MSU News: Montana State University students named 2022 Udall Scholars

Cassandra Baker, a math junior from Lame Deer, won an Udall Fellowship in the Tribal Public Policy category. Photo by Adrian Sanchez-Gonzalez/MSU

Two Montana State students named Udall Scholars

Tuesday, May 31, 2022

By Carol Schmidt

MSU News Service

Two Montana State University students have won the prestigious Morris K. Udall and Stewart L. Udall Foundation Udall Scholarship. Cassandra Baker, a Lame Deer junior specializing in math education, won the scholarship in the tribal public policy category. Atticus Cummings, a Bozeman junior specializing in interdisciplinary directed studies with a focus on architecture, chemical engineering and sociology, was nominated as a researcher in the environmental category. Baker and Cummings were among 55 students from colleges and universities nationwide to be selected as 2022 Udall Scholars, said Ilse-Mari Lee, dean of MSU Honors College. “We are very proud of Cassandra and Atticus, who have been named 2022 Udall Scholars. Cassandra, in recognition of her significant contributions to Montana’s tribal communities, and Atticus, for her efforts on our campus to protect our natural environment, said Lee. “As servant leaders, they will join a national network for Udall Scholars who have truly made a difference in their communities.”

The Udall Foundation is an independent federal agency established by Congress in 1992 to provide federally funded scholarships to students wishing to pursue careers related to the environment, as well as Native American students pursuing a tribal public policy or career in the field of indigenous health. Udall Scholars receive $7,000 to be used for academic expenses. The scholarships honor the legacy of Morris Udall and Stewart Udall.

Cassandra Baker is a member of the Northern Cheyenne Tribe who uses mathematical modeling techniques to assess the sustainability of the Northern Cheyenne language. She also uses modeling techniques to activate interest in math, STEM fields and cultural heritage among local high school students. “We are experiencing language loss,” Baker said. She explained that she is developing tasks that will model language loss and determine the number of speakers needed to ensure survival. A non-traditional, first-generation student, Baker graduated from St. Labre Indian School in Ashland. She briefly attended a college in Maryland, but said she didn’t fit in there and moved back to Montana. She said when she was invited to tour the Montana State campus, she was happy to see an entire hall dedicated to Native American students — and now an entire building with the opening of American Indian Hall — as well as a supportive community. Baker said that at first math was her worst subject, but one of her high school teachers used the technique of having students mark work to increase the chance of getting a better grade. It helped her understand mathematical concepts and she came to develop a love for the subject. Baker said that once on campus, she had about 10 different jobs to support herself, and because she couldn’t afford textbooks, she borrowed them from the library. In the case of her statistics textbook, she could only consult it for a few hours at a time. “I had so many fines,” she recalls. However, she soon learned that there were people at MSU to support her. “If you ask, there are people who will help you.” Lisa Perry, director of Native American/Alaskan Native Student Success in the Department of Native American Studiesin the college of letters and sciences, said Baker is a promising student in the class and a role model for her colleagues. “I am thrilled that Cassandra has this opportunity as a Udall Scholar and to know that all of her hard work is being recognized,” Perry said. “Cassandra is a role model for her peers and young Aboriginal students. I welcome the opportunity to support Cassandra on her academic and personal journey, and I know she will use this opportunity to give back to Indigenous communities in a positive way. Baker said one of the turning points in his career at MSU was when Beth Burroughshead of the Department of Mathematical Sciences at the College of Letters and Science, hired Baker as an assistant to the department’s student office, where she worked on the department’s website. She also collaborated with Professor Marie-Alice Carlson in mathematics education on mathematical modelling. Through her work with the department, she thrived, she said. This summer, Baker will work with Carlson on the Montana Model Camp for college and high school students. She said students from her northern Cheyenne reservation and Salish-Kootenai Confederate reservations as well as students from non-reservation communities will use mathematical modeling techniques to understand and quantify the number of native speakers needed to keep tribal languages ​​alive. traditional. They will also develop a plan to support Indigenous languages. She said earning the Udall would help her expand that work by allowing her to network with other education professionals working in her field and learn other effective language retention techniques. Carlson said Baker is a reflective student who is unhappy with “surface-level” solutions to problems. “She makes every team she’s better on,” Carlson said. “Cassie is already pushing us into new territory as we develop culturally appropriate math tasks for the Montana Models camp. I feel really lucky to be able to work with her. In addition to winning the Udall Scholarship, Baker recently received a Cameron Presidential Fellowship and will be a Fellow of the Honors College. She recently won the Dan Voyich Community Involvement Award from the Department of Native American Studies and the American Indian/Alaska Native Student Success Program. She is a member of the Pi Mu Epsilon Honorary Mathematics Society and a recipient of the Milton F. Chauner Mathematics Fellowship. Baker is a tutor for the American Indian/Alaska Native Student Success program. She said that after graduating, she hopes to return to her reserve to teach math, eventually becoming a math education teacher. “Thinking back to my trip has been surreal,” Baker said. “I can’t believe I’ve come to where so many things could have stopped me. I really want other Indigenous students to realize that we can do anything and take our experiences and identity with us when we do.

