By Micaela Myers
"The first day of my freshman year in 1998, I called my dad when I got home from class, and I said, 'Come get me and bring me home.' I said, 'I can't do this,' " recalls Lori Lewis. "I think it's because I was so afraid of failure. I was so scared I wasn't going to do well."
Lewis persevered and quickly found the University of Wyoming to be an extremely supportive environment. "I think I owe a lot to the University of Wyoming," she says.
Originally from Mitchell, Neb., Lewis now considers Laramie her hometown. After earning her initial bachelor's degree in business administration, Lewis was soon hired by UW's College of Business, working as a staff member in the dean's office and then in the MBA program. She took advantage of the school's employee benefit program that offers one free class a semester and earned her master's degree in public administration. Her job then brought her to the UW College of Law, where she served as deputy director of admissions and student services.
Still, she yearned to accomplish one final educational goal that she believes will benefit her family: to become an accountant in the oil and gas industry. Once again, Lewis found UW profoundly supportive of this goal. The College of Business hired her back at half time with full benefits to allow her to attend school full time, pursuing an accounting major.
"When I came back to the College of Business, they were very generous in terms of the college scholarships that they gave me," she says. She also received a Jane M. Klausman Women in Business Scholarship and is a member of the Beta Alpha Psi accounting honors society.
"It's been amazing that I've been able to keep my daughter in the daycare that she's at, a quality day care, and pay my mortgage while I go back to school," Lewis says of the scholarships she's received. "I'm usually up by 3 or 4 a.m. I try to get my homework done before my daughter gets up and try to stay up after she goes to bed to get other stuff done. My husband helps a lot, and we also have a very good support system in town.
"This semester I'm teaching a class as well, so I'm faculty, staff and student all at once," she adds.
While the balance isn't easy, Lewis encourages other nontraditional students to live their dreams.
"Don't let age, money or time stop you," she says. "You can do anything you put your mind to. The university is very supportive of nontraditional students. There's a lot of funding out there and a lot of opportunity to get scholarships.
"I'm speaking at commencement, and one thing I want to tell the students is that they shouldn't expect their education to end now, even with a bachelor's degree—learning is going to be a lifelong adventure."
One of the 10 Cowboy Ethics adopted by UW is "Always finish what you start." Sticking with school as a first-year student from out of state led Lori Lewis to a lifelong love of learning