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UW Literacy Research Center and Clinic Celebrates Grand Opening

March 27, 2014
Woman speaking
Keynote speaker, Wyoming First Lady Carol Mead, described the new center as “a premier hub for literacy research and education in Wyoming and beyond.” (UW Photo)

The University of Wyoming today (Thursday) unveiled its new Literacy Research Center and Clinic, a state-of-the-art facility in the College of Education Annex that will support literacy initiatives across the state.

The LRCC will serve as the center of literacy knowledge in Wyoming by offering professional development for teachers, literacy education for pre-service teachers and graduate students, research on literacy education, and service as a statewide clinical resource.

Also announced was Donne and Sue Fisher’s extraordinary $2.5 million contribution that was matched by $2.5 million by the state of Wyoming, for a total of $5 million. The Fishers look forward to continuing to partner with Wyoming and its university to further strengthen literacy programs.

The gift will provide support for a director of operations; offer seed funding for literacy outreach and research projects; create grants to fund K-12 teachers conducting innovation action research in their classrooms; and provide scholarships for undergraduate, graduate and doctoral students. The funding also will assist with professional development and expand the center’s statewide tutoring program.

“Sue and I are honored to be a part of this important project that will serve not only the university community, but the entire state of Wyoming,” says Donne Fisher. “We made the decision to invest in the UW literacy center because we feel like it can make a difference in the lives of many young people across the state. The state’s matching gift program also played a big role in our decision. You don’t often see states partner with private contributors as they did in this instance.”

First Lady Carol Mead, a leading spokesperson for literacy initiatives, has played a major role to secure the financing for the building.

“The LRCC is a product of strong partnerships among academic and state leaders, and many generous and visionary donors,” Mrs. Mead says. “I am grateful to all of the folks who had a hand in establishing what is sure to be a premier hub for literacy research and education in Wyoming and beyond.”

In addition to the Fishers, other donors who have enthusiastically supported the center include Mickey and Jeanne Klein, the Joe and Arlene Watt Foundation, Don and Betty Walters, Thea Stidum, Archie Jurich and the John P. Ellbogen Foundation.

The state of Wyoming’s role in developing the center has been critical. Through the Excellence in Higher Education Endowment created by the Legislature in 2006, four endowed positions were mandated for the College of Education. Two of those positions were identified by UW for excellence in literacy -- George Kamberelis and Vicki Gillis bring dual expertise in reading and literacy to UW’s elementary and secondary education and pre-service teaching programs.

In its recent session, the Legislature also approved a special matching gift program for the literacy center, which expanded the Fisher gift. The Legislature’s ongoing Endowment Challenge Program provided matching funds for other gifts to the program and college, including Mickey and Jeanne Klein’s 2011 gift that supported the creation of the College of Education’s Sullivan Family Student Center. 

The Sullivan Family Student Center serves as a hub for student activities and is a further renovation and improvement to the UW College of Education Annex that was remodeled in recent years to accommodate the development of technologically enhanced model classrooms.

“The collaboration between the Literacy Research Center and Clinic, and its private and public supporters, shows how important this mission is to the University of Wyoming, the state and its citizens,” says UW President Dick McGinity. “The potential benefit of the center to the citizens of Wyoming is extraordinary and will, in many cases, be life-changing. UW is proud to have played a part in bringing the center to life and is committed to its success moving forward.”

The primary goals of all research conducted at the center are to develop more effective ways to help children become competent strategic readers and writers, and to help teachers and parents become more effective in supporting children’s literacy development.

The literacy center’s mission requires cooperation among public and private entities to better serve the children, families, teachers, schools and community-based organizations for children.

Partners throughout the state include the Child Development Center of Natrona County in Casper, the Teton Literacy Center and Systems of Education in Jackson, the Wyoming Department of Family Services, the Laramie community, and school districts in Sweetwater, Lincoln, Laramie and Weston counties. Being able to work with these and other partners from one centralized location will improve efficiency and allow more people to be served.

“The opening of the new Literacy Research Center and Clinic is a landmark event for the College of Education,” says Michael Day, interim dean of the college. “It marks completion of its remodeling of the annex begun 10 years ago -- perhaps now to be renamed the Education Classroom and Literacy Center Building. Thanks to its supporters, architect and contractor, this culminating facility is again both functional and beautiful. The new LRCC embodies values dear to the college -- teaching, scholarship, partnership, access and enhanced opportunity -- as well as its commitment to serving communities throughout Wyoming. Bravo!”

By working together, the University of Wyoming Literacy Center and Clinic and the state of Wyoming hope to create a literate population that can respond thoughtfully and articulately. The center will make sure that literacy needs are being met by looking at the unique ways people engage in reading, writing, talking and understanding, and in using new technologies in different disciplinary contexts.

“This has been one of the most exciting public-private partnerships,” says Ben Blalock, UW Foundation president. “When you look at all the elements that have come together -- the state of Wyoming, the governor’s office, especially the support from First Lady Carol Mead, private contributions and state-matching funds -- it is very clear that the commitment is there to make a difference in the area of literacy education.”

Mrs. Mead, McGinity, Day and UW Board of Trustees President Dave Bostrom spoke during the ceremonies.

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