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Bureau of Mines Building, Room 137
Laramie, WY 82071
Phone: (307) 766-2929

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Leaders and Creators

two men standing outside
John Lee and Greyson Buckingham (Photo by Disa Technologies Inc.)

From launching their own businesses to leading companies and nonprofits, College of Business graduates play a key role in the state’s economy.

Greyson Buckingham, Disa Technologies

One of the exciting companies to grow out of the College of Business is Disa Technologies Inc. based in Casper. Disa has six patents for its high-pressure slurry ablation technology for mineral processing and remediation, which allows the company to separate valuable minerals from waste material.

“It saves a lot of money in the mineral processing space, and in remediation, you can isolate the materials you want removed in a much more efficient manner,” explains CEO and President Greyson Buckingham, who earned his joint J.D. and energy management MBA degrees from UW in 2018. “We’re primarily focused on cleaning up abandoned uranium mines throughout the West. There are 15,000 abandoned uranium mines. There was no solution other than disposing of 100 percent of the material. We have a technology that can effectively address that problem and be up to 90 percent more cost effective. Then we can help convert a liability into an asset by removing the uranium and other minerals from the waste material.”

In addition to uranium, the company is working with a phosphate mine. Fellow energy management MBA graduate John Lee serves as Disa’s chief operating officer. The two competed in the John P. Ellbogen $50K Entrepreneurship Competition with a different business idea and then launched Disa in 2018. They garnered startup funding and support from the Wyoming Business Council’s Kickstart program and IMPACT 307’s Casper Start-Up Challenge, as well as seed and angel investments. Disa currently employs 14, and it plans to add 20 employees in the next year. The company especially loves hiring UW graduates, whom its leaders find skilled and hard-working.

“One of our goals is to have 100 employees in Wyoming,” Buckingham says.

The company’s first investor was a UW professor who adamantly believed in the concept. Buckingham says he uses both his degrees equally, and they help him navigate complex issues, such as making sure the technology is regulated fairly under the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

Currently, the U.S. imports 50 percent or more of 50 critical minerals, often from nations including China and Russia, Buckingham says. Disa can help the U.S. recover more of these minerals right here at home.

“From a national security standpoint, our company helps recover critical minerals, which is extremely important,” Buckingham says. “With the move toward nuclear power, we have enough uranium sitting on the surface of these abandoned mines to power the U.S. reactor fleet for two decades. How awesome would it be to clean up these sites and at the same time provide carbon-neutral fuel supplies instead of getting it from places like Russia?”

Buckingham always knew he wanted to stay and work in Wyoming and found a supportive community ready to help.

“Without exaggeration, we’ve saved over half a million dollars just by people in Wyoming being so generous,” he says. This has included folks lending equipment and warehouse space. 

He adds, “I think the state is doing a great job positioning itself in a way that will diversify the economy and provide jobs for younger generations.”

head photo of a woman
Melanie Urwiller (Courtesy Photo)

Melanie Urwiller, Lenhart, Mason & Associates

Melanie Urwiller is a certified public accountant with Lenhart, Mason & Associates LLC in her hometown of Casper. She knew she wanted to stay in Wyoming prior to graduating in 2012 with her bachelor’s degree in accounting.

“When I started going to job fairs and interviewing with potential employers, I saw the huge potential for my career here,” Urwiller says. “Being at UW connected me with the right people. I was able to meet with potential employers and make connections that I wouldn’t have otherwise, which led me to where I am today.”

At Lenhart, Mason & Associates, she focuses on tax and consulting for individuals and businesses. “I love taking complex issues and points of stress for clients and putting them at ease,” Urwiller says. “I get to see my clients and their businesses flourish within our community, and I’m incredibly honored to be a part of that.”

To UW students, she advises getting involved, asking questions and making connections.

“Wyoming is the perfect place for young professionals right now,” Urwiller says. “There is a wealth of knowledge from older generations set to retire, which also opens up so many doors for you to grow your career quickly! It’s a bonus that Wyoming is beautiful with so much space to explore.”

Studying Entrepreneurship

University of Wyoming students have access to a robust entrepreneurship education program. They can choose to major in entrepreneurship through the College of Business, or any student can opt for an entrepreneurship minor. The minor includes three courses through the College of Business as well as a selection of interdisciplinary courses from other colleges. During their capstone course, students create business models and can even launch their businesses via the entrepreneurship competition.

