NAU senior wins national Udall Undergraduate Scholarship

Beyoncé Bahe works in a lab

Senior Beyoncé Bahe’s resume is already long—and it just got longer. 

Bahe, a biomedical science student who is a member of NAU’s Honors College and Interdisciplinary Global Programs, is an undergraduate researcher in chemistry professor Naomi Lee’s lab. Last year, she received the national Cobell Undergraduate Scholarship. This summer, she was selected as the peer mentor for the inaugural 2022 Honors Native American Summer Research Program. In the fall, she’ll leave for a year in Japan. 

And just this month, Bahe was announced as a winner of the prestigious Udall Undergraduate Scholarship, a national scholarship program for students preparing for careers in the environment, tribal public policy or Native health care. The winners also must demonstrate leadership potential, a record of public service and academic achievement. 

“Applying for the Udall Scholarship made sense since I want to go into health care where it is needed the most,” she said. “I feel very passionate about what I want to accomplish in the future, and that includes helping communities that are struggling the most.” 

Her selection is evidence of her leadership abilities, Honors College Dean Kevin Gustafson said. 

“Beyoncé has been a true leader in the Honors College, and her success first as a Cobell Scholarship recipient and now as a Udall Scholar is a testament to her hard work, as well as the commitment of NAU and the NAU Honors College to the success of Native American students,” he said. “We hope that she inspires other students to seek these and other prestigious rewards.” 

Bahe arrived at NAU from Whiteriver on the White Mountain Apache Tribal Reservation; she graduated from Blue Ridge High School. Three years ago, she came to NAU because she earned scholarships and wanted to stay close to home, both geographically and environmentally. (Home isn’t home without pine trees in northern Arizona.) Since coming to NAU, she’s excelled; Bahe has presented research at multiple poster presentations, including NAU’s Undergraduate Symposium and the American Indian Science and Engineering Society, and she has two majors—biomedical science and comparative cultural studies.  

Lee, who has worked with Bahe for more than two years, said she is highly recognized by the university and in her tribe, including receiving a scholarship from the White Mountain Apache Tribe. Bahe is always striving to learn more and be better. 

“Beyoncé’s long-term goal is to pursue a medical career and serve Native American communities,” Lee said. “To achieve this goal, she joined my lab as an undergraduate research assistant supported by the partnership for Native American Cancer Partnership Research Education Core.”  

She also has gotten involved with other students. Bahe was a TA for a Japanese class and is active in on-campus Japanese events. She was a peer mentor for Native American Honors students throughout the school year, helping them to get acclimated to their new surroundings and understand what it takes to succeed in higher education. 

That work led to her summer job as a peer mentor for the Honors Native American Summer Research Program. This trailblazing new program offers field research and mentoring opportunities for Native American and Indigenous students in all fields of study. Bahe will live on campus with the students and provide social and academic support. 

In September, she’s going far away from home—to Kyushu University in Fukuoka, Japan. She’ll take classes for one semester and then work in a lab her second semester: “I’m looking forward to taking my two years of studying Japanese to Japan and further improving it!” 

Despite all this, Bahe was not a shoo-in for the Udall Scholarship, which is a highly competitive national program sponsored by the Udall Foundation, which honors Morris K. Udall’s lasting impact on this nation’s environment, public lands and natural resources, and his support of the rights and self-governance of American Indians and Alaska Natives. After winning the Cobell Scholarship, she wanted to put her writing skills to further use. She started out as an alternate; however, with help from Andrea Graves, NAU’s academic success coordinator for National and International Scholarships and Fellowships, she was able to submit as a candidate.  

“Due to taking so many STEM courses, I found it difficult to write about something that wasn’t primarily science-related,” Bahe said. “Despite this, I knew what I wanted to say for each of the prompts. With the help of mentors and friends who read through my essays, I finished my application on time.” 

For Graves, whose office is part of the Honors College but is open to all NAU students, this scholarship, on top of the rest of Bahe’s accomplishments, are a testament to her hard work and commitment. 

“What impresses me most about Beyoncé is her incredibly strong work ethic and indefatigable positive mindset,” she said. “As I continue to advise Beyoncé, I see her determination and dedication to hone her writing process through multiple essay drafts for each national scholarship application. She remains open to critical feedback from her mentors, and she is always eager to improve her persuasive communication skills.” 

Even with all she’s done thus far, Bahe isn’t slowing down. She has big plans for her final two years as an NAU student and is already thinking about the next big application—medical school. 

“I want to purse a dual degree of master’s in public health as well as obtain my MD,” she said. “Ultimately, I plan to come back to my tribal reservation and serve at a local Indian Health Services Hospital, where I will inspire the next generation to become integrated into the health care field.” 

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Heidi Toth | NAU Communications
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NAU Communications