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Building Blocks of Opportunity

June 6, 2022

Philanthropy makes a big impact on UW’s students. 

By Kaitlyn Polley

Philanthropy is former students helping current and future students. Whether donors give a modest donation annually or set up an endowment that benefits students in perpetuity, private giving assists students in many ways. 

Scholarships provide direct support for students, helping them pay for tuition, housing, child care and more. Scholarships established by private donors are available for a wide variety of students—for example, traditional students as well as nontraditional or out-of-state students who are not eligible for the Hathaway Scholarship. Each donor decides the criteria for the scholarships they create, and donors will often support students in their fields or who are from their hometowns or home counties. 

The Hathaway Scholarship is a merit- and need-based scholarship that is vital for Wyoming students. However, it does not cover all expenses and is not available to all UW students. It was created and is supported by the state of Wyoming, not private dollars. 

Pledges such as the Cowboy Commitment and the Brown and Gold Commitment are a way for the University of Wyoming to support students as they work toward their degrees while also reducing student debt upon graduation. 

The Cowboy Commitment is a merit-based financial pledge by UW that supports in-state first-year students. Eligibility is determined by a student’s unweighted GPA and ACT or SAT test scores. The commitment is a pledge that is funded with individual scholarships—made possible by the generosity of donors—and other institutional aid. The Cowboy Commitment can be renewed for four years and is available for transfer students as well. 

Like the Cowboy Commitment, the Brown and Gold Commitment is a financial pledge to benefit incoming first-year students but goes to out-of-state students. It is also determined by unweighted GPA and ACT or SAT test scores and is supported with donor-funded scholarships and other institutional aid. It can be renewed and can also be used by transfer students. 

Of course, scholarships are also awarded outside of these commitments to those who are not incoming first-year students. 

Like scholarships, graduate fellowships cover tuition and much more. They support the invaluable graduate research that not only is the foundation of grad students’ academic work, but also provides fundamental support and personnel—grad students—for professors in their research. This is vital for future professionals and for UW’s research. 

Philanthropy also helps students in ways that are less direct but just as important. Private giving can support faculty through startup funds, salary enhancements and/or research dollars, thereby benefiting students. It supports whole programs of research, as well as the facilities necessary for that research and for other purposes. For example, the Marian H. Rochelle Gateway Center was built entirely from donor contributions. 

Many programs that enhance students’ educations are funded by donors. These include the Harry C. Vaughan UW Planetarium, the Tom A. Thorson Geology Field Camp, several summer camp programs for future UW students, and much more. Donor dollars also support students as they venture out across the world in Education Abroad—the Richard B. and Lynne V. Cheney Study-Abroad Scholarship Fund is the largest land-grant university study-abroad scholarship endowment in the nation. Donors also support UW Extension and all the important work it’s doing across the state. 

To sum it up, private philanthropy offers students the building blocks of opportunity. It not only allows students to attend UW—it also prepares them for rich and rewarding lives and careers. 

Interested in supporting the students of today and tomorrow? Contact the UW Foundation at or 307-766-6300, or give a gift online at

person riding a bicycle
Jonathan “Jack” O’Neil (Photo courtesy of Jonathan “Jack” O’Neil)

Succeeding in the Classroom and the Pool

College is a stressful time for many students—between balancing classes, social lives and other activities. When you throw NCAA Division 1 athletics into the mix, it adds much more stress with a lot less time for everything else. Having financial support from the Charles and Virginia Hill Honors Scholarship has lifted a massive weight off Jonathan “Jack” O’Neil’s shoulders. 

O’Neil is a UW student-athlete from Colorado Springs, Colo. He is in his first year of a journalism degree as a part of the College of Arts and Sciences and is also pursuing an honors minor from the Honors College. He plans to graduate in the spring of 2025.