“We recently hosted the 23rd annual John P. Ellbogen $50K Entrepreneurship Competition,” says Project Coordinator Josie Voight. “Our goal is to grow student-led businesses through education about best practices, sharing resources available to help them succeed and providing mentorship to support their journeys.”

The College of Business also recently launched a Venture MBA option, which combines traditional coursework with a mentored experiential learning project involving innovation. This option establishes clear pathways for students to engage in the entrepreneurial ecosystem, to create new businesses or to grow existing enterprises.

woman in cap and gown speaking at a podium
Mandy Fabel gave the keynote address at UW’s spring 2023 undergraduate commencement.
Mandy Fabel, Leadership Wyoming

Mandy Fabel earned her MBA from UW in 2008 and competed in the John P. Ellbogen Entrepreneurship Competition with an outdoor business concept. Those experiences set the stage for a successful career. In 2018, Fabel took on the role of executive director of Leadership Wyoming, a program that helps connect, grow and inspire state leaders.

“Our core program involves running a 40-person cohort over nine months that spends time in several Wyoming communities,” says Fabel, who lives in Lander. “We also offer executive coaching and team coaching as well as other programs to support leaders in the state. I love that I get to work with passionate people who have chosen Wyoming as their home and want to help lead their companies, community and state.”

Leading a nonprofit requires many skills ranging from budgeting and board management to event planning and fundraising. Fabel UW education prepared her well for the role, including the great networking, strong relationships with professors and business leaders, and the chance to serve as a graduate assistant with the Outdoor Program. In addition to her work with Leadership Wyoming, Fabel is a professional snowmobiler and a mom, writes a monthly column for The Sheridan Press and has a podcast with her husband called Granola and Gasoline.

To students hoping to stay in the state, she recommends keeping an open mind, looking at all options and being willing to work your way up. “You may be surprised someday to find yourself in a dream job because they wanted a candidate who had already proven successful in Wyoming,” Fabel says.

Personally, she can’t imagine living anywhere else: “There is something very special about communities made up of people who choose to live in a location for their love of the area and the people. Watching people weather a difficult winter and find ways to support neighbors and even strangers is incredibly inspiring. There are a lot of people who can’t imagine living somewhere that doesn’t have Uber and same-day Amazon delivery or where major interstates are often closed in the winter. But I can’t imagine living in a place where neighbors are not interconnected and supportive of each other.”

Christopher Fornstrom, Channel Seed

It’s hard to list just one company after Christopher Fornstrom’s name because he wears many hats — and that’s just the way he likes it. Fornstrom earned his bachelor’s degree in business management in 2020, followed by his MBA in 2021. He then returned to his hometown of Pine Bluffs to work on the family farm, where they grow pinto beans, sugar beets, corn and wheat.

“The more I was away from the family farm, the more I knew I wanted to come back,” he says. “My main job is to help our family farm. I’m a fourth-generation farmer. I do a lot of bookwork on that end. I also sell seed corn for Channel Seed. That led us to work with Pine Bluffs Distilling (which produces a variety of whiskies as well as a vodka). We’ve been selling them our corn for three years and bought into the distillery as part owners two years ago.”

Fornstrom loves working outside and appreciates the farming and small-town lifestyle.

“If I’m ever bored, there’s always something to work on to change up my scenery,” he says. “I like the sense of neighborly relationships you grow with people around you. It seems everyone is friendlier and closer when there are less of you. There are times we need help from our neighbors, and they are more than willing to lend a hand and jump in, in whatever way they can.”

To other UW students who want to stay in Wyoming, he recommends making as many connections as you can: “Put yourself out there and reach out to the industries you’re interested in joining. The great part about Wyoming business owners is that they’re willing to help the next generation, whether they can provide you with an internship or a tour of their business. Whatever help they can provide, they are willing.”

Fornstrom says UW’s MBA program gave him the hands-on experience he needed as well as great networking: “I’ve worked personally with my MBA classmates, I’ve reached out to professors since graduation, and I’ve done internships through the speakers in the executive speaker series. All the connections they give you are really the biggest advantage that UW provides.”

Contact Us

Institutional Communications
Bureau of Mines Building, Room 137
Laramie, WY 82071
Phone: (307) 766-2929

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