University of Connecticut rising senior Sage Phillips ’22 (CLAS), a political science and human rights major, has been named a recipient of a prestigious national scholarship for the second time in less than a month.
Phillips has been selected as a 2021 Udall Scholar, which is awarded on the basis of commitment to careers in the environment, Tribal public policy or Native health care; leadership potential; record of public service; and academic achievement.
She is just one of 55 students nationally to earn this distinction. Each scholarship provides up to $7,000 for the scholar.
The scholarships are given by the Udall Foundation, which was established by Congress in 1992 to honor Arizona Congressman 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. In 2009, Congress enacted legislation to honor Morris’ brother, former Secretary of the Interior and Arizona Congressman Stewart L. Udall, and add his name to the Udall Foundation.
In April, Phillips was named the winner of a Truman Scholarship, which is given to college students who demonstrate outstanding leadership potential, a commitment to a career in government or the nonprofit sector, and academic excellence.
Phillips, a native of Old Town, Maine, has a minor in Native American and indigenous studies. As a young panawáhpskewi (Penobscot) woman of the Wabanaki people, Phillips plans to pursue a joint law and graduate degree in American Indian Law after graduation.
“To be named a 2021 Udall Scholar is an honor that I hold close to my culture, my family, and my ancestors,” says Phillips. “I have always held a great passion to enter the field of public service with a focus on tribal education policy and the Udall Scholarship will only help me take one step closer to that goal. Being a Udall Scholar will give me the opportunity to work, serve, and learn alongside other Natives who share similar values and interests, but most of all I get to carry on the legacy of my ancestors. It is because of their strength, resilience, and spirit that I can follow in their footsteps to fight for the success of our future generations and ancestors to come.”
Phillips is the founding president of the Native American and Indigenous Students Association and serves the as the student coordinator for Native American Cultural Programs (NACP) at UConn. She hopes that through her efforts to expand NACP to become a Cultural Center, she then paves the way for UConn, as a land-grant institution, to work towards reparations for Connecticut Native youth in the form of tuition remission.
Phillips was selected as a member of the Leadership Legacy Experience, recognizing the UConn’s most exceptional student leaders. Currently, she is a co-lead on a grant titled “Bridging the Gap: Assessing the Needs of Native Students in America’s Higher Education” and a coordinator for UConn’s Indigenous Nations Cultural and Educational Exchange youth mentorship program. Both of these efforts focus largely on land reassessment and opportunities for Native youth at UConn in with the goal of bringing the University into good relation with the land it stands upon.
“On the heels of her recent success in the Truman Scholarship competition, this is just further affirmation of the important, meaningful work Sage is doing,” says Vin Moscardelli, Director of UConn’s Office of National Scholarships & Fellowships. “I couldn’t be happier that her efforts have been recognized in this way, and I’m thrilled that she will have the opportunity to join this diverse and impressive network of young Native American leaders.”
Phillips is UConn’s eighth Udall Scholar in school history, and the first in the Native American nations category.
“Sage’s selection as a Udall Scholar confirms what those of us who work with her already know: she’s a transformative leader for Indigenous rights and justice,” says Glenn Mitoma, Director of the Dodd Human Rights Impact at UConn and an Assistant Professor of Human Rights and Education. “Through her work reimagining how we serve and partner with Native communities, I’ve never seen a student have a bigger impact on this university. With the Udall support and recognition, I know she will take it to the next level.”
Mitoma is also co-lead, with Phillips and Kiara Ruesta ’19 (CLAS), on UConn’s “Bridging the Gap: Assessing the Needs of Native Youth in Higher Education” initiative.
“Sage was one of the first students I met at UConn. She introduced herself and then quickly put me to work,” says Sandy Grande, a professor in political science and Native American and indigenous studies. “While I am always concerned for students who shoulder so much of the labor of institution building, Sage seems to thrive on the work, taking it on as a deeply personal but also political project. She has been instrumental in holding the university accountable for its presence on Indigenous lands, putting into practice what others merely theorize as Indigenous methodologies. In short, Sage is an excellent student, tribal citizen, and relative. I can’t think of another person more deserving of the Udall Scholarship and can absolutely see her following in the footsteps of Representatives Sharice Davids (Ho Chunk) and Deb Haaland (Laguna Pueblo).”
“This honor would not be possible without the help of Dr. Vin Moscardelli,” says Phillips. “After being named honorable mention for the Udall Scholarship last spring, he was ready to help me through the process once more and strengthen my application to become the best it could be. He has been nothing short of supportive, encouraging, and enthusiastic throughout this process. I also owe thanks to Professor Sandy Grande, Dr. Glenn Mitoma, and endawnis Spears for their assistance alongside my application. My parents, my grandfather, friends and colleagues who have encouraged me to enter this work as well. Lastly, I owe my success to my ancestors and Creator for instilling confidence and strength in me each and every day.”
The Office of National Scholarships & Fellowships (ONSF) is a resource for students interested in learning more about the Udall Scholarship and other prestigious scholarships and fellowships that support study in all fields. ONSF is part of Enrichment Programs and is open to all graduate and undergraduate students at the University, including students at the regional campuses. For more information about the Udall Scholarship and other prestigious, nationally-competitive awards, please visit ONSF at www.onsf.uconn.edu.