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An Important Student Survey and a Busy Week

January 29, 2018

To the UW community:

Good Monday morning!

This week, we transition from January to February and begin our second week of spring semester. I hope you are settling into your semester schedule and routine. I was joined by several of our ASUW leaders last Monday as we welcomed students back to campus and provided hot chocolate, coffee and cookies in the Wyoming Union. It was a chilly morning, so the hot beverages were especially popular. It was fun to welcome literally hundreds of students and wish them a good semester.

I begin my message by reminding UW students that a survey on sexual assault was released last week with an invitation for you to participate. The survey assesses attitudes and behaviors related to sexual violence at UW. Responses will assist me and the Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Task Force in revising policies, developing education, improving campus safety and otherwise making our campus responsive to sexual assault and violence. I encourage all students to participate.

Last week, I also reviewed an exit report from two health physicists from the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) Region IV Division of Nuclear Materials Safety. They were on campus for a routine, unannounced inspection of UW’s Radiation Safety Program and facilities where radioactive materials and sealed sources are used and stored under UW’s NRC materials license. Not only were no violations of federal regulations or license conditions identified, but the inspectors also commended the university, particularly the radioactive materials procurement, storage and waste management facility, and the maintenance of required records. I offer a special thanks and recognition to Jim Herrold, radiation safety officer, and the Radiation Safety Committee, who carefully monitor our radiation safety protocol.

Last Monday afternoon and evening, I had the opportunity to attend the Wyoming Agriculture Diversification Summit at Northwest College in Powell. With a goal of identifying strategic opportunities to develop value-added and specialty agriculture initiatives, the program included several UW participants. I enjoyed Thomas Foulke’s presentation on First Grains, a pilot project to develop a niche market in Wyoming for high nutrient density grains such as spelt. In addition, VP Ed Synakowski and College of Business Interim Dean David Chicoine served on a “Research Drives Innovation” panel. I concluded the first day’s program by providing after-dinner remarks. I thank AES Director Bret Hess, who played a key role in planning the summit, and I look forward to next steps to add value to Wyoming’s agriculture.

A new shared governance Facilities Council had its first meeting last week. The council will assume leadership an all aspects of physical facilities on campus to support our mission and strategic plan. The council’s advice and recommendations will encompass facility-related regulations and policies, facility and space planning, prioritization of facility improvements, usage of space, acquisition of real estate, public art, and sustainability.  Co-chaired by Vice President Mai and Provost Miller, the council includes representatives of faculty and staff senates, ASUW, several sub-councils as well as athletics, general counsel, AES, research, IT, student affairs, development and budget. The goal of creating this council is to bring together all divisions of the university to be involved with facilities and to become more transparent and inclusive in facility-related planning and decision-making. I appreciate those who are serving on the council and look forward to your recommendations in the months to come.

Last Wednesday, I had the opportunity to meet Mike Kmetz and Nicole Bleak, who oversee Healthy Kids Rx, a nonprofit organization promoting a healthy lifestyle for youth. Serving elementary, middle and high school youth, the program offers physical activity, nutrition education and behavioral health mentoring. I enjoyed the opportunity to learn more about this organization and UW’s involvement, including internship opportunities for our students. If you are interested in learning more or have ideas on collaboration, please see

Last Thursday, Chris Boswell, Dr. Danny Dale and I traveled to Gillette to attend one of our legislative dinners. We first stopped at the Gillette News Record for an interview and then headed to the dinner. As mentioned before, these dinners provide an opportunity to discuss UW’s budget priorities with legislators in their districts, and in a smaller, discussion-oriented format. Six legislators attended this dinner, and the dialogue was rich with many questions about the Science Initiative, housing plan and job placement of our graduates. I appreciate Dr. Dale accompanying us to provide information on the Science initiative.

Last Friday, I had the opportunity to meet Liz Brown, UW alumnae and employee of the Education Advisory Board out of Washington, D.C.  She spent much of the day with our student affairs staff and student leaders as she addressed the new era of student activism. I found her presentation helpful, as she provided a national context and best practices for working with students.

Mary Aguayo (who runs our Transfer Student Center) and I headed over to Cheyenne on Friday to attend the governor’s proclamation signing. Governor Mead actually signed two proclamations, but the one of most interest to us had to do with setting an educational attainment goal for Wyoming as recommended by ENDOW. UW and the community colleges have provided leadership to the idea of an educational attainment goal and last summer consulted with the Lumina Foundation to help guide us in this important work. At the November board meeting, our UW trustees endorsed an educational attainment goal and were happy when ENDOW took up our recommendation. This proclamation is the most recent endorsement -- by our governor -- of a state educational attainment goal. While the goal is ambitious and we have much work to do, it sets a direction for Wyoming that is positive and proactive. 

Tim and I were happy to host the Wyoming Medical Society’s inaugural physician leadership class at our home Friday evening. This first leadership class -- modeled after Leadership Wyoming -- consisted of 13 physicians who are practicing medicine throughout Wyoming. The goal is to acquaint physicians with Wyoming while they learn leadership skills. Tim and I really enjoyed meeting and conversing with these professionals who are relatively new into their profession and many of them new to Wyoming. We wish them well in this yearlong program and fulfilling careers!

The weekend concluded for me by hosting the President’s Ag Summit on Saturday morning. This half-day meeting serves as an opportunity to dialogue with Wyoming’s ag leaders about UW in general, as well as our involvement in educating future ag leaders, conducting ag research and our statewide outreach. With about 22 ag leaders in attendance, and another 10 UW participants, it was a full room and a full agenda. I thank those who participated in the program.

Tim and I had the distinct pleasure of being Trustee Jeff and Kathy Marsh’s guests at Eastern Wyoming College’s “Sagebrush and Roses” fundraiser Saturday evening. The event benefits the agriculture program at EWC, specifically to raise funds to construct a new ag facility on the campus. The evening consisted of a delicious dinner, gun raffle (our own Trustee Marsh won the shotgun), quilt auction and dancing to Chancey Williams and the Younger Brothers band. I had the opportunity to visit with Lesley Travers, president of EWC, and many other Torrington community members. It was a most enjoyable evening, and I thank the Marshes for including Tim and me.

And I can’t end my weekly communication without congratulating our athletic teams on an exciting week. The Wednesday night men’s basketball game against Nevada was thrilling (and late), as we won in double overtime by a point. The Cowgirls basketball team has done extremely well, and I enjoyed watching them play against San Jose State Saturday in the A-A. While I wasn’t able to attend, I also congratulate our wrestlers, who are having a stellar season and had a great match against Fresno State Saturday evening. Track and tennis are also competing. We are proud of all of our student-athletes and wish you continued success.

Finally, I end my message by reminding you that this week we celebrate the richness of diversity through Martin Luther King Jr. Days of Dialogue. Please see the schedule here. Today we kick off MLK Days of Dialogue with a march and rally at 5 p.m., followed by the Willena Stanford dinner at 6 p.m. Please mark your calendar for Jason Thompson’s keynote speech on Thursday at 7:30 p.m. in the Union ballroom -- and many, many other interesting events sprinkled throughout the week. Please participate!

I hope you have a great week.

Laurie Nichols, President

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