Cheyenne native takes unexpected path to leadership in higher education

Danielle OppDanielle Opp knows how important it is to have the right people in management roles when delivering health care. Good managers make better decisions for effective operations, keep staff morale high and adapt to an always-changing industry. The most important result, she said, is quality patient care. 

As the Health Sciences and Bachelor of Health Administration Program director at Laramie County Community College, Opp is helping students take on those vital administrative roles in healthcare.

However, being a community college leader and instructor for a health care program wasn’t always a part of Opp’s future vision. She had a plan for her life when she graduated from high school in Cheyenne: she wanted to be an elementary school teacher.

Right out of high school in 2001, Opp started taking classes at LCCC to that end. But plans changed when she became pregnant in her second year of her associate degree program, and she decided to stay home to care for the kids.

Still, those circumstances didn’t permanently end her desire to pursue a degree to help her family. 

“As I was staying home with my kids, I knew I would start back in school again full-time once my youngest started kindergarten,” Opp said. “I’ve just always loved working with people.”

While raising her children convinced Opp elementary education wasn’t what she wanted to do, she also learned she could deal with some of the more seemingly off-putting aspects of health care. Having always enjoyed photography, Opp said she began pursuing the X-ray field since it was like taking photos but inside the body.

She took her prerequisites online while her youngest was still at home. Then, the day her son started kindergarten, Opp started the Radiography Program at LCCC.

After graduating, Opp was offered a position at a clinical site she worked at during school. The position, however, was in mammography — something Opp didn’t have any experience with. That didn’t stop her, as she sought more education and learned the job on the go which led her to complete her registry for mammography. With further education, she completed registries in CT and MRI as well.

Opp said she always figured she should have a backup plan for her career, as being an X-ray technologist can be physically demanding so she completed a Bachelor of Healthcare Management. 

Working with students during clinicals quickly became one of her favorite parts of the job. This reignited her desire to become a teacher and Opp began looking with interest at teaching positions at LCCC’s Health Science and Wellness Pathway, leading her to earn her Master’s degree in Higher Education. When a position came open at LCCC that required a master’s degree in Healthcare Administration, she also forged ahead to earn that degree.

“When I first started college, I thought I’d probably get my bachelor’s and not go much beyond that,” Opp said. “Now I have two master’s degrees, and I’m working on my doctorate.”

Opp came back to LCCC in 2020 to lead the newly-implemented Bachelor of Applied Science in Healthcare Administration program. It was the first of two bachelor’s degree programs to be offered at the college, graduating students with those degrees for the first time in 2022.

Today, Opp said she looks back at her time as a student at LCCC when her life began to change for the better.

“We were living very much paycheck-to-paycheck, within pennies, and coming to LCCC changed my family’s trajectory,” she said. “Getting that first degree here led me on the path to where I’m at now. I would have never imagined I’d be here.”

There were challenging times, Opp said, in obtaining her degrees while balancing work, marriage and children. But looking back on it now, she said it was all worthwhile.

“Every single degree I’ve gotten has paid off because it’s led to better opportunities and toward what I wanted to do,” Opp said. “Sometimes, my husband and I were eating ramen for weeks so I could buy my books. But every single one of those little sacrifices we made was worth it.”

For more information about the Health Science and Wellness Pathway at LCCC, go to lccc.wy.edu/healthSciences. Contact Danielle Opp at doppFREELARAMIE or 307.778.1363 for more information about the Bachelor of Applied Science in Healthcare Administration program