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Budget Plan Ready for Trustee Consideration

November 7, 2016

To the UW community:

Thanks to many who commented to me on the creation of a weekly communication tool. I appreciate your comments and suggestions.

Last Friday I concluded my visits to all academic and non-academic departments and units. I have learned a great deal and have come to respect the University of Wyoming even more through this process. The passion that our employees hold for this university is both amazing and wonderful. I thank you for helping me better know each of you and understand the great work that you do. I am honored to be president of this outstanding university.

If you recall, I mentioned last week in my communication that I would meet with the Financial Crisis Advisory Committee (FCAC) last Monday afternoon. I have received the committee’s feedback with few changes to the budget reduction plan, but suggestions for how to best communicate the budget reduction to the campus and beyond. I plan to incorporate the suggestions as I prepare the plan for the trustees and post additional information on the budget website. Shortly after the meeting, a document explaining the Huron Consulting recommendations was posted. Steve Bieber, chair of the FCAC, will be on the UW trustees’ agenda and have an opportunity to discuss the committee’s process and feedback directly with the board. I will present the FY18 budget reduction to the board with a request to approve the plan so we can begin additional work necessary for July 1, 2017, implementation. As I mentioned last week, the plan presented will be for a $10 million reduction in FY18. Again, I thank Steve Bieber and members of the FCAC who provided a great deal of time and advice throughout the nearly five-month process.

Last Tuesday, I had the honor of hosting the University Women’s Club for lunch. With about 50 in attendance, I learned more about the rich history of this club and met two 50-plus-year members. The program featured Climb Wyoming, a nonprofit organization that helps women gain self-sufficiency and better their lives. It was a most enjoyable event.

As is the case with most of my weeks, I spent a couple of days off campus connecting with constituent groups. On Wednesday, I traveled with Ben Blalock and Provost Miller to Denver to meet with a UW Foundation Board of Directors committee on vision planning. This is a group that will work most closely with us as we finalize our strategic plan and shape a capital campaign. As I have mentioned before, the capital campaign will raise private dollars to help fund priorities and initiatives of the strategic plan. We had a stimulating discussion and left with a clear direction of process to follow.

I also traveled to Casper to meet with the Wyoming School University Partnership between the UW College of Education and Wyoming superintendents (a delightful discussion), and then visited Kelly Walsh High School. I was able to meet with several college-bound seniors and learn more about their perceptions of UW and our performance in recruiting them to college. It was insightful -- I am gaining ideas on how we can more actively recruit students to UW. Principal Diller also provided a tour of their beautiful new school. After high school visits to Worland, Powell, Cheyenne, Laramie and Casper, I must add that secondary facilities in Wyoming are amazing!

We are beginning very preliminary discussions about developing a phased residence hall improvement plan for students. The current residence halls are dated and do not provide the residential life experience that our students desire. We will discuss with the trustees Nov. 16-18 and then begin a plan to both replace older residence halls and modernize others. This will be critical to our ability to recruit future students, increase our retention rate and blend student success initiatives with residential life. There will be more to come on this topic after the November trustees meeting.

Laramie was buzzing this weekend with athletic events. I had the opportunity to attend the Cowgirls basketball exhibition game against S.D. School of Mines on Friday night; served as honorary coach at the Cowgirls volleyball match against UNLV (an exciting win); stopped by the Cowboy Open and watched three UW wrestlers compete; and then celebrated the big UW vs. Utah State win in football. Congratulations to all sports and teams who represent UW and Wyoming so well. I was full of Poke Pride!

I also want to congratulate the UW soccer team members as they completed their season at the Mountain West Conference (MWC) tournament last week. The Cowgirls, who finished fifth in the regular season, lost to fourth-place Utah State 2-1. The Cowgirls had a 10-8-2 record, winning 10 games for the third season in a row. They also posted eight shutouts. I am especially proud of the squad’s cumulative GPA of 3.5+. Senior Laurel Ramer, a pharmacy major with a 4.0 GPA, is a candidate for the CoSIDA Academic All-America team. Freshman Michaela Stark was named to the MWC All-Newcomer team.

Today I am traveling to Sheridan to visit Sheridan College this morning, and Superintendent Craig Dougherty and Sheridan High School in the afternoon. The impetus for my trip to Sheridan College was a meeting of all seven Wyoming community college presidents that I hosted Oct. 19 in Laramie. We met to discuss our current relationship and ideas for further collaboration. The conversations were frank and energetic. We agreed to meet on a regular basis in order to strengthen the state’s college-going culture and to develop shared degree programs that will help diversify the economy and better serve students who can’t relocate to Laramie. I firmly believe that building a positive relationship with community colleges will be critical to the university’s future.

Finally, I end by encouraging you to support the annual holiday meat sales fundraiser for the UW Animal Science judging teams. Like past years, they are promoting meat products as holiday gift items. Proceeds assist the teams in travel to judging competitions. Refer to the flier and online order form; customers pick up their purchases on three dates throughout the holidays:  Nov. 22, Dec. 15 and Dec. 20.  Please support our judging teams!

I conclude my message by highlighting two important days. Tuesday is Election Day -- remember to vote! And Friday we honor our veterans who have heroically served our country so we might enjoy freedom and the right to vote. Please help me in thanking our veterans for their service to our country.

Laurie Nichols, President


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