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A Successful Homecoming 2017

October 30, 2017

Good Monday morning!

This is a transition week for us as we say goodbye to October, ushering in November, as we celebrate Halloween on Tuesday evening. In addition, we have crossed the halfway point of fall semester and, with this week, move fully into the second half of the semester. Fall is going by quickly!

As I write this message, we are recuperating from a big, successful Homecoming weekend. I hope you enjoyed the festivities as much as I did. Many people worked very hard to make this year’s Homecoming even bigger and better. I believe they succeeded, and I thank everyone whose efforts contributed to a great 2017 Homecoming.

Highlights for me included the Homecoming Sing held on Wednesday evening. Sponsored by Iron Skull, the program included eight entries that were creative and funny. Along with Coach Allen Edwards and Interim Dean of Students Nycole Courtney, I served as a judge. We extend our appreciation to all who participated, and congratulations to the winners:

-- Overall winner:  Sigma Chi Fraternity

-- Best co-ed performance:  LDS Student Association

-- Best male group: Lambda Chi Alpha

-- Best female group: Chi Omega

A lovely event, the Distinguished Alumni Recognition was held on Thursday evening, sponsored by the UW Alumni Association. We were honored to induct Margaret McKeown, Stephen Adams, Mimi Fenton and Dick Agee as 2017 Distinguished Alums. The evening and their respective acceptance comments could not have been nicer. These same alums also participated in the parade and were recognized during halftime of the football game. Each shared gratitude for a quality education received at UW, along with some fun memories of their time on campus. Their distinguished careers have certainly made us very proud of them.

The Alumni Association also hosted the class of 1967, 50-year graduates this weekend. I had the opportunity to speak to this group during the Friday luncheon and so enjoyed sharing with them our goals for the future, including our strategic plan. It was a fun event and they, too, appreciated the opportunity to be back on campus.

The College of Arts and Sciences hosted the Keith and Thyra Thomson Honors Convocation on Friday afternoon, where over 1,000 students were recognized for achieving academic honor roll status in 2017. In addition, two A&S McNair scholars, Alex Greenwald and Jonet Jennings, gave brief oral presentations of their research, and they were joined by several other McNair scholars who presented their work via poster presentation. They were most impressive! One other treat was the performance of the Wyoming Jazz Ensemble and UW Chamber Orchestra, performing “Favela.” I enjoyed the opportunity to conclude the convocation by delivering the keynote address. I congratulate Dean Lutz and her team who planned and coordinated a lovely convocation; I appreciate deeply being included.

Another fun event was the Cowboy Joe Club auction held on Friday evening. Nearly $500,000 was raised, matched by the state to yield more than $900,000 to benefit athletic teams. Congratulations, Randy and the Cowboy Joe Club staff.

The parade on Saturday morning was another festive event, with a record number of entries. Despite a cool morning, many turned out for the parade, and Tim and I had a blast riding on a wagon pulled by our own Pistol and Pete draft horse team, and driven by Doug Zalesky and Travis Smith. We threw bags of beads and candy and shouted many “Happy Homecoming” wishes. Thanks to all who participated in the parade this year, and congratulation to our float entry winners!

The highlight of Homecoming for many, however, was a big victory against the University of New Mexico Lobos. After an afternoon of tailgating and enjoying pregame festivities, fans were treated to an exciting game where the Cowboys took an early lead to defeat UNM 42-3. Congratulations, Cowboys!

Let me mention a couple of other events from last week that you may find of interest.

Last Monday, VP Synakowski and I had the opportunity to host Noel Bakhtian for lunch. Noel serves as the new director of the Center for Advanced Energy Studies (CAES) located at the Idaho National Laboratory. Also joining us was Don Roth, UW professor emeritus and current associate director of CAES. Since most of us were new, it was a time to meet, come to know one another, and talk about the future of CAES and UW’s involvement.

Last Wednesday morning was a real treat when Jean Garrison, Mark Lyford and I were guests of Col. Stacy Huser, commander of the 90th Missile Wing, Warren Air Force Base. We arrived at Warren AFB at 7:30 and were greeted by Col. Huser and Capt. Esther Willett, who works in Public Affairs. Our tour included an opportunity to observe the 90th Operations Group as it conducted planning for a scheduled missile tour assignment; a missile procedures trainer tour; a tour and discussion at the Education Center; and a 90th Missile Wing mission brief. We also had a tour of the base and enjoyed lunch at the dining facility with several airmen who are pursuing postsecondary education while serving their military duty.

This was my first time on Warren AFB, so I found the entire morning informative, but I think we most enjoyed the opportunity to see the Education Center and talk about potential engagement of UW at the center and more broadly as it pertains to airmen’s educational goals. Jean, Mark and I came away with ideas for how we might engage more diligently with Warren AFB and provide educational opportunity to active-duty military service people.

On Thursday, I had the opportunity to connect via Zoom technology with the Haub School Board of Advisors, which was meeting in Jackson with Dean Benson and others from the Haub leadership team. I thanked the board members for their service and highlighted our strategic plan, indicating that college-level planning is currently underway, including planning for the Haub School. Over the course of its meeting, the board planned to provide input into the Haub School strategic plan. I trust they had a productive meeting.

Two other important meetings last Thursday. First, Provost Miller and I had the opportunity to receive an update on the Science Initiative building plans by the architects and facility planning committees, including both the programmatic/interior plans and the exterior design plans. Led by Vice President Synakowski, the plans have developed significantly over the past two months and are truly state-of-the art.  A public presentation will be held on Wednesday at 6 p.m. in the Berry Biodiversity Conservation Center auditorium. I encourage you to attend if you are interested in seeing the most current plans for this building.

Next up will be presenting the plans to legislative members and others who will be involved in approving allocation of funds in this legislative session. If funds are moved to UW, it is anticipated that a groundbreaking will take place later this fall, with building beginning in 2018.

A second fun event on Thursday afternoon was the ribbon cutting for the Coe Student Innovation Center. Located in 2,500 square feet of enclosed space on the main level of Coe Library, the innovation center was the brainchild of Dean Pishko and Dean Gaetz, who wanted a makerspace for students to design, create and innovate. Tours followed the ribbon cutting and, if you have not yet seen the Innovation Center, please stop by. Under the management of Tyler Kerr, the center involves several 3-D printers, design software and many other materials to stimulate creativity. I thank the team that developed the proposal for the Innovation Center, including  Dr. Tonia Dousay, College of Education; Dr. Brandon Gellis, College of Arts and Sciences; Larry Schmidt, UW Libraries; Jesse Ballard, UW Information Technology; Craig Russow, UW Foundation; and Rob Erickson, Michael Schilt and Steve Barrett of the College of Engineering and Applied Science. This is another great step toward our goal of developing an ecosystem of innovation and entrepreneurship at UW.

And, to cap off a great week, I had the privilege of having breakfast with Brian Schueler on Friday morning. Many of you remember Brian, who served as president of ASUW in 2015-16, and who also assisted me during my first summer (2016) to develop a set of peer and stretch peer universities for our strategic planning efforts. Brian currently works at EAB (Education Advisory Board) in Washington, D.C., and was back for Homecoming. I enjoyed the opportunity to catch up with Brian. He is another alum who is making us very proud!

This week, we prepare for the grand reopening of the Arena-Auditorium and unveiling of the Kenny Sailors sculpture at 2:30 on Friday afternoon. I invite you to attend. And, lest I need to remind you, this weekend we take on the “battle for the boot” when we play CSU on Saturday afternoon in War Memorial Stadium. Go Pokes!

Have a great week!

Laurie Nichols, President


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