Phoenix Feature: Shelby Lahammer | Cumberland University

Phoenix Feature: Shelby Lahammer

Senior Shelby Lahammer has known what she wanted to do since she was a little girl. Her life long dream was to follow in her mother and grandmother’s footsteps as psychologists for Indian Health Service. 

“As members of the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe in South Dakota, my family has dedicated most of their lives to the tribes,” said Lahammer. “In high school, I participated in NASA (Native American Student Association) where we volunteered at pow-wows and raised awareness for our association. I always loved seeing how much of an impact my mother and grandmother made on the facilities where they worked. I hope to make just as big of an impact on the people I work with in the future.”

Lahammer has already begun to make her impact on the Native Americans and Alaskan Natives through her Student Pathways Internship with the Indian Health Service in Nashville. 

Her main duty was to shadow the behavioral health consultant as they reviewed the behavioral health programs at different tribal facilities.

“One of my favorite experiences from shadowing was when we traveled to Choctaw, Mississippi to attend the Youth Leadership Conference where I presented on how technology can overstimulate your brain,” said Lahammer. “This put me out of my comfort zone because I had to present in front of 500 Native American students from grades K-12, but it was a great learning experience.”

“My position also allowed me to attend the 2019 Behavioral Health Summit where I learned about teaching mental health in Native communities and implementing youth suicide prevention programs. This conference made me realize how important behavioral health is when it comes to the community and how psychologists are greatly needed in these areas. I’m looking forward to working with these tribes and helping them tackle these recurring issues.”

After graduating from CU this fall, Lahammer has plans to pursue her master’s degree in psychology and eventually obtain her doctorate so that she will be able to work as a psychologist for the tribes, focusing specifically on substance use.

While at CU, Lahammer found a sense of community much like the one she has within her tribe.

“I have a lot of different interests and no matter what, I can always find a group of friends on campus that are willing to enjoy them with me,” said Lahammer. “CU is small, but it’s a strong community where people are always nice and welcoming. The professors are proof of that. Dr. Jenny Mason and Dr. Bilbrey Worthington both pushed me to work as hard as I could while still making sure that I was taking time off to slow down and practice self-care. They both have prepared me greatly to take on graduate school!”

“Shelby is a wonderful student and great community leader, both within the CU campus and beyond,” said Dr. Jenny Mason. “She proudly talks about her Native heritage in psychology courses, applying the information we teach to her unique community situation and circumstances, not simply in the classroom, but even beyond our walls in working directly on Indian reservations.”

“Her peers see her as a leader, yes, but also first see her as a friend,” said Mason. “I appreciate her because I can count on her to provide me with quality work and she always shows me a strong work ethic. I’m just glad to know Shelby and can’t wait to see what great changes she makes in all our communities.”

Lahameer will not only leave CU with a degree and a dream, but a life long community of friends and mentors.

“If I hadn’t have come to CU, I wouldn’t have made the great relationships I have today.”