grandmother's pills, helped check her blood pressure or massaged her legs to aid with circulation. But when her grandmother passed in 2001, she knew she wanted to become a health-care provider.
"I was able to see how I could help other people. That was the initial spark," she said, noting that it is important that as professionals are increasingly attentive to the need for personalized medicine, that they be responsive to cultural beliefs and incorporate holistic practices.
During an HIV/AIDS symposium in Shiprock, N.M., Seanez said she was surprised to learn that some had so little factual information about HIV and AIDS.
A member of the Diné tribe, she decided to commit to studying public health and physiology so that she might one day introduce an education and prevention program on the reservation.
"It would be great to be a health-care provider working in rural areas where I could do house visits and look out for the well being of the community," said Seanez, who grew up on the Navajo reservation.
Along the way, educational opportunities and experiences also have affirmed her devotion to working locally with the Navajo Nation.
Seanez spent last summer volunteering with the International Alliance for the Prevention of AIDS, or IAPA, in India was crucial. There, she taught HIV education and prevention in Chennai schools and, at times, visited rural communities and the slums with her peers.
"My experience with that program opened my eyes to the possibilities of what public health offers," said Seanez, now an IAPA coordinator.
Likewise, she served as an intern on the Navajo reservation in the therapy and wellness clinics, helping individuals get physical exercise and information about diabetes.
Then came the Udall scholarship.
"I was really surprised and honored when I received it," said Seanez, who also wants to complete a MD-MPH dual degree program. "When I look at our class, it is full of people who are doing different things to actively make a difference in their communities."
Michelle Coe, a junior studying geography
While growing up in Boulder City, Nev., Coe spent the duration of her high school years serving as a student assistant at the Lake Mead National Recreation Area.
There, Coe had the full range of experience: filing paperwork, making pamphlets for visitors, working in human relations and eventually mapping water levels at the lake and collecting data on its flora and fauna.
Coe found that she was especially drawn to working with the natural resources and geographic information system, or GIS, laboratory. "It was seeing all of your data come together in a physical map," Coe said.
Soon after arriving at the UA, Coe began studying in geography, intent on one day working for a national park around policy issues related to park preservation.
Above all, Coe wants to contribute to the move toward policies that enable individuals to engage in natural environments in socially and culturally relevant ways, while ensuring that parks are appropriately preserved.
Now Coe, who works as a U.S. Geological Survey undergraduate researcher alongside a UA graduate student, has been investigating wildfires and soil erosion in the Southwestern region of the U.S.
During the summer, she will spend one month in Beijing interning with a company that informs businesses about green practices. She also will conduct research at a UA School of Natural Resources lab, having earned an award through the National Science Foundation's Research Experiences for Undergraduates program.
"I've discussed composing vegetation maps using GIS for several data collections people have so far," Coe said.
"I am thinking about furthering that idea and adding phenology time series as well as doing field work to determine height and, therefore, shade cover from vegetation," Coe added, noting that she will investigate desert soil decomposition with a focus on water and wind erosion, vegetation, ultraviolet light and other variables.
"There is a lot going on in the field, and it is an important topic."
Irene Liang, an Honors College student studying soil, water and environmental science
Liang said she was inspired by the Udalls given their influence in the political realm around environmental initiatives and legislation.
"They’re inspirational. I could relate to their views," she said.
Liang said her own studies connect a life-long passion for science and service.
In particular, she plans to study microbial methods used to monitor and treat water, which are currently expensive.
With the UA Soil, Water and Environmental Science Club, Liang implemented a water-harvesting infrastructure and worked on erosion control to enable re-vegetation and reclamation of land. She also helped cleaned up trashed beaches in Mexico.
Liang also was a recipient of a NASA Space Grant Internship. She worked to develop cell phone and web-based software, which empower teenagers to take action on environmental and community problems through geospatial tools such as mapping.
Previously, she spent a summer working in Namibia, Africa where she investigated biogeochemical properties of the country's landscape.
Her goal now is to help strengthen policies and help employ the use of advanced and affordable technologies to improve access to potable water around the globe.
"Filtration of drinking water alone substantially reduces the incidence of water-borne diseases, and filtering water through a piece of cloth is sufficient to filter out certain parasitic worms," said Liang, who is pursuing her major with a microbiology focus.
"People should not be dying from these," she added. "Human beings across the globe should have access to the most basic needs of safe water, food and environmental living conditions."
Liang cited research indicating that microbes can, indeed, help break down contaminants and metals found in water: "These characteristics can be harnessed to remediate water and soil and to reduce risks to human health."