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Geiman Fellows make an impact on Western campus and Gunnison County

Geiman Fellows make an impact on Western campus and Gunnison County

Western students are encouraged to grow both in and out of the classroom through engagement in various academic and extracurricular clubs and activities. Those looking to improve their leadership skills and eager to understand the global economy may benefit from applying to Western’s Geiman Fellows program.

Businessman and humanitarian Dave Geiman founded the program in 2016 in an effort to help cultivate leadership in students so that they can excel in today’s marketplace. Ultimately, the Geiman Fellows program hopes to create productive members of a dynamic, global society.

The Fellows travel to conferences and events across the country to engage in thoughtful discourse about the ever-evolving world. This May, they will travel to England, Germany, France and Sweden to study topics ranging from immigration and climate to education and health care with the intention to implement their knowledge when they return to campus in the fall. Geiman finances all activities for students in the group.

In addition to this travel, students within the program take a semester-long course where they are given the chance to expand their horizons and hone the skills they need to be successful in the workforce, according to Geiman Fellows Director Kim Sherman.

“We want the students to experience positive change in their lives because of the Fellows,” Sherman said.

Part of that positive change stems from the various projects Fellow students participate in while on campus. One such endeavor led to the creation of the Experienced Peers Initiating Connection (EPIC) Mentor program on campus in the 2019-2020 academic year. The Fellows researched and crafted the idea for the program and presented it to the Board of Trustees, gaining approval to implement the project.

In its first fully funded year on campus, the 13 EPIC Mentors are paired with all first-time Western students to help with the transition to campus in an effort to improve the student experience and provide guidance. The group also hopes to increase student retention among students.

EPIC Program Coordinator and Geiman mentor Annie Westbury noted the importance of the Fellows in getting the EPICs off the ground.

“The EPICs are here because of the work put in by the Geiman Fellows,” Westbury said.

The group’s impact isn’t just restricted to campus.

On Dec. 10, the Fellows presented a plan to the Gunnison City Council to form a Citizens’ Climate Lobby group on campus and within the broader Gunnison Valley. The lobby is a nonpartisan, grassroots advocacy organization that empowers everyday people to work together on climate change solutions. The formation of a local chapter will allow all members of the Gunnison community to participate in discussion and action to help provide solutions to the climate crisis.

According to Sherman, the students were given extensive training to ensure they were prepared to speak in front of Council members. This kind of one-on-one attention and real-world preparation are just some of the resources available to students who participate in the Geiman Fellows Program at Western.

Opportunities to work on projects like the implementation of the EPIC Mentor Program and creation of a Citizens’ Climate Lobby will have an impact long after the students who helped install them have moved on to the next phase of their lives. Indeed, the foundation the Geiman Fellows Program provides to its participants will help them create positive change as members of a global society for years to come.

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