When Beka Greenall, a biological science education master’s student in the College of Life Sciences, received an email from the National Science Foundation (NSF) Graduate Research Fellowship Program (GRFP), she was thrilled to read she had been chosen.
“I was in complete shock because I didn’t expect that I would be chosen for anything like that,” Greenall says. “When I read the email I just started crying and laughing . . . I felt so grateful. I always wanted to get a PhD, and it felt like Heavenly Father was saying, ‘You can do it, here you go.’”
The NSF GRFP is a prestigious and competitive program offering graduate students a three-year annual stipend for PhD research, in addition to covering educational costs at the student’s chosen university. The NSF hopes fellowship recipients will become leaders in their field and have a positive impact on society at large through innovation and contributions in research and teaching.
Greenall grew up in Montana near Yellowstone National Park, an area abounding in Native American culture, as well as beauty and natural landmarks. Spending most of her days outdoors, Greenall wanted to study biology and conservation. After completing her undergraduate degree in biology at BYU-Hawaii, Greenall knew she wanted to continue conducting conservation research. However, after seeing the underrepresentation of Native American and Polynesian cultures in science education during her upbringing and post-secondary education in Hawaii, Greenall was now interested in integrating native cultures into science education.
The ability to integrate Native American and Polynesian conservation practices into biology courses has been the focus of Greenall’s master’s program research. She hopes to help Native American and Polynesian students to feel better represented in scientific conservation fields, as well as allow other students to widen their perspectives of how conservation practices can be conducted.
Greenall describes the opportunity to begin her PhD through the NSF fellowship grant as both a “huge honor, but also a huge responsibility.” Incorporating her master’s program research into a PhD program has been challenging, but Greenall looks forward to having more resources at her disposal to conduct research and to test and implement new teaching curriculums in university biology courses.
Greenall has always been passionate about conservation. But now she has become passionate about combining it with teaching while working with Dr. Liz Bailey, professor of biology in the College of Life Sciences, who she first met at BYU-Hawaii. Bailey expresses how she has enjoyed watching Greenall grow in confidence and looks forward to what Greenall will accomplish next.
“[Beka] has always had a life-long passion for conservation, and more recently she has developed an excitement for educating others about the importance of conservation,” Bailey says. “I am so proud of Beka for her hard work and am excited to see her recognized by the NSF with this huge honor. I can’t wait to see all the good that she will do in graduate school and beyond!”
Reflecting on those who have helped her while applying for the NSF GRFP, Greenall expresses gratitude for her professors and family who have supported and continue to support her academic pursuits.
“I am so grateful for this opportunity and for everyone that has helped me,” Greenall says. “I’m excited to see where this all goes now.”