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Alumna, student earn prestigious Rhodes, Mitchell scholarships

A Michigan State University alumna and a senior have earned prestigious scholarships to pursue graduate study abroad.

Clara Lepard
Clara Lepard
Celia Hallan
Celia Hallan

Clara Lepard, an Honors College alumna who earned a degree in zoology in 2017 from the College of Natural Science, has earned a Rhodes Scholarship.

And Celia Hallan, an Honors College senior majoring in international relations in James Madison College and environmental geography in the College of Social Science, has been selected for the nationally competitive George J. Mitchell Scholarship.

The Rhodes Trust, the oldest of the major international competitive award foundations, provides 32 of the most outstanding undergraduates in the country an opportunity to study at the University of Oxford in England. This year, applications were considered from 320 U.S. institutions.

The U.S.-Ireland Alliance established the George J. Mitchell Scholarship Program, which allows students to pursue a year of graduate study in Ireland and Northern Ireland.

“Being chosen for the Rhodes Scholarship is an incredible honor,” Lepard said. “It goes beyond encouraging me personally after years of work – it’s inspiring to know this prestigious community of scholars believes in the power of zoology and conservation research to make this world a better place for all of us. I cannot wait to join the Rhodes Scholar community and collaborate far into the future.”

Lepard, who’s from East Lansing and graduated from East Lansing High School, will pursue a doctorate at the University of Oxford, researching the behavioral ecology of large carnivores, especially lions in East Africa, and working on community conservation efforts.

Hallan plans to study Ireland’s clean energy transition at University College Dublin.

“Becoming a Mitchell Scholar means pursuing the best graduate education possible for my interests and career goals,” Hallan said. “Ireland is a world leader in generating energy from intermittent renewable sources like wind; studying there for a year will help me grow personally and professionally as I work with leading geographic scholars addressing the challenges of advanced renewable energy transitions. Nothing will prepare me better for a career in the environmental non-profit sector.

“I am grateful to the selection committee for this opportunity and to my family, friends, professors, and advisers for their support.”

Hallan, who’s from Minneapolis and is a graduate of Southwest High School, is one of 12 students who were chosen to receive the scholarship. She is the fourth Mitchell Scholar for MSU since the scholarship program was established in 2001.

“I join the MSU community in congratulating Clara and Celia on receiving these prestigious scholarships,” said MSU President Lou Anna K. Simon. “Both are leaders in undergraduate research and exemplify MSU’s mission to affect global change. As Clara and Celica pursue their graduate studies, I’m confident they will continue to be Spartan ambassadors for a better world.”

MSU has produced 18 Rhodes Scholars to date and four Mitchell Scholars to date.

“Clara and Celia have an unmatched passion for learning,” said Cynthia Jackson-Elmoore, dean of the Honors College. “MSU is proud of Clara for earning the Rhodes Scholarship and Celia for earning the Mitchell Scholarship.”

Lepard was a resident hall assistant for three years, along with serving as secretary of the Mason-Abbot Hall Government.

While at MSU, Lepard worked in seven different laboratories on separate areas of zoology and wildlife management. This past summer, she worked with the MSU Research on the Ecology of Carnivores and their Prey Lab studying how carnivores impact their surrounding species and ecosystems in Uganda.

“Clara has been an exceptional undergraduate researcher in my laboratory at MSU, developing sustainable solutions for large carnivore conservation,” said Robert Montgomery, an assistant professor in the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources. “As a Rhodes Scholar, she will extend this research via a collaboration with colleagues working on comparable issues at Oxford University. This experience as a Rhodes Scholar with training at MSU and Oxford will position Clara to be a global leader in the field of conservation.”

In 2015, Lepard earned a first-place award at the University Undergraduate Research and Arts Form for her research on the long-term effects of lampricide application on the metamorphosis of sea lamprey. She also participated in MSU’s Behavioral Ecology of African Mammals study abroad program in Kenya in 2016.

Lepard also served as a peer educator for the Sexual Assault and Relationship Violence Prevention Program.

Hallan, the Mitchell Scholar, works as a lab assistant for Professor Joseph Messina in the Department of Geography, Environment and Spatial Sciences. In that capacity, she works on the assessment of land-use classifications from Malawi. Hallan has authored and co-authored two papers that were published in the Journal of Science Policy and Governance and Journal of International Wildlife Law and Policy, respectively.

This summer, Hallan interned with the Environmental Law and Policy Center, where she collaborated on a report about the clean energy supply chain in Illinois and monitored air quality in Chicago to identify areas of high diesel pollution.

“Celia has wildly impressive intellectual skills with a profound passion for and unwavering dedication to environmental issues,” said Daniel Kramer, an associate professor in the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources. “She is committed to interdisciplinary perspectives in understanding the complex problems we face at the intersection of society and environment and inspires confidence and optimism for a better world.”

Hallan is a co-founder, campaign manager and internal vice-president of the Spartan Sierra Club. She is also a leader of Students for Social Justice and the Environment on campus.

Hallan earned a full-ride scholarship to attend MSU as a University Distinguished Scholar. She was a finalist earlier this year for the Truman Scholarship.

The National and International Fellowships and Scholarships (NIFS) Office, administered by the Honors College, helps interested undergraduate and graduate students to pursue major national and international opportunities by providing information and direct support throughout the competitive application processes.

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