Two students receive national Udall Scholarships

Two UND students have been recognized in the prestigious Udall Undergraduate Scholarship competition for their leadership, public service and dedication to tribal public-policy issues and tribal health.

Last year, Ashly Hanna won a Udall Undergraduate Scholarship, making her only the second UND student ever to have won the award. This year, Hanna won the scholarship again, making her UND’s first and only student to have won the award twice.

Also this year, Merrick McMahon of UND won an Honorable Mention in the Udall Undergraduate Scholarship competition. This achievement puts McMahon in select company as well, because he is only the third UND student ever to have won an Honorable Mention in the competition.

The Udall Foundation honors the legacies of former U.S. Rep. Morris K. Udall and former U.S. Secretary of the Interior Stewart Udall, brothers whose concern for Native American issues and the environment resulted in many federal reforms. The foundation awards scholarships to college sophomores and juniors who share the Udall brothers’ passion for and dedication to those issues.

Each Udall Scholarship provides up to $7,000 for the scholar’s junior or senior year. In addition, scholars are hosted at a five-day Scholar Orientation in Tucson, Ariz., where they can meet one another and program alumni, learn about the Udall legacy of public service and interact with leaders in governance, environmental fields and tribal health care.

This year, Hanna – a UND junior – was one of 55 scholars from 48 colleges and universities to be selected as an Udall Scholar. Some 429 candidates were nominated by 199 colleges and universities for the 2020 awards, the Udall Foundation reports.

“Competition for the Udall scholarship is fierce,” said Yee Han Chu, academic support and fellowship opportunities coordinator at UND.

“Awardees must show promise for making significant, substantial, and positive impact in Native American communities.  As a two-time Udall Scholar, Ashly needed to demonstrate convincingly her self-knowledge, determination, and leadership. The review committee recognized Ashly’s truly exceptional achievements developing a program assisting Native American high school students.”

Hanna created One Step Forward, the program that Chu refers to, through the Grand Forks School System. One Step Forward is a student-led mentorship opportunity for Native American high school students.

Hanna, from Longmont, Colo., is a Hunkpapa Lakota from Standing Rock Sioux Nation. At UND, she is a McNair Scholar majoring in criminal justice and American Indian studies. Her professional goal is to earn a Ph.D. in criminal justice to conduct research that examines challenges Native Americans face in the criminal justice system.

“When I think about Udall, I think about community,” she said.

“I am humbled to be a two-time Udall scholar. Last year, my visits at the Scholar Orientation with 55-plus incredible scholars made me look differently at how I approach life. I no longer expect that only the government can help solve social problems; I now look local — I look to my community and at surrounding communities.

“I love being a part of the Udall family, a family who works together in ‘civility, integrity, and consensus’,” Hanna continued.

McMahon, a UND sophomore from Minot, N.D., is a member of the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa. He is a biology student with minors in chemistry and psychology with a professional health science emphasis. He is studying to become an oral and maxillofacial surgeon for the Indian Health Service to improve the quality and the number of available health care providers to Native Americans. He is a 2019 Cobell Scholar.

“As an honorable mention, Merrick has shown a real talent for making a significant and substantial impact in Native health care,” Chu said.

“Merrick demonstrates impressive focus on his goal of becoming an oral surgeon for the Indian Health Service.  His and Ashly’s intrinsic motivation in their pursuits exemplifies the best among strong college students.”