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Student earns $5,000 Hasselmo Prize

An Augustana College junior with a lifelong love of nature and a double major in biology and environmental sciences, Carlisle Evans Peck, of Geneseo, is this year’s winner of Augustana’s Hasselmo Prize for Academic Pursuit.

The distinguished honor carries a $5,000 award that can be used to pursue a career in higher education or research. He plans to pursue a Ph.D. in ecology, and perhaps teach at a college with an emphasis on liberal arts like Augustana. Evans Peck is considering using the award to travel for a likely honors capstone project connecting biodiversity to cultural diversity.

Last summer, he conducted research at the Rocky Mountain Biological Laboratory, focusing on plants and bees.

“It was the most intensive field work I have ever done, and was my first experience in real scientific inquiry,” said Evans Peck. “Moreover, living in the mountains for 10 weeks with a community of adventure-loving ecologists was not too shabby.”

Evans Peck's fascination with the natural world goes back to his childhood.

“My most intense and lasting interest was in plants,” he said. “I first recall making field guides for all the plants in my family's garden, and then adding plants that I saw in field guides and thought were super cool.”

In nominating Evans Peck for the award, faculty in the Augustana biology department described him as “an intellectual in the best sense of the word. He brings curiosity, exceptional analytical skills, creativity, and genuine artistry to all that he pursues both inside and outside the classroom.”

Evans Peck is president of the Darwin Club on campus, co-founder of the campus discussion group The Salon, and a member of several vocal ensembles at Augustana College.

The Hasselmo Prize was funded by Dr. Nils Hasselmo ’57 in recognition of the ways in which his Augustana education led to a life in academia. During his career he rose to become president of the University of Minnesota, and then president of the Association of American Universities.

Q&A with Carlisle Evans Peck

Why did you choose Augustana? 
Initially, Augustana was not even a blip on my college radar, primarily since it is so close to home. I applied because my mom is an alumna. But since it was so close, I was able to go on multiple visits and get to know the campus and a few faculty members. I was very impressed by how inspirational and welcoming the professors were, they really made me feel at home right off the bat. Additionally, I instantly fell in love with the beauty of the forested campus.

How would you describe your Augustana experience in one sentence? 
A persistent, but chaotic, search for meaning, knowledge, and beauty, both in the world and in myself.

Who has helped you grow and get to where you are now? 
My family has always been incredibly supportive and loving, and I certainly have them to thank for everything I am and all the opportunities I have today. I would also add my amazing friend, Alex. She's been a constant source of light and inspiration, and she's really helped me to grow and change in very positive ways at Augustana. 

What's been the highlight of your Augie experience so far? 
It seems like every experience I've had at Augustana is so seamlessly connected with all the others. I'll throw out a few: being president of Darwin Club, taking the Hydroecology Immersion Term, Local Flora at the Greenwing Field Station, singing in Lessons and Carols, being a part of the Redwood Movement, singing in the Augustana Choir, the Local Culture House, and the Logos Honors Program. Maybe that's more than a few, but I think they're all equally significant.

Hasselmo Prize background

Evans Peck is the third winner of the Hasselmo Prize. The first winner, Hannah Johnson '12, is studying at the University of Iowa and will earn a Ph.D. in communication studies.

Johnson reflects positively, saying "I used my Hasselmo Prize mostly on presenting a few different versions of this paper, and Dr. Hasselmo's generosity allowed me to travel to New Orleans in November 2011 to present a paper to the National Communication Association's annual conference as well as a variation of the project at the Rhetoric Society of America's conference in Philadelphia in May 2012."

The conference opportunities provided Johnson "invaluable networking and presenting experience," which are skills she's already found useful in graduate school.

Johnson added, "I'm glad for all the opportunities I've been afforded both by the Hasselmo Prize and the excellent faculty at Augustana." 

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