Our Stories

Willamette Sophomore Named Udall Scholar

Tucker Mottl ’11 had only been at Willamette a year when he received a College Colloquium Student Research Grant that allowed him to return to his hometown in Central Oregon and help his former high school develop an environmental education program. Now as he finishes his second year, he is the recipient of a prestigious national Morris K. Udall Scholarship for students committed to careers related to the environment.

The cross country runner and cyclist isn’t kidding when he says, “I’m the kind of person who jumps in to see if I can swim.”

Mottl is Willamette’s 10th Udall Scholar in the past 10 years. The scholarship goes to about 75 college sophomores and juniors annually to encourage leadership across a wide spectrum of environmental fields, including policy, engineering, science, education, urban planning, business and economics. The program also awards Native American and Alaska Native students seeking careers in tribal public policy or health care.

Mottl chose to major in chemistry and minor in environmental science to explore his interest in aquatic conditions and atmospheric concentrations of gases. He is considering pursuing a graduate degree in atmospheric science.

Environmental issues already intrigued him before he came to Willamette. But his interest was solidified when he enrolled in “Landscapes,” a first-year College Colloquium class taught by Joe Bowersox, Dempsey Professor of Environmental Policy and director of Willamette’s Center for Sustainable Communities.

He won a grant from Willamette to continue research related to the class, and then used what he learned to help Crook County High School in Prineville create an environmental curriculum. He met with representatives from the U.S. Forest Service, the Bureau of Land Management and the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, to name a few, as he worked with the principal and a teacher to write materials that addressed everything from endangered steelhead to geographic information systems to water quality.

Mottl even convinced Oregon Secretary of State Bill Bradbury to travel to Prineville to make a climate change presentation at the school. Mottl plans to return after his semester ends in May to help teach part of the curriculum.

“Getting the Colloquium Grant was an incredibly beneficial experience for me,” he says. “I don’t think I would have been doing undergraduate research at a large university. This experience gave me so many opportunities that I never would have had otherwise.”