Welcome to our series, #WHYoming, brought to you in partnership by Kaumo Law.
We are highlighting people from around our communities and asking them a few questions. We want to learn a little about them and see why they chose this great state to raise their families, start their businesses, or simply to ask — Why Wyoming?
This week, I had a chance to sit down with Luke Nielson. He is the Campus Photographer and Coordinator of Residence Halls at Western Wyoming Community College.
Luke grew up in Green River. He studied at WWCC as a student and has now returned to the college as a professional.
Throughout his career as a student both at WWCC and at the University of Wyoming, and later as a young professional photography has always been a passion. After leaving Wyoming to pursue other adventures he found himself back at his roots.
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Luke, how did you end up in Rock Springs?
After leaving Wyoming, I didn’t think I would come back or at least for a long time, but then just two short years later there was this job at Western. It looked like a fun position to have at the college [the Coordinator of Residence Halls position].
Since then I’ve been able to work with so many students one-on-one and help them on their path. We’ve been able to do a lot of improvements to the residence halls. It’s been a lot of fun.
Projects Luke has implemented while in the position include:
- A relaxation room
- A new gym
- A cinema room
- Improvements to Rocky [Hall] include a new pool table, a poker table, new ping pong table, Foosball table,
Organize everything so it’s easy to get resources for events.
- Little study rooms
- Improve other study rooms in the residence halls on the main campus.
- We put these screens up where they can do group work with the monitor, painted accent walls, made it look a lot nicer
Right now I’m finishing up a project. I’m creating a new study space in Wind River [Hall]. I’m doing an adventure series of photos. Each photo showcases a major landmark around Southwest Wyoming, and it’s going to have a map below it and a description. It will be different scenic points.
They [students] come here and say there’s nothing around here, but they don’t know all this cool stuff is around. I went out and took some photos of the sand dunes. All the students were blowing me up like, where is that.
They didn’t even know North America’s largest sand dunes are like 10 miles away. There’s so many cool things around so I wanted to showcase that, and have a cool little art gallery that they could go around and check it out.
It’s kind of like I’m leaving my little mark.
What is something unique about you?
I go out and I sell home security systems during the summer in different locations. My first summer I went to Boston, and I lived in Boston for two months and sold there. Last summer I was in Orlando for a month, then I went to Mississippi. Now I’m going to Nashville this summer.
What do you appreciate most about our community?
I love how people work so well together. There’s so much collaboration that goes on. I think being so rural helps our community become stronger because we’re isolated. Since we’re so isolated, we grow stronger connections with each other.
There’s a lot of long term relationships that happen. If you live here long enough, you’re able to meet people that work in so many different areas of the community. Whatever you need you can probably find a good source; someone knows someone who can do it for you.
It’s a smaller community, but it’s not too small; it has everything we need. But we can even have more because of our size and our strong connections that we have.
If you could give one brief piece of advice, what would it be?
Count down from three and just do it. If there’s something that you’re scared or nervous or something that maybe you have to do, but you don’t really want to do it, just be like ‘3, 2, 1, go!’ and just start to move towards that thing and just do it.
Because a lot of people hesitate and the hesitation creates more anxiety. The hesitation creates more mental blocks so it’s not as authentic as if you were to just do it because it’s in the moment. So it’s like Seizing the moment and so you’re able to capture those opportunities a lot faster.
In my life, there’s been so many opportunities I should have done but I didn’t seize the moment and I waited too long and then I freaked myself out or I made up all these reasons why I shouldn’t do it.
“Count down from three and just do it.”
– Luke Nielson
Where is your favorite place to hang out in Sweetwater County?
I feel like the Gorge is such a stereotypical answer but. My favorite getaway would be going fishing at the Gorge or even just taking the boat out or four-wheeling around there.
I think the Gorge has been my little escape, my little stay-cation.
Would you rather walk, ride a bike, take a horse or drive a car?
My lazy side would say take the car. I love horses but long rides, Oh I hate getting saddle soar. It’s a little too much. I like them for short term.
I think riding a bike. When I travel, anytime I’ve ridden a bike or brought a bike with me, I feel like I’ve experienced so much more of the area.
I think in this area, riding a bike is kind of harder because of all the hills you have to go up, but they are fun to go down! I think riding a bike has been my favorite thing. You’re outside, it’s almost like being on foot but you get to travel so much further and so you’re experiencing the environment so much more.
And then you can just leave the bike anywhere to lock it up, where a horse you have to make sure it’s fed and maintained.
What would you sing at karaoke night?
Probably Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody, just because karaoke has to be fun. That song always gets the crowd going.
How would your friends describe you?
Depends on which friends I’m with. They’d probably describe me as always working but not, because I always try to make everything I do fun.
What is your proudest accomplishment?
I became a full-time professional after my first year here. I acquired the campus photographer position in addition to my coordinator of residence halls. That was a pretty cool accomplishment because I didn’t seek after it. They offered it to me because of the work that I did.
When I started at Western I started taking photos at events that the students were hosting, and I was advising it. I was using them to promote the residence halls and using social media to promote the residence halls and I’d post all the photos.
People were wondering who were taking these photos and I was still new so people didn’t know who I was and I lived in the residence halls and I wasn’t up on the main campus very much. They’d been needing someone to take good photos of the campus.
That was such a cool thing because it was nothing that I was expecting or wanting, but it was they noticed my skills and then promoted me because of it. Ever sense then, I’ve been able to do some really cool work.
I killed my first high-country deer, it was a really nice buck, last fall. It was my first big Mule deer that I killed. It was with a rifle. My first bow kill was a long time ago. I’ve shot archery since I was 14. I started with re curve and longbow, then I got a compound.
Who would you want to play you in a movie about your life?
I feel like Niall Horan [One Direction] would be a pretty good one. Or Sean White with short hair.
Why do you continue to live in Wyoming?
Family and friends. My family is here. Since growing up here I have a lot of friends in the area. I’ve met so many great people here that have really impacted my life greatly.
It’s just home. It’s home to me.
If you’d like us to interview yourself or someone you know for #WHYoming, please send us suggestions to Lillian@sweetwaternow.com