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Much for which to be Thankful

November 20, 2017

To the UW community:

Good Monday morning!

This will be a short week for us, as we celebrate Thanksgiving on Thursday and enjoy some holiday time the remainder of the weekend. I have talked to many students who are anxious to conclude their classes on Tuesday and head home for some good home-cooked food, and time to reconnect with family. Tim and I look forward to hosting about a dozen of my family as they travel to Laramie from California, New York, Green River and South Dakota. Tim is the chef in our family, and with the exception of the pies (which I make), he cooks a delicious turkey dinner.

Let me begin my message by reporting on the outcomes of the Board of Trustees meeting held on campus from Wednesday-Friday. It was a very full agenda, with many informational and action items. This is a quick summary:

-- Approval to restore $628,648 to the ASUW budget from the June board action where this money was moved from an ASUW account into a central reserve. The funds will be moved back to the ASUW office to support ASUW programs or services.

-- Approval to accept the lowest bid on a WWAMI facility renovation to develop a gross anatomy lab in the Physical Sciences building, and additional classroom, storage and locker space for WWAMI students in the Health Sciences Building. The bid was by Arcon Inc. in the amount of $1,101,500. Work will commence immediately and be completed by December 2018.

-- Approval of the exterior design of the Science Initiative building, with a request for additional design detail of the greenhouses.

-- Approval of three audit reports on bond funds, Wyoming Public Media and the Department of Athletics.  Two additional audit reports will be acted on at the December meeting.

-- Received a report, Custodial Management Assessment, from Ernest Hunter of Hunter Consulting and Training. The consultant’s study applied APPA guidelines to UW, including standard concepts, protocols, staffing and managing cleaning functions for the campus. The study resulted in 16 recommendations that will serve as the basis of a plan developed by an oversight committee. The goal will be to deliver high-quality cleaning services at no less than level “3” with some indicators of level “2.”

-- Received a report on the UW/National Park Service Research Station in Grand Teton National Park, managed by Director Michael Dillon.

-- Approval of program fees to begin in fall 2018. More on this below.

-- Approval of three proposals from the Trustees Education Initiative by Director Rebecca Watts.

-- Received reports on fall enrollment; a two-year partnership agreement between UW and the National Western Stock Show; Science Initiative research; progress of the Engagement Task Force; recommendations from the commencement task force; and information on a new degree, in the planning stages, on natural resources recreation and tourism; as well as accreditation status of the rangeland and watershed management program.

-- Received a report on planning for an Institute for Innovation and Entrepreneurship. Presented by Deans Pishko and Chicoine along with VP Synakowski, the institute will provide an organization and governance structure whereby entrepreurship education and tech transfer services become integrated throughout the campus, available for all students and faculty, and offered in a more robust manner. The plan is to continue to share the concept throughout the next few months, with a recommendation for approval at the January or March trustees meeting.

-- Learned of proposed changes to the high school graduation requirements from the Department of Education.

-- Approval of a resolution to establish a statewide goal for higher education attainment in Wyoming. The goal for those 25-64 years of age is 60 percent by 2025 and includes post-secondary degrees or certificates. This goal is in conjunction with the Lumina Foundation and Wyoming community colleges and was approved by the Wyoming Community College Commission last month.

-- Received a draft report from the salary task force, with initial recommendations for a policy on salary increases at UW. Presented by task force co-chairs Chuck Mason and Roger Coupal, the report generated several recommendations from the trustees for continued refinement.

-- Held a joint session with the Energy Resources Council and received a progress report from SER Executive Director Mark Northam.

-- Approval of the legislative report on UW/community college recruitment and retention of Wyoming students.

On Thursday, the board enjoyed lunch and conversation with the Staff Senate and dinner with some 140 trustee scholars. These are the premier scholarships offered by UW to graduates from Wyoming high schools. The evening was planned as a time for trustees to dine with a small group of scholars and enjoy informal conversation. A short program offered comments by Vice President Blackburn, introduction of the trustees by President John MacPherson, and comments from myself and trustee scholar Taylor Segrave, senior from Cheyenne, who spoke eloquently about the value and meaning of receiving a trustee scholarship. It was a lovely evening, and I thank the students who attended.

Let me also comment on the approval of program fees -- something in the works for the past 18-plus months. The full proposal, which was unanimously approved, can be found starting on page 42 of the board report here. Essentially, beginning in fall 2018, all formal and informal course fees will be replaced by program fees associated with specific degree programs. All program fees include a $6 per-credit-hour advising assessment which will allow UW to move to a professional advising model. The fee will generate adequate revenue to hire 20 professional advisors, placed in the first-year advising center and across colleges. Additional fees will generate funds for each program to pay for such things as consumable lab or studio materials, software and computers, field trips and other such costs specific to a program.

