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Skinner Appointed as UW Honors College Dean

September 15, 2017
head portrait of a man
Donal Skinner

An accomplished biologist, teacher and administrator who has led the University of Wyoming’s Department of Zoology and Physiology since 2013 has been appointed as dean of the new Honors College at UW.

The UW Board of Trustees today (Friday) approved the appointment of Donal Skinner to head the college, which is part of the university’s effort to recruit more high-achieving high school graduates and enrich its undergraduate experience.

Provost Kate Miller notes that the second goal of “Breaking Through: 2017-2022,” UW’s new strategic plan, is to inspire students to pursue a productive, engaged and fulfilling life and prepare them to succeed in a sustainable economy.

“Under Dean Skinner’s leadership, the new Honors College will foster new opportunities for high-level academic, cultural, