Mines News

Release Date Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Pearson Named National Udall Scholar for Work with Tribal Economy

RAPID CITY, S.D. (April 27, 2016) – South Dakota School of Mines & Technology sophomore DeVaughn Pearson from Rapid City has been awarded the $7,000 Udall Scholarship, one of five prestigious, national scholarships established by the U.S. Congress. Pearson is the third SD Mines student to ever win the scholarship. 

The $7,000 scholarship comes with a four-day orientation in Tucson, Ariz., where Pearson will meet with other scholars from across the country, elected officials and environmental and tribal leaders.

“Becoming a Udall scholar meant becoming part of a remarkable network that would empower me and allow me to have a greater positive impact on the lives of Native American people, especially those affected by poverty. As a Udall Scholar, I am eager to collaborate with other members of the Udall network to develop ideas and strategies that will aid me in my goal of stimulating economic growth on reservations in South Dakota,” said Pearson, an industrial engineering and engineering management major and member of the Oglala Sioux Tribe.

His ultimate goal is to address two major problems he says affect his tribe: lack of suitable housing and high unemployment. By pursuing a career in industrial engineering and construction management, DeVaughn says his education would allow him to assist the tribe by formulating feasible solutions for economic development, increasing entrepreneurship and encouraging home ownership.

“The best students at Mines can compete with the best students anywhere,” said Heather Wilson, president of SD Mines. “We are very proud of DeVaughn, and I know this scholarship will help enable his continued development as a leader.”

After transferring from Oglala Lakota College, DeVaughn has been named a National Science Foundation Tiospaye Scholar and a National Science Foundation (NSF) All Nations AMP Scholar. He is also involved with the American Indian Science & Engineering Society at SD Mines.

Last summer he worked on the NSF-funded Security Printing and Anti-Counterfeiting Technology Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) with Grant Crawford, Jon Kellar and Alfred Boysen, all Ph.Ds., in the Departments of Materials & Metallurgical Engineering and Humanities.

As an REU student his research focused on authenticating and protecting Native American artwork and artifacts from counterfeiting, the effects of which are felt locally by Native American artists whose work is often imitated by knock-offs from Asia. DeVaughn says applying cutting-edge security technology to Native American artwork and artifacts would allow artists to better protect their work and help recapture lost revenue, stimulating tribal economic growth.

Pearson also works as a research analyst and consumer credit instructor for Lakota Funds, whose mission is to promote economic sustainability on the Pine Ridge Reservation through business loans, technical assistance and wealth-building education for families and businesses.

He also serves as a community ambassador for race relations with Mniluzahan Okolakiciyapi Ambassadors, a committee member for the Adolescent Substance Abuse Program, an assistant coach for a youth football league and a referee for a volunteer youth basketball team in Rapid City. Pearson is also a docent, or trained guide, at the Center for American Indian Research & Native Studies in Martin, S.D.

Established in 1992, the Morris K. Udall and Stewart L. Udall Foundation awards 60 scholarships of up to $7,000 annually to sophomores and juniors committed to careers related to the environment, tribal public policy or Native American healthcare.

Last year SD Mines geology major and geospatial technology minor Tyler Rust was named the Udall Scholar. The year before industrial engineering and engineering management major Vaughn Vargas held the honor. 

The other prestigious national scholarships include the Barry Goldwater, which Mines student Jesse Hinricher received in 2015, the Harry S. Truman, which Vaughn Vargas received in 2016, the James Madison and Christopher Columbus. In 2013, Mines student Travis Davis was among 12 nationally awarded the George J. Mitchell Scholarship. 

See photos from the ceremony.


About SD Mines  

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 2,778 students with a student-to-faculty ratio of 15:1. The SD School of Mines placement rate is 96 percent, with an average starting salary of $62,929. Find us online at www.sdsmt.edu and on Facebook and Twitter.