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Ogden Honors College Students Recognized by the Udall Foundation

Madelyn Smith named LSU's fourth Udall Scholar

LSU sophomore Madelyn Smith, a native of Lafayette, La., has been named a Udall Scholar by the Morris K. Udall and Stewart L. Udall Foundation. In addition, junior Amanda Fontenot, a native of Houston, Texas, and Madeline LeBlanc, a native of Sunshine, La., have been recognized with an Honorable Mention. Smith is LSU’s fourth Udall Scholar.

“The fact that Madelyn was selected as a sophomore speaks volumes about her impressive and extensive environmental service and activism,” said Drew Lamonica Arms, director of the Ogden Honors Office of Fellowship Advising. “We sent the Udall committee photographs from Madelyn’s book Louisiana Gone, and I feel confident they were ‘wowed’ not only with Madelyn’s knowledge of coastal erosion and salt water intrusion that is affecting south Louisiana’s communities, but also by her ability to blend art with a call to awareness and action in her photography. This is a fantastic honor for her, and a testament to the amazing work LSU students are doing to help restore the coast.”

Smith, an Ogden Honors College student majoring in natural resource ecology and management in the College of Agriculture, is a Louisiana Service and Leadership (LASAL) Scholar. She credits her LASAL coursework and service projects for inspiring her project, Louisiana Gone, her recently completed 117 page photography book that documents the sociocultural effects of wetland loss through interviews and portraits of Louisiana coastal natives. The project was funded through the Roger Hadfield Ogden Honors Leaders Award program and laid the foundation for her Udall application.

“Our LASAL cohort had been learning about the causes of Louisiana’s coastal land loss,” Smith said. “It was clear that the science to describe the problem and potential solutions to our land loss existed, but the social pressure to enact and fund those changes did not. Being an LSU student and living ten minutes from the state capital afforded me a unique opportunity to complete a project that would appeal to the empathy of people in power.”  

“Madelyn understands that you can’t understand important things from a distance,” said Granger Babcock, associate dean of the Ogden Honors College and director of the LASAL program. “She has immersed herself in the history, politics, social structure, and wetland ecology of Louisiana, but, more importantly, she has gone into endangered communities and talked to people; she photographed them and recorded their stories, and she has documented their challenges in her research.”

“I am humbled and honored by the award and the opportunity to meet the other scholars in Tucson this summer,” Smith said. “I absolutely could not have accomplished this without the guidance and support of Dr. Granger Babcock and Dr. Drew Lamonica Arms.”

After graduation, Smith plans to pursue a master’s in environmental management. She hopes to one day serve within the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority to help develop policy initiatives in Louisiana and at the federal level.

Fontenot, an Ogden Honors College junior majoring in coastal environmental science in the College of the Coast & Environment, is conducting research on a project that explores the organic matter decomposition in eroding wetland soils that may exacerbate climate change and sea level rise. After graduation, she plans to pursue a master’s degree in oceanography, environmental science or coastal zone management. She hopes to apply her research to public policy and to advise sustainable solutions to regional and national environmental issues. 

LeBlanc, an Ogden Honors College junior double majoring in chemistry and coastal environment science in the College of Science and the College of the Coast and Environment, is currently studying the elemental composition of wetland core samples to identify the behavior of wetlands at different depths and ages. After graduation, the LASAL Scholar plans to pursue a Ph.D. in chemical oceanography and coastal sciences in the Netherlands or another location affected by coastal land loss, where she hopes to continue her international research on Louisiana issues, develop new mitigation techniques, and conduct research through international collaboration.

The Udall Foundation provides up to $7,000 for the Scholar’s junior or senior year. The 2017 Udall Scholars will gather this summer in Tucson, Ariz., 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 healthcare and governance.

The Udall Foundation

The Udall Foundation was established by the U.S. Congress in 1992 as an independent executive branch agency to honor Morris K. Udall's lasting impact on this nation's environment, public lands, and natural resources, and his support of the rights and self-governance of American Indians and Alaska Natives. The 1998 Environmental Policy and Conflict Resolution Act created the U.S. Institute for Environmental Conflict Resolution as a program of the Udall Foundation to assist parties in resolving environmental, public lands, and natural resources conflicts nationwide that involve federal agencies or interests. In 2009, Congress enacted legislation to honor Stewart L. Udall and add his name to the Udall Foundation.

Ogden Honors College Office of Fellowship Advising

The Ogden Honors College Office of Fellowship Advising advises current students and recent graduates from all colleges at LSU as they apply for prestigious national and international fellowships. Students interested in applying for a Udall Scholarship may contact Drew Lamonica Arms, director of the Office of Fellowship Advising, at fellowships@lsu.edu.

The LSU Roger Hadfield Ogden Honors College

The Ogden Honors College, established in 1992, is a vibrant, diverse and prestigious community located at the heart of LSU. The Ogden Honors College provides students with a curriculum of rigorous seminar classes, as well as opportunities for undergraduate research, culminating in the Honors Thesis. Its focus on community service, study abroad, internships and independent research helps today’s high-achieving students become tomorrow’s leaders.