Sheridan County Weed and Pest District Supervisor Earns Higher Degree From UW

Walker Billings admits he was never a very motivated student while growing up in Sheridan.

A young man with light skin and short curly blonde hair wearing a Wyoming Cowboys hoodie and a baseball cap with sunglasses on top. He is standing in front of a lake.
Walker Billings.

So, it is somewhat amazing to him that he will graduate with a master’s degree in plant sciences from the University of Wyoming this weekend—especially because, during the time he was finishing his degree and research, he was holding down a full-time job.

Billings, district supervisor for Sheridan County Weed and Pest, manages two full-time employees and 10 seasonal workers during the summer. He creates the annual budget; carries out the entire district’s programs; coordinates with and between private landowners and government agencies; and spends time hosting educational events for Sheridan County citizens.

Some of Sheridan County Weed and Pest’s largest projects include its invasive grass and leafy spurge programs and the mosquito control program.

A lifelong Sheridan resident, Billings graduated from Sheridan High School in 2018 and then attended Sheridan College for three semesters to pursue an associate degree in wildlife biology. Before finishing that, he transferred to UW and started working on a bachelor’s degree in rangeland ecology and watershed management, graduating in 2022.

Changing a Field of Study

While at Sheridan College, Billings met his future UW adviser and mentor, Brian Mealor, the UW Research and Extension Center director in Sheridan. Mealor was filling in for the Sheridan College range science instructor while she was on maternity leave.

A man wearing a cowboy hat and jeans standing in a grassy field with a clipboard on a sunny day.
Walker Billings, Sheridan County Weed and Pest district supervisor, collects data as part of his research project near Ranchester. Billings will graduate with a master’s degree in plant sciences this week from the University of Wyoming. He earned his degree while holding down a full-time job. Photo by Jane Sylvestre.

“After that semester with Brian as a professor, I transferred to UW and changed my degree path from wildlife biology to rangeland ecology and watershed management,” Billings says. “It is inspiring to me to find a field where I can do work to help my community and the landscape that I love.”

While working toward his bachelor’s degree, Billings started a quick-start master’s degree program offered through UW that allowed him to begin working on his plant sciences research during the summers.

“This also allowed me to start knocking out master’s course credits during my undergraduate program,” he says.

By 2023, Billings gained employment with Sheridan County Weed and Pest—one semester into his master’s degree program.

“The quick-start program was a huge help because I was in Laramie and could be strategic about taking the courses that were only offered in person at that time,” he says.

Following his graduation with a Bachelor of Science degree, Billings moved back to Sheridan and finished his coursework online. His master’s degree is directly related to the work he does in his everyday Sheridan County position.

He admits it was challenging being a full-time student and working full time, adding that he is thankful for his weed and pest district board of directors for supporting his education while working.

“Dr. Mealor also was supportive of me through the whole process, which helped immensely,” he adds. “But my wife, Olivia, was especially the strongest piece of my support system.”

He says he would not have been able to finish his degree work without the support from all of these individuals.

“Since I have found my niche, I have been able to excel and accomplish something I did not ever see myself doing,” Billings says. “I have proven to myself that I can accomplish whatever I decide to dedicate myself to in the future.”

This story was originally published on UW News.

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