Dr. Shere Byrd is a Professor of Biology.

Dr. Shere Byrd is a Professor of Biology.

To try and celebrate all of the achievements that Dr. Shere Byrd has accomplished in her time at Fort Lewis College would be a big task. Two of the most noticeable achievements that she’s been a part of recently are the construction of the new biology wing of Berndt Hall and the outfitting of the new labs with state-of-the-art equipment. These two accomplishments have helped lead the Biology program to new heights and helped one of the most popular majors at FLC continue to grow.

“A new facility is definitely more attractive to new students than an old junky facility,” she says. “It’s also created an opportunity for faculty to progress more in terms of their own scholarship because we now have instrumentation that they can use in research projects with students.

“So what I’ve seen is that there has really been an upsurge in faculty interest and participation in hands-on science since we’ve had the new building.”

Still, ask her what she’s most proud of and the term “mentor” comes up a lot. The dictionary defines mentor as “a wise and trusted counselor or teacher.” Considering all Dr. Byrd does for her students, it wouldn’t surprise anyone to see Dr. Byrd’s picture alongside this definition.

“I bring that desire to mentor into the classroom,” she says. “So my classes tend to feel like family after awhile. Everybody feels pretty comfortable. They feel like they can come to me if they need something.”

Along the lines of being a mentor to her students, Dr. Byrd is particularly proud of her role in bringing practical research to the forefront of getting a biology degree at FLC. She helped spearhead the push to change the Biology Department’s senior research project from a library-based project where students simply studied a topic and wrote a paper to a more hands-on project. She was also a champion of faculty acting as mentors as their students worked on their research.

Many of these positive changes that Dr. Byrd has helped bring about started simply because she was not afraid to get involved. As a self-described opportunist, Dr. Byrd is not one to shy away from trying something just because she isn’t sure if she can do it or it might add to her work load.

“If opportunities arise where I think I can have an impact, or where it’s something that I’m passionate about, or I feel like change needs to be made, then I get involved,” she says. “If you don’t ask or you don’t do, the answer is always no.”

All this from someone who chose a college (Western State) based largely on whether or not they had a ski team (FLC did not have a team at the time). Even after getting her undergraduate degree, Dr. Byrd still wasn’t sure what she wanted to do with her life. She studied physiology in graduate school and enjoyed the research part of her education, but it wasn’t until she started teaching in grad school that her career path finally clicked into place. Happily, she was able to find her way home to Durango and make a lasting impact here at Fort Lewis College.

As she sums up her feelings on her accomplishments at FLC, it’s no surprise that “mentor” comes up once more.

“For me, the best part about Fort Lewis College is I know my students well enough that I can develop those kinds of relationships and I can act as a mentor to help students get to where they want to go.”