March 1, 2021
Las Vegas, N. M. – Two New Mexico Highlands University environmental geology majors each received $12,500 scholarships, thanks to a U.S. Department of Agriculture water resources science grant award to the university.
Megan Begay, an environmental geology senior, and Christopher Ulibarri, a triple major junior in environmental geology, history and political science, each received the scholarship.
“From my first meeting with Megan in fall semester 2019, I was struck by her warm smile, eager spirit and keen focus on building her coursework in environmental geology and co-curricular credentials in water science,” said Jennifer Lindline, geology professor and the USDA grant lead researcher. “Christopher is a young man who is not afraid of a challenge. He is a triple major at Highlands so that he has broad academic training in support of a career in water resources science and conservation.”
Lindline, who also chairs the Natural Resources Management Department at Highlands, said Begay and Ulibarri were highly recommended by their faculty advisers and mentors.
“The review committee members were very impressed by both Megan and Christopher’s strong transcripts, career experiences, extracurricular activities and personal responsibilities,” Lindline said.
Begay said that water quality is important because without water there is no life on Earth. She said that as a Navajo Native American and a mother, she wants to see water for future generations.
“Water quality is important to me because it provides recreational opportunities, wildlife habitat for animals, water for agriculture, and most importantly drinking water,” Begay said. “Water is a natural filter for everything, and since the Earth is limited in freshwater, it must be cherished. After I graduate with my bachelor’s degree, I plan on doing work within my community on water supply and water quality issues.”
Outside the classroom, Begay is conducting water quality monitoring research of the Upper Pecos River in Northern New Mexico through a grant awarded in July 2020 from the New Mexico Water Resources Institute.
“The most important thing I have learned from doing this Upper Pecos River research with the help of my team, which includes Dr. Lindline and Letisha Mailboy, is developing my critical thinking through hands-on learning. Dr. Lindline is a wonderful mentor who helped me overcome the challenges of gender and racial inequality within the science profession,” Begay said.
Ulibarri said that growing up where acequias are the prevalent agricultural water system, he learned how vital a stream’s quality is and the impacts the people surrounding it experience.
“Growing up here in Northern New Mexico, I really gained an appreciation for the environment, and how precious those gifts are to humanity as a whole,” Ulibarri said. “I want to give back to the communities that I grew up in by understanding and contributing to the science and conservation efforts that can protect these environments. I also want to use the law, history, and culture of the peoples that reside on the land to continue efforts to protect it.”
Outside the classroom, Ulibarri has served as a student regent on the Highlands University Board of Regents since March 2020. Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham appointed him to the board and the New Mexico legislature confirmed Ulibarri’s appointment.
“I wanted to become a student regent to contribute back to Highlands,” Ulibarri said. “While the other regents represent Highlands, none of them continuously work or study on campus. Being a student puts me in the unique position of representing both the student body and faculty on the Board of Regents.”
Both Begay and Ulibarri said they are thrilled and grateful for their USDA scholarships. They both plan to pursue advanced degrees to further their knowledge and careers in water resources management.
Begay and Ulibarri’s scholarships are supported by the Hispanic-Serving Institutions Education Grants Program Grant No. 2020-38422-32242 from the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture.