Ellen Tinker is one of more than 900 graduates who will walk across the stage at commencement this week. Tinker, however, will play a prominent role as the December 2023 commencement ceremony student speaker.

Tinker, who earned her degree in nursing, is from San Diego, California. Originally from China, she was adopted by an American family as a child. “A big part of my story is being adopted from China,” she said. “So coming from that and being an orphan to being commencement speaker at an amazing university is something I’m very proud of and grateful for.”

She found her college home at UofL after discovering a new career path during the pandemic. At UofL, Tinker became involved in several groups, including serving as president of the Student Nursing Council. Her involvement helped her grow as a leader and set her up for success after graduation.

UofL News had the opportunity to speak with Tinker ahead of graduation to find out more about her experience at UofL and her plans moving forward.

UofL News: Why did you choose UofL?

Tinker: I chose UofL because I wanted an out-of-state school with both great academics and school spirit. I wanted research opportunities and a strong health care environment, but also a tailgate scene and things like that.

 UofL News: Why did you decide to on nursing as your career path?

Tinker: I went to school in D.C. until COVID hit. I had interned for the House of Representatives and I was really into the Capitol Hill vibe. (But) I switched over to nursing. I was inspired by seeing what the nurses did during the pandemic. I just kind of made a big decision to change my path to nursing.

UofL News: How has the School of Nursing at UofL helped you?

Tinker: The School of Nursing is very, very special. I have a lot of friends in other majors and we’ll chit-chat about the relationships they have with faculty and … the faculty of the School of Nursing is by far the most supportive. They take an interest in their students individually. Just the mindset, there is always growth, so I feel like everyone’s always trying to make the School of Nursing the best that it can be.

UofL News: What professor had the greatest impact on you?

Tinker: I would say Imelda Wright. She was my first medical surgical nurse and she’s just an angel on Earth. She always comes to class in really cool high heels and just is the epitome of a strong woman role model. The other one would be Paul Clark, he is just the most supportive, positive professor. He focuses on mental health in a way that I feel like most professors just don’t. Love them both.

UofL News: What was your most memorable moment at UofL?

Tinker: I would probably say rushing the field at the Notre Dame football game. We were right there at the front and my friends and I stormed the field and I got elbowed in the eye really hard. My contact popped out … I was running with one eye closed and it was just really fun.

UofL News: What are your plans after graduation? What type of nurse are you aspiring to become?

Tinker: I have accepted a job in the UofL Hospital Emergency Department, a Level 1 trauma center.

UofL News: How has UofL helped you grow?

Tinker: UofL has helped me grow through tough classes, clinical experiences, involvement like SGA, opportunities like the Research Scholars Program, leadership roles like being president of Nursing Student Council, etc. I filled my schedule to the max because of so many opportunities from classes to extracurriculars; I’ve grown from being pushed to my limits – usually in a good way! I’ve learned what I’m capable of.