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UW Makes Changes to Operate More Effectively and Efficiently

April 19, 2017
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UW President Laurie Nichols

By Laurie S. Nichols

In my first year as president of the University of Wyoming, I have made it a priority to travel around the state to hear from Wyoming people about their thoughts and expectations for the state’s university.

The message has come through loud and clear in these visits: The people of Wyoming care about their university, and they have high expectations for us. And while they recognize the financial challenges we have been contending with, they want and need us to do more to meet the needs of the state.

In fact, one of the central themes we have heard is that the people of the state want the university to do more particularly when it comes to outreach efforts, off-campus degree programs and research to benefit the state’s economy. And, of course, they want us to stay focused on our primary mission of providing access to high-quality education for Wyoming’s students.

There’s no question that meeting the expectations for increased services at a time of declining revenues is a significant challenge -- a task that requires excellent planning, prioritizing and execution. That is what we are attempting to do through the creation of a strategic plan to guide the university for the next five years.

A draft of the strategic plan may be viewed on the UW website at, and we are accepting comments on that site. Additionally, a public meeting to discuss the draft and accept comment is Tuesday, April 25, from 2:30-3:30 p.m. in Strausner Hall at Casper College. The session may be viewed online at I encourage you to participate.

At this point, the draft calls for advancements in academic quality, enrollment, statewide engagement, diversity and economic development over the next five years. Specifically, it aims to increase student recruitment, retention and graduation; degree programs that meet Wyoming’s workforce needs and more offered online and at UW’s regional centers; collaborations with community colleges and K-12 schools; enhanced research funding; growing startup companies; and diversifying the university’s revenue streams, among other measures.

Accomplishing all of this will be a challenge during these tight financial times. Faced with budget reductions totaling $41 million for the current fiscal year, the university has had to rethink the way it does business at just about every level.

We are becoming a leaner, more focused institution, expecting to have about 400 fewer employees than at this time last year by the start of the new fiscal year July 1. We are making that reduction largely by not filling vacancies and through retirement and separation incentives, although some layoffs may be necessary.

We have worked to examine everything we do and to prioritize our work. Some services that aren’t essential to the university’s mission have been scaled back or considered for outsourcing or elimination. What we have not been willing to compromise is our educational, research and service mission to Wyoming.

You might have heard or read about some of the reorganization we are doing as part of this process. That includes assimilating the functions of the UW Outreach School into academic units across campus.

When it comes to UW’s presence outside the Laramie campus, be assured we remain very committed to this important part of our mission. Any changes that take place at UW’s branch campus in Casper and our regional centers will be about improving both effectiveness and efficiency, not about retreating from these regions. As the draft strategic plan indicates, we want to increase our distance offerings and even launch new four-year programs in conjunction with community colleges.

UW-Casper has been an important part of the university for 41 years, and it will continue to be in the future. Any decisions about changes in the programs offered in Casper will be made in close consultation with community leaders.

One example of efficiency and centralization from the reorganization is that UW-Casper and the regional centers now fall under one administrative structure in Casper with a reporting line to UW’s chief academic officer, or provost. This centralized “hub” from Casper can better assist with service to the state and community colleges for program delivery, marketing and advising.

The University of Wyoming is a partner with the people of the state, and we are committed to our land-grant mission of teaching, research and service. With your input and ideas, we can advance UW to new heights as the state’s university.

Laurie Nichols is the president of the University of Wyoming.

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Laramie, WY 82071

Phone: (307) 766-2929


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