For countless leaders the world over, the time that passed between March 2020 and May 2021 will be remembered as frustrating, exhausting and complicated. For 40 lucky Wyomingites, however, the past year has been marked by new experiences and wonderful people.

We are referring to the 40 members of the Leadership Wyoming Class of 2021. In a time of great uncertainty, this group unknowingly took a collective leap of faith in hopes the world around us would somehow tip back on its regular axis and allow this amazing program to proceed as it had for the 20 years before. The world didn’t exactly follow our plans, so instead the 40 members of the class, led by the outstanding staff of Leadership Wyoming, worked to embrace the changes around us and to engage in a supportive, challenging and life-changing leadership opportunity.

Committing to a nine-month program with extensive travel and countless hours with strangers is probably antithetical to what most of us would consider a great idea during a world-wide pandemic. But our class wouldn’t trade our time together for anything. We have made amazing, lifelong connections with people from every corner of Wyoming and from all walks of life. We have had our energy and hope renewed during and after each session. We have come to have a deeper understanding of the issues facing each of us in Wyoming, and have great hope in what each of us can contribute to our exceptional state.

Our cohort has toured facilities we never dreamt we would be inside of (i.e. a coal mine, the Wyoming State Crime Lab, the Wyoming State Archives and a working ranch, just to name a few). We have the opportunity to meet with local leaders who are providing opportunities and inspiration for their communities. Upon returning home after each session, we feel energized and renewed to continue to embrace the lessons life has offered, to contribute to our communities, and as our classmate Dan Lee said, “be wonderful to people.”

And perhaps most importantly, our Leadership Wyoming class has embraced and encouraged each other along the difficult journey of the past year. From personal challenges to complex business decisions, it is an incredible gift to have a support network outside of your own bubble or stakeholder group. The lessons we have learned from each other are only the beginning of what this group will mean over time.

As each of us looks around the room of other Leadership Wyoming participants, we recognize that no one really had time for this commitment, from a mom who applied while her husband was deployed to Southwest Asia to an interim dean at the University of Wyoming tasked with more than his fair share of responsibilities. For anyone waiting for a “better time” or things to return to “normal,” you are missing out on an opportunity to grow yourself and your state at the most important time we may face as leaders.

Take a leap of faith in the midst of chaos. It will be worth it. Applications are due April 14. For more information, go to

(Shelby Wetzel is a part of the The Leadership Wyoming Class of 2021.)

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