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New President Issues Statement to UW Employees


July 1, 2013 — University of Wyoming President Bob Sternberg issued the following message to all University of Wyoming employees:

Dear Colleagues,

As I start my first day as president of the University of Wyoming, I write this letter to you all to say hello and briefly introduce my family and myself. Our family consists of my wife Karin, our 2-year-old triplets -- Samuel, Brittany and Melody (the latter two, identical twins) -- and myself. I also have two adult children, Seth and Sara, from my first marriage, who currently live in San Francisco, Calif., and Cambridge, Mass., respectively. 

Karin and I are truly excited about our move to Wyoming and the University of Wyoming. Wyoming is the state in which we have most wanted to live and raise our kids, and the University of Wyoming is the university with which I most wanted to become affiliated. Karin grew up and spent most of her life in southwestern Germany, near the Alps, and has wanted for a long time to live in the Rocky Mountain region. We are both avid hikers and hope our children will be as well. Karin is also an excellent skier and wants to teach our children early on how to ski. But what excites us most is the ambiance of the state and the university. We feel like we have come home at last.

We moved to Wyoming about a week ago (and our messy house shows it). We are living at 1120 Ivinson St., a three-minute walk from my office. Before moving to Wyoming, we lived in Stillwater, Okla., where I was provost and senior vice president at Oklahoma State. Before that, I was dean of Arts and Sciences at Tufts, and prior to that, IBM Professor of Psychology and Education, Professor of Management, and Director of the Center for the Psychology of Abilities, Competencies, and Expertise at Yale. The center was dedicated to the idea that abilities are broad -- much broader than the skills measured by IQ and assessments such as the SAT and ACT; and that abilities are modifiable -- that all of us can become smarter by applying ourselves to increasing our cognitive and other skills. I also did a stint as president of the American Psychological Association and currently am president of the Federation of Associations in Behavioral and Brain Sciences. My undergraduate degree is from Yale and my graduate degree from Stanford.

What excited me so much about coming to the University of Wyoming? Three things.

The first is the unique role of the university as the state's only comprehensive university, encompassing both of Wyoming's land-grant and flagship missions. To me, the land-grant mission signifies that we are here to serve the state of Wyoming, as well as our community, nation and the world. I would like to work together with you to make the University of Wyoming the premier land-grant institution in the country. That does not mean becoming No. 1 in one or another set of media ratings, or having the highest standardized test scores in the nation. Media ratings often emphasize selectivity by scores and high rejection rates of applicants. On the contrary, land-grant institutions emphasize access and belief in the modifiability of skills -- that with excellent advising and instruction, large numbers of students can succeed and become productive citizens. Indeed, I acquired my lifelong interest in psychology when, as a child, I flunked standardized tests and was thought to be a nearly hopeless student. To me, top-rank land-grant status means becoming No. 1 in educating ethical, creative, analytical and practical leaders who will be passionate about making a positive, meaningful and enduring difference to the world. They are the leaders who will make the world a better place to live. Although we educate primarily our students, we also educate our faculty and staff, because learning is a lifelong process that continues until the day we die. To me, the flagship mission means that we strive to achieve excellence in teaching and research, and are not satisfied merely to be "good enough." The combination of the flagship and land-grant missions implies that, ultimately, we seek, in our teaching and research, and in collaboration with diverse partners in the state from many walks of life, the ultimate betterment of the state of Wyoming. We achieve such betterment by teaching that translates into useful life knowledge and skills, and by both basic and applied research and outreach that ultimately will enhance the lives of us all.

The second thing that excited me about UW is the people. When one interviews for presidencies, one gets a sense of the people from the various interview committees with which one interacts. Some such committees are determined to show how much smarter and more "with it" they are than you are. Others seem not much to care about who you are -- unbeknownst to you, they already have a candidate picked out and you are there just for show. But then there are those committees, like the UW ones, that genuinely interact and engage in dialogue with you, and show their passion for and thoughtfulness about the university and its future. I came home from my interviews at UW and said to Karin that this was truly the place we wanted to go -- just no doubt about it.

The third thing that struck me about UW is its reputation for excellence and its desire to become ever better.  The university has done admirably well under the able leadership of past president Tom Buchanan, and as I’ve visited campus and the state and talked with faculty, staff, students, legislators, donors, alumni and friends, I have seen the incredible pride there for UW and all that it has achieved. I will work with all of you to achieve our mutual aspirations for the university and to make it the very best it can be.

As to specific plans to accomplish our shared mission -- those must come from you. I am new to the university, and so cannot possibly know how best to realize our dreams for the university and the state. Hence, I encourage you to write to me at uwpres@uwyo.edu to share your suggestions, advice and any questions you may have. If you would like to meet in person, please schedule an appointment with Shannon Sanchez at sanchez@uwyo.edu. In the fall, I will have a series of open meetings at which I will invite members of the university community to enter into a conversation with me and with each other regarding directions in which the university needs to go. Lest you wonder, one thing of which I am rather painfully aware is the need for compensation increases for university employees, and we already are working on this challenge. I plan to spend a fairly substantial portion of my time in fundraising and legislative relations, recognizing that bringing in the dollars, so that you optimally can do your jobs, is a top priority for the university.

One thing I would like to emphasize during my presidency is communication. I know how easy it is for members of the university community to feel that they are out of touch with what is going on in the university as a whole. To that end, I will send you occasional updates, such as this one, that will inform you about activities of the central administration, and particularly those in which I, as president, am involved. Please also communicate with me any time regarding activities that would be of interest to the university community.

In conclusion, let me say again how delighted Karin, the triplets and I are to be here. I look forward to getting to know as many of you as possible, and please remember I am here to serve you and the state. If I can be helpful in any way, do let me know!

Best wishes,

Bob

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