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Environment, tribal health care spur Udall winners

April 17, 2008

Two ASU undergraduates who have won Morris K. Udall Scholarships may have had vastly different life experiences, but they share a devotion to goals that were close to the Congressman’s heart.

Christa Lee, a sophomore in nursing, grew up on the Navajo Nation, in Window Rock. She wants to improve Native American health care, having experienced the death of her father from alcoholism when she was 6 years old. Her inspiration is the strong role model provided by her mother – and the suffering she has seen among other tribal members with diabetes and other illnesses.

Garth Baughman, a junior in economics and math, lived in the suburbs of Washington, D.C., where he loved the outdoors but saw it as an exotic and somewhat distant distraction. Now he is a leading environmental activist who wants to protect the environment by bringing economic arguments to the cause of environmental preservation.

They are among 80 students to win $5,000 Udall Scholarships, which are awarded to sophomores and juniors who plan careers in environmental public policy, tribal policy and health care. In the past 12 years, 22 ASU students have won Udalls.

Lee says she always has felt a calling to the health care field, since her early visits to hospitals. She has volunteered and worked for two Indian Health Service hospitals, where she noticed that elderly patients responded better when she spoke their language and used familiar body language. She hopes to work as a nurse for several years before becoming a health policy advocate for Native American people.

At ASU, Lee is vice president and circle scholar for Alpha Pi Omega, the first Native American sorority. She has a 3.93 grade-point average, is in the Native American Achievement Program and serves as representative on the American Indian Council.

Baughman enrolled at ASU to study photography but discovered he wanted to help protect the nature he liked to photograph instead. He founded the Student Sustainability Coalition at ASU, drawing together 20 different student environmental groups and launching a campus awareness campaign. He coordinated a large “Trash to Treasure” program last spring, to help gather and donate students’ clothes, furniture and computers at the end of the semester.

Baughman has been a research analyst for the ASU Office of Sustainability Initiatives and is a research fellow in the ASU Center for Environmental Economics and Sustainability Policy. He has a 3.92 grade-point average and was a math teacher for middle-school students in the Barrett Summer Scholars program.

Honorable mentions in the Udall competition went to Andrea Garfinkel-Castro, a junior in urban planning, and Jessica Katz, a junior in civil and environmental engineering.