From GED to PhD; alumna blossoms as a clinical psychologist for veterans
Tammie Ellington ’16 was raised in rural Washington and is a member of the Chinook Indian Nation of Bay Center, Washington. She then attended Camas HS for three years but left to attend an alternative school to earn her General Educational Development (GED) in 2007. She was married soon thereafter, had children then subsequently, became a single mom after her divorce. She moved to Medford in 2012, then attended Rogue Community College (RCC) while raising three young children. “I was very proud to attend RCC and raise my babies at the same time. I was the first in my entire family to go to school beyond high school,” she said.
In 2014, Tammie transferred to SOU after earning her associates degree. Her psychology course work was very compelling and she cites Dr. Emily Reeder for being an incredible professor and mentor. But her saving grace at SOU was the Native American Studies (NAS) program, led by David West, Dr. Brook Colley and Brent Florendo. An enrolled member of the Chinook Indian Nation, she flourished within the cultural and historical aspects of the program and the camaraderie found as an important member and two-year co-chair of the of the Native American Student Union (NASU). Tammie reflected, “The multicultural resource center and the Native American Studies office were my second home where I felt like I truly belonged”. She shared what an inspiration and amazing support the equity director, Marvin Woodward, was for her during her time at SOU. “I had great mentors being involved with the NAS program,” she said. As a NASU member and leader, she also took part leading young people in the summer Konaway Nika Tillicum program for Native American youth from primary and secondary schools across the country.
Through her mentors at SOU, she found out about the Ronald E. McNair Achievement Program. The McNair program provides tools and skills for non-traditional and underrepresented minorities entering graduate level education. Her mentors there, Dr. Emily Reeder and Dr. Dee Southard, got her excited about her educational future in psychology and she made the best of the environment and closeness of the students. In 2016, Tammie graduated with her bachelors in psychology and earned a certificate in Native American Studies. She had come a long way since leaving high school but better things awaited.
Tammie entered the graduate clinical counseling psychology program at Utah State University in Logan in 2016. She earned her master’s in 2018 then her PhD in 2021, writing her doctoral dissertation about the positive attributes and ripple effects of the Konaway program at SOU.
Tammie, her husband Britton and their five children moved to Helena, Montana, in 2020 where she now works as a Clinical Psychologist at the Fort Harrison Veterans Administration Hospital. Every summer she returns to SOU to lead Konaway students and she is currently mentoring two SOU students in the McNair program. “I love my job helping veterans and it means a lot to me because of the veterans I have in my family,” she said. “I love everything about SOU. I had great mentors and professors there and the McNair program really got me hooked on education and future possibilities. Being involved with NASU helped me bond with students with similar backgrounds to mine and the fellowship was so special. It was difficult to leave the people, campus and the family atmosphere there, but I love to give back so returning to campus every summer to lead and teach Konaway students, has been a lasting memory for me!”