As one of the nation’s top-ranked two-year colleges, Western Wyoming Community College regularly brings new citizens to Sweetwater County and Southwest Wyoming to work, play and make valuable contributions to the communities in which they live. The current year has been a particularly busy hiring time at Western, with a number of vacant faculty positions being filled just this summer.
“We have been on a hiring spree this summer,” Western President Karla Leach said during the faculty/staff convocation program on Wednesday, Aug. 17, the first official day back for faculty members. “Our last faculty member came in on the 11:08 flight last night.”
That faculty member – who, it turns out, was not the last to arrive (that was actually Matt Schaffner, Western’s new Instrumental Music instructor, who made it to Rock Springs Thursday afternoon following a cross-country drive from Kentucky) – is Instructor of Economics Bill Formanek, formerly of Jacksonville, Fla., where he taught for Florida State College for four years.
“I am very, very pleased to be here. Everybody has been so great,” Formanek said. “I did my research, saw some great things on the Internet, actually talked to a couple of people about Western, and this just seemed like a perfect fit for me.”
During the convocation program, Dr. Leach spoke about how “people make the place,” saying that Western’s employees are a big part of what make the campus, currently ranked by Washington Monthly College Guide as the #7 two-year school in the nation, stand out from the vast majority of community colleges.
“If you’ve worked at other places, you know we’re different,” she said. “And if, for some reason, you decide to leave here, you’re going to want to come back. I guarantee that. Because we are different. The reason is because of everybody in this room.”
This year’s group of new faculty boasts some international flavor. Assistant Professor of Engineering Sandy Brown comes to Rock Springs by way of northern Virginia, but he is originally from Scotland.
“One of the reasons I came to Western was that, when I came here to interview, I was just really impressed by how I was welcomed by everyone, and with the atmosphere of the place, and just the focus on helping students,” Brown said. “Rock Springs is great, it’s grown on me a lot. I like being up here at the College, because there is a great view around of the surrounding hills. I’m looking forward to getting out and exploring some of the surrounding area and enjoying some of the outdoors stuff that we can do.”
In all, Western has welcomed 10 new full-time faculty and 12 new full-time staff members, including a new vice president, since Jan. 1. Though many of those have come to Sweetwater County from other parts of the country, some of the campus’s new faces are local residents.
Amy Galley, Western’s new Support, Disability and Counseling Center director, is from Green River. The University of Wyoming alumna joined Western earlier this summer after having worked for 12 years with Sweetwater County School District #2.
“I think I was really looking for a change and a new challenge,” Galley said. “I was certainly interested in the fact that this position was a little bit more administrative than the position that I had at the school district. So I thought it would be a really good opportunity. And I had always kind of thought of the College as a possibility in the future. I had heard good things about working here, and I attended school here for a year-and-a-half before transferring to Laramie for my undergrad.”
While Western is proud to welcome new employees from all around the country, the College also looks for opportunities to promote from within. Susie Rawlings, also of Green River, had worked for six years as the Turtles Classroom teacher in the Children’s Center, and when the director’s position became available this spring, she debated about whether to leave a position she loved in order to accept a new challenge.
“I felt like my Turtles teacher job was my perfect job, my dream job,” said Rawlings, a Utah State University alumna. “But I kind of just felt like we needed someone who knew the teachers and understood that side of it, and could lead from there. There were a few times that staff had asked me to apply, and I said I’d think about it. I actually applied the last day (the position) was open.”
Rawlings began teaching preschool in Green River and enjoyed the experience immensely. When presented with the opportunity to work in that capacity at Western’s Children’s Center as a benefited employee, she said, it was an ideal circumstance.
“I loved that they did the Creative Curriculum, which I already knew, and just the atmosphere of the College. I just love the setting, and that we’re helping people,” Rawlings said. “The student service that we do is so important.”