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A Week of Connecting with Many, On and Off Campus

September 25, 2017

To the UW community:

Good morning! Time marches on, and already we find ourselves in the final week of September and one full month into fall semester. It was a special weekend for me, as my parents traveled from South Dakota to spend the weekend visiting Tim and me, attending UW events and meeting many of our colleagues. A highlight of their weekend was the very exciting late-night, overtime Cowboy win versus Hawaii. Mom and Dad enjoyed their time in Wyoming -- and we certainly enjoyed having them.

Last Monday Chris Boswell, Dean Pishko and I traveled to Gillette at the invitation of Phil Christopherson, executive director of Energy Capital Economic Development, Campbell County commissioners and Mark Englert, vice president and CEO of Gillette College. Our day included tours of Basin Electric Power Plant and the Integrated Test Center, Atlas Carbon and Cordero Rojo coal mine owned by Cloud Peak Energy. We also had the opportunity to tour Gillette and see some of the amazing community assets such as the recreation center, child care facility and public library. UW is partnering with Campbell County and Gillette College on a workforce supply/demand study, and we expect results in the next month. From this, we will determine areas for further collaboration, either in engineering or beyond. It was a most interesting day and provided a deeper understanding of economic development efforts in Campbell County.

I returned to Laramie that evening to provide a welcome at the Wyoming Rx Abuse Stakeholders educational week. The week focused on education to counter prescription drug abuse, and Monday’s kickoff featured Tony Hoffman. Sober since 2007, Tony shared the story of his journey through drug abuse and his road to recovery. It was an inspiring story and drove home for those in attendance that “one choice can change the rest of your life.” I thank the College of Pharmacy, which is a partner and co-sponsor of the Rx Abuse Stakeholders group.

As is often my custom, I started Tuesday morning at Coal Creek Coffee and meeting with public art consultants Renee Pichocki and Jennifer McGregor. The UW Public Art Committee contracted with Renee and Jennifer to work with them in creating a plan for public art at UW. Our discussion was lively, and I left excited for their suggestions and recommendations.

I also had the opportunity on Tuesday to welcome a group of energy executives from Denver and Houston. Hosted by Halliburton, this group met at the High Bay Research Facility for its annual meeting, partly to tour the High Bay and learn about research being conducted by Dr. Piri and his research team in this beautiful facility. It was nice to have them on campus and share the University of Wyoming with them.

One other fun event on Tuesday was a reception with UW staff hosted by Staff Senate. The hour-long reception offered a time to informally visit with staff. I enjoyed the conversations and always learn something new. Thank you, Staff Senate!

Tuesday evening, I drove to Casper so I could attend the Central Wyoming/Casper Boys and Girls Club breakfast on Wednesday morning. The breakfast was attended by about 1,300 people and serves as a major fundraiser for the Casper area Boys and Girls Club. Henry Winkler (aka the Fonz) was the guest speaker and provided a humorous yet compelling message about discovering our personal greatness. The Student of the Year winner, Ms. Catherine “Cat” Williams, was announced, and Peter Wold was recognized for his contributions to Wyoming.

I was honored to be part of the program where together, Ashley Bright, CEO of the Boys and Girls Club, and I announced a new partnership between Wyoming Boys and Girls Clubs and UW. The partnership includes four scholarships, a mentoring program and a campus pass visitation program -- all targeting Boys and Girls Club members. We begin the partnership this weekend, when we will welcome over 300 Wyoming Boys and Girls Club members for a full day of campus programming and tour, along with admission to the football game. After that, we will launch a mentoring program where we match UW students with Boys and Girls Club members for one-on-one relationships. It is hoped that our own students will be positive role models and encourage these young people to continue their education and pursue college degrees. I appreciate the efforts of many to bring this partnership to fruition, including VP Sean Blackburn, VP Ben Blalock, Admissions Director Shelley Dodd, athletics staff and more.

I had the opportunity last Thursday to speak to one other Casper-based group, the Kiwanis Club, where I served as the luncheon speaker. This group of about 50 members was highly interested in the latest happenings at UW. After I shared our new strategic plan, fall enrollment and a few other updates, I fielded many questions about a variety of topics.

Following lunch, I hurried back to Laramie to attend committee meetings of the UW Foundation Board, which met on campus Thursday and Friday. The Foundation hosted a dinner on Thursday evening for Foundation board members and other guests. The program featured entrepreneurship at UW and included comments by Jon Benson, CEO of the Wyoming Technology Business Center, and two students -- Kennan Oyen and Jaycey Lindsey, who provided compelling stories of their respective innovations and plans to test the market for commercialization potential. As noted in the strategic plan, I expressed our desire to strengthen a culture of entrepreneurship at UW and expand the ecosystem in three ways: developing human capital (formal and informal education), experiential learning opportunities, and tech transfer and commercialization.  It was an enjoyable evening.

