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Thanks to Departed Faculty and Staff

July 10, 2017

To the UW community:

Good Monday morning!

Summer is progressing quickly as we move fully into July. This is a special week in Laramie as the community celebrates Jubilee Days. I hope you will participate in the festivities during some of the very nicest days of the year.

I begin my message on a somber note by acknowledging and thanking 37 UW employees who departed the university 10 days ago on June 30. Their departure was involuntary, caused by the final $10 million reduction in FY18 to realize the full $42 million reduction in the biennium budget. Although we tried to use vacancies and retirements to realize the budget reduction, in the end, these reduction-in-force decisions were necessary for units to realize their budget cuts -- and in some cases to reorganize themselves for greater efficiencies. Decisions like these are extremely difficult.

My appreciation goes out to these employees who faithfully served UW in their respective roles either on campus or in locations across the state. It is with sincere gratitude that I thank our departed colleagues for their service and wish them the very best in their new pursuits. For some, this may involve employment at UW in different positions, while for others it will be new employers. To each, thank you for your service to the university.

While acknowledging exemplary service, I also thank some 43 faculty who took the voluntary separation/retirement program this summer. These faculty are concluding their service over the summer months, with some already departed and others leaving at the end of July or by mid-August. Again, I thank these faculty for their years of dedication and commitment to UW – many have served the university for decades. Each has given tirelessly to student learning and the discovery of new knowledge. I wish all of our retiring faculty the very best in this next venture in life. Stay connected to UW, and thank you for all you have contributed.   

Let me update you on a couple of recent meetings that you may find of interest. On June 29, Vice President Boswell, Provost Miller, Associate VP David Jewell and I presented to the Wyoming Government Spending and Efficiency Commission. This is a commission appointed by the Legislature to explore state spending and work toward greater operating efficiency. We spent nearly 90 minutes with the commission and walked through our work over the past year to realize efficiencies via:

  • Implementation of Oracle and the new WyoCloud system.
  • Reorganization of IT and Outreach.
  • Reductions in fleet, and long-term disability insurance.
  • Significant changes in procurement practices.
  • Restructuring in Academic Affairs of enrollment management services (for example).

The commission was highly interested in the work we have done to become a more efficient university and particularly honed in on the changes we are making in procurement/purchasing to save significant dollars. While our work is not necessarily done, it was an interesting exercise to reflect on extensive work done over the past year, some of which continues in implementation. 

On June 30, I had the opportunity to meet with and speak to the Friends of the Fay W. Whitney School of Nursing. This advisory group meets annually with the dean of nursing and other key staff to provide feedback and suggestions. I had the opportunity to discuss our new strategic plan, which positioned Dean Burman to work with the group on the strategic plan for nursing. It was an enjoyable morning, and I appreciate the opportunity to meet with such a great group of alumni and donors.

Several key meetings occurred during this week as well, including the inaugural meeting of a newly formed Native American Advisory Council, which will provide advice to me on Native American affairs and support in opening the Native American Education, Research and Cultural Center by late July or early August. I also had the opportunity to meet with the incoming chairs of Faculty Senate (Michael Barker) and Staff Senate (Rachel Stevens). Both meetings were highly productive and provided insights as to major work of these governance bodies over the next year.

Last Friday, I had the opportunity to spend the full day in Sheridan, where I participated in the Sheridan Research and Extension Center Field Day. The morning was spent “in the field,” where Brian Mealor, director of the center, welcomed us and then facilitated a journey through numerous research plots of native grasses, grazing forages, grapes, weed and insect control, and more. I really enjoyed each researcher’s presentation, hearing questions from producers who were eager to learn about new varieties, new methods and, essentially, what works.  

Pistol and Pete were in attendance, and I had the honor of riding in a new wagon built by a local craftsman. A lunch was served to a crowd of about 120 under a tent cover, but also with the most beautiful scenic view of the Big Horns. During the luncheon, Associate Dean Bret Hess accepted an award from the National Weather Service for 100 years of weather-related data collection at the Sheridan R&E center.

The field day concluded in the afternoon when Dean Galey and I attended the Sheridan R&E Advisory Committee meeting and had the opportunity to hear updates from Director Mealor as well as to take questions from those on the advisory committee. I could not help but think about the role an R&E center like Sheridan provides in delivering our land-grant mission, addressing agricultural problems and increasing our land’s productivity. Thank you, Brian and Sheridan R&E staff. It was a great day!

I concluded last Friday by spending the evening at Big Horn High School, where I participated in Camp U Leadership, a program for about 40 rising high school seniors who were nominated by their high school coaches, guidance counselors and principals. These were students who are both accomplished athletes and excel academically. After dinner, I spoke to the students about leadership, including the power of serving as role models in their schools, and then planning for their next big step, post-high school. It was an enjoyable evening.

Tim and I took advantage of being in the beautiful Big Horns by staying at Elk View Inn on Friday night. Our drive from Big Horn to the inn was adventure-filled, as we took a back road and came upon a herd of 50-plus elk grazing in the meadow. It was picturesque and worth several photos. Saturday morning was most enjoyable with Jean Garrison and her brother, Mark, who hosted us on a scenic boat tour in the Bighorn Canyon National Recreation Area near Lovell. Mark’s family owns the boat tour company and marina store at Horseshoe Bend Marina. Another absolutely beautiful spot in scenic Wyoming!

The week ahead holds more travel, as I will accompany several from UW on a trip to Calgary. On our agenda will be a visit to the Southern Alberta Institute of Technology (SAIT), where we celebrate a strong, 40-year partnership with our College of Engineering. We will also meet officials from Northern Alberta Institute of Technology for similar articulation discussions, and then meet a number of UW graduates who came through the SAIT program to earn degrees at UW. I look forward to learning more about this long-standing relationship and meeting our alumni who live in the Calgary area.  

The Board of Trustees will hold its July meeting in Rock Springs July 19-21. Beyond normal business, the agenda will include a discussion with a group of legislators on Wednesday afternoon; and on Thursday afternoon a meeting with community college presidents, their commission and several other invited guests to discuss college attainment in Wyoming. This discussion will be facilitated by the Lumina Foundation, which has done similar work in other states. The full agenda with materials will be posted to the board site later this week. As always, let me know if you have questions.

And with this, I will sign off and extend to each of you happy Jubilee Days.

Have a great week.

Laurie Nichols, President


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