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Environmental Studies comes naturally to UM student

The latest recipient of the George E. Bright Memorial Fellowship Fund, Laura Becerra, feels honored to be recognized with the award. It makes her feel like she is part of something bigger.

Each year the George E. Bright Memorial Fellowship Fund is awarded to a student who works to better understand a natural resource, and has demonstrated their abilities as a researcher.

“The College of Forestry and Conservation is paying attention to what their students are working on, and feeling that support is great,” Becerra says. “It provides an impulse to keep going.”

In addition, Becerra appreciates the financial help. Costs such as student fees and student health insurance are increasing, so scholarships help cover those costs.


Becerra, originally from Chile, was introduced to Missoula through her sister more than 15 years ago. She chose the University of Montana to pursue a master’s in environmental studies in 2006, and continues her studies working toward a Ph.D. in forestry.

Becerra’s work focuses on the interaction between tourism, economic development and conservation. Having conducted research in Livingstone, Zambia, she says there’s a pressing need to better understand tourism.

“My master’s in environmental studies exposed me to environmental problems and solutions, and to the relationship between academia and activism,” Becerra says. “This serves as a background for my Ph.D. where I hope to further examine the relationship between people and natural resources through tourism.”

While working on her undergraduate degrees in political science and anthropology, she developed a long-time interest in social justice issues.

Becerra would eventually like to teach at the college level. She continues to be fascinated by the tourism field, in addition to being very excited about her research and the importance of sharing that information with students.

“I am motivated by students, and can’t wait to get them as excited as I am about international development, conservation and the complexities of tourism,” Becerra says.

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