Three NAU students awarded prestigious Udall scholarships

Headshots of Tracey Yazzie, Mariessa Fowler and Chiara Holgate

For the first time, three NAU students have been recognized for their outstanding achievements as 2024 recipients of the prestigious Udall Scholarship for Native American Initiatives. 

Chiara Holgate, Mariessa Fowler and Tracey Yazzie were among the 55 college students throughout the United States that the Udall Foundation awarded scholarships to for their leadership, public service and commitment to issues related to Native American nations or the environment. In addition to a $7,000 scholarship for educational expenses, Udall students gain access to a professional network of changemakers.

Andrea Graves, coordinator of national and international scholarships and fellowships, said that while NAU has always had strong Udall scholarship representation, 2024 was a particularly strong year: NAU produced more Udall scholarship recipients than any other college or university in the country. That’s not surprising, she said, given the deep bench of Lumberjack talent in the applicant pool. 

“I knew by their strong commitment to the writing and editing process that Chiara, Mariessa and Tracey would stand out among the other competitive applicants throughout the U.S.,” Graves said. “They wrote powerful narratives about their demonstrated service to their Native American communities and their specific plans to continue positively impacting Native American health and policy. Their achievements are also a testament to the strengths of the NAU experience that drew them to enroll at NAU and the teaching and mentorship they are receiving from NAU faculty, staff and peers.” 

Get to know the Udall scholarship recipients and how the funds will support their aspirations to give back to the communities that raised them. 


Headshot of Chiara Holgate

Chiara Holgate

As a new student at NAU, Holgate looked up to Indigenous student leaders like Rebekah McNeil and Beyoncé Bahe. She hoped to become a similar mentor and inspiration someday. 

Consider that aspiration achieved. The junior, who grew up in the community of St. Michaels on the Navajo Nation, has become an integral part of the NAU Indigenous community as a member of the NAU Council of Indigenous Ambassadors and the Navajo Language and Cultural Club. As an employee in the Office of Indigenous Student Success, it’s her job to mentor first-year Indigenous students.

The health sciences major and Indigenous health studies minor is also heavily involved in health-related student organizations, including the Student Health Advocacy Committee and the Fitness Wellness Club. She hopes to become a fitness specialist who can confront Indigenous peoples’ heightened risk of diabetes, among other diseases. 

Winning a Udall Native healthcare scholarship, Holgate said, reflects her passion for understanding and combating the health challenges Native communities face.

“I am interested in working for the Indian Health Services (IHS) Wellness Centers,” Holgate said. “These wellness centers provide preventative interventions through physical activity to mitigate chronic diseases like arteriosclerosis, hypertension and heart disease due to the prevalence of diabetes and obesity. My time at NAU has provided many opportunities for me that helped me get closer to reaching my goals.” 


Mariessa Fowler standing in a red rock slot canyonMariessa Fowler 

Hailing from the Coppermine community near Page, Fowler chose NAU because of its strong environmental science program and well-supported Indigenous student community.  

The junior and first-generation student has her heart set on an environment-focused career in the Navajo Nation government or at the Environmental Protection Agency—and she said the Udall tribal policy scholarship will help her get there.

“I want to work with or alongside tribes to fix environmental issues and help Indigenous communities access the resources they need,” Fowler said. “The Udall scholarship will help me focus on my education and the environmental problems happening across reservations.”

Receiving the scholarship has inspired Fowler to think about and make positive contributions to specific issues, including Indigenous peoples’ lack of access to waste and sanitary resources. As an ambassador for the College of Environment, Forestry, and Natural Sciences and a member of Women in Wildlife and Conservation, she’s regularly in conversation with peers about how to better support the Southwest’s most vulnerable communities.

“Being at NAU has led me to so many resources, including internships and study abroad opportunities,” Fowler said. “I was able to visit different countries and communities that had prominent Indigenous populations. I was able to learn from these communities about their issues and how they go about solving them. This has inspired me in numerous ways to think about how we can build a better future.”


Selfie of Tracey YazzieTracey Yazzie 

With more than a decade of hands-on experience under her belt, Yazzie understands the state of Indigenous healthcare better than most. But the third-year nursing student believes there’s still more to learn. 

“I transitioned to academia after dedicating 14 years to service at the IHS Chinle branch as a medical assistant,” Yazzie said. “The renowned reputation of NAU’s nursing program and its emphasis on excellence in healthcare education prompted my decision to pursue a degree here.” 

While working for IHS, Yazzie helped operate a mobile unit that reached people in remote areas who had trouble accessing the care they needed. In the future, she hopes to help expand healthcare services to remote residents in the Navajo Nation and beyond. After graduating with a bachelor’s degree, she’ll attend graduate school and ultimately become a nurse. In the meantime, she’s supporting fellow students—and receiving support herself—as a member of the Tau Sigma and Phi Beta Kappa honor societies. 

An Honors College student who is originally from Round Rock, Arizona, Yazzie was inspired to apply for the Udall scholarship after discovering that, like her, the Udall Foundation is committed to lifting up vulnerable communities.  

“Through its emphasis on Native healthcare, the Udall Foundation directly aligns with my career trajectory, empowering me to leverage my education and experience to make a meaningful impact in underserved communities,” Yazzie said. 


For more information on recommended national scholarship opportunities, email the National & International Scholarships and Fellowships office or join its weekly National Scholarship Discovery Sessions.  


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Jill Kimball | NAU Communications
(928) 523-2282 |

NAU Communications