by Faith Price, Assistant Director



For Shelby Leighton, being a Coug is a family tradition.

“I had a ton of family that came up here – my mom, all of her four sisters and one of her brothers, and my grandfather,” said Leighton. “Beyond that, all the family are Cougar fans, even if they didn’t attend WSU.”

graduate Shelby Leighton
Shelby Leighton celebrates with his family after the Multicultural Graduation Celebration in December.

And now Leighton has continued the Cougar tradition, earning his bachelor’s of business administration-management in December 2017.

He initially began at WSU as a chemistry major on a pre-med track, but switched majors after his sophomore year. It was a difficult choice.

“When I was a chem major and began to realize that that track wasn’t what I wanted to do, it was hard because I felt like I was failing,” said Leighton. “So it was coming to terms with that and finding something I was happy doing and that I could make an impact doing. I eventually chose a business track and I feel like that could make an impact for my tribe and other tribal communities.”

His participation in the WSU Tribal Nation Building Leadership Program helped influence his career trajectory. The Leadership program began in the fall of 2013 as a four-year curriculum designed to provide participants leadership skills based on tribal values. Leighton was a member of the inaugural cohort.

“I had intended in high school to go far away after college career-wise, but when we learned about sovereignty and stewardship [in leadership courses]…it made me decide that I wanted to work with my tribe and at home,” said Leighton.

In addition to the Leadership Program, Leighton served as a mentor for the Multicultural Student Mentor Program for a year and a half, and also chaired the Ku-ah-mah Native student organization. During his time as a Pullman student, Leighton was also an avid football fan.

“Cougar football games were always awesome. I think I missed two games because I was out of town, but otherwise I was at every home game my entire college career,” said Leighton.

After graduation, Leighton moved to Arizona where his girlfriend who is also a WSU alum is attending graduate school. Leighton intends to work for a couple of years, then go back to get his master’s degree.

He plans to “eventually come back home with a decent amount of work experience and the education to hopefully have a great impact.”

Wherever he goes next, he will always be part of the Cougar family.

“Being a coug and being part of this community.  It’s really special.”