WSU sophomore, Nez Perce Tribal member Rachel Ellenwood receives prestigious, national Udall Award; is university’s first Udall winner

MEDIA: Sarah Ann Hones, Director of Distinguished Scholarship Programs, WSU Office of Undergraduate Education, 509-335-8239,

Mary Sanchez Lanier, Assistant Vice Provost, 509-335-7767,

Rachel Ellenwood, WSU’s first Udall Award winner,

PULLMAN, Wash. — Washington State University sophomore and Nez Perce Tribal member Rachel E. Ellenwood, 32, of Lapwai, Idaho, has won a nationally competitive, distinguished scholarship from the Udall Foundation for 2015. She is the first WSU student to receive a Udall award.

“We are tremendously proud of Rachel and she has become the first WSU student to receive the prestigious Udall Award,” said Mary F. Wack, vice provost for undergraduate education. “Her career goal to become a nurse practitioner for her home tribal community, plus her many academic and service accomplishments so far, made her a strong candidate for the Udall.”

“WSU enthusiastically supported her application,” said Sarah Ann Hones, director of the Distinguished Scholarships Program, part of the WSU Office of Undergraduate Education. “Rachel is an exceptional student and is passionate about her Native American community, culture, and heritage.”

One of 50 Udall Winners, One of 5 in Healthcare

The annual Udall Undergraduate Scholarship awards include 50 merit-based scholarships and 50 honorable mentions presented to sophomore- and junior-level college students committed to careers related to the environment, tribal public policy, or Native American health care. They are administered by the Morris K. and Stewart L. Udall Foundation, established by the U.S. Congress in 1992 to honor the legacies of the brothers who served as Congressmen and statesmen from Arizona.

Ellenwood is one of only five Udall awardees committed to health care related to American Indian nations. The majority of 2015 Udall Scholars (38) are committed to issues related to the environment. Ellenwood will receive a $5,000 scholarship and attend a special group networking session with other Udall winners.

An Honor for Many

“It’s such an honor to be the first from WSU to get this distinguished scholarship,” said Ellenwood. “I feel like I’ve paved the way, and now I can help others work through the process of applying. I will enjoy being a role model for future students and encourage them to apply. This is also an honor for my community, the home of the Nimiipuu (Nez Perce).”

Her first telephone calls upon learning of the honor were to her mother, Susie, a licensed practical nurse in Lapwai, and her father, Kub, a retired carpenter and full-time grandpa.

“We are such a big Cougar family that my Dad’s first comment was, ‘Way to go, representing the Cougs, Chedda!’” That’s her nickname at home.

WSU to Study Healthcare, Nursing to Help Her Community

Ellenwood is a graduate of Lapwai High School, attended Lewis-Clark State College, and earned an Associate of Arts and Sciences from Northwest Indian College in Lapwai before coming to WSU in fall 2014 as a transfer student in pre-nursing. She plans earn a Ph.D. in that same field.

When she becomes a nurse practitioner, she will emphasize educating tribal members on prenatal health issues, cancer—the second leading cause of death among American Indians, she said—and diabetes prevention and management.

Ellenwood said her interest in health care began when she was a child helping her mother at blood drives in their community. Over the years, she took several classes in health and social work. She is very proud that a research poster she created about diabetes hangs in the Nez Perce Tribal Clinic.

The Importance of Culture and Community

Her passion for her culture and community has already carried over into her jobs. For four years, she was a safety and communication specialist for the Nez Perce Tribal Police Department. As a tracker for the Probation Department, she made daily contact with about 30 students across six schools to keep them motivated about school and communicating with their parents and school authorities. “I was able to guide these young people to a more successful path,” she said.

When she came to WSU, Ellenwood made a point of getting involved in her college community. She is a member of the Native American Women’s Association (NAWA), the Green Dot violence prevention initiative, the Ku-ah-M’a club under ASWSU, and the Minority Association of Pre-Health Students (MAPS).

Dedicated to Her Son, Terrell

“I am going to complete my goal of finishing my degree in nursing. The Udall Award will help with that.

“I am a very driven person and feel like I am ready to take on the world,” Ellenwood said. “Being a full-time student and single mother to my nine-year-old son Terrell is difficult, but I know that I will complete this task for us both.”

Each year, the Office of Distinguished Scholarships informs and assists WSU students who seek awards to further their academic pursuits. A wall in the Compton Union Building (CUB)—the WSU Distinguished Scholars Gallery—celebrates the many students who have received the top national, federally funded awards including the Rhodes, Fulbright, Goldwater, Boren, and Gilman. A new framed plaque for the Udall Scholarship will be added to the showcase and will feature Ellenwood.

More information on distinguished scholarships at WSU is available online.