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Bringing the Academic Year to an End

May 1, 2017

To the UW community:

Good Monday morning! We have made it to the final week of spring semester and the conclusion of the 2016-17 academic year. The year has really flown for me, despite some very real challenges. I thank each of you for persevering through the budget challenges and remaining focused on our mission of providing a quality education to students; discovering new knowledge or creative activity to advance one’s discipline; and engaging with those outside the university to enrich their lives. I could not be prouder to be the president of this great university.

Just a few hours ago, I reviewed the latest draft of the strategic plan and provided feedback to Provost Miller. She is working through the next draft to share with the campus and trustees later this week. The plan is taking shape and providing a broad, high-level direction for the university. With another round of feedback and revisions, we should be getting close to a final plan. I am most appreciative of Provost Miller and the entire Strategic Planning Leadership Council. They have spent hours gathering input via listening sessions, sifted through pages of feedback to identify themes, and then developed these ideas into a future-oriented plan. Please continue to provide your suggestions as the next draft is posted.

Last Wednesday, the NSF, Wyoming EPSCoR Office and the UW Office of Research hosted NSF Day. I had the opportunity to provide a short welcome and to sit in on the first session, which provided an introduction to NSF, including presentations by nine directorate representatives. About 170 registered for the day and represented institutions in Wyoming, Colorado and Montana. I thank Vice President Gern and all others who organized this informative day. I trust those who participated found it to be helpful.

On Wednesday, I also had the opportunity to stop by the SLCE (Service, Leadership, Community Engagement) open house. SLCE sponsors many experiences for students to contribute service, develop leadership skills, and engage in community and service learning. SLCE just moved to a new and expanded location in the Wyoming Union basement, Room 033. I appreciate all that SLCE offers to our students.

A delegation from Chino, Japan, visited UW last Wednesday, and several from UW met with the group to explore opportunities for student exchanges and other international collaboration. The delegation from Japan included the consul general of Japan in Denver, the mayor of Chino, several members of the International Club and a few others. Chino will be acquiring a private university and changing it to a public university. A focus of the university is mechanical engineering, electrical and electronic engineering, and computer and media engineering. As such, Dean Pishko and others from the College of Engineering joined the discussion. It was an interesting meeting, and we agreed that next steps include having a few faculty/administrators from the Japanese university come to UW to learn more about us.

Also on Wednesday, a lovely reception was held for Vice President for Student Affairs Sara Axelson, who will retire this month. Sara has led Student Affairs for 11 years and has been at UW for 17 years. Many came out to thank Sara for her years of service to UW, for making a difference in so many students’ lives and to wish her well in retirement. A search for her replacement continues, with the search committee meeting this week to review campus interview feedback. Thank you, Sara!

On Wednesday evening, Tim and I had the pleasure of hosting the Faculty Senate at our home for a reception to celebrate the conclusion of the year and to thank the senators for their service. The Senate had a full year, addressing many issues, including the budget reduction, academic program review and a proposal to expand the honors program to an honors college (among others). I thank Faculty Senate Chair Scott Shaw and all members of the senate for their commitment to faculty governance. Michael Barker took over as chair at the final meeting and will lead the Faculty Senate next year. Thank you, senators!

Beyond these events, last week was a week of travel for me. I spent much of the week out across the state in community meetings. Here is a quick rundown of my travels.

Monday included trips to Buffalo and Sundance. Chris Boswell, Brett Befus and I traveled to Buffalo on Sunday evening so we could host an early-morning alumni gathering at the refurbished train depot in Buffalo. From there, we went to the high school for UW Signing Day, where we “signed” 13 students who plan to attend UW this fall. We also visited Johnson County Extension and the Buffalo Bulletin, where we visited with Publisher Rob Hicks and Editor Jan Sieve-Hicks. From there, we hurried to Sundance and arrived in time to visit Sundance High School and the Sundance Times newspaper, and concluded with an alumni/community event at Cowgirl Pizza. It was a full but fun day. In total, we had nearly 100 people attend the Buffalo and Sundance alumni gatherings.

Thursday and Friday, we were on the road again, this time to Dubois, Pinedale and Hulett. Chris Boswell, Baillie Miller and I began in Dubois, where we again hosted early-morning donuts and coffee with alumni and community members. From there, we went to the high school to hold another “signing” with four students indicating their commitment to attend UW this fall. We also stopped in at the Dubois Frontier newspaper, where we visited with Editor Christine Smith. From there, we enjoyed a little time in downtown Dubois and then headed for Pinedale. Thursday afternoon in Pinedale included a stop at the Sublette Extension center, a tour of Pinedale BOCES, and a community/alumni gathering with about 40 attending. We concluded the day with dinner hosted by Sue Sommers, Art Museum Board member; Betty Fear, former trustee; and several others from the Pinedale community.

