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USD Student Earns National Scholarship to Study in Costa Rica

Hallie Downs Hallie Downs, a sophomore at USD, was awarded an Insight into Diversity Global Engagement Travel Scholarship.

VERMILLION, S.D. – Hallie Downs, a sophomore from Rapid City majoring in biology and operational analytics at the University of South Dakota, was awarded a $2,000 Insight into Diversity Global Engagement Travel Scholarship to help her travel to Costa Rica this May as part of a USD field ecology class led by Jake Kerby, Ph.D., associate professor of biology.

The scholarship, offered through the National Association of Diversity Officers in Higher Education, is designed to encourage global engagement among students from diverse backgrounds. Downs will take part in ecological field studies where she will gain experience in sampling, data analysis and presentation skills. 

“As a participant in this program I will develop my professional skills, acquire hands-on experience in the field, obtain credit towards my degree, form relationships with scientific experts, experience a new culture and live out one my childhood dreams—studying and exploring the natural world,” said Downs. 

She has already logged in hours of field work through volunteering with a USD biology graduate student studying bird migrations at Spirit Mound Historic Prairie north of Vermillion as well as tagging deer with South Dakota Game Fish and Parks in Rapid City. Downs says her future plans involve summer internships doing field work and research outdoors and eventually landing a job in a field related to biology.

In his supporting letter for Downs' scholarship application, Kerby mentioned that Downs gained his attention by earning one of the top grades in his introductory biology course of more than 250 students.

“She is an absolute joy to be around and an empathetic soul,” Kerby said. “When this personality is paired with natural intelligence it makes for an extraordinary person.”


USD's College of Arts & Sciences offers students a top-notch undergraduate liberal arts education in the humanities, social sciences and sciences as well as graduate programs that have earned USD distinction as a research university by the Carnegie Foundation. The college's more than 22,000 alumni include famous journalists, Hollywood screenwriters, novelists, a Nobel Prize winner, South Dakota governors, attorneys, physicians, justices of the state Supreme Court, distinguished university faculty and international humanitarians.


USD's Beacom School of Business was established in 1927 and has been accredited by the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB) since 1949. The leading business school in the region, Beacom’s programs are consistently ranked among the top business schools in the nation by Princeton Review, U.S. News & World Report and others for its high-quality learning experience, student success, affordability, and high-caliber of faculty and students. Whether a student chooses face-to-face or online courses, Beacom’s programs emphasize real-world experience through professional organizations, quality internships and capstone projects.


Founded in 1862 and the first university in the Dakotas, the University of South Dakota is the only public liberal arts university in the state, with 202 undergraduate and 84 graduate programs in the College of Arts & Sciences, School of Education, Knudson School of Law, Sanford School of Medicine, School of Health Sciences, Beacom School of Business and College of Fine Arts. With an enrollment of nearly 10,000 students and more than 400 faculty, USD has a 16:1 student/faculty ratio, and it ranks among the best in academics and affordability. USD’s 18 athletic programs compete at the NCAA Division I level.


Hanna DeLange
USD News