News & Resources


2018 Calvin B. DeWitt Leadership Fellow - Lucia Combrink

Apr 04, 2018

The Calvin B. DeWitt Leadership Fellowship is the largest and most prestigious fellowship offered at the Au Sable Institute. With a value of US $5,100, students must demonstrate academic excellence and a record of accomplishment with high potential for continued leadership in Christian environmental stewardship, like that of Dr. Calvin DeWitt, the Institute’s Founding Executive Director. Cal displayed visionary leadership as he led Au Sable for its first two decades as an Institute, and engaged with the wider Christian community to care for God’s earth out of a joy for the good gift of creation and out of our responsibility as earthkeepers to serve and protect it.

This year, Au Sable is happy to announce that the 2018 recipient of the Calvin B. DeWitt Leadership Fellowship is Lucia Combrink of Westmont College, California. Lucia is a third-year biology major in the ecology, evolution, and natural history track, with minors in psychology and chemistry, and this summer she will be studying Forest Ecology and Alpine Ecology at the Pacific Rim campus during Summer Session II. Lucia is a South African citizen who spent a considerable part of her childhood growing up in Malaysia, where her interests in environmental stewardship and leadership were first sparked by exploring the rainforest with her younger siblings, encountering geckoes, snakes, monkeys, and hornbills. Animals captured her interest at a young age, much like Dr. Cal DeWitt whose passion for creation started as a child who created and maintained a reptile zoo in his backyard. Lucia shares commonalities with the award’s namesake not only in the passion for creation that they each discovered at a young age but also in their study of reptiles. Dr. DeWitt spent much of his early professional career as a scientist studying desert iguanas, and similarly, Lucia has participated in reptile research through Westmont College. It was during this time that her field supervisor Dr. Amanda Sparkman, Associate Professor of Biology at Westmont College, gained great insight into Lucia’s work ethic and natural leadership ability. “During eight weeks of reptile field research in summer 2017, I found her [Lucia] tireless, astoundingly enthusiastic, and full of love for her fellow creatures – even on our more challenging days filled with mosquitos, reptile excrement, or rain. She seemed always to be able to find animals when none of the rest of us could find any, and she entered data, took blood samples, and conducted ultrasounds with great precision and skill.”

“Her academic ability is not just a function of analytic acuity,” added Dr. Jeff Schloss, Distinguished Professor of Biology at Westmont, “she is amongst the most voraciously curious, eagerly inquisitive students I’ve encountered.” It is Lucia’s excellence and enthusiasm for her studies along with her leadership experience that makes her the 2018 Calvin B. DeWitt Leadership Fellow. Lucia began taking on leadership roles in high school where she was elected to student government for three years and taught English to Malaysian children. More recently, Lucia has been active on her college campus serving as Co-President of the Swing Dancing Club, an International Student Ambassador, and now, a Resident Advisor.

Lucia aims to continue her education after graduating from Westmont to pursue a Ph.D. program. “I would love to become a researcher, especially in the field of genetics and evolution, community ecology, or animal behavior,” explained Lucia. “I feel so incredibly blessed to be the recipient of the Calvin B. DeWitt fellowship, it has made it possible for me to attend Au Sable this summer. I am excited to grow in my knowledge and enjoyment of God’s beautiful world, and I’m looking forward to spending time outdoors, being immersed in a Christian community, and learning how to appreciate and understand complex ecosystems and animal interactions.”

Congratulations on being named the 2018 Calvin B. DeWitt Fellow, Lucia! We look forward to having you join the Au Sable community this summer!