Writing Her Own History

Published: October 30, 2015

Without a doubt, Amber Shoopman has done a little bit of everything. Once quiet and very reserved, the College of Western Idaho (CWI) alumnae now spends her time interacting with a variety of people and presenting at conferences in large cities. Although she has come a long way from where she once was, she has yet to travel very far away from CWI, and she is writing her own history along the way.

 After graduating from high school in 1996, Amber went to college to become a veterinarian. Although she loves animals, she decided she did not like vet school enough to become one. She ended up working with developmentally disabled people and spent the next 16 years working in group homes and volunteering with Special Olympics.

“I truly loved my job,” she said. “But after I could no longer do it physically, I decided to go back to school. I have always loved history and wanted to write.”

Amber chose CWI and the rest is literally history. After graduating in 2013, she transferred her associate degree in history to Boise State University. Although she graduated, she has still kept one foot firmly planted at CWI. She currently works in the Tutoring Center at the Ada County Campus. Her adventure there started three years ago when Rick Coonrod, the Tutoring Services supervisor who was her English 102 professor, said she should apply.

“Rick saw something in me that I didn’t see in myself,” she said. “I was shy, introverted and had social anxiety. I never dreamed I could work with people in that capacity because I wasn’t even able to talk.”

Her confidence grew with the job. She was put in other positions that helped her grow as a communicator. Around the time she was ready to graduate, she was convinced to speak at a peer tutoring conference in Utah.

“I’m not quite sure how I even survived my (communication) classes,” she said. “Yet for the first time, I was able to stand in front of 30 people and speak. I actually did it.”

Now, as a member of the McNair’s Scholar program at Boise State, Amber presents at the state, regional, and national levels. Her work at the Tutoring Center also puts her in contact with a lot of people from different places—many are English as a Second Language (ESL) students. She enjoys the challenge of being able to help people translate ideas.

“They often come to me with a paper or project, and they have no clue on how to start,” she says. “I ask them to tell me their story, and then I show them how I created an outline based on what they said. It makes it all worth it when the light bulb comes on and I can literally see them make the connection.”

Amber is set to graduate with her bachelor’s degree this coming spring. Her goal is to earn a Ph.D within five years and then become a college history professor.

“I would not be on the path that I am on today if it wasn’t for CWI,” she said. “It allowed me to reinvent myself and gave me the confidence to see who I truly am.”

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