February 9, 2010 — Michelle Henry, a fourth-year student at the University of Virginia, has received a 2010 Luce Foundation Scholarship.
Henry, 21, who will graduate in May with masters' and bachelor's degrees in environmental science, will be able to work in Asia for a year with the Luce award.
"When I heard I had won, I ran out of my Lawn room and dove into the snow," Henry said. "I am very excited and very humbled, because the competition was so intense."
The scholarship program provides stipends, language training and individualized professional placement in Asia for 15 to 18 American students who have had limited experience of Asia and who might not otherwise have an opportunity in the normal course of their careers to know and understand Asia.
Henry's studies and research have focused on bio-energy, such as ethanol and dual-fuel coal and wood boilers, and she plans to pursue a doctorate in sustainable development. She said working in Asia will provide her with many opportunities.
"Asia has the most energy-demanding growth," Henry said. "This will give me an opportunity to see the needs directly."
Henry said she does not yet know where in Asia she will be placed, but said she will probably be working with a non-profit organization.
"It will be a great experience to listen for a year and see what the needs are," she said. "I plan to continue in academia and this will help inform my research with practical working experience."
Henry, of Media, Pa., has already done research in foreign countries, working in South Africa while studying with environmental sciences professor Robert Swap. She received a Harrison Undergraduate Research Award in 2008, which she used to study the affects of climate variability on diet in Limpopo Province in South Africa.
She has also traveled to Nicaragua, where she studied economic development in a class taught by professor Brad Brown from the McIntire School of Commerce.
"She's one of the smartest people I have ever known," Brown said. "I got to know her quite well while in Nicaragua, and after all the advice she has given me, I think of her more as a colleague than a student."
Brown, who is also principal of the International Residential College, praised Henry's drive.
"Her leadership record is nothing short of amazing, even for a Jefferson Scholar, an extremely selective group of students recruited for expected contributions in both service and scholarship," Brown said. "Her scholarship is also stellar. Many students enter the University with a lot of Advanced Placement credits, but Michelle is one of the few I have known who have taken advantage of that and will actually complete a master's degree in environmental science in her four years at the University."
Henry received a scholarship from the Morris K. Udall Foundation in 2008. A Jefferson Scholar and an Echols Scholar, Henry is also president of the Class of 2010, chair of the Student Council's environmental sustainability committee and banquet chair for the Raven Society.
As an Alternative Spring Break site leader, she led a community service trip of 12 students to Thailand over winter break and will lead a group to Philadelphia during spring break. She is also a Girl Scout troop leader at Venable Elementary School.
Lucy Russell, director of the Center for Undergraduate Excellence, praised Henry for her commitment and involvement.
"Michelle is dedicated to improving the environment and, through a combination of coursework, research and involvement in the University community, she has shown that she will be a leader in her field," Russell said. "Michelle's selection for this honor is a testament to her passion and hard work."
Russell sees the Luce Scholarship as an opportunity for Henry.
"The Luce Scholarship promises to be a transformative experience for Michelle, and I know she will take full advantage of it," Russell said. "I am simply delighted for her."