SF State student wins $5,000 Udall Scholorship
Environmental Studies student is one of 81 recipients this year
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The Morris K. Udall Foundation awarded a $5000 scholarship to SF State environmental studies major Charlotte Ely, the first recipient of the award in school history.

The Morris K. Udall Scholarship is awarded annually to students exhibiting a commitment to the environment through volunteer work and scholastic achievement. In 1992, the U.S. Congress established the Udall Foundation, which offers the scholarships for those studying ecology, Native American public policy or health care.

Ely was one of 81 Udall scholarship recipients this year. Winners competed with 436 other students from 211 colleges and universities across the nation. All successful candidates were invited earlier this month to an all-expense paid conference in Tucson, Arizona to study how to best mitigate groundwater depletion.

Colleagues who know Ely say her dedication to improving the environment helped discipline her to become the outstanding student that earned the $5,000 scholarship. Ely, an SF State senior, has interned for both the Presidio National Park doing habitat restoration, and at the Sierra Club as a canvasser.

“There’s a direct link on how you treat your body and how you treat the world,” said Ely. “If people took better care of themselves, the world would take better care of the planet.”

Ely admits the scholarship search was a rigorous process; she had the entire application memorized when she submitted it just before deadline. The scholarship application required her to write an essay of how Udall, whose conservation advocacy she already knew well from her environmental law policy class, influenced her life.

Udall was a congressman from Arizona who served from 1961 to 1991, when he was forced to retire after being diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease. He was noted as a stellar advocate of conservation and is remembered for sponsoring the Alaska Lands Act of 1980 that doubled the size of the National Park System and tripled federal wilderness lands.

Bonnie Nelson has known Ely for her entire life and has noticed an amazing transformation in her since she began her environmental studies. Nelson is Ely’s supervisor at Nelson/Nygaard Transportation, a consulting firm that advises city mass transit agencies on how to maximize efficiency in the Bay Area. She recalled that Ely matured from a young girl swayed by emotions into an adult more scrupulous in her approach.

“(She) backs her opinions with facts now,” said Nelson. “Charlotte is someone who always questions things. She keeps you on your toes (and) you can rely on her to keep you intellectually honest.”

Ely said she would like to change people’s idea of what a healthy environment should be. She also said she would like to see more mass transit oriented development, more green open space and additional government regulation promoting sustainability of natural resources.

“There’s no reason anyone should drive to SF State,” said Ely. “People should bike to school or use MUNI. But MUNI needs to improve as well”

To encourage bicycling Ely maintains that the university needs to relax rules on where cyclists can park. She also said, “it would be great,” if MUNI provided a discounted monthly pass for all faculty, staff, and students. She also sees a need for the school to provide more recycling receptacles, at least one for every classroom building. Also she noted that the food courts in the Cesar Chavez Student Center could reduce substantial amounts of trash by substituting paper cups for reusable ones, or better still, if people brought their own.

Although the Udall Scholarship was the most generous one Ely could find, it will still only cover her final year in school. Should there be any discretionary funds left by the end of the year, Ely said she would like to take part in the Wild Lands Study, a program offered by UC Santa Barbara that conducts tours of the Alaska Wilderness.

“I think Charlotte is one of the most stubborn and loving people I know,” said Nelson. “It’s a funny combination, but it works out well.”



Veronica Weber | staff photographer
Charlotte Ely, a double major in Environmental Studies and Natural Resource Management and Conservation, is the first SF State student to win the Morris K. Udall Scholarship, which is awarded to those students exhibiting a commitment to the environment through volunteer work and scholastic achievement.





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