One student’s dedication to helping environment earns her prestigious Udall Undergraduate Scholarship

Franks has been recognized with the 2019 Udall Undergraduate Scholarship for her efforts in environmental preservation.

AbigailJoomlaAbigail Franks, a University of Alabama at Birmingham rising senior, has been awarded the Udall Undergraduate Scholarship from the Udall Foundation. Franks is the third UAB student recognized by the Udall Foundation within the past five years and is the second winner. Courtney Rutherford was a 2014 recipient, and Nicholas Ciancio was an Honorable Mention in 2018.

As a student at UAB, Franks has demonstrated a commitment to work toward positive outcomes for environmental challenges, which is one of the overall requirements for receiving the prestigious scholarship.

Of the 443 students who were nominated nationwide for the Udall this year, 384 applied in the Environmental category. Franks was one of only 55 Udall scholars — and one of 38 in the Environmental category — selected.

“Abigail is a fierce advocate for the environment, and she embodies the Udall Foundation’s values of civility, integrity and consensus,” said Ashley Kuntz, Ph.D., director of the UAB Office of Fellowships and assistant professor in the UAB School of Education. “Abigail knows that transformational change requires educating citizens, building consensus and then mobilizing people to exercise their civic voices. She is a determined, bright and indefatigable young environmentalist, and she will make the Udall Foundation proud.”

Franks is a political science major with a minor in peace, justice and ecology in UAB’s College of Arts and SciencesDepartment of Political Science. She is also a member of the Global and Community Leadership Honors Program. Franks has participated in the Clinton Global Initiative University program twice and is the founder of WEARE (We Envision Alabamian Renewable Energy), an organization that advocates for sustainable energy policies.

She is currently a policy and data collection intern for UAB Sustainability, and has been on the team for two years.

“Abigail is a force of nature,” said Julie Price, Ph.D., manager for UAB Sustainability. “She has a genuine interest in politics and public policy and works to translate her research into effective action. She is currently working to help achieve UAB’s goal of 20 percent renewable energy use by 2025. It’s an ambitious goal, and we are thrilled with Abigail’s tenacity in pursuit of making it happen.”

Franks is particularly interested in protecting the environment and human populations vulnerable to climate change and environmental pollution. She plans to pursue an advanced degree in global environmental policy and then a career in policy addressing environmental economics, climate adaptation and environmental justice. 

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.