From Here, You Can Go Anywhere

Meet nine UW graduates working in exciting careers across the nation and right here in Wyoming.

By Micaela Myers

Whether it’s overseeing oil infrastructure projects worldwide or treating patients at a medical clinic in Cheyenne, University of Wyoming graduates take part in exciting careers across the globe and from coast to coast.

“UW offers the best of all worlds—world-class academics, a beautiful natural setting, distinctive seasons, warm people and a culture that builds character,” says Richard Lynch, a UW graduate who is now the senior vice president for developments, drilling and completions at Hess Corp. “UW prepared me for life by underpinning my education for a rewarding career, as well as instilling values I use every day as a father, husband and a friend to those in need.”

Below, you’ll meet nine UW graduates from various fields and at different stages in their careers—showing that from here, you can truly go anywhere.

Steve Neuberger, graphic design B.A. 2011. Senior graphic designer for AMC Networks in New York City

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The problem solving and independence Steve Neuberger learned at UW serve him well in his design career. (Courtesy Photo)

Not long after graduating from UW, Steve Neuberger headed off to the Big Apple to pursue his graphic design career. “I ended up landing a job at an advertising agency called Bandujo,” he says. He stayed there for five years working his way from a junior to senior position before landing his current job with AMC Networks, where he’s responsible for marketing material and web design for the Shudder and Sundance Now streaming services.

“I like my new job a lot, because you get to see your work impact the product itself,” Neuberger says. “You get to build something from the ground up.”

UW’s professors gave him a great foundation, which allows him to adapt quickly. Neuberger has taken that into his career: “Once you leave, the learning never stops. You’re going to constantly need to learn new things, especially in today’s day and age. I feel UW really instilled how to learn and problem-solve and be independent about it.”

Neuberger also appreciated the small class sizes and close-knit community. “I loved going to the football games, and I loved the comedy shows. I felt like there were always things going on,” Neuberger says. “I’ve worked with kids out of the Ivy League, and I feel like my college experience was better.

“I would definitely recommend UW,” he says. “It’s a great education.”

Samantha Michelena Pieper, kinesiology and health science B.S. 2006. Doctor at Cheyenne Obstetrics and Gynecology, Cheyenne, Wyo.

woman in a white coat with a stethoscope over her shoulders
Dr. Samantha Michelena Pieper enjoyed small class sizes and friendly instructors during her time at UW.

Samantha Michelena Pieper treats women of all ages in her medical practice in Cheyenne. Her husband, Brian Pieper, is also a UW graduate and owns Albany Eye Clinic in Laramie. “We are both very proud and honored to be serving our communities,” Pieper says, adding that more than half of the physicians in her clinic are UW alumni.

After graduation from UW, Pieper took part in WWAMI, a multistate program that reserves 20 seats a year for qualified Wyoming residents, who then complete their first year on campus at UW and receive their medical degrees through the University of Washington School of Medicine. Pieper completed her residency at the prestigious Creighton University Medical Center in Omaha, Neb., and did a mission trip to the Dominican Republic as a senior resident to help provide health care and surgeries to the underserved women.

She traveled abroad at UW as well: “I did a short summer class that took me to Australia to study the health system there. This was an invaluable experience, giving me a broad view of not only health care but also general living, in both in our country and another, which was a great start for a career in health care.”

During her time as a UW student, Pieper competed on the swimming team, was a member of Tri Delta sorority and worked as a teaching assistant for anatomy classes. “UW offered smaller class sizes, friendly and helpful teaching staff and ample extracurricular activities for a well-rounded experience,” she says. “My experiences at UW definitely helped get me where I am today.”

Pieper now helps educate the next generation of regional doctors, overseeing WWAMI students on their rotations.

“The relationships I gained at school as well as the ones that have been fostered as an alumnae have been invaluable,” she says.

When not serving the community, the Piepers enjoy fly-fishing, skiing and other outdoor pursuits. “We love the Wyoming lifestyle,” she says. “I feel blessed every day here—living and working in Wyoming.”

