Featured Fellow: Charlotte Ely
Applying For And Winning A Fellowship:
Charlotte Ely on the Udall Scholarship
FELLOWSHIP I WON AND WHEN, MY AREAS OF ACADEMIC INTEREST: Hi. My name is Charlotte Ely. I received the Udall Scholarship in 2005 while an Environmental Studies Student at S.F. State. I was a “second year senior,” concentrating in both Natural Resource Management and Conservation (NRMC) and Environmental Sustainability and Social Justice (ESSJ). At the time I was interested in bioremediation, the use of microorganisms, plants, and fungus to clean up contaminated soil.
WHAT I’M DOING NOW: I currently work for the Environmental Protection Agency in Region 9, promoting water and energy efficiency, green infrastructure, and renewable energy generation to communities in California, Arizona, Nevada and Hawaii.
THE SUBSTANCE OF MY FELLOWSHIP PROPOSAL: The scholarship application required an essay about how Morris K. Udall had influenced my life. This promised to be difficult as I hadn’t known who Udall was before searching the internet for “environmental studies scholarships” a few months earlier. I did some research and learned that Mo’ Udall was instrumental in passing the Alaska Lands Act of 1980, which doubled the size of the national park system, and tripled the size of the national wilderness system. I ended up writing the essay about how the Alaska Lands Act made it possible for me to plan on one day researching how “extremophiles” (organisms that thrive in extreme environments) in Alaska could be used to remediate land contaminated by oil spills.
LOW POINT IN THE APPLICATION PROCESS: This essay was really hard to write because it felt false, and in some ways it was: I did not become a bioremediation expert, though I did make it to Alaska for several months in 2008, where I even conducted research—though that research was on exotic plant movement, not extremophiles.
HIGH POINT IN THE APPLICATION PROCESS: Though the essay was the hardest part of the application, the process of writing it was rewarding. I got a lot of great feedback from the Udall scholarship representative on campus, teachers, friends and family. I felt very supported, and it was heartening to know that so many people wanted to me to succeed.
MIS/ADVENTURES DURING THE FELLOWSHIP: I was shocked when I received the scholarship, and was nervous about attending the scholarship orientation in Tucson, especially after reading about the other scholarship recipients, who had done, in my mind, much more impressive work and were mostly from famous, ivy-league schools. When I got to Tucson, however, I felt at ease: not only was the orientation held in a fancy hotel with a pool and spa, but that fancy hotel was crawling with smart, passionate do-gooders dedicating their lives to creating a more sustainable and just world. I met people there who I now consider dear friends, and have benefited tremendously from the expertise, generosity, and prestige that being part of the Udall network provides.
ADVICE TO APPLICANTS: My advice to future applicants is this: (1) give yourself plenty of time to prepare the application, (2) seek guidance and feeback from teachers, family and friends, and (3) volunteer and work for organizations that help people and the planet—find one that resonates with you at www.wiserearth.org. Good luck!