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Commencement and Other Events Bring Memorable End to 2017

December 18, 2017

To the UW community:

Good Monday morning!

This week marks the conclusion of fall semester and the final week of university activities prior to closing for a holiday recess. University offices close on Friday, Dec. 22, and remain closed through Jan. 1, reopening on the 2nd.

I begin my message by congratulating 714 students who completed their degrees this semester. Some 450 of these students participated in our fall commencement ceremony Saturday morning, where we heard inspirational messages from UW alum and former Wyoming Supreme Court Justice Marilyn Kite, and our own graduating senior, James Francis. I thank all those who participated in the ceremony and made it so meaningful for our graduates and their families. As you can imagine, it takes many individuals to make commencement happen. A special thank you to:

-- Wyoming Jazz Ensemble, under the direction of Dr. Ben Markley.

-- Happy Jacks, under the direction of Dr. Nicole Lamartine.

-- UW ROTC.

-- Honorary Marshals Steven Barrett and Larry Weatherford.

-- Nicole Hauser, who represented the UW Alumni Association.

-- Trustees Bostrom, Marsh and Brown.

-- Michael Barker, chair of UW Faculty Senate, and all faculty who hooded or otherwise participated in the ceremony.

-- Faculty Marshals Belmont, Considine, Ipina, Kobbe, Robinson, Utterback and Young.

-- Deans, associate deans and those who read names.

-- Coordinators Matt Coulter, Kristine Isaak, Caleb Hebbert and Tyson Drew.

Graduates, congratulations again on earning degrees from the University of Wyoming!  We are proud of you and wish you much, much success in your careers and your lives. Stay connected, and come back often to visit your alma mater.

I also had the opportunity on Friday evening to attend the College of Engineering and Applied Science Fall Convocation. Held at the Gateway Center, the ceremony recognized all graduates, those graduating with honors, and inducted graduates into the Order of Engineers. Convocation is a new tradition started by CEAS and certainly was appreciated by graduates and their families. Thank you for making graduation even more special for your graduates, College of Engineering and Applied Science!

I mentioned in my message last week that I traveled to Phoenix to attend the Mountain West Conference Board of Directors meeting. Our meeting included a lengthy presentation on the media rights landscape and a strategy moving forward, NCAA revenue distribution, specific topics to football and the MW basketball tournament, and an interesting presentation on E-sports. Overall, the conference is strong both financially and competitively.

Upon returning to Laramie, I along with several from UW spent significant time on Tuesday with ENDOW (Economically Needed Diversity Options for Wyoming).  Appointed by the governor, the Executive Council met at the Gateway Center Monday and Tuesday of last week.  On Tuesday morning from 9-noon, UW presented several bold ideas that would contribute to diversifying Wyoming’s economy. These included:

-- The Institute for Innovation and Entrepreneurship. Presented by Dean Pishko, Interim Dean Chicoine and VP Synakowski, the institute is proposed to provide university-wide support to entrepreneurship education and tech transfer and commercialization.

-- Carbon engineering and carbon materials. Presented by School of Energy Resources Executive Director Northam, this was a status report on carbon engineering and the potential to move carbon materials to the market.

-- Tech and tech-enabled initiatives. President by Dean Pishko, this is an idea to enable initiatives in data science, artificial intelligence, renewable energy and/or advanced oil and gas recovery through a proposed Wyoming computing corporation which will allow smart storage, computing power and distribution.

-- Serving Wyoming and the nation through research partnership. Presented by Vice President Synakowski, this is an effort to develop research partnerships with federal agencies and the private sector in areas of critical need.

Feedback from the ENDOW council and others in attendance was positive and provided additional ideas for the council’s end-of-year report and request to the Legislature for future funding. I thank those involved, and especially those who presented to ENDOW.

Tuesday evening, Tim and I were delighted to host members of Keepers of the Fire, an RSO for Native American students. It was a fun evening of conversation and enjoying dinner, and it allowed me an opportunity to be updated on activities of the newly opened Native American Center.

Wednesday morning, the Board of Trustees held its monthly meeting via conference call. Outcomes of this meeting include:

-- Approval of the annual audited financial and compliance reports as presented by McGee, Hearne and Paiz.