Ahrey Smith, communication B.A. 1998.Senior program architect at Salesforce, Austin, Texas

a man and a woman standing together on a beach
Ahrey and Tricia Smith are both proud UW graduates. (Courtesy Photo)

For nearly 20 years, Ahrey Smith’s resume has added impressive names, including Dell, American Express and Kabbage. “My career really took on a focus of efficiency and productivity around various customers,” says Smith, who earned a master of public affairs degree at the University of Texas at Austin after graduating from UW. “It moved from an internship at Deloitte to doing an agile transformation at Dell and then coming in and running technical and business operations for Magento, which was one of the eBay brands at the time, and then out into doing the same thing at American Express.”

Smith now works at Salesforce, a company that offers a top customer relationship management platform. “I’ve gotten a lot of exposure to really fascinating pieces of technology across a number of verticals,” Smith says of his career, which included working on the supply chain for the F-35 joint strike fighter at Accenture and helping create a development and delivery center on an Indian reservation in Oregon. He enjoys the constant challenge of identifying and solving problems, helping businesses evolve and become more efficient without mass layoffs.

The professional communications skills he learned at UW provided a strong foundation. “That focus was
the underpinnings for my success as a consultant,” Smith says.

During his time at UW, he was also the man behind Pistol Pete. “That was amazing,” Smith says. “I made great contacts and had a very public-facing role for the athletic department.”

He values Wyoming’s Western work ethic. “There’s a lot of straight talk and commitment,” Smith says. “There’s that sense of personal accountability that I find is really represented at UW.”

Smith met his wife, Tricia (Sandberg) Smith, an elementary education major, while at UW. He gives back in any way he can, including mentoring interns. “I owe UW a great debt,” Smith says. “It was an amazing place for me and really provided the foundation for what I do.”

Jessica Schlicting, chemical engineering B.S. 2010. Process engineer in hydrocracking at Shell in Martinez, Calif.

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Student internships helped Jessica Schlicting land her job at Shell. (Courtesy Photo)

Jessica Schlicting landed her job at Shell before she even graduated, thanks to two student internships and an on-campus interview.

“I provide 24/7 support for the refinery,” Schlicting says of her current position. “I help with trouble shooting some of the refinery processes and with optimization and energy efficiency. It’s challenging, it’s pretty fast paced, and I love the people that I work with. I couldn’t have asked for a better role here.”

Schlicting serves on the industry advisory board for the Department of Chemical Engineering at UW. “What I really like about UW is that the class sizes are small, so you get a lot of face time with the professors, which I don’t think is true at larger universities in this country,” she says. “It allows for a really good learning environment.”

She also appreciates UW’s Center for Advising and Career Services, where she received resume and interview preparation help and attended job fairs. 

As a student, Schlicting participated in the American Institute of Chemical Engineers student chapter and Tau Beta Pi Engineering Honor Society, including attending regional and national conferences. She found these experiences enhanced her learning and allowed her to network with engineers and students nationwide.

“Attending UW is one of the best decisions I made,” Schlicting says.

“The scholarship opportunities that UW offers are great, and tuition is affordable. You can more easily shine in an environment like UW because it’s smaller, and there are more opportunities available.”

Ben McKay, finance and business economics B.S. 2012. Project manager at Handel Technologies, Laramie, Wyo.

a man in a suit standing near a sign in a building
Ben McKay made lasting connections at UW that helped him find a rewarding career.

For Ben McKay, the relationships he made at UW not only helped him land a great career, but they also enabled a stellar learning environment and created lifelong friends. “Looking back at my college career, I would not trade my experiences at UW for anything,” McKay says. “The network that I was able to build—because of the fact that UW is more tight-knit than a lot of universities—has been absolutely invaluable to me.”

As a College of Business ambassador, McKay met Handel Information Technologies CEO Even Brande, a UW alumnus who serves on the advisory boards of UW’s College of Business and Department of Computer Science. “We found we had some of the same interests in business helping government, and that’s how I landed here as a project manager,” McKay says.

Handel creates software and technological solutions for the juvenile justice system and tribal governments. As a project manager, McKay oversees system designs and customization for Handel clients.

