Kyle Alderman, an electrical engineering junior at Montana State University, has been awarded the Udall Scholarship in the Tribal Public Policy category. MSU Photo by Adrian Sanchez-Gonzalez
Education | National

MSU News: Northern Cheyenne student lands prestigious Udall Scholarship

MSU student who wins prestigious Udall Scholarship wants to help his Northern Cheyenne community

By Marshall Swearingen
MSU News Service

BOZEMAN — A Montana State University undergraduate has received a prestigious Udall Scholarship, putting him one step closer to his goal of developing renewable energy projects for the benefit of his southeast Montana community.

Getting the award “really fulfills a longtime dream,” said Kyle Alderman, a junior majoring in electrical engineering in MSU’s Norm Asbjornson College of Engineering.

Alderman was one of 50 awardees selected nationwide from among 437 applicants. The Udall Scholarship provides up to $7,000 to college sophomores and juniors for leadership and public service on issues related to Native American nations or the environment.

“I’m not sure where it’s going to lead, specifically, but I hope it can help people from my community,” said Alderman, a native of Lame Deer and an enrolled member of the Northern Cheyenne tribe.

Alderman said he would like to develop solar power projects on the Northern Cheyenne reservation, which would create jobs and contribute to economic development. The undertaking would combine his electrical engineering training and the resources he will gain from being selected as one of 10 awardees in the Tribal Public Policy category.

In addition to receiving scholarship funding, Udall scholars attend a five-day conference in Tucson, Arizona, in which they work together on a policy case study and meet with Udall Scholarship alumni and other professionals working on environmental and tribal issues. Alderman said he is looking forward to connecting with people who are knowledgeable about tribal policy who could help him toward his goal.

Alderman transferred to MSU’s Bozeman campus as a sophomore from MSU Billings, where he enrolled after working construction jobs for more than five years. “I thought I might as well test my bounds and see what I’m capable of,” he said.

He has overcome the difficulties that come with pursuing the challenging electrical engineering degree. “I thought I was way out of my league,” he said, adding that his high school math classes hadn’t prepared him for the rigor of college-level engineering courses. “I almost dropped out first semester here.”

That’s when he met Amy Stix, director of MSU’s Empower program, a student resource that supports the inclusion and success of underrepresented minorities in engineering and science fields. Stix helped him connect with a math tutor, Roger Fischer at MSU’s Gallatin College, and with fellow engineering students through Empower’s peer mentoring program.

“Part of the joy of working with Kyle is helping him see the talents and skills that he has,” Stix said. “He is a super smart and thoughtful person, and he’s also very humble.”

Stix said she helped Alderman recognize that he was a good candidate for the Udall Scholarship because his interests extend beyond engineering and are driven by a desire to improve his home community.

“It seemed like a perfect fit,” Stix said. “What has struck me about Kyle is that he has a really deep understanding of current public policy issues, both on and off tribal lands, and a strong passion for his culture. He’s creating an interdisciplinary path on his own, bridging engineering and public policy, for the long-term goal of serving others.”

“I cannot think of a student who better represents what the Udall Scholarship is about,” said David Dickensheets, professor in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering and Alderman’s academic adviser. “He leads by example, and his commitment is contagious to his classmates.”

Alderman is the second MSU engineering student to receive the Udall Foundation’s scholarship, which honors the legacies of the late Arizona congressmen and brothers Morris Udall and Stewart Udall, who also served as U.S. secretary of the interior.

“Kyle is an inspiration to us all,” said Ilse-Mari Lee, dean of MSU’s Honors College. “He has demonstrated grit and courage, and has been focused like a laser on achieving his goals.”

Alderman said he is thankful to Stix, as well as to his niece, whose graduation from MSU Billings inspired him to go to college. “My mom and dad have always instilled in me how to work hard and to be compassionate toward others,” he added.

Whatever he does after graduation, he wants it to demonstrate the value of education, Alderman said.

“Growing up, I didn’t really see a benefit to education,” he said. “I want to help show kids that this education can provide for our families and communities.”

MSU News Service shares stories about Montana State University in Bozeman, Montana, and the accomplishments of its students, faculty, alumni and staff. Follow on Facebook and Twitter.

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