Two UC Davis students have been awarded prestigious Marshall Scholarships in a decades-old British government program that pays for American students to pursue advanced degrees at British universities.
- Naomi Murray ’21, who is majoring in evolution, ecology and biodiversity, will pursue two Master of Science degrees, one in climate change at University College London, the other in science communication at the University of Manchester to help her communicate about climate change.
- Valencia Scott ’20, who double-majored in anthropology and international relations, will pursue a doctorate in criminology at the University of Oxford, where she will focus her studies on the criminalization of Black immigrants. She is planning a career in international human rights law.
Read more about each student below.
The Marshall Scholarship Program dates back to 1954 as a post-World War II thank-you to the United States, and a means to retain and strengthen the United Kingdom’s close association with its wartime ally. The scholarship is named after U.S. Army Gen. George C. Marshall, namesake of the Marshall Plan, officially the European Recovery Program, which provided billions of dollars in aid to western Europe after the war.
The scholarships, highly competitive, merit-based awards for study in any discipline, typically cover two years of tuition, research and living expenses, with a total value of about $50,000 a year.
The program awarded 50 scholarships this year. Murray and Scott are the third and fourth UC Davis students to be so honored, after Lindsay Crawford in 2003 and Judith (Mansager) Richardson in 1966.
Murray and Scott are due to start their advanced studies in fall 2021.
Marshall Scholar Naomi Murray
Murray’s scientific interest is in the mechanisms through which forests may mitigate ecological disturbance and atmospheric change, and, in fact, her ultimate goal is to earn a Ph.D. in ecology in the United States. But, as a Marshall Scholar, her choice to pursue two distinct degrees reflects her belief that climate change must be addressed through communication as well as by engaging in climate science.
She comes from a background in which climate change was considered a politically motivated exaggeration — a belief she shared until she began her studies at UC Davis. Encountering the figures, statistics and articles that demonstrated the threat of climate change, she said, “I had to think critically and develop a new, informed perspective. Once I acknowledged the climate crisis, I saw evidence of it everywhere.”
Her undergraduate research projects gave her firsthand exposure to its effects. Monitoring tree mortality in the Yosemite Valley, she recorded unprecedented tree death, a result of intense drought, disease and pest infestation. While doing coastal research on seagrass, Murray observed uncharacteristically warm water, the push of southern species northward and the disappearance of key habitats. “I was stunned to note my proximity to change — it was not an abstract concept in class anymore, but a tangible reality.”
Murray is a Goldwater Scholar and enrolled in the University Honors Program. Her research has been supported by a Provost’s Undergraduate Fellowship and Kendra M. Chan Award (Bodega Marine Laboratory), as well as a Nieland Family Award.
Dedicated to advancing diversity in STEM, or science, technology, engineering and mathematics, she is an officer in UC Davis Strategies for Ecology, Education, Diversity and Sustainability, or SEEDS, and serves on the Goldwater Scholar Community Council’s Diversity and Inclusion Committee.
Marshall Scholar Valencia Scott
Scott’s research uses the lens of criminology to study the structural violence suffered by Black immigrants who are detained or incarcerated. As global movements arise to challenge mass incarceration and violence against immigrants, she hopes to uplift Black communities’ narratives in the crossfires of racism and incarceration. Studying the histories of policing, incarceration and immigration in the United States and the United Kingdom will allow her to develop global connections regarding race, immigration and criminalization.
“Witnessing the impact of the prison and immigration systems on my Black community, I learned early on that incarceration and hyperpolicing are transnational issues for Black immigrants,” Scott said. “I began searching for answers to understand our experience. My search for a more profound sense of meaning drew me to immigration justice history and discourse.”
A former student advisor to the chancellor, Scott also has a record of service at the AB540 and Undocumented Student Center, the School of Law’s Immigration and Civil Rights Clinic, and the Imani Health Clinic, where she co-founded the Imani Legal Clinic.
She is a Benjamin A. Gilman Scholar and a member of Phi Beta Kappa. Her research has been supported by a Provost’s Undergraduate Fellowship, the Department of Anthropology and an Incarceration Initiative Grant.
Interested students should visit the Prestigious Scholarships website for more information about Marshall Scholarships and how to apply, and to learn about Goldwater, Rhodes, Gates Cambridge, Fulbright and many other awards. Students are encouraged to meet with the prestigious scholarships advisor early in their academic careers to discuss application processes and eligibility for the various awards.