Student earns nationwide honors through environmental work


It’s no secret Flagstaff is known for its natural beauty. When surrounded by the San Francisco Peaks and lush pine forests, it’s hard not to fall in love with the environment. For Kiersten Wilber, that love has catapulted her to the national stage as one of 80 recipients of the Morris K. and Stewart L. Udall Foundation’s Udall Scholars Award, a $5,000 scholarship presented to students who showcase leadership qualities in the areas of environmental affairs, tribal issues, and health care.

Originally from Wasilla, Alaska, Wilber, a junior majoring in environmental sciences, came to Northern Arizona University because of the university’s emphasis on sustainability and the small-town feel Flagstaff provides.

The importance of mentors 

Wilber’s commitments to academics and strong relationships with her professors have helped her expand her horizons beyond the classroom. One of Wilber’s favorite professors is Angie Moline, who teaches environmental sciences and is director of the Dorrance Scholarship Programs Summer Conservation Experience. After working with Moline on a one-on-one basis, Wilber says her passion for the environment has only grown.

Wilber also works as the Community Mentor for the Eco House Learning Community, a group geared towards educating freshmen about sustainability issues on campus while they adjust to college life. She says working as a mentor has its benefits for everyone involved; she enjoys helping students at a pivotal stage in their lives.

“I really like it,” Wilber says. “It’s rewarding to get these freshman more engaged and excited about sustainability and get them connected to faculty, their degree programs, and other organizations on campus and around town.”

Going for the Udall Scholars Award 

Wilber decided to apply for the Udall Scholars Award after a meeting with Udall Foundation Representative Rod Parnell, who is also a professor in the School of Earth Sciences and Environmental Sustainability and the director of Academic Sustainability Programs.

Wilber wrote five essays for the scholarship, which highlighted her career and service goals. It took her approximately one month to complete the application process, but Wilber says the hard work was worth it once she received the scholarship.

“It’s a well-recognized and prestigious national scholarship,” Wilber says. “There were 80 recipients, and to be one of them, I felt really good about myself.”

Connected to her future

Though she plans to enter the Peace Corps after graduation, Wilber’s ultimate goal is to work in environmental education or wildlife conservation. Wilber says the university’s premier location and programs have prepared her for her life goals, and have provided an experience she could not have gotten anywhere else.

“I love living in this area and seeing all of these awesome natural environments in the Southwest,” Wilber says. “I love the location, and I love the sense of community; it’s important to have it in the university. The environmental program here has definitely prepared me for a career in environmental conservation.”