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Honoring Achievements as Semester’s End Nears

April 30, 2018

To the UW community:

Good Monday morning!     

This week marks the final day of April and the start of May. Our warm, spring-like weather this weekend would signify that indeed spring is here. In addition, this is our final week of regularly scheduled classes for the semester, with finals next week. 

Last week’s incredibly full calendar was another indicator that we are coming to the end, with a multitude of celebrations and recognitions across campus. The University of Wyoming was at its best and, as I attended these events, it made me very proud of our students, faculty and staff who have achieved much this academic year. 

Let me begin my weekly communication by congratulating over 500 students who participated in Undergraduate Research Day on Saturday. The day was fully scheduled, with hundreds of concurrent oral presentations throughout the day, a crowded poster session late afternoon and concluding with dinner and a keynote speaker. Undergraduate research is one of the shining jewels of this university, and I appreciate those who worked so hard to create a day when we feature students’ work and acknowledge their faculty mentors. I also thank those who assisted throughout the day and those who attended. It was a most impressive day. 

I also wish to congratulate our outstanding seniors who were recognized as Tobin and Spitaleri award recipients last Friday. Through a robust nomination process, 36 graduating seniors were nominated for this high honor; 10 nominees were interviewed; and, at the luncheon, two students were named award winners. They were Gabe Selting, Tobin Memorial Award winner; and Sophia Indah Daisy Kwende, Spitaleri Award recipient. Both are incredibly strong students who have not only excelled academically, but have demonstrated strong leadership via service to the university, community and beyond. I congratulate both Gabe and Sophia, as I do all seniors nominated for this prestigious recognition. Thank you for making UW a stronger university through your achievements.

Another recognition last week was the Sara Axelson Award recipients selected by ASUW President Ben Wetzel. This award goes to students who have gone above and beyond to provide leadership to our campus. This year’s recipients are Alex McKenna, Connor Bergman, Tyler Wolfgang, Suzy Manown and Courtney Thomson-Lichty. Ben provided to each a framed, beautifully written letter commending their extraordinary leadership, and a medallion. Congratulations! 

Graduate students also were recognized last week through the Graduate Education Awards coordinated by Associate Vice President for Graduate Education James Ahern and his office. Those recognized at a lovely luncheon and program included: 

-- Outstanding Master’s Thesis: Austin Carey, Department of Ecosystem Science and Management. 

-- Outstanding Dissertation: Anh Nguyen, Department of Computer Science. 

-- Ellbogen Outstanding Graduate Teaching Assistants:
Adam Croft, School of Politics, Public Affairs and International Studies
Anne Grass, Department of Visual and Literary Arts, Creative Writing Program
Taylor Draft, Department of Family and Consumer Sciences<
Mary Lear, Department of Psychology 

--Distinguished Graduate Faculty Mentor: Julia Obert, Department of English 

The Entrepreneurship Summit was held last week to educate our campus and state about starting businesses as they promote innovative ideas. As part of this, the Ellbogen $50K Entrepreneurship Competition was held all day Thursday with a dinner, keynote and announcement of winners. Seventy-plus ideas were submitted to this competition, with nine selected to make a full “pitch” in front of a team of judges. Congratulations to these nine and to our winners: 

Business Track:
First place ($25,000) to Therm, Kenna Oyen and Joey Oyen.
Distinction award ($5,000) to Medical Device Advisors, Grace Tena de Lara 

Social Enterprise Track:
First place ($25,000) to GROWyoming, Claire Ratcliffe, Bryan Jewell
Distinction award ($5,000) to Sunao, Jerica Hunter   

I also had the opportunity to attend the Fraternity and Sorority Life Awards last week. Numerous chapter and individual awards were given to those chapters or members who exceled in particular areas such as community service, philanthropic and academic categories, to name a few. In addition, inductees to the Order of Omega FSL honorary society were announced, and Rho Lambda Honorary Service Sorority was acknowledged.  I had the honor of announcing the President’s Cup to Chi Omega as the overall outstanding chapter. Congratulations to all the winners, and thank you for your leadership.

Another fun recognition last week was honoring our Staff Employee of the First Quarter, Ira Werger, UW Police Department. Ira was selected for his outstanding work as a crime prevention officer. His position allows greater interface with the campus, as he educates and promotes prevention-based programming (such as the “No More” campaign) to make our campus a safer place for students, faculty and staff. Congratulations, Ira!

