Two ASU students receive Udall Undergraduate Scholarship for their interest in the environment

May 25, 2018

Two Arizona State University students, Kinley Ragan and Karen Ibarra, have been awarded the 2018 Udall Undergraduate Scholarship.

They are among 50 students from 42 colleges and universities chosen for this year’s group of Udall Scholars on the basis of their commitment to careers in the environment, native health care or tribal public policy; leadership potential; record of public service and academic achievement. Kinley Ragan Kinley Ragan, a conservation biology and ecology major, has won the Udall Undergraduate Scholarship. Download Full Image

This year’s class of Udall Scholars was selected from 437 candidates nominated by 209 colleges and universities. Thirty-four Scholars intend to pursue careers related to the environment. Ten Native American/Alaska Native scholars intend to pursue careers related to tribal public policy and six Native American/Alaska Native scholars intend to pursue careers related to native health care.

Each scholarship provides up to $7,000 for the student's junior or senior year. Since the first awards in 1996, the Udall Foundation has awarded 1,624 scholarships totaling $8,440,000.

Kinley Ragan is a Barrett, The Honors College student majoring in conservation biology and ecology with a certificate in geographic information sciences. She won the Udall Scholarship in the environment category.

As president of the Central Arizona chapter of the Society for Conservation Biology, she prepares future conservation leaders for success in the field. Ragan conducts research at the Phoenix Zoo, using wildlife cameras to study community ecology throughout Arizona and Mexico.

In a self-designed project this summer supported by the Barrett Global Explorers Grant, she will study human-wildlife conflict management at the borders of national parks in Thailand, Australia, Nepal, South Africa and Colombia. She said she is driven by her admiration for wildlife, passion for coexistence, and love for her family.

Ragan received assistance with her Udall Scholarship application from staff in the Office of National Scholarship Advisement (ONSA) located in the Barrett, The Honors College Tempe campus complex.

“Receiving the Udall Scholarship is a great honor and accomplishment. This award has become extremely competitive, with just 34 scholarships in the environmental category given this year out of 355 well-qualified applicants,” said Brian Goehner, ONSA program manager.

“Kinley is an exceptional young woman who has already made an impact in her field, and this opportunity will accelerate her professional development. When Kinley accepted the award, she received a notice that said ‘Welcome to Team Udall!’ What that means is she is now part of the Udall alumni network that is over 2,000 strong. These alumni are policy makers, leaders in their field and committed to issues related to Native Americans or to the environment,” he added.

Karen Ibarra

Karen Ibarra is in her third year at ASU where she is studying sustainability and justice. She transferred into ASU from Phoenix College. She also was selected for the Udall Scholarship in the environment category.

She has participated in natural resource management and conservation through extensive field programs.

She is an active member of Living United for a Change in Arizona (LUCHA), a Phoenix-based organization that advocates for social, economic and racial justice. Ibarra leads a LUCHA campaign focused on alleviating the effects of mass incarceration within heavily impacted areas in Phoenix.

Ibarra has many passions that all share the theme of advocating for marginalized communities and natural spaces. In the future, she hopes to extend the restorative properties of natural spaces to underrepresented communities by promoting diversity within public lands.

The 2018 Udall Scholars will assemble Aug. 7–12, in Tucson, Arizona, to meet one another and program alumni, learn more about the Udall legacy of public service and interact with community leaders in environmental fields, Tribal health care, and governance.

Learn more about the Udall Undergraduate Scholarship and the 2018 scholars.

Nicole Greason

Public relations and publicity manager , Barrett, The Honors College


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Young people find a transformative path in ASU nonprofit program

Young people transformed by ASU Lodestar Center's nonprofit apprenticeship.
May 25, 2018

Apprentices find purpose, motivation with Lodestar Center's Public Allies

Just before Beatriz Mendoza graduated from Arizona State University a year ago, she joined her engineering classmates in figuring out where to apply for jobs.

“While everyone else was applying to Honeywell, Intel, Microsoft and Apple, I was applying to nonprofits,” said Mendoza, who graduated with a degree in industrial and organizational psychology with a focus on consumer and human systems engineering.

“I thought, ‘I have to apply to something that means something to me,'" she said.

Mendoza is among 34 young people in Public Allies Arizona, an intense, full-time apprenticeship program that pairs participants with nonprofit organizations. Public Allies is part of the ASU Lodestar Center for Philanthropy and Nonprofit Innovation, in the School of Community Resources and Development.

