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Yu Wang is a native of Kunming in Yunnan Province, China, a mountainous region just north of Vietnam, bordering Laos, Cambodia and Myanmar. In 2004 she had a decision to make about her prestigious Ford Foundation International Fellowship. As a Ford Fellow she had to decide what country and what post secondary institution to pursue her master’s work in environmental education.
The winner in that decision was the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point (UWSP). According to Yu, she found UWSP’s environmental education master’s program on the World Wide Web and ultimately was accepted at both UWSP and at Cornell University in New York.
“After having studied at Point since the fall semester, I have no regrets in the least in choosing UWSP over Cornell,” said Yu. “So far I have found the environmental education master’s program quite rigorous and am learning a lot from faculty in both the College of Natural Resources and the School of Education.”
Yu is one of 460 Ford Foundation International Fellows named late in 2004. Nearly 20,000 applicants in 22 countries and territories applied for this prestigious fellowship. Each fellow is chosen on the basis of academic achievement, strong leadership skills, and a commitment to the development of their communities and countries. “These candidates have an important perspective on conditions that need to be changed and a passion for pursuing social justice that advanced education can refine and amplify,” said Susan V. Berresford, president of the Ford Foundation. “Many will be among the next generation of leaders around the world.”
Yu’s graduate studies mentor is Randy Champeau, associate dean of the CNR and director of the Wisconsin Center for Environmental Education. “Yu has been a wonderful addition to our graduate program and she is already showing outstanding academic and leadership qualities both within and outside the classroom,” said Champeau. “She’s a wonderful ambassador for the CNR and the campus and Yu has already begun to share her story beyond the campus as she visits schools throughout the region.”
Wang Yu’s story is compelling.
Early on her parents urged Yu to focus on her education and she took that lesson to heart and enrolled in Yunnan University in 1996 and majored in ecology. There she attended a lecture with one of China’s premier environmentalists, Liang Congjie. “Many environmental problems are never discussed in the public square in much of China,” said Yu. “This was a real eye opener for me and it is clear that much environmental work and education needs to take place in my home province and throughout China.”
Yu and her brother were raised by her parents in an area of China that is dominated by mountains while having the most diverse ecosystem of any region in all of China. The ethnic, cultural and biota diversity in Yunnan Province far exceeds most regions in China, according to Yu.
The Ford International Fellowship Program was begun in November 2000 with a $280 million grant from the Ford Foundation, the largest in the Foundation’s history. About 3,000 fellows will be selected over the next decade. Fellows may pursue studies in a variety of academic fields as long as they are consistent with the Ford Foundation’s grantmaking goals to strengthen democratic values, reduce poverty and injustice, promote international cooperation and advance human achievement.
Yu is a member of the campus International Club and Chinese Culture Club. Her focus is on her studies and when time permits she enjoys biking and running. She plans to complete her UWSP master’s work by spring 2007.