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GEAR UP Grant and Recognizing Excellence

April 9, 2018

To the UW community:

Good Monday morning!     

I begin my weekly communication with several recognitions.

First, I congratulate the office of Student Educational Opportunity (SEO) for success in writing a competitive grant proposal to fund the GEAR UP Wyoming (GUWY) program at $24 million for the next seven years. This grant will allow GUWY to continue providing statewide college preparation and access services to 2,000 low-income, middle and high school students and their families annually. In addition to services for secondary school students, GUWY will provide support to GEAR UP students as they transition to college and navigate their freshman year at UW and Wyoming’s community colleges. GUWY is managed by an administrative team housed in SEO, in partnership with all seven Wyoming community colleges and the Wyoming Department of Education. This funding provides another stepping-stone toward UW’s goal of increasing postsecondary degree attainment rates among disadvantaged students in Wyoming. Congratulations to all our SEO staff, and particularly those who developed the grant proposal.

Another congratulations goes out to our UW colleagues who assisted in coordinating the 30th annual Wyoming National Geographic State Bee in Casper April 6. With 50 participants from Wyoming in grades 4-8, the top winners were: first, Preston Buehler, Star Valley Middle School, Afton; second, Isaac Watkins, Woods Learning Center, Casper; third, Aidan Coberly, Upton Middle School. Preston Buehler was the winner for the second year in a row and will travel to Washington, D.C., to compete in the national championship at National Geographic Society headquarters. Congratulations to Preston and all of the participants! 

Finally, I congratulate award winners from the Own It! Awards ceremony last Wednesday evening on campus. The Own It! Awards recognize women who work in STEM fields, and those honored include: 

-- Teghen Sweckard, a junior from Buffalo High School who received the NCWIT Aspirations in Computing award.

-- Tayln Costello and Halle Wright received the undergraduate award.

-- Lisa Barrett received the graduate award.

-- Janet Dewey received the STEM Professional at UW award.

-- Carol Kinzer from Trihydro received the STEM Professional in the Community award.

-- Catherine Wagner received the Early Career Faculty award.

-- Allyson Anderson received the Tenured Faculty award.

-- Rebecca Carron received the Antell STEM Diversity award.

-- Emilene Ostlind received the Own It! Committee award.  

I thank the committee for planning and hosting a lovely reception and award program. 

Beyond the Own It! Awards ceremony, I also had the opportunity to attend a Denver-based evening with UW jazz musicians. Both the jazz instrumental and vocal ensembles performed before an audience of 100-plus alumni and friends. I thank Ben Markley, director of jazz, and Kathryn Jones, director of Western Blue, along with all of our student musicians. It was a fun evening where the UW music program showcased its talent and many alumni enjoyed reconnecting with their alma mater. 

Friday evening, I had the opportunity to join a small group from campus to host Ambassador David O’Sullivan for dinner. O’Sullivan serves as ambassador of the European Union to the United States and was at UW as part of a student conference, where he delivered a keynote address Friday and served on an environment, energy and EU policy panel discussion Saturday morning. He and his wife, Agnes, were enjoying their time in Wyoming, and our discussion Friday evening was both candid and informative. 

One other internationally focused meeting last week was session with both UW and national Partners of the Americas representatives. Beyond talking about Wyoming’s South American partner in Brazil, I also learned about national opportunities, UW’s RSO and other university activities. Having been involved with Partners of the Americas earlier in my life, I was interested to catch up and learn about these efforts. 

Last Thursday, I had the opportunity to attend the College of Health Sciences 2018 research day, where Dr. Jeff Cummings was the keynote speaker, talking about research and treatment of Alzheimer’s disease and dementia. Dr. Cummings is a graduate of UW and currently serves in an endowed chair position at the Neurological Institute of Cleveland Clinic and as professor of medicine at Case Western Reserve University. Dr. Cummings is an excellent speaker, both highly informative and entertaining.  

I ended the week with two important events on Saturday. Saturday afternoon, a beautiful memorial celebration of life was held for Marian H. Rochelle. The Gateway Center is named for Marian, as she provided the lead gift to support its construction. Marian was a lifelong supporter of UW and provided generously to the university so we might reach new levels of excellence. The celebration was touching in so many ways -- most of all because of the lasting legacy she has left through her advocacy for education and her belief in the importance of the University of Wyoming. Marian will be missed deeply by many. 

Saturday evening, Tim and I drove to Douglas to attend the sixth annual Boys and Girls Club fundraiser. The community of Douglas came out in force to offer its support and, through silent and live auctions as well raffles, raised some significant dollars for the ongoing operations of this important youth development organization. I provided a brief keynote address and spoke of the importance of positive youth development as well as the partnership UW is forming with the Wyoming Boys and Girls Club. It was an enjoyable evening and, to our relief, the weather cooperated, too.    

This Wednesday morning, the UW Board of Trustees will hold a conference call to take up a few items, including review of the final fee book, initial discussion of FY19 operating budget assumptions and discussion on the July board retreat. Please consult the agenda for a full list of items. 

There are a couple of events this week that I want to bring to your attention and hope you might be able to attend. 

As I have mentioned before, we will hold our spring semester town-hall meeting Tuesday at 3 p.m. in the Wyoming Union ballroom. Please attend to receive on a wide variety of topics. 

Also Tuesday, UW Libraries holds its annual author event. Kathy Reichs, a crime fiction writer and forensic anthropologist, will speak at 1:30 p.m. in the College of Education auditorium. A book signing will follow her remarks.

This week, we host the annual Shepard Symposium on Social Justice, where speakers explore strategies and actions to promote social justice and eliminate inequalities. Please consult the calendar for the full list of events, but I encourage you to take in keynote speakers Megan Phelps-Roper on Wednesday at 4 and Judy Shepard on Thursday at 4, both in the Wyoming Union ballroom.  

Have a great week!

Laurie Nichols, President


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