Anooshka Sethi ’25 Wins Prestigious Udall Undergraduate Scholarship

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The competitive award highlights students passionate about conservation and environmental issues

Anooshka Sethi ’25, an environmental policy major, has won a prestigious Udall Undergraduate Scholarship.
By Kayla Voigt '14Photography by Ashley L. Conti
May 29, 2024

Walk into any major grocery chain and you’ll usually see food from around the globe: tomatoes from California, avocados from Mexico, or bananas from Costa Rica. But what you don’t see? The hundreds of other varieties of these produce staples that could be on the shelves.

Today, only four companies control more than 50 percent of the world’s seed production—so even though there are technically 10,000 types of tomatoes a farmer can grow, it’s much more likely they’ll only pick one.

That’s exactly the kind of sustainability problem environmental policy major Anooshka Sethi ’25 wants to solve. “When you go to the farmer’s market, you’ll see all kinds of tomatoes, and at the supermarket, you see three,” she said. “Seed saving is something I’m passionate about because seed diversity is history, it’s resilience against climate change, and it’s so important for us as a society.”

In recognition of her accomplishments in the field of conservation and environmental studies, Sethi recently received the Udall Undergraduate Scholarship. She competed against more than 400 applicants from colleges around the country to win. 

“The Udall award is one of the nation’s most prestigious undergraduate awards for the environment,” said Philip Nyhus, the Elizabeth and Lee Ainslie Professor of Environmental Studies. “It’s very competitive, and it’s a real honor to be selected as a Udall award winner. As the campus representative for the Udall committee, I see all the applications. Anooshka is incredibly bright, and I know her passion for sustainability will take her far.”

Young woman sits upright on a picnic table with woods behind her.
Environmental policy major Anooshka Sethi ’25 is passionate about wanting to solve sustainability problems such as the need for more seed diversity.

This includes a $7,000 stipend for tuition costs and entry to a multi-day environmental conference with the other award winners. “It always means so much to be afforded an opportunity like this because it can open doors and help show me the right next step as I build my career,” said Sethi. “The other award winners are so impressive. I can’t wait to learn from them.”

Sethi took her interest in sustainability international this past year, immersing herself in an eco-conscious society with a semester abroad in Freiberg, Germany. She also spent a Jan Plan in India studying seed-saving with Vandana Shiva, one of the world’s most respected environmental activists. Said Sethi, “Meeting people like Dr. Shiva, they hold so much power in their words. She’s making history, she’s creating policy, and I know that’s what I want to do. It was incredible to get to meet her and learn about seed-saving firsthand.”

Outside of her academic studies, you’ll likely find Sethi prepping for her next Mud Meet as a member of the woodsmen’s team. She specializes in pole climbing, a speed-focused event where participants use only a rope and foot spikes to scale 40-foot wooden poles. “It’s weird and wonderful. I love the community on the team. It’s a really big part of my life,” she said.

This summer, Sethi will study sustainable fisheries at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association (NOAA) in Gloucester, Mass., as part of the Yale Conservation Scholars program. While Sethi still has another year of study at Colby, she knows she’ll dedicate her career to agricultural issues. “Food sovereignty is something really important to me, which is the idea that a place can be independent in feeding themselves through sustainable methods,” she said. “I hope my career can address that in some way, whether it’s on land or in the ocean.”