Honors student named CMU’s first Udall Scholar
Eric Urbaniak among only 55 national winners of prestigious award
Central Michigan University student Eric Urbaniak has been selected as the university’s first Udall Scholar.
The Udall Scholarship is a highly competitive and selective award, and is presented to college sophomores and juniors who exemplify leadership, dedication to public service, and commitment to issues related to Native American nations and/or the environment.
Urbaniak, a third-year student from Bay City, Michigan, has been a campus leader in efforts to improve sustainability at CMU, in the local community and beyond. In addition to pursuing a double-major in biology with a concentration in ecology, evolution and conservation and public and nonprofit administration, he is a Centralis Scholar and holds leadership roles in a number of campus and community organizations.
In 2020, Urbaniak partnered with fellow student leader Teresa Homsi to launch Central Sustainability, a student-led initiative aimed at promoting sustainability on campus. They meet regularly with registered student organizations and various university division offices to discuss opportunities and challenges. With support from the Office for Institutional Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, Facilities Management, the College of Science and Engineering, and the Department of Geography and Environmental Studies, Central Sustainability has been recognized nationally for their efforts to advance sustainability in higher education and was responsible for CMU’s “Partner of the Year” award from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
“I advocate for the protection of the environment so that all people have a healthy and peaceful world to grow with and enjoy,” Urbaniak said. “Through education and community building, I hope to create a waste-free world that prioritizes sustainability and environmental care.”
In addition to his efforts on campus, Urbaniak also partnered with students from the Saginaw Chippewa Indian Tribal College on a project to reduce food waste. And, in 2021, he and Homsi worked with the Saginaw Chippewa Indian Tribe to develop the Three Sisters Garden on campus, an ethnobotanical garden featuring plants significant to local Indigenous people.
Urbaniak said he received tremendous support from many individuals, including Facilities Management staff members Jay Kahn, Donald Long and Jonathan Webb, and faculty members Matthew Liesch, geography and environmental studies; Rebecca Uzarski, biology; and Emma Powell, political science and public administration.
“Most of all, I would like to thank fellow student, coworker, and friend Teresa Homsi for her contributions to the sustainability culture in Mt. Pleasant and in our community,” he said.
The Udall Scholarship is one of several prestigious scholarships available to CMU students. Urbaniak said he received assistance from Maureen Harke, director of the National Scholarship Program Office, to complete the award process.
Urbaniak is one of only 55 students selected as a Udall Scholar, and will receive both a financial scholarship and opportunities to further develop his leadership and pursue his interest in environmental issues.
“I hope that my work will inspire individuals to make conscious decisions about their environmental waste, and encourage them to take actions that will build community around them,” he said. “We have all the tools to pursue a more sustainable community, and just need to apply them to continue positively impacting people and the planet.”