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Graduate School Initiative
The University of Wyoming is on the recruiting trail. And not just for running backs, point guards and middle blockers.
In an effort to raise the university's stature and further energize its burgeoning research enterprise, UW recently launched an aggressive multi-pronged initiative designed to lure the best and brightest graduate students to the state's only four-year institution of higher education.
"The University of Wyoming has always had graduate education but it hasn't been at the forefront of our efforts to address education until now," says Andy Hansen, the university's associate provost. "I think UW does an outstanding job of educating undergraduate students. We always have. It's always been our priority and, in my opinion, we do a really good job.
"The graduate programs are different. I don't think we have uniform areas of excellence across campus. We have pockets of excellence. But we have other areas that, quite honestly, could benefit from a sustained effort to advance UW's stature in graduate education. We're striving to achieve this goal by getting better students on this campus and, then, we want to do a better job of mentoring those students."
The initiative -- developed and coordinated by Hansen and Carol Frost, the university's vice president for special projects, and funded through the offices of the President and Academic Affairs -- places a heavy emphasis on recruiting graduate students who will inject enthusiasm and imagination into UW's teaching mission.
To aid recruiting efforts, UW is providing departments with additional funding to be used to bring prospective students to campus and offering enhanced stipends and summer school support for outstanding students who commit to the university.
The Department of Professional Studies, one of six departments chosen to pilot the initiative during the 2011-12 school year, has already benefited from the university's revitalized commitment to graduate education.
"We're very proud to say that 100 percent of the students who have come to campus for a visit have ended up applying," says Mary Alice Bruce, department head.
Keith Carron, a professor in the Department of Chemistry, another of the pilot departments, reports similar results. "If you are a good undergraduate studying chemistry, you can go just about anywhere you want to go," he says. "This initiative is allowing us to compete with any school."
The Department of Ecosystem Science and Management, also selected to pilot the program, brought seven students to campus in mid-January to visit research facilities and meet faculty and current graduate students.
"Most of them had never been to Wyoming," says John Tanaka, department head. "It was a great opportunity, because we've never been able to do that in the past." He adds that the enhanced stipend "got their attention" and believes the additional support provides UW with an advantage over many universities.
"We'll just continually increase the number of programs who participate in this program," says Hansen. "I've had two or three departments contact me and say, ‘Can we get in on this recruiting initiative?" and I tell them, "Next year.'"
The initiative also features a mentoring component that seeks to provide an outstanding environment for graduate students, in addition to the opportunity to contribute to "the cutting edge of the university's creation of knowledge," says Hansen.
Also as part of the initiative, UW launched a revamped website devoted to graduate education (http://www.uwyo.edu/uwgrad/) and has begun the process of moving to an all-electronic application process for prospective students.
"This is not a one-year program. This is not a two-year program. This is a long-term endeavor," Hansen says. "I think if you want to measure the success of the effort, you probably ought to wait a decade and just see what the university looks like compared to what it looks like now.
"I believe you're going to see significant changes in the quality of the students, the successes that our students have when they leave here and the university's research contributions. The university stands to benefit and the students who come here stand to benefit."