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Busy Times Before Spring Break

March 6, 2017

To the UW community:

Good Monday morning! I hope you had a nice weekend and were able to enjoy some of yesterday’s sunshine. It was a warm, windy day, and it looks like we have more of the same all week. You are probably well aware that as we complete this week, we also complete the first half of spring semester. Friday will see many departing Laramie for spring break.

I apologize for the very long Monday message, but there was much to report on this week.

I begin this message sharing my deepest sympathy to the family of Meghan Gable. Meghan passed away last Thursday night due to health-related issues. Meghan was a speech, language, and hearing science major from Hot Sulphur Springs, Colo. Meghan was also a member of the Wyoming Air National Guard and a student employee in our veterans’ office. Her uncle, Ray Gable, is part of the UW family, working in IT. We are so very sad about this loss and extend our condolences to Meghan’s family and friends. Please keep them in your thoughts.

As I mentioned in my message last week, Jeri Bostrom’s funeral was last Monday in Worland. Jeri was the wife of Trustee Dave Bostrom. Several of us from UW and the Board of Trustees traveled to Worland for the funeral. The service was a beautiful, moving tribute to Jeri’s life. She will be deeply missed by her family and friends. Please keep the Bostrom family in your thoughts as well.

Despite these very solemn reminders that life is indeed precious, last week also held some highlights for me.

On Monday evening, Tim and I hosted a group of nearly 40 faculty and students at our home to recognize many who have gone above and beyond to contribute to the Center for Global Studies and our university’s international efforts. Despite a very snowy evening, the turnout and conversations were wonderful. I thank everyone who directly contributes to international efforts, and those who support our many international students and faculty. In part, UW is an outstanding university because we value and offer a global education. 

Wednesday was an especially meaningful day for me, as a team from UW traveled to the Wind River reservation to continue our relationship-building with the Eastern Shoshone and Northern Arapaho tribes, as well as reservation high schools. I thank James Trosper, who coordinated the event. Those traveling in addition to James and myself included Tim Nichols, Reinette Tendore, Angela DeWolf King and Amy Schmidt. Our visit included meetings with both tribal business councils, as well as discussions with superintendents, principals, counselors and teachers at Wyoming Indian School, St. Stephens School, Fort Washakie School and Arapahoe School (where Riverton High School officials also joined us). Among other things, Reinette and Tim distributed materials on a new Native American Summer Institute, a weeklong campus experience to be hosted this summer for Wind River-based high school students. The intent of the summer institute is to strengthen the pipeline to college for Native American youth by providing a pre-college, campus-based program. The institute will be held June 11-17, when at least 30 American Indian youth will be on campus for a full week of academic and cultural activities. I thank those who are actively involved in this important recruitment effort.

The visit to St. Stephens was especially important, and very touching. The meeting included Superintendent Frank No Runner, members of their school board, and several parents and community members. We discussed the unfortunate incident involving St. Stephens students at UW about 18 months ago. I offered my deepest apology for what happened, and they offered a drum song for healing. They also presented me a beautiful Pendleton blanket, and we all enjoyed lunch prepared by their students. We agreed that it is time heal and start anew. I look forward to a bright and positive future with St. Stephens, and I left with a renewed appreciation and respect for the Native American culture -- which is so generous and giving.

I also had the distinct pleasure of experiencing my first Saturday University on Friday and Saturday in Jackson. At the invitation of Dr. Paul Flesher, director of Saturday University, I traveled with Professors Flesher, Donal Skinner, Noah Novogrodsky and Nina McConigley, and Outreach media gurus Pam Ten Eyck and Ali Grossman.

