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A Busy, Busy Week of Events and Activities

October 2, 2017

To the UW community:

It is with shock and sadness that we begin this week with the terrible news of the mass shooting in Las Vegas. I join all of you in sending condolences and prayers on behalf of those who are suffering.

I believe last week ranked near the top in terms of “busiest weeks ever” since my time at UW.  There is no question but what the campus was alive and full of events and activities. It was a fun week, with many opportunities to learn and celebrate. I could not help but think how proud I was of our university as I enjoyed many of these happenings throughout the week.

Last Monday, a small delegation from UW presented our FY19-20 biennium budget request to the governor and his budget staff. This included the budgets for 067 (university block grant), 167 (medical education) and 069 (Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education, WICHE). Throughout the afternoon session, we walked through each of our requests for the three budgets and answered questions or provided clarifications. Overall, requests for new or additional dollars are minimal, although in all three budgets we did request some additional dollars for specific needs/purposes.

The meeting also provided an opportunity to update Governor Mead on the university, including fall enrollment, the strategic plan, Science Initiative planning, faculty cluster hiring process, construction projects, EPSCoR grant and the housing plan, to name a few. Governor Mead will take the information we have provided to form his budget recommendation and, as in the past, we will hear more about the governor’s budget recommendation in December when he presents to the Legislature.

Tuesday evening, I had an opportunity to present an annual report from UW to the Laramie City Council during its work session. I provided a 30-minute annual report of accomplishments, introduced the council to our strategic plan and provided a few fall updates. My presentation was followed by a Q&A session and included some discussion of scheduled listening sessions to hear student and citizen input on 15th Street. 

Wednesday, I had the honor of attending a reception for Employee of the First Quarter Shawn Sheen. Shawn has served as an accountant in the Department of Zoology and Physiology for the past seven years, and at UW for about 22 years. The Employee of the Quarter program is sponsored by Staff Senate and includes a very nice cash gift from UniWyo Credit Union. The reception was well attended by faculty, staff and students who appreciate Shawn’s dedication, strong work ethic and incredibly helpful attitude. Congratulations, Shawn, and thank you for your commitment and service!

From there, I left for Cheyenne to attend the “World to Wyoming” event where Mark Jenkins presented on “Tea, Trade & Tyranny:  Tibet and China over Time.” Sponsored by the Center for Global Studies (CGS), Mark made this same presentation in Casper, Douglas, Torrington, Rock Springs and Lander, often to standing-room-only crowds. The room in Cheyenne was full and the questions abundant at the conclusion of his photo-illustrated talk. I appreciate the CGS for sponsoring these “World to Wyoming” tours each semester, illustrating the strong engagement UW has with our state. And I always enjoy Mark’s lectures about his adventure-filled travels to far-away places and all he learns about each place while he is there. Thanks, Mark! 

The hour prior to Mark Jenkins’ lecture, I had the opportunity to informally talk to a small group of 25-plus alumni and friends about UW, including our strategic plan. It was promoted as “an informal discussion with President Nichols about UW,” and much of the time was Q&A. The audience had excellent questions that sparked a robust discussion. In sum, it was a most successful evening in Cheyenne!

Thursday morning began as I hosted a small breakfast for Phi Beta Kappa Distinguished Scholar and Visiting Professor Dr. Stephen Walt. Dr. Walt is one of 15 scholars selected by Phi Beta Kappa to travel around the country visiting chapter campuses to engage in intellectual exchange. We had an interesting discussion about his work in the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard, as well as his scholarly work. Later that same day, Dr. Walt presented a lecture to the campus, where he shared insights on U.S. foreign policy today and into the future.

Immediately following Dr. Walt’s lecture, I rushed over to the Berry Biodiversity Conservation Center auditorium to attend the 2017 Contributions to Wyoming Biodiversity Awards program. Sponsored by the UW Biodiversity Institute under the leadership of Gary Beauvais, the evening honored Dr. Ronald Hartman, who directed the Rocky Mountain Herbarium for many years and oversaw growth of the collection during his tenure. Also honored were Dr. Fred and Stephanie Lindzey, who own a ranch near Centennial and have done admirable conservation work on their land, which they make widely available for study to UW classes and wildlife agencies. The presentation included many professionals who spoke about the commendable work of these honorees. Congratulations to Ron, Fred and Stephanie for their efforts to preserve, improve and sustain the beautiful ecology of Wyoming.

In between all of these events, I also provided a keynote luncheon address to the Wyoming Association of County Officers (WACO) during its annual conference in Cheyenne. It was yet another opportunity to discuss the future of UW and present our strategic direction for the next five years.

For me, last Friday was a near-perfect day. The University of Wyoming was at its best.

The day began with a welcome to the Wyoming Articulation Summit attendees -- nearly 100 of them! Thank you to many UW faculty and administrators who continue our work with Wyoming community colleges. The day entailed articulation work sessions; updates on HLC accreditation; common course numbering; and information sharing on the UW Honors College, Transfer Success Center and the Engagement Task Force, to name a few. I thank Mary Aguayo, director of transfer relations, who developed the summit and continues to provide leadership in our work to transfer more students, seamlessly, to UW.

