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Environmental work earns junior an award

From organizing campus cleanups and Earth Day events to volunteering in the organic garden, Mary Davis has helped the University become a little greener.

Davis’ work has earned her the Morris K. Udall Scholarship, which goes to a student who demonstrates commitment to an environmentally related career. Davis is one of 80 U.S. students selected for the $5,000 scholarship. The junior also is the University’s first Udall recipient since 1999.

“I wasn’t expecting it all,” said the 20-year-old from Slingerlands, N.Y. “I know some other people who applied and I admire and respect them a lot. … It’s nice to have your efforts recognized.”

Those efforts started in high school, when Davis spent three weeks in Guadalupe Mountains National Park in Texas doing trail work. Davis followed her sister to Binghamton and joined the Student Environmental Awareness Club (SEAC), becoming vice president as a sophomore and president this year.

Davis, a geology and environmental studies major, has also worked to bring in speakers to discuss gas drilling in the area and has been involved in campus watershed research.

“There hasn’t been one main project for me,” she said. “It’s been a lot of small projects aimed at raising awareness about a variety of issues.”

Peter Knuepfer, director of environmental studies, said Davis is one of the best students he has worked with and praised her for being hard-working, well-organized and willing to help her fellow students.

“It is really thrilling to see Mary get this award,” he said. “I can’t think of a more deserving student. She helps others around her focus because she is so focused.”

Davis has noticed environmental improvements at the University.

“I think the campus has done a good job taking students’ concerns into account,” she said. “There’s already a lot here. There is an organic garden. There’s a strong recycling program. There’s a lot of work being done at the Nature Preserve. It makes it easy to work here.”

Davis said she would like to see the University become more “bike accessible” with bike racks added on campus.

“It would be great to see more people on bikes and out of their cars, cutting back on carbon dioxide emissions,” said Davis, who also works for Outdoor Pursuits.

Davis will spend the summer working on a family-run organic farm and intends to continue her environmental work in graduate school and beyond.

“As long as I’ll be working for something environmental, I will be happy,” she said.

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Last Updated: 10/14/08