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Recognitions and Legislative Actions after Spring Break

March 19, 2018

To the UW community:

Good Monday morning!

I begin this message welcoming you back after a week of spring break recess. I hope you had an enjoyable week and return ready to embrace the final eight weeks of the spring semester.

This afternoon at 3, Dr. Todd Surovell, department head and professor of anthropology, will present a lecture on his research, “Studying the present to learn about the past: Gender and space among Mongolia’s reindeer herders.” This will take place in the Gateway Center, with a reception to follow. I hope you can attend -- all are welcome.

The past two weeks have been very busy with matches, tournaments and conferences, so I begin my message by congratulating a number of individuals/groups.

First, congratulations to Pat Moran and his team at Half Acre who won the Outstanding Sports Facility Award at the NIRSA annual conference last week in Denver. The award honors facilities that demonstrate excellence in architectural design, functionality and the extent to which the facility meets its intended purpose. UW received the award for the renovation of Half Acre Recreation and Wellness Center. Congratulations to all involved in the renovation of Half Acre and to the team members at Half Acre who deliver wellness programming.

I also congratulate our student-athletes who competed so well these past two weeks. I had the opportunity to attend the Mountain West basketball tournament in Las Vegas two weeks ago, and I offer congratulations to both the men’s and women’s basketball teams for providing competitive and exciting games for UW fans.

Wrestling fans had an exciting week, as Montorie Bridges place eighth and Bryce Meredith competed for the championship and ultimately was named runner-up at the NCAA wrestling championships. In addition, Karla Contreras placed ninth on platform at the NCAA Division I Women’s Swimming and Diving Championships, and the Cowgirl golf team won the Lady Thunderbird Invitational title. As I write this, I have just come from the WNIT game where the Cowgirls played UC-Davis with a lot of heart, but couldn’t quite bring home a win. Congratulations, Cowgirls and Coach Legerski, on a great season!

The Wyoming Legislature completed its work a few days later than anticipated last week, adjourning on Thursday. As might be expected in a budget session, budget items associated with UW and UW medical education were front and center in UW’s interactions with legislators.

I appreciate the Legislature’s continued support of UW, and I’m pleased to report the session resulted in no further cuts to our operating budgets. Our “state aid” total in the budget bill for UW operations stands at approximately $380 million for the FY 2019-2020 biennium, a remarkable level of state support for Wyoming’s university.

The biennium budget bill also includes an appropriation of $6.65 million to help shore up the reserve account for our endowed faculty positions funded in whole or in part by investment returns on the Excellence in Higher Education Endowment.

UW will benefit from a significant increase in major maintenance funding from the state, which should total more than $41.4 million for the biennium. The Legislature released $1 million in previously appropriated funds for much-needed maintenance and repairs on Corbett Pool.

The capital construction bill, HB 194, was sent to the governor on the very last day of the session, and it includes several components that are very important to UW. First and foremost, the Legislature agreed to release $85 million in previously appropriated funds for the Science Initiative facility. While this represents a significant cut of $15 million to the state’s appropriation for this project, the legislation also directs UW to come up with the $15 million balance from reserves and other resources in order to reach the full $100 million project cost. The Board of Trustees will address the appropriation during meetings this week. This same bill also requires that a task force be developed to review the master housing plan for UW before any demolition or new construction take place.

A quick recap of the major outcomes of the session include:

-- State block grant (067) was fully funded at our requested level of $379,959,114 for the biennium. This includes specific line-item funds for the School of Energy Resources ($19,303,167), Tier 1 Engineering ($8,369,436) and NCAR ($1,802,339), as well as an athletics match ($8,000,000). Included within the general fund are two exception requests of $1 million for carbon engineering and $100,000 for the UW rodeo team.

-- WICHE (069) funded at $5,105,000 for the biennium.

-- Medical Education (167) funded at $33,051,593 from the general fund, with approval to spend $19,589,904 in clinic funds. In addition, a select committee on the family medicine residency programs was created for an interim study and report to the Legislature by Nov. 1.

-- Capital construction bill included an appropriation of $85 million for the construction of the Science Initiative building, with the remaining $15 million coming from university funds.

-- Major maintenance was funded at $41,442,098 for the biennium, a 45 percent increase from the current M&R biennium budget.

-- Continuation of the combat veterans tuition waiver for community colleges and UW at $1,200,000 for the biennium. The bill did introduce some changes to the scope of the program.

-- Appropriation of $6,651,070 to the Excellence in Higher Education research account.

A number of other non-budget bills or footnotes were passed that have implications for UW, including the Hathaway scholarship, public employee retirement plan contributions, and development of a common transcript among Wyoming community colleges and UW. Once all bills are finalized by the governor, a communication will be developed that summarizes all legislative actions impacting the university.

As the legislative session ends, so does Vice President Chris Boswell’s tenure at UW. This Friday will mark his retirement from UW after more than seven years as lobbyist and vice president for government and community relations. He has done a remarkable job and will be missed greatly by many, including me. I have learned a great deal from Chris and thank him for the time he spent taking me around the state, introducing me to so many community and state leaders. Chris, we wish you the very best in your retirement. Thank you for your service to the University of Wyoming!

I also want to remind you that the UW Board of Trustees will meet on campus this week. Please consult the agenda to find specific committee meeting times on Wednesday, and general board meetings beginning Wednesday afternoon and concluding around noon on Friday. Two agenda items that I will draw your attention to include discussion on FY19 tuition and fees, as well as presentation of a proposed salary policy by a task force that worked on this topic for the past eight months. Both topics will be discussed Thursday morning. The Haub School is seeking final approval of a new undergraduate degree program in outdoor recreation and tourism management Friday morning. As usual, it will be a full three days, and I will report actions taken by the board in my message next week.

I draw your attention to the announcement of the Marvin Millgate Community Engagement Awards. As recommended by the Engagement Task Force, the University of Wyoming is establishing several new awards for faculty, staff, students and community partners who have demonstrated exceptional commitment to UW’s land-grant mission of engagement with and service to the people of Wyoming. Starting today, nominations are being accepted for four engagement awards:

  1. The Engaged Faculty Award will be presented to one faculty member whose demonstrated scholarship significantly advances knowledge-sharing between academic disciplines and the public. Eligibility is open to a full-time, tenured/tenure-track faculty member or academic professional lecturer (extended-term track).
  2. The Engaged Staff Award recognizes one staff member at the university who both supports learning and development through community engagement and builds strong, reciprocal relationships between the campus and the community. Eligibility is open to any full-time staff member.
  3. The Student Engagement Award recognizes one outstanding university student or recognized student organization who has been engaged in service learning or other service opportunities that have made a tangible difference in the community. Eligibility is open to any full-time student or recognized student organization.
  4. The Excellence in Community Partnership Award recognizes community organizations that have rendered exceptional outreach and/or engagement within Wyoming’s communities through partnership with the University of Wyoming.

More information on the nomination process is available at www.uwyo.edu/engagement. Anyone with questions may contact Jean Garrison at garrison@uwyo.edu.  Recipients will be honored at the president’s graduation dinner in May. 

Let me end by pointing out that “Wild” author Cheryl Strayed will speak and sign books Thursday, March 22, at 5 p.m. in the Arts and Sciences auditorium. And Dr. Zach Hall, guest of the Wyoming Sensory Biology Center of Biomedical Research, will provide seminars Thursday and Friday. Please consult the university calendar for other events this week. 

Again, welcome back.  I hope you have a great week. 

Laurie Nichols, President


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