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Two Duke Students Awarded Udall Scholarships for Work in Native American Tribal Health Care

Each scholarship provides up to $7,000 for the scholar’s junior or senior year

Two Duke Students Awarded Udall Scholarships for Work in Native American Tribal Health Care
Darien Herndon and Monica Desjardins

DURHAM, N.C. -- Duke juniors Monica Desjardins and Darien Herndon have been named two of 55 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.

Both Desjardins, a psychology and global health major from Maricopa, Arizona, and Herndon, a biology major from Lumberton, North Carolina, have been recognized as scholars in the area of Native American tribal health care. Only 8 of the 55 scholarships awarded this year focused on Native American tribal health issues. 

Desjardins, a David M. Rubenstein Scholar and Cardea Fellow, plans to eventually pursue a Ph.D. in a mental health-related field. Her ultimate goal is reducing stigma and addressing disparities in mental health care by increasing educational and preventative resources within her community. 

Desjardins has done research with the Identity and Diversity Lab at Duke regarding alcohol drinking behaviors among Native American students identified as monoracial and multiracial. Desjardins was an honorable mention for the Udall award last year.

Herndon plans to attend medical school and hopes to become a reconstructive surgeon in an underserved Native American community. Her work also focuses on Native American health disparities, but seeks to resolve them through better statistics and increased cultural competency. She is a founding member of Alpha Pi Omega, Duke’s first Native American sorority.

Both Desjardins and Herndon have been active in Duke’s Native American Student Alliance, with Herndon serving as president and Desjardins as events chair. Their leadership and advocacy efforts have resulted in the creation of a physical gathering space on campus for Native American students, and more recognition of the need for Native American voices in the curriculum and faculty.

A 16-member independent review committee selected this year's group of Udall Scholars on the basis of commitment to careers in the environment, native health care or tribal public policy, leadership potential, record of public service and academic achievement.

 Since the first awards in 1996, the Udall Foundation has awarded 1,733 scholarships totaling nearly $9 million.

The 2020 Udall Scholars are scheduled to assemble Aug. 4-9 in Tucson, Arizona, to meet one another and program alumni. They will also learn more about the Udall legacy of public service, and interact with community leaders in environmental fields, tribal health care and governance.

Duke students and alumni can receive support for opportunities like the Udall Scholarship from the Nationally Competitive Scholarships team at Duke’s Office of University Scholars and Fellows.

For more information on the Udall Scholarship, visit