Honors College Leadership Series

Cultivating Student Leadership at SOU

Cultivating Leaders: Tiana Gilliland’s Scholarly Achievement and Leadership Development

Tiana Gilliland is a first-generation student who grew up in Grant Pass, Oregon. Tiana’s journey to SOU is a brilliant testament to the profound impact of higher education on students who work diligently to carve their own path toward academic excellence. At Grants Pass High School, where Tiana graduated, she participated in an impressive array of extracurricular activities. Key Club, Interact Club, wrestling, cross country, track and field, HOSA (Future Health Professionals), the math team and National Honor Society—all these endeavors laid the foundation for her varied leadership engagement at SOU. Tiana is the second Tribal Nations Honors College Scholar, pursuing Bachelor of Science degrees in both healthcare administration and business administration. Her dedication to cultivating leadership at SOU is remarkable.

Academic Pursuits: A Multifaceted Exploration at SOU 

After participating in the dual enrollment program at RCC and SOU in high school, Tiana was certain she wanted to pursue her degree at SOU. While Tiana is receiving a degree in healthcare administration, she’s also expanded her academic horizons with minors in health promotion and ethics. She’s also embraced the challenge of a second degree in business administration and a certificate in the management of human resources. 

Tiana is a mentor for incoming Native American students, drawing from her own rich heritage—a blend of Shasta Indian Nation, Powhatan, Cherokee, and Blackfoot ancestry. Her involvement in the Native American Student Union, where she serves as treasurer, underscores her dedication to creating a supportive environment for Indigenous students. Tiana’s leadership extends beyond cultural organizations—she presides over the International Student Association as President, orchestrating connections between international students and the broader campus community. 

Part of Tiana’s tremendous achievements include immersing herself in a direct exchange for a year abroad at the University of Nottingham in England. There, she studied philosophy and ethics while also participating in the skydiving team and excelling in American Flag football. She was also actively involved with Rotary International.  

Tiana says, “I chose to study philosophy in the UK as a unique detour from my academic path. By studying ethics, I wanted to cultivate an understanding of what is right and wrong, recognizing its application into healthcare. Studying philosophy opened up my outlook, helping me to understand principles that reach beyond just financial measures.” 

Community Impact: Tiana’s Leadership at SOU 

As President of the International Student Association, Tiana has taken charge of exchange programs and facilitated knowledge exchange for current international students and those wanting to study abroad. Her involvement as President in Rotaract, a volunteer service group on campus, reflects her long-standing commitment to community engagement. Tiana’s leadership extends to the Native American Student Union, where she spearheads the annual Powwow event as well as actively participates in events such as Indigenous Peoples’ Day. Her dedication to diverse leadership roles across SOU’s campus exhibits her passion for making a positive impact but also her ability to navigate challenges with grace and determination.  

Tiana says,

“In my role as a campus leader, I’ve come to appreciate the immense impact of working together and supporting others in achieving their goals. Whether it’s guiding international students or leading the way at Rotaract, these experiences have shown me the true worth of teamwork, resilience, and the incredible impact of community involvement.”

She continues, “Taking charge of the Native American Student Union’s Powwow, from handling finances to making it a reality, has sharpened my strategic planning skills and deepened my understanding of the importance of celebrating diverse cultures. These leadership experiences have taught me that genuine empowerment comes from creating a sense of belonging and inspiring others to unlock their full potential.” 

First-Generation Student Support: Family, Honors College, TRIO, and Beyond 

Tiana’s journey as a first-generation student was not without the challenges of navigating the complexities of higher education independently. Tiana overcame the difficulties of the college application process as well as deciphering financial aid. Through programs like Project Youth+ and TRIO, she found the support needed to surmount financial and logistical hurdles. She also credits Marvin Woodard with the Social Justice & Equity Center as being a true mentor for her. She says, “Marvin is not just someone I talk to; I find solace and support in his office, where his time and assistance go beyond the role of a mentor—he’s always there for me.” 

Tiana remains grounded in her familial bonds. Raised by her mother, she draws inspiration from this support, a force that propels her towards academic excellence and community leadership. She also commends the Honors College for giving her support through her academics.

Tiana says,

“The Honors College is like a tight-knit family; it’s your support system through and through. With small cohorts, around 25 of us in each grade, we take classes together, making it easy to connect, collaborate, and spark ideas. From hosting events to attending them, it’s not just about academics—it’s about being an active member of a community that encourages growth and camaraderie.” 

Future Career Aspirations in Healthcare Administration 

Tiana envisions a future where her dual degrees in healthcare administration and business administration converge in the management of healthcare organizations. With an eye toward ethical considerations in healthcare, Tiana seeks to redefine leadership by incorporating a holistic approach that goes beyond profit margins. 

Tiana says,

“I’m excited about my future career in healthcare administration because I believe it’s an excellent avenue to make a significant impact on communities. I want to blend my love for healthcare with my business expertise to be able to create a space where I can actively contribute to the well-being of others.”

She continues, “Completing medical and business courses in high school, along with hands-on roles at Asante and as a receptionist in a retirement home, has been a foundation for my interest in this career trajectory. I see myself pursuing a master’s in healthcare administration.” 

Tiana is the recipient of several scholarships that have propelled her forward in her educational journey, including the Patricia D. and William B. Smullin Honors College Scholarship, the Ashland Rotary Foundation Jerry and Jeanne Taylor Scholarship Fund, the Jeanne D. Tyran Memorial Scholarship, and the Sheila & Chris Clough Scholarship in Healthcare Administration, to name just a few. Tiana’s experience serves as a compelling example of how education, resilience, and community can shape a student’s educational journey. Reflecting on her path, it’s evident that philanthropic support plays a pivotal role in building the stories of SOU students like Tiana. 

About the Honors College: The Honors College at Southern Oregon University (SOU) is a small college of approximately 100 highly motivated students that exists within the larger university at SOU. Honors College scholars enjoy a challenging, rigorous curriculum, enriching activities both inside and outside of the classroom, and opportunities for both leadership and service. 

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