VERMILLION, S.D. | Some college students just know what career they want to pursue when they set foot on campus, and choosing a major is the first step in preparing for that career.
Josh Arens wasn't so sure when he enrolled at the University of South Dakota. He was good in chemistry in high school, he said, so he'd major in that and see where it led. If he didn't like it, he could always switch to something else.
"It wasn't with this trajectory in mind," Arens said of the choice he made more than four years ago.
That trajectory is sky high now.
On Nov. 18, Arens, who received his undergraduate chemistry degree earlier this year, was named a Rhodes Scholar, the 10th USD student to ever to receive the prestigious honor, awarded to 32 American students each year. Past winners include former President Bill Clinton, astronomer Edwin Hubble, for whom the Hubble Telescope is named, and dozens of other famous politicians, scientists and artists.
In October, Arens is off to the United Kingdom and the University of Oxford for a two-year course of study that will result in a master's degree in environmental change and management.
As he spoke by telephone four days after learning he'd been chosen, the honor was still sinking in.
"I'm not really sure what to make of it yet. I'm still wondering if they chose the right one," said Arens, who grew up on a farm near Yankton, South Dakota.
Just a guess, but when a field of 866 applicants is narrowed down to 32 -- two students from each of 16 regions of the United States -- the selection panel made the right choice.
Arens' resume already was filled with impressive educational achievements: A Fulbright Summer Institute Award in which he studied at the University of Exeter in the United Kingdom in 2014. An internship this summer at the U.S. Department of Energy's Science Undergraduate Laboratory at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in Berkeley, California. And since June, he's been at the Institute of Chemical Research of Catalonia in Parragona, Spain, as part of a Fulbright Open Study Research Award, a program that lasts through June.
Arens is interested in renewable energy and environmental policy. In his current research in Spain, he's working on artificial photosynthesis, turning sunlight into hydrogen rather than sugar like plants do. He spends hours working in a lab. He's not sure yet if he wants to focus on laboratory research or work as a policy adviser, someone who would help governments develop responses to climate change.
"I'm hoping to figure that out by doing this program in Oxford," he said.
At Oxford, he'll spend less time in the lab and study the science of climate change, how humans interact with the environment and policy-related topics. It will give him a chance to see how his past lab work applies to everyday life.
"When you're in the lab doing all this stuff, sometimes you lose sight of the bigger picture," said Arens, who will turn 23 this month.
Studying for two years at Oxford is unlikely to be a breeze, but Arens said it will be a welcome breather before he begins to pursue a chemistry Ph.D., a course of study that will take five or six years.
He pictures himself someday involved in study or research into renewable energy. Growing up on a farm raising corn, soybeans, alfalfa and cattle, he's keenly aware of the importance of protecting the environment.
In the meantime, the student with the public school background said he looks forward to interacting with people of different backgrounds at Oxford, known as one of the world's most prestigious universities. He hopes it might inspire other South Dakota kids to aim high.
"I hope it also can send a message to other students that we're just as capable and qualified as students from Yale and Harvard," Arens said.
As for himself, Arens isn't daunted by the honor of living up to the reputation of being a Rhodes Scholar, at least not yet.
"I just hope I can use it well and take advantage of the opportunity to do some good in the future," he said.
SIOUX CITY | Sioux Cityans will have a lot fewer hours to celebrate the nation's birthday with fireworks next summer.
Legal discharges of fireworks within the city limits will be shortened to just two days, July 3 and 4, under a measure awaiting City Council approval Monday. The proposed amendment to the city's fireworks ordinance also would give residents just 11 1/2-hours to set off New Year's fireworks later this month.
The proposed amendment would dramatically shrink the period Sioux City allows for discharging pyrotechnics.
Under Sioux City's proposed ordinance change, residents could discharge fireworks on private property from 1 p.m. to 11 p.m. on both July 3 and 4 and from 1 p.m. on Dec. 31 to 12:30 a.m. on Jan. 1.
Last summer, after the state ban was lifted, the city allowed residents to set off fireworks between 1 p.m. and 10 p.m. from June 25 to July 4 daily. Revelers were given an extra hour on the Fourth of July and the Saturday and Sunday preceding the holiday.
New Year's discharges were scheduled to be allowed during the same hours Dec. 30 through Jan. 1, with an extension to 12:30 a.m. on New Year's Day.
Monday's council meeting may reignite the explosive debate over how much time is reasonable for discharge within city limits. The aftermath of city's first July Fourth under the new rules brought an onslaught of noise and safety complaints from neighborhood residents. Several took issue with the extended time given for discharge, favoring limited hours or an outright ban. Others desired less stringent rules.
But no changes were made over the summer. Conversations fizzled after the city learned it could not put limiting fireworks discharge up for a public vote on the November municipal election ballot.
All five of Sioux City's council members in early July had said on record that they favored a smaller window, with most agreeing on a two- to three-day discharge period similar to the one outlined in Monday's agenda.
The proposed revisions to the ordinance were formed based on council direction and resident input, according to city documents released late Thursday.
If the city moves forward with shortening its fireworks hours, it still will be the largest city in Iowa to allow discharges.
Des Moines, which originally allowed discharge for a six-hour window on July 4, voted in October to reinstate the ban. Cedar Rapids, second-largest city, voted Tuesday to do the same. Davenport, the state's third-largest city, re-instituted its ban over the summer.
Iowa City, the state's fifth-largest city behind Sioux City, never allowed fireworks discharge within city limits.
Monday's consideration of the proposed changes will come the day after fireworks sales re-open in the state, ahead of New Year's.
The state allows the sale of fireworks from Dec. 10 to Jan. 3 and June 1 to July 8. While the state law permits local governments limit the discharge of fireworks, they can not ban their sale.
Deputy fire marshal Ryan Collins said, unlike the Fourth of July, there will be no sales from tents during this month's sales period. But permanent structures that have been licensed through the state and gone through the city's permitting process will be eligible to sell. It was not immediately clear how many of those retailers, if any, will offer fireworks this month.