Washington State University students Frances Ward and Jonnie Bray are the newest recipients of prestigious Udall Undergraduate Scholarship awards, each woman placing among the top 11% of national recipients in their respective Udall categories.

Ward will study nursing at WSU Spokane Health Sciences campus this fall, and is one of nine recipients out of 35 applicants in Udall’s Native American health-care category. Bray, an international economics and development major, is one of nine recipients out of 38 applicants in Udall’s tribal public policy category.

Both were advised by April Seehafer, director of WSU’s Distinguished Scholarships Program, part of the Division of Academic Engagement and Student Achievement in the Office of the Provost and Executive Vice President.

Ward and Bray will each receive $7,000 for their WSU education and attend a virtual Udall Scholar orientation to network with recipients and community leaders and learn about the Udall legacy of public service.

From law to economics

Closeup of Jonnie Bray
Jonnie Bray

A member of the Confederate Tribes of Colville Reservation, Bray built a long career in the Native American legal system before transferring to WSU in fall 2020 with credits from Wenatchee Valley College (WVC) and Gonzaga University.

Having passed the tribal court bar in 1993, she served 26 years as a prosecutor then public defender/case manager for Colville Confederated Tribes, and as an on-call judge pro tempore for Spokane Tribal Court. She is also a public defender/guardian ad litem, and drafted changes to tribal election codes to ease absentee voting. Envisioning systemic changes to expand the economic potential of tribes, she decided to pursue a bachelor’s degree at WSU.

Bray intends to become an economist in the Division of Economic Development at the Dept. of the Interior/Indian Affairs, focusing “on key areas to increase the availability of middle-income housing, reduce brain-drain in Indian country, and more effectively utilize existing legislation.”

Bray is the youngest of her parents’ seven children and the first to earn a college degree. She credits her partner Ricky Gabriel for supporting her educational and career goals.

“I thank the Udall Foundation for providing funding to help cover my next year of college. Freedom from financial stress will allow me to connect with others and better grow my circle of help to build a better future for my people.”

Blending indigenous with Western health care

Closeup of Frances Ward
Frances Ward

Ward’s choice to attend WSU came easy, she said. As the daughter of Paul Ward and sociology alumna Katherine Saluskin, she had visited WSU Pullman and attended Na-ha-shnee STEAM Summer Institute as a high schooler and member of the Yakama Tribe. She determined to become a nurse. Two life events reinforced her decision.

In December, she became a Yakama Nation COVID Relief Team contact tracer. When she discovered she herself had the virus; it helped her understand its seriousness, she said.

The second experience was when her father had a heart attack; she learned all she could about cardiovascular disease and its “prevalence in Native American communities.”

“My goal is to become a nurse practitioner and provide the highest level of care to Native Americans in rural areas,” she said. She will investigate how Type II diabetes and cardiovascular disease can be associated with morbidity and mortality among Yakama people and Native Americans in general.

“I also want to learn how to blend indigenous knowledge and traditional healing practices with Western medicine, which could lead to longer life spans and greater quality of life, and rebuild trust in the health care system,” she said.

“The Udall Scholarship will help me financially. My Dad had an affiliation with the Udall program and went to Tucson for related activities. I am especially proud to receive this award.”