University at Buffalo junior Esther Buckwalter has won the
nationally coveted Morris K. Udall Scholarship, awarded to
outstanding students who have demonstrated a commitment to careers
in the environment, health care or tribal public policy.
She is one of 80 students from 70 colleges nationwide selected
for the scholarship from among 585 candidates nominated by 274
colleges and universities.
Buckwalter will receive a $5,000 scholarship for her senior year
at UB. In August, she will travel to Tucson, Ariz., to receive her
award and meet policymakers and community leaders.
More information about the scholarship is available at http://www.udall.gov.
A resident of Alfred, N.Y., Buckwalter is majoring in
environmental engineering with a minor in Spanish.
Her environmental engineering resume and humanitarian dossier to
date would be impressive for anyone three times her age. She has
spent the past three years as a grass roots activist working on a
host of environmental and sustainability issues, as distant as Asia
and local as Buffalo's East Side.
After graduation, Buckwalter plans to pursue a position as a
Peace Corps engineer in Latin America and devote herself to
improving global access to safe drinking water.
"Water amazes me," explains Buckwalter. "Water forms our
landscapes, dictates the functions of our bodies, grows our food
sources and powers some of our cities. It's so basic and
Her passion for environmental engineering and water systems and
policy was shaped by a semester of cultural and environmental study
in Monterrey, Mexico, and by a summer spent in Indonesia, where she
worked with a local non-profit to develop a laboratory to test
ceramic water filters for survivors of national disasters.
In Indonesia, Buckwalter witnessed the dangers of unsuitable
waste disposal and lack of water-quality controls, along with the
exploitation of poor families. The experience strengthened her
commitment to water-pollution remediation.
"Esther has shown leadership on environmental issues on campus
beyond her years," says James Jensen, PhD, professor of
environmental engineering in UB's Department of Civil, Structural
and Environmental Engineering. "Rather than teach her, I often get
out of her way so she can pursue engineered improvements to the
Buckwalter was valedictorian at Alfred-Almond High School. At
UB, she is secretary and event coordinator of UB's Engineers for a
Sustainable World and helped organize the student club's national
conference. She is a Tau Beta Pi inductee and a UB Honors College
Buckwalter is currently involved in a project to explore the
feasibility of reusing water extracted from the mechanized
composting process at UB.