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A Time for New Beginnings

August 28, 2017

To the UW community:

Please join me in welcoming our students! I extend a special welcome to our new students joining us for the first time -- first-year students, transfer students, graduate students. We are simply delighted to have you join the UW community.

The campus is alive, and the pace in Laramie changed dramatically over the weekend. As I drove to my office yesterday afternoon, there was a great deal of unloading cars and hauling possessions into the residence halls. It is energizing to see so many new and returning faces on campus. It truly is a time of new beginnings. I look forward to spending some time at the Washakie complex today, welcoming students and their parents to campus.

Speaking of new beginnings, this week we officially launch our new strategic plan, “Breaking Through:  2017-2022.” The plan was developed during the last academic year using a thorough and inclusive process of numerous listening sessions. A Leadership Council chaired by Provost Miller synthesized a large volume of information to draft the plan, vetting several drafts to gain feedback. At the July meeting, the Board of Trustees approved the plan, and today we officially launch the plan to guide us through the next five years.

To continue efforts of informing and promoting “Breaking Through,” you will receive a tri-fold brochure in campus mail this week. Please review the brochure, keep it handy, and use it in your work wherever possible, as together we build a bright future for the University of Wyoming. Thank you again to the many who participated in the process and who worked diligently in developing the plan. As I have said to others, it is a good plan.

Last week was an exciting week in Wyoming as we experienced the eclipse. I have talked to many of you who traveled to various parts of the state so you might experience the total eclipse, while others of you watched it from campus. Tim and I had the opportunity to travel to Jackson for the eclipse. We actually watched it from a mountain cabin near Wilson and were awed by the entire experience. For us, the eclipse began around 10:15 a.m. and ended at about 1 p.m., with the total eclipse around 11:35 a.m. The total eclipse lasted around 2.5 minutes and was stunning -- not only the solar eclipse, but also the dramatic drop in temperature, the darkness and appearance of stars, the sounds of animals and creatures. It was worth the hours of driving to experience this once-in-a-lifetime wonder. I hope you had an equally impressive experience.

Once we returned from the Jackson area, the week went into high gear! Tim and I appreciated an invitation from College of Arts and Sciences Dean Paula Lutz and husband Len to attend a picnic at her home for new faculty and A&S departmental leadership. The setting was lovely, food was delicious -- but, most importantly, it was a pleasure to meet several new faculty during the evening. Welcome! And thanks for the hospitality, Dean Lutz.

Wednesday morning, I had the opportunity to host a breakfast for guest Klaus Mahlhahn, vice president of international affairs from Freie Universidad Berlin. Vice President Mahlhahn was here at the invitation of Director Jean Garrison of the Center for Global Studies, and several others from UW were also in attendance. The purpose of the visit was to explore interest in formalizing a relationship with Freie Universidad Berlin for both faculty and students. It was a rich conversation in which we talked about student exchange opportunities and faculty collaboration in research and teaching. Following the breakfast, VP Mahlhahn continued with a full schedule on campus, meeting many others who work in or hold interest in global education. I am hopeful that this relationship will move forward, as our institutions appear to have much in common, ripe for future collaborations.

Another fruitful meeting this week was with Janine Jordan, Laramie city manager, and Mayor Andi Summerville. Our meetings are scheduled every few months to enhance communication between campus and city, and to forge stronger relations. Our meeting last week centered on the start-up of the academic year, including move-in, in light of extensive construction on city streets. We also discussed the 10-year housing study underway at UW, and future discussion about 15th Street. It was a constructive discussion and certainly helps all of us stay informed of both campus and city plans.

Tim and I enjoyed an informative tour of the Laramie Soup Kitchen hosted by Director Ted Cramer, followed by lunch on site. It was interesting to learn more about this important service to the Laramie community and its vast reach, serving hot, nutritious meals from 10:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. to over 75 people every day. I was in awe of the staff’s ability to accept large donations of specific food (last Wednesday it was avocados) and use them creatively in a delicious meal. Laramie is fortunate to have this free, daily community meal for those in need. Thank you, Ted!

Several of us were also invited to an after-work meet-and-greet hosted by ASUW officers. The reception served as a means to become acquainted and learn more about ASUW goals for the year. I enjoyed meeting several ASUW leaders for the first time and look forward to working with them in the year to come.

