Friend of nature

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Madeline Friend takes advantage of opportunities to learn and earn scholarships.

Born and raised in Flagstaff, Madeline Friend is no stranger to nature. Here, in the world’s largest ponderosa pine forest, she grew up learning the value of a healthy environment, including forest fire prevention and water conservation. Now, she has combined her background with her education at Northern Arizona University to impact the lives of others while carving out her own future.

Friend originally arrived at Northern Arizona University as an English major, but after taking an environmental science class her freshman year, she discovered her true calling – helping others find the value in environmental conservation and preservation.

“Growing up, I didn't know what I was passionate about,” Friend says. “This past year, I’ve been talking to people about energy policies, and I’ve realized it makes me so excited. I want to share that excitement, and I want everyone to know more about this topic.”

This passion has led her to explore many different avenues at Northern Arizona University. Friend currently works with NAU Outdoors and leads hiking trips for her fellow students. She also works with The Lumberjack student newspaper, having served as its chief copy editor for multiple semesters, and is a member of the Honors program.

This year, Friend applied for the Udall Scholarship and the Barry Goldwater Scholarship. Both awards are highly prestigious and nationally competitive, and, like Friend herself, are both named after native Arizonans.

She was recently named an honorable mention on both awards. Friend views this not as a defeat, but as a sign that she’s on the right track.

“It means the work that I’m doing is worthwhile,” Friend says. “It's very humbling to have that. I couldn't be here without all the help from mentors on my research.”

Applying for greatness

Like many of her peers at Northern Arizona University, Friend was initially tasked at the start of her studies with supporting the cost of her own education. However, her persistence in applying for several scholarships has paid off.

“I'm on the AIMS scholarship,” Friend explains. “I also have the National Groundwater Association scholarship. I have three from the Honors program, and a few others from the NAU Foundation.”

Friend says the application process for the Udall and Goldwater awards was demanding – the latter took her two months of hard work and help from the scholarship coordinator, Melissa Riggs.

“It's intimidating applying for a national scholarship,” Friend says. “Even though I didn’t win either of them, I’m glad I tried.”

Friend is grateful for the opportunities afforded to her by both the university and other forms of funding.

“Because of these scholarships, I’m going to graduate debt-free,” Friend says.

Standing for nature

Friend admits she was originally apprehensive about staying in Flagstaff for college. In hindsight, she says staying local was the right choice.

“Northern Arizona University has shown me all these opportunities,” Friend says. “I was able to go on a field course and do in-depth, field-study research, which doesn't happen at a lot of other universities. I was able to do the Grand Canyon Semester, thanks to the Honors program.

An environmental science degree at Northern Arizona University enables students like Friend to pick a scientific field and apply what they’re learning in that field to environmental topics.

“A lot of it is looking at the impact humans have on the environment,” Friend says. “At Northern Arizona University, you can select from a variety of different emphases: mathematics, chemistry, biology, geology, and more.”

In part due to what she’s learned inside the classroom – and outside of it – Friend says she has discovered her passion.

“During the Grand Canyon semester, I did research in designing an experiential educational science curriculum for eighth graders at Mt. Elden Middle School, and I realized how much I love working with people and talking with people,” Friend says. “I don’t want to be cooped up in a lab all day.”

Friend hopes to earn a PhD and use that degree to find ways to share her passions with others.

“I think growing up in Arizona and going to the Grand Canyon does that to you,” Friend says. “I would love to work in environmental education.”