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Great Start to the Fall Semester

September 11, 2017

To the UW community:

Good morning!  

I begin my message by congratulating the Cowboys, who had a big 27-0 win over Gardner-Webb University on Saturday. It was a special weekend, as we celebrated induction of the 25th UW Athletics Hall of Fame class. Friday evening was the induction ceremony, with a large crowd at the Gateway Center and featured masters of ceremony Pete and Al Simpson (who were a comedy act in and of themselves). Honorees this year include:

-- Robert Curnow, MD and team physician

-- David Kieffer, MD and team physician

-- Vince Guinta, football, 1954-56

-- Mike Hamel, wrestling, 1983-86

-- C.T. Hewgley, football, 1949-50

-- Jim Weir, basketball, 1941-43, 1946

-- 1991 women’s national championship rodeo team (Toni Christinck, Shanna Newland Howell, Lori Rhodes Shepard)

-- 2007 Women’s National Invitation Tournament (WNIT) championship team

Given the first home football game, several colleges/entities at UW hosted board meetings or programs in the morning, and I had the opportunity to participate in three of these.

My Saturday morning began in Animal Science, where I joined Dean Galey and several others from the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources in welcoming representatives from ag industries to the inaugural Ag Corporate Day. Their morning discussion centered on pressing needs for agribusiness in Wyoming. After leaving this group, I went to the Art Museum to spend an hour with its board of directors. Both Provost Miller and I had the opportunity to share our newly launched strategic plan, talk about goals for UW and specifically comment on the Art Museum. From there, I rushed over to the College of Law and joined Dean Alexander and Vice President Blalock, where we met with the College of Law’s Advisory Committee. Again, I shared the strategic plan, and we also talked about plans to improve the College of Law’s clinical facilities. These boards and industries were highly engaged and eager to support UW.

By then, it was time to get over to the Gateway for the beginning of football festivities, including watching the Western Thunder Marching Band perform, and football players walk through the Gateway. Tailgating was in full swing, and Tim and I enjoyed spending a couple of hours walking through the parking lot, stopping by many tailgate parties to welcome alumni back to campus and thank them for supporting the Cowboys.

It was a great day for the University of Wyoming, and Laramie was alive! I thank everyone who helped put on any of the mentioned activities/events, and others that I missed but also added to the festivities.

Because last Monday was Labor Day and I did not sent out a weekly message, I will report on a couple of events from the last week of August.

On Aug. 29, VP Blalock and I met with Gov. Matt Mead and Paul Andrews, CEO of the National Western Stock Show (NWSS), to talk about possibilities for UW to be more engaged and visible at the NWSS. We discussed options and will continue dialogue as a proposal is prepared for us to consider. Paul Andrews is an alumnus of UW and shares our view that Wyoming, including UW, could have a stronger presence during Denver’s stock show, where more than a million people attend during the 15-day event. I look forward to sharing more about this as we have concrete options in front of us.

Wednesday, Aug. 30, was a beautiful day for the back-to-school picnic held on Prexy’s Pasture. Tim and I enjoyed hosting some 2,000 students, faculty and staff as they enjoyed dinner catered by UW Dining, music and many lawn games. I understand that nearly 50 faculty/staff volunteered to serve the food or assist with cleanup -- if you were one of the volunteers, thank you! This is such a great tradition at UW during opening week of the academic year. Many students told me that they really enjoyed the picnic and opportunity to socialize and meet new friends.

Tim and I ended the first week of the semester and spent some of our Labor Day weekend by traveling with the football team to the Iowa game. We had the fun opportunity to join some 300-plus alumni/friends at an event hosted by the Alumni Association in Iowa City on Friday evening. Alumni came from some 22 states, as far away as New York and California. It was fun to meet this enthusiastic crowd and have the opportunity to say a few words to them during a short program. On Saturday, Tim and I stopped by the University of Iowa president’s pregame program, where I had the opportunity to meet several Hawkeye fans who had some connection in Wyoming. And then it was on to the UW tailgate and the game. While the outcome was not what we wanted, it was a great weekend, with many new friendships formed.

