2012 Nichols Scholar Natalie Hambalek


Biology and Environmental Studies Major

School of Science and Technology

This year, the Sonoma State Alumni Association awarded its Ambrose R. Nichols Jr. Scholarship to Biology and Environmental Studies major Natalie Hambalek for her involvement on Sonoma State campus, her active participation in the community and non-profits, her scholarly achievements, and her political efforts.

Hambalek has maintained a job on campus at the Center for Community Engagement since 2009. By working at the center she stayed in involved with work in academic affairs, and takes part in events like the “Careers for the Common Good Panel” and “Discovery Day”. Another event that the center features is “Shadow Day”, which exposes high school students from Roseland University Prep to Sonoma State University. She co-presented at the Campus Compact Continuums of Service Conference in Seattle, Washington on behalf of the Center for Community Engagement on utilizing social media to address their civic mission.

In the past two years she also participated in the annual California Higher Education Student Summit with Associated Students. Hambalek has gone to Sacramento to lobby legislators for various bills that provide accessibility and affordability to the California state system, including the California Dream Act. She was recently in the M
odel United Nations class and participated in the National Model United Nations in New York this past April.

 Hambalek has been an active biology club member and was an elected officer last year. Hambalek’s drive for academic excellence has earned her a spot in the Tri Beta National Biological Honor Society, where she holds the position of treasurer. She has also joined Sigma Alpha Lambda, a National Leadership and Honor Organization.

Hambalek has volunteered her time to various volunteer programs that include Join Us Making Progress, and has been a mentor at the Kid Street Learning Center, a school for at-risk youth, for the past two years. Hambalek has also worked as an undergraduate researcher with Dr. Nick Geist’s lab with the Western Pond Turtles, and was involved in Dr. Derek Girman’s research with California Tiger Salamanders that are highly threatened.  This summer she will be working on a project with Dr. Karin Jaffe on the social compatibility of squirrel monkeys in the San Francisco Zoo.

“I have refused to let the budget cuts to the CSU system hold me back from what I want out of my education. As an undergraduate it is very important to get involved with as much as you can and Sonoma State has allowed me to do so. Everything I have been involved in-- being able to work with professors on research projects, participate in Model United Nations, getting to know how non-profits function, and even lobbying California legislators for change in higher education has truly been a dream come true”

Hambalek plans on getting her Masters in Biology here at Sonoma State University. Her future career plans include working at a governmental organization or non-profit agency whose mission lies heavily in the areas of conservation and/or youth.

“I am so thankful to have been given opportunities at Sonoma State University that have enabled me to flourish and become the person I want to be. The Ambrose R. Nichols Scholarship will help me to pursue my dreams as well as motivate me to be the best I can be. I hope to inspire others that your past doesn't have to dictate your future and this award will help me to keep pushing forward.”