January 3, 2019

Udall Scholarship

UMass Amherst’s ONSA office facilitates study and connection

Michael Crowley, a senior in Commonwealth Honors College at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, has received the highly competitive Udall Scholarship, which recognizes college sophomores and juniors who have demonstrated a commitment to pursuing careers related to the environment, Native American tribal sovereignty, and health care.

“How proud we are,” says Madalina Akli, director of the Office of National Scholarship Advisement. The ONSA office, located in Commonwealth Honors College, coached Crowley through the application process with painstaking attention, to make sure his application was as competitive as possible—this review is a service that ONSA, which works with students who want to pursue nationally competitive scholarships and fellowships, provides to all scholarship candidates. 

The Morris K. and Stewart L. Udall Foundation grants their scholarship award to 50 applicants out of over 500 each year. The former Arizona congressmen the scholarship is named for were powerful and effective advocates of Native American self-governance and health care, as well as the stewardship of public lands and natural resources. Crowley is the first UMass Amherst student to win the award since 2005. 

Crowley received his award at the foundation’s annual weeklong conference in Tucson last summer, meeting with Udall scholars both past and present, and interacting with leaders in environmental fields and tribal governance. Attendees were trained in negotiation styles and taught about issues affecting indigenous peoples, such as tribal sovereignty and health. 

The conference members were given a model case where they had to negotiate an accord among many different stakeholders on a watershed during a drought—an accord which they achieved. “It took us beyond our background,” says Crowley with appreciation.

Before enrolling at UMass as a transfer student, Crowley spent what he calls a “gap decade” working in conservation as a forest and park supervisor, project leader, and naturalist teacher with such organizations as Mass Audubon. He feels these on-the-ground experiences enhanced his perspective and will make him a more effective leader, able to focus on “challenges I know actually exist.” 

Crowley’s goal is to discover and implement ways to integrate nature into human communities. He designed his own major in Integrated Environmental Education through the BDIC program. His coursework has included science classes, environmental studies, history, and political science. He is taking graduate courses in the 4+1 accelerated Master of Public Policy program. After earning his master’s degree, Crowley has plans to work with the Massachusetts Community Compact Initiative. 

The networks Crowley formed at the conference meant even more to him than the money he was awarded. “Now I have allies. This scholarship has become an integral part of what I’ve been trying to do, what I’m going to do, that I wouldn't have been able to imagine. It’s the centerpiece I'm building out from now.”

National scholarships have deadlines in early March. Many scholarship resources are available, some with names that may be new to you. Visit the ONSA site (https://onsa.umass.edu/events/) to make plans to attend an information session that suits your schedule, or to make an appointment.