Torre Lavelle, a 2015 Udall Scholar who is interning with the U.S. Department of State this semester, has traveled to six continents to study as a UGA student. But she still found time to lead a Girl Scout troop for low-income elementary students.
Mount de Sales Academy
B.S. in ecology, B.A. in political ecology
University highlights, achievements, awards and scholarships:
I have been involved with the Roosevelt Institute and Campus Scouts since my first semester at UGA.
Through the guidance of the Roosevelt Institute and the Roosevelt Scholars class, I have written papers on environmental and energy policy that were published in Roosevelt’s national journal. This past December, I had the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to present this research at the White House to top government advisers working on the Clean Energy Plan. I have had the privilege of serving on Roosevelt’s board since the spring of 2013 and worked this past year for the national campus network as the Senior Fellow for Energy and Environment.
Since co-founding Campus Scouts with Veronica Burgos and Kathryn Clark, I have worked to strengthen student involvement in the Athens community. UGA students currently lead five Girl Scout troops for low-income elementary school-aged girls and it has been one of the most rewarding experiences to watch the program, and the young students it works with, flourish.
Research has been a critical component of my undergraduate career, having worked at the Center for Integrative Conservation Research, Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute in Front Royal, Virginia, and Center for Geospatial Research. I have also enjoyed my involvement with the Omicron Delta Kappa Leadership Society and Palladia Women’s Leadership Society and am honored to be a recipient of the Foundation Fellowship and member of the Blue Key Society. This past spring, I was named a 2015 Udall Scholar.
Finally, UGA has given me the opportunity to take part in significant travel experiences on six continents in the past three years. From studying modernist literature at Oxford and learning the tango in Argentina to sleeping in a tent in the Serengeti and interning in Bangkok, I have unspeakable gratitude for the individuals and university that have literally gone to the ends of the earth for me and gifted me with the incurable and infectious travel bug!
I am spending my fall semester interning with the U.S. Department of State in the Office of Economic Policy within the Bureau of African Affairs. Through working to support African economic growth and security, I am able to merge my interests in conservation policy and the ivory and rhino horn trade with institutional support and international governance research.
Family Ties to UGA:
No direct family ties.
I chose to attend UGA because…
… no other university has quite achieved the perfect balance of research institution, honors program and North Campus the way UGA has. I was drawn to the university by the Foundation Fellowship program, the strong emphasis on professor-student mentorships, and travel and internship opportunities, and I continue to find new reasons every day.
My favorite things to do on campus are…
1. Spend time at the Odum School of Ecology. Whether it’s to watch the lunchtime Appalachian music jam sessions by the pond or learn about the latest breakthrough in monarch butterfly research conducted just down the hall, I genuinely never know what to expect when I walk into the building.
2. Go to class! Sifting through the course catalog at the beginning of each semester never ceases to remind me how many opportunities I still want to explore at UGA—anyone want to take science fiction writing with me in the spring?
3. Catch up with friends, professors and advisers all over campus. Between getting greeted by Ms. Sandra at Snelling Dining Commons and discussing problem sets with classmates over coffee at Walker’s, UGA feels like home.
When I have free time, I like…
… making green glitter goo, creating classroom obstacle courses and selling hundreds of cookies … all with my elementary school-aged Girl Scout troop. While they might not be the most relaxing bunch, they never fail to make me laugh, sing, generally act in a ridiculous manner, and give me a fun break from schoolwork.
The craziest thing I’ve done is…
… get charged at by a raging African elephant bull in Serengeti National Park, Tanzania. Our safari vehicle had been creeping steadily closer to the animal until he decided to speed up the process and came within mere inches of colliding with the van.
My favorite place to study is…
… the main library, which boasts beautiful views of campus and keeps me focused. The ecology courtyard is my favorite destination for group work, with plenty of friendly faces and food nearby.
My favorite professor is…
I have had many more than one favorite professor. I am lucky to have had Vanessa Ezenwa in the Odum School first introduce me to her lab and infectious disease research. Pete Brosius in the anthropology department quite easily changed my life when he handed me a book on political ecology and he has since been a strong influence on my academic focus. Laurie Fowler in the ecology department has served as an incredible faculty adviser and been an inspiring role model for working within environmental law and policy. Marguerite Madden of the Center for Geospatial Research is truly one of the most extraordinary individuals I have ever met, and it is an honor to work with her on my senior thesis. Janet Martin, formerly of the Veterinary Shelter Medicine program, has been a strong and invaluable mentor from the beginning. Jessica Hunt, David Williams, Emily Myers and Misha Boyd have supported my time at UGA beyond measure. I have these professors and mentors to thank for encouraging not only my academic and career development but also my personal growth.
If I could share an afternoon with anyone, I would love to share it with…
… the incredible older students at UGA and beyond who I had the privilege and pleasure of learning so much from. Christina Faust, Smitha Ganeshan, Jacqueline Van De Velde, Malavika Rajeev, Todd Pierson, Sara Black, Grace Siemietkowski, Eilidh Geddes, Megan Ernst, Pierre Joseph and Kathleen Lavelle are simultaneously the most brilliant, humble and hilarious individuals I have ever met, and their college advice, support and friendship means more to me than they will ever know.
I have also always dreamed of meeting the late Eugene Odum, the father of ecosystem ecology and for whom the ecology school was named. Professors from my classes who knew him like to say that he was just as excited to talk in front of ladies’ garden clubs as he was to address international science boards, and this dedication to “citizen science” has inspired me in my own work.
If I knew I could not fail, I would…
… learn to play the piano with as much talent and grace as my mom, grandmother and late aunt. I am fascinated by music’s ability to connect individuals and decipher the world around us.
If money was not a consideration, I would love to…
… advance the field of One Health, which links human, animal and environmental wellness. Global issues in food supply, emerging diseases, climate change and resilient economies will become increasingly reliant on approaches that champion collaborative and cross-disciplinary perspectives.
After graduation, I plan to…
… spend a year abroad studying, volunteering or researching before pursuing a joint degree in law and environmental management. Long term, I would like to work as a conservation policymaker to examine such areas as the illicit wildlife trade, human-wildlife conflict and animal law.
The one UGA experience I will always remember will be…
… touring UGA for the first time. It had come on the back of three or four other college tours and I didn’t come to Athens with any set expectations. I remember being blown away by the energy, vivacity and drive of the tour guides and how excited they were to invite us into their community. Shoutout to the Visitors Center for making my decision to attend UGA an easy one.