DAHLONEGA - John Dees, a junior majoring in environmental and spatial analysis at the University of North Georgia (UNG), has been selected to receive an Udall Scholarship, one of only 50 in the nation.
The $5,000 scholarship was awarded to Dees for his "demonstrated commitment to careers related to the environment including policy, engineering, science, education, urban planning and renewal, business, health, justice, economics, and other related fields." The award will also provide Dees, who is from Gainesville, access to a network of environmental professionals.
"John is truly a phenomenal student, a committed activist, and a patient teacher," said Dr. Anastasia Turner, assistant dean of student research and scholarship and research mentor to Dees. "His affability and work ethic combine to make him a joy to work with and learn from. I can confidently say I have never before worked with a student with the mental and ethical capacity to create exceedingly constructive changes for our country and world."
The Udall Scholarship may also be awarded to Native American and Alaska Native students who have demonstrated a commitment to careers related to tribal public policy or Native health care. The scholarship winners will attend a four-day Udall Scholars Orientation in Tucson, Ariz., in August to meet with their peers, elected officials, and environmental and tribal leaders. The Morris K. Udall and Stewart L. Udall Foundation provides complete travel, lodging and meal coverage for the attending scholars.
"Dr. Turner really helped motivate me to go after this scholarship after she learned of it," Dees said. "After reading up on the Udall Foundation, I decided it was perfectly in line with my interests. We spent about four months working on the application materials. I daydreamed about winning, but I was completely taken aback that I was actually selected."
Dees restarted his pursuit of higher education at age 35. He spent many hours during his first year receiving help in the writing center, and eventually moved on to helping tutor other students.
"Helping others with their papers really honed my writing skills, and the amazing faculty in the Institute for Environmental and Spatial Analysis exposed me to a great deal of wonderful material, and have given me the opportunity to challenge myself," Dees said. "Then, Dr. Peggy Strickland, who taught my honors ENGL 1102 class, introduced me to Dean Eric Skipper, who in turn introduced me to Dr. Turner. Both Dr. Skipper and Dr. Turner have supported me and offered me a number of opportunities, from conferences to undergraduate research, and ultimately, this scholarship."
Dees plans to graduate in spring 2015, after which he wishes to continue his education in a master's program focused on public policy or environmental management.
"I am very interested in applying the geographic information systems and remote sensing skills I've learned at UNG to sustainable development," Dees said. "I eventually want to earn a doctorate, as I really want to be a professor one day. I'd like to get some 'real world' experience along the way, possibly working in the public sector for a while, but one day, I want to come back and teach, so I can give back what was given to me."