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Basketball Championship, D.C. Trip, Strategic Plan and More

April 3, 2017

To the UW community:

Good Monday morning! We have transitioned to April and (we hope) spring!

I begin my message by congratulating the men’s basketball team and Coach Allen Edwards for two big wins last week against Coastal Carolina University, clinching the CBI championship title. It was great fun to host the last two games in Laramie, and they provided Cowboy fans an exciting finale to the season. Congratulations!

I mentioned in my message last week that I was off to Washington, D.C., for a variety of meetings and events. Sponsored by the Center for Global Studies, UW Foundation and UW Alumni Association, it proved to be a productive and enjoyable trip. A portion of Monday was spent at the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History, where we met with two UW alums -- Nancy Gwinn, director of Smithsonian Libraries, and Doug Owsley, head of the Physical Anthropology Division. Both Nancy and Doug spent significant time telling about their divisions, specific responsibilities of their positions and showing us some of the Smithsonian treasures. I enjoyed the opportunity to see priceless books in the rare book collection and spend time in Doug’s research lab, where he works on human remains (bones), some of which date back to the earliest American settlers. I continue to be impressed with the caliber of UW alumni and the impressive careers they have built. Nancy and Doug are two shining examples, and I am so glad I had the opportunity to meet them.

Jean Garrison, Paula Lutz, Ben Blalock and I visited our congressional offices on Tuesday morning. We met with Congresswoman Liz Cheney and her staff, Senator John Barrasso and his staff, and Senator Mike Enzi’s staff. We also had the honor of being hosted by Senator and Diana Enzi in their lovely home for an intimate reception, where I met several more alumni who live in the metro area. Our congressional hill visits were productive, as we had opportunities to discuss Pell grant needs, share UW’s track record of federal funding and explore potential funding opportunities. Two other alums who played a big role in our visit were Chris Spear and his wife, Michelle. Chris is president and CEO of the American Trucking Association (ATA), and he and Michelle hosted us at the ATA headquarters for a lovely dinner on Monday evening.

We capped off the trip with an alumni event on Tuesday evening where some 200 alums enjoyed renewing old acquaintances, making new friends and hearing a dynamic presentation by Mark Jenkins on his expedition to Burma. If you have not heard Mark’s presentation, I highly recommend it to you. Mark is so talented not only in his physical prowess and mountain climbing skills, but also his ability to tell fascinating stories about his adventures via breathtaking photos of the expeditions. The audience thoroughly enjoyed his presentation -- and I enjoyed the ability to meet many UW alums for the first time. All in all, it was a most successful trip.

Then it was back to Laramie to continue a busy week on campus.

On Wednesday evening, I was the guest of Chi Omega, where I met some 80-plus members. We enjoyed dessert together, and then I spoke to the chapter about women and leadership. I have really enjoyed my visits to various sororities and fraternities over the past few months. Not only is it fun to meet the student members and learn more about their organizations, but I also enjoy touring these lovely houses that have been maintained and improved over the years.

Another exciting happening last week was hosting David Emery, CEO of Black Hills Energy, and several of his leadership team. They came to present a monetary gift to the College of Engineering to support excellence in education and scholarship. The Foundation hosted a small luncheon to show our appreciation to Black Hills Energy. Dave Emery is a graduate of UW and serves on both the School of Energy Resources council and the College of Business Advisory Council. I sincerely thank Dave and Black Hills Energy for their support.

I also want to congratulate those students who were initiated into Phi Kappa Phi last week. I was able to stop by the initiation and offer my congratulations to this group of students who have achieved at the highest levels in their academic pursuits. I shared with them my own experience of being initiated into Phi Kappa Phi during my graduate studies at Ohio State, and enjoying the strong professional network resulting from this membership. Congratulations, new initiates!

Interviews for the chief diversity officer have concluded, and the search committee members will be busy collecting feedback from the campus and providing their recommendations to me. I enjoyed spending one-on-one time with each of the finalists, exploring their thoughts and experiences around diversity and inclusion. Given that this is a new position at UW, I was interested in learning about how each would approach the start-up of a central, campuswide diversity enhancement position. I will plan to accept the recommendations of the search committee, complete any additional background work that I may wish to do, and get an offer extended in the near future. It is my hope to move the process along and bring this search to a successful conclusion within the next few weeks. Thank you for participating and offering your feedback throughout the search process. I will let you know the outcome as soon as possible.

I also noted that last Friday the first draft of the strategic plan was released. The 24-member Strategic Planning Leadership Council released the plan with an invitation for comment by April 27. While still in draft form, the plan outlines four broad goals with more specific objectives under each goal. As the goals and objectives become more final, a set of performance measures/metrics will be determined which will allow us to measure progress toward achieving each goal. Four town-hall meetings have been scheduled April 6, 10, 14 and 25 for the campus community to attend to learn more about the draft plan and offer comments and feedback. In addition, feedback can be offered at this web link. I encourage you to continue to engage with this process -- as you did during listening sessions -- to help UW develop the strongest and most visionary plan possible.

I congratulate the graduate program in speech-language pathology for achieving reaccreditation by the Council on Academic Accreditation Audiology and Speech-Language Pathology for a full eight-year period. This accreditation includes the program’s distance education modality. Program accreditation is a mark of quality, as it affirms that the program has met a set of standards necessary for entry or (in this case) progression in the field. Achieving accreditation also enhances the reputation of the program and institution. I know the intense preparation required for an accreditation review, and I offer my sincere congratulations to the program and department.

Leadership Laramie is a program sponsored by the Laramie Chamber Business Alliance with a goal of preparing Albany County citizens to assume positions of leadership in the community. To build a better Laramie, each class designs a community project that addresses a need or advances an innovative idea for the community. This year’s class is hosting a fundraising dinner on April 27 to create a food pantry for the less privileged students who attend Whiting High School. The dinner will include a silent auction, a catered dinner by O’Dwyers and live music. All proceeds will benefit these students. To purchase tickets for the dinner, please email Steve Russell at I wish the group much success!

As if I haven’t traveled enough of late, I ended the week by traveling to Las Cruces, N.M., to attend my daughter’s spring dance performance, Entwined Philosophies. Hannah is a junior majoring in modern/contemporary dance at NMSU. Tim and I attended all three performances and took a number of hungry college students to meals. We had so much fun seeing Hannah perform and meeting her friends. It was hard to say goodbye, but hopefully we will be able to connect again this summer in Laramie.

I end this Monday communication by encouraging you to fully participate in the Shepard Symposium this week. Please refer here for the full schedule of events. It looks terrific, and I look forward to listening to several of the speakers.

Have a great week.

Laurie Nichols, President

1000 E. University Ave. Laramie, WY 82071
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