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Legislative Update and Much More

February 20, 2017

To the UW community:

Good Monday morning, and happy Presidents Day! I hope you had time to get out and enjoy the very mild temperatures and lovely weather this weekend. Today is a federal holiday to celebrate all United States presidents -- although at UW we are open and classes are scheduled as normal.

Because of Presidents Day, the Wyoming Legislature was closed Friday and remains closed today. The lawmakers will resume business tomorrow afternoon. The short recess provides an opportunity to share a few updates on their actions:

-- Excellence in Higher Education Endowment -- approval is moving forward for a $1.25 million appropriation to the reserve to bridge fund UW and community colleges while the earnings from the endowment rebound (note: endowment with state treasurer).

-- Block grant -- Joint Appropriations Committee proposed an additional $1.04 million reduction for FY18; Senate restored funds; House defeated restoration of funds; conference committee will negotiate.

-- Unconventional reservoirs matching language (no new funds) will be part of the final bill.

-- Neither of the supplemental budget requests (strategic enrollment plan; Science Initiative) are recommended for funding.

-- HB 136, the “campus conceal” bill, was passed out of committee in the Senate and will be discussed on the Senate floor in the coming days. UW administration, faculty, staff and students all testified in opposition to the bill, which takes the decision making away from UW regarding weapons on campus -- including residence halls, athletic events, the Early Care and Education Center and in the area of the Lab School.

-- SF 166 -- which would have stripped the UW Science Initiative facility of $48.8 million of its $100 million prior appropriation, in order to fund, in part, the Capitol and Herschler Building remodeling and reconstruction -- appears stalled in the House. Property purchases and building design for the Science Initiative facility are on schedule for a possible groundbreaking in late 2018 or early 2019.

I appreciate the faculty, staff and students who traveled to Cheyenne last Wednesday to testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee on HB136, conceal carry. While the bill passed out of committee 4-1, I understand the testimony was well received and made a strong impression. The bill will next go to the Senate floor for debate and vote. Our work continues!

Last Monday, I had the pleasure of touring the Fay W. Whitney School of Nursing’s Clinical Simulation Center. BSN director Holly Miller serves as coordinator for this incredible teaching resource and provided a detailed tour for me. I enjoyed the opportunity to see a full range of clinical and simulation rooms, including those that have fully computerized SimMan 3G advanced patient simulators. I learned a great deal about nursing education and the technology-rich facilities that facilitate a strong, skill-based curriculum. Thanks to Holly and Dean Mary Burman for the invitation and taking time to provide the tour!

Both Tim and I have served as board members for Boys and Girls Clubs in South Dakota, so when we had the opportunity to attend the Wyoming Alliance of Boys and Girls Clubs “Youth of the Year” event, we readily accepted. Each club in Wyoming nominates a local candidate, and last Monday they assembled in Cheyenne to select the Wyoming Youth of the Year. The nominees were interviewed throughout the day by a team of judges, and during the evening program, they each provided a short speech to the audience. I was so impressed by each of these outstanding young people, many who have overcome challenging circumstances. I congratulate Sierra White from Casper, who was selected the overall winner and will go on to regional competition next. Sierra is a senior from Natrona County High School and hopes to attend UW next year. We will be most fortunate to have her as part of our campus, as she is truly an amazing young woman. Congratulations, Sierra!

I have mentioned the UW Cultural Programs before in my message, and last week many of us had the pleasure of attending a performance by Savion Glover, Tony Award-winning choreographer and tap dancer. He and his team performed Bare Soundz, which was nothing short of amazing. I left in complete awe of his artistic form, rhythm and skill -- not to mention incredible physical fitness! It was a true Valentine’s treat.

Last week, the UW Board of Trustees held its monthly meeting, this month via conference call. Several items on the agenda were approved:

-- Approval to increase the FY17 operating budget to account for 2016 summer session tuition revenue, computer and other fees and release time.

-- Approval to expand and renovate space for the WWAMI program, specifically to develop an improved anatomy lab. This is necessary as beginning in 2018 or 2019, UW will host both first- and second-year medical students on our campus.

