Shelly is a PhD candidate in the Department of Sociology at the University of California, Berkeley and a Kinder Scholar at the Kinder Institute for Urban Research at Rice University in Houston, Texas. She is a National Science Foundation Graduate Fellow, a member of the Tourism Studies Working Group at Berkeley, and an instructor at the D-Lab of UC Berkeley.

She completed undergraduate studies at Harvard College, where she graduated with highest honors in sociology. Before Berkeley, she was a middle school science teacher on the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota. Outside of academia, she works with children's grief support programming. She's also an accordion player, runner, and lifelong Oregon Ducks fan.