University of Virginia Student Michelle Henry Chosen to Receive Udall Scholarship

April 8, 2008 — Michelle Henry, an environmental sciences major at the University of Virginia, has received a 2008 Udall Scholarship to support her research into climate and diet in South Africa.

The scholarship, given by the Morris K. Udall Foundation in honor of the late Arizona congressman, provides up to $5,000 for one year. An independent review committee selected Henry as one of 80 winners on the basis of their commitment to careers in the environment, health care or tribal public policy, leadership potential and academic achievement.

"I feel extremely honored to receive the Udall Scholarship and to be in such accomplished company," Henry said.

Henry, 19, of Media, Pa., earlier won a Harrison Undergraduate Research Award from U.Va., and will study the effects of climate variability on diet in the Limpopo Province, South Africa. Henry said the Udall award will allow her to expand her research.

"Receiving this scholarship will not only expand my view of environmental policy issues, but will also allow me to tap into a network of past and future scholars," Henry said. "I will be able to learn from so many amazing student leaders in environmental policy and public health."

"She is advancing this interest through a comparison of a rural community in southern Africa with our knowledge of the diversity of foods being carried across great distances in the North American diet," said Stephen Macko, a professor of environmental sciences, as well as Henry's academic adviser and mentor on her research program. "On that basis, she intends to address relationships between the environment and health." 

Macko said Henry's research is driven by her desire to better understand human nutrition. He said she also wants to energize her classmates to push their work up to the next level.

"Ms. Henry is a highly successful, motivated student, a leader and an individual who also likes to see other students succeed," said Macko.

"The Udall Scholarship provides an unbelievable opportunity to further my commitment to public service," said Henry, who aspires to become an environmental sciences professor and to continue researching the effects of the environment on development. "It also is a great reaffirmation of the importance of committing my life to a career in education about public health and the environment."

A Jefferson Scholar and an Echols Scholar, Henry is the president of U.Va.'s Class of 2010, and a site leader for Alternative Spring Break, having led a service trip of 12 students to Thailand over winter break and a group to Philadelphia over spring break. She is also a Girl Scout troop leader at Venable Elementary School and a member of the Student Council's Environmental Sustainability Committee.

"This is the second consecutive year that a U.Va. student has received the honor of being recognized by the Udall Foundation for being a dedicated environmental leader," said Katherine Walters, assistant director of the  Center for Undergraduate Excellence. "Michelle is a promising environmental steward, a wonderful representative of our University, and will no doubt inspire others with her energy to make important changes in the field."

The Morris K. Udall Scholarship and Excellence in National Environmental Policy Foundation was authorized by Congress in 1992 to honor Udall's legacy of public service. The foundation is supported by a trust fund in the U.S. Treasury and contributions from the private sector. There have been 916 Udall Scholars since the first awards in 1996.

The 2007 Udall Scholars will assemble for five days during August in Tucson, Ariz., to meet policymakers and community leaders in environmental fields, tribal health care and governance.

"I am extremely excited to have the opportunity to go to the conference in Tucson this August and meet people from around the country who are passionate about environmental policy," Henry said.