Colorado Mountain College graduate Tiernan Spencer closes loop on Summit experience
Colorado Mountain College Summit County Graduation:
Friday, May 5, at 5 p.m.
Keystone Conference Center
0633 Tennis Club Rd. in Keystone
Breckenridge resident Tiernan Spencer is not unlike many who make their way to Summit County — on a whim and without much of a plan following school.
“I had no idea what I was doing,” said Spencer, originally from Minnesota. “I was like, ‘Where is that?’ Now I’ve rooted myself so into this community that I don’t think I could ever leave — right now, at least. It’s been fun.”
Following a friend to the Rockies, she arrived in 2011 unsure if she’d ever attend college and spent a year enjoying the mountain lifestyle. After waiting tables, she opted to dip her toe in the water at Summit’s two Colorado Mountain College campuses, in Breckenridge and Dillon, with some general studies and psychology courses. Spencer liked the atmosphere and the relationships she was building with professors and other staff, and before she knew it, she had her associate’s degree in liberal arts by the spring of 2014. She now works as a full-time preschool teacher at Timberline Learning Center.
“I’ve been involved with so many people here,” she said. “It’s really a community here, and somewhere that I go where I feel comfortable and at home. It’s been really a rock in my life, big time.”
Spencer loved the experiences of playing drop-in ice hockey with the campus vice president, evening bonfires with her culinary instructor and going skiing with her psychology professor. Another year away from school to focus on work, and she decided a return to CMC to obtain a four-year degree was a strong career move, also allowing her to continue pursuing her passion for environmental studies in sustainability.
“I came back just because I knew that you kind of need a degree to be in the playing field to even be considered, because it’s a way to weed someone out when you’re applying for a job,” she explained. “It’s pretty easy to say, ‘bachelor’s, no bachelor’s.’”
Now 23, Spencer graduates from CMC a member of the Dean’s List and with more than 40 credits over the requirement for her degree in sustainability tonight at the Keystone Conference Center. She’s one of 42 Summit-based students receiving a bachelor’s among 156 degrees and certificates to be awarded this year across the fall, spring and summer semesters. And more than 1,100 individuals will be recognized this weekend spanning the community college network’s 11 campuses during nine different ceremonies.
Back in Keystone, by the time nature photographer John Fielder, the event’s keynote speaker and CMC degree honoree, hits the stage, Spencer’s mind may already be on her upcoming two-week trip to Peru with her mother — a much-anticipated graduation present to herself. Once she gets back home, she has no intentions of heading elsewhere, quickly starting her new assistant director position — what she’s calling her first “grown-up job” — with Breckenridge’s Mountain Top Children’s Museum.
Spencer will immediately be focused on the program’s themed summer camp, offering participants activities, games and field trips to places like the Beaver Ponds Environmental Education Center in Fairplay, Lily Pad Lake in Silverthorne and even back to work on a community garden right at the CMC Breckenridge campus. In the winter — given the last two summers earning her EMT certifications — she’ll cut those hours back to part time so she can continue on as a member of ski patrol at Breckenridge Ski Resort following her rookie season.
“I hardly even skied while I was here,” Spencer joked of her entry into Summit. “Now I’m on ski patrol, so it’s kind of bizarre how the order of events happen. I just saw how much of a family they were. I wanted to be a part of that family, and after my first season, I’ve picked the best job in the world, hands down.”
None of it, from her outdoor studies classes to rock climbing in Moab, learning about the trifecta of economy, equity and the environment, nor jumping headfirst into helping manage a nonprofit, is anything Spencer could have imagined when she first landed in Summit County. Yet, regardless what she may eventually chase next, be it a master’s in natural resource management or possibly nursing school to become a paramedic, she remains ever so grateful to both her chance journey out to Breckenridge, and enrolling in the CMC programs not long thereafter.
“Everything worked out for a reason,” said Spencer. “I love this place so much that I’ve thought that I would even consider getting my master’s, and then coming back. I’m graduating and I want to still visit. I don’t want to leave.”
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