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Published September 18, 2023
UW college produces graduates who serve Wyoming in many roles and industries.
By Micaela Myers
Spencer Pelton, Wyoming State Archaeologist
Spencer Pelton grew up in Tennessee and came to UW for his Ph.D. in anthropology (2018). Deciding to stay in the region, he worked for an environmental consulting company before landing his dream job as the Wyoming state archaeologist.
“I love doing archeology in Wyoming,” Pelton says. “It’s just about the best place to do archaeology.”
His office manages the largest archeological repository in the state, which is housed at UW. The office prepares, logs and stores artifacts found during cultural surveys. The office also sponsors excavations and recovers archeological human burials in the state. Pelton does related outreach, serves as an adjunct faculty member at UW and conducts research as well.
“I love inspiring awe and curiosity in people,” he says.
As a UW student, Pelton learned how to manage excavations, structure large research projects and manage data.
“I love that Wyoming is still the frontier,” he says. “There’s a lot of opportunity to create new knowledge and discover truly novel things. The state is a great place to build your career.”
Misty Moore, Wyoming State Parks
Misty Moore of Clearmont always planned to stay in Wyoming after graduating with her bachelor’s degree in American studies (2006). She now serves as Absaroka District 5 manager for Wyoming State Parks, Historic Sites and Trails in Banner.
“The American studies discipline prepared me to explore diverse perspectives in how people experience place and time,” Moore says. “I consider these perspectives in my work almost every day in my role. I love Wyoming’s fierce protection of public access and the wild spirit of Wyoming people.”
To students, she says: “Make it a priority to know your neighbors. Serve your community as locally as possible. Get involved in the process and be part of the conversation.”
Thomas Wykes, Veterans Affairs
Thomas Wykes of Chandler, Ariz., came to UW to earn his master’s degree in clinical psychology (2011) followed by his Ph.D. (2016). At UW he met his wife, Caitilin Barret, a Wyoming native, and they decided to settle in Cheyenne. There, Wykes works for the Department of Veterans Affairs as associate chief of mental health for medical integration. His job includes suicide prevention and making sure mental health is integrated into a variety of settings, such as primary care.
“The VA is better than ever,” Wykes says. “We’re not-for-profit, so we have the opportunity to design programs and build services purely because they’re beneficial.”
He loves the variety his job offers and believes UW prepared him well for his career serving others.
“UW provided rigorous high-quality training in the psychology department,” Wykes says. “Great faculty and well-developed programs are UW’s strength.”
He believes Wyoming offers opportunities and makes it easy to form the right connections. Students just need to reach out and begin forming relationships with area agencies and businesses. Wykes says, “I definitely would recommend Wyoming to anybody who is looking to develop their career.”
Learning Audio Technology
UW’s audio technology certificate teaches students how to record and mix music, as well as to provide sound reinforcement for live events.
“I take a very vocational approach to the program and put a large emphasis on workplace skills to help my students feel confident finding freelance work or entering an entry-level position in audio — including concert production, corporate audio-visual and music production — when they complete the program,” says Assistant Lecturer Will Flagg, who heads up the program.
Recording equipment has become better and more affordable in recent years but also more technical, which requires training. Students in the audio technology certificate program complete internships, and graduates are already working in Wyoming music venues, running sound systems at the schools where they teach, and working with area bands and production companies. Many music students learn to record and distribute their own music. However, the skills learned in the program go beyond music and can be applied to a variety of live events as well as recordings such as podcasts.
Callie and Brandon Taylor, Carbon County School District 1 and HF Sinclair
An education from the College of Arts and Sciences can take you in many directions, as evidenced by 2005 Department of Theatre and Dance graduates Callie and Brandon Taylor. Callie grew up in Casper and Brandon in Rawlins. After meeting at UW, they headed to California for graduate school and then New York for a time before settling in Rawlins to serve the community and be closer to family.
For nearly a decade, Callie owned a dance studio in Rawlins before becoming a full-time kindergarten teacher for Carbon County School District 1.
“I love being a teacher,” she says. “I use my dance degree every day, even in kindergarten. The connection between being involved in dance and the arts and academic achievement is so strong, and I see such a difference in my students when I include dance in my lessons.”
Brandon also uses his theater education as business manager for work process transformation at HF Sinclair.
“Theater is all problem solving,” he says. “What is the objective? What is the obstacle? What tactics are you going to employ to overcome your obstacle to get your objective? Those lessons are applicable in any job setting. One of my greatest joys is solving problems and riddles. My day job gives many opportunities to work in many facets of the business and find the best solution.”
Brandon also chairs the Carbon County School District 1 Board of Trustees. To UW students, he says: “All communities need help. As Callie says, ‘Get involved!’ You can find great satisfaction is seeing your work in your community.”
Amy Munsell, VIBES Fine & Performing Arts
Amy Munsell grew up in Cheyenne, picked up the saxophone at age 10 and became a drum major in high school. She earned her UW bachelor’s degree in music education (2009) and taught music in Natrona County School District 1 for several years before opening VIBES Fine & Performing Arts LLC in Casper in 2013.
“We provide music lessons, classes and music therapy for all ages,” Munsell says. “Our Kindermusik program is in the top 1 percent worldwide, and I am also the Kindermusik distributor of Wyoming and advocate for music therapy in our state.”
Munsell loves seeing how music transforms lives, “from a student gaining confidence or receiving music scholarships for college, to helping a dementia patient reconnect with their loved one or helping a patient right out of brain surgery talk again, or helping a child’s language develop.”
VIBES partners with many community organizations in the region, including area hospitals, and Munsell serves on the Wyoming Music Therapy Task Force and the Wyoming Community Foundation Casper board.
