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Two USD Students Awarded Prestigious Udall Scholarship

Juliana Benge and Tylar Larsen standing side-by-side smiling at the camera. USD students Julianna Benge (left) and Tylar Larsen (right) have been selected as this year's Udall Scholars by the Udall Foundation.

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.

Download a photo of Juliana Benge

Download a photo of Tylar Larsen

ABOUT THE COLLEGE OF ARTS & SCIENCES

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.

ABOUT THE SCHOOL OF HEALTH SCIENCES

USD’s School of Health Sciences is a national leader in interprofessional health sciences education. South Dakota’s comprehensive School of Health Sciences develops scholars, practitioners and leaders in health and human services, including addiction counselors, dental hygienists, health science practitioners, medical laboratory scientists, nurses, occupational therapists, physical therapists, physician assistants, public health practitioners and social workers.

ABOUT USD

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 78 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.

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