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International Connections, Administrative Searches and More

April 24, 2017

To the UW community:

Good Monday morning! 

As I write this week’s message, I have just returned from a celebration of Navruz (New Year) and Central Asian Awareness Day. The cultural performances included ethnic fashion, music, singing and dancing -- and all were outstanding. The evening included a dinner of delicious, favorite foods, too. I thank the Central Asian Student Association (CASA), under the leadership of President Dilnoza Khasilova, for sponsoring the event and offering gifts to a number of individuals or organizations. I received a beautiful, hand-embroidered fabric that I will display with pride in my office. The evening was really enjoyable; I commend CASA and the group’s adviser, Amy Lewis, for planning a festive, informative evening.

While on the topic of international connections, last week I met with the International Education Steering Committee to learn more about international activities on campus and to discuss ideas for future growth of international education and global engagement. I especially enjoyed a presentation by Linda Johnson, faculty member in the Fay W. Whitney School of Nursing. This project to improve health care in Honduras has a 13-year history and provides an opportunity for UW nursing students to offer primary health care to the people of Agua Salada, a poor, remote, mountainous region of Honduras. Instructor Johnson takes student groups to Honduras two times per year and over the years has raised money to build a clinic to provide access to health care. The story is impressive, and the slides of the country and people were beautiful. I can only imagine what a life-changing experience this has been for our students. Thank you, Linda!

Following this presentation, we talked about my observations of international efforts at UW and ideas for the future. A couple of weeks ago, a former colleague of mine, Kathleen Fairfax, visited UW and spent a couple of days visiting our international programs and offices. Kathleen has worked in international affairs at several universities, including Michigan State University and Arizona State University, and she is currently AVP for international affairs at South Dakota State University. We asked Kathleen to provide an assessment of our current international organization, staffing and programming, and to make recommendations based on her experience and knowledge of best practices. We look forward to reviewing Kathleen’s report, with an ultimate goal of further developing our international programs and activities to be as effective, dynamic and impactful as possible.

And before I leave this topic, I also want to congratulate the College of Engineering and International Programs Office, which received notification last week that they were awarded a “100,000 Strong in the Americas” grant to partner with the Universidad Autonoma de Yucatan in Merida, Mexico. Sponsored by ExxonMobil, this grant will allow students to visit each other’s institutions, take field trips, attend seminars and work together on projects. Congratulations to Dr. Jennifer Tanner Eisenhauer, Department of Civil and Architectural Engineering, and Dr. Mary Katherine Scott, International Programs.

Last week, interviews concluded for the dean of the Haub School. The search committee is reviewing evaluations and will make its recommendation shortly. As we complete this search, we ramp up two vice president searches, for which finalists are being announced and scheduled for on-campus interviews. We begin with interviews for the vice president for student affairs, as three finalists have been identified and will be on campus within the next two weeks. As before, I encourage you to participate and provide feedback on this set of finalists. Finalists for the VP for research and economic development will be announced shortly, and those interviews will begin about the same time. These are two very important hires, and having full campus participation will be critical to identify the next leaders for these divisions. Thanks in advance for your participation!

Last Tuesday, I attended the monthly meeting of the Albany County Commission. My purpose was to provide an update from UW and to share the draft strategic plan with an invitation for the commissioners’ feedback. They appreciated the update and invitation.

Tuesday evening featured two important events, and I was able to get to both, at least for a portion of the event. The first was the Own It! awards program held at the Enzi STEM atrium and sponsored by EPSCoR Wyoming. The purpose of the event is to honor and recognize women faculty and students who are making impacts in the STEM fields. Beyond providing a welcome to the group, I also had the distinct honor of recognizing Dr. Judy Antell, who currently directs HPAIRI (High Plains American Indian Research Institute), for her tireless work on diversity at UW. The award will be ongoing and will be named the Judy Antell Diversity in STEM award. Judy is so deserving of this recognition; her legacy will continue through the establishment of this award. The group also recognized Dr. Bill Gern for his lifetime achievement and service to UW, promoting women’s involvement with STEM consistently over his career. A big thank-you to both Judy and Bill, and congratulations to all the award recipients. It was a lovely event, and I thank those who worked very hard to coordinate it.

From there, I rushed over to the UW Libraries Author Dinner featuring Timothy Egan, a best-selling author of several books -- most recently, “The Immortal Irishman.” The event is sponsored by UW Libraries and the Development Board and made possible by the McMurry-Spieles Endowment for Library Excellence. Timothy Egan provided the evening’s program and talked about his background and writing experiences, including those who have influenced his writing. It was a lovely evening and, beyond allowing us access to a prominent author, also features the importance of our outstanding library -- and hopefully raises some funds for its ongoing work.

On Wednesday morning, I had the opportunity to meet with Instructor Allison Gernant and three Synergy English students -- Desmin Lewis, Tyrell Proby and Jerard -- Swan to hear their Shepard Symposium poster presentation advocating for additional education as a requirement for concealed carry. I was impressed with these three young men and the quality of their presentation. Following their presentation to me and Vice President Boswell, we debriefed their experience with Senator Bouchard -- what happened, and their reactions and reflections. Shepard Symposium coordinators Christi Boggs and Michelle Jarman, and English Department Chair Peter Parolin, were also present, and we had a good discussion about what has occurred to date (including several media reports and contact with legislative leadership), what more may happen, and how best to handle this unfortunate incident. I end by simply saying that we are dealing with this unfortunate occurrence -- and I very much respect and appreciate these really mature and amazing students and faculty member. Despite being put in an unsettling and upsetting situation, they have handled it well, being examples to others.

One other fun meeting last Wednesday was with Eric Sandeen, Isa Helfgott and visiting distinguished lecturer Lawrence Weschler. Hosted by WIHR (Wyoming Institution for Humanities Research), Dr. Weschler presented on “Art and Science as Parallel and Divergent Ways of Knowing.” He has spent much of his career at New York University as director the Humanities Institute. Our visit was brief but rich, as he shared examples of the creative work he did in this role at NYU to bring the humanities and sciences together.

Last week, UW hosted an Entrepreneurship Summit -- an exciting day of student competition, networking with many entrepreneurs from the community and state, and the opportunity to hear keynote speaker Anat Baron, former executive at Mike’s Hard Lemonade and a true entrepreneur. The summit is held to encourage students and community members alike to learn more about starting their own businesses. The John P. Ellbogen $30K Entrepreneurship Competition was held throughout the day, with 10 finalists presenting their innovations. During the evening program, winners were announced, and I congratulate:

--Levente Pap, who received first place in the competition. Levente created Lev’sonic, a hardware and software platform that provides a solution for the tedious daily written documentation often found in engineering, health care and physical science industries.

--Greyson Buckingham and John Lee, who received second place and created Valued Energy Platform, a company focused on enhancing transparency and fostering a competitive and robust e-marketplace in the on-site power generation segment of the oil and gas value chain.

--Dallin Cooper and Madison Cooley, who received third place and created Atmosphere Marketing, a digital marketing service for businesses of all sizes.

The evening concluded with the announcement that the Ellbogen Foundation has provided another gift to the endowment, bringing the total endowment to $1.25 million, which will increase the annual competition to a $50K competition. A huge thank-you to the Ellbogen Foundation and to Steve Russell and Corey Billington from the College of Business, who coordinated the competition and the summit.

Last Thursday, I also was able to join the Department of Civil and Architectural Engineering’s Advisory Board meeting for a short time. My time with this distinguished group of professionals allowed me to share a few comments about my first year as president, including the development of our strategic plan. We also discussed enrollment and, like others, members of this group were anxious to assist with recruitment of students in any way they could.

The spring Presidential Speaker Series was also held last Thursday and featured Dr. Dimitri Mavriplis, who provided a lecture on his research on computational fluid dynamics. Dr. Mavriplis’ work includes the development of computer simulation models for helicopters and wind turbine aerodynamics. As you can imagine, the supercomputer capacity of NCAR and UW’s Mount Moran have provided the computing power necessary for research like this. I am in awe of the advanced, technical work of Dr. Mavriplis and others who collaborate with him. Thank you for providing such an informative lecture, Dimitri!

Friday morning, I was to travel to Cheyenne to meet with the Alumni Association Board, but I-80 closed just as I was about to leave Laramie. So instead, I talked to the board via conference call from my office. I provided several updates, followed by a time for the board to ask questions. I appreciate the dedication of this group and the leadership provided by Keener Fry, executive director of the Alumni Association.

I was honored to attend the Graduate Awards Luncheon on Friday, where Dr. Ann Hild presided and awards were given to eight graduate students, including Outstanding TA (Stephanie Bachtelle Stacy, Stanley DeVore, Peyton Lunzer, Emily Pifer, Hadi Shafei and Jessica Sutter); Outstanding Master’s Thesis (Amy Reece); and Outstanding Dissertation (Abdullahi Hussein Ali). Dr. Narina Nunez, Psychology, was named the Distinguished Graduate Faculty Mentor. I congratulate all award recipients and those who presented. The event reminded me of the critical role our graduate students play at UW, not only in furthering our research mission but also in delivering our teaching mission. Congratulations to our graduate students, faculty mentors and Dr. Nunez!

Friday concluded with a trip to Jackson to visit Jackson Hole High School and attend the opening of the ESL conference. Dean Ray Reutzel accompanied me to the meeting with Jackson Hole High School officials including Superintendent Gillian Chapman, Principal Scott Crisp, Assistant Principal Dan Abraham and Counselors Tavi Brandenburg and Emily Hoffer. We covered a lot of ground, including our impact in recruiting students from JHHS to UW; JHHS students’ success at UW; and ideas for reaching a significant Hispanic student population. Today, a group from JHHS is visiting campus along with guidance counselors Brandenburg and Hoffer. If you see them, extend a warm welcome!

The ESL conference was fun! It was the second annual Wyoming English as a Second Language and Dual Language Immersion Conference, co-chaired by our own Dr. Jenna Shim, College of Education, and Chad Ransom, Teton County School District. We began with a mixer, followed by dinner and then the opening session. I was able to provide a welcome to the group, and the keynote was given by Dr. Lorena Mancilla, director of WIDA Early Years of Chicago. She was high energy (important for a Friday evening) and engaging as she talked about “Changing the Rules of Engagement for Families” with a focus on working with diverse (ESL) families. While her context was K-12, I found myself thinking about how we engage families at UW -- particularly underrepresented and ESL families -- and if we, too, might want to explore expanding our rules for engagement. I thank Dr. Shim for inviting me and for providing such a valuable service to our state. I hope the conference was highly successful!

I want to conclude this message by congratulating our new ASUW leaders, Ben Wetzel, president, and Jaynie Welsh, vice president. They were elected last Thursday and assumed office immediately. I look forward to working with them! I would be remiss if I didn’t take the opportunity to thank Michael Rotellini and Tyler Wolfgang for their leadership of ASUW this past year. They were an impressive team, highly professional and engaged. I know the amount of time it takes to assume such big, important roles, so please help me thank Michael and Tyler, and congratulate Ben and Jaynie.

As is my custom, I end by pointing out several events this week that you may be interested in attending. On Tuesday, a town-hall meeting will be held from 1-3 p.m. on WyoCloud to share updates and provide a glimpse of the “go live” financial system on July 1. On Thursday, the Canadian consul general will be on campus, with a panel discussion on opportunities for economic development and education between Canada and UW -- 4 p.m. at the Gateway. On Friday, we hold the Buchanan Lecture (1:30 p.m.), followed by Phi Beta Kappa initiation (3 p.m.), all in the Union ballroom area. Saturday will be a big day with undergraduate research -- please come and support our students! And I better not forget to mention that on Saturday evening, a world record will be set (we hope) for the largest swing dance. Come to the Fieldhouse around 7 p.m., swing your partner and help set a world record!

Have a great week!

Laurie Nichols, President

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