On Thursday morning, I stopped by UW’s Army ROTC training to offer a welcome. All ROTC cadets, both incoming freshmen and returning students, were present at this morning program, so the room was full. ROTC was fully engaged last week in training cadets as they prepare for the start of the academic year.

Another celebration last Thursday was the School of Pharmacy’s white coat ceremony. Sixty students were welcomed into the pharmacy program by receiving their white coats and pledging to adhere to the code of professionalism. This symbolic ceremony confirms the students’ commitment to four years of schooling to become pharmacists. The A&S auditorium had many family members who were excited to support their loved ones. Dean Kem Krueger, Interim Dean of Health Sciences David Jones and I offered our congratulations to the students and families, along with deep appreciation to the faculty and staff for all they do to provide quality pharmacy education.

Last Friday, I hosted a lunch to welcome Rachel Bailey, executive director of the Wyoming Symphony Orchestra (Casper) and one of her board members to UW. Joined by Dean Paula Lutz, department head Scott Turpen, Director of Orchestra Michael Griffith and several other faculty from the orchestra/strings program, the lunch provided a venue to meet one another, discuss topics of common interest and explore potential for collaboration. It was a delightful discussion and, while I am not a musician, it was fun to sit back and simply enjoy the enthusiasm each person held for sharing music with students and Wyoming citizens, as well as ideas for future work together.

Friday afternoon and evening were a real treat for me. With Haub School Dean Mindy Benson, I traveled to Brush Creek Ranch near Saratoga to tour the guest ranch facilities with owners Bruce and Beth White and their staff. It is a beautiful site, with facilities that are both Western and rustic, yet tastefully done with the highest-level guest experience in mind. Doug Wachob of the Haub School also joined us for this fun experience. After the tour, we joined up with 40-plus UW students and several other Haub instructors who were on a weeklong field experience at Brush Creek. Two courses were being offered on this field experience: a first-year seminar titled “Thinking Like a Mountain” and Environmental Science. Beyond meeting the students and enjoying dinner together, I also had the opportunity to address the students, encouraging them to deepen their education by taking advantage of co-curricular and out-of-the-classroom, enriched learning opportunities. And on the night drive back to Laramie, as I approached Libby Flats, I saw the most beautiful moose on the side of the road. It topped off an already great day.

Saturday was my day to celebrate and support agriculture. In the morning, I attended the Ag Experiment Station (AES) Research and Extension Center Field Day featuring horticulture and plant science. The morning program was held at the greenhouse complex on 30th and Harney. I enjoyed all of the faculty and graduate student presentations, which included topics such as growing flowers for cutting/bouquets, research on sugar beets, edible peas, apples, strawberries and the student farm. A big thank you to the faculty whose research is developing stronger, more productive agriculture in Wyoming.

In the afternoon, I traveled to Elk Mountain to attend the Wyoming Stock Growers Land Trust annual roundup fundraiser and banquet. The afternoon began with a tour of the Elk Mountain Ranches (five total) and the conserved property of about 85,000 acres. It was a beautiful day, and the views at the base of Elk Mountain were stunning. The day continued with dinner, a silent and live auction, and remarks by Congresswoman Liz Cheney. With over 300 people in attendance, a good sum of money was raised to continue Wyoming’s ag-land conservation efforts.

As I finish up this weekly message, I have just returned from “Inside, Outside, Downside, Up,” a vertical dance performance by the UW dance program. Music accompaniment was provided by Lights Along the Shore. This was my first time to see vertical dance, and I was not disappointed! I applaud the dancers for not only executing beautiful choreography, but also learning how to do so with rigging and ropes. It was really interesting! I enjoyed every dance, but my compliments to Professor Margaret Wilson and Neil Humphrey for a spectacular performance of “Macedonian Devoichka/Kopanista.”

And now on to this week. We will continue to see a high volume of returning students today and tomorrow. Classes begin on Wednesday, and we are off and running with the semester! I invite all of you to attend the President’s Barbecue Wednesday from 5-7 p.m. on Prexy’s Pasture. It is a wonderful time to greet colleagues and welcome our students to the 2017-18 academic year. Tim and I will be hosting, and I hope to see you there.

Welcome to the academic year! 

Laurie Nichols, President


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