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Udall Scholars advance tribal health care, environment

April 06, 2011

Three ASU students whose goals reflect those of a beloved former Arizona congressman have won 2011 Udall Scholarships. Samantha Aguirre and Trudie Jackson are aiming for careers in tribal health care, while John Kondziolka is focused on environmental engineering.

They are among only 80 students nationally to win the $5,000 awards named for Morris K. Udall, who championed Native American and environmental issues. The scholarships are awarded to sophomores and juniors who plan careers in environmental public policy, tribal policy and health care. In the past 15 years, 28 ASU students have won Udalls.

Aguirre, a biomedical engineering sophomore from Ahwatukee, wants to earn a dentistry degree and work for the Phoenix Indian Medical Center. A member of the Navajo Nation, she is a leader in ASU’s American Indian Sciences and Engineering Society.

She says there are only 10 full-time and two part-time dentists currently working for the Indian Health Services in Phoenix, responsible for providing care to about 75,000 Native Americans. Aguirre will advocate for improvement. She already has attended an intensive summer program at the University of Louisville Schools of Medicine and Dentistry.

Jackson, a sophomore in public service and public policy from Glendale, has a long history of working as an advocate for Native American health care on HIV and AIDS issues. Also a Navajo, she wants to return to the reservation to set up a non-profit organization that provides HIV/AIDS education.

Having started as a peer health educator on HIV/AIDS for urban Native Americans in 2003, Jackson was chair of the Arizona American Indian HIV/AIDS task force for four years. She also was selected to do research for the Institute of HIV Prevention Leadership for nine months, and was only the second Native American to graduate from the institute in its 10-year history.

Kondziolka, a junior majoring in environmental engineering from Mesa, wants to help develop sustainable water systems, becoming a leader in new technologies for water purification. He is active in the ASU chapter of Engineers Without Borders, and has worked on refurbishing a water system in a small village in Ecuador.

For the multi-year project in Ecuador he was project education leader, mobilizing the community to elect a water board and educating the board on how the system worked. Kondziolka, also a Flinn Scholar, has done research in the School of Sustainability and the Fulton Undergraduate Research Initiative.

Aguirre and Kondziolka are in the Fulton Schools of Engineering, while Jackson is in the College of Public Programs.

The 2011 class of Udall Scholars was selected from 510 candidates nominated by 231 colleges and universities.