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A Busy Summer Continues

July 10, 2017

To the UW community:

This week marks the last full week of July. Summer is certainly flying by! I am finding these past few weeks to be very full not only with work, but also participating in community summer celebrations and, in addition, Tim and I have hosted several house guests. Never a dull moment!

In my last message, I indicated that I had a forthcoming trip to Calgary. Two weeks ago, a small group from UW traveled to Calgary to visit both Southern Alberta Institute of Technology (SAIT) and Northern Alberta Institute of Technology (NAIT). We had excellent visits at both institutions and, at SAIT, not only did we learn more about their engineering programs, but Dean Pishko and I signed articulation agreements for both petroleum and mechanical engineering. The transfer of students from SAIT to UW is not new, but this process to formalize the relationship of SAIT and UW programs acknowledges our plan to grow the number of students who come to UW to continue their education. We hope to establish a similar agreement with NAIT. This fall, we will have nearly 70 SAIT and NAIT transfer students at UW, which illustrates the strength of our relationship and the potential for growth.

In addition to visits to these two technical institutes, we met with several UW alumni who live in Calgary and were able to attend the Calgary Stampede as their guests. The people of Alberta could not have been more hospitable! I was amazed at Calgary -- an impressive city of about 1.2 million -- in addition to the beautiful natural landscape and, of course, the famous chuckwagon races! I thank Craig Russow and Doug Cuthbertson, who planned the trip and attended to many travel details.

One week ago, the University of Wyoming achieved a major milestone when the new WyoCloud Financial Management system went live. I am pleased to report that the transition from old system to new was seamless; of course, some small kinks in the new system will need to be worked out as we go. I look forward to the opportunities that this project will bring for our community by centralizing our systems, allowing for integrated data reporting across campus, and enabling UW to make informed strategic decisions about our financial resources.

This project would not have been possible without the hard work and dedication of our WyoCloud team, made up of individuals from all levels of the university, as well as our partners at Oracle and Huron Consulting Group. I would like to thank the UW community for your patience, preparation and engagement throughout this process. Your feedback and participation in the development of this important work has contributed immeasurably to its success. Implementing a system of this scale is an enormous feat! Please know that your efforts are greatly appreciated!

Over the course of the past few weeks, I have had the opportunity to welcome two groups of Wyoming high school science teachers to campus. These teachers were attending the College of Engineering Summer Teachers Program. The first session was for first-time attendees, and last week was for those who had attended a session last year and were returning for the more advanced summer training. It was fun to not only extend this special group a warm UW welcome to our campus, but also to also invite them to partner with us as we prepare more students for higher education and careers in STEM fields.

Another group visiting campus last week was KSQ Design & Biddison Hier Ltd., consultants who are assisting us in developing a 10-year housing plan for UW. The plan will be comprehensive, accounting for residence halls, Greek Life housing, apartments and other housing options. Our intent is to blend the housing and strategic enrollment plans so that we are not only improving on-campus housing, but also ensuring that our housing infrastructure meets our future enrollment needs. The group began last week by visiting with various stakeholder groups to begin listening to needs and gathering information. They will be back several more times as they work through fall semester to complete their task. If you have questions about or suggestions for their work, please contact Vice President Sean Blackburn, who is working closely with Larry Blake from the campus planning office to facilitate this process.

Last week was consumed with the UW Board of Trustees meetings and retreat which were held in Rock Springs. The meetings began on Tuesday afternoon and concluded on Friday. Beyond regular board business, two special sessions were held.

On Wednesday afternoon, the board and campus leaders met with about 15 invited legislators to update this group on the university and discuss the forthcoming legislative session. The conversation was robust -- among others, topics of discussion included the Science Initiative, strategic planning, enrollment, campus housing, academic program quality and the program review process, and the FY17-18 budget reductions. The evening concluded by hosting the legislators at dinner to continue conversation in a more informal setting.

Thursday afternoon focused on a broad conversation about higher education attainment in Wyoming and included the Wyoming Community College Commission, UW trustees and representatives of each of the seven community colleges, governor’s office, Department of Education and UW. The conversation was led by the Lumina Foundation, with a focus on higher education attainment and its impact on economic development. It was a stimulating conversation grounded in data about Wyoming’s workforce, college completion and statewide educational attainment. I look forward to further discussions to determine how we might work to improve the college-going culture in Wyoming and, ultimately, ensure an educated workforce. Thursday concluded with the trustees hosting a community dinner with about 100 in attendance.

One major outcome of the regular business meeting included approval of our new strategic plan, Breaking Through: A Strategic Plan for the University of Wyoming, 2017-2022. Provost Miller and I presented on the performance indicators and metrics associated with each goal. This section was the final part of the plan developed over the past 4-6 weeks. The performance indicators will be used to track progress and indicate goals or targets by 2022. We will begin implementation of the plan immediately, although each unit/division/college will also develop companion strategic plans throughout fall semester. College or unit plans will take the university plan and drill down to become more specific to each discipline or unit’s mission.

I thank our Leadership Council, led by Provost Miller, who provided so much time and effort in developing the strategic plan. Their work has led to a grounded, visionary plan that will serve UW well into the future. I also thank the entire campus for participating in the process. The strength of this plan is a direct result of your initial input into the plan and feedback received throughout the process. Thank you!

A second decision of the board involved reversing an earlier decision on indirect cost recovery. The board approved exempting all indirect cost recovery accounts from any “sweeping” or centralization of funds. Indirect funds will remain intact with departments, colleges or other units.

The board also approved the hiring of our next Vice president for research and economic development. Dr. Ed Synakowski has accepted my offer to join UW in this capacity and will begin in mid-August. I am delighted to have someone of Dr. Synakowski’s expertise and experience joining our leadership team. I thank the search committee, led by Dean Pishko, who recruited a strong pool and selected some excellent finalists for campus consideration. Their recommendations throughout the process were invaluable. Please join me in welcoming VP Synakowski to Laramie and the University of Wyoming!

In addition, I am extremely pleased that Emily Monago, our first chief diversity officer, began her duties at UW last week. Emily’s office is located on the third floor of Old Main, and she is already beginning to meet with individuals and groups on campus. We are delighted to have Emily join us, and we look forward to working with her to support and promote diversity and inclusion in a comprehensive manner throughout our university. Welcome, Emily!

Last week, my brother and sister-in-law visited us in Laramie. They come from Flandreau, S.D. It was great fun to share with them the beauty and culture of this area, including a trip to the Snowy Range and to Laramie’s lively Farmers Market. We also had the opportunity to attend Cheyenne Frontier Days this past Saturday and Sunday. Frontier Days is so impressive, with thousands of people in attendance, and made possible by thousands of volunteers. UW sponsors a booth in the exhibit hall; I thank all the UW employees who help out in staffing the booth throughout the week. I will attend a few more times as the week continues, and I hope you have the opportunity to take in the parade, rodeo, concert, Indian Village or participate in the many other elements of this signature Wyoming event; it truly is the daddy of them all! 

Enjoy these beautiful summer days, and have a great week!

Laurie Nichols, President


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