James Miller named a 2020 Udall Scholar

Two other Gusties are finalists for this national scholarship in leadership, public service, the environment, and Native American relations.
Posted on May 5th, 2020 by

L to r: James Miller ’21, Nathan Baring ’22, Quincy Yangh ’21


—by Corbyn Jenkins ’20

Gustavus Adolphus College biology and geography major James Miller ’21 has been named a 2020 Udall Scholar by the Udall Foundation. Sophomore political science and biology major Nathan Baring ’22, and junior geography major Quincy Yangh ’21 were selected as Honorable Mentions.

The scholarship recognizes students who excel in academics, leadership, public service, and commitment to the environment or Native American nations, with up to $7,000 for a student’s junior or senior year. It honors the legacies of Morris and Stewart Udall, whose political careers had a positive impact on the stewardship of public lands and natural resources, and Native American self-governance and health care.

Miller came to Gustavus to study biology, but ever since his first class geography class, his schedule has been packed with courses from both areas. “Given my interest in sustainable agriculture, majors in biology and geography offer a great balance between the natural and social sciences.”

On campus, Miller is a part of the Gustavus Wind Orchestra, and serves as a Building Bridges co-chair and Big Hill Farm co-president. After a summer working at Big Hill Farm, he and his co-worker founded a student organization focused on agriculture and food justice. “With such dedicated professors and an engaged community of peers, Gustavus has provided the space and the resources to help me build critical thinking skills, grow into who I am, and develop alongside others who push me to be better,” he says.

Miller is passionate about sustainable agriculture and its potential to mitigate excess atmospheric carbon dioxide. He has experience with local food production via his family’s fourth-generation farm. “Agriculture has really deep roots in my family. They are extremely hardworking and incredibly resilient, especially considering the tight economic pressure they face as small-scale producers,” Miller says. “In the face of climate change, agriculture can be used strategically to sequester excess atmospheric carbon dioxide into the soil, and sustainable land management techniques will promote environmentally and socially responsible development.

“As the industry continues to adapt, it is important to empower small-scale producers and rural communities in these conversations because of their expertise and commitment to production.”

A total of 429 students were nominated for the Udall Scholarship this year with 359 applying in the Environment category, 32 in Native Health Care, and 38 in Tribal Public Policy. Out of the 429 nominations, 55 scholars from 48 colleges and universities were been selected as 2020 Udall Scholars. Fifty-five honorable mentions were also named.

Sophomore political science and biology major Nathan Baring ’22 and junior geography major Quincy Yangh ’21 were selected as Environment Honorable Mentions.

Baring is involved in the Environmental Action Coalition and its associated events. He is also a part of the Gustavus Groundswell planning committee and was a student host for Nobel Conference 55. Outside of Gustavus, Baring is involved with a climate change class-action lawsuit, Juliana v United States. “As someone who has been advocating for environmental stewardship since I was 13, I found the Udall Scholarship to be a natural fit for my interests. It was a good opportunity to clarify my story and mission for myself,” says Baring. “I’m also excited to share the platform with Quincy and James because both of their commitments to environmental justice are impressive and it will take a broad community to keep pushing forward, both at Gustavus and beyond.”

Yangh is currently a supervisor at the Gustavus Center for Inclusive Excellence, the Environmental Sustainability chair for the Gustavus Student Senate, a teaching assistant for Geography 102, and a student member of the President’s Council on Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion. “Being a first-generation college student and person of color, I have often felt out of place in my navigation of environmental ethics and the field of geography. However, it is precisely this discomfort that revealed the importance of my participation in this line of work,” Yangh says. “The intention that drove my decision to apply for this scholarship is that I want to transform the face of the environmental movement—one that is more representative of the communities doing this work.”

Since the first awards in 1996, the Udall Foundation has awarded 1,733 scholarships totaling nearly $9 million. The 2020 Udall Scholars will assemble August 4-9 in Tucson, Arizona, 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.


Media Contact: Director of Media Relations and Internal Communication JJ Akin


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