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Holiday Events, Capacity Study and Much More

December 4, 2017

To the UW community:

Good Monday morning!

As we begin the first full week of December, it is a reminder that fall semester is quickly coming to a close, with just two and a half weeks remaining. This weekend was packed with holiday and university events, and this week promises more of the same.

As I write this, I have just returned from attending two enjoyable events today (Sunday). This afternoon, I attended UW’s dance program, “Fall for Dance,” which was partially choreographed by Dance Theatre of Harlem Artists-in-Residence and beautifully performed by UW dance students. From there, Tim and I were treated by Music Department Chair Scott Turpen and Dean Lutz to a delightful evening of jazz at the Holiday Stomp, held at Altitude Chophouse and Brewery. Ben Markley directed the jazz band and chorus through a wide variety of holiday music, and we enjoyed a special performance by Blake McGee, too. It was most festive and certainly put us in the spirit of the holidays. Thank you, Dr. Markley!

On Saturday morning, we also had the opportunity to drop by the Art Museum’s 25th annual holiday celebration, where we viewed 22 beautifully decorated Christmas trees -- a fundraiser for the Art Museum -- and listened to some talented young people as they performed on the piano. There was a big crowd in attendance, and families were having a great time. Thank you, Art Museum!

Tim and I also attended the Cowboy basketball game on Saturday afternoon, where we won in double overtime, defeating Drake University 96-89. It was a thrilling game, and I congratulate Coach Edwards and the men’s team for their endurance and grit -- it was a fast-paced, physical game. I don’t know how the team fared, but I was exhausted by the end of the game!

And today we learned that the football team will play in the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl on Dec. 22 in Boise, Idaho. The Cowboys will take on Central Michigan University of the Mid-American Conference. Finally, I congratulate Bryce Meredith and Archie Colgan, who took third and fifth, respectively, at the Cliff Keen Las Vegas Invitational this weekend.

Last Monday, I attended Faculty Senate, where I provided a quick update on a few topics of interest and had the opportunity to discuss the university regulation and policy review process which is underway now, led by General Counsel Tara Evans. University regulations will be reviewed by campus and considered for approval by the Board of Trustees, while policies will be reviewed by campus and considered for approval by the president. During the review process, the regulations and policies will be updated and streamlined using a three-tier format: university regulations (highest level and approved by the Board of Trustees), university policies (beneath a university regulation but applicable to university-wide governance/process and approved by the president), and unit policies (applicable to the college or unit level and are approved by the appropriate vice president). This work will continue through the calendar year, with all revised regulations and policies submitted to Faculty and Staff Senates and ASUW for review and feedback. For more information about this process, please contact Tara Evans.

Also on Monday, several from UW had the opportunity to receive mid-progress results of a capacity study being conducted by Huron Consulting. The study is helping us think about our capacity as a university (primarily the Laramie campus), including a program-level analysis of enrollment and capacity. The study is also exploring elasticity of out-of-state tuition for students who live in Colorado and Nebraska. The goal is to learn more about growth potential, marginal cost of enrollment growth and a suggested “good neighbor” tuition rate for Colorado and Nebraska residents. We are also exploring distance tuition rates so as to be competitive in a national market. The study will be done soon, and results will be presented to the campus and trustees in January.

Tuesday was primarily spent in Casper, where I had the opportunity to attend the opening session of the Wyoming Natural Resources Rendezvous, a joint conference of the Wyoming Stock Growers Association and the Wyoming Association of Conservation Districts. I provided remarks to those in attendance, talking about our mission as a land-grant university and the compelling work of the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources and the Haub School. I concluded by affirming our commitment to partner with these organizations to advance agriculture and conservations efforts in Wyoming.

From there, I stopped by KCWY News 13 for a taped interview, the Casper Star-Tribune to visit with the editorial board, and KTWO Television for a live interview on the 5 p.m. news show. And then it was on to a legislative dinner, where 16 legislators attended to hear more about UW’s biennial budget requests. Joined by Trustees True and Mason; Vice Presidents Boswell and Synakowski; Meredith Assay; and Drs. Greg Brown, Danny Dale, David Williams, Jeff Edgens and Beth Robitaille, we walked the legislators through our exception requests for the block grant, which include:

-- Releasing $100 million to build the Science Initiative building.

-- Continuation of a footnote from the current biennial budget to allow for a low-interest loan to replace the research aircraft.

