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C of I student wins Goldwater Scholarship

College of Idaho student Dannen Wright is a 2014 recipient of the Goldwater Scholarship, the most prestigious award available to American undergraduates studying the sciences.

Wright, a junior biology major from Boise, receives $7,500 toward educational expenses through the Barry M. Goldwater Scholarship and Excellence in Education program, named for the former U.S. senator and presidential candidate. The program seeks to supply the world with highly qualified scientists, mathematicians and engineers by selecting students with the potential to make significant contributions in those fields. Wright, a Centennial High graduate, plans to earn an M.D. and Ph.D. in immunology and pursue a career conducting clinical research on allergies and asthma.

“To come from such a small school and to be able to compete with students from major research institutions, it’s amazing,” Wright said. “It’s a little surprising because you are competing against 1,500 really great students, but you also feel like all the hard work that went into it finally paid off.” 

At the C of I, Wright is a key member of biology professor Dr. Sara Heggland’s research lab, which is studying the effects of cadmium on bone health. Wright’s oral presentations on that research won first place at both the Murdock College Science Research Program Conference and the Idaho Academy of Science Symposium this year, paving the way for her Goldwater application.

“Doing research has been invaluable to my growth as a person and a student,” Wright said. “It allows you to gain valuable skills and become an active participant in your education. You learn a lot in the classroom at the C of I, but being active in research takes it to the next level. There is always something new to learn and figure out. That’s what I enjoy, and I can see myself enjoying it for the rest of my life.”

Heggland, who has worked with Wright for three years, was not surprised by the award. 

“Dannen is one of our best and brightest,” Heggland said. “She has all the qualities that make her so very deserving of a Goldwater Scholarship, and she also has a very exciting future ahead of her. She is going to be a leader and an innovator in the field of academic medicine – there is no doubt in my mind.”

Wright is The College of Idaho’s eighth Goldwater Scholar, and first since Derek Erstad in 2007. Byron Shock (1993), Virginia Garber (1994), Karla Walker (1995), David Muller (1996), Aimee Betts (1996) and Joseph Rule (2000) also received Goldwater Scholarships while attending the C of I. 

Founded in 1891, The College of Idaho is the state’s oldest private liberal arts college. It has a century-old tradition of educating some of the most accomplished graduates in Idaho, including seven Rhodes Scholars, three Marshall Scholars, and another 12 Truman and Goldwater Scholars. The College is located on a beautiful campus in Caldwell, Idaho. Its distinctive PEAK curriculum challenges students to attain competencies in the four knowledge peaks of the humanities, natural sciences, social sciences and a professional field, enabling them to graduate with an academic major and three minors in four years. For more information on The College of Idaho, visit www.collegeofidaho.edu.