“I think one of the things I enjoy most about it is that I’m never doing the same thing every day because of the diversity of things that we do—from designing systems to going out and training customers to addressing support issues,” McKay says.

He credits his time at UW in preparing him to succeed in the workforce. “The student leadership opportunities that I had, not only in student organizations but also in student government, were invaluable to me,” he says. “The classes that I took dealt with subject matter that I still go back to today.”

In Alpha Kappa Psi, the business fraternity, he made lifelong relationships. In the classroom, he had access to world-class professors. “The professors in my field at UW are at the top of their field,” McKay says. “That expertise really translates to students. We never had to take classes from graduate students. The professors were always accessible to us.”

As part of his studies, McKay took a faculty-led course to Argentina and Chile studying international business.

“My wife and I have made it a point to stay involved because of the fact that we loved our experiences so much when we were there,” McKay says. “To this day I am more and more convinced that the university offers a world-class education at a value to students that is not able to be beaten by any other institution.”

Richard Lynch, petroleum engineering B.S. 1980. Senior vice president for developments, drilling and completions at Hess Corp., Houston, Texas

a man and a woman in formal clothing standing together
Richard and Marilyn Lynch recently donated to create an excellence fund at UW. (Courtesy Photo)

Richard Lynch began his career right out of college at ARCO and spent 34 years with BP and ARCO before joining Hess in 2014. “Throughout my career I have pursued domestic and international roles of increasing responsibility to build my technical skills, business acumen, cultural awareness and leadership abilities,” he says. “Due to my personal interest in drilling and completions, major projects and international travel, I sought work in multiple geologic basins and all types of hydrocarbon reservoir settings across the globe.”

At Hess, Lynch is responsible for the global delivery of all field development, major infrastructure projects and well construction across the company’s portfolio.

Lynch’s highly successful international career began with a strong foundation at UW. “UW prepared me for my professional and personal life by teaching me how identify issues, solve problems, listen carefully, embrace change, respect different points of view, be humble, have strong resolve and the courage speak up when others won’t,” he says.

At UW, he enjoyed playing intramural sports, watching NCAA Division 1 sports and leading in the Society of Petroleum Engineers activities while taking full advantage of the outdoor recreation nearby, including skiing, fishing, rock climbing and hunting.

Lynch gives back to UW by serving on the Petroleum Engineering Advisory Board, and he and his wife recently donated to create Richard and Marilyn Lynch Engineering Dean’s Excellence Fund. Excellence funds like the Lynches’ are important because they provide unrestricted funding that allow the university to go from good to great.

“I am a Wyoming boy at heart,” he says. “As of last count, I have moved 19 times, worked in 22 countries and still proudly claim, ‘I went to the University of Wyoming.’ ”

Ryan McConnaughey, agricultural business (international concentration) with a minor in economics B.S. 2007. Quality systems and communication associate at McGinley Orthopedics in Casper, Wyo.

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Ryan McConnaughey thanks UW for a well-rounded education. (Courtesy Photo)

Alumnus Ryan McConnaughey is on the forefront of the effort to diversify Wyoming’s economy and create new businesses in the state. The company he works for, McGinley Orthopedics, is a medical device manufacturing company housed in UW’s Wyoming Technology Business Center Casper Area Incubator. “As a company, it is our mission to employ advanced engineering, materials and software to address the nation’s foremost health-care challenge in the 21st century: improving patient outcomes while controlling costs,” he says. “In my role, I oversee all facets of our quality management and certifications for general and medical device manufacturing, as well as all external communication efforts.”

McConnaughey landed the job after working as a field representative and grants coordinator for U.S. Rep. Cynthia Lummis and earning his master’s degree in agricultural economics from New Mexico State University. He believes UW helped prepare him for his career: “I am often met with surprise when I tell people I received a degree in agricultural business. However, I believe it is a testament to the quality of education I received at UW. Agricultural business provided me with a well-rounded education based in technical competence, professional development, problem solving and communication skills that have translated into a successful career path regardless of the industry in which I work.”

