WSU seniors Ellenwood, Torpey, and Weyand sweep national Udall scholarship categories for 2016-17

MEDIA: April Seehafer, WSU Distinguished Scholarships Program, 509-335-8239,

MEDIA: Mary Sanchez Lanier, Assistant Vice Provost, WSU Undergraduate Education, 509-335-8239,

PULLMAN, Wash.—Washington State University undergraduate seniors Rachel Ellenwood, Tillie Torpey, and Logan Weyand have received national 2016 Udall Foundation awards in each of its three categories: native health care, tribal policy, and the environment.

All of the awards represent a “first” for the university, said April Seehafer, director of the WSU Distinguished Scholarships Program, part of WSU Undergraduate Education.

Ellenwood is WSU’s first two-time Udall award winner; her award in 2015 made her the first student in WSU history to receive this scholarship. She is a pre-nursing and comparative ethnic studies major from Lapwai, Idaho, and a member of the Nez Perce Tribe.

Torpey, an elementary education major and member of the Coeur d’Alene tribe in Worley, Idaho, is WSU’s first Udall scholarship winner in its tribal policy category.

Weyand, a wildlife ecology major from Bainbridge Island pursing veterinary medicine, is WSU’s first Udall in the environment category. His is also WSU’s first Udall honorable mention award.

“The interests and career aspirations of these exceptional students align perfectly with the mission of this prestigious national scholarship program,” said Seehafer. “Thanks to their Udall recognition, they will be role models for other students in terms of service to their Native communities and the environment.”

Funding for WSU education

Ellenwood and Torpey will receive up to $7,000 each to be applied toward the cost of their WSU education. They will also attend a week-long the Udall scholar orientation Aug. 9-14 in Tucson, networking with other recipients, learning about the Udall legacy of public service, and interacting with community leaders in environmental fields, tribal health care, and governance.

The Udall Foundation reports that 482 eligible applicants were nominated by 227 colleges nationwide, with 398 applying in the environment category, 33 in health care, and 51 in tribal public policy. Sixty scholars and 51 honorable mentions were selected; 40 scholarships were awarded in the environment category; 5 in Native American health care—of whom three, including Ellenwood, were Udall Scholars in 2015; and 15 in tribal public policy.

Ellenwood inspires others

Receiving her Udall for 2015 has helped Ellenwood tremendously, and allowed her “to grow in many ways,” she said.

“At the fall orientation, I met a lot of amazing and passionate, well-educated people who are just as driven as me. Although a majority of them are taking different studies, we all have the same goal: to better our communities.”

“The Udall helped pay for my education, which is a tremendous relief. I’m very honored and grateful for the foundation’s continued support of me. At orientation, they stated that we are now a part of the Udall family, and, so far, it’s proven to be true,” said Ellenwood.

“I received a lot of praise and continued encouragement from my Nez Perce community and at WSU. I found myself recruiting for Udall applicants in an informal way on Facebook, showing friends and family that ‘there’s funding out there for you if you have big aspirations!’”

One of her big aspirations this year was to add a second major to her studies.

“I asked myself, ‘What more can I do to give back to my community?’ and I decided I could teach courses in a discipline that focuses on big issues about society, diversity, culture, and social problems. It is called comparative ethnic studies, and taking classes in it has inspired me to add teaching to my career plans in addition to being a nurse practitioner. I would like to teach at Northwest Indian College on the Nez Perce reservation where I completed my associate’s degree.”

As a nurse practitioner, Ellenwood—who goes by the nickname “Chedda”—plans to educate tribal members on prenatal health issues, cancer, and diabetes prevention and management.

In addition to maintaining her own busy course load, being a mom to her son Terrell, and keeping in close touch with her immediate family and the tribe, Ellenwood is very involved in the WSU community. She is a member and former president of the Native American Women’s Association (NAWA), a member and former vice chair of Ku-ah-M’a club under ASWSU, and a mentor at the Native American Student Center through Multicultural Student Services.

Torpey keeps traditions

Torpey learned of the Udall through the campus Native American Student Center and from her best friend, Ellenwood. Her award will help her complete her undergraduate degree and aim for a career dedicated to knowledge of, and for, her Coeur d’Alene tribal community.

Most immediately, she will teach at the Salish School of Spokane, where toddlers through first-graders can learn the endangered Interior Salish languages of the Pacific Northwest, creating a new generation of Native speakers. She plans to earn a master’s degree and then a Ph.D. in indigenous studies before returning “full-time to my community to improve its educational system and preserve our language and culture.”

She is the daughter of two U.S. Navy veterans: Ronald George Torpey Jr., a Coeur d’Alene tribal member, and Veronica Jean Torpey, a Navajo from Ganado, Ariz. The couple settled on the Coeur d’Alene Indian Reservation in Idaho, about 35 miles northeast of Pullman, where they raised two older sons and Tillie.

“College was always in my mindset,” she said, noting her mother attended Haskell Indian Nations University in Kansas and an older brother recently graduated in ecology from the University of Idaho. On the reservation, her teachers encouraged her to go to college. The WSU College of Education’s Associate Dean for Diversity and International Programs Paula Groves Price visited the reservation and has been a mentor to Torpey for many years. Torpey ultimately choose WSU because of the many connections and opportunities available to her. Once at the university, she became a member of the McNair Scholars Program, the Tribal Nation Building Leadership Program, and the Plateau Center on campus.

