Nez Perce student is WSU’s first national Udall award winner

By Beverly Makhani, Office of Undergraduate Education

Rachel-Ellenwood-webPULLMAN, Wash. – Sophomore and Nez Perce tribal member Rachel E. Ellenwood, 32, of Lapwai, Idaho, has won a nationally competitive scholarship from the Udall Foundation for 2015. She is the first Washington State University student to receive a Udall award.

“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,” said Mary F. Wack, WSU vice provost for undergraduate education.

“Rachel is an exceptional student and is passionate about her Native American community, culture, and heritage,” said Sarah Ann Hones, director of the distinguished scholarships program, part of the WSU Office of Undergraduate Education.

The annual Udall Undergraduate Scholarships include 50 merit-based awards 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 brothers who served as congressmen from Arizona.

Ellenwood will receive a $5,000 scholarship and attend a networking session with other Udall winners.

An honor for family

“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),” she said.

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 Ellenwood’s nickname at home.

Cultural connections

Ellenwood attended Lewis-Clark State College in Lewiston, Idaho, 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 to earn a Ph.D.

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

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 proud that a research poster she created about diabetes hangs in the Nez Perce Tribal Clinic.

For four years, she was a safety and communication specialist for the Nez Perce tribal police department. As a tracker for the tribal probation department, she made daily contact with about 30 students across six schools to keep them motivated and communicating with their parents and school authorities.

“I was able to guide these young people to a more successful path,” she said.

Community and commitment

When she came to WSU, Ellenwood made a point of getting involved. She is a member of the Native American Women’s Association, Green Dot violence prevention initiative, Ku-ah-M’a club and Minority Association of Pre-Health Students.

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

“I am a very driven person and feel like I am ready to take on the world,” she said. “Being a full-time student and single mother to my 9-year-old son Terrell is difficult, but I know that I will complete this task for us both.”

Each year, the distinguished scholarships program ( informs and assists WSU students who seek awards to further their academic pursuits. A wall in the 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.


Rachel Ellenwood,
Sarah Ann Hones, WSU distinguished scholarships, 509-335-8239,
Mary Sanchez Lanier, WSU assistant vice provost, 509-335-7767,