Udall Undergraduate Scholarship

Meet Our Scholars - Alumni Spotlights - Jennifer Peyser VanHooreweghe

When my parents visited this spring, they brought several boxes of mementos that they were tired of keeping in their garage. The first box I opened was a funny assortment of photos, an announcement about the threats of “Y2K”, and a copy of my Udall Scholarship application.

Having just returned from a week in Tucson as a reader on the Udall Scholar selection committee, I read it on high alert for naïveté and well-worn statements. After a page-and-a-half and despite a couple of cringes, I smiled at the idealistic writer who underscored the importance of seeing environmental conflict as an opportunity for environmental solutions. Although I had no idea at the time what I wanted to be when I grew up, this essay captured a major theme of the 15 years of education and career that have followed.

Most of my career has been with RESOLVE, an independent NGO that helps government, industry, and civil society build collaborative solutions to tough environmental, health, and social issues. I’ve worked on everything from wind energy to drinking water, to illegal fishing, to food safety. One current project is the Public-Private Alliance for Responsible Minerals Trade. I manage and facilitate this diverse group of companies, government, and NGOs working to end violence and conflict in the minerals trade in Central Africa. This work has been interesting and important to me because I’ve seen relationships built over five years of challenging but constructive discussions and projects—and I have seen a correlation between the strength of these relationships and positive, on-the-ground impacts.

The Udall Foundation has been an important thread throughout my career. At the 1999 Scholar Orientation, I first learned about my future profession from a speaker from the U.S. Institute for Environmental Conflict Resolution, a program of the Udall Foundation. In 2009, I was accepted as a member of the National Roster of Environmental Conflict Resolution Professionals, managed by the U.S. Institute. In 2013, I joined the facilitation team for one of the U.S. Institute’s projects, the Missouri River Recovery Implementation Committee. And as part of the scholarship selection committee, I’ve read hundreds of applications, so many of which demonstrate an idealism that I know will evolve but will remain as a spark to inspire some amazing environmental work.

So, if you are thinking about applying for the Udall Scholarship, I recommend it; just try not to write things like, “Though spoken decades ago, Mo’s/Stewart’s words still apply today…” And if you have applied, I recommend hanging on to that essay to help remind you why and how you wanted to be like the Udalls when you grew up.