Passion and determination has led 1988 Dodge City High School graduate Tamara Plush, the Outstanding Higher Degree by Research Theses Dean’s Award from the University of Queensland for her 2016 PhD thesis.

Focusing on ways to collaboratively use video in developing countries, Plush’s thesis was to connect the voices of people least heard in society to policymakers.

That led to Plush seeing the world through international development organizations such as CARE, Save the Children, UNICEF and Plan International; and working in Cambodia, Ethiopia, Indonesia, Kenya, Mozambique, Nepal, South Africa, Tanzania and Vietnam.

"Stories have power, especially when they are explored and shared by people whose voices are often absent in mainstream decision-making," Plush said. "But real change takes more than people hearing other people’s views. This is why my PhD thesis focused on paying attention to who is listening and how to make sure people’s voices can have a real impact for change."

According to Plush, she currently lives in Victoria, Canada, and works with Royal Roads University on a project funded by the Canadian Red Cross.

"The Youth Voices Rising project explores how participatory media and creative arts can connect youth voice to decision-makers after disasters," she said. "It is located in Fort McMurray, Alberta, which experienced one of the worse wildfire disasters in Canada in 2016."

Ken and Betty Plush, Tamara’s parents, have lived and worked in Dodge City for the last 50 years.

After DCHS, Plush went to the University of Kansas from 1988-1992 then on to the University of Sussex, United Kingdom from  2007-2009 for her Master's and her PhD at the University of Queensland, Australia from 2012-2016.

"Before moving overseas in 2006, I lived in Kansas City for 5 years and then Seattle for nearly 10 years working as a video and multimedia producer with Microsoft as my main client," Plush said.

"When I finished my PhD in Australia in 2016, I missed the mountains, forests and friends from the Pacific Northwest, so I looked for jobs in the area.

"A friend connected me to the Resilience by Design Research Innovation Lab in Victoria, British Columbia.

"Together, the RbD Lab and I developed and received funding for a 2-year post-doctoral research project that focuses on strengthening youth capacity and voice in the area of disaster recovery and resilience, which was a perfect fit with my interests and overseas experience.

"The work I do, and my passion for using storytelling as a tool for good can be linked to growing up in Dodge City.

"Being connected to the First Christian Church as a teenager helped me to develop many of the values I have for promoting social justice.

"I was also the editor of the DCHS newspaper, where my journalism teacher Phyllis Wipf inspired critical thinking, creative expression and the importance of using media as a positive force for change."