LCSC graduate Oatman-Wak Wak receives UCEA national honor
Mary Oatman-Wak Wak, a 2006 graduate of Lewis-Clark State College, has been selected as the University Continuing Education Association 2008 Outstanding Nontraditional Student and will be honored during the organization’s annual conference on March 26-29 in New Orleans.
Oatman-Wak Wak was chosen as the Western Region’s Outstanding Nontraditional Student by UCEA during the fall and was one of six finalists for the national award.
“Lewis-Clark State College is thrilled at her selection as UCEA Outstanding Nontraditional Student of the Year!” LCSC President Dene K. Thomas said. “This is a great achievement and Mary makes me so very proud.”
Muriel Oakes, the Chair of the UCEA Awards and Honors Committee and Dean for Washington State University’s Center for Distance and Professional Education, informed LCSC officials on Wednesday that Oatman-Wak Wak had won the award.
Kathy Martin, Dean for Community Programs at LCSC, indicated the competition for this award is fierce.
"In the 12 years I have participated with UCEA, nominees have all been deserving but the winner has always had a special story. Mary has overcome many challenges; she is a leader for her community and the state. We are very proud of her accomplishments."
Oatman-Wak Wak served as student body vice president for a year at LCSC and also was active in other areas of student government. She graduated in May of 2006 with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Justice Studies and a Minor in Nez Perce Language. She regularly made the Dean’s List and President’s List. She was involved with both Ambassador Honor Society and Mock Trial at LCSC.
In June, she was appointed as Idaho’s first Indian Education Coordinator by Idaho Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Luna. Her role is to serve as a liaison between Indian tribes and the state, and Oatman-Wak Wak said in an interview with the Lewiston Tribune this summer that it is her mission to help close the achievement gap between tribal and non-tribal members.
Prior to enrolling at LCSC, Mary worked as a Conservation Enforcement Officer for the Nez Perce Tribe.
In nominating Oatman-Wak Wak for the award, Randy Harper, LCSC’s Director of Summer School and Special Programs, said Mary has been an inspiration to her family and friends.
“Mary Jane Oatman-Wak Wak is a truly unique individual, a role model, and an inspiration,” Harper wrote on the nomination form. “She has achieved against all odds and exceeded beyond all expectations. Along with the challenges of her new job, relocation of her family to Boise, the responsibilities that come with being a wife and mother, she is now just 12 credits away from a Masters Degree in Anthropology from the University of Idaho. Mary’s story is the kind of story that provides material for a great movie or hard-to-put-down novel – because her story is true – and, to all who know her, truly inspirational.”