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Trustee Actions, Financial Services Reorganization and Start of Legislative Session

February 19, 2018

To the UW community:

Good Monday morning!

As I write this message, we are under a winter storm warning and slated for significant snow over the next 24 hours. If you are traveling, please use extreme caution.

I will begin my message by reporting on outcomes of the Board of Trustees conference call last week:

-- Approved sabbatical applications for 2018-19.

-- Approved a Trustees Education Initiative proposal to create the Wyoming Early Childhood Outreach Network. The network will provide high-quality field experiences in early childhood education as well as create professional development opportunities for current early childhood educators.

-- Approved a request to negotiate an interim appointment for director of government relations (formerly vice president for governmental and community affairs).

-- Named an ad hoc committee to develop detailed plans to implement Phase I of the 10-year master housing plan. The committee consists of Trustees McKinley, Marsh and Moore; Vice Presidents Mai and Blackburn; ASUW President Wetzel; and myself.

-- Received a report on the reorganization and staffing within Financial Services. I will comment more on this below.

-- Discussed trustee attendance at the upcoming AGB Conference.

-- Received a report on the first days of the 2018 legislative session, including two bills of significance to UW.

-- Received approximately 70 written comments on the tuition policy and capacity study recommendations for out-of-state tuition.

The reorganization of Financial Services has been an ongoing effort over the past several months. Our ability to analyze the structure, organization and staffing of several financial units came as we experienced several retirements. The goal in reviewing the structure and organization was to enhance communications, encourage cross-unit collaboration, and improve productivity and performance. The essence of the change includes consolidating from two associate vice presidents to one, and moving from seven “units” to five. Four of the five units will be housed with Financial Affairs, including:  Financial Administration and Compliance, Treasury and Financial Reporting, Budget and Institutional Analysis, and WyoCloud management. One additional unit, Payroll, moves to the AVP for human resources. One other change of significance is moving Contract and Grants (post-awards) from the Research Office to Financial Services, specifically within Financial Administration and Compliance. While this office will continue to have communication with the VP for research, its day-to-day functions will now align with accounting.

With the reorganization complete, we have hired Ronald Revel from the University of Wisconsin-Madison to serve as senior director for financial administration and compliance; promoted Ashlie Reese to serve as director for treasury and financial reporting; and will soon search for the director for budget/institutional analysis. David Jewell will serve as associate vice president of this unit. These financial services functions continue with 60 assigned FTE; I thank these employees as they adjust to changes and who work hard to provide accounting and other financial services to our university.

Last Monday, I attended Governor Mead’s final “State of the State” address. His address highlighted many accomplishments over his two terms as governor, thanked many individuals who have been pivotal to his success, and made several recommendations regarding the biennium budget. The Legislature began the 2018 session a few hours later. All bills under consideration required a first reading by Friday, so it was truly a full week.

Another event with our Legislature occurred on Thursday, when the WWAMI program hosted lunch in Cheyenne, taking advantage of the opportunity for our first-year WWAMI students to interact with legislators. A short program also provided information and thanks to the Legislature for its support. I thank Tim Robinson, UW’s WWAMI director; David Jones, dean of Health Sciences; Larry Kirven, assistant clinical dean; and Suzanne Allen, University of Washington Medical School vice dean for regional affairs who attended and rounded out the program.

As I am on the topic of the Legislature, I will add that this past Saturday was UW Legislators Day, where we welcomed about 30 legislators to Laramie for a campus visit. The schedule was full, beginning in the Gateway Center for coffee and a welcome from Trustee Brown and myself, and a briefing on the Science Initiative -- including comments from three students. Next was a tour of the McMurry High Altitude Performance Center, where Coach Bohl and Director Burman showcased this state-of-the-art facility. The group also saw the current progress of the new engineering building and the future site of the Science Initiative building on Lewis Street. Next up was a tour of the Visual Arts Building by Ricki Klages and art faculty. Lunch with ASUW senators was served in the atrium of the Visual Arts Building, and Vice President Blackburn provided a summary of the 10-year master housing plan. After lunch, the group split -- some touring the High Bay Research Facility with Dr. Piri, while others stopped by the Art Museum. The events concluded with the men’s basketball game, where we soundly defeated San Jose State. Congratulations, Cowboys!

The legislators were truly appreciative, and many commented on the incredible hospitality, with the ability to see several facilities and meet faculty. I thank everyone who participated -- you did a great job!

Like some of you, I had the opportunity to meet with Stephen Portch, who was on campus to gather data for my formal evaluation. Dr. Portch is former chancellor of the Georgia public system, where he led 26 campuses for nearly a decade.  During dinner on Tuesday evening, we had the opportunity to not only discuss the evaluation design, but also review my self-assessment and talk about my first 20 months at UW. I also had the opportunity to visit a second time with Dr. Portch during an exit interview on Wednesday afternoon just before he departed Laramie. He is very knowledgeable about public higher education, and I was very impressed with the homework he had on both me and our university. I hope you had the opportunity to attend one the sessions last Wednesday or provide comments online.

Wednesday was Valentine’s Day, and I must provide a big thank you to the Lab School chorus members who stopped by my office and sang a tune -- about love, of course! The six boys were fourth- and fifth-graders and were most talented vocally. Thank you for making my (and several others’) day so special!

Thursday evening, several of us from UW attended the Laramie Chamber Business Alliance annual meeting and awards dinner. Beyond providing an annual summary of LCBA, several committees highlighted their activities, and five award recipients were honored:

-- Tim Cavalli Service to Others: Paul Heimer, United Way of Albany County

-- The Shuster Award: Medicine Bow Technologies

-- Business Person of the Year: Megan Goetz, Pence and Macmillan

-- Small Business of the Year: Coffey Engineering and Surveying

-- Large Business of the Year: Premier Bone and Joint Center

Friday was a really fun day, as I had three distinct events -- all celebratory in nature. The first was hosting breakfast in the ag econ department for faculty and staff for their almost 100 percent participation in the United Way campaign this year. I enjoyed visiting with the faculty and staff, and I publicly thank them for their generosity to the United Way.

Friday afternoon, I attended the Program in Ecology (PIE) Student Research Symposium. As many of you know, PIE spans 11 departments, and most had students presenting. I was able to take in the keynote address by Dr. Rebecca Safran, associate professor in ecology and evolutionary biology at the University of Colorado-Boulder. After that, I heard seven students talk about their research -- spanning personality in zebra finches, disease risk of boreal toads, burrowing of prairie dogs, trapping rare small mammals, sap quality of birch trees, genome patterns of buntings, and microbial activity of new soils after glacier retreatment. Each was quite fascinating, and I could not have been prouder of these graduate students. Congratulations, PIE students and faculty, on a really good symposium!

Friday concluded with what has become a favorite event for me: the 43rd annual Juried Student Art Exhibit, held at the Art Museum. A reception opened the exhibit, followed by a program where some 41 awards were given out from a diverse group of departments and people. The exhibit is truly outstanding and will be up through May commencement. Congratulations, student exhibitors!  I encourage everyone to stop in and see it for yourself.

During the Art Museum gala last October, an Indian dinner was auctioned -- to be hosted at the Nichols residence, but prepared by Chef Nimi McConigley. The purchasers were Albert and Sue Sommers of Pinedale, and they chose last Saturday evening for the dinner. The Indian food was delicious, and we enjoyed wearing beautiful saris and hearing stories of Nimi’s journey from India to Casper. Tim and I really enjoyed the evening, making new friends and, in the process, helping our Art Museum.

As I stated earlier, be safe (and warm) in this winter storm. And, despite the weather…

I hope you have a great week.

Laurie Nichols, President


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