Q & A with Winter Commencement Student Speaker Chandra Sheridan
This year’s Western State College Winter Commencement student speaker is Chandra Sheridan, a non-traditional student who has worked and raised a family (Paden, 3 years old, and Lilian, 3 months old) while earning straight A’s and completing her degree in business administration in 4 ½ years. As an environmental studies minor, Sheridan discovered her passion for sustainability and plans to remain in Gunnison and work on environmental initiatives with the community.
Q: What do you love most about Western and the Gunnison Valley Community?
A: I enjoy the intimacy of this small college and community. It’s nice to get to know your professors and know that you’re more than just a number on a grade roster.
Q: Why did you want to be the student commencement speaker?
A: I think that after all I’ve been through, I would like to give back and inspire others to persevere. There is a great truth in the saying, “That which does not kill us makes us stronger.” I want to share that realization with others. If I’m able to inspire one person to overcome some obstacle, then it’s all been worth it.
Q: Name a memorable WSC experience that will stay with you through time.
A: The WSC Foundation 2010 Thanksgiving Banquet with the scholarship donors -- that was the seed that got this whole commencement speaker idea started. Thank you to all the scholarship donors who helped make college financially feasible. I couldn’t have done it without you!
Q: Have there been professors that have really influenced your growth as a student?
A: John and Karen Hausdoerffer, Jerry Frank and Mark Lung have all inspired me to become a more environmentally conscientious person and have led to my passion for the environmental studies program. All of my professors have been wonderful to get to know and work with; they’ve all challenged me in different ways and I thank them for all of their hard work.
Q: How did you overcome the challenge of having children while attending college and graduating within 4 ½ years?
A: I’ve become quite the juggler! It’s all about balance and love, and mostly about love. I love school and I love my family and the two have actually been quite complementary. I’ve found that when you love something so much, you make time, even when there seems to be none. It’s been VERY hard at times, but I love both so much that I couldn’t give either up. I’m one of those people who has to have her cake and eat it too -- it might not be easy, but it’s possible and oh so worth it!
Q: What do you hope your fellow graduates will take away from your speech?
A: Everyone will fall at least once in their lives and they will meet obstacles on the way. It’s not about falling; it’s about how you pick yourself up after you’ve hit rock bottom that counts. The obstacles are there to teach you about yourself, about your strengths and weaknesses, about your passion and drive, and in the end, overcoming them makes you a better person.
Q: What are your future plans?
A: To stay here, of course. I can’t think of a better place to raise a family. I’d also love to be a holistic farmer/rancher, and I’d love to play a role in helping our community become more sustainable.