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New CWC Lander leader at the helm

Lander Journal | By Marit Gookin, Staff Writer

New CWC Lander leader at the helm

Photo of Jenni Poor, director of CWC Lander and Alpine Science Institute
CWC Lander and Alpine Science Institute Director Jenni Poor
When Jenni Poor stepped into her role as the Central Wyoming College (CWC) Lander campus director last summer, she brought 15 years of administrative experience to the table. Prior to working for CWC, she explained, she had been the supply chain director for SageWest for over a decade.

“I kind of bring more like the business aspect to CWC,” she remarked. “I see a lot of value in community colleges. I got a two-year degree at Sheridan Community College … It was a much more hands-on and intimate experience than my time at the University of Wyoming. You just get a much more personalized experience.”

“Jenni is committed, energetic, and a positive leader. We are excited about the vision she has for Central Wyoming College’s Lander operations,” CWC Vice President for Student Affairs Coralina Daly commented.

Poor moved to Fremont County in 2008, drawn to the hospital by her interest in nursing. She had worked in the shipping and receiving department at the Western Research Institute while attending college in Laramie, and when SageWest had an opening in its shipping and receiving department, it seemed like a perfect fit. Within a few months, the hospital offered her the position of director.

“I fell into it, and fell in love with it – and then got burned out,” she said. “With COVID and everything, I kind of just needed a new path.”

Working in the medical industry during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic was difficult, she noted, and she found herself missing out on spending time with her two kids, who attend school in Riverton. “I needed to refocus on my kiddos,” she said, so she left her position at SageWest, intending to take some time off to finish her Master’s degree. But when a job opening came up at the Lander CWC campus, she decided to apply, and quickly found herself hired. She is continuing to work on her Master’s degree, and now intends to continue on to a Ph.D program.

Poor is excited for the work going on at CWC Lander – and, she added, the schedule lines up much more closely with her kids’ school schedule.

“It’s kind of going crazy over here, which is awesome,” she commented about the ever-widening array of courses offered at CWC Lander and its Alpine Science Institute. From glaciology to archaeology to trail building to hands-on farming techniques to, in the near future, state-of-the-art hydroponics, CWC Lander has gained a reputation in recent years for its backcountry science and outdoor recreation programs, and its farm incubator program is also holding its own.

“I was very familiar with the Lander community … [but] I didn’t realize that we have a very educated community,” Poor remarked. “I didn’t realize how much passion there was.”

“Jenni is a great addition to CWC. I’m excited about what she is doing to support and expand CWC Lander and CWC at the Alpine Science Institute,” CWC President Brad Tyndall said.

A gardener herself, Poor is enthusiastic about the local foods movement, and is excited to see that enthusiasm reflected in the Lander community. “You can create all this if you have the resources and the education to do it,” she commented about growing your own fruits and vegetables as well as raising your own livestock. “It’s grassroots up, self-sustained.”

Beyond gardening, Poor is also an avid reader and an animal lover; she has three dogs, 10 chickens, and a bearded dragon named Sam at home. The bearded dragon was originally her boyfriend’s, she said, and when they moved in together she was dubious about the idea of keeping a lizard as a pet – but now, she loves the lizard just as much as he does, if not more.

“Sam’s spoiled, he wants to eat out of your hand,” she laughed.

Poor’s two children, aged 13 and eight, are both budding athletes. “I’m constantly chasing kids,” she noted. Her 13-year-old daughter recently qualified for USA Swimming’s state swim meet in February, while her eight-year-old son is looking forward to soccer in the spring.

Before working for CWC, Poor actually took some classes there, including a class she’d struggled with at the University of Wyoming: Business Calculus II. She walked into the CWC classroom, she said, and discovered that the professor teaching her class was actually a friend of hers. “It’s nice to have those community ties,” she commented; for Poor, one of the highlights of a community college is exactly that: community.

“I think it’s cool that I have been that student at a community college,” Poor added. “It’s nice to be able to create those bonds with those students, and form those tight-knit relationships, and watch them grow.

“Everybody here is student-centered first,” she continued. For example, she said, earlier in the year a student got stuck in the mountains. They managed to send a message to the WhatsApp CWC housing group, and Poor sent a staff member to find them and bring them back to campus. That’s the kind of personal focus and relationship that she sees as being the bedrock of a community college education; it’s not just about learning, it’s about learning within a community of people who are working together. “It’s a unique opportunity to be able to help students and really make a difference in their life,” she pointed out.

For now, Poor said, she’s been focused on “trying to get my arms around staffing … learning all of the different realms.” Over Thanksgiving, the campus maintenance supervisor was gone – so Poor hopped on the snow plow to lend a hand. She’s also learning the ropes of water quality at the Alpine Science Institute – which gets its water from a well, and needs to be tested periodically to ensure safety – and other day-to-day tasks related to the basic functioning of the campus. “All of the maintenance stuff that you don’t really think about, because someone’s there to do it for you,” is under her purview and is important to making sure that the campus is well-run and functional for students and staff.

“I can’t supervise people [if] I don’t know their jobs,” she pointed out. “My employees are super important to me because as a manager, you’re only as strong as your team … It’s important to have people smarter than you around, as well.” One of Poor’s personal projects going forward is to work to get the Alpine Science Institute’s barn and chicken shack, both of which she said date to the 1890s and are original to the apple orchard there, added to the National Historic Register. She’s been consulting with local experts such as Dr. Jack States and Pioneer Museum Site Manager Randy Wise, to learn more about the buildings and the orchard. “It has a really cool history, and I want to preserve that,” she remarked.