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Jacob Freedman ’21 won the highly selective Udall Scholarship for his work in connecting people with nature and the environment.

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Middlebury Junior Receives Udall Scholarship

May 15, 2020

MIDDLEBURY, Vt. – For the second year in a row, a Middlebury student has been selected to receive a Udall Foundation scholarship. Jacob Freedman, a junior from Worcester, Massachusetts, has been named a 2020 Udall Scholar in recognition of his passion for place-based environmental advocacy and for his work helping people to connect with nature around them, no matter where they live.

As a Udall Scholar, Freedman will receive a $7,000 scholarship grant and will participate in a weeklong orientation in Tucson, Arizona, in August, where scholars will meet one another and program alumni; learn more about the Udall legacy of public service; and interact with community leaders in environmental fields. He says, “I’m really excited to learn from the other scholars about creative ways to stand up for our planet and communities. Youth environmental engagement appears in so many different ways, and I’m looking forward to seeing what place-based environmental leadership looks like across the U.S.”

A joint major in environmental studies and geography, Freedman was one of 55 students selected from 429 candidates in the categories of the environment, tribal public policy, and Native health care. With the scholarship, he plans to continue focusing on how all people, whether in rural areas or urban, can connect with nature around them and also study how maps can be used as a tool to include all voices in land protection efforts and show how community-based approaches are more effective than top-down, outsider-driven approaches.

Freedman is a cofounder of WildMidd, more formally known as the Wild Middlebury Project, a student-led organization that brings together college students, K–12 youth, and local conservation partners to connect with local wild places, think about pressing conservation threats, and advocate for the ecological treasures in Addison County. They have collected real-world data about salamander breeding with third and fourth graders, mentored high school students in their wildlife management projects, and collaborated with community groups on outdoor learning experiences.

Out of the success of WildMidd, Freedman cocreated the Wild Hometown Movement, a wider network of young people connecting to the wild places where they live. He designed a toolkit to help students at other colleges start their own place-based environmental groups. He and his cofounder visited five colleges around New England to ground-test their ideas and start new Wild Hometown groups.

The Udall Foundation also awarded junior Divya Gudur of Sunnyvale, California, an honorable mention. An environmental chemistry major, Gudur hopes “to be a clinical physician of environmental medicine and medical toxicology and a community organizer advocating for clean water and clean air in communities facing environmental health issues of drinking water contamination and toxin inhalation.”
The Morris K. and Stuart L. Udall Foundation was established by the U.S. Congress in 1992 to honor the Udalls’ lasting impact on this nation’s environment, public lands, and natural resources, and their support for the rights and self-governance of American Indians and Native Alaskans.
In addition to its undergraduate scholarship program, the foundation also supports a Congressional internship, the Native Nations Institute, a Parks in Focus program, the Udall Center for Studies in Public Policy, and the U.S. Institute for Environmental Conflict Resolution.