MSU’s Mellen, Peterson named 2023 Udall Scholars

Contact: Allison Matthews

Studio portrait of Lucy Mellen
Lucy Mellen (Photo by Megan Bean)

STARKVILLE, Miss.—Two Mississippi State honors students are among a distinguished group of only 55 Udall Scholars from across the country for 2023.

Lucy Mellen, a junior geosciences and political science double major from Hattiesburg, and Grant C. Peterson, a senior wildlife, fisheries and aquaculture major from Starkville, are among honorees selected for their commitment to careers in the environment, Tribal public policy or Native health care; leadership potential; record of public service; and academic achievement.

Both students are members of the university’s Judy and Bobby Shackouls Honors College, where Mellen is a Bobby P. and Barbara M. Martin Presidential Endowed Scholar. Both are interested in careers in the environmental field and plan to pursue graduate studies.

MSU President Mark E. Keenum said in congratulating Mellen and Peterson, “I have every confidence they will be outstanding representatives of Mississippi State University as part of this most prestigious program. It is a high honor that brings great credit to Grant and Lucy and to MSU as well. We are so proud of them, as well as the world-class faculty and mentors who have helped them excel and compete for this national scholarship.”

Studio portrait of Grant Pererson
Grant Peterson (Photo by Grace Cockrell)

The Udall Foundation awards scholarships to college sophomores and juniors for leadership, public service, and commitment to issues related to Native American nations or to the environment. The Udall scholarship honors the legacies of Morris Udall and Stewart Udall, whose careers had a significant impact on Native American self-governance, health care, and the stewardship of public lands and natural resources.

Each scholarship provides up to $7,000 for eligible academic expenses for the recipient’s junior or senior year of academic study. An early August Udall Scholar Orientation will connect the students with their peers from other institutions and professionals. Established by the U.S. Congress in 1992, the Udall Foundation mission is to promote leadership and education on the environment, public lands and natural resources to assist Native nations, federal agencies and others to resolve environmental issues and continue stewardship of the nation’s resources.

After completing her undergraduate studies, Mellen plans to attend law school and pursue a career in environmental law and policy in Washington, D.C.

“The knowledge I gain from my cohort of Udall Scholars will aid in preparing me to enter that realm of environmentalism. During my time in undergrad, I have involved myself in ways to practice advocating for the environment. This past summer, I studied abroad with the Mississippi State chemistry department in Iceland and Scandinavia, where we learned about alternative energy sources. Then, I interned for the general counsel at Cooperative Energy, a power supplier for more rural areas of Mississippi. This next opportunity with Udall will continue to benefit me in similar ways by allowing me to converse with alumni who work in all areas of environmentalism and other scholars who have advocated for the Earth in different ways throughout their undergraduate careers,” Mellen said.

Peterson’s career goals focus on working as a wetland and coastal restoration planner for a federal or state government agency. He plans to apply his skills in ecology, data analysis, GIS, policy, project management and team leadership to design and implement landscape-scale habitat and ecosystem restoration projects.

“This summer, I will complete a coastal conservation and restoration apprenticeship with Mississippi State’s Extension Service, which will provide me with practical experience working with diverse groups of stakeholders to restore marshes, monitor living shorelines and faunal assemblages, and promote the ‘Plastic Free Gulf Coast’ campaign. Once I graduate, pursuing a master’s degree in environmental management will help me gain a deeper understanding of natural and social systems and help me develop the hard skills needed to plan effective wetland and coastal restoration projects,” Peterson explained.

David Hoffman, director of MSU’s Office of Prestigious External Scholarships, said several campus mentors and leaders helped guide the students through the application process.  

“We are so excited for both Grant and Lucy, who were chosen not only because of their excellent scholarship on environmental issues in academic programs here at MSU but also due to their active engagement with them both on- and off-campus. Grant has been incredibly active in research on coastal wetland forests under the guidance of Dr. Sandra Correa in forestry. Meanwhile, Lucy has been researching human geography and legal history surrounding African American resource foraging and public lands under Dr. Brian Williams in geosciences. Their demonstrated leadership in building awareness and encouraging more sustainable behavior on the MSU campus, in Starkville, and beyond is truly admirable,” Hoffman said.

For more about the Udall Scholarship program, visit

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