Franklin & Marshall College junior Max Sano has been named a 2021 Udall Scholar. He is the first F&M student to receive this award, the premier undergraduate scholarship for environmentalism that provides up to $7,000 for a scholar’s junior and senior year.
A joint studies major in government and environmental studies, Sano engages in a variety of environmental projects on campus, in Lancaster, statewide and nationally through advocacy, research and writing. Among his many accomplishments in the field, he founded a student magazine on environmental concerns.
“Max's selection as a Udall Scholar is a testament to how an F&M education can beautifully synergize with our students' pursuit of community-oriented initiatives,” said Nina Bond, adjunct assistant professor of Russian and assistant director of Postgraduate Fellowships.
“This scholarship provides me the opportunity to continue my education through to graduation,” Sano said. “More than that, I will be able to connect with 54 other Udall Scholars of the 2021 class to hear their inspiring stories regarding environmental policy, research, activism and action.”
“I have been independently researching and reporting on local, national and international environmental stories through a few platforms including Planet Forward, Common Dreams, Mrs. Green's World and Novel Hand and featured through the United Nations Food & Agriculture Organization,” he said.
Last September, Sano founded a multimedia, interdisciplinary and intersectional environmental news platform called “The Green Zine” (greenzine.org) “for students, researchers, activists and thought leaders to have a space to report on what the environment means to them.” He’s seeking funding that would allow him to eventually pay his student contributors.
“We have published nearly two dozen forms of content and 15 newsletters since last September, and plan on publishing more throughout 2021,” Sano said.
In the 2020 election, he coordinated among “the Postcards to Swing States organization, the Environmental Voter Project, the Citizens' Climate Lobby (CCL) Lancaster and numerous student organizations on campus to register nearly 1,500 people in Georgia to vote. I planned, and was a member of, a December 2020 CCL Lancaster, youth-led lobbying meeting with Republican House Rep. Lloyd Smucker to endorse carbon pricing and climate action,” Sano said.
For someone who grew up in New York City, where the only green spaces were public parks or rooftops, Sano’s interest in environmental policy began with a high school sailing program, where he experienced “the links between the human environment and the natural environment.”
“That was a great opportunity for me to see how the way humans interact with nature can have both negative and positive effects on animal health and public health,” he said.
Fifty-five students from 42 colleges and universities were selected as Udall Scholars this year from a pool of 416 applicants. A 20-member independent review panel selected this year's group on the basis of commitment to careers in the environment, Tribal public policy, or Native health care; leadership potential; record of public service; and academic achievement.
Since the first awards in 1996, the Udall Foundation has awarded 1,788 Scholarships totaling more than $9.1 million. The foundation is named for two Arizona Democratic congressmen who were dedicated environmental advocates, Morris Udall and his brother, Stewart Udall, who later became U.S. Secretary of the Interior under presidents John F. Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson.
Sano, who wants to pursue a career that involves sustainability and environmental justice, said he chose F&M for its location in an area heavy in farming and agriculture businesses, and for its community programs such as the first-year orientation PIT (Putting It Together).
“Ever since I did that I was like, yes, this is what I want to do—sustainability, public policy,” he said.
Assistant Professor of Environmental Studies Eve Bratman, who taught Sano in the course "Political Ecology of Food and Agriculture," praised how he pursues his passion, becoming president of the Environmental Action Alliance, the student environmental club.
"After taking this course and being one of my most engaged students, Max so impressed me with his talent and ambition that I offered him the opportunity to work as my research assistant," Bratman said. "He proactively sought out a seat on the campus Sustainability Committee earlier this year, and is among the most fervent and convincing student voices on our campus advocating for our sustainability commitments to be strengthened."
Looking ahead to his post-graduate plans, Sano is considering either work with an environmental nonprofit, policy organization or policymaker, or attending graduate school for public policy, sustainability or law.
“I want to make an impact in ending food deserts and environmental injustices, strengthening biocultural diversity and educating individuals, organizations and the public on the importance of community and the environment through local gardening, renewable energy and grassroots organizing,” he said.