Mathematics Junior Earns Prestigious Truman, Udall Scholarships
Growing up in Wisconsin, UT Dallas junior and McDermott Scholar Matthew Salm gained an appreciation for nature and the environment.
He and his family vacationed in national parks. Salm participated in high school soccer, swimming and track. He has reached the summit of four of the highest peaks in the lower 48 states.
“I grew up loving the outdoors, but eventually I recognized the urgency that climate change presents. Just the size of the problem has drawn me to environmental development work,” Salm said.
A mathematics student in the School of Natural Sciences and Mathematics, Salm joins an elite group of university students from across the country this year that includes 62 Truman Scholarship recipients and 60 Udall Scholarship winners.
Dr. Douglas Dow, associate dean of the Hobson Wildenthal Honors College and clinical professor of political science, said it is particularly noteworthy for a student in a STEM-related academic major to be recognized for a public service award.
“The Truman and Udall scholarships are the nation’s highest recognition for public service. It’s unusual to have someone receive these awards while participating in a rigorous program of mathematics. This demonstrates not only UT Dallas’ unique offerings but Matt’s commitment to service and his intellectual creativity,” Dow said.
The Truman Scholarship, which provides a $30,000 grant for graduate study, is awarded annually to a select group of college students interested in pursuing a career in public service.
Salm is the first Truman Scholarship recipient at UT Dallas since 2005, when McDermott Scholar Sophie Rutenbar BA ’06 won the award. Rutenbar went on to earn master’s degrees at King’s College in London and the London School of Economics, and now works with the United Nations.
“It’s unusual to have someone receive these awards while participating in a rigorous program of mathematics. This demonstrates not only UT Dallas’ unique offerings but Matt’s commitment to service and his intellectual creativity.”
The Udall Scholarship provides a $7,000 scholarship and is awarded to sophomores and juniors recognized for leadership, public service and commitment to issues related to Native American nations or to the environment. McDermott Scholar Saskia Versteeg BS’13 won the award in 2011 and 2012.
As an Archer Fellow, Salm spent the spring 2017 semester in Washington, D.C., working in the economics office of the Environmental Protection Agency, researching ways to measure the impact of environmental regulations on shifts in employment.
Salm also was president of the Sustainability Club at UT Dallas and interned with the Office of Sustainability. He credits that experience with helping to shape his academic interests the summer after his freshman year.
His sustainability projects included working with UT Dallas Dining Services to reduce food waste by setting up a food recovery program and coordinating volunteers to take leftover food to an area shelter. Salm also completed a retrofit lighting survey of utility area lights on campus that resulted in replacing incandescent bulbs with slim-fit LED lights.
“Matt did number-crunching on energy data for us. He had this idea and then he made it happen. Matt always wanted to learn more and put it into practice. It’s so gratifying to see our students do such good work. Matt is going to do amazing things,” said Thea Junt MS'16 MBA'16, associate director of energy conservation and sustainability.
Having the Truman Scholarship for graduate study opens up the possibility of a one-year master’s program abroad for Salm — perhaps in Delhi, Mumbai or Jakarta, where he can see environmental development challenges first-hand.
“It’s one thing to study them, and another to experience them for myself,” Salm said.
Eventually he would like to earn a PhD in economics and then work in the public policy sphere. He is looking forward to networking with like-minded peers among other scholars.
“The alumni networks are the most exciting thing about these awards. It’s very appealing to be a part of these cohorts of Truman and Udall scholars,” Salm said.
“One of things I’m proudest of is being able to represent UT Dallas. One of my favorite quotes is from the movie Miracle, where the coach tells his team, ‘The name on the front of the jersey is a lot more important than the name on the back.’ That sums it up for me.”
Media Contact: The Office of Media Relations, UT Dallas, (972) 883-2155, [email protected].