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    Student Profile: Sam Wiswell

    April 21, 2017
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    Sam Wiswell in Kazakhstan at his third World University Games. (Photo by Christine Boggs)

    Way back in middle school in Wilson, Wyo., Sam Wiswell made a list of goals, including skiing in college and competing internationally. Little did he know that UW would be the place to make those goals become reality.

    You see, Wiswell started his college career at Michigan Tech. Like many Wyoming natives, he felt an urge to leave home for a bit. But not only did he miss the West; he also did the math. “I was looking at about $100,000 in debt versus no debt here. That was huge,” he says.

    In January 2017, Wiswell competed in his third World University Games with the UW Nordic Ski Club team. He took the games as an opportunity to also conduct research.

    “I feel like it was a really unique opportunity because I got to do a class while skiing at the World University Games,” he says. “We were looking at environmental impacts of skiing while also skiing on a world-class level against people who had had World Cup starts. The first time was in Italy, the second time was in Slovakia, and this winter I went to Kazakhstan. I’ve been very lucky. Each time, we’ve ramped up our analysis of how skiing and international sport in general have an impact with climate change—learning about that impact and how to mitigate it. We were also looking at the sustainability of those types of events.”

    During his time with the team, Wiswell earned Academic All-American honors as well as overall All-American honors at the United States Collegiate Ski and Snowboard Association nationals. The Cowboys are the three-time defending association national champions.

    “It’s more than just a group of people who ski and go to races together—we’re engaging in high levels of conversations about diverse issues,” he says of UW’s team. “I think that’s really unique. It’s the best thing I’ve done here, and I’ve been fortunate to do a lot of really cool things. The ski team has generated opportunity and made me a better student and individual.”

    Among the other highlights of his college career, Wiswell has conducted research and taken part in cutting-edge conferences. He works with geology and geophysics Professor Ken Sims on a research project in Yellowstone National Park, looking at the chemistry of hydrothermal features. “I’ve gotten to go into Yellowstone, sample from features, go off the boardwalk and see incredible things,” he says. “I was up there in November during the administrative period. It was just me and a couple other people in the research group, and we were sampling from geysers in the Norris Geyser Basin—stuff people come from all over the world to see—and we’re intimately interacting with them, trying to get a deeper understanding of what’s going on. That’s another really unique thing about UW: the opportunity to do meaningful research.”

    Wiswell also worked on a UW geophysics field team for a summer, traveling all over the Western U.S. doing near-surface geophysics, and he attended the SHIFT (Shaping How we Invest For Tomorrow) conference in Jackson, Wyo. “We went with support from the Haub School, and we got to participate in this conference that had everyone from Forest Service and Park Service staff to young people in startup nonprofits who are teaching the next generation of conservation,” he says. “That was super inspiring.”

    With graduation on the horizon, Wiswell is looking for a career in the National Park Service or U.S. Forest Service or at a nonprofit where he can pursue his passion for the environment and sustainability while helping future generations experience the great outdoors the way he has growing up in Wyoming.

    His advice for those considering UW? “I’d say it’s the best bang for your buck you can imagine. And especially for people who are from Wyoming, even though it’s your home state school … the experience I’ve had here has been one of the most dynamic and perspective-shifting experiences of my life to this point. There are tons of incredible people doing incredible things all over campus.”

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