From there, I addressed bankers who were attending the Wyoming Bankers Annual Credit Conference in Laramie. Being bankers, they were quite interested in the budget reduction and the new financial system, WyoCloud. But I also insisted they hear a bit about our strategic plan.

And then it was on to the Gateway Center to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the Cheney International Center and Cheney study-abroad scholarship program. The Cheneys joined about a dozen UW students who had benefited from their scholarship for lunch and conversation. I could tell that the Vice President and Lynne were very impressed with our students and their amazing travels and study in countries around the world.

I hope many of you were able to attend the public lecture provided by these two amazing people. “From Wyoming to the Vice Presidency of the United States: A Family Dialogue” was attended by at least 500 people who had the opportunity to hear more about Dick Cheney’s road to the vice presidency, as well as some of the most memorable moments while vice president. Lynne added some interesting questions, comments and humor, which truly made it a family affair.

From that event, it was on to the grand opening of the Native American Education, Research and Cultural Center. As I said in my comments, officially welcoming our Native American students to their new home on campus is, and always will be, one of the highlights of my presidency. The grand opening was attended by many and included tours of the center throughout the afternoon, with a program and ribbon cutting at 4 p.m. The program included cultural components and many dignitaries who offered words of praise, support and encouragement. Sen. Affie Ellis served as the master of ceremonies and did a beautiful job telling her own story of growing up as a Navajo youth in Jackson.

We were honored to have tribal elders John Washakie, Eastern Shoshone, and Burnett Whiteplume, Northern Arapaho, offer comments; signing of revised MOU agreements with tribal council leaders; exchange of gifts; and Governor Mead reading a proclamation declaring Sept. 29, 2017, as a day of recognition for the opening of the center. Dinner followed, and then the Circle of Dance wrapped up the celebration, where attendees experienced a dynamic exhibition of dance with traditional regalia from Native peoples across the Northern Plains.

Tim and I had the opportunity to tour the center after the program and were struck by its beauty, including amazing Native artwork. My hat is off to James Trosper, Angela Jaime and others who worked tirelessly to get the center ready and opened for the semester, and for the ceremony. If you have not yet been into the center located on the corner of Ivinson and 10th, please stop in. You will be impressed!

And then, if that was not an absolutely perfect day, we were treated with more! Tim and I rushed over to the Dance Theatre of Harlem’s performance. What a performance it was! The Dance Theatre of Harlem had been at UW for two weeks in a residency program, working with our dance and theater students and faculty. I had the opportunity to stop by last Tuesday and observe their work with students and their own practice as they prepared for the Friday event. They are amazing!

The evening performance included three sets: “Return,” which celebrates their 30th anniversary and features songs of James Brown and Aretha Franklin; “Dancing on the Front Porch of Heaven,” choreographed for the Royal Swedish Ballet in 1993; and “Harlem on my Mind,” choreographed for the University of Wyoming and premiered at UW last Friday! Needless to say, “Harlem on my Mind” was my favorite. I cannot adequately convey the power of their grace, technique and talent as they danced for 2-plus hours and mesmerized nearly 1,000 in attendance. Thank you, Department of Theatre and Dance, for bringing these amazing artists to Laramie. It was a performance I will never forget.

Onward … Saturday was fun! We hosted Family Weekend; more than 300 Wyoming Boys and Girls Club members for a Campus Pass program, not to mention many other prospective students who also participated in Campus Pass; and, of course, there was tailgating and the football game. I thank Shelley Dodd and the Admissions Office for their work on Campus Pass to bring future UW students to our campus, and particularly for their work on the Boys and Girls Club partnership.

The game was terrific, and I congratulate Coach Bohl and the Cowboys for a big win over Texas State. Besides a downpour in the final five minutes of the game, it was a great day, with over 20,000 in attendance.

Sunday morning I hosted the President’s Brunch as Family Weekend concluded. We had about 500 in attendance and enjoyed breakfast, followed by a short program, including the Happy Jacks, who performed some great new songs. Thanks, guys! As I addressed the audience, it was fun for me to share my experience of having two college daughters, and despite where they may go to attend college, the importance of family love and support. It really makes all the difference in a student’s college success.

Tim and I wrapped up the weekend by hosting about 25 UW faculty at our house for dinner and to learn more about last summer’s Abbotsford-Scotland experience. I had heard previously about this amazing summer educational opportunity under the leadership of Dr. Caroline McCracken-Flesher. Last night we learned more from four faculty members who talked about their experience, including research and teaching outcomes. We thanked those who sponsored the travel, too. Hearing the impactful outcomes of an international experience like this truly makes one understand the significance of our international and global engagement efforts. Thank you for sharing Abbotsford, Scotland, with us.

I thank everyone for your part in last week’s many events -- and I wish you a wonderful week as we kick off October.

Laurie Nichols, President

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