The Friday evening reception was well attended, and the food was deliciously prepared by Central Wyoming College culinary arts students, under the leadership of Amy Medera. Saturday’s lectures were delivered by Donal Skinner (The biology of sex, gender and orientation), Noah Novogrodsky (An economy that works: Measuring immigrant contributions to Teton County) and Nina McConigley (Writing the new American West:  Postfrontier literature). Each lecture was outstanding -- informative, well delivered and generated many questions. The audience of at least 150 was both appreciative and impressed. Thank you to Paul Flesher for his tireless work to deliver this important outreach program, and to the talented teachers who delivered flawless lectures. I also thank our media professionals who video and photograph the event so others might benefit. Saturday U was impressive, and I once again was reminded of the excellent job that UW does of living our land-grant mission in engaging with the citizens of Wyoming.

And to round out the week, Tim and I enjoyed the women’s basketball game on Tuesday evening against Colorado State, which we won in thrilling fashion. Congratulations, Cowgirls! We also were so impressed by the Dorothy Jacoby Student Soloist competition Thursday evening. This event showcases the very best student musicians at UW, along with the UW Symphony Orchestra under the leadership of Dr. Michael Griffith. The featured soloists were chosen by a panel of musicians from the region at auditions in the fall. In total, nine students competed -- and they were very good! Congratulations to all and especially Rui Gao, pianist, who took home top honors, with honorable mention going to Rafael Ribeiro, flutist.

I also wish to congratulate the University of Wyoming fraternity and sorority community as it passes the 600-member mark. This marks a growth of more than 200 members in the last two years. Offering our students a vibrant Greek life experience is central to a flagship university experience. I congratulate all members of the Greek community for their hard work to grow their chapters, and particularly Tristan Hilpert who serves as coordinator of Fraternity and Sorority Life. Congratulations!

In this message, I also want to draw attention to the team who has worked tirelessly on the WyoCloud project. Today marks a big milestone for UW -- the “go-live” of our Business Intelligence Student Reporting dashboard. I encourage you to explore this new functionality and to give our WyoCloud team feedback on its usability and ideas for its future use. One of the major goals of the WyoCloud project is to adopt systems that will allow us to have easy access to reporting across all areas of the university. The team chose reporting on student data as the first area to go live on WyoCloud Business Intelligence. With this new dashboard, we can monitor the impact of our programs on student success, to provide robust advising information to our faculty and target change initiatives more mindfully. I hope you were able to attend the town-hall meeting last Thursday morning to understand more about this “go-live” dashboard as well as what’s ahead for WyoCloud. If you were not able to attend, you can watch the video here. Again, my deepest thanks to the team who is putting in many hours to improve our financial, HR and data capabilities.

I will conclude this message with a summary of pertinent legislation to UW, prepared by Vice President Chris Boswell and Meredith Asay. The 2017 legislative session ended last Friday with a number of bills sent to the governor for his signature. I thank Chris and Meredith for their vigilance these past two months in tracking legislation, serving as a resource to the Legislature and speaking on behalf of the university many, many times.

It was a remarkably contentious session, marked by a fair number of very long days. While it’s easy to focus on the negatives, it’s also important to remember the sacrifices our elected officials make in order to serve in the House and Senate. Legislators are exhausted and are happy to get back to hometown, family and careers.

We are appreciative that the subject of campus security and the carrying of concealed weapons on campus is a decision that remains with UW, rather than having been mandated by the Legislature through the defeated campus carry bill, HB 136. 

The Legislature recognized the progress being made in UW’s relationship with the state’s community colleges, and lawmakers want to see more of that collaboration.

It’s clear that the state’s lawmakers believe UW’s role in economic development and diversification efforts remains critical -- both in terms of encouraging entrepreneurship and in recruiting and graduating more students who are prepared to enter the post-baccalaureate market of careers or graduate education.

Through it all, there are very big decisions to make as the 2019-20 biennial budget session looms on the horizon. Revenue projections are uncertain and will likely impact all state agencies, including UW and the community colleges. In addition, shortfalls in K-12 operations and capital construction are inevitable and may require support from the General Fund side of the state’s revenue streams.

