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Kicking Off the Legislative Budget Session

February 12, 2018

To the UW community:

Good Monday morning!

As you read this message, I and several others from UW are attending the governor’s “State of the State” address in Cheyenne, which also marks the beginning of the 2018 legislative budget session. It seems we have been preparing for this session for a long time. I sincerely hope our efforts pay off with the university’s 2019-20 biennium budget and exception requests. I will keep you informed as the four-week session unfolds.

As I mentioned in last Monday’s message, we entered this past week with two remaining legislative dinners. Last Monday, VP Boswell, Dr. Danny Dale and I hosted six legislators in Jackson; and on Tuesday evening, VP Boswell, Dr. Greg Brown, Meredith Asay, Trustee Kermit Brown and I hosted five legislators in Laramie. Both dinners were well received and yielded an opportunity to update legislators on the university, talk through our budget request and specifically discuss the Science Initiative. With these last two completed, a total of eight legislative dinners were held throughout the state, with nearly 60 legislators attending. I especially thank Vice President Chris Boswell, who coordinated this effort and worked very hard to encourage legislators to attend. From my perspective, it was an opportunity to have small-group discussions about UW, hear legislators’ interests or concerns and advocate for our state block grant. I also enjoyed coming to know our legislators more personally, including their priorities as they enter this session.

This week, the monthly UW Board of Trustee meeting will be held via conference call on Wednesday morning. The agenda includes:

-- A proposal for approval from the Trustees Education Initiative.

-- Update on reorganization and staffing occurring within our financial services units of the university.

-- Action to move the master housing plan toward implementation via an ad hoc committee.

-- Legislative update.

-- Public comment on tuition as presented in the tuition policy and capacity study.

The meeting is held in the president’s conference room in Old Main, and anyone is welcome to attend.

Last Monday, I had the opportunity to meet with the search committee for the vice president for administration position. As you have read, Vice President Bill Mai will retire at the end of the current fiscal year. The search committee will work with a search firm to recruit a strong pool of applicants and evaluate each to select the strongest possible finalists for campus interviews. In meeting with the search committee, I shared my thoughts about desired qualities of the next vice president as well as answered questions on process and timeline. I thank the search committee members -- under the leadership of VP Robert Aylward -- as they will spend considerable time in the next few months.

I had a most enjoyable meeting with the Native American Advisory Committee last Tuesday morning. This group serves in an advisory capacity to me on many aspects of Native American affairs at UW. It also includes our relationship on the Wind River reservation and with the Eastern Shoshone and Northern Arapaho tribal business councils. James Trosper chairs the advisory committee, and our discussion was robust and energizing; one could feel much momentum as a result of several programmatic/center reports and discussions about opportunities for growth. I especially thank Jason Robison, associate professor of law and committee member, who will lead a strategic planning effort for Native American affairs at UW. The meeting included a proposal for the planning process, with opportunity for discussion. I look forward to having a strong five-year plan to lead our investment in educational opportunities for Native students, research opportunities to support Native people and tribes, and overall engagement on the Wind River reservation.

Last Tuesday, I also had the opportunity to meet with Cindy DeLancey, executive director of the Wyoming Business Alliance, and Mandy Fabel, director of Leadership Wyoming. Mandy began her position in December and will direct the statewide Leadership Wyoming program. Our discussion centered on UW’s sponsorship of and involvement with Leadership Wyoming. UW will continue to host the August kickoff orientation meeting of Leadership Wyoming and, in preparation for this summer’s meeting, Mandy will meet with several of us -- including some of our UW Leadership Wyoming alumni to discuss meeting topics and format. If you are an alum of this program, let me know if you are interested in attending this discussion.

Last Wednesday, I had the pleasure of a couple of meetings with VP Ben Blalock and several Foundation Board members to discuss the UW Foundation’s strategic plan, scholarship funding, the upcoming board meeting next week and implementation of a few policies that have been lingering for some time. I am really encouraged by the Foundation’s ambitious plan (more to come on that soon) and, more importantly, the positive, productive relationship we have with the UW Foundation Board of Directors.

I ended Wednesday evening by helping Tim host the spring semester First Gent Literacy Circle -- a group of mostly honor students and faculty who select a book to read and discuss over the course of the semester. This semester’s book is our own Nina McConigley’s “Cowboys and East Indians.” Nina talked to the group about writing the short stories assembled under this title and provided context to set the stage for their reading of this award-winning book.

Last Friday, I had the opportunity to offer a welcome at the Wyoming Engineering Society, a conference for engineers from across the state. The room was full, and it was fun for me to share several topics of interest with this group. I also enjoyed spending time after the opening session to talk individually with several alums and practicing engineers. The conference was held at the Gateway Center, which provided a rich opportunity to interact with our engineering students and faculty.

I also hosted a luncheon last Friday for eight officials from Halliburton who were visiting Dr. Mohammad Piri at the High Bay Research Facility to discuss innovations in unconventional oil and gas. One outcome was to identify potential research partnership opportunities with the Center of Innovation for Flow through Porous Media under the leadership of Dr. Piri. I really enjoyed the conversation and offering my support of this industry partnership.

Tim and I had a sneak preview of the student art exhibit that will open this Friday at the Art Museum. We visited the exhibit to select a couple of award winners and to make a few purchases. The exhibit is interesting, with a broad range of art media on display. I encourage everyone to stop by the Art Museum sometime in the next few months -- and congratulations to those students selected to be in this year’s exhibit. I look forward to the opening Friday afternoon.

Art was the theme Friday as Tim and I attended the 36th annual Governor’s Arts Awards program Friday evening in Cheyenne. Sponsored by the Wyoming Arts Council, It was a special evening as our own Susan Moldenhauer was one of four honorees. Susan came to the UW Art Museum in 1991 as a curator and served as director from 2000-2017. Susan’s influence is all around us, including her leadership of the Laramie Mural Project and public art more generally via the Laramie Public Art Coalition. Others honored this year included: Art 321/Casper Artists Guild; Leslie O’Hashi of Cheyenne; and Dr. Patrick Patton of Casper. Congratulations, Susan, for a well-deserved honor!

Tim and I enjoyed attending the performance of “A Bright Room Called Day” on Thursday evening -- a story about everyday people in Germany during the national descent into fascism. The actors did a wonderful job. Congratulations, students and director Kevin Inouye.

Saturday was a day for sports, as we took in the Cowgirls’ basketball game against UNLV with an exciting win; and the Cowboys’ wrestling match with a dominant win (38-4) over Northern Colorado. The wrestling team honored seniors, and it was a wonderful way to thank them for their contributions to a competitive wresting team! I wish both teams continued success.

This week, the Program in Ecology will host its annual student symposium. The event kicks off with a program/keynote at 12:30 at the Berry Center auditorium and continues throughout the afternoon with a series of student presentations, posters and a concluding awards dinner. I hope you can take in some of this exciting program.

I wrap up my weekly communication by wishing each of you a Happy Valentine’s Day (on Wednesday, if you were not aware).

As always, I hope you have a great week.

Laurie Nichols, President


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