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Three Duke Students Named Udall Scholars

The program recognizes students committed to careers in the environment or Native American tribal public policy or health care

Part of the Stories About Duke's 2019 Rhodes Scholars Series
2018 Udall Scholars: Shandiin Herrera, Shomik Verma and Claire Wang
2018 Udall Scholars: Shandiin Herrera, Shomik Verma and Claire Wang

Three Duke University students are recipients of the Udall Scholarship, which recognizes students who have demonstrated a commitment to careers in the environment or Native American tribal public policy or health care.

This is the first time since 1997 that Duke has had three Udall Scholars awarded in a single year.

Juniors Shandiin Herrera of Monument Valley, Utah; Shomik Verma of Houston; and Claire Wang of North Salt Lake, Utah, will receive the scholarships.  

Herrera is co-president of the new Duke chapter of the first Native American sorority, Alpha Pi Omega Sorority.  She has served as both the treasurer and powwow chair for the Native American Student Alliance. Also a Gates Millennium Scholar, Herrera received a Udall Scholarship honorable mention last year in recognition of her leadership and service to Native American communities on campus and at home. This summer, she will be a 2018 Udall Native American Congressional Intern. Herrera is Duke’s first Native American Udall Scholar.

“Shandiin embodies the core values of Udall Scholarship,” said one former professor, Lamonte Aidoo, Andrew W. Mellon Assistant Professor of Romance Studies. “Throughout her time at Duke, she has consistently sought to broaden her perspective and world view, and, more importantly, has consistently thought of how she can take her academic knowledge to bring about true transformation in the lives of women and men in the Navajo Nation. Shandiin Herrera is not only a remarkable young woman and student, but, I am certain, a future leader and advocate for her people.”

Verma received a 2018 Goldwater Scholarship for his engineering research and has worked on designing and implementing new sustainable technologies. He is president of the Duke Energy club, has worked with Duke’s Energy Initiative to create three new assistantships for students to do energy research with faculty, and is vice president of the Duke SMART home, where residents live in a LEED Platinum building and work on sustainability issues.

“Shomik has a strong passion for research and the topic of renewable and sustainable energy and his motivation is combined with exceptional fundamental skills and analytical abilities,” said Nico Hotz, Verma’s research adviser in Duke’s Thermodynamics and Sustainable Energy Lab.  “During my years of mentoring students and supervising their research, I have hardly ever seen a student as talented and hard-working as Shomik.”

Wang has been an environmental advocate since her early teen years, organizing support for third-party energy sales from renewable sources with Utah Clean Energy. At the close of her first year at Duke as an A. B. Duke Scholar, Wang was president of the Duke Climate Coalition, and noticed a summer break announcement of a natural gas power plant on Duke’s campus. She assembled a coalition of campus groups to oppose the plan, which subsequently underwent a period of public comment and review and has since been suspended indefinitely.

Last year, Wang was named as a Udall Scholarship honorable mention. Since then she has served as a Summer Policy & Legislation Intern with Earthjustice, and a research assistant at the Duke University Environmental Justice Lab. Wang was also named a 2018 Duke nominee for the Truman Scholarship.

“There is no doubt in my mind Claire will be one of the environmental movement’s next visionary leaders,” said Caroline Hansley, a 2013 Udall Scholar and a Dirty Fuels Organizing Representative. “I know I’ll be watching.”

Duke students and alumni can receive support for opportunities like the Udall Scholarship from the Nationally Competitive Scholarships team at the Office of Undergraduate Scholars and Fellows. For more information on the Udall Scholarship, visit