When Tanner Telford first arrived at Weber State University, he didn’t know what to expect. A few short years later, he has just graduated and will be attending Oxford, the world-famous research college, come fall.

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When Telford began his education at WSU, he was a first-generation college student who knew he wanted to be a teacher, but wasn’t sure of the steps required to get there. However, WSU did a good job of preparing him so that he was able to submit an application to Oxford and get admitted to its smallest-accepted cohort in recent memory: Telford will be one of 12 students joining the college ranks this fall.

During his time at WSU, Telford quickly came to realize his aspirations to teach ran in a deeper vein than that. Telford said he quickly found he wanted to “be the voice of universities and students” alike, and that sentiment motivated him to pursue the path of university president. Oxford is his first step in getting there.

At Oxford, Telford will again be moving into an unfamiliar environment. While still a university, as a research college, students at Oxford have to complete a full research dissertation as part of the master’s program. Telford expressed some worry at this requirement, as he said at WSU, he hasn’t performed much of the hard research Oxford will require.

Additionally, the whole education system works differently. At Oxford, students operate under a more do-or-die system, where all of their work and corresponding accolades rely on one final exam.

However, Telford said he was excited Oxford accepted his research proposal. Telford plans to research the commodification of higher education, with a specific focus on how commodification affects underrepresented populations, such as first generation college students similar to himself.

Telford hopes at Oxford he will be able to arm himself with sufficient knowledge about his research topic in order to enact policies and practices stateside. Of course, he knows that’s a goal far down the line.

Following his time at Oxford, Telford knows to be a viable university president candidate, he’ll need a doctoral degree. He hopes to attend Duke or the University of Utah. In fact, Telford cites Utah as a reason he became interested in his research topic.

“I’d love to eventually work in Utah because of the wealth disparity present in this state,” Telford said. He feels Utah would be a great testing ground for practical implementation of the information he researches during his master’s and doctoral degrees.

Telford had advice for anyone looking to take a degree from WSU and turn it into something big: involvement. From acting as president of the Honors Student Advisory Board on campus, overseeing the RA’s in campus dorms and achieving Crystal Crest Scholar of the Year this past semester, Telford was active in many ways on campus. He said his experiences were great opportunities for leadership.

He also said his experiences taught him a great deal about relying on others. Taking on as much as one can will inevitably put stressors on time management, and Telford said he had to learn how to rely more on others and the leadership practices he had previously put forth in order to make sure everything ran smoothly in his last semester.

Another piece of advice Telford would give students is to learn as much as possible about the route he or she wants to go in advance. Telford quickly changed his aspirations from being a teacher to a university president, and in order to prepare for the long stay in England he’ll soon undertake, he took a Study Abroad trip to Oxford during his time at WSU. He’s also worked with Dr. Bedford, the director of the honors program at WSU, who attended Oxford, closely and spoke at length with him about the experience.

Determination, involvement and research are all ways Telford took himself from being a first-generation college student to the halls of Oxford university, showing that with the right mindset, truly, WSU can lead anywhere.

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