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UW Launches Engagement Task Force

August 14, 2017

A 16-member task force has been appointed to help the University of Wyoming meet its objective of collaborating with constituents and partners to improve and enhance the health and well-being of the state’s communities and environments.

Specifically, UW’s new strategic plan calls for UW to establish an Office of Engagement and Outreach, and to work to be recognized by the Carnegie Foundation as a “community engaged university.” The plan calls for UW to “(c)ultivate a community of learning energized by collaborative work among students, faculty, staff and external partners,” which is “committed to active outreach and clear communication with our extensive communities.”

To facilitate collaboration between the university and its constituents, President Laurie Nichols has launched the UW Engagement Task Force to assess what the university does already; assess what UW and its constituents need and want the university to do; benchmark itself against peer institutions; and then use these analyses to make decisions on the scope and vision for what community engagement means at UW and for Wyoming.

In constituting the task force, Nichols observes that “UW builds upon a tradition as a strongly engaged campus, with many people in our community who have contributed to these efforts over many years.

“I now challenge the UW community to connect the dots and use this year to create an environment of engaged education, student opportunities, scholarship, service, and faculty and staff development to build collaboration between the University of Wyoming and our constituents. Only through authentic engagement will we address the complex economic and social challenges facing UW and Wyoming,” the president says.

The UW Engagement Task Force is led by Professor Jean Garrison who, as special assistant to the president, will serve as its chair. Other members of the group are:

-- Anne Alexander, associate vice provost in the Office of Academic Affairs.

-- Chad Baldwin, associate vice president for marketing and communications.

-- Jordan Blazovich, student senator representing the College of Health Sciences.

-- Chris Boswell, vice president for governmental and community affairs.

-- Mary Burman, dean of the Fay W. Whitney School of Nursing.

-- Jo Chytka, director of UW Advising, Career and Exploratory Studies.

-- Tony Denzer, head of the Department of Civil and Architectural Engineering.

-- Shelley Dodd, director of the Office of Admissions.

-- Jeff Edgens, associate dean and director of UW-Casper.

-- Brent Ewers, botany professor and director of Wyoming EPSCoR.

-- Paul Flesher, professor of religious studies and director of Saturday University.

-- Keener Fry, director of the UW Alumni Association.

-- Bret Hess, professor of animal science, associate dean for research and director of the Wyoming Agricultural Experiment Station.

-- Richard Raridon, coordinator of community engagement and service in the Service, Leadership and Community Engagement office.

-- Kate Welsh, associate professor and head of the School of Teacher Education.

By the end of the 2017-18 academic year, the task force will provide a plan to open an Office of Engagement and Outreach, and to lay the foundation to seek recognition by the Carnegie Foundation as a “community engaged university.”

“Such a designation connotes commitment to a long-term reciprocal relationship in which we orient our land-grant mission to be part of an ongoing and continued dialogue with our constituents,” Garrison says. “As the sole four-year public institution, we have an opportunity for an all-university, all-Wyoming approach placing UW students, staff and faculty at the center of a broad definition of community that includes the local, state, tribal, regional, national and global contexts.”

An Office of Engagement and Outreach will track university interactions throughout the state and serve as a point of contact for external constituents seeking expertise in solving complex challenges; be a central part of the effort to build connections to communities and alumni; and be at the forefront in collaborations with community colleges and K-12 schools to build a pipeline for students to UW.

Key tasks for the leadership team during the coming year include:

-- Develop a definition of community engagement for UW.

-- Determine key tasks of UW’s self-study, including review of UW’s current engagement activities, and develop an inventory. Analyze the review’s findings, report findings and build an assessment plan for future engagement activities.

-- Complete focus groups in key communities and needs/wants assessments with key stakeholders and constituents.

-- Develop a strategic action plan based on engagement benchmarks, planning goals and desired outcomes.

-- Maintain regular contact with the UW community.

-- Complete a final report with recommendations for next steps for the president and provost by early summer 2018.

The first meeting of the task force will be launched by Nichols at the end of August.


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