2017 legislative session wrap-up:

Bill Number

Title

Purpose/Result

Pass/Did Not Pass (DNP)

HB 001

General Government Appropriations

Supplemental budget amends FY 2017-18 Biennial Budget passed in 2016 session.Includes governor’s reductions of approximately $36 million to UW State Aid Block Grant and other specific line items, as well as separate additional $520,000 reduction to the Block Grant.  Also identifies governor’s reductions to UW Medical Education and WICHE budgets.Amends 2016 session $5 million appropriation to allow for expendable state match of private gifts for unconventional oil and gas reservoirs research at UW, requires quarterly report.UW, on behalf of community colleges and the Wyoming Community College Commission, shall develop a unified plan for recruitment and retention of high schools students from Wyoming and contiguous states. Report on progress toward plan by September 30, 2017. Submit final plan by Dec. 1, 2017. UW shall seek a meeting with the City of Laramie and report on findings relative to possible vacating of 15th Street between Ivinson Avenue and Willett Drive in order to unify campus and protect pedestrians.Provides conditional $1.25 million appropriation to the Excellence in Higher Education Endowment Reserve Account. 

Passed

HB009

Student ownership and privacy rights

Specifies protections of ownership rights of electronic student communications/writings at UW and community colleges.  Provides for an expectation of privacy in student writings and other communications.  

Passed

HB42

Education – state board of education membership

Adds the president of UW (or designee) as ex-officio member of the state board of education. 

Passed

HB55

Spending policy amendments – 2

Amends reserve fund levels and spending policies for Permanent Wyoming Mineral Trust Fund, Common School Account, and Excellence in Higher Education Endowment.

Passed (waiting on gov’s signature)

HB77

In-state tuition – AmeriCorps service

Would have permitted in-state tuition for AmeriCorps service in Wyoming as specified by the bill. 

DNP

HB93

WICHE-repayment program veterinary medicine students

Would have included WICHE veterinary medicine students under the WICHE repayment program requirements. 

DNP

HB128

Tribal License Plates

Authorizes special Eastern Shoshone Indian tribe license plates and Northern Arapaho Indian tribe license plates.  Fees collected by UW. Any fees collected are to be deposited into the Chief Washakie memorial endowment fund and the Northern Arapaho endowment fund to be used for scholarships at UW. 

Passed

HB136

Campus Carry

Would have allowed concealed weapon permit holders to carry concealed weapons on UW and community college campuses.

DNP

HB137

Wyoming Repeal Gun Free Zones Act

Would allow concealed carry permit holders to carry a concealed weapon at government meetings on public property and at legislative meetings on public property. Amended to clarify that concealed weapons would NOT be allowed on college campuses.  

Passed (waiting gov’s signature)

HB176

Veterans tuition waiver program requirements

Would have added limitations to benefits under the veterans tuition waiver program.

DNP

HB189

Higher education – nonresident tuition

Would have allowed reduced tuition for residents of Colorado or Nebraska at the time of enrollment at UW.  

DNP

HB190

Hathaway reserve account

Increases the amount retained within the Hathaway student scholarship reserve account. 

Passed

HB191

Hathaway expand Wyoming scholarships

Would have created two scholarships for outstanding students from each of the states contiguous to Wyoming. Would have been paid for by Hathaway funds. 

DNP

HB207

Restrictions on public benefits

Would have conditioned eligibility for public benefits on lawful presence in the U.S. Would have required verification of lawful presence in the U.S. upon application for public benefits. 

DNP

HB233

State or school employment contract – compensation reduction

Would have required that any employment contract with UW employee  (CC employee, school district employee, or state employee) provide that the employee’s salary and benefits are subject to reduction as part of any general compensation reduction approved by the legislature.   

DNP

HB254

Public purpose investments

Increases from $600 million to $1 billion the total amount of state funds authorized to be invested for specific public purposes, not necessarily for highest possible return. 

Passed

HB255

Hathaway scholarship eligibility for noncitizens

Would have repealed a provision that excluded certain noncitizens from Hathaway scholarship eligibility.  