-- $1 million to continue carbon engineering research.

-- $100,000 for UW rodeo.

We also covered requests for medical education and WICHE, separate appropriations and budgets. I greatly appreciate the participation of those listed above, who do a wonderful job of telling the impacts of the Science Initiative and the medical residency program. We continue with our next legislative dinner in Rock Springs next week.

Wednesday morning was special, as our own Vice President Synakowski was honored by the U.S. Department of Energy. He was presented the Meritorious Service Award for his contributions to energy research over the past eight years. Many of his former colleagues were present via teleconference, and they were joined by UW colleagues. VP Synakowski received a lovely plaque and citation noting his success in rebuilding a research program in fusion energy after a significant budget reduction and retirement of key researchers. The award and presentation were a surprise to Ed, and it was touching to watch his response as he was caught completely off guard. Congratulations, Ed, for this noteworthy recognition. I am so happy that you have joined our university in a leadership role. We are proud of you!

Wednesday evening, I had the honor of attending another inspirational event sponsored by Mortar Board. The 38th annual Top Prof event recognized 34 faculty as selected by each Mortar Board member. As “top profs” were recognized, each student provided a few words about the faculty member. Common themes were outstanding teaching in the classroom, being available outside of the classroom and supporting the students when they struggled or needed additional support. It was truly inspirational, and I congratulate each faculty member honored -- and thank them for going beyond expectations to support student learning.

Thursday found the spotlight on our own Wyoming Institute for Disabilities (WIND). I started the day by meeting with Director Sandy Root-Elledge and guest Andy Imparato, who serves as executive director of the Association of University Centers on Disabilities (AUCD). UW is part of this national network of 133 university centers. I found our conversation insightful as I learned more about WIND and AUCD, including ideas for future advocacy. Later in the day, I attended the lecture given by Andy Imparato, where he talked about the importance of grassroots advocacy in policymaking related to disabilities. From there, we were treated to a reception with posters by students enrolled in the disability studies minor. I had the opportunity to visit several posters and learn about students’ research on disability topics. It was a most enjoyable afternoon, and I thank Sandy and WIND faculty and staff who made this event possible.

The evening continued as Tim and I hosted ASUW at our home for a holiday reception. We enjoyed visiting with many student senators and thanking them for their service to governance at UW. As the evening concluded, Tim and I agreed that the University of Wyoming has some very bright student leaders. We enjoyed spending time with them.  

I wrapped up the work week on Friday by spending the entire day on the Wind River reservation with VP Boswell, James Trosper, Debra Littlesun, John Stark and Christy Wildcat. We had three distinct meetings scheduled, beginning with testimony before the Legislative Select Committee on Tribal Relations. We reported on the opening of the Native American Education, Research and Cultural Center; our fall enrollment of Native American students; plans for the second annual Native American Summer Institute; MOUs between UW and the Northern Arapaho and Eastern Shoshone tribes; and HPAIRI and its recent grant from NEH on tribes’ connection to elk. A robust Q&A followed our presentation with committee members.

Our next stop was Wyoming Indian High School, where we presented the ASUW Honorary Cowboy Award to Rae’l Trosper, a junior at WIHS. Rae’l was selected for this award due to confronting significant personal loss this past year, yet demonstrating strength and character as an outstanding student and role model to her peers. The school used this recognition as a high school assembly, where ninth- through 12th-graders assembled to observe the presentation of this award and touching comments by Rae’l, who wore her beautiful beaded regalia and delivered powerful, touching remarks. Christy Wildcat also spoke to the assembled students about being a Native student at UW and the resources available for their success. She also invited students to attend the summer institute in 2018.

Our final stop was to meet with the Northern Arapaho Business Council and Sky People Education Department, where we discussed the Northern Arapaho endowment, scholarship criteria and process. The outcome was a decision to revise the 30-plus-year-old MOU to reflect more current priorities for this scholarship. It was a positive and productive meeting.

I conclude this weekly message by encouraging you to stop by the university-community holiday open house on Wednesday from 4:30-6:30 p.m. at the Gateway Center. It’s a family event, and you will find many activities for children, so please bring children/grandchildren and enjoy the holidays!

In addition, there are many other holiday events scheduled this week and weekend. Tim and I look forward to hosting several holiday celebrations this week in our home and on campus. I hope to see you at one of them.

Have a great week!

Laurie Nichols, President


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