RAPID CITY, S.D. (May 1, 2014) – Junior industrial
engineering and engineering management student Vaughn Vargas from Rapid City and a member of the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe has been awarded the $5,000 Udall Scholarship, one of five prestigious,
national programs established by the U.S. Congress – the Harry S. Truman and
Barry Goldwater scholarships among them. Vargas is the first South Dakotan
since 2011 to receive this distinction and only one of 15 since 1996. He is
also the first South Dakota School of Mines & Technology student to ever
become a Udall scholar.
The $5,000 scholarship comes with a four-day orientation in
Tucson, Ariz., where Vargas will meet with other scholars from across the
country, elected officials and environmental and tribal leaders.
“Vaughn is such a talented and humble young man with
brilliant ideas and vision, and we are honored to have him as our first Udall
scholar,” added Carter Kerk,
Ph.D., industrial engineering professor and assistant to the provost for Native
After graduation, Vargas hopes to help lower the poverty
rate on the Pine Ridge Reservation as a consultant for businesses and
governmental entities looking to expand operations to tribal land. “To help
protect and further the interest of trial residents, I would also like to
conduct government-to-government mediation concerning major environmental
threats and policies, as well as economic development,” he adds.
“The best students at Mines can compete with the best
students anywhere,” said Heather Wilson, president of the School of Mines. “We
are very proud of Vaughn, and I know this scholarship will help enable his
continued development as a leader.”
Vargas has been awarded a multitude of honors during his
academic career, first at Oglala Lakota College (OLC) and Black Hills State
University, then at his current university, the School of Mines. He has been
Mr. AIHEC (American Indian Higher Education Consortium) 2013, Student of the
Year at OLC, a National Science Foundation (NSF) Tiospaye Scholar and a NASA
Space Grant Recipient. He has also earned the American Indian Entrepreneurial
Scholarship and has accepted an NSF Quality Education for Minorities internship
in Washington, D.C., this summer.
An active board member of the Adolescent Substance Abuse
Prevention Coalition, Vargas has also served as chapter president of the American
Indian Business Leaders at OLC and as a member of the Prairie Hills Audubon
Society, American Indian Science & Engineering Society, Music Center
Activities Club and Institute of Industrial Engineers.
Vargas has shared his story as a motivational speaker at the
OLC Student Leadership Conference, Box Elder Job Corps, ARC of the Black Hills,
Wellspring Treatment Center, Awareness Counseling and Cornerstone Rescue
Established in 1992, the Morris K. Udall and Stewart L.
Udall Foundation awards 50 scholarships of up to $5,000 and 50 honorable
mentions annually to sophomore and junior level college students committed to
careers related to the environment, tribal public policy or Native American
Since becoming president of the School of Mines in June of
last year, President Wilson, herself a first generation college student who
earned a Rhodes scholarship after graduating from the Air Force Academy, has
encouraged Mines students to apply for prestigious scholarships like the Udall.
Last November, Mines student Travis Davis from Buffalo was the first Mines
graduate to earn a Mitchell Scholarship. Davis will be studying biomedical engineering
at Trinity College Dublin, Ireland, next year.
Founded in 1885, the South Dakota School of Mines &
Technology is a science and engineering research university located in Rapid
City, S.D., offering bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees. The university
enrolls 2,640 students from 45 states and 37 countries, with a
student-to-faculty ratio of 14:1. The average starting salary for graduates is
$62,400 with a 98 percent placement rate. Find us online at www.sdsmt.edu, on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/sdsmt and on
Twitter at https://twitter.com/sdsmt.