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Updates During the Super Bowl: Legislature, Student Honors and More

February 6, 2017

To the UW community:

Good morning! I hope you enjoyed the warm sunshine this weekend and were able to spend some time outdoors. I took our dog, Ollie, for a long walk this afternoon, and it was fun to watch him splash in the puddles and enjoy the sunshine. I am watching the Super Bowl as I write this weekly message. My goal is to have this Monday message done by the time the game is over. We’ll see how I do…

Last Monday I spent much of the day in Cheyenne, first at the Legislature observing the House debate the concealed-carry bill, and then attending the Wyoming Lodging and Restaurant Association annual conference, where I provide remarks during the luncheon. This association, and the Department of Tourism, have been instrumental in supporting our exploration of an interdisciplinary major in tourism and natural resources. Tourism is Wyoming’s second-largest industry, and with a focus on diversifying the economy, it seems that preparing graduates who can expand the tourism and hospitality industry around our beautiful natural resources makes good sense. Interim Dean Doug Wacob and his colleagues from the Haub School, along with Steve Farkas from the College of Business, are providing leadership to this effort. I thank them for their efforts.

I also attended the Martin Luther King Jr. Days of Dialogue community supper on Monday evening. One of the highlights was announcing the Willena Stanford Commitment to Diversity award. Seven students were nominated for the award --all of them outstanding in their own right. Reinetta Tendore, a graduate student, received the award for her work with Native American students on our campus as well as on the Wind River reservation. Her parents were in attendance, and it was fun to watch their pride as the award was given to their daughter. Congratulations, Reinetta!

On Tuesday, Vice President Axelson and I hosted UW’s Griffin Scholars, Renae Wollman and Michael Vinal, for lunch. The Griffin Foundation awards scholarships to qualified applications who have an associate degree from a junior or community college and are seeking to complete a baccalaureate degree. The scholarships can be used only at the University of Wyoming, Colorado State University or the University of Northern Colorado. I was able to attend the picnic last August at the beautiful Tamasag Conference Center near Fort Collins, where this year’s Griffin scholars were announced. Renae transferred to UW from Gillette College, and Michael transferred from LCCC. We are happy to have such fine students like Renae and Michael at UW.

I spent a portion of Wednesday back at the Legislature to continue conversations with legislators about the concealed-carry bill. Because it had passed out of the House, I spent my time in the chambers of the Senate, where President Karla Leach of Western Wyoming CC and I spoke with a number of senators about our position on the bill. We also had the opportunity to meet with Senate President Eli Bebout in his office on this bill and the FY18 budget proposed by JAC. It was a good discussion, and President Bebout offered several suggestions to us for our continued work this week.

I always enjoy my interactions with students, and last week afforded me the opportunity to give a welcome to the Army ROTC cadets as they assembled for an awards program. I also met with the Persian Student Association officers when they visited me in my office to deliver a letter and pages of signatures. In my discussion with them, I restated our university’s support to them and assured them that we will provide assistance and clarify questions as we can. And on Friday, I met with ASUW’s executive committee to discuss changes in spring commencement, a tuition increase for next year, program fees, and support to international students. We had a productive discussion; I appreciate their strong leadership and really enjoy my interactions with ASUW.

Friday evening, I headed back over to Cheyenne to enjoy the annual Governor’s Arts Awards. I sat with Michael Lange, executive director of the Wyoming Arts Council, and his guests. We had a lovely evening where we celebrated four individuals as they were recognized with governor’s awards:

-- Marianne Vinich, Lander, art teacher in Fremont County and artist.

-- Forrest E. Mars Jr., posthumous, Big Horn, for his art patronage in Sheridan County.

-- Tim Sandlin, Jackson, author and screenwriter, best known for 11 novels, most set in Wyoming.

-- Adam Duncan Harris, Jackson, for his contributions to the arts as a curator, historian and scholar.

The week ended with UW hosting legislators on campus for our annual Legislators Day. The program entailed featuring the Science Initiative (Chip Kobulnicky and several student scholars); touring the High Bay facility (Mohammad Piri); receiving an update on the Engineering Education and Research Building (Dean Pishko); another update on our work with community colleges (Interim Outreach School Dean Hagy); touring the IT Building and learning about high-performance computing (VP Aylward); and receiving an update on our plans for residence hall renovation (Axelson and Weber). The legislators enjoyed lunch at Washakie with some of our students, and concluded the day by watching the Cowgirls soundly defeat Air Force. It was a great day, and we heard many positive from those who attended. A big thank you to all who presented and to Chris Boswell and Kaila Mills, who did much of the planning and logistics.

As I look to this upcoming week, I look forward to a meeting with the community college presidents as we continue our work to create a seamless pipeline for students to transfer from community college to UW. We will also discuss dual admission, reverse transfer and the possibility of expanding our delivery of baccalaureate degrees on the community college campuses. As I have said before, attracting more transfer students is a big part of our future, and improving the transfer process will encourage more students to earn bachelor’s degrees.

I also look forward to the student art exhibit which begins this week at the Art Museum. Please stop by and view the artistic talents of our students.

I end by saying a heartfelt thank you to all who have emailed or reached out to offer your suggestions and support. While I am behind in responding to all who write, I do read them and appreciate your thoughtfulness. Thank you.

And the Super Bowl has just gone into overtime. Reminds me of a couple of our Cowboy football games this fall! May the best team win!

Have a great week.

Laurie Nichols, President


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