Udall Scholarship Awarded to UMass Amherst Biology Major Simon Miner

AMHERST, Mass. – Just four months after transferring to the University of Massachusetts Amherst, junior biology major Simon V. Miner has been awarded a Morris K. Udall Scholarship. He is one of only 81 students in the country to receive the merit-based scholarship.

The Morris K. Udall Scholarship and Excellence in National Environmental Policy Foundation awards the scholarships of up to $5,000 to college sophomores and juniors who have demonstrated a commitment to pursuing careers related to the environment or tribal public policy or health care. The foundation is named for the late Arizona congressman who championed environmental issues and Native American rights.

While the scholarship is a first at UMass Amherst, it is the second straight year that Miner has earned the honor. Last year, he was selected for the scholarship while completing his associate''s degree at Cape Cod Community College, where he co-founded and served as vice president of Students for Sustainability, a group dedicated to furthering environmental stewardship.

Miner hopes to teach environmental science and biology at the high school or community college level after completing a master''s degree. He is currently enrolled in an internship doing research in behavioral ecology at the Marine Biological Laboratories in Woods Hole, Mass. This summer he will be teaching embryology, microbiology, marine biology and geology at the Children''s Science School in Woods Hole.

Now 34, Miner grew up in Amherst, left home at age 16 and moved around the country working a series of jobs ranging from landscaping to selling recreational vehicles and bartending. He even worked as a laborer on the construction of the Mullins Center. Though he never finished high school, Miner always had an interest in the environment.

“I''ve been a biology major since I was 6,” he says. “But I could never seem to find the time or money to go to school.”

While working for a catering business on Cape Cod, Miner decided to look into classes at the community college in West Barnstable. He finished his studies there last Jan. 25 and drove west to begin his first semester at UMass. Within days of arriving on campus, Miner contacted the university''s Udall faculty representative, Guy Lanza, and set about preparing his application and collecting letters of recommendation.

“He''s a remarkable student,” says Lanza. “He really got inspired by the Udall legend while living in Arizona.”

Miner says the back-to-back scholarships give him the opportunity to focus on his studies without having to work. “Now I don''t have to ask ‘How can I afford to go to school?''”

Along with the other Udall Scholars, Miner will travel to Tucson in mid-August to receive his award and participate in meetings with policy-makers and community leaders in environmental fields, tribal health care and governance.

Simon Miner can be reached at 508/633-3151 or by e-mail at simon@bittennails.com.