STEPHENVILLE — Not that it’s trying, but Tarleton State University can’t get rid of Cheyenne Mack.
The featured speaker at 3 p.m. graduation ceremonies Friday, Dec. 11, will be addressing her second commencement audience.
“I was actually the commencement speaker for my undergraduate ceremony,” she said, “which is kind of crazy. During the speakers’ competition everybody was saying I was an old pro. I said, ‘No, this is just as nerve-racking as the first time.’ ”
She graduates Friday with a master’s degree in agricultural and natural resources sciences, after earning her bachelor’s in spring 2019.
The Dublin native had planned to pursue higher education a bit farther from home.
“It wasn’t in my plans at all,” she said. “Going to Tarleton was the last thing I wanted to do. I did not want to stay at home. I wanted to branch out, go new places.”
But a diagnosis of thyroid cancer in high school forced her to stay close while she recuperated. Still, she had one foot out the door.
“I originally planned to transfer to another university when I was well enough. But once I was at Tarleton and I got involved, I absolutely fell in love with it. I tell everyone there now, ‘You can’t get rid of me.’
“I address in my speech that being diagnosed with cancer helped me make one of the best decisions of my life, choosing Tarleton. And it’ll make me cry.”
Much of Cheyenne’s time recently has gone to the People and Prairies project, teaching local landowners ways to utilize their land with native wildlife in mind.
“I helped develop a five-year land management plan totally focused on getting them a 1-d-1 tax valuation to make them tax exempt through wildlife management instead of agriculture like many landowners do,” she said. “They’re replanting native grasses and providing habitats for native bird species. We’re also working on a prescribed burn plan we’re hoping to get going in the next few years.”
The project mirrors what she’d eventually like to do with her new degree.
“The wildlife department has been absolutely wonderful with me,” she said. “I am one of those weird ones who love animals and the outdoors as well as people and teaching them. Our department kind of created this project for me.”
It has been an exciting semester for Cheyenne. Besides working on the People and Prairies project and earning her master’s degree, she was married in November. On top of that, she has been asked to remain on campus as an adjunct professor in the wildlife department, teaching a three-hour sophomore course
“I’m really excited about getting to pay it forward to that next generation of wildlife students,” she said. “And I get to stay at Tarleton a little longer.”