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Enjoy Homecoming Week!

October 23, 2017

To the UW community:

Good Monday morning!

It is Homecoming week at the University of Wyoming! This year’s theme is “Wyoming Spirit, Wild as the West.” We will welcome thousands of alumni and friends to Laramie as Homecoming week progresses. I encourage you to take in some of these fun activities that make Homecoming so rich with tradition.

The Big Event kicked off our Homecoming celebration this past Saturday morning. Braving the cold, over 500 students showed up to volunteer their time to over 150 worthy community causes throughout Laramie. I thank our students who provided their service so others might benefit. I cannot think of a better way to start Homecoming than by giving back.

Check the university Homecoming calendar for various open houses, including the Golden Boot competition. A few highlights:

-- Wednesday is the Homecoming student tailgate and pep rally at the Washakie Center and Washakie Green. First 300 students enjoy the tasty tailgate free!

-- Wednesday night is the Homecoming Sing, with a grand prize of $1,000 to the winning student organization. I attended last year and was impressed with the talent and creativity of these RSO, Greek Life and other groups that composed songs to celebrate UW Homecoming -- 7 p.m. at the A&S Auditorium.

-- Thursday night, I am pleased to host the UW Distinguished Alumni Dinner, where we honor four distinguished alums: Dr. Stephen Adams (Pharmacy), Dick Agee (Engineering), Mimi Fenton (English) and Judge Margaret McKeown (International Relations and Spanish).

-- Friday afternoon is the College of Arts and Sciences Thyra Thomson Honors Convocation, where A&S students earning academic honors will be recognized and undergraduate research will be featured -- 4 p.m. in the A&S auditorium.

-- Friday evening is the annual Cowboy Joe Club Auction, where thousands of dollars will be raised to benefit intercollegiate athletics -- social at 5 p.m.; dinner and auction to follow at the Little America ballroom in Cheyenne.

-- Saturday presents a full lineup, including Cowboy Coffee at 7 a.m. in the Gateway Center; the parade at 9 a.m.; tailgating and pep rally at about 2:30 p.m. at the Gateway plaza; and kickoff at 5:30 p.m., when we take on the University of New Mexico. Go Pokes!

I am sure that I have left off a few important events this week, so please consult the calendar for full details.

I have had several conversations with Staff Senate over the past month, where we have discussed employees’ use of vacation (annual) leave and, in some cases, use of comp time. Apparently there has been concern voiced that staff, particularly this past year, have not always been allowed to take this earned time, which can then result in losing leave.

We all know that a successful institution is dependent on the contributions of its employees. With the changes and challenges the university has experienced over the past year, many of our staff have acquired additional responsibilities and worked long hours. I am both proud of and grateful for the efforts you have all made to ensure that the University of Wyoming continues to meet its mission of providing a high-quality education to students while also conducting research, outreach/engagement and attending to general operations of the university.

Of equal importance, however, is the need to take care of ourselves and one another along the way. The university provides a generous vacation benefit to our staff, along with compensatory time off for overtime worked by eligible employees. I strongly urge you to take your annual leave and use your accumulated comp time. Outside of a select few essential work days in most units, employees should have access to leave throughout the year, with ample forewarning and supervisor approval.

I am reaching out to our VPs to ensure that they also encourage our staff to fully utilize the vacation time available to them. Time off allows each of us to rest and recharge. The upcoming year will be another busy one for the University of Wyoming, and I look forward to us all approaching it with both renewed energy and enthusiasm.

Let me report on a couple of important events held this past week.

On Tuesday, I was fortunate to attend a diversity workshop sponsored by the Center for Social Justice Research and provided by Aparna Rajagopal-Durbin of The Avarna Group. The workshop not only renewed our commitment to the importance of diversity work, but also helped us think about our institution’s strengths, weaknesses, challenges and opportunities -- and provided a map for analyzing and planning diversity work.

Tuesday evening, several groups (Social Justice Research Center; Committee on Women and People of Color; The Good Mule Project; Shepard Symposium; and MLK Days of Dialogue) sponsored the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Awards dinner and ceremony. Dr. Francisco Rios returned to UW to provide the keynote address, which offered a rich history of diversity and inclusion work at UW. I congratulate all those nominated, and especially the award recipients:

Courageous Community Outreach

-- Allison Gernant, Faculty

-- Wyoming Pathways from Prison: Alec Muthig, Katy Brock, Rhett Epler, Betty Abbott

Inspirational Instruction

--Paul Taylor, Community Member

-- Danielle Cover, Faculty

Magnificent Mile

--James Trosper, Staff

Fabulous Fieldwork

-- Kali Nicholas Moon, Student

-- Jacqueline Leonard, Faculty

Last Tuesday, the Trustees Education Initiative (TEI) board also met to receive an update and to review three innovation proposals for possible funding. The TEI is directed by Rebecca Watts, and its mission is to recommend innovative practices through which the College of Education will prepare and graduate pre-eminent P-12 professional educators. I enjoyed the presentation and discussion of each of the three proposals.