DNP

HB277

Hathaway scholarship – application deadline extension

Would have extended the deadline to apply for the Hathaway scholarship from two years to four years after high school graduation.

DNP

HB283

Higher education student recruitment planning

Would have required UW and community colleges to collaborate and develop a unified plan to provide a coordinated approach to the recruitment and retention of students graduating from Wyoming and states contiguous to Wyoming high schools.  Language was included in Supplemental Budget bill (HB 1). 

DNP

HB286

Wyoming state veterinarybiosafety laboratory

Would have specified requirements for a loan and loan repayment for repairs and renovation to the Wyoming state veterinary biosafety laboratory (BSL 3).  

DNP

HJ0009

National speech and debate education day

Would have established and recognized a National Speech and Debate Education Day. 

DNP

SF37

Education – Hathaway scholarship program -2

Allows for GPA to include a measure to account for academic rigor of courses for determining initial Hathaway scholarship eligibility (to be determined by Wyoming Department of Education). Modifies success curriculum requirements.  Requires a report by the Wyoming Department of Education on options to incentivize completion of the Hathaway scholarship success curriculum.  

Passed

SF53

Veterans hiring preference

Specifies the preference in public employment for veterans and surviving spouses of deceased veterans.  

Passed

SF56

Omnibus water bill – planning

Authorizes and provides appropriation for water development projects including UW water research. 

Passed

SF73

High school graduation requirements

Would have modified high school graduation requirements imposed by the state board of education. Would have required three years of mathematics, “and one (1) additional school year of mathematics or computer science.” 

DNP

SF95

Early retirement

Would have created an early retirement incentive option for state employees.  Amended early on in process to exclude UW employees.  

DNP

SF111

Nurse Practice Act revisions

Revises the Nurse Practice Act. 

Passed

SF121

Wyoming Pharmacy Act – amendments

Modifies several provisions of the Wyoming Pharmacy Act.

Passed  (waiting gov’s signature)

SF132

ENDOW initiative

Creates an economic diversification council to oversee and promote economic diversification activities in the state and specifies the duties of the council; requires the development of economic diversification policy and strategy; identifies UW, Community College Commission and Wyoming Department of Workforce Services as staffing support; provides an appropriation. 

Passed

SF136

Energy science stipends and fellowships

Extends until June 30, 2020, appropriation for energy science graduate stipends and fellowships; requires that each year at least fifty percent (50%) of the funds be awarded to students who are Wyoming residents or UW graduates.  

Passed

SF145

UW and community college boards of trustees – chairman

Would have changed statutory language referring to the Board of Trustees President to the Board of Trustees Chairman.  Would have allowed more than three members on the executive council of the UW Board of Trustees.  

DNP

SF152

Hathaway student scholarships

Would have made changes to the Hathaway scholarship program. Would have repealed the provisional opportunity scholarship; required students to file FAFSAs; modified eligibility requirements and removed limitations based on semesters of eligibility; limited use of non-need based scholarships to tuition and mandatory fees; repealed provisions for movement between scholarship levels and established total scholarship amounts at initial eligibility levels.  

DNP

SF166

State-funded capital construction

Would have reduced the $100 million appropriation to UW science initiative facility by $48.8 million, and re-appropriated the funds to other state capital construction projects, including the Capitol renovation project. 

DNP

I conclude by wishing each of you a successful week, and a well-deserved spring break. 

I also extend my best wishes to the men’s and women’s basketball teams, which will compete in the Mountain West Conference Tournament this week. The women will play on Tuesday evening and the men on Wednesday afternoon. I look forward to being there to support both teams. Do us proud, Cowgirls and Cowboys. I know I speak for many when I extend our best wishes!

If you are traveling next week, be safe, and return to us ready to take on a very busy final eight weeks of the semester.

As always, I am proud and honored to serve as your president.

Laurie Nichols, President


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