Ellie Heerema

Ellie Heerema

2024 Human Development
and Family Science Alumna

When Ellie Heerema thinks about her life’s passions, she remembers her education at Indiana State University. The 2024 Human Development and Family Science graduate from DeMotte, Indiana, says she thrived in the close-knit, supportive community here on campus and in the local Terre Haute community.

Heerema aspires to create that same sense of belonging and well-being for other college students in her intended career as a professional therapist in the higher ed space. As a member of the Honors College, the Sycamore served as an Honors Peer Mentor who assisted 25 freshmen students throughout their first semester at Indiana State. She provided tips and advice to aid these students in adjusting to college life. At the same time, Heerema helped them to connect with peers and professors and become involved with service projects, student clubs, and organizations.

“I wanted to be an older friend these students could talk to when they needed help. I went through the same process they did. I was once a freshman, so I wanted them to know they could always talk to me about anything,” Heerema says. “I got to know them on a personal level, and we found common interests to talk about. In fact, I gained one of my best friends by being an Honors Peer Mentor.”

Heerema was familiar with Indiana State because of family connections. Her mother and cousins are Sycamore alumni, so she knew about the wonderful opportunities the University offered.

“Indiana State feels like home. You’re able to get involved, go on trips, speak at conferences, get to know your professors, ask questions, and take risks,” she says.

Ellie Heerema, a white female student wit shoulder-length brown hair, stands against a railing in an atrium. She wears a white long-sleeved sweatshirt with "Indiana State University Honors College" in blue lettering in the top right corner. Tables and chairs are in the atrium, along with greenery. Brick walls are visible behind her.

When Heerema speaks with future Honors College students, she tells them about the varied and exciting learning experiences she enjoyed on campus and outside the classroom. These included making a service trip to Puerto Rico, taking unique classes on banned books and the philosophy of the popular Netflix series Stranger Things, and completing a thesis project on general anxiety disorder.

“My classes related to society, which helped me in my major,” explains Heerema, who also picked up minors in counseling and nonprofit leadership.

In her Human Development and Family Science major, Heerema worked with multiple family agencies and studied human interactions from infancy to older adulthood. She obtained nonprofit leadership skills and explored theories for family life interactions. She also developed effective interview skills for when she pursues her career in counseling.

“My professors pushed me to see my full potential as a counselor. They were always available to answer my questions. They also exposed me to opportunities for post-graduate studies,” says Heerema, who plans to pursue a master’s degree in clinical mental health therapy.

With her minors, Heerema has had plenty of experiences in nonprofit leadership and counseling through internships. For instance, she worked as a teacher’s assistant at Right Steps Child Development Center in Lafayette, Indiana, where she learned how to help children of all age levels. Then, she completed an administrative internship for Phil’s Friends in Crown Point, Indiana. The nonprofit organization prepares care packages for cancer patients.

The Sycamore also completed an outreach internship at Terre Haute’s Maryland Community Church, where she assisted with foster care programs and participated in emergency removal calls. The internship taught Heerema how to be a caring, compassionate therapist during difficult times, she says.

Finally, for a class in her major, Heerema volunteered for Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Wabash Valley, where she participated in sports-based programs with elementary school students. Each internship broadened her understanding of counseling, nonprofit leadership, communication, and clinical therapy.

“I learned so much in my major, and my internships enhanced that classroom education with real-world understanding. Each internship helped me figure out what I want to do with my career,” she says.

Ellie Heerema, a white female student wit shoulder-length brown hair, stands outside, posing next to a railing. She wears a white long-sleeved sweatshirt with "Indiana State University Honors College" in blue lettering in the top right corner. She also wears a backpack. Greenery is visible behind her.

Back on campus, Heerema spread the word about nonprofit leadership with other Sycamores. During her senior year, she served as vice president of Indiana State’s Nonprofit Leadership and Service Association. She answered questions about nonprofit leadership and activism, and she promoted the University’s nonprofit leadership minor. Because of her passion for nonprofit organizations, Heerema hoped other Sycamores would also participate in service projects.

This involvement was noticed by her professors. Dr. Nathan Schaumleffel, associate professor in the Department of Political Science, asked Heerema to join the Nonprofit Leadership Alliance, a national program that ensures nonprofit organizations have the talented workforce needed to fulfill their missions. Heerema was one of six students across the United States to join the program as an undergraduate student. As a program participant, she continued to promote nonprofit service.

“Ellie excelled as a student, student worker, and student leader with the Nonprofit Leadership and Service Association! Her attention to detail and passion for improving the lives of others made her remarkably successful, as well as an invaluable asset as an Extern for the Nonprofit Leadership Alliance and Indiana State’s Nonprofit Leadership program,” Schaumleffel comments. “Her career is just starting, but I am sure she will make a difference in the lives of others wherever she chooses to go in life!”

Ellie Heerema, a white female student wit shoulder-length brown hair, sits on a bench with her feet up on the bench. She wears a white long-sleeved sweatshirt with "Indiana State University Honors College" in blue lettering in the top right corner. A brick building is visible behind her. Greenery is also visible behind her.

“I’m a different person now than when I first started college,” Heerema adds. “It’s why I want to be a therapist for college students, because there is so much growth that happens in four years. It’s four years of continuous growth. I want to build a community, and I’m thankful Indiana State was a welcoming community to me.”

Going forward, there are numerous ways for Heerema to lend a helping hand. From nonprofit work to leadership development to offering advice to someone who needs support, she has made and will continue to make a difference. Because compassionate learners wear BLUE!