CMU student promising nominee for Udall scholarship
Hamilton junior Jaime Coon is hoping her second consecutive nomination for the Udall scholarship will be the one she wins.
According to udall.gov, the foundation will award approximately 50 scholarships of up to $5,000 to sophomore and junior college students entering into careers involving environmental, and Native American or Alaska Native students involved in tribal public policy or Native health care. Additionally, the winners will gain access to a variety of experts at seminars offered in Tucson, Arizona.
Since her second nomination, Coon says she has strengthened her resume by expanding her research in the biology department and her environmental public service.
She has become an active member of the Central Michigan University College 101 program, giving several “Passion for Wildlife” presentations per year, which inspire at-risk high school students to make positive choices. Most of her presentations use live animals.
“I want them to understand that biology is not just about a textbook, it’s about being out in the field and doing things,” Coon said. “… I don’t think you recognize the value of nature until you look something in the eye.”
She also spent her summer as an intern at the Wildlife Recovery Association, a non-profit rehabilitation organization for birds of prey, she lived on-site with birds during the summer.
Coon is majoring in biology, but with a minor in global justice, her focus is much different from many biology majors.
“With climate change, with pollution, we’ve tried to escape it, but we can’t escape it anymore,” Coon said. “We have environmental problems. Politicians have to do legislation and policies with a set of data. My job will be to produce that data.”
Coon is especially interested in questions considering sustainability practices.
“I want to frame my questions with environmental ethics,” Coon said. “How are we going to create a solution that doesn’t harm anyone or the environment?”
Coon has worked in associate professor Kirsten Nicholson’s phylogenetics lab for over two years studying a tropical lizard species complex.
Additionally, Coon has been involved in CMU’s New Venture competition with a nonprofit project called “Energize Education,” which focuses on better energy efficiency in public schools.
Thomas Rohrer, the director of the Great Lakes Institute of Sustainable Systems, worked with Coon. He said with Coon’s help, as well as with other students’, CMU saves $1.6 million per year in conserved energy.
“She’s an outstanding individual,” Rohrer said. “She’s very outgoing, very articulate, and she’s able to encourage and inspire others.”
Director of the National Scholarship Program and Honors Program Phame Camarena said Coon’s experience fits perfectly with the Udall scholarship.
“Her document experience might not be as flashy as other nominees, but the things that Jaime is doing is a perfect fit,” Camarena said. “Her work advocating for the environment with high school students, for example, is exactly the kind of environmental initiative and advocacy we are looking for.”
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