Atticus Cummings

Montana State University student Atticus Cummings is pictured on campus Monday, Feb. 14, 2022, in Bozeman. Cummings was named a finalist for the Truman Fellowship. Photo by Kelly Gorham/MSU

Atticus Cummings was homeschooled until he enrolled at MSU, eventually deciding on a Directed Interdisciplinary Studies Diploma at Honors College to understand why certain promising technologies fail to take hold and to explore patterns found in nature for solving social and environmental problems, a discipline called biomimicry. Cummings’ degree encompasses work in the College of Arts and Architecturethe Norm Asbjornson College of Engineering and the college of letters and sciences. His current research focuses on engineering a building material capable of sequestering plastic waste and carbon. Its interdisciplinary directed studies program combines fields that it considers essential to a sustainable future: engineering, design and social sciences. Together, he believes these disciplines can help inspire people to embrace sustainable technologies and tackle climate change, as well as the communication needed to get climate change accepted. He said the Udall Fellowship would help him meet others working at the intersection of human and natural systems. “Atticus is truly a Renaissance man,” said Logan Schultz, associate dean of the Honors College. “It embodies the interdisciplinary creativity and goal-oriented education that we value in the Directed Interdisciplinary Studies program. His research, his services and his community involvement have inspired many and he is always ready to help other students. Everything he does is deeply rooted in a desire to improve our world, and it gives me great hope to see him flourish. Cummings is the recipient of a Cameron Presidential Scholarship and a Research Fellowship from the Vice President for Research and Economic Development for his self-directed research on enzyme-induced biomineralization on plastic waste at Wilking and Heveran Laboratories. As a student in the honors section of the Design Foundation course taught by Brian W. Brush, architecture instructor and director of the MSU Community Design Center, Cummings helped design a fair, obstacle course for all levels for HRDC Bozeman. He was a member of Honors Presents lecture series the Leadership Team, the Campus Climate Coalition, the Honors College Internal Advisory Board and the School of Architecture Student Advisory Council. He was a student senator at large and competes and teaches fencing. “Atticus has always pushed for a synergy of creative methods that are usually in disciplinary silos,” Brush said. “He has a remarkable ability to link knowledge across great distances and with his talent for design he will undoubtedly accomplish great things that address our world’s most pressing issues.” This fall, Cummings will pursue an internship in Architectural Biomimicry Ecology and Design in Singapore. After graduating from MSU, he plans to take a year off to pursue fieldwork in biomimicry. Eventually, he plans to get a master’s degree in architecture to create bio-inspired designs that will help climate refugees. He said his personalized program at MSU gave him the tools and resources to prepare him to enter this new field of science and design. “I’m really interested in using inspiration from the non-human world to create autonomous systems for humans,” Cummings said.


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