Student Testimonials and Profiles
Graduation Date: Class of 2016
Hometown: Centennial, CO
Major: Fine Arts, Emphasis in Oil Painting; Business Administration Minor
He says he came to Western from his home of Milliken, Colo., to indulge his fascination with people. He had been a state officer in the Family, Career and Community Leaders of America, as well as an active citizen in the Potawatomi Nation of American Indians.
“When I was growing up,” Archer explains, “it was just my mom and I. She was a Consumer & Family Studies teacher and inspired me to get involved. I started off going to the Nationals for FCCLA when I was 8, and it kind of started a tradition for me. I’ve always grown up in that atmosphere of productive student organizations. I guess I’ve always had an interest in how the people around us shape how we act.”
Western’s unique setting and intimate classroom experience is what originally drew him in. Like many students, he was drawn to Western by both winter sports and inspiring instructors.
“What first got me was the campus tour,” Archer says. “I could tell I was going to get something different for a college experience. I came up in November 2011, and I immediately noticed the landscape. But I didn’t know if I would like the school – then. I sat in on Karin Waidely’s Introduction to Theatre class and made the decision.
“It’s the relationships between students and teachers that keeps people here,” he says, adding that the entire Gunnison Valley community has helped him flourish in a flexible environment and explore his potential. “I really love how open the Gunnison community is to helping students grow. Businesses in town are generally eager to help if you go to them with a proposition. It’s all about helping students grow and bringing out our best qualities.”
Now, Archer is a congenial junior who has recently become enamored with Sociology. He’s even changed his major from Communication Arts major to that social science, which better reflects his interests.
Meeting Archer, it’s easy to see why: He is committed to finding himself in service to others. Sociology’s promise of a rich, multifaceted perspective on human relationships equips him with the tools to tackle almost any part of the student experience.
He pursues his passions on several fronts: snowboarding, as a participant in the Urban Gaming Club’s Humans versus Zombies (a sprawling, campus-wide version of post-apocalyptic tag) and contributing to the Native American Student Council. As a member of the NASC, Archer has worked to encourage respectful learning about and revitalization of American Indian culture at Western.
“We’re one of the smallest minorities on campus,” Archer says, “so we’re really focused on building an appreciation for Native culture and helping people learn about it in ways that aren’t destructive.”
Archer is also Western’s senior resident advisor. He describes the position as a liaison between other RAs “in the trenches” of campus housing and administrators in Residence Life. Before becoming the SRA, he participated in the Sophomore Year Experience – first, as a freshman committee member and later as a Sophomore RA.
He describes an improbable universe in which he would rise to the likes of assistant vice president for Student Affairs, working under Dean of Students Gary Pierson to ensure everything runs smoothly for both students and administrators.
Archer has worked as a RA in Mears and Dolores halls, freshman dorms notorious for offering a wide variety of challenges to the hapless leader. When asked to share his favorite story from the front lines, he laughs.
“The flood, definitely,” he says, grinning at the memory. “I got this call. They said, ‘There’s a flood.’ It was on the third floor of Moffat, and a pipe burst in the middle of winter. I ran out of my room in shorts and a T-shirt, because it was the middle of the night. When I got there, we had to bale water out the windows with snow shovels. It was so much fun. We all had a good time.”
He clearly loves his job. It plays to his nature as a social animal and his eagerness to foster a sense of community. He prefers to wade among the freshmen as a character and reliable resource, rather than as an authority figure.
And this makes him extremely popular. During the second week of fall semester, sitting outside Mad Jack’s Café in University Center, Archer recognizes faces among a steady stream. Many greet him enthusiastically.
“Might as well do something,“ Archer affably explains, after speaking with several eager students. “Otherwise, you’ll get bored.”
Story by Rebecca Ingram-Bryant, University Communications; photograph by John McKeith.
Emma Bridges - Class of 2016
Hometown: Fort Collins, CO
Major: Biology (Pre-Med) and Exercise & Sport Science; Spanish Minor
Graduation Date: Class of 2016
Hometown: Colorado Springs, CO
Major: Business Administration, Marketing Emphasis and Strategic Communication
Not only did he find a place to hike, rock climb and snowboard in the Gunnison mountains, but he found so many academic interests that he had a hard time settling on a major. Eventually he chose to major in Anthropology, with a double minor in Geography as well as Latin American Studies.
Along the way he worked as a peer mentor on campus, a Research Assistant in the Geography program, supervised the Rec Center climbing wall, participated in the Anthropology Club, filmed a movie about San Luis, Colorado as his senior project, and attended two anthropology field schools: David Hyde’s archaeology field school in Belize, and Quetzil Castaneda’s Yucatan, Mexico field school focusing on Maya medicine and traditional healing. Because of his desire to continue to learn and grow, he applied to graduate school at the University of Lethbridge in Alberta, Canada.
He was accepted and given a full-ride scholarship to study under Patrick Wilson, an accomplished Latin Americanist. Working as part of a research team, Hunter will be studying indigenous social movements and development in Ecuador and Bolivia.
