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Barbara Sessions’ route through college took many twists and turns but led to great success for this nontraditional student.
It began in 1992, when she graduated from Star Valley High School and came to the University of Wyoming. However, her senior year, she was unable to return to complete her degree. Distance offerings were limited at the time.
“As I began my family, I had three beautiful daughters and felt very strongly that at some point in my life I had to finish my degree -- not just because it was my dream, but also because I was making barely more than minimum wage,” Sessions says. “I also wanted my daughters to understand how important it was for them to go to college.”
Money was tight, and the dream kept being deferred until 2002, when Sessions took a job as a part-time human resources assistant at Silver Star Communications, a regional telephone company that offers tuition reimbursement.
“Because more than 10 years had passed since I had been on campus, many of the degree programs had changed, and I was required to take most of my general education classes over,” Sessions says. Her job moved to full time, and she began taking online classes at Western Wyoming Community College, earning her associate degree in 2005.
“I had three young children at home and a husband working shift work at the local mine,” Sessions says. “It was tough! I would work during the day, run home to spend quality time with my family, and when everyone went to bed I would begin my homework.”
She went on to earn her bachelor’s degree in business administration from UW in 2007.
“A week after my graduation, I received my first promotion at Silver Star to my first leadership position. A few years went by, and I still had the desire to continue growing and learning, so I started the online MBA program at UW,” says Sessions, who finished the MBA program in 2016. “This was one of the most rewarding things I have ever done in my life. I loved the classes that I took as part of this program and use the knowledge daily.”
Sessions is now chief operating officer for Silver Star, overseeing all operational, sales, marketing and customer service functions -- and serving as the liaison for Silver Star at the state and federals level promoting broadband deployment.
She dreams of one day earning her doctorate. “I think Dr. Sessions has a nice ring,” Sessions says. “I would also love to become a professor after I retire from my current position to share the knowledge I have with others.”
Her daughters followed in their mother’s higher education footsteps, with one set to earn her teaching degree this fall, another studying to become an appraiser, and the youngest graduating high school next spring and planning to become a history teacher.
Sessions is active in the state and community, having served on the ENDOW executive council, Afton Planning Commission and Afton economic development board, and currently serving on the Wyoming Broadband Advisory Council, Wyoming Business Alliance and Afton Town Council. Sessions also volunteers with Habitat for Humanity, Afton Food Pantry and other community service projects.
“The university instills the idea that giving back is important. My time at UW was so critical to my growth and development as a young person,” she says, adding that the university isn’t just for young people. “If you are not a young student who is just graduating, there are ways to get your degree from your home. The online programs are phenomenal. You have access to the same professors and tools that students do on campus. My life and my family’s has been changed by what I was able to achieve with the support of UW.”
Once you become a UW Cowboy, it will change your life, Sessions says.
“Being a Cowboy is something I am so proud of. It means that I honor my family, my country, my community—it is our way of life, it is who we are. You are your word, you are your actions—you are a Cowboy!”
Barbara Sessions WAS a featured speaker at the event on July 21, 2020
Afton | Canyon View Park