USD’s Felicia Barnes honored as 2008 Udall, Goldwater scholar

VERMILLION, S.D. -- Being involved on campus or in the community is nothing new to Felicia Barnes, a junior at The University of South Dakota. When she isn’t spending time in a classroom or a laboratory, Barnes can usually be found playing the violin with the USD Community Orchestra, coaching the debate team at Vermillion High School or promoting environmental issues through Students Advocating Grassroots Environmentalism (S.A.G.E.), an organization she co-founded at USD.

If that doesn’t keep the Yankton, S.D. native busy enough, she’s also juggling not one but two majors – a significant reason as to why the biology and political science major is USD’s ninth Goldwater Scholarship recipient as well as a Morris K. Udall Scholar for the second consecutive year.

Growing up along the banks of the Missouri River certainly influenced Barnes’ appreciation of the environment, and her ultimate career objective is to educate policy makers regarding environmental policy issues. But her career aspirations go beyond more than just bringing about awareness of environmental issues – it’s about finding answers. Thanks to her campus research with USD Professor Barry Timms, Barnes has had an opportunity to do find answers by engaging in unique experiments analyzing the affects of human exposure to environmental endocrine disruptors. She hopes to continue her research with Timms into the summer as well as stay involved with local environmental issues through S.A.G.E.

"It’s important to care about an issue, but I also have a passion for knowing the end result," said Barnes, who is USD’s first consecutive Udall recipient since Danielle Buttke in 2003. "At the end of the day, being able to educate the public with answers is what matters most."

Because of her community involvement and passion for the environment, Barnes was motivated to develop skills in biomedical research techniques according to Timms. "To her credit," he added, "she explained that in order to feel comfortable in being an effective leader in this facet of legislative responsibility, it was extremely important for her to have the scientific background and experience in this field of study."

As one of 80 Udall Scholarship winners nationwide, including one of two Udall Scholars from USD this year (Damon P. Leader Charge), Barnes will receive a $5,000 scholarship toward her undergraduate degree at The University of South Dakota. She will also attend a week-long seminar in Tucson, Ariz. this summer to receive her award in addition to meeting with policymakers and community leaders in environmental fields, tribal health care and governance.

"Her enthusiasm for learning, a willingness to respect the vagaries of scientific investigation, and a natural skill for experimental techniques places her among the top undergraduate students for whom I have had the good fortune to mentor," admitted Timms, Ph.D., reproductive biologist. "Felicia meets all the criteria to indicate that she will contribute a valuable strength to the scientific community and succeed in her future career."

Recipients of the Goldwater Scholarship receive up to $7,500 per year to cover the cost of tuition, fees, books, and room and board. This year, 321 scholarships were awarded on the basis of academic merit. More than 1,030 mathematics, science and engineering students, nominated by the faculties of colleges and universities nationwide, applied for the scholarship program, which is designed to foster and encourage outstanding students to pursue careers in the fields of mathematics, the natural sciences and engineering. The Goldwater Scholarship is the premier undergraduate award of its type in these fields. In its 20-year history, the Barry M. Goldwater Scholarship and Excellence in Education Foundation has awarded 5,523 scholarships worth approximately $54 million.

"It’s awesome," Barnes said of her reaction to receiving the Udall Scholarship a second straight year as well as learning that she’d won the prestigious Goldwater Scholarship in the same year. "I wasn’t even thinking about the Goldwater, but my sister called and said, ‘congratulations!’ She knew before I did."

Her sister, Clarissa Barnes, also won the Goldwater Scholarship having in 2002 as a student at The U. Clarissa, a 2003 recipient of the Truman Scholarship and a 2004 USD graduate, has always been supportive of her younger sister, who downplays a sibling rivalry—somewhat.

"In my book, I think I win," Felicia said with a smile. "But I’m proud of what we have both accomplished. USD is definitely a place where, as both a student and a person, you can maximize your talents and interests to achieve your educational and personal goals."

A photograph of Barnes is available for download at www.usd.edu/urelations/images/Felicia_Barnes08.jpg.