Occidental College Graduate Wins Prestigious Gates Cambridge Scholarship

Elizabeth "Libby" Evans '06 has received a highly competitive, all-expenses-paid scholarship to pursue a graduate degree at the University of Cambridge. 

 

The first Occidental College graduate to receive the prestigious Gates Cambridge Scholarship, Evans is one of 90 people worldwide to receive the award.

The annual Gates Cambridge Scholarship, similar to Oxford University's Rhodes scholarship, is awarded for intellectual ability, leadership capacity, and a person's desire to provide community service and apply his or her talents and knowledge to improve the lives of others. Starting this fall, Evans will pursue an M.Phil. in environment, society, and development. The interdisciplinary degree will help her continue her work in safeguarding the environment while also creating better jobs and working conditions for people in the developing world.

"My lifelong interest is in addressing extreme poverty while creating development policies that mitigate biodiversity loss," Evans said.

The daughter of a U.S. national park service ranger, Evans grew up in Hawai'i Volcanoes, Yellowstone, and Rocky Mountain national parks, so good stewardship of the environment comes naturally to her.

"Growing up in these pristine areas, I saw the importance of conservation," Evans said.

She took this interest to academia. As a Richter International Fellow at Occidental, she investigated the social and environmental controversies of boundary fences in African national parks. And as a Lilly Endowment Fellow, Evans examined community-centered conservation at Namibia's Cheetah Conservation Fund. Her undergraduate mentors included biology professor Beth Braker, English professors Eric Newhall and Dan Fineman, and religious studies professor Dale Wright.

Since her graduation from Occidental with a bachelor's degree in English and comparative literary studies, Evans has led international development and conservation initiatives at Sustainable Harvest, a Portland, Ore.-based importer of certified organic and fair-trade coffee founded by Oxy alumnus David Griswold '84. As Sustainable Harvest's director of farmer development programs, Evans and her team have raised more than $4.4 million for livelihood-improvement programs and have overseen development projects in 11 countries.

Before she aimed for a career in conservation and development, Evans pursued another passion. Between high school and college, she trained under an Olympic gold medalist in the equestrian sport of dressage. She has also faced a big personal challenge--successfully battling a bout of thyroid cancer as a senior in college.

All that behind her, Evans is looking forward to studying at the University of Cambridge. The venerable institution is a good fit: Cambridge is a leader in the emerging research between biodiversity conservation and poverty reduction. The university also founded the Cambridge Conservation Initiative, a partnership between leading conservation organizations and six Cambridge University departments.

"This program is the next step to prepare me for a career creating effective policies that reinforce poverty alleviation and biodiversity conservation--two of the most critical global challenges of our time," Evans said.

The Gates Cambridge Scholarship began in 2000 when the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation donated $210 million to the University of Cambridge to establish the Gates Cambridge Trust. The largest single donation to a U.K. university, the trust manages all aspects of the Gates Cambridge Scholarships program.