LCCC grad finds inspiration, career path in the West’s open spaces

Shelby Gibson will be a senior at the University of Wyoming this fall,
but before that, she’ll spend her summer Shelby Gibsonputting in 10-hour days working with and learning from the land, an interest inspired from her start at Laramie County Community College. 

A Cheyenne native, Shelby is working as part of her summer internship with the U.S. Forest Service, where she is part of the range crew, managing rangelands and working with cattle herders. The internship is taking place in the Medicine Bow-Routt National Forest and Thunder Basin National Grassland, offering her opportunities to work with various crews and travel across the state and into Colorado. Her role involves preparing ranges for cattle, checking pastures and streams, identifying plants and ensuring the rangelands are maintained properly.

The connection to the land and the amazing places it has taken her has helped Shelby to figure out what she wants her future to be. 

“I can see myself settling down here in Wyoming, Idaho or Montana, so I wanted to be involved in what we're really known for and what we have a lot of,” Shelby said. “Right now, I'm experiencing range management, managing rangelands and cattle, and connecting with herders and permittees. That’s where I’m at. As I go into my senior year, I want to experience everything I can."

The journey in higher education began in her hometown at LCCC, which Shelby said has been an ideal launchpad for her trajectory. 

A student at Central High School, Shelby started her college journey through dual and concurrent enrollment courses at LCCC. Concurrent enrollment classes are college-level courses taught at high schools, with credits recorded on both high school and LCCC transcripts. Dual enrollment classes are taken at LCCC or online, with tuition covered for up to four classes for high school students. Shelby took courses such as English and psychology as part of dual enrollment, while math courses were part of her concurrent endeavors.  

Attending LCCC as the next step made sense for Shelby. Her father worked there and her mother was involved with the college’s Fit Kids Camp in the summer. But more importantly, LCCC held several advantages for the recent high school graduate. With her family home in Cheyenne, Shelby saved by staying local her first two years of college, with scholarships easing the financial burden even further. The smaller class sizes facilitated stronger connections with her instructors, enhancing her learning experience compared to large lecture halls typical of four-year universities.

The decision of what to study in college wasn’t fully clear when she began at LCCC, and Shelby said she’s still, in some ways, figuring out what specifically her future holds.  

Coming from an outdoorsy family and having a broad interest in various sciences, she felt drawn to studying the natural world, which she could explore through LCCC’s STEM Pathway. 

“I wasn't sure if I wanted to do biology, geology or environmental science, because I had an interest in all these different fields,” Shelby said. “The STEM Pathway at LCCC felt right because it allowed me to explore various sciences and figure out the right path for me. And I did."

As the end of her time at LCCC approached, having earned her associate of science in biology, Shelby said her transfer to UW went smoothly, largely due to the support from the college's STEM Pathway Coordinator, Trent Morrell. He provided numerous resources, such as brochures and handouts, to explore her options, including at UW’s Haub School of Environment and Natural Resources. 

"Trent was really good about providing me with brochures and handouts on all my different options within the Haub School of Environment and Natural Resources at UW, which was super helpful because that's where I was leaning towards," Shelby said. 

The time at LCCC, particularly the academic rigor and biology courses, prepared Shelby well for the expectations at UW, she said. Anticipating her first semester at UW to be more challenging due to the larger school environment, Shelby found that her experiences at LCCC had more than equipped her for the transition. The personalized and well-structured lab classes at LCCC gave her a strong foundation, ensuring she was academically prepared for her studies at UW.

With her time as an undergraduate entering its final chapter, Shelby knows her exploration of the different areas of expertise through her internship will reveal the answers for what’s next. Shelby finds being outdoors the best part of her work, working in places where her family has hiked and camped, and discovering new, amazing places. 

"I text my parents every day to let them know what I did because I'm so amazed at what we did and the beautiful new places I've found,” Shelby said. 

The decision to stay in Wyoming for college wasn’t a certainty for Shelby. But she ultimately chose Wyoming colleges for their affordability, proximity to home and quality programs. Though she’s still figuring out the finer points of what her education will lead to, Shelby knows her hard work is paying off, as she embarks on a future of unlimited potential in the West.

“Being able to see new places close to home and be part of Wyoming makes me love Wyoming a little bit more every day," she said. “I'm really hoping to branch out, take opportunities as they come, and try anything that comes up to find what I truly love.” 

Go here for more information about the STEM Pathway at LCCC.