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Christina Faust (’09) Ecology; truman scholar; udall scholar; mitchell scholar, National University of Ireland-maynooth, msc immunology & global Health; princeton university, phd ecology & evolutionary biology

“I was born at St. Mary’s Hospital in Athens, Georgia and had lived in the same house my whole life. I saw college as an opportunity for new experiences, and I thought that meant I needed to move out of Athens, out of Georgia. Ironically, the best way to get away from Athens (although I love it), was to go to school there. I knew I could do a semester abroad or volunteer abroad during the summers at another university, but the breadth and depth of experiences that every Foundation Fellow at UGA had was really alluring for me.

"I hadn’t traveled outside of North America before college, but through the Fellowship I have traveled, volunteered, researched, and interned in thirteen different countries on seven continents. And I wasn’t trying to ‘collect them all.’ I was able to learn so much about myself and the variety of conservation efforts that exist around the globe. Traveling with professors and going out solo was instrumental in shaping what I want to pursue in life.

“These international experiences and independent research opportunities are no doubt the reason I have been offered amazing opportunities outside of the Foundation Fellowship. I’m currently in a PhD program at Princeton, working with the founder of wildlife disease ecology. He rarely takes students but was excited about my experiences through the Fellowship. I am conducting research on malaria in Borneo. This focus stemmed from a spring break trip with the Fellows and Dr. Pete Brosius to Borneo to look at indigenous land rights. In my (biased) opinion, UGA is the best college experience in the U.S. and has afforded me incredible opportunities post graduation.”

Foundation Fellow alumna Christina Faust made history when she became the first UGA student to win the Udall, Truman, and Mitchell scholarships in a single undergraduate career. We like to call her our Truditchell Scholar. Christina graduated May 2009 with a dual bachelor’s/master’s degree in ecology from the Odum School of Ecology.

She began her winning streak in 2008 as a third-year Fellow, garnering the Morris K. Udall and the Harry S. Truman awards. The former is awarded to second- and third-year students who are planning careers related to environmental policy, and the latter recognizes third-year students who are preparing for public service careers.

In 2009, Christina was one of only 12 students in the U.S. awarded the prestigious George J. Mitchell Postgraduate Scholarship, named in honor of the former U.S. senator who helmed the historic peace negotiations in Northern Ireland in 1998. Under the auspices of the Mitchell Scholarship, Christina spent the 2009-2010 academic year studying at the National University of Ireland, Maynooth for an MSc degree in immunology and global health. This course of study was the next step in preparation for her future career in wildlife conservation with an emphasis on infectious diseases and their impact on wildlife and human populations. She is now continuing her conservation studies as a PhD candidate at Princeton University.

“More and more, professionals are recognizing the interconnectedness of the health of humans, animals, and ecosystems, and this is the nexus where I would like to make contributions to conservation. I plan to direct policy not only to mitigate disease transmission between and among animals and humans but also to encourage sustainable development in order to address the multitude of challenges conservation must encompass,” says Christina.

During her four years as a Fellow, Christina has combined infectious disease research with ecology by examining the influence of bivalves and environmental factors on avian influenza transmission. She has worked on research projects with the College of Veterinary Medicine and the Odum School of Ecology at UGA, the Jiangsu Provincial Center for Disease Prevention and Control in China, the Arcturos wildlife conservation nongovernmental organization in Greece, and the New Zealand Conservation Volunteers in New Zealand. She has presented her research at several conferences, including the International Wildlife Disease Association Conference as one of only 12 student presenters.

In addition to her research pursuits, Christina has provided leadership for conservation efforts on the UGA campus. As the co-coordinator of the Gameday Recycling program, she collaborated with volunteers from the Ecology Club, the Go Green Alliance, and UGA Habitat for Humanity to collect plastic and glass from tailgaters, saving thousands of pounds of recyclables from the landfill and contributing hundreds of dollars’ worth of aluminum to UGA Habitat for Humanity’s Cans for Homes initiative.

Heading the Go Green Alliance Council, Christina organized the first collaborative group of students, staff, and faculty interested in sustainability issues on campus and in the Athens community to discuss issues and implement solutions. Prior to that, as co-chair of the Ecology Club’s Sustainable Development Committee, she organized a forum for university students on sustainability challenges at UGA and drafted a 35-page report on student-supported sustainability initiatives for UGA.

These accomplishments – in addition to Christina’s involvements as co-president of UGA Habitat for Humanity, counselor for the Girl Scouts of Northeast Georgia, team member of the #7 nationally ranked UGA Women’s Rugby Football Club, and Honors Teaching Fellow for first-year Honors students – are a testament to the kind of student the University of Georgia attracts.

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