Congratulations to the recipients of UW’s inaugural Marvin Millgate Community Engagement Awards for 2018.  The recipients of the Engaged Faculty Award -- Susan Dewey, who is associate professor in the School of Culture, Gender and Social Justice -- and the Engaged Staff Award, Alec Muthig from Information Technology Client Support Services -- have been acknowledged for their establishment of the Wyoming Pathways from Prison (WPfP) project that provides high-quality college courses to incarcerated women and men at no cost. The Student Engagement Award went to Dilnoza Khasilova, who is pursuing her Ph.D. in literacy in the College of Education, for creating the World Language and Culture Program that offers free instruction in more than 15 languages every semester to the UW and Laramie communities. The Excellence in Community Partnership Award went to the Wyoming Conservation Exchange, a partnership among UW Extension faculty members and the Environmental Defense Fund, Sublette County Conservation District, the Wyoming Chapter of the Nature Conservancy and the Wyoming Stock Growers Association, which provides private-market financial incentives to landowners for engaging in environmentally beneficial activities.

I congratulate the Fay W. Whitney School of Nursing for an outstanding DNP Scholarship Day last Wednesday. The day began with an interesting lecture by Dr. Kathleen McCauley from the University of Pennsylvania, a leading researcher in transitional care. From there, DNP students presented their scholarship, and the day ended with the 14th annual Willow Ceremony, which recognizes DNP students in the first-, second- and third-year cohorts. It was a lovely ceremony and impressive day. I was delighted to participate in several parts of it. 

We were honored to have the consul general of Germany in San Francisco, Hans-Ulrich Suedbeck, on campus last week to meet with students and faculty and provide a lecture. I had the opportunity to stop by a reception and meet the consul general and visit about several cooperative programs at German universities. 

Thursday evening, Tim and I attended a beautiful performance of UW symphony and choral groups directed by Professors Michael Griffith and Nicole Lamartine, and featuring guest artists The Lysander Trio. I continue to be impressed by the musical talent at UW and thank our faculty who work closely with students to get them to this level. Beautifully done! 

Last Friday, the Buchanan lecture featured Dr. Maggie Murdock, as she talked about “Lessons from an Unexpected Life.” It was beautifully developed and provided both entertaining stories and heartwarming insights from Maggie’s many years of teaching at UW. I think it has book potential. Thank you, Maggie! The lecture was followed by the annual induction ceremony of Phi Beta Kappa, where 42 students were inducted into the nation’s oldest academic honor society. The program included comments from our own Dean Donal Skinner, who was inducted into PBK as an honorary member. Congratulations to PKB and to Dean Skinner! 

There were many events scheduled on Friday evening, and I attended the College of Business 67th annual recognition program. With many in attendance, the program recognized scholarship recipients and donors, student award winners, outstanding faculty awards and outstanding staff awards, and concluded with honoring two distinguished alumni: Gary Crum from Laramie and Dimitrios Smyrnios from Minneapolis. I congratulate Kent Drummond, who served as emcee, and the many award recipients. It was a lovely evening and truly showcased our College of Business! 

I was able to attend another college awards event on Saturday, when I attended the College of Arts and Sciences Awards Luncheon. Dean Lutz recognized 10 faculty for outstanding contributions in teaching and scholarship, and presented the Outstanding Former Faculty Award to Stephen Ropp, political science, and named two distinguished alumni: Mark Bronston (’79 geophysics) from Houston, and Patrick Willingham (’90 theatre design and technology) of New York City. Congratulations to those honored! 

This weekend was the 69th annual Laramie River Rendezvous and UW rodeo. Tim and I attended Saturday evening and cheered on our students who competed in goat tying, saddle bronc and bareback riding, steer wrestling, team roping, breakaway roping and tie down roping, barrel racing and bull riding. A beautiful tribute was given to coach George Howard just before the rodeo began, and senior rodeo students were honored as well. It was a fun rodeo, and I congratulate all of the students who competed. 

I had the honor of attending the weekly formal dinner at Sigma Nu last night. I enjoyed the opportunity to dine with nearly 40 members, several alumni and Eric Kahl, our Greek Life adviser. Between the conversation, great food, singing and dedication of a refurbished grand piano, it was a most enjoyable evening! Beyond Sigma Nu, I also attended the weekly chapter meeting of Lambda Chi Alpha fraternity Monday night, where we had a great discussion about UW and Greek life. Thanks to both Sigma Nu and Lambda Chi for inviting me into your chapters! 

As I conclude this weekly communication, I have just come from attending the performance of “Six Songs from Ellis,” created and directed by Marsha Knight and assistant directed by Leigh Selting. It was a powerful portrayal of 85 individuals who emigrated from their home country to America, entering through Ellis Island. I was personally touched by the power of the stories told by these immigrants, some of whom were our relatives and loved ones. “Six Songs from Ellis” will tour Wyoming, with 11 performances beginning in mid-May. Congratulations, Marsha, Leigh and all of those who contributed to the performance, including our student actors and dancers. You were amazing! 

Have a great week!

Laurie Nichols, President

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