One University of New Mexico student has been awarded one of the most highly competitive scholarships in the fields of environmental, Tribal public policy, and health care.

UNM junior Barbara Gutierrez has been named a 2024 Udall Scholar, one of just 54 scholars chosen from 406 nominations representing 192 institutions.  

The scholarship facilitated through the Udall Foundation honors the legacies of Morris Udall and Stewart Udall, whose careers significantly impacted Native American self-governance, health care, and the stewardship of public lands and natural resources. 

“As a Udall Scholar, I am honored and grateful to be able to continue the legacy of the Udall brothers. This recognition means a lot to me as I work towards improving Native health and my local community. Being a Udall Scholar is not just an award; it's a commitment to the values and principles the Udall family has stood for over the years,” Gutierrez said. 

Gutierrez is majoring in emergency medical services (EMS) and pursuing her paramedic licensure. She is a member of the Navajo Nation and aims to pursue medical school and work on the reservation.   

“It is a reminder of the importance of environmental stewardship, public service, and Native American leadership. I pledge to uphold these values and make a meaningful impact,” she said.

In addition to her studies, Gutierrez conducts clinical and social research at UNM Hospital’s Emergency Department. She is also engaged in research through the Indigenous Environmental Health Fellowship and Native Health Initiative (NHI), which focuses on the factors influencing the availability of nutritious foods for Navajo Nation residents.  

“Barbara has consistently shown her dedication to improving the health of Indigenous communities by volunteering in a number of NHI programs. Her leadership with and dedication to the Healers of Tomorrow program, as well as her engagement with other UNM students, have shown me that she has a tremendous future in addressing health inequities in Indigenous communities,” NHI Executive Director Tanya Hébert said.

Gutierrez is also an active member of the American Indians Accessing Health Professions and NHI Student Organization. She coordinates the Healers of Tomorrow program and serves as a docent and volunteer at the Indian Pueblo Cultural Center. She is a recipient of the Indian Health Service Preparatory Scholarship, the Isaiah Vialpando Memorial Scholarship, and the Chief Manuelito Scholarship.  

“Having the privilege to see Ms. Barbara Gutierrez become the type of person and provider any of us would want taking care of our family in an emergency exemplifies why we as educators do what we do,” said UNM EMS Academy Medical Director and Professor Christian Mateo Garcia. “Gutierrez is kind, compassionate, Empathetic, skilled and driven. She has consistently demonstrated a clear commitment to her community and service to others. Congratulations, Barbara, on this amazing achievement. Your glowing light and kindness are so needed in our lives, and I am humbled to know you and get to work with you!” 

Two UNM students, Rourke Darwin and Christina Klas, have also received Udall Honorable Mentions. Rourke is a junior majoring in Biology. He hopes to earn a medical degree and serve in rural New Mexico as a physician, incorporating Native wellness philosophies and culture. Klas, currently studying in Germany, majors in economics and German. She hopes to pursue her doctorate and work on environmental policy. 

The scholarship comes with access to the Udall Alumni Network, an association of change-makers. It also supports recipients attending a five-day orientation and networking event and up to $7,000 for eligible academic expenses. 

The Udall Scholarship is coordinated by the Center for Academic Excellence & Leadership Development under the UNM Honors College.