WALLA WALLA, Wash.-- Rachel Anna “Savanna” Ferguson, a Whitman College junior from Alexandria, Virginia, is one of 80 students from around the country recently honored as Morris K. Udall Scholarship recipients for the 2004-2005 academic year.
Ferguson will receive a $5,000 Udall Scholarship to help defray educational expenses next year; she can re-apply for the scholarship for her senior year. Ferguson is pursuing an individually-designed major in environmental studies/writing with minors in geology and biology.
“I came to Whitman because I wanted a school with an environmental studies major that would allow me to focus on the humanities as opposed to the sciences,” says Ferguson, “and I always knew I wanted to include writing.” Once at Whitman, she adds, she also developed a keen interest in the sciences, hence her minors.
Established in Congress in 1992, the Udall program honors the late congressman and his legacy of public service and concern for the environment. Udall represented Arizona in the U.S. House of Representatives for 30 years, retiring in 1991. He died in 1998.
The Udall scholarship is open to college undergraduates (excluding first-year students) who have demonstrated outstanding potential in environmental studies or related fields and to Native Americans and Alaska Native undergraduates who have shown similar potential in the study of health care or tribal public policy.
Ferguson’s summer schedule reads like a tribute to environmental studies, beginning with a trip to Bulgaria with the Whitman Environmental Studies Department, led by Professor of Geology Bob Carson. After returning in mid-June, she will attend the University of Kentucky’s Summer Environmental Writing Program. This four-week program, partially funded by a scholarship from The Garden Club of America, focuses on experiential environmental learning to give young nature writers the opportunity to write from life experiences.
In early August Ferguson will attend the Udall Scholars Orientation Weekend at the Udall Center for Studies in Public Policy at the University of Arizona, Tucson. In any free time she has between these activities Ferguson said she will return to her job at the West Virginia Burgundy Center for Wildlife Studies. This fall she is enrolled in Semester in the West, Whitman’s innovative semester-long field experience, in which students learn from a wide variety of environmental activists in the Northwest as well as farmers, ranchers and loggers while taking coursework in environmental sciences, social sciences and humanities.
Ferguson’s prior experiences at Whitman also reflect a dedication to environmental studies. She lived in the Environmental House during her sophomore year, participating in its many environment-related programs such as recycling. Ferguson’s job with the college’s physical plant also involved recycling. Academically, her participation in an environmental psychology class, taught by professor Deborah Winter, led to involvement in the Walla Walla Backyard Stream Team. She and other class members collected survey information from members of the community who live along creeks in the area. “We asked them about their relationship with their streams, what kind of pollutants they might be putting in the streams, how they feel about the streams and what kind of plants they’re planting in their back yards.” The students then did a psychological analysis of the surveys which they presented to a group that included members of Washington’s Department of Ecology and the Water Resources Planning Commission.
In addition, Ferguson has been involved with the work being done at Fort Walla Walla, planting native plants as a replacement for the blackberries that were removed, and she has worked with the Campus Greens, learning about renewable wind energy and the Northwest Renewable Energy Festival.