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Bethany Murphy Selected to Receive Prestigious Udall Scholarship
Bethany Murphy has always felt that water is a part of her identity. A native of Seekonk, Massachusetts, she grew up near the Atlantic Ocean.
“I was always by the water, whether it was the brook that runs through my backyard, the reservoir right behind my high school or the coast that was so close by,” she says. “Some of my most precious memories involve spending the day at the beach with my mom, heading to the coast whenever a big storm hit to watch the waves with my dad, and kayaking out to Providence Harbor to watch the fireworks on Fourth of July. Spending so much time by the water fostered my strong appreciation for water resources and my commitment to protecting them.”
Murphy’s connection to the water developed into a plan to pursue a career in environmental engineering and eventually to influencing the U.S. Army’s water policy. Now a first-generation, junior environmental engineering major in the College of Engineering and Computer Science and a Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC) cadet, Murphy has been named a recipient of a prestigious Udall Scholarship in the field of environmental issues.
The Udall Foundation awards scholarships to college sophomores and juniors for leadership, public service and commitment to issues related to Native American nations or to the environment. Murphy is one of 55 students from 50 colleges and universities nationwide selected this year. She and her fellow Udall Scholars will travel to Tucson, Arizona, Aug. 6-11 to meet one another and program alumni; learn more about the Udall legacy of public service; and interact with community leaders in environmental fields, Tribal health care and governance.
Murphy’s affinity for the water turned into a potential career path during her junior year of high school, when she participated in the Massachusetts State Envirothon Competition. “I was I was able to tour the Town of Seekonk’s groundwater treatment facility and see Quabbin Reservoir, the main water supply reservoir for Boston. I was fascinated to see what went into water supply and became eager to learn more about water resources management.”
Following her sophomore year at Syracuse, Murphy interned with the Massachusetts Water Resources Authority. One of her responsibilities there was to report on the state of Quabbin Reservoir—the very reservoir she visited as part of the Envirothon competition a few years earlier. “It was very fulfilling to have an internship that brought me back to the place where I first realized that this was a career I wanted to pursue,” she says.
At Syracuse, Murphy performs research in the environmental organic chemistry laboratory of Professor Teng Zeng, studying the degradation of organic micropollutants such as pesticides and pharmaceuticals in natural water systems.
Last year, she received a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Ernest F. Hollings Undergraduate Scholarship. Murphy worked with the Center for Fellowship and Scholarship Advising (CFSA) on both her NOAA-Hollings and Udall applications. “Bethany stood out as an applicant for these competitive awards because of the clarity of her goals and because of her remarkable preparation, capacity and will to achieve those goals,” says CFSA Director Jolynn Parker.
Murphy will intern at the Colorado Basin River Forecast Center in Salt Lake City, Utah, this summer through NOAA, forecasting water supply given data on snowpack and other climatic conditions.
“I’m beyond excited for this opportunity because the water supply operation in the West is so different from what I have been exposed to here in the Northeast,” Murphy says. “It will be a great stepping stone towards my ultimate goal of influencing the Army’s water policy. After all, the Army operates all over the world, and I need to have an understanding of water challenges in a range of locations.”
Murphy has engaged in sustainable projects around the world through Engineers Without Borders (EWB) and Global Student Embassy (GSE). Last year, she contributed research to an EWB project to provide clean drinking water to a community in a remote part of Guatemala. She also participated in a sustainable agriculture volunteer trip in Ecuador with GSE. “My trip to Ecuador was a really eye-opening experience because I was able to interact with local students there who share my passion for sustainability,” she says. “This trip also helped me develop cross-cultural communication skills, which I hope to carry with me into my military career.”
Murphy plans to combine her environmental engineering training with her understanding of military operations and organizational structures to approach the issue of reducing the military’s environmental footprint. She plans to commission into the U.S. Army as an engineering officer, which will allow her to serve her country and gain a better understanding of the Army’s competing interests.
“Throughout my military career, I hope to take assignments within the United States Army Corps of Engineers, where I will be able to put my environmental engineering education to direct use,” Murphy says. “With experience in the Army and environmental engineering, my hope is that I will be in a position to positively affect the Army’s sustainability when it comes to water resources management.”
About the Udall Foundation
Established by Congress in 1992, the Udall Foundation awards scholarships, fellowships and internships for study in fields related to the environment and to Native Americans and Alaska Natives in fields related to health care and Tribal public policy; provides funding to the Udall Center for Studies in Public Policy to conduct policy research and outreach on the environment and related themes and to the Native Nations Institute for research, education and outreach on Native American and Alaska Native health care issues and Tribal public policy issues; and provides assessment, mediation, training and other related services through the U.S. Institute for Environmental Conflict Resolution.
The Udall scholarship honors the legacies of Morris Udall and Stewart Udall, whose careers had a significant impact on Native American self-governance, health care and the stewardship of public lands and natural resources. Universities may nominate up to eight students for the Udall Scholarship each year. The Udall selection process at Syracuse University is administered by CFSA. Interested students should contact CFSA in October. Applications are due in mid-March.