"I always knew that I wanted to be involved in social sciences as well as hard sciences," said Barnes, a sophomore biology and political science major at USD. "I also grew up in an area that helped establish my appreciation for the environment."
As one of 80 Udall Scholarship winners nationwide, Barnes will receive a $5,000 scholarship towards her undergraduate degree at The University of South Dakota. She will also attend a week-long seminar in Tucson, AZ. this summer to receive her award in addition to meeting with policymakers and community leaders in environmental fields, tribal health care and governance.
Her dedication to environmental studies goes beyond the classroom. Barnes, who is hoping to intern one day with the Environmental Protection Agency, is also a co-founder of SAGE (Students Advocating Grassroots Environmentalism) helping to get more students on The University of South Dakota campus involved with issues affecting the environment.
"Felicia has shown great initiative by doing projects on and off campus that show she's committed to environmental causes," noted Kaius Helenurm, Ph.D., professor of biology. "She has gotten involved in research but also has a very multidisciplinary approach to environmental issues, which may ultimately make her very successful in affecting environmental policy."
Barnes believes environmental policy is often determined by policymakers who don't always have the proper scientific education about the issue. As a career objective, she wants to change that and serve as a scientific voice for government environmental policies.
"Felicia came to campus with a remarkably well-thought-out understanding of how to blend the natural science of biology with the intricacies of political science in hopes of championing better environmental policies," described William D. Richardson, Ph.D., chairperson of the department of political science at USD. "I am confident that the Udall Scholarship is the first of many distinguished awards that Felicia will receive as she prepares to implement the policy goals she first discussed when she visited campus as a high school senior."
In addition to her activities on USD's campus, Barnes finds time to play the violin with the USD Community Orchestra. She also spent time as a volunteer coach for the Vermillion High School debate, team and SAGE keeps her active promoting environmental issues on the USD campus.
�"I think the responsibility of legislating environmental policy means having a strong background in science and doing research on those types of issues," Barnes added, "especially when it comes to knowing how to make policies more effective and creating better alternatives for the environment."