Friday continued with an early-morning signing at Pinedale High School, where nine students indicated their intention to attend UW. I was asked some time ago by Robin Schamber, 4-H educator in Sublette County, to attend the Pinedale High School Career Fair and provide opening remarks. This was followed by time with their superintendent, Jay Harnack, and Principal Jeremy Qualls, who provided a tour of the school and discussed ways in which we might increase our recruitment presence. Our last stop on the trip was Hulett, where we again visited the high school and signed two students who plan to attend UW this fall. I had the opportunity to have lunch with a group of Hulett High School students and enjoyed our conversation about their future plans and their perceptions of UW. We concluded the day in Hulett as guests of former Trustee Jim Neiman at the Old West Invitational Turkey Shoot. I did not shoot a turkey, but I did enjoy the beauty of the Hulett/Devils Tower area and meeting many hunters and Hulett residents as we attended the dinner and auction to raise money for the Wyoming Community Foundation. We returned to Laramie late Friday evening.

On Saturday, I continued travels by providing the commencement address at the high school equivalency certificate graduation ceremony held at Casper College. About 100 students completed their high school equivalency, and the ceremony was similar to a high school graduation, as each was awarded a certificate, and several awards were presented to graduates. I had the opportunity to address the students and encourage them to keep going in their educational journey and to be proud of their resilience and ability to overcome obstacles. The completers ranged in age from 16 to 60, and some have overcome major barriers to complete this high school equivalency. It was a touching afternoon for me, as I realized that we cannot take anything -- including a high school education -- for granted. I am glad I was able to be with this amazing group of students.

I concluded Saturday evening by attending the School of Pharmacy Honors and Awards Banquet. The program began by recognizing the class of 2017 and announcing several awards to P3 and P4 students. Many scholarships were also awarded, and several student organizations had the opportunity to hand out their cords and make awards. The graduating class of 2017 roasted the faculty and staff (funny with many laughs), and the oath of the pharmacist was given to the graduates. It was a full program and nicely done. I congratulate Dean Kem Krueger and the faculty and staff who organized this event.

Tonight concluded the weekend when we hosted the men of AGR at our home for dinner. Tim prepared his father’s infamous spaghetti sauce, and we topped dinner off with fresh strawberry pie. We enjoyed dinner and conversation with these fine young men.

I congratulate the UW rodeo team, which ended its season by qualifying seven members for the College National Finals Rodeo (CNFR):

-- Amelia Anderson, goat tying.

-- Casey Reimier, goat tying.

-- Cori Terry, goat tying.

-- Kailee Webb, barrel racing.

-- Wyatt Hageman, saddle bronc riding.

-- Denton Taylor, team roping.

-- Dusty Taylor, team roping.

The CNFR will be held June 11-17 in Casper. Congratulations, students, and best wishes at nationals!

Another piece of good news last week included two UW student-athletes, Casey Duckworth (swimming) and Anne Hinman (soccer), being chosen to attend the 2017 NCAA Career in Sports Forum. The forum will be held in Indianapolis and selects only 200 student-athletes to attend. Congratulations, Casey and Anne!

While I am on student-athletes, I want to congratulate the men’s golf team and women’s tennis team, which received NCAA public recognition awards for academic excellence. Based on the most recent multiyear Academic Progress Rate (a scorecard of academic achievement), both teams posted scores in the top 10 percent of their sport.

And a quick reminder about Dr. Scott Henkel’s lecture today at 4:30 at the Gateway Center. “The Humanities and the Land Grant University Mission from the 19th to the 21st Century” is the topic of the talk, followed by a reception. Please come if your schedule allows!

As I end this message, I draw your attention to two major happenings this week.

First, the trustees will meet on campus this week. Please check out the agenda here and attend any part of the meeting that is of interest. All meetings will be held at the Gateway Center.

Second, we will hold many commencement activities and ceremonies this week and weekend. I include the schedule here for your convenience. I hope you can attend some of these to celebrate the achievements of our graduates and to wish them well as they depart UW and start a new chapter in their lives. Congratulations, graduates! We are proud of you and wish you all the best in your exciting future.

Thursday, May 11

4 p.m. -- UW-Casper graduation ceremonies, Casper Events Center.

6 p.m. -- American Indian Studies Graduation Program, Laramie Train Depot.

Friday, May 12

10:30 a.m. -- Fay W. Whitney School of Nursing Sigma Theta Tau ceremony, College of Arts and Sciences auditorium.

Noon -- Veterans Services Center ceremony and luncheon, Wyoming Union Ballroom.

2 p.m. -- Fay W. Whitney School of Nursing Convocation, College of Arts and Sciences auditorium.

3 p.m. -- Multicultural graduation ceremony, Wyoming Union Ballroom.

6 p.m. -- College of Arts and Sciences, Indoor Practice Facility.

Saturday, May 13

8:30 a.m. -- College of Health Sciences, Indoor Practice Facility.

9 a.m. -- College of Business, College of Arts and Sciences auditorium.

10 a.m. -- College of Law, Buchanan Center for the Performing Arts.

12:30 p.m. -- College of Engineering and Applied Science, College of Arts and Sciences auditorium.

1:30 p.m. -- College of Education, Indoor Practice Facility.

4 p.m. -- College of Agriculture and Natural Resources, College of Arts and Sciences auditorium.

6 p.m. -- Army/Air Force ROTC commissioning ceremony, Performing Arts Center.

Finally, we have our last candidate on campus for the vice president for research and economic development. Please participate, if possible, and provide your feedback on all of the finalists. The search committee will meet later in the week to review feedback and make its recommendation.

Have a great week!

Laurie Nichols, President


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