Mendoza worked with the Million Dollar Teacher Project, a nonprofit that placed her as a technology integration specialist at Granada Primary School in Phoenix. There, she created time-saving student-data spreadsheets for teachers and a simplified progress report for parents.

“I want to have many stories attached to my name and after the first year of working in a nonprofit, I have 40. I have 40 students in the class and that’s the greatest achievement I’ve ever done,” she said.

Mendoza and several other allies described their powerful experiences during “impact presentations” at ASU's Downtown Phoenix campus on Wednesday. They made posters about their accomplishments and several spoke about how the 10 months changed them.

This was the 12th cohort of the program, which pays the allies to work at more than 20 nonprofit organizations in the Phoenix metro area. After completing Public Allies, which is part of the federal AmeriCorps program, the participants receive a $5,800 award to pay for tuition or professional development or to apply toward student-loan debt. More than 250 young adults have participated since the Arizona program was launched in 2006.

Since last fall, the current allies have planted zucchini at an urban farm, taught art to children at a museum, delivered meals to homebound elderly people and helped high school students fill out college applications. They sorted mail and entered data in computers. They overcame their fears of being overwhelmed and underqualified. They learned about teamwork and what it feels like when no one shows up to an event they organized. They had doors slammed in their faces and made someone's day with a few minutes of attention.

The allies come from a wide variety of backgrounds. Some are college students, some have degrees and a few joined right out of high school. One is a single mother who had been out of the workforce. Some chose Public Allies as a deliberate pathway, and for others, it was a miraculous opportunity.

By the time Damonte Johnson came to Phoenix a year ago, he had flunked out of several colleges, derailed from his studies by a series of family traumas.

“I had given up hope completely of ever going back to school. I had chased success as far west as L.A. and as far east as Baltimore,” said Johnson, who found out about Public Allies at a job fair.

He’s worked at two organizations and with both experiences, he helped kids who were like him. At the Creighton Community Foundation, he served after-school meals to children who often did not have food waiting for them at home. He also is a youth outreach coordinator with Opportunities for Youth, a group that connects young people who are neither in school nor employed with resources to move ahead.

“It was exactly where I had been many times in my life,” Johnson said.

Jill Watts, director of capacity building for the Lodestar Center, said that Public Allies aims to be life changing not only for the young people but also for the nonprofits.

“We have a lot of metrics around how the allies advanced the capacity of the organization during their time there,” she said. For example, if the ally is doing volunteer outreach, they have to quantify how many new volunteers they recruited, how many returning volunteers they brought back, how many hours they served and the economic value of the volunteers’ contribution to the organization.

Last year, 90 percent of the organizations reported that the ally improved the nonprofit’s performance, she said.

“We take people you might not expect or who might not look like what you think of as a leader and we engage them in this program,” she said.

“For 10 months, we’ll take them by the hand and we’ll drag them, if we have to, across the finish line and for some of them, it really is a journey getting across the finish line.”

Not everyone makes it, Watts said. A few will leave the program despite all the support. But for most, the practical job experience and sense of accomplishment are transformative.

Taylor Polen joined Public Allies a few months after graduating from high school in 2016. She knew she wanted to go to college but she didn’t have a clear sense of her path.

“I never felt like a doctor. I never felt like a teacher. I never felt like any conventional career that we’re taught growing up,” she said.

When she discovered the program, “It dawned on me that nonprofit work is a career.”

Allies can opt to stay for a second year, which Polen did. She worked as program specialist at the Alzheimer’s Association, where she staffed the helpline, did data entry and helped with the family support groups.

“They helped me to find my direction and opened my eyes to what’s out there,” said Polen, who in the fall will be a freshman at ASU, where she’s been accepted into the Next Generation Service Corps of the Public Service Academy.

At the impact presentation, many of the allies expressed wonder at how far they’ve come in 10 months.

Johnson recalled that as a child, he was enthusiastic and certain that he would be a success, but the struggles of the past few years had dimmed his optimism.

“Public Allies rekindled it. They gave me purpose and they gave me hope and they gave me a way to succeed.”

Top photo: Beatriz Mendoza, a 2017 graduate of ASU, described her work at Granada Primary School at the Public Allies impact presentation on Wednesday at the Downtown Phoenix campus. Photo by Charlie Leight/ASU Now

Mary Beth Faller

Reporter , ASU News