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The Best Week of the Academic Year

May 7, 2018

To the UW community:

Good Monday morning!

We have arrived at the last week of the semester -- which means it is finals week. Best wishes, students, as you complete final course requirements and wrap up the academic year. I wish you much luck. Study hard and finish strong!

On Saturday, we will hold our 128th commencement ceremony. To our graduates, congratulations! We anticipate more than 2,000 students will complete degree requirements this spring. This number includes about 1,500 undergraduates, nearly 400 graduate students, 73 law and 51 pharmacy graduates. To all of our graduates, I extend my most heartfelt congratulations and wish you much, much success. I hope you will participate in commencement ceremonies, where many of us can congratulate you and wish you much success. We are proud of each and every one you!

Speaking of commencement, a reminder to all that we will hold three ceremonies on Saturday in the Arena-Auditorium:  8:30 a.m. (undergraduates from Arts and Sciences, Education, Haub); 12 noon (all graduates except College of Law); and 3:30 p.m. (undergraduates from Agriculture and Natural Resources, Engineering and Applied Science, Business, Health Sciences, School of Energy Resources). In addition, the Law School will hold its commencement on Saturday at 10 a.m. in the Buchanan Center for the Performing Arts. All ceremonies will be broadcast on WyoCast.

As I write about commencement and launching our graduates, I can’t help but reflect on my last week when I -- and many others -- held signing days throughout Wyoming to welcome hundreds of first-year students to UW this fall. Over 80 signing days were held in high schools throughout the state, and students who plan to attend UW signed their intention of attendance and were welcomed by UW officials. I had had the opportunity to attend signing days through much of the week. My travels took me to high schools in Rawlins, Cheyenne South, Cheyenne Central, Campbell County, Thunder Basin (Gillette), Newcastle, Star Valley (Afton), Evanston, Mountain View and Lyman. In these 10 high schools, we signed several hundred students who will join us this fall as our newest class of students. The signing ceremonies varied greatly, as schools put their own mark on them. The comment thread was a warm welcome from me or another UW representative, introductions of each student by name and intended major, and signing a letter of intent to attend UW.

I want to thank two groups who made these signings happen. First, Shelley Dodd and the staff from Admissions who scheduled these 80-plus signings and provided organization to each. Second, our county Extension staff who typically did the local arrangements and hosted the signings. Many others, like me, floated in and out of various signings. However, our Admissions and Extension personnel were the glue who made it really happen. Thank you -- great job!

While I was out around the state last week, the Alumni Association also hosted three alumni gatherings for UW alums to come together and have time to meet and interact with me. These events happened in Newcastle, Lusk and Rawlins. In each, I enjoyed informal time to meet and greet those in attendance while also providing comments about UW, followed by Q&A time. The conversations were rich, and attendance was strong in all three communities. I thank the Alumni Association for organizing each.

A couple of other events to highlight from last week:

On Monday evening, Tim and I welcomed about 40 Daniels Fund scholars to our home for food and conversation. We are so fortunate to have a strong number of Daniels scholars at UW. I enjoy meeting each of them and learning more about their backgrounds and professional goals.

On Thursday evening, I welcomed a group of community women who have stepped up to donate to the Ivinson Memorial Hospital Foundation. The “Women in Courage” funds allow hospital departments to request equipment or meet other needs that are normally not possible otherwise. It was an impressive group of community leaders.

On Friday, I had the opportunity to stop by fiber arts classes’ final project exhibition, titled “Coat Couture XX: The Roaring Twenties.” Twelve students displayed their beautifully crafted coats, with designer/student available for comment. It was an impressive exhibit, and I congratulate the students and professor Donna Brown for their creativity and technical expertise. Well done!

On Saturday, I ended the week with two events. I started my morning by driving to Cheyenne to participate in the Habitat for Humanity Women’s Build kickoff. This is the 10th year of a women’s build in Cheyenne and, along with Mayor Marian Orr, I had the opportunity to thank over 30 volunteers who were working on two twin homes. These homes will go to deserving, low-income families who themselves volunteer over 400 hours in the construction of their homes. It was fun to meet all four families who will live in the homes as they are completed this fall. While limited in skill, I enjoyed helping out for a short time.

Saturday evening, I was a guest of the School of Pharmacy’s annual honors and awards banquet, which celebrated the class of 2018 and awarded scholarships to about 45 pharmacy students. Several other awards were given out by the School of Pharmacy student organizations. It was a fun evening, and I thank Dean Krueger, along with the Pharmacy faculty and staff, for the invitation and the great evening. Congratulations, School of Pharmacy!

I wish to thank many of you who have participated in interviews for several key leadership positions, including deans of Business and Health Sciences, as well as vice president for finance and administration. I encourage you to provide your feedback to the respective search committees so they, in turn, can provide their recommendations/feedback to the hiring official. For me, I plan to receive the committee’s feedback on the VP for finance/administration this week and get an offer out shortly. I suspect Provost Miller is hoping to do the same on the dean searches. Again, thank you for your participation.

This will be a busy week, as the Board of Trustees will hold its May meeting on Wednesday-Friday. You can consult the agenda here. On Monday and Tuesday, the trustees’ Budget Committee will meet with each division and college to review FY19 budget requests. The budget hearing agenda is posted, and both days are open to the public. In the overall university budget for FY19, I will recommend the approval of a salary/fringe benefit pool to be used for salary increases for eligible employees. If it is approved, we will follow the salary policy approved by the trustees at the March meeting for distribution. While the budget will be presented to the board at this meeting, it is probable that it will not be approved until the June meeting. More information will be forthcoming as we get further into the FY19 budget process.

And, of course, throughout the week, many graduation celebrations will be held. I hope you have the opportunity to attend some of these, as they beautifully highlight various groups of our students, providing much-deserved recognition. In my opinion, this is the best week of the entire academic year, when we celebrate our educational mission and launch our graduates to enriched lives full of possibilities. Thank you for your part in this important work.

Have a great week.

Laurie Nichols, President

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