-- Approval of $400,000 for an X-ray imaging system from remaining High Bay contingency funds.

-- Approval of a contract with Sletten Construction for construction of the BSL-3 incinerator addition, and authorization of $1,328,945 from the Ag College Permanent Land Income Fund to provide the funding.

-- Approval of a change order to GE Johnson for the High Altitude Performance Center kitchen equipment in the amount of $314,053.

-- Approval of a change order to GE Johnson in the amount of $813,342 for the procurement and installation of AV/IT equipment for the High Altitude Performance Center.

-- Acceptance of the initial findings and recommendations of the capacity study, with more details to follow at the January board meeting.

Following the board meeting, I had the opportunity to visit with our newest trustee, Macey Moore, to talk about our strategic plan and other ongoing initiatives at UW.  We had a delightful discussion, and I look forward to Trustee Moore’s leadership in the years to come. The next meeting of the Board of Trustees will be on campus Jan. 17-19.

My Wednesday continued as I stopped by the Wyoming AES and Extension Annual Conference, held at the UW Conference Center. I had the opportunity to say hello, provide a few remarks to the group and answer a few questions. I trust it was a good meeting, and I thank College of Ag leadership for allowing me a few minutes to address our statewide faculty and staff.

From there, I departed for Cheyenne to attend the governor’s full cabinet meeting and then a holiday reception at the governor’s mansion. On the agenda were our own Jeff Hamerlinck and Teal Wyckoff, who provided an update to the governor’s cabinet on the Natural Resource and Energy Explorer (NREX), a web GIS-based software tool designed to support the Energy Atlas concept within the Governor’s Energy Strategy Initiative by providing public access to credible geographic data and information maintained by state agencies. With broad application, the tool can be of value to many state agencies, and their presentation generated some good interest. Thanks, Jeff and Teal!

Thursday was spent in Rock Springs, where Danny Dale, Jean Garrison, Chris Boswell and I traveled first to Rock Springs High School for a school visit, then hosted a legislative dinner. The school visit included Dr. Dale meeting with physics and science classes and the rest of our meeting with the Annie Fletcher, principal, and several guidance counselors to learn about their school and explore post-secondary paths of students. Of course, recruitment of students to UW was part of this conversation. We were also treated to a school tour, where we learned more about their curriculum clusters.

From there, we hosted a legislative dinner with eight legislators from southwest Wyoming. Following dinner, our presentation included both an update on UW and our biennial budget request. A major part of the budget request is the Science Initiative building, and Danny Dale provided a compelling story as to why this building and programming are important to our students, faculty and the state as a whole.

Of note on Friday was an interview with Jeff Victor of the Boomerang, as he is writing a year-end recap of 2017 at the University of Wyoming. I enjoyed our discussion.

As I write this, I have just returned from a very fun reception honoring those who have contributed to Saturday University over these past nine years. Led by Dr. Paul Flesher, Saturday U has become a major and popular outreach program in Wyoming. Thank you to all who have delivered lectures for Saturday U or who have been part of the “crew” to plan and organize the events held across the state. It is a really great program that showcases our strong academic expertise at UW.

Although we conclude the semester on Tuesday, our week continues as we compete in the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl this coming Friday. Along with many others, I plan to travel to Boise to support the football team this week. I extend my best wishes to Coach Bohl and the Cowboy football team. Kickoff is scheduled for 2 p.m. and can be viewed on ESPN. Go Pokes!

As I sign off for 2017, I wish each of you a very happy holiday. I hope your holiday offers time to be with those you love, as well as time to relax and rejuvenate. I thank each of you for all you do for the University of Wyoming every day, and I also thank you for staying with us through hard times. I am optimistic about 2018, and I look forward to not only stability, but importantly to developing momentum around our vision, strategic plan and exciting initiatives.

I will take a short break from Monday messages as Tim and I travel to South Dakota to spend time with my parents and family over the Christmas holiday. I will be back with you mid-January as we gear up for the start of the spring semester. Safe travels and happy holidays!

Laurie Nichols, President

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