Friday continued with Foundation Board meetings, and I enjoyed the opportunity to update the board on 2016-17 university accomplishments. The board also received an interim report from our housing consultants, who are assisting us in developing a 10-year housing plan. There was much interest in this topic and many suggestions to move it forward as quickly as possible. The week concluded when Tim and I hosted the board at our home for a reception on Friday evening. I thank the board members for their service to UW; this is truly a distinguished group of alumni and professionals.

I enjoyed starting my day on Saturday by attending a Literacy Conference hosted by the College of Education’s Literacy Research Center and Clinic. The Union ballroom was full of pre-K, elementary and secondary teachers, librarians and school administrators as they focused their two-day conference on comprehension across disciplines and grade levels. I enjoyed the opportunity to welcome them to UW, talk a bit about the university and affirm the important role they play in educating Wyoming’s youth. I thank Dean Reutzel and Director Dana Robertson for hosting the conference and extending our university to this important group of educators.

The morning continued with a most touching ceremony to rededicate the Veterans Memorial Plaza located next to War Memorial Stadium. The memorial plaza was relocated this year from the end zone of the football stadium to a new location immediately outside of the stadium and next to the Indoor Practice Facility. The plaza was beautifully designed and includes the Fallen Soldier Cross Statue, sculpted by Jeff Rudolph of Cody. Coordinated by John Hursh, the ceremony included reposting the colors including raising flags for every branch of the military; dedication remarks by Governor Mead and myself; and a beautiful remembrance ceremony which included unveiling the statue, a bagpipe performance of Amazing Grace, followed by a firing squad and the playing of taps.

The ceremony was even more special as three World War II veterans were in attendance: Bob Willis, Evan Herrera and John Clay. The UW ROTC Honor Guard and ROTC cadets participated, as did many UW student veterans. It was a beautiful, touching ceremony that reminded those in attendance of our deepest gratitude to those who have served, are serving or will serve our country. If you have not yet done so, I encourage you to take a moment and view the memorial plaza.

The day continued with football pregame festivities and, of course, the exciting victory over Hawaii. Congratulations, Cowboys!

Before I turn to the week at hand, I want to mention that our fall census day enrollment was released last Friday, reflecting enrolment on the 15th day of the semester. Overall, UW reported an enrollment of 12,397 students, a 31-student increase from fall 2016. Impressive gains were made with the incoming freshmen (first-time students) class of 1,696, which is a 9.3 percent increase from fall 2016.  Both in-state (925, 12 percent increase) and out-of-state (771, 6 percent increase) enrollments increased for the freshmen class. This incoming class’s average ACT score showed a 1.2 percent increase, from 24.4 to 24.7. This is impressive!

Transfer students are also up 119 students, or 12.3 percent, with 1,086 transferring to UW this fall. Again, both in and out-of-state transfers were up. Student credit hours showed a gain of 2,606 for a total of 151,524 student credit hours. Finally, we also showed a small gain (28 students) in graduate/professional students.

I want to thank everyone who worked so hard on recruitment and enrollment this past year. It was a widespread, wholehearted effort, with many of you contributing your time to increase our recruitment presence across Wyoming and beyond. Clearly, it paid off, as we not only stabilized a three-year enrollment decline, but enrolled a strong first-year and transfer class. Thank you! I look forward to building on this success to continue to grow our enrollment in the years ahead.

As I conclude this week’s message, I want to bring to your attention several important events this week.

On Friday at 2:30 p.m. at the Gateway Center, a public event will celebrate former Vice President Dick Cheney and his wife, author Lynne Cheney. The lecture is titled, “From Wyoming to the Vice Presidency of the United States: A Family Dialogue.” The Cheneys will discuss politics and public life, while honoring the 10-year anniversary of the Cheney International Center. Please join us!

Immediately following this dialogue, the grand opening of the UW Native American Education Research and Cultural Center will be held at 4 p.m. on the corner of 10th and Ivinson. The program will include speakers from the Shoshone and Northern Arapaho tribes, as well as several other dignitaries. I hope you can attend and participate in the opening of this important resource to American Indian students. In addition to the grand opening ceremony, a performance, “Circle of Dance,” will be performed by a Wind River dance group at the UniWyo Sports Complex at 7 p.m. This event is free and open to the public.

Also on Friday evening, as part of UW Presents, the Dance Theatre of Harlem will perform its gala concert at 7:30 in the Arts and Sciences Auditorium. The Dance Theatre of Harlem has been in residency at UW for two weeks, working with dance/theatre students and faculty, and doing outreach across campus and throughout the community. All reports are that they are fantastic! I had the honor of hosting several from the Harlem troupe and UW dance faculty last night for dinner, and they truly are a talented group of artists. I hope you have the opportunity to enjoy their amazing and creative dance.

Finally, I point out that this weekend is Family Weekend, with a full program for families of our UW students, and the Admissions office will host a Campus Pass visitation day on Saturday with many visiting high school students. Campus will be alive and very busy.

But before we get to these many Friday and weekend events, have a productive week!

Laurie Nichols, President

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