Highlands University Geology Student Danielle Cedillo Wins $50,000 Scholarship
A New Mexico Highlands University environmental geology student was awarded a $50,000 scholarship from a U.S. Department of Education-Hispanic Serving Institution grant.
Scholarship winner Danielle Cedillo came from Salina, Kan., planning to study accounting until she saw the Sangre de Cristo Mountains that border Las Vegas.
“I was always very interested in studying the environment and protecting it,” Cedillo said. “But I was dead sure I wanted to major in accounting until I saw the mountains here and wanted to learn more about them. That’s when I decided to study environmental geology, with a minor in accounting.”
And study she has, racking up a 3.8 GPA and a chance to compete for the $50,000 U.S. Department of Agriculture-Hispanic Serving Institution scholarship she was awarded in January.
Cedillo, a junior, is the first student at Highlands University to receive a scholarship funded by a new two-year $300,000 USDA-HSI grant the university was awarded in August 2009. The objective of the grant is to graduate more students in the disciplines of environmental geology and forestry.
Cedillo said she is grateful for the quality geology education she is receiving from Highlands University geology professors Jennifer Lindline and Michael Petronis.
“Dr. Lindline and Dr. Petronis make geology classes really interesting, and you can tell they love what they do,” Cedillo said. “This makes you want to keep learning.”
Cedillo said she is very thankful to receive the generous scholarship, which will help her keep learning and advancing academically.
Lindline and natural resources professor Edward Martinez applied for the USDA-HSI grant and manage it as co-project directors.
“This grant focuses on student recruitment, retention and research experiences,” Lindline said. “Edward and I sought funding for this grant so we could offer more opportunities for all our students, with a special focus on Hispanic students.
“It’s important to have a diversity of people and ideas in natural resource management. This helps preserve and improve traditional agriculture and forestry practices in New Mexico and beyond,” Lindline said.
Cedillo’s scholarship is just one example of how the new grant helps Hispanic students, who are underrepresented in geology and forestry.
“Danielle is very strong academically, highly motivated and focused,” Lindline said. “She has the potential to make important contributions to environmental management issues. The scholarship committee felt that Danielle shone the brightest out of a pool of bright, talented and promising students.”
Lindline and Martinez were not members of the scholarship committee.
Lindline said the new grant will also fund additional opportunities for:
-Internships with natural resource management agencies.
-On-campus lectures and seminars from natural resource management professionals.
-Research mentorships with natural resource management professionals.
-Field trips to geologic, agricultural or forestry sites of importance and interest.
Cedillo attests to the importance of fieldwork when studying geology. She said a field trip for a geomorphology class and a summer field internship with the U.S. Forest Service were both valuable learning experiences.
“The fieldwork research helps you understand the geology concepts much better than just reading about it in a textbook,” Cedillo said.
Outside the classroom, Cedillo is active in campus life. She is the treasurer of the Highlands University Geology Society and plays alto saxophone in the university’s concert and pep bands.
Cedillo is also a baton twirler and performs at half time for the Highlands’ football games. She and a friend started a baton twirling club at Highlands to share their sport with other students. The enterprising duo went on to start a successful business teaching baton twirling classes to Las Vegas youth.
“If you get involved in campus life and the community you stay very busy, and it’s never boring,” Cedillo said. “The people are great here.”
Cedillo plans to pursue a graduate degree in environmental geology, noting that the discipline is broad and will offer her many career opportunities after she completes her advanced studies.