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A Time to Give Thanks

November 21, 2016

To the UW community:

As we begin this Thanksgiving week, I thank each of you for your many contributions to our university. Your hard work, dedication, loyalty and support have built a strong university of which we can all be very proud. Thank you for sharing your many talents and giving so generously of your time to build a better University of Wyoming.

Tim and I welcomed nearly 50 honors students and faculty in our home last Monday evening for a reception and to celebrate the Honors Program. It was fun to spend several hours with some of our brightest students and hear them talk about their academic experience and motivations for pursuing the honors curriculum. It was a delightful evening; I thank Susan Aronstein for her leadership to the Honors Program, and to all faculty who teach and work with our honors students each semester.

Equally as delightful, I hosted a reception on Tuesday afternoon at the Gateway Center for our LGBTQ community of faculty, staff and students. With a strong turnout, the conversation was lively and enjoyed by all. I was happy to lend my support this year by hosting the reception, which traditionally has been hosted by (now retired) faculty/staff in their homes. Thanks to all who attended!

A group of six impressive students organized this year’s Women in Leadership Night of Inspiration, where recipients of Women of Distinction awards were recognized, and I provided a keynote address to those in attendance. It was a fun speech to deliver, as I reflected on my own leadership journey and important lessons learned. I also shared highlights from AAUW’s recent report, Barriers and Bias: The Status of Women in Leadership. While women have made major achievements as leaders, as a university we need to continue to support their success. Congratulations to those recognized during this special event.

I continue to enjoy learning about the university. Last Wednesday, I took some time in the afternoon to tour the Department of Animal Science and Meat Lab, and the Laramie Research and Extension Center including the Hansen Arena, beef, sheep, swine and equine units. I enjoyed having Dr. Stephen Ford show me his research of generational effects of obesity on offspring, using sheep for the experiment model. I was very impressed with the facilities and thank everyone who took time to show and explain the important work being done there.

Over the weekend, it was fun to participate as a “celebrity” in Little I, held at the Hansen Arena and sponsored by animal science students. I showed a horse -- my first! While I wasn’t very good in the show ring, it was great fun and took me back to 4-H fair days.

The Board of Trustees met last Wednesday-Friday, and the meeting went well. As the trustees and I develop a strong working relationship, we are better defining our roles and responsibilities. For me, each meeting seems to go smoother than the previous one. The agenda was very full, and several important items were approved or heard, including:

--Approval to sell alcohol in War Memorial Stadium and the A-A beginning fall 2017.

--Approval of the FY18 budget reduction plan.

--Approval of a formal policy and minimum cash balances for two reserve accounts: operating and capital.

--Endorsement of the Science Initiative as the top legislative priority.

--Approval of a residential housing requirement change and Trustees Scholars’ Award modification.

--Approval of a 4 percent tuition increase for 2017-18 per policy, with an invitation to discuss the distribution with student input.

--Acceptance of a status report on program fees.

--An update on several construction projects and a proposed satellite distributed power plant.

--A reception for our top scholarship recipients.

Two conference calls with the trustees will be held in December, one specifically to approve the audit reports, the other to conduct any routine business. The next full meeting is scheduled for January.

As the week was winding down, I had the opportunity to attend the UW Symphony concert on Thursday evening as it beautifully performed Prokofiev 5th (a hymn to the greatness of the human spirit), and on Friday evening I attended the Joint Military Ball, where UW Air Force and Army ROTC students enjoyed an evening of military ritual, food and dancing. Tim and I enjoyed the reception, dinner, ceremony and speaker -- we opted to leave before the dancing began!

I cannot end this Monday message without saying a huge congratulation to our student-athletes and coaches for a huge weekend. The football team secured another thrilling victory on Saturday afternoon, beating MWC West Division leader San Diego State University 34-33. The men’s basketball team beat the other SDSU -- the Jackrabbits (and my alma mater) -- on Saturday evening, and the women’s basketball team won big against Cal State-Fullerton. I am also proud of the volleyball team and wrestlers, who had hard-fought losses and represented UW well. It truly was a great weekend to be a Cowgirl or Cowboy!

I encourage you to support the Holiday Food Drive that will begin Monday, Nov. 28. The drive is sponsored by Staff Senate and in partnership with Transit and Parking Services through the Food for Fines Program. The goal is to assist UW family/staff who may need support during the holidays. Nominations for food baskets will be accepted through Dec. 7.  Please see www.uwyo.edu/staffsenate/holiday-food-drive/index.html for more information.

This week we celebrate Thanksgiving, a genuinely American holiday when we pause to give thanks for the many blessings in our lives. Our daughters, Jordan and Hannah, will arrive on Wednesday to celebrate the Nicholses’ first Thanksgiving in Laramie. Tim and I look forward to having our family together as we give thanks for each other, our new home and living in beautiful Wyoming. 

Wishing you a happy Thanksgiving,

Laurie Nichols, President


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