Growing up, O’Neil was very involved in athletics, and he especially excelled in swimming. He is a two-time Team USA Paralympic Swim Team Qualifier, a member of the USA Triathlon Junior National Para-development team, and a hopeful for the 2024 U.S. Paralympic Swim Team. “A big part of my life is being a disabled athlete at the NCAA level, which is not something that many people can say,” he says. In the meantime, O’Neil plans to train and swim for UW’s varsity athletics.

O’Neil had a goal of swimming in college, which was a big reason he chose to attend UW. He also liked UW’s journalism program and felt that studying journalism at a school with Division 1 athletics matched well with his plan of becoming a sports broadcaster. “I knew I wanted to have a job in sports because that’s what my life revolves around. Writing, sports and broadcast are things that I all like, so I feel like sports broadcast and journalism is something I can get behind.”

Along with his journalism major, O’Neil is part of the Honors College. “I wanted to join the Honors College because I thought it would be a great community to be in,” he says. “I also thought it would be a good way to boost my writing and critical thinking. There are a lot of really cool opportunities and really cool people in the Honors College.”

As an honors student, O’Neil was awarded the Charles and Virginia Hill Honors Scholarship. This scholarship has benefitted him in a variety of ways. “They’re making much more of an impact than they probably think they are. Being a swimmer takes up a lot of time and a lot of emotional stress, and not having to worry about the financial burden is nice,” he says. “It definitely holds me accountable, too. If someone is willing to put their money into me, I don’t want to take their generous donations and put it to waste, so it definitely does keep me motivated in my classes.”

Philanthropy, especially in the form of scholarships, is incredibly important to UW. “I think in one big way it creates a lot of pride for the school,” O’Neil says. “One of the reasons I chose UW is because it has such a great community of people who have been there before. To see that past graduates want to invest in the future of this school is really cool to me, and I think that is a very powerful thing.”

person standing in front of a UW sign
Elijah Vigil (Photo courtesy of Elijah Vigil)

The Future of Oil and Gas

College is the first taste of freedom for many young people. At times, it can be hard to find a balance between school and the rest of life. For Elijah Vigil, scholarships such as the Nielson Energy Scholarship act as a motivator to go the extra mile when it comes to schoolwork.

Vigil is from Castle Pines, Colo. He is in his third year of an energy resource management degree as a part of the School of Energy Resources. Vigil plans to graduate from UW in the spring of 2023.

Inspired by his dad, Vigil chose to pursue an energy resource management degree with the goal of becoming a professional petroleum landman, where he hopes to do exploration and production for an oil and gas company. He chose UW for college because he felt the programs within the School of Energy Resources fit his passion for energy.

During his time at UW, he has met and connected with many faculty members. He is the president of the Student Chapter of Energy Resources, where he was formerly the treasurer. Vigil also worked as an intern at the UW Foundation, where he aided the investment team in the management and organization of oil and gas assets.

In May 2021, Vigil was awarded the Nielson Energy Scholarship. As a freshman, he was awarded the Nielson Bridge Scholarship and has since had financial support from the Nielson Energy Committee. To him, this scholarship has been very beneficial. “I am incredibly appreciative and grateful to the Nielson Energy Committee for their ongoing support for me and the Energy Resource Management Program,” Vigil says. “It has lifted a great financial weight off my shoulders.”

He also says that having the Nielson Energy Scholarship motivates him to work harder in classes. “Scholarships provide students with an incentive to do better and put their best foot forward. They can give that final push that makes the difference between an A and a B,” Vigil says. “They can create a mindset that if you work hard enough for it, you will get it. I think that’s an important message for students.”

woman standing in front of trees
Kayalei Hartl (Photo courtesy of Kayalei Hartl)

Doing Something Right

Many students enter college uncertain of what their lives will look like. They don’t exactly know what they’ll study or who they’ll be in four years. That was the case for Kayalei Hartl, but the Clifford C. Hach Memorial Scholarship has helped rid her of that uncertainty. It has made her feel that she’s doing something right, and she knows that someone else out there believes that she is too.

Hartl is a native Wyomingite from Casper, and she is studying biology and chemistry with a minor in anthropology through the College of Arts and Sciences. Hartl plans to graduate in the spring of 2025.