“I would advise UW students hoping to stay in Wyoming to start building relationships, get hands-on in their field of work and look for internships during college,” Munsell says. “Wyoming organizations truly embrace hiring locally, and building those relationships early is a beautiful way to learn more about your future work and the people in the industry.”
Whether it’s managing artists, marketing shows, creating a private studio, working as a performing artist, running an arts-focused business or starting a nonprofit, students need a wide range of entrepreneurial skills, which prompted the University of Wyoming College of Arts and Sciences to launch a music entrepreneurship certificate.
“The program equips today’s students with the skills and tools they need to create sustainable careers in the arts,” says program director and Visiting Assistant Professor of Music Nicole Riner. “Coursework includes guest speakers and offers intensive work on individually tailored projects to help build professional portfolios. Hands-on practical knowledge is developed through in-person or virtual internships with partners nationwide.”
Students have completed internships with the Cheyenne Symphony Orchestra, Greeley Philharmonic Orchestra, music stores, recording studios and nonprofits. Graduates are already working for nonprofit arts organizations in Wyoming and as freelance musicians and DJs, running their own private music lesson studios and managing a touring ensemble.
“Some of the projects coming out of our most recent entrepreneurship seminar class include developing a new social media platform to connect gigging musicians and show producers, creating a nonprofit organization to help students purchase new instruments and building a concert-promoting organization,” Riner says. “The creators of these projects all intend to remain here in Wyoming and continue growing after the class is over.”
Erin Butler, WYO Theater
The people of Sheridan love their historic WYO Theater, which opened in 1923. Theater graduate Erin Butler (2005) of Wright plays a key role in keeping that history alive.
“It’s fun and rewarding to be a part of the WYO’s great history and to carry that tradition while we grow,” she says. “I love providing a space for people to come together and experience something collaboratively. We offer live professional performances throughout the year.”
The WYO also houses a dance studio and is home to Sheridan College’s theater department. As executive director for the past seven years, Butler oversees staff, finances, marketing, fundraising and facility rentals; reports to the board; chooses the lineup; and manages performances, among other things. She feels fortunate to oversee a theater and loves the town and its people.
“In Sheridan, they love this community, so there’s always great support,” Butler says. “There’s a Wyoming culture and way of life I appreciate. And, of course, my roots are here.”
UW provided her with positive role models and a rigorous education. After a stint working in New York City, she’s glad to have settled in her home state. “If you come back, you’ll be rewarded for your time and dedication.” Butler says to other students: “Find the place you love. Find a career that’s fulfilling and enjoy it.”
Michael Lange, Laramie County Community College
Michael Lange grew up in Riverton and didn’t see himself as college bound until his love of music showed him a path — from Northwest College to UW for jazz studies (2005) to his master’s in public administration (2008) to earning his doctorate now in adult education.
For nearly a decade, Lange served as executive director of the Wyoming Arts Council in Cheyenne, which helps set arts and cultural policy for the state and provides programs and services that support the arts as a social and economic tool.
“Wyoming has a strong and rich arts community,” he says. “I love connecting artists, art administrators and advocates around how they can better serve their communities.”
This summer, Lange accepted a faculty appointment as the director of the music, theater and visual arts programs at Laramie County Community College.
“The ability to be in these wide-open spaces but still feel really connected to community is a big piece of why I love living and working in Wyoming,” he says.
To UW students hoping to stay, Lange recommends being open to multiple possibilities. “Recognize that the skills you’re learning — to be of high artistic excellence in your practice — are also skills that can be used in all different workforce settings, and especially in helping support arts and culture infrastructure around the state. As an artist, you bring creativity to your work that our state needs.”
Wyoming Center on Aging
From 2012 to 2050, the U.S. population aged 65-plus is expected to nearly double from 43.1 million to an estimated 83.7 million. Health-care providers are at the forefront of caring for older Americans, and the Wyoming Center on Aging (WyCOA), whose mission is to optimize the health and well-being of Wyoming's older residents and caregivers, is at the forefront of key workforce development initiatives.
Housed within the Department of Psychology in the College of Arts and Sciences at the University of Wyoming, WyCOA works to optimize the health and well-being of Wyoming's older residents and caregivers through interagency partnerships, basic and applied research, community education, and clinical training and service. Didactic and clinical training of the workforce is an important component in achieving WyCOA’s mission, and its work involves interdisciplinary partnerships across UW and with a network of clinical-care and community-based organizations throughout Wyoming.
A substantial portion of the work at WyCOA involves providing geriatrics training and professional development opportunities for the pipeline of Wyoming health professionals — from undergraduate to professional and graduate students, to faculty — with the goal of increasing access to high-quality training in geriatrics, thereby improving access to evidence-based geriatric care in Wyoming. WyCOA also produces numerous continuing-education training opportunities each year to increase the expertise in geriatric care of the existing Wyoming health-care workforce.
WyCOA's work in geriatrics training is funded by two key resources: the Wyoming Geriatrics Workforce Enhancement Program, a Health Resources and Services Administration cooperative agreement, and the John P. Ellbogen Foundation Excellence Fund for Geriatric Education. Both of these funding sources are leveraged to develop expertise in — and awareness of —geriatric issues across health professions. WyCOA infuses timely geriatric themes into existing continuing-education opportunities in UW courses. The center also supports faculty to explore development of new geriatrics curriculum and partners with health systems across the state to expand clinical training sites in geriatrics.
Through these funding sources, WyCOA provides support for faculty development and aging mini-grants, interdisciplinary team training for faculty and students through the UW ECHO in Geriatrics, clinical training within age-friendly primary care sites, and through conferences such as the Rocky Mountain Alzheimer’s Summit.
To learn more, visit www.uwyo.edu/wycoa.