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Two Purdue Students Named to Udall Scholarship Honorable Mention

For Laura Gustafson and Lucas Bleyle, leadership and sustainability are priorities they feel are life-long. Though their work resides in different disciplines, both students have found ways to integrate their passion for the environment with their academic gifts. It is because of these passions and gifts that both Gustafson and Bleyle were named 2022 Udall Scholarship Honorable Mentions.

The prestigious Udall Scholarship awarded by the Udall Foundation recognizes college sophomores and juniors for leadership, public service and commitment to environmental sustainability. Students awarded by the Udall Foundation are studying in fields related to policy, engineering, science, education, urban planning and renewal, business, health, justice, economics, and other related fields.

Learn more about our scholars below:


 Laura Gustafson


Laura Gustafson is a senior in the College of Engineering, the College of Liberal Arts and the John Martinson Honors College. From Lafayette, Ind, Gustafson is studying civil engineering and political science, a combination she seeks to use for a career in water systems engineering and public policy.

Gustafson is already hard at work as an undergraduate researcher and community activist.

“Her primary undergraduate research project focuses on understanding the degree to which more than 10 million residential water softeners in the U.S. contribute to drinking water health risks,” says Andrew Whelton, professor in the Lyles School of Civil Engineering at Purdue. “She presented her results at the national American Water Works Association (AWWA) conference in San Diego, Calif. and will present at two national Public Health and Water Association conferences in 2022. Laura has a keen interest in how science can be used to make drinking water safety decisions.”

After completing her undergraduate studies, Gustafson has plans to pursue a career as a design engineer. Together, with her technical knowledge and advanced understanding of public affairs, Gustafson feels she will be ready to work successfully with local governments to meet their needs and advance water policy discussions to improve resiliency across communities.

“My aim is to ensure that communities have reliable access to sustainable water systems, which will require collaboration across engineering and public policy to be successful,” Gustafson says.

Gustafson’s advocacy for the environment while a student at Purdue goes beyond campus and into the community. She has participated in the Greater Lafayette Climate Action Plan process and is an active member of the League of Women Voters of Greater Lafayette.

“She has joined fellow Leaguers at the Indiana Statehouse to talk to legislators about the importance of renewable energy and has regularly attended with league friends at the Hoosier Environment Council’s annual day-long conference on state issues. Laura’s involvement, effectiveness, and fresh outlook are greatly appreciated by the League,” says Elizabeth Solberg, Rotary Club member and League of Women Voters Environment & Sustainability Co-Chair.

Through her work with these and other organizations, and her internships with HWC Engineering, Laura has had opportunities to expand her understanding of water infrastructure systems and public policy. This, she is certain, will be the building blocks she needs for her future.

In addition to her honorable mention by the Udall Foundation, Laura was also a nominee for the Truman Scholarship in January 2022 and was awarded a 4-year presidential undergraduate scholarship from Purdue.


Lucas Bleyle

Bleyle,-Lucas.JPGLucas Bleyle is a senior from Ames, Iowa in the College of Liberal Arts, College of Agriculture and the John Martinson Honors College. He is majoring in English, creative writing, and sustainable food and farm systems. Bleyle hopes to operate an innovative small farm after working toward a master's degree in creative writing. His long term goal is to develop production systems that mitigate climate change and to advocate for such farming practices using his communication skills to facilitate wider adoption.

Bleyle has found a way to develop both his skill in writing and his passion for sustainable farm systems.

“My first impression of him was of his studiousness and organizational skills. I’ve talked with hundreds of people in the past few years about climate, and few have asked as insightful questions as Lucas did,” says Daniel Poynter, founder of Carbon Neutral Indiana.

Inspired by his writing and knowledge on climate change, Carbon Neutral Indiana members offered a sponsorship for Bleyle to write on climate control at Purdue. Bleyle took it from there and through a lengthy process exploring ethical implications and appropriate guidelines, he developed and published content on climate change through a dedicated climate journalism program at the Exponent, the university newspaper at Purdue.

Though already an accomplished writer and environmental advocate as an undergraduate, Bleyle actually began honing his craft in middle school. Bleyle wrote and published his first novel in the eighth grade.

“Recently, I learned that he was the author of a novel set in the context of climate change. He is someone who will find a way to make a difference, using his skills with words and with people. I fully expect to be reading articles and books by Lucas Bleyle that illuminate issues to do with climate change and other environmental challenges, and that bring forward solid ideas for what we can do to help,” says Lee Anne Willson, professor emerita at Iowa State University.

Willson worked with Bleyle on the Ames Climate Action Team on a campaign to adopt a bold climate action goal.

Bleyle continued his farming passion by implementing a caterpillar tunnel growing system to strengthen climate resiliency and reduce environmental damage. This project was a part of his internship with the Root to Rise Farm program in Iowa.

“In the tunnels, I grew tomatoes, peppers, and ginger, trialing new growing techniques that have been absorbed into the farm operation,” says Bleyle.

Bleyle’s extraordinary efforts to make an impact using his skillset currently includes working on a new novel where he attempts to chronicle the experience of his generation and how they plan to mitigate climate change. The novel seeks to explore the psychological impact of his generation’s uncertain climate future.

“The combination of majors that Lucas is studying might seem unusual to some, but it is indicative of Lucas’s vision. He has a passion for agriculture, particularly the need to develop food systems that protect the environment and support the cohesion of societies,” says Steve Hallett, professor of horticulture at Purdue.




The National and International Scholarship Office (NISO), which is housed in the John Martinson Honors College, supports all Purdue students in applying for prestigious scholarships. Students interested in such awards are encouraged to reach out to the NISO office by email at, or to visit the NISO website at

Writer and media contact: Leslie Valiant