McConnaughey’s experiences outside the classroom also made an impact, including the Associated Students of UW, where he worked with other students to create what is now the Service Leadership and Community Engagement office. McConnaughey also represented UW as a National Western Stock Show scholar for two years and served as an agambassador for the college.

“UW is set apart by the relationships that result from a close-knit campus like we have in Laramie,” McConnaughey says. That community includes professors, business connections and fellow students. “These relationships were possible because of UW’s small class sizes, but also the culture of connection and support for success on campus. Faculty and staff genuinely care about students, and that culture of caring is apparent across the university and was a cornerstone in my experience.

“My advice to students choosing UW is to get involved on campus and in the community,” McConnaughey says. “The options are endless, and you will gain experiences that propel your personal successes and make memories that will last a lifetime.”

Meredith Hindley, English and history B.A. 1993. Editor of Humanities Magazine at the National Endowment for the Humanities, Washington, D.C.

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Meredith Hindley says attending UW was one of the best decisions she ever made. (Courtesy Photo)

History and English degrees in hand, Meredith Hindley left UW and set off for Washington, D.C., and she has been there ever since—writing, editing and promoting the humanities. It started with an internship at the National Endowment for the Humanities while she attended American University for graduate school. “That internship turned into a job writing, editing, building websites and explaining the importance of the humanities to the American people,” Hindley says. “I’ve been at NEH for more than two decades.”

This October, she will publish her first book, Destination Casablanca: Exile, Espionage, and the Battle for North Africa in World War II. She also has written essays and reviews for Humanities, The New York Times, Lapham’s Quarterly, Barnes and Noble Review, Salon, Longreads and The Christian Science Monitor.

Hindley grew up in Colorado but fell in love with UW on a visit. “Attending UW was one of the best decisions I’ve never made,” she says. “I received a tremendous education at UW, which taught me critical thinking and how to write. I use those skills every day.”

Taking part in the Honors Program was a highlight of her time at UW. “The small classes and dedicated faculty made such a difference in my college experience,” Hindley says.

“Leave your preconceptions about Wyoming behind,” she says to those considering the university. “Everything you need to succeed is there.”

Barbara Jean Bender, rangeland ecology and watershed management, and environment and natural resources B.S. 2016. Range conservationist at the Natural Resources Conservation Service in Buffalo, Wyo.

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Barbara Jean Bender enjoyed study-abroad and research opportunities at UW. (Courtesy Photo)

Barbara Jean Bender is using her international education to make a difference right here at home. “One thing that most folks don’t expect to hear about UW is the study-abroad opportunities,” she says. Bender spent three weeks in India and two weeks in Chile on separate study-abroad trips. “Both of these trips changed my life, because they gave me a chance to see the natural resource management issues I had learned about in Wyoming in a global context, all the while earning credits for both of my majors.”

Her senior year, Bender received the Center for Global Studies Nielson Undergraduate Scholarship and gave seven talks around Wyoming about her sustainability research. After graduation, Bender began her job at the Natural Resources Conservation Service, where she works with farmers and ranchers throughout Johnson, Sheridan and Campbell counties. “I am very excited to help private landowners, like the ranchers I have met so far, accomplish their conservation and production goals,” she says. “So far I have worked on designing stock-water pipelines, designing some flood and sprinkler irrigation lines, high tunnels, and I have also done some field inventory and monitoring of vegetation and soils.”

In addition to her coursework, Bender found the student chapter of the Society for Range Management, called the UW Range Club, especially beneficial. “This club is what really provided a link between my studies and current range management strategies and challenges,” she says. “Ultimately I feel that my experiences in the Range Club helped me find my true passions and led me to pursue the career I am
in today.”

Bender encourages students considering UW not only to take a tour but to meet with professors and departments in the fields they’re interested in. While she acknowledges UW’s great affordability, she believes it’s the quality of education that truly sets the university apart. “It was the quality faculty and tight-knit community of UW that made this the best place I could have chosen to do my undergrad,” Bender says. “The support system at UW in the form of opportunities and scholarships was incredible as well.”

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