TWRI program spotlight: Mills Scholars Program

The Texas Water Resources Institute (TWRI)’s program spotlight for January is the Mills Scholars Program. Throughout the past five decades, TWRI has awarded Mills Scholarships to select Texas A&M University graduate students studying water resources and hydrology issues in Texas. The program aims to fund research that will help Texas water resources management and solve future water problems.

The scholarship program is open to graduate students at Texas A&M University, Texas A&M–Galveston, and Texas A&M–Qatar who are pursuing research in water-related studies.

The scholarships are awarded by the W.G. Mills Memorial Fellowships in Hydrology. The fund was established in 1967 by Mills Cox, who, at the time, was chairman of the Texas Water Development Board. Cox designated the fund in memory of his great-grandfather, W.G. Mills. Mills helped prepare the site for Gathright Hall, the original student dormitory and dining hall on the Texas A&M campus, constructed in 1875-1876. Mills was also a planter and contractor from Millican, Texas.

According to the memorandum of agreement establishing the endowment, these funds are to be used “to encourage and promote the development and conservation of the water resources of Texas, resources that are already rapidly becoming of increasingly critical importance to the future welfare of the state and nation.” The fellowship study areas include engineering hydrology, stochastic hydrology, coastal hydrology, water quality, watershed management and hydrologic techniques in water resources planning.

As of 2020, TWRI has awarded 196 Mills scholarships totaling $393,770. (See 2020 recipients.) Many of the scholarship recipients have gone on to excel in the water resources field.

For example, Dr. James Dobrowolski, national program leader for U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA), received funding through the Mills Scholars program while studying for his doctorate at Texas A&M. In his current position as national program leader for USDA-NIFA, he provides national leadership for the water and rangeland and grassland ecosystem programs focused on water quality, water quantity and agricultural water security.

Dr. Marsh Lavenue, president and CEO of INTERA, a geosciences and engineering consulting firm in Austin, received funding through the Mills Scholars program. Lavenue, who received his doctorate in hydrogeology from the Paris School of Mines, joined INTERA as a staff hydrogeologist and has been president and CEO since 2008.

Others include:

  • Karen McNeal, geoscientist and geoscience education researcher at Auburn University
  • Richard Hoffpauir, water resources engineer of Hoffpauir Consulting, PLLC

Each year, TWRI awards at least four $5,000 scholarships to graduate students at the eligible locations. The release for the requests for pre-proposals and student selections is in the fall with scholarships effective the following calendar year.

For more information on the scholarship program, see its webpage.


As the former communications manager for TWRI, Kathy Wythe provided leadership for the institute's communications, including a magazine, newsletters, brochures, social media, media relations and special projects. 

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