VERMILLION, S.D. – University of South Dakota students Julianna Benge and Tylar Larsen have been selected as Udall Scholars by the Udall Foundation. This is the first time in over 10 years that two USD students have been selected for the prestigious scholarship.
Benge and Larsen were two out of 55 students across the nation to receive 2021 Udall Scholarships. They will each receive $7,000 for their upcoming year at USD.
Benge received the Udall Scholarship in the Native Health Care category. She is Sicangu Lakota from St. Francis, South Dakota, a town in the sovereign Rosebud Sioux Tribe Nation. As a rising senior, majoring in social work with a specialization in child welfare and a minor in public health, Benge is passionate about addressing rural health inequities, particularly for children with autism in tribal communities. Benge has held internships with the Rosebud Economic Development Corporation (REDCO) Summer Food Sovereignty Initiative and the Summer Undergraduate Research Experience through Sanford Health, where she designed and conducted original qualitative research on education and job experiences of young adults with autism on the Rosebud Reservation.
Benge is the president of the Tiospaye Student Council and vice president of the Society for Advancement of Chicanos/Hispanics and Native Americans in Science (SACNAS), and she serves as both a TRiO and Wawokiya peer mentor on campus. After graduating with her bachelor's degree in May of 2022, Benge plans to pursue a Master of Public Health-Master of Social Work dual degree and possibly a doctorate degree. When she finishes her studies, she plans to begin her career and contribute to the improvement of health for Indigenous people.
"I am very honored and grateful for this opportunity. The Udall Scholarship will help me finish my bachelor's degree at USD with less of a financial burden and will allow me to focus on the most important aspect of school—learning," said Benge. "Being a part of the Udall community will give me the opportunity to network, share my expertise and gain new perspectives. I strive to be a positive role model for my younger siblings, others on the Rosebud Reservation and future generations. By graduating with my degrees as a Udall Scholar, I can show everyone, especially the youth of Rosebud, that it does not matter where they come from, they can become a college graduate."
Larsen received the Udall Scholarship in the Tribal Public Policy category. He is Bdewakantunwan Dakota from Cansayapi (Lower Sioux Indian Community in Minnesota), descending from Goodthunder and Bluestone on his mother’s side, and Wabasha, Chase and Coursolle on his father’s side. Larsen is a rising junior psychology major and public health minor whose future goals revolve around combatting historical trauma in Native communities. He has worked on the Lower Sioux Health and Human Services Advisory Committee, collaborating with the American Indian Cancer Foundation to help write and pass two policies.
Larsen is the vice president of the Tiospaye Student Council, student advisor for Spectrum, and he is in the Honors Program at USD. He plans to pursue graduate education in public health and psychology and then return home to Cansayapi to work in areas related to public health and policy.
“Receiving the Udall shows to future generations of students that they have a space in higher education,” Larsen said. “They might have to find others to assist them in carving their space out, but they have a space in these institutions.”
The Udall Scholarship honors the legacies of Morris Udall and Stewart Udall, whose careers had a significant impact on Native American self-governance, health care and the stewardship of public lands and natural resources throughout the United States.
The Udall Foundation awards scholarships to college sophomores and juniors who demonstrate commitment to a career in tribal policy, Native health care or the environment. Interested students should contact Melissa Berninger, Udall campus representative, at Melissa.Berninger@usd.edu.