“My education is about earning my degrees to help my people, not just me,” she said. Named khwist ha tar’i’m (One Who Walks with Thunder) by her grandfather at 3, Torpey always sets goals. “I know who I am, and at WSU it has become more clear where I fit. While many Native American students come to college from different backgrounds, my family and community raised me to live with the land on our reservation, to interact with the environment, to pick huckleberries and camas roots to eat, to raise chicken and geese, grow gardens, ride horses, and fish and hunt game.

“With my education I will be even better prepared to be one who shares with my people the history, language, and culture of my and other tribes, and helps to revitalize them and empower youth to adopt and carry on the values.”

Perhaps her goals reflect a destiny. Torpey is a descendent of an ancestor named Twisted Earth, who steered members to keep their family’s ways of life; as such, she said, she is bound to keep traditions. She is part of the Seventh Generation, today’s young indigenous people—the seventh or so generation since white settlers came to the Northwest—who are involved in an era of Native cultural, social, and political renaissance. Recently, she was honored to participate in a two-day sacred jump dance winter ceremony with her family. She has been “involved in this practice before the time I could remember” and she plans to pass that tradition down to the next generations.

Central to Torpey’s pursuits and accomplishments is her three-year-old daughter, Jayda. “She is already so smart, she inspires me to be better and do better all the time.” She has high hopes that Jayda will follow in her footsteps.

“Just as my grandfather named me, my father named my daughter uwiww, pronounced Ooh-we-wu-wu,” she said. “It means One Who Talks a Lot. And you have to talk a lot if you are going to teach people, so I think she will be a good teacher.”

Weyand studies bighorns

Aspiring state wildlife veterinarian Logan Weyand believes in the importance of educating human communities on regional animal and ecological health. Though just 21 years old, his belief is based on years of first-hand experience. That and scientific knowledge gained from his college education.

His Udall honorable mention, he said, “gives me a huge sense of motivation to keep working and putting my heart into issues I feel I can help. Just the process of applying was valuable since I looked deeply into what I’ve been doing and seeing that it matters. I’ll be more confident to be in leadership roles, say, in wildlife organizations.”

In fall 2016, he joins the entering class of the WSU College of Veterinary Medicine while also completing his undergraduate senior year as a wildlife ecology major. Thanks to acceptance into a “3 + 4” program in the WSU Honors College, he will earn his doctoral degree in veterinary medicine plus his bachelor’s degree in seven years instead of the normal eight.

This summer he’s logging hundreds more hours of hands-on experience monitoring bighorn sheep, mountain ungulates to which he has already dedicated three years. Working 20 miles south of Pullman in the Hells’ Canyon region touching Washington, Idaho, and Oregon and cut by the Snake River, he will often hike through treacherously steep gorges and grassy hills to check lamb survival rates in four bighorn herds.

In February three months earlier, he fulfilled lead veterinary responsibiliites on a six-hour mission to radiocollar and test animals for general health and pneumonia—a significant cause of bighorn mortality—in a herd some hundred miles north of Pullman, not far from the Canadian border. A team of wildlife professionals plus volunteers used helicopters to capture and blindfold the animals, and Weyand performed blood draws, injections, and health checks, and coordinated additional sampling of the six sheep. Having participated in a similar exercise the year before, he was able to step in with experience when the event was moved forward a day and the scheduled veterinarian could not be there.

His interest in biology and science began early. “As a kid, I was extremely interested in bats, birds, and insects,” he said. “In elementary school, I learned about ecosystems and wildlife from my teachers and I learned about environmental issues when I watched a movie about climate change, ‘An Inconvenient Truth,’ featuring former Vice President and Nobel Peace Prize winner Al Gore.”

Before graduating from Bainbridge High School, he volunteered on a beaver relocation project in the Methow Valley, counted spotted owls for surveys, and as an intern at the North Cascades Basecamp he learned more about raptors, hummingbirds, and conservation biology. He saw his first bighorn sheep on a cross-country family trip.

“Since I became a WSU student, I’ve also worked on two projects to care for and help reintroduce 600 pygmy rabbits into their Columbia Basin habitat.” By sharing his experience, he inspired several friends to volunteer. “This volunteer experience is most significant to me because it signifies the ongoing and unrelenting spirit that many humans and I have for caring for even the smallest living members of our world, like pygmy rabbits.”

His mentors at WSU and beyond include: Gretchen Kaufman, global educational programs coordinator at the Paul Allen School for Global Animal Health; Lisa Shipley, wildlife ecologist in the School of the Environment; Kristin Mansfield, veterinarian with the Washington State Department of Fish and Wildlife; and Thomas Besser, veterinarian and the Rocky Crate DVM and Wild Sheep Foundation Chair in Wild Sheep Disease Research.

Weyand’s parents are Tim and Kathleen Weyand, of Bainbridge Island, Wash.

Guiding students for five years

Since 2011, the WSU Distinguished Scholarships Program has informed and assisted 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 Udall, Rhodes, Fulbright, Goldwater, Boren, Gilman, and Truman. The framed plaque for the Udall Scholarship featuring Ellenwood was the one most recently added to the wall.