News & Resources


2015 Snyder Fellowship Produces Co-winners from Wayland Baptist and Cornerstone Universities.

Apr 09, 2015

The Harold Z. Snyder Fellowship commemorates the vision, life and legacy of Dr. Harold Snyder, Au Sable’s founder. Using a small amount of land purchased in northern Michigan in 1956, Harold had, by 1958, begun a summer outdoor science camp for boys he called Au Sable Trails. Joining the Biology Faculty at Taylor University (Indiana) in 1962, he began to see the possibilities of expanding his camp’s curriculum and vision to create courses for college students in environmental study and creation care, while at the same time expanding outdoor environmental education classes into a program that would eventually serve public, parochial, and home school students from 11 counties in northern Michigan, and eventually leading to the birth of the Au Sable Institute of Environmental Studies.  Today the Snyder Fellowship provides a US $2,500 award to a student of exceptional academic ability who demonstrates aptitude for and commitment to a career in science teaching. The fellowship was established by two of Au Sable’s earliest college students, along with other friends of Dr. Snyder in appreciation of his role in their life and the life of the Institute.

In this year of 2015, Au Sable is pleased to announce co-winners of the Harold Z. Snyder Fellowship in Mariya Essani of Wayland Baptist University (Texas) and Whitney Lambert of Cornerstone University (Michigan). Co-winners will not be a normal pattern for the Snyder Fellowship, but, in this case, these two applicants were so well qualified that the Selection Committee decided that the only just decision was to recognize both, and give the full award to each. Mariya and Whitney are uniquely gifted individuals, that both share a passion for teaching natural science to others as a visible expression of God’s good creation.

Mariya Essani’s road to science teaching is different from most. Born in Russia, Mariya came to the United States at a young age with her mother. Homeschooled in much of her education prior to college, Mariya was inspired to be a teacher herself. A major in Life Science Education at Wayland, Mariya impressed many faculty who describe her as intelligent, curious, and eager to learn. Noting her work in three courses he taught at Wayland, Dr. Andrew Kasner, Professor of Biology, wrote of Mariya, “She was an exceptional student in all three, with a disciplined approach to her studies and a willingness to help weaker students along in the process. In terms of her ability to excel in her Au Sable courses, I have no doubts.”

Dr. Kasner’s colleague at Wayland, Dr. Herb Grover, Dean of Wayland’s School of Mathematics and Sciences, wrote of Mariya that “she was one of the most engaged and engaging students in the field and in the classroom. It was abundantly clear that Mariya loves studying God’s creation and she seems to never tire from the process of field study.”

Mariya will get plenty of field study at Au Sable, where she has enrolled in Field Botany and Animal Ecology in Summer Session I at the Great Lakes campus (Michigan). In anticipating her experience, Mariya noted that she wanted to study at Au Sable because “it will be a life-changing experience to participate in the hands-on field studies from which I can share what I have learned about God’s creation with many others.” We at Au Sable are certainthat Mariya will not be disappointed.

Whitney Lambert has a much shorter road to the Au Sable Institute, studying and majoring in Biology at Cornerstone University in Grand Rapids, Michigan, just two and a half hours south of Au Sable’s Great Lakes campus. Her approach to environmental education, however, is novel. Whitney wants to start a not-for-profit horse ranch where youth can connect with God’s creation. Whitney explains, “Horses are naturally therapeutic and give people a sense of responsibility and acceptance to build character. Being out in the environment builds healthy living and I would like to incorporate science for youth in an interesting and applicable way.” Faculty at Cornerstone believe Whitney has the gifts and skills to do this. Dr. Kent Walters of Cornerstone University wrote, “Whitney possesses a commitment to academic excellence demonstrated by consistent hard work in her classes, conscientious focus and follow through…and a willingness to go above and beyond course requirements by participating in additional class and extracurricular activities.” Combining intellectual ability with Christian commitment, Whitney’s pastor. Dr. Jay Childs, noted that Whitney is “a model of Christian service, sincerity, and commitment. She models integrity, leadership, diligence, serving others and fortitude.”

At Au Sable, Whitney intends to take two very demanding, analytically-oriented and skill-based courses, Environmental Applications for Geographic Information Systems (GIS) and Environmental Chemistry during Summer Session II at the Great Lakes Campus. Whitney explained her choices this way, saying "I enjoy classes that develop critical thinking with a practical and hands-on approach, so I am looking forward to furthering my education through these analytical courses. The knowledge provided will develop skills that are applicable in a diverse range of environmental disciplines."

Dr. Rob Keys of Cornerstone University thinks that Whitney will do well at Au Sable, noting “She has a great desire to make a difference in the sciences. Her motivation, drive, and application of learning show a great potential in reaching this goal.” At Au Sable, we think so too, and are honored to name Whitney as the co-recipient of the 2015 Harold Snyder Fellowship.

Just as Dr. Snyder’s work and legacy bestow honor on this fellowship, both in name and application, so too do those who receive it. Although very different in background and life experience, Mariya and Whitney honor Dr. Snyder and the Institute in embodying and representing his ideals in their forthcoming work at the Institute, and in all they have accomplished so far. We, at Au Sable, celebrate the recognition of Mariya and Whitney as this year’s Harold Z. Snyder Fellows, and look forward to their time of study and work with us.