When looking at where to go to college, Hartl had three questions: Does it make financial sense? How far is it from home? And will she still have the freedom to be herself? Ultimately, UW answered all of these questions perfectly. Staying in state made more sense than going out of state, and she would be close to home but still have the freedom that many college students desire.

Hartl chose to major in both biology and chemistry with the intent of pursuing medical school after her undergraduate degree. However, after being in college for a few months, she has started to also consider other options such as research. She wants to find a career that will enable her to help others. Anthropology is also a subject she has always been passionate about.

During her time at UW, Hartl has branched out and become involved in many ways at UW. She has met many people through living in the residence halls and being in classes, and joining the sorority Alpha Phi has been a highlight of her first-year experience.

Hartl also hopes to get involved in volunteering, both through her sorority and giving her time to local food pantries and animal shelters.

In June 2021, Hartl was awarded the Clifford C. Hach Memorial Scholarship. “I cannot explain how much this scholarship has helped me,” Hartl says. “Because it was specific to my degree, I felt like I was doing something right majoring in chemistry. It’s really motivational because there is a certain GPA I have to keep, and I have to stay in chemistry, so it just keeps me on track. I’m just very thankful.” Given that the scholarship is renewable for up to four years, she feels incredibly blessed to have that much financial support.

“I think scholarships are really important because some students don’t get aid in other forms, like from their parents, or just don’t get the chance to save up because college is expensive,” Hartl says. “I believe if they want to work toward a good education and not have so many distractions outside of working toward their degree, scholarships can be incredibly beneficial.”

man standing in front of a mountain lake
Jackson Crabtree (Photo courtesy of Jackson Crabtree)

A Perfect Fit

When looking for schools with a construction management program, Jackson Crabtree says that UW was hard to beat. From the small, tight-knit community of Laramie to the wonderful outdoor opportunities such as skiing and camping, to the excellent student-to-faculty ratio, UW was the perfect fit for him. As soon as he began classes, he knew he made the right choice. Being awarded the Bellamy and Sons Engineering Scholarship was the icing on the cake.

“The quality of education has been one of the best parts about UW,” Crabtree says. “Everyone who is here wants to be here.”

Crabtree is from Post Falls, Idaho. He is in his third year of a construction management degree as a part of the College of Engineering and Applied Science, with a minor in finance from the College of Business. He plans to graduate in the spring of 2023.

To Crabtree, the construction management program at UW is unlike anywhere else. Instead of providing coursework in just the financial and management side of business, UW’s construction management program offers classes in everything from the architectural work and engineering,

to construction law, to management and business. Because of this wide array of offerings, Crabtree is confident he will be successful working at a construction firm.

Apart from being a full-time student, Crabtree works as a volunteer firefighter and hopes to eventually become an EMT. After graduating from UW, he expects to work full time as a firefighter for as long as he is able, after which he would like to switch into construction management by either working at small construction firm or starting one of his own.

In May 2021, Crabtree was awarded the Bellamy and Sons Engineering Scholarship. The scholarship has benefitted him in many ways. “College is a time of financial instability for a lot of students, so having scholarships like the Bellamy and Sons Engineering Scholarship helps add back some stability,” Crabtree says. That financial stability has allowed him to put all of his focus on school instead of worrying about finances.

“Philanthropy in the form of scholarships is important, because it provides an opportunity to support students in ways that are impactful. They put a good pressure on students to do their best and give them an extra push to do their absolute best,” Crabtree says. “I am so thankful for the Bellamy and Sons’ faith in me and in the new construction management program. Supporting something completely new can be daunting, but it’s comforting knowing they believe in us.”

woman posing
Briana Long (Photo courtesy of Briana Long)

Engineer Turned Lawyer

Earning a bachelor’s does not mean you’ve arrived at your final career choice. Briana Long is a good example of someone who graduated and went out into the work world only to discover she wanted to change career paths—helped along the way by the prestigious Salt Creek Energy Excellence Scholarship.