I wish to extend a HUGE thank you to the program fee task force -- and especially Dr. Rob Godby, who chaired the task force. They didn’t give up, going back to refine the proposal several times to gain student and trustee support. Task force members include:

-- ASUW -- Jacob Kennedy, Courtney Colwell, Edward Oursler, Jaynie Welsh

-- Academic Affairs -- Anne Alexander

-- Student Affairs -- Sean Blackburn

-- Budget Office -- David Jewell

-- Arts and Sciences -- Greg Brown, Ricki Klages

 -- Business -- Rob Godby, who also chaired the task force

-- Health Sciences -- Denise Gable

-- Engineering -- Michael Pishko

-- Agriculture and Natural Resources -- Mark Stayton, Glen Whipple

-- Education -- Suzie Young

One of the tasks taken on by the ASUW task force members was a survey of students to gain their reaction and feedback to program fees. To entice participation, a random drawing for an iPad was offered, and I congratulate Emily Blaney, a Health Sciences student, who won the drawing. Thank you for your participation in the survey, Emily, and congratulations on a new iPad!

On Friday, I had the opportunity to participate in a couple of other university events beginning with the first-year seminar class in the College of Business. It was fun to share my educational background and provide some pivotal experiences that helped shape my career. I also had the opportunity to welcome over 100 seniors from Wyoming high schools and their parents to UW for Impact weekend. This event was organized by Dean Skinner and the Honors College, along with Admissions. The event targeted the best and brightest Wyoming students and was a weekend to explore the academic excellence of UW. We hope we convinced many to attend UW next year. Thanks to Dean Donal Skinner and Director Shelley Dodd for their leadership on this important recruitment event.

Friday evening offered some special events. Women’s Entrepreneurship Day -- a global event -- was held on Friday late afternoon/evening and offered food and beverages for networking, along with a dynamic program of women entrepreneurs who offered their experiences and insights. I appreciated the opportunity to kick off the event and offer a welcome. The program was impressive and diverse in speakers. I thank the Colleges of Business and Engineering for their joint sponsorship of this event.

From there, Tim and I stopped by the chili cook-off and fundraiser for PTSS awareness and the Safe Project. This fundraiser was sponsored by a communications course under Dr. Tracey Patton and generated over 240 “best chili” votes. While we didn’t arrive in time to enjoy chili made by about 10 vendors, we did make a donation and talked to a few of the students who were most pleased with the results.

Then it was on to the UW Presents program featuring The By & By and Sally and George. What a treat! Both groups were outstanding and very special as they featured local talents: Jacob Means, an incredibly talented mandolin player; and Shelby Means, also incredibly talented vocalist and bass guitar player. By the way, these are children of our own Dr. Warrie Means, professor of animal science, who joined the musicians in the final number playing the banjo. What a talented family! Tim and I could not have enjoyed our Friday evening more, and we congratulate both groups on a great performance. Warrie, you must be very, very proud.

I was able to drop by the women’s volleyball game on Wednesday evening, where Wyoming had a great victory, defeating San Diego State 3-1. It was senior night, a full house and great outcome. Congratulations, Cowgirls!

And, of course, we ended the weekend with our final home football game, where we gave it our all but unfortunately lost a close game, 13-7, against Fresno State. This was also senior day, where we thanked nine seniors for their football leadership, and we also featured our No More campaign against sexual assault.

As I sign off, I want to remind you that the first Tuesday after Thanksgiving is UW Giving Day. What a difference a day makes! UW Giving Day is an annual tradition that, this year, occurs on Nov. 28. It coincides with Giving Tuesday, the first Tuesday after Thanksgiving, which is a global day of giving that follows Black Friday, when shoppers mob the stores, and Cyber Monday, which is a big day for online shopping. Those who wish to participate can go to the #UWGivingDay website ( on Nov. 28 to give online. On this site, donors can support any of UW’s colleges and units, or they can click over to UW’s regular online giving ( to support a particular program. All gifts on that day are counted toward the Giving Day total.

With that, I wish each of you a happy Thanksgiving holiday, as we reflect on all that we have to be thankful for in our lives. For me, it certainly includes the opportunity to be in a job that I love, and the privilege to work with all of you.

Safe travels, and happy Thanksgiving!

Laurie Nichols, President

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