A very special event over the Labor Day weekend was Nina McConigley and Michael Johnson’s wedding on Sunday afternoon. Many of you know Nina, who serves as an assistant professor in the Honors College. It was a lovely wedding, melding cultures of India, Ireland and Scotland in the ceremony and reception -- and fun to celebrate with so many from UW. Congratulations, and best wishes, Nina and Michael!

On to the past week, where a significant chunk of the week was spent at UW-Casper. Provost Miller and Dean Jeff Edgens planned a two-day retreat to discuss the future of UW-Casper. Participants included members of the Casper community as well as many from campus. To prepare for the retreat, we were asked to read the book, “Out on a Limb: A Branch Campus Life” by Charles P. Bird. Dr. Bird attended the retreat and offered his advice for UW-Casper based on nearly 30 years’ professional experience of working at and leading branch campuses for two universities in Ohio.

Other Casper speakers included our own Dr. Maggi Murdock, who spoke to the history of UW-Casper; Darren Divine, president of Casper College, who spoke to the collaboration between our two institutions; and Charles Walsh, CEO of the Casper Area Economic Development Alliance, who talked about economic development efforts in the Casper/Natrona County area. The second day was a hands-on opportunity to explore questions about the future of UW-Casper, such as mission/purpose, improvements in governance structure, academic program portfolio and academic support services, among others. It was a productive retreat, and the outcomes will be very helpful in crafting a strong strategic plan for UW-Casper.

Thursday evening, Provost Miller and I had the pleasure of hosting a reception for the College of Business leadership team, including some of the external advisory committee members. It was fun for me to welcome my former boss and now interim dean of the College of Business, David Chicoine, and his wife, Marcia. Many others were in attendance, including associate and assistant deans, department chairs, program leaders, the faculty advisory committee and several others who work to support the college. Both Provost Miller and I are most appreciative of this leadership team and look forward to working with them this academic year.

On Friday, Dean Pishko, Vice President Boswell and I had the opportunity to hear a presentation by a Denver-based consulting firm that is working with Campbell County, Gillette College, UW and Energy Capital Economic Development to study the relationship of Campbell County’s workforce supply and demand. While the study is not yet done, the firm provided an interim report, including preliminary data and a timeline for completion.

Last Wednesday, I sent a message to campus as a result of a federal announcement about forthcoming changes to the DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) program. Since then, I have asked Vice President Sean Blackburn and Chief Diversity Officer Emily Monago to provide campus leadership to our DACA students and employees. They are joined by Adam Severson, who has been hired to provide focused legal assistance on DACA and immigration needs. Last Friday, they held a meeting for any DACA student who wished to attend, so they might answer questions and offer support in a very direct manner. Following the meeting, several brainstormed about ways we might further support DACA students and employees. I wish to thank these individuals -- and all of you -- who are offering support to our DACA and international students. For many, this is a stressful time, and your genuine concern, love and support is much, much appreciated. Thank you.

And now, on to this week…

I invite you to attend the 2017 Fall Convocation program and address tomorrow, Tuesday, at 3 p.m. in the Wyoming Union ballroom. We will recognize faculty who received promotion to full professor, those receiving tenure and/or promotion to associate professor, and academic professionals who received extended term and/or promotions. In addition, several faculty were selected by their college deans for recognition during my convocation address. I look forward to providing an update on the university and providing an overview of Breaking Through, our strategic plan.

In addition, the UW trustees will meet on campus this week, beginning with committee meetings on Wednesday morning and the full board meeting beginning at 2 p.m. Wednesday. Meetings will continue all day Thursday and conclude around noon on Friday. See here for a full agenda. All meetings are held at the Gateway Center. You are welcome to attend any of interest.

As we begin week three of fall semester, I trust you are enjoying these beautiful September days and the many wonderful fall activities and events. Have a great week!

Laurie Nichols, President


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