Long is a third-year law student in the UW College of Law. She is from Gillette, Wyo., and looking to graduate in the spring of 2022. Previously, she graduated from UW in 2018 with a bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering.

When looking at where to attend law school, the choice was easy for Long. She had been living and working in Cheyenne for the Wyoming Infrastructure Authority after graduating. Through her work, Long met other engineers with law degrees. While she enjoyed working as an engineer, she knew it wasn’t what she wanted to do long term. From that point on, she was set on law school.

While in law school, Long says she has had a great experience. UW’s law school has given her a one-on-one experience that she feels she wouldn’t have received anywhere else. She also enjoys the small, supportive community that the College of Law fosters. She thanks the law school for opening so many doors of opportunity.

This past summer, Long worked at Patterson and Sheridan LLP in Houston, Texas. Currently, she works as a patent litigation intern at Sheridan Ross P.C. in Denver, Colo. After graduating, she plans to continue working at Sheridan Ross in patent litigation and using her experience as a chemical engineer to bolster her career.

In May 2021, Long was awarded the Salt Creek Energy Excellence Scholarship. Because of this scholarship, she was able to avoid taking out loans. “I am very appreciative, and I hope they know that it really does make a difference in people’s lives, even if it’s short term,” Long says. “In my case, it even made a difference in my career. I was able to find the job that I wanted and not have all of the financial stress while I was doing that.”

It has also given her some free time, which is hard to come by in law school. Because of the scholarship, Long was able to support her mother as she battled cancer by attending her chemotherapy appointments and spending time with her. To her, that was an important personal aspect.

“In general, l think that philanthropy is important because it’s a way to give back,” Long says. “Everyone can remember how much they struggled and how poor they were as a student. I think it’s important to remember where you were at in different points of your life and then help people in similar situations.” 

From the Concrete Jungle to the Great Outdoors

Many UW students come from concrete jungles such as Dallas, Chicago and New York City. Oftentimes, the appeal of UW and Laramie is the ability to get away from the hustle and bustle of life at the drop of a hat. That is exactly what Taylor Davis was looking for.

Davis is from Dallas, Texas. She is in her third year of an outdoor recreation and tourism management degree with a minor in outdoor leadership from the Haub School of Environment and Natural Resources. She is planning to graduate in December 2022.

As an incoming freshman, Davis planned to study theater during college, as she was recruited to come to UW while at a thespian festival in Dallas. However, after being involved in the Outdoor Recreation Freshman Interest Group, she decided that theater was not for her. “Theater was great, but after more exposure to the outdoor recreation and tourism management program through the outdoor program and the people on my floor in the residence halls, the switch just felt right.”

After graduating, Davis plans on finding a job that allows her to be out in nature while also sharing her knowledge and educating others about the outdoors. She is considering working on a dude ranch or becoming a backpacking guide.

Coming from Dallas, Davis knew that she would enjoy the wide-open spaces that Wyoming offers. Being able to get outside and go skiing or hiking whenever she wanted has been a major highlight during her time at UW. She has also become involved at UW in many other ways. She joined the Cowboy Country Swing Club as a freshman and now serves as an instructor. Davis also is part of the Ethics Club, Climbing Club, Collegiate 4-H and the Equestrian Team.

UW made the most sense financially for Davis. As a part of the Haub School, she was awarded the Bruce and Beth White Scholarship in Outdoor Recreation and Tourism. “This opportunity is amazing. It has really allowed me to worry less about the financial burden of taking on more loans and worrying about getting enough hours in at work each week,” Davis says. “This scholarship allows me to focus more time on my schooling and to figure out what I want to do once I graduate.”

“Philanthropy is important to communities because it allows people to give back and support those who come after them, just like people have supported them. This goes for scholarships, nonprofits and even donating to UW programs,” she says. “Additionally, it allows for individuals to help fund the programs that are important to them and decide the impact on the community they have.”

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