Slow and Steady Wins the Degree

CSU Human Resources Specialist Earns her Anthropology

Joshua Zaffos

Shelly Lynch came to work in Human Resources at Colorado State University in June 1993, building a lifelong career and earning her share of promotions and new responsibilities on campus over the years while also raising a family. This weekend, she will add a new accolade to her CSU credentials, earning a Bachelor of Arts in Anthropology.

Lynch, who currently works as a Human Resources Operations Specialist in the College of Agricultural Sciences, got her degree basically one to two courses each semester over roughly seven years, taking advantage of the Employee Study Privilege benefit, which allows university employees to take up to nine credit hours of courses per year without the assessment of the student portion of tuition or general fees.

“Shelly is an inspiration and such a great example of how – with enough determination – you can earn your degree in a manner that works for you,” said Keri Canada, Anthropology instructor and Academic Success Coordinator for the Department of Anthropology and Geography. “I was also lucky enough to have Shelly in my Anthropology of Sex and Reproduction (ANTH 333) course this semester, and I have been continually impressed with the quality of her work – particularly in a semester when I knew she was balancing a full-time job and her capstone research. We’ve been so lucky to have Shelly as part of our department and I feel personally honored to have been able to witness her journey.”

We caught up with Lynch to talk about her journey, accomplishments, and lessons learned and applied between anthropology and human resources.

Shelly Lynch, Human Resources Specialist in the College of Agricultural Sciences, earned her Anthropology BA completing her program one to two courses each semester. (Image: Shelly Lynch)

What led you to study anthropology while holding down a human-resources job?

When I came here in June ’93, I actually started [taking classes] in January ’94. I was studying Botany and also took Introduction to Cultural Anthropology (ANTH 100). I did that [taking 1-2 classes each semester] until spring semester ’99. That was when I had my first baby, and fall of ’99, I took my first break, which then of course became a 14-plus-year break.

I came back in the fall of 2015. In that time, the Botany degree went away, and I really liked that Cultural Anthropology class that I took way back so I decided, I’m going to go for it. I decided almost immediately when I enrolled [in her first semester back at CSU] that I was going to do general Anthropology (Bachelor of Arts).

What about anthropology spoke to you as a person and an adult learner?

It’s a funny story: My parents took me on a field trip down to Mesa Verde and to the ruins in Farmington, New Mexico, when I was in 4th grade and I did not even know that [cultural resources management, archaeology, and anthropology] was a job or anything. At my little 5th grade graduation, when it was, “What did I want to be when I grow up?” It was, “An archaeologist.” So, this and my love and interest in the past and history has always been there for me.

With being a general Anthropology major, I knew I liked the Biological Anthropology discipline, but I didn’t want to go there completely and the department made it easy to just kind of mix it around and do general Anthropology. [Anthropology majors at CSU can choose a general undergraduate degree track or a concentration in Archaeology, Biological Anthropology, or Cultural Anthropology.]

What is it like to complete a degree over years like this?