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Arnold School of Public Health

  • 2022 Commencement

2022 Student Awards

The Department of Environmental Health Sciences is proud to announce the recipients of their 2022 Student Awards. These four students were selected for their outstanding performance both academically and outside the classroom.

Maggie Carson

Doctoral Student Excellence Award: Maggie Carson

With an undergraduate degree in psychology, Maggie Carson came to the Arnold School to shift her focus to public health. She earned a Master of Public Health in Health Promotion, Education, and Behavior in 2017 and this year, she completes her Ph.D. in Environmental Health Sciences. Carson is a Norman J. Arnold Doctoral Fellow, Southern Regional Education Board Fellow, SEC Emerging Scholar, Native Forward/American Indian Graduate Center Science Post Graduate Scholar, and SPARC Award winner, whose research focuses on harmful algal blooms and the toxins they produce. She is known for her service/leadership work and is the recipient of the Outstanding Graduate Student Award for Excellence in Diversity (Graduate Student Association) and Dean’s Award for Excellence in Leadership (Graduate School). Next, Carson will begin a Knuass Fellowship with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Deja Best

Master's Student Excellence Award: Deja Best

Deja Best has always been interested in working with living organisms, especially in coastal areas. While completing an undergraduate degree in fisheries, wildlife and conservation biology at NC State University, Best conducted research at Bigelow Laboratories for Ocean Sciences in Maine, where she learned about a pathogen that infects and kills eastern oysters. She joined the M.S. in Environmental Health Sciences program at USC with support from an Environmental Health Fellowship to conduct research into how changes in water quality associated with climate change impact infection intensity from this pathogen and the sex ratios in oysters. The August graduate is currently gaining hands-on experience at an oyster farm through a Sea Grant Minorities in Aquaculture Internship program before returning to school to earn a doctoral degree.

Ron Willis

Master's Student Service Award: Ron Willis



Ronald Willis was about to retire from a career in telecommunications when he decided to do something about the environmental impacts he witnessed while on job sites throughout Glynn County, Georgia. He enrolled at USC-Aiken to complete a degree in biology, minoring in geology and winning his department’s Outstanding Student of the Year Award. He then joined the Arnold School’s M.S. in Environmental Health Sciences program, where he built his expertise in collecting water samples with the Lake Wateree WaterWatch, which he used in his thesis research. Outside of his program, Willis gained experience as a GIS Manager for SC DHEC, updating the database for the NextGen 911 and Health Facility. He is again working at SC DHEC creating a Environmental Justice Web Map for Environmental Affairs. 

Macayla Upright

McKellar Fellowship Award - Macayla Upright



Macayla Upright’s parents instilled a lifelong love of the outdoors by taking her to state parks and museums on their family vacations. The young scientist did not like the way humans treat the Earth but decided there was something she could do about it. As an undergraduate studying environment/sustainability and biology at Catawba College in North Carolina, Upright attended an environmental toxicology meeting, where she met faculty from the Arnold School’s Department of Environmental Health Sciences. She fell in love with the ecotoxicology discipline and enrolled in the department’s Ph.D. program, where she studies harmful algal blooms' impacts on aquatic life as part of her Hank McKellar Fellowship. Now entering the third year of the program, the Norman J. Arnold Doctoral Fellow’s goals include working for a federal agency to help translate basic science into policy and applications.

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