-- Approval of the guaranteed maximum price for the Engineering Education and Research Building.

-- Approval of the purchase of a UPS (uninterruptible power system) for the High Bay Research Facility from the contingency fund upon funding availability.

-- Receipt of the preliminary spring semester enrollment report.

-- Receipt of the spring 2016 commencement schedule.

In case you have not heard, a few modifications have been made to this spring’s commencement schedule to accommodate loss of the Arena-Auditorium for spring commencement. I apologize for any inconveniences. We will be back to normal next year, spring of 2018, when A-A renovation is complete. Here is this year’s schedule:

Friday, May 12

6 p.m. -- College of Arts and Sciences/Haub School

Saturday, May 13

8:30 a.m. -- College of Health Sciences

9 a.m. -- College of Business

10 a.m. -- College of Law

12:30 p.m. -- College of Engineering/School of Energy Resources

1:30 p.m. -- College of Education

4:00 p.m. -- College of Agriculture and Natural Resources

6 p.m. -- Army and Air Force ROTC commissioning ceremony   

Last Wednesday, you may have seen my campuswide message announcing a sexual assault prevention and response initiative. I thank Associate Vice President Sean Blackburn and Interim Title IX Coordinator Jim Osborn for bringing together a team to expand our efforts around sexual assault. A “No More” campaign will bring heightened awareness about sexual assault, while training and education will provide greater understanding about response should someone experience or witness a sexual assault. I expect more to come in the weeks and year ahead. Our immediate hope is that every sexual assault is reported so that victims will find needed support and assaults are investigated. Our ultimate goal is to reduce/eliminate sexual assault, making our campus safe and welcoming for all. Thank you to all who have been heavily engaged in planning and implementing this initiative.

Wednesday evening, Tim and I attended the College of Agriculture’s Ag Experiment Station annual awards program. The prime rib dinner originated from the UW meat lab (delicious), and the program was most enjoyable. I congratulate the award winners:

-- Friends of AES -- Leesa Zalesky and David Kruger (Coe Library). 

-- Kathleen Bertoncelj AES Staff Award -- Rochelle Koltiska (Sheridan R&E Center) and Joanne Newcomb (AES Main Office).

-- AES Early Career Researcher Award -- Grant Bowman (Department of Molecular Biology).

-- AES Outstanding Researcher Award -- Steve Ford (Department of Animal Science).

On Thursday, I had the honor of serving on the interview team to select the next cohort of Daniels Fund scholars. Twenty-two high school students from this area interviewed in Laramie, and these same interviews are happening throughout Wyoming, Utah, Colorado and New Mexico. While some 1,200 students will interview, only 250 will be selected. I so enjoyed meeting these outstanding young men and women … and I am so glad that I do not have to make the final selection! I can only imagine how difficult it must be. We are fortunate to have nearly 40 Daniels scholars on our campus this year. It truly is an honor to be named a Daniels scholar; the investment by the Daniels Fund into these young people’s education is significant. I look forward to hosting UW’s Daniels scholars later this semester.

As usual, our weekend entailed several athletic events, including watching the indoor track and field event against CSU on Friday evening; enjoying the women’s tennis team as it took on UTEP on Saturday morning; and cheering on the women’s basketball team as the Cowgirls played Boise State on Saturday afternoon. I continue to be so impressed with our student-athletes. They represent us well!

I also enjoyed welcoming nearly 100 prospective students and their families at Discovery Day on Saturday morning. One of my favorite “jobs” as president is promoting the university. In my opening comments, I encouraged the visiting students to observe marks of quality offered in an undergraduate experience at UW. Among others, these include a low student/faculty ratio, many deep learning opportunities, student leadership and a wide array of degree programs.

As I finish this, Tim and I are off to the Alpha Gamma Rho house to enjoy Sunday dinner with the men of AGR. Tomorrow evening, I will have a similar dinner with the women of Delta Delta Delta. I have enjoyed working with Greek Life fraternities or sororities throughout my higher education career. I look forward to sharing a meal and getting to know more about UW Greek Life and these fine students.

I hope you have a great week!

Laurie Nichols, President


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