Graduation Date: Class of 2015
Hometown: Flower Mound, TX
Major: Music with a Business Emphasis
After graduating high school, I had placed music (specifically percussion) on the back burner as nothing more than a hobby and by the time I started at Western, I thought it would be too late to pick it back up. My freshman year, while registered as a history major, I decided to help out the percussion ensemble with a few of their pieces and was astounded by the dedication and one-on-one attention they gave to a student who was not even part of their program. Since then, I have been taking advantage of the small classes sizes offered by the music department and enjoying the positive atmosphere maintained by all of the faculty in Quigley. Among other things, Western has renewed my passion for music and given me another chance to develop a lifelong skill which would have otherwise been put to waste.
“It’s a tremendous honor to have been selected Miss Colorado United States and these days I’m frequently on the road at charity events,” Schwiegerath says, “it always feels great to come back home to Gunnison and focus on my studies here at Western.”
Schwiegerath graduated from Highlands Ranch High School in the Denver area and chose Western because of its mountain location and unique Professional Land & Resource Management program within the business department. “PLRM graduates find good, high paying jobs right out of college, and that’s important to me,” she says, “plus, it’s really interesting!”
Western’s PLRM emphasis in the business program prepares students for positions as land negotiators involved in energy and mineral exploration. Students learn land and resource management principles while taking classes in business administration, economics, geology, and environmental studies.
During Schwiegerath’s sophomore year, her mother became sick and Schwiegerath had to take a break from Western and return to Denver to be with her family. While back in Denver, she attended classes at a large public university. “It didn’t fit me,” she says, “the classes were huge and I felt like a number. It made me really miss the personal attention and small classes at Western.”
When the time was right, she returned to Western to finish her degree. “At the same time, I decided to try out for Miss Colorado,” Schwiegerath says, “I wanted to do something for myself, and it sounded like a lot of fun.”
Schwiegerath was crowned Miss Colorado United States in April of 2013. Since then, she’s been busy taking classes at Western and volunteering at charity events across the state. “It’s been a great opportunity to give back to some great causes,” she says, “and I’m proud to tell people about how wonderful Western is when I travel.”
Schwiegerath says she isn’t the stereotypical Western student. “I’m not a skier and don’t kayak or rock climb,” she says, “but there is so much to do here if you’re not into those things. I love to go to football and basketball games, I spent some time as a cheerleader, and there are tons of intramurals and other activities to keep you busy. Finally, you don’t have to be a skier to appreciate how beautiful it is here in the mountains.”
When she graduates, Schwiegerath, plans to work in the land management field. “But I’ll always be looking for ways to give back to Western,” she says, “so many Western alumni before me have been there to support us, and it’s the least I can do for having had such a great education.”
I’m from Rockford, Illinois about 60 miles outside of Chicago.
Why did you come to Western?
I came to Western because I came for a tour and was looking at schools all around the intermountain west, and then I came back to Western for a preview day. They had one of the old buildings sprayed with ice to form a climbing wall. Through the entire time, my admissions counselor was in really close contact with me and I felt like if I went to Western my success really mattered and they were committed to helping me out. It was the best decision I ever made!
Why did you choose the Recreation and Outdoor Education (ROE) program?
I worked for Outward Bound in the Sierra Nevadas three summers ago. Paul Tame (Western Professor) was really influential in having me become an instructor at Outward Bound. From there, I decided I wanted to do a little more schooling regarding outdoor leadership. I’ve been working for Outward Bound since. I think it will help having a little more classroom experience and field experience to bring into my career.
What else are you involved in at Western?
Wilderness Pursuits has been a huge component of my time at Western. Also, the Mountain Rescue Team and Mountain Sports cross-country and gravity mountain bike teams. I’m also on the endurance ski team.
What do you do with Wilderness Pursuits?
I instruct different courses throughout the school year. I also instruct wilderness- based orientation. We take people out (in the backcountry) and have a less traditional orientation. We’ll go mountain biking, stand-up paddleboarding and hiking. I do rafting trips and backcountry skiing as well.
What do you like about Western?
A small school with small classes; a close relationship with my professors. All the doors it has opened and all the experiences I’ve had.
What would you tell people considering attending Western and the ROE program?
Its’ the best decision you’ll ever make.
What do you like to do in your free time?
I really like mountain biking, cooking, and backcountry skiing.
Did your parents attend Western?
Yeah, both my parents are alumni.
Were they influential in your choice to pick Western?
They spoke really highly of their experience but they were really open to other schools. They didn’t try to persuade me. It was my own decision. They were involved in the business, economics, and biology programs.
Was the Gunnison Valley a big part of them deciding to attend Western?
They were from upstate New York and Illinois and having such a beautiful valley to live in was a key component of coming here.
And your brother attends Western?
Cameron’s in the Exercise and Sports Science program. He’s doing the bike team and the Nordic ski team and does a ton of WP trips and really thrives off of the outdoor offerings here.
I’d like to go to grad school somewhere, potentially at Western. I want to go explore but I definitely want to come back.
Interview and article by Dustin Eldridge.