Brad Archer

By immersing himself in the community that is Western State Colorado University, Brad Archer says, he found direction for his life.

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.