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Undergraduate hauls in national accolades


August 31, 2006

Andrea Balderrama is a typical college student in many ways. She has broad academic interests and strong passions, strives for marketable skills, yet dreams of a career that is fulfilling and not just profitable financially.

As a Barrett Honors College student majoring in journalism and mass communication at ASU, she had established a strong platform for academic success.

She wanted more.

While browsing through the ASU course catalog, Balderrama learned about the American Humanics nonprofit management certificate offered by the ASU School of Community Resources and Development in the College of Public Programs and enrolled.

The “Youth and Human Service Workshop” and classes in philanthropy and fundraising classes piqued her interest in learning more about the nonprofit sector, in relation to her own passion for social change.

This path immersed her in an independent study for her Honors College project, working under the direction of Robert Ashcraft, an associate professor who serves as the director of the Center for Nonprofit Leadership and Management.

Ashcraft introduced Balderrama to a national educational initiative working to maintain a civil society through teaching youth about philanthropy, volunteering and the nonprofit sector, called “Learning to Give.” The program invites graduate students across the country to write briefing papers on philanthropy.

Balderrama's professors encouraged her to take on the challenge, even though she still was an undergraduate.

Another associate professor, Randy Virden, also provided guidance through documents and resources, since Balderrama chose to write about Aldo Leopold. Leopold's groundbreaking work on the ethical treatment of wildlife and land, and the genesis of the broader philanthropic movement around environmental stewardship was very familiar to Virden. As director of the School of Community Resources and Development, his scholarly work focuses on park, forest and wilderness management, as well as recreation resource policy and planning.

Balderrama's interdisciplinary research skills and strong writing abilities paid off. Her paper, “Leopold, Aldo,” is the first in the nation by an undergraduate student to be selected for publication by “Learning to Give.” The organization's editor called her paper “superb and of the highest quality on every measure.”

The paper can be viewed online at the Web site (http://learngintogive.org/papers/index.asp?bpid=276).

Reflecting on this honor and the thrill of being published, Balderrama says, “I chose to write on Leopold because I think it is important for youth and those who work with youth to understand the importance of protecting our natural world. This paper has allowed me to feel that I have contributed to Leopold's message about environment and nature conservation. I was happy to represent ASU's American Humanics program and the Barrett Honors College by submitting this work.”