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Hendrix Alumna Receives NSF Fellowship

Watson Fellow Allison Monroe ’19 will use funding to continue research on Indigenous knowledge and environmental sustainability

Photo courtesy Allison Monroe

CONWAY, Ark. (April 21, 2022) – Allison Monroe, a 2019 graduate of Hendrix College, has received a National Science Foundation (NSF) Graduate Research Fellowship, one of the nation’s most prestigious honors for graduate students studying in STEM (science, technology, engineering or mathematics) fields.

As an NSF Graduate Research Fellow, Monroe will have a five-year fellowship with three years of financial support, including an annual stipend of $34,000 and a cost of education allowance of $12,000 to the University of Montana, where she currently studies Indigenous knowledge and environmental sustainability.

“Allison’s accomplishments started her first year at Hendrix when she secured an internship at the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History,” said Hendrix Associate Professor of Biology and Environmental Studies Program Chair Dr. Maureen McClung. “From there, she led her own field and lab research project on the ecology of wasps in Arkansas, mapped conservation corridors in Costa Rica, and helped launch the Hendrix Naturalists Club. Her record demonstrates her motivation to improve nature conservation, and now her graduate work aims to incorporate Indigenous ecological knowledge in this effort. We’re so glad that NSF believes in Allison like we do here at Hendrix.”

Monroe holds a Bachelor of Arts in biology from Hendrix, where she received a Thomas J. Watson Fellowship. She is currently enrolled in a Master of Science program focused on Indigenous knowledge and environmental sustainability, housed in the University of Montana’s Department of Environmental Studies. Monroe’s research involving traditional ecological knowledge, models of biodiversity, and landscape conservation focuses on natural resource conflict resolution with and for historically oppressed communities. Her ultimate career goal is to work for an NGO (non-governmental organization) as a community collaboration manager, or “any position that allows [her] to maintain a multiculturally-engaged research and teaching program, informs management initiatives, and advances scientific understanding.”

Monroe credits the broad-based mentoring she received at Hendrix with helping her to transition away from a pre-med path and toward biology in her undergraduate studies, then to earn the Watson Fellowship. “There are so many professors who I could — and should — give credit to, but then I would be listing nearly everyone who is still there,” she said. “The interdisciplinary education I received at Hendrix inspired my application to the Watson Fellowship. I remember working diligently with Dr. McClung, Dr. [Lilian] Contreras-Silva, Britt Anne Murphy, and so many others on my application. I was stunned when I got the award, and I’m still so thankful for it.” 

Designing her own year-long project put Monroe in rural areas of Madagascar, South Africa, Scotland, and Costa Rica, learning cultural values and seeking to understand conservation implications within exploited communities. “Repeatedly, I learned that lasting conservation projects depend on community involvement, but that community involvement itself is a culturally complex problem to address,” she said. 

Her Watson travels led her to her current area of research.

“When my Watson Fellowship was cut short due to covid, I found myself back in Arkansas with new eyes,” she said. “I was suddenly very aware that my experiences abroad needed to be applied in the U.S. I began researching something along the lines of ‘Indigenous conservation U.S.’ and Dr. Rosalyn LaPier, who is Blackfeet and Métis, popped up. It only took one read through Dr. LaPier’s work for me to apply to learn from her. She’s now my advisor [at the University of Montana].”

Monroe says the Hendrix Odyssey Program and the Murphy Scholars Program played a role in her successes, as they funded her earlier projects and experiences while honing her writing skills, particularly for grant writing. “I am confident in writing for these competitive and challenging applications, and I have been commended on my ability to articulate my story and interests,” she says. “The NSF-GRFP is one of the most competitive research grants in the U.S., and one of my reviewers said my application was among the best they have read. That’s because of the experience I gained with grant writing while at Hendrix.”

Monroe has also enrolled in a University of Montana certificate program in Natural Resource Conflict Resolution to help address historical power imbalances and general conflicts in resource use and management. “When diverse groups work together to cross boundaries for a shared purpose, they can dramatically expand what is possible,” she said. “That’s at the heart of my graduate experience: new possibilities.”

She emphasized that Hendrix College has, in many ways, helped form her as a person. “The mentorship and community support I received while at Hendrix really stands out as foundational to not just who I am today, but to who I hope to be in my future career as well.” 

About Hendrix College

A private liberal arts college in Conway, Arkansas, Hendrix College consistently earns recognition as one of the country’s leading liberal arts institutions, and is featured in Colleges That Change Lives: 40 Schools That Will Change the Way You Think About Colleges. Its academic quality and rigor, innovation, and value have established Hendrix as a fixture in numerous college guides, lists, and rankings. Founded in 1876, Hendrix has been affiliated with the United Methodist Church since 1884. To learn more, visit