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Immigration Order, Days of Dialogue, Legislature and More

January 30, 2017

To the UW community:

This week will mark the last few days of January and welcome February, including the celebration of Groundhog Day.

On Friday, President Trump signed an executive order prohibiting people from seven countries -- Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen -- from entering the U.S. for 90 days and pausing the admission into the U.S. of people granted refugee status for 120 days while the Trump administration revises immigration screening procedures. I have heard from several of you and share your concerns about this decision. For a university that values international exchange of students and faculty, and strives to educate our students to be global citizens, this action contradicts such values. I want to affirm that we support all of our international students, faculty and staff, including those who come to us from these seven countries. Welcoming talented students and faculty from across the world to study, teach and conduct research at UW is integral to our mission.

For students, scholars, faculty and staff who are citizens of these seven countries, travel is of concern. I caution you to not leave the U.S. until the executive order is lifted. I have asked our International office to offer assistance as needed, including answering questions, and, in particular, to offer assistance with any forthcoming travel plans. We will be reaching out to affected individuals directly to provide information and support. Of utmost importance is that these individuals feel supported and safe on our campus.

Thank you to all who have reached out to offer your support to our international colleagues and students. We will be in communication with our congressional delegation and professional associations, including international associations, to voice our concern and monitor the situation.

This is an important week for our campus as we celebrate Martin Luther King Jr. Days of Dialogue. The rally will be held today at 4:50 p.m., followed by a community dinner at 6 p.m. I hope you can attend. The week continues with many programs and events. Please consult the calendar for specific topics, times and locations. Martin Luther King Jr. was inspirational to many -- and our country as a whole -- as he led the quest for civil rights and equal opportunity. His beliefs and lessons stand as a beacon for us today, as we continue our work on diversity and inclusion. Dr. King had so many beautiful speeches and quotes that will transcend generations. A favorite of mine that I offer to open our week: “I have decided to stick with love. Hate is too great a burden to bear.”  Enjoy this important week.

I mentioned in last week’s communication that with ASUW leadership, I would be welcoming back students in the Wyoming Union with hot chocolate and cookies. I was able to be there from 10-noon and met many students, welcoming them and inquiring about their semester break. Students seemed genuinely happy to be back and ready to start their spring semester. I hope to continue this tradition in the years to come. A big thank you to Michael Rotellini and many ASUW senators who joined me and helped hand out cookies.

Last Monday, I also spent the late afternoon and evening in Cheyenne at the Legislature. Several bills relevant to UW were being introduced in committee, and I attended the House Education Committee to testify on a tuition bill. In addition, several of us spoke to Speaker of the House Harshman about revitalizing the residence halls and how to best finance this plan. As many of you know, our residence halls are 50-100 years old and have had modest improvements over these years. A major part of our recruitment and retention plan will have to include improvements to the residence halls, particularly for first-year students. Let me highlight a few noteworthy bills that we are watching closely:

-- A bill to offer a reduced tuition rate to residents of Nebraska and Colorado. The tuition rate proposed is 175 percent of in-state tuition and would be available to new/first-year students this fall.

-- A bill to offer two Hathaway scholarships each to high-achieving students from contiguous states (16 total).

-- A bill to allow concealed-carry weapons on campus.

-- A bill to appropriate $1.25 million into the reserve of the Higher Education fund, which funds the Wyoming excellence chairs.

-- A bill to extend the spending authority to 2020 for a previously approved graduate stipend program.

-- A bill to provide flexibility in a state match on a privately secured gift.

I will be in Cheyenne again today as I spend time discussing with legislators the implications of the concealed-carry bill. I will also give the luncheon keynote address at the Wyoming Lodging and Restaurant Association. We will continue to provide testimony and lobbying on these and other bills to best represent the interests of UW. I will keep you updated through my Monday message to the campus.

Some of you are aware that we are working on the development of a strategic enrollment plan for UW. The plan will address many aspects of student success, including recruitment of first-year students, transfer students, retention of students, and increasing the rate of those who graduate in four years. An associated recommendation has to do with our website, making it easier to navigate for those who are exploring UW and applying for admission. You saw a related communication last week from Institutional Marketing as it asked for assistance in fixing broken links. This is very important, particularly now that we are at the peak of the recruitment season.  I appreciate your help in addressing this immediate need, as we explore other ways to improve our website. Last week, Provost Miller and I received preliminary recommendations on strategic enrollment. I was pleased with the depth of data the steering committee has explored to better understand our students and our performance. I have encouraged a town-hall meeting at an appropriate time to share the plan and begin to engage the entire campus community. In the meantime, a big thank you to the steering committee!

As I write this message to you, I am on the plane returning from a wonderful weekend in Washington, D.C., as guests of former U.S. Sen. Al and Ann Simpson. A highlight was being hosted at the Supreme Court by Chief Justice Roberts and Justice Anthony Kennedy for dinner and musical entertainment. After dinner, the justices showed us the courtroom where cases are heard, and discussed their protocol prior to, during and after a case. The Supreme Court building is beautiful, and I found myself in complete awe of this important branch of government. Another highlight was lunch at CSIS (Center for Strategic and International Studies) followed by a panel discussion with Henry Kissinger, Robert Gates and Sam Nunn, who discussed the USA’s relationship with Russia. We concluded the afternoon at National Geographic museum headquarters, where photographer Brian Skerry, an award-winning photojournalist, provided stunning photos and narrative of his forthcoming documentary, “Sea of Hope.” His work is also featured as the cover story, “Saving Our Oceans,” in the February 2017 National Geographic magazine.

This Saturday, we will host members of the Legislature at UW for a day of information sharing, tours and women’s basketball. We are finalizing the program now and will engage several across campus to assist us with the day’s program. I hope for a strong turnout.

Enjoy Martin Luther King Jr. Days of Dialogue. I hope you have a good week.

Laurie Nichols, President


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