Encouraged by the relatively low cost of tuition and the myriad sources of financial support available, many University of Wyoming students take advantage of study-abroad programs, leaving Wyoming for a summer, semester or year in an unfamiliar location.
Gabe Selting — the recipient of the 2018 Tobin Memorial Award and UW’s Outstanding Graduating Man — did more than most, taking study-abroad courses in six countries and volunteering and interning in four more.
Graduating today and reflecting on his college career, Selting said he is thankful for the opportunities he found at UW — opportunities he would not have had elsewhere.
“All of these things that UW has pointed me towards has really just channeled my vision in terms of what I want to do and where I want to go,” he said. “I’m really appreciative UW was able to offer an experience-based education. That was definitely something I was looking for as a high school student.”
A Laramie native, Selting is the son of UW faculty members Marsha Knight and Leigh Selting. Between the Hathaway Award and Trustees Scholarship, the younger Selting chose UW over other colleges specifically for the chance to study abroad and see the world.
He said those experiences were essential to earning the international studies degree he was pursuing.
“The University of Wyoming has been really supportive in terms of sending students abroad, myself included,” he said.
He studied in France, Egypt, Israel, Palestine, Jordan and London and volunteered in Bolivia, Trinidad, Tobago and Haiti.
He also interned at the Education for Peace in Iraq Center in Washington, D.C. — the first of several internships to guide his research and professional interests for years to come.
“That was really my first exposure, on a professional level, with forced migration as was happening a lot in Iraq and is still happening,” he said.
Along the way, he studied Arabic and French — though his French is much better.
At the University of Strausbourg in France, Selting got to choose between English language course and French-language courses designed for native speakers. He chose the latter.
“I remember having a debate in my mind about whether I wanted to take these English courses for the sake of preserving my GPA or if I wanted to just take these French courses,” he said. “I’m actually really proud to say I failed some of those French classes because I just didn’t speak the language — certainly not at the level that was required — but because of that, I’m really comfortable with French at this point.”
His grasp on French served him well during an internship the following summer at the U.S. Embassy in the French-speaking Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso.
His interest in Africa and the Middle East, specifically, made Arabic the next obvious language to practice, and Selting studied it for a year.
“It’s helped me to be able to connect with folks in Palestine and Morocco, but a year of Arabic just is not sufficient,” he said. “That’s definitely in the future for me. I definitely need to continue my Arabic studies.”
Selting also interned at the International Human Rights Clinic at UW, doing background checks on asylum-seekers in the United States. This experience solidified his interest in immigration and human rights law — which he said he hopes to pursue in law school.
Selting said this area of work grounds the lofty expectations he once had of human rights law in reality.
“It’s kind of the hybrid between domestic and international law, so it brings a little bit more oomph to it,” he said.
That Selting wants to continue this work into the future is no surprise to the faculty in his department.
“He’s tenacious in the best possible way,” said Stephanie Anderson, head of the School of Politics, Public Affairs and International Studies. “He wants to help people. He takes it seriously. He’s not going to wait for somebody else to do it. He’s going to take action to make the world a better place.”
This commitment to making the world a better place is evident in his chosen thesis topic.
“My thesis is about refugee resettlement in Wyoming and about how we’re the only state that does not have a refugee resettlement program filed with the federal government,” Selting said. “Basically, a couple of years ago, there were efforts to establish a refugee resettlement program, but that fell through. I’m trying to pick up on those efforts a little bit with my thesis.”
As Selting moves on — he said he plans to attend law school in Washington, D.C. — his department and the people he inspired remember him as a natural leader.
“Having him in our program meant our program was going to succeed,” Anderson said. “He is a reliable, responsible, enthusiastic student who made everyone’s lives easier.”