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Portrait of Shelby Watchman in a computer lab

Shelby Watchman

Three years ago, Shelby Watchman sat quietly during her first class at Weber State University, too anxious to engage with her professor or classmates. 

“I came from a small college, and so coming here felt like this big university — big and scary,” Watchman recalled.

Her past academic experiences had chipped away at her confidence and she worried she would continue to “fall through the cracks,” as she experienced at previous schools. 

In high school, Watchman felt like her struggles went unnoticed by educators, so she dropped out and earned her GED diploma. When she started classes at a small college campus branch in her home state of New Mexico, it still didn’t feel like the right fit.  

But when she arrived at Weber State, though the campus was bigger than what she was accustomed to, Watchman felt more noticed than ever before. 

Academic advisors helped her discover a passion for computer science, and professors created environments where she felt comfortable asking questions or seeking help. 

“I felt that I was very cared for and that I wasn’t left behind,” Watchman said. “It helped me believe in myself more.” 

Watchman went on to earn academic honors every semester. Her confidence grew as she made friends, found mentors and learned new skills. 

She delved into the creative aspects of computer science, designing and building websites for small businesses. She found friends to carpool and study with, both of which she previously felt too shy to initiate. She was also part of the Native American Student Association, which provided her with financial aid and a connection to peers. 

Since graduating with her computer science degree in April, Watchman looks forward to finding a job in the tech industry, and she attributes feeling career-ready to the support she received at Weber State.

“I’ve built so many relationships here,” Watchman said. “It really makes a difference when there’s support behind you.”