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Science Initiative Outreach and Legislative Support

February 26, 2018

To the UW community:

Good Monday morning!

Time marches along as midweek we transition from February to March, and as I write this we are only two weeks away from spring break. The semester is going quickly!

I begin my message by thanking Jean Garrison, Tabatha Spencer and the Science Initiative outreach team who made presentations to 19 service organizations in 10 Wyoming communities. Starting in January and continuing through last week, these faculty and students were featured speakers at Rotary and Kiwanis clubs. Their message provided information about the Science Initiative and highlighted students who have personally benefitted from the SI. The team includes:

-- Greg Brown, Associate Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, a professor of botany and the director of the Science Initiative.

-- Jamie R. Crait, lecturer in life sciences and director of the Wyoming Research Scholars Program.

-- Daniel Dale, professor of physics and astronomy, formerly the department head and a new associate dean for the College of Arts and Sciences.

-- Chip Kobulnicky, professor of physics and astronomy.

-- Rachel Watson, senior academic professional lecturer in the Department of Molecular Biology and chair of the Science Initiative’s Active Learning Spaces Committee and the director of the Learning Actively Mentoring Program (LAMP).

-- Cynthia Weinig, professor of botany, molecular biology and the Program in Ecology.

-- David Williams, professor and head of the Department of Botany.

-- Emily Armitage, senior Wyoming Research Scholar majoring in biology.

-- Delta Burchi, junior Wyoming Research Scholar majoring in physiology.

-- Ericka Chorniak, senior double-majoring in secondary education and physics.

-- Olivia Croft, sophomore Wyoming Research Scholar getting a B.A. degree in biological science education.

-- Ella DeWolf, senior Wyoming Research Scholar double-majoring in molecular biology and microbiology.

-- Logan Fairbourn, senior Wyoming Research Scholar majoring in microbiology.

-- Kali Nicholas Moon, master’s student in botany and a fellow and mentor in LAMP.

-- Natasha Radosevich, senior majoring in microbiology.

-- Tatiana Rice, rreshman Wyoming Research Scholar majoring in physiology.

-- Amy Saville Rhoad, LAMP fellow and pursuing an M.S. in animal and veterinary science.

-- Jessica Sutter, Ph.D. student in physics and fellow in LAMP.

Beyond the club presentations, SI team members also spoke in a number of science and math classes in Sheridan, Lander, Casper, Rock Springs, Gillette, Jackson, Cody, Tongue River and Big Horn high schools. And in a couple of cases, they stopped in at the local community college to connect on science education. This was a significant outreach effort and again, I thank Jean and Tabatha, who did much coordination, as well as the faculty and student teams who presented. Thank you!

The Wyoming Legislature is halfway through its four-week budget session, which is scheduled to adjourn on Saturday, March 10. Both the House and Senate completed their three readings on the FY 2019-20 biennial budget on Friday after several marathon days of work on amendments, and UW’s budget priorities remain in good shape at this stage. I’m relieved to report that no further cuts to our standard budget are forthcoming as the budget moves to a conference committee to work out differences between the two houses. UW’s first priority is the release of $100 million in previously appropriated funds for the landmark Science Initiative facility, and language authorizing the release of those construction funds is in both the biennial budget bill and in the capital construction bill. Obviously, the release of $100 million in these tough budget times will receive plenty of scrutiny during the session, but the support for the viability of the proposal remains strong among a cross-section of legislators, with the House voting 44-13 to include language approving the release late Friday night. I want to express my appreciation to members of the Legislature for their work on the budget and hundreds of other bills, and for their consideration of higher education in Wyoming as the state’s economy begins to rebound.

Last week, public art consultants Renee Piechocki and Jennifer McGregor were on campus working with the Public Art Committee, ASUW and others to develop a strategic plan for public art at UW. Renee and Jennifer have previously worked with Laramie to develop its public art plan, so they are familiar with our community and opportunities for the campus and community to intersect.  I enjoyed an hour with Renee and Jennifer to discuss opportunities to strengthen our public art policy, committee structure and broad ideas for the plan. I am especially grateful to ASUW for sponsoring their visit and ultimately the development of UW’s public art plan. Thank you, students!

Last Wednesday, I spent much of the day in Cheyenne, first meeting with community college presidents to continue our collaboration. With Mary Aguayo coordinating the agenda, we discussed an application to WICHE for possible support and funding on postsecondary attainment, as well as implications of a bill introduced in the Legislature the previous week aimed at strengthening the transfer process for students.

Following the meeting, I was able to attend a reception celebrating progress on the Indian Education for All legislation passed last year. The reception had a strong UW presence with Wyoming Public Media, Wyoming Humanities Council and our own Native American Education, Research and Cultural Center co-sponsoring the event. It was interesting to see the progress made in developing curricula materials for K-12 education. I concluded the evening by attending an award presentation by the Nature Conservancy to Governor Mead for his leadership in statewide conservation.

My week concluded as, along with many others, I traveled to Palm Springs for the UW Foundation winter Board of Directors meeting. Beyond two full days of meetings, the Alumni Association hosted an alumni reception on Thursday evening with nearly 100 in attendance. I enjoyed meeting alumni from many cities in California who had traveled some distance to attend the event. Along with VP Blalock, Coach Bohl and ASUW President Wetzel, I enjoyed providing an update to the audience and thanking them for their support.

It was a very big weekend for sports, with both the Cowgirls and Cowboys defeating Fresno State on Saturday. However, the really big news is that our men’s swimming and diving team claimed its first conference title in 59 years, as it won the Western Athletic Conference championship. I congratulate Coach Dave Denniston (who is in his first year as head coach) and the entire team, many of whom finished first in their swim events and brought home individual championships as well. Congratulations!

This will be a full week on campus. There are concluding home games for both the men and women basketball teams as they wrap up the regular season and get ready for MW tournament action in Las Vegas next week. On Tuesday evening, the Center for Global Studies will host Mark Jenkins, who will present on his global adventures, this time talking about “Camels, Climbing and St. Catherine: An Expedition to Egypt” in the Arts and Sciences auditorium at 7 p.m.

I hope you can take in some of these enjoyable events -- and I also hope you have a great week.

Laurie Nichols, President


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