The UW Board of Trustees held its monthly meeting via conference call on Wednesday morning. It was a fairly light agenda and included:

-- Received a report from VP Boswell on 15th Street to be submitted to the Legislature on Nov. 1.

-- Supported the addition of an ad hoc trustee committee on academic and student affairs to begin meeting at the November meeting. Trustee Sullivan will chair the committee with Mel Baldwin, David Fall and Wava Tully as committee members.

-- Received the preliminary report on UW/community college collaborative recruitment of students which was submitted to the Legislature on Sept. 30; final report due Dec. 1.

-- Received an update on the Science Initiative from VP Synakowski.

-- Received an update on the honorary degree solicitation and review process and timeline.

-- Received a construction update from VP Mai.

The November board meeting will be held on campus Nov. 15-17.

Last Wednesday afternoon/evening and all day Thursday, VP Synakowski and I traveled to Jackson to participate in the NIH IDeA Western Regional Conference. Our own Dr. Scott Seville served as chair of the planning committee and did a superb job of organizing a dynamic agenda with many, many student, faculty and professionals. The Institutional Development Award (IDeA) program broadens the geographic distribution of NIH funding for biomedical research. The program fosters health-related research and enhances the competitiveness of investigators at institutions located in states in which the aggregate success rate for applications to NIH has historically been low, including Wyoming.

I enjoyed my entire time at the conference, but a highlight was the student poster session on Wednesday evening where many, many Wyoming community college and UW students presented their research. I tried to get to as many Wyoming posters as possible and was most impressed!

I had the opportunity to hear keynote speaker Dr. John Sladek of the University of Colorado School of Medicine, who spoke on the repairable brain -- fascinating! And the Thursday lunch plenary talk was given by Dr. Francine Gachupin, University of Arizona, and Dr. Alexandra Adams, Montana State University, who spoke about “Mapping a Regional Agenda for Ending American Indian Health Disparities.” This keynote was followed by an afternoon workshop, headed up by our own Dr. Christine Porter on the same topic.

I thank Dr. Seville and other UW faculty who not only participated, but also presented and assisted with organization of the regional conference. You made Wyoming shine. Well done!

I got home Thursday evening just in time to attend the UW Symphony Orchestra’s opening night, where the orchestra performed music by Johann Strauss, Copland, Marquez and Beethoven. The evening featured clarinet soloist Blake McGee. The music was beautiful, and I congratulate both Dr. Blake and Director Griffith on the evening and the launch of “A Season of Joy.”

Friday evening had many options, and I chose to attend the “A Cultural History of Devils Tower/Bear’s Tipi” presentation at the Gryphon Theatre. The evening was developed by Gary Rutkowski, sponsored by the Wyoming Humanities Council, and included short presentations by James Trosper (Native American Education, Research and Cultural Center and HPAIRI), Dr. John Dorst (American Studies) and Dr. Paul Flesher (Religious Studies), followed by a discussion. They concluded the program by showing the 1977 edition of “Close Encounters of the Third Kind.” I enjoyed the perspectives of all three speakers, including rich cultural history, interesting incidents around Devils Tower, and the use of this national monument in film. Thank you, Gary, for bringing this to Laramie!

I left in time to get to the UW Presents program featuring Ethan Russell, Grammy-nominated photographer who photographed the likes of the Beatles, Rolling Stones, the Who, Janis Joplin, Eric Clapton and many more. His photos and stories were interesting and highly entertaining.

And, as I mentioned last week, on Saturday the annual Art Museum Gala was held, where a good time was had by all! Under the theme “Art is the Answer,” the evening included a social hour with a robust silent auction, a delicious dinner by UW Catering Services, a live auction, and a dance to the music of J Shogren Shanghai’d band. I have not heard a total, but I am optimistic that we raised some significant dollars for the UW Art Museum educational programs. Thanks to all who attended -- and all who worked so hard to make it such a great success!

Have a great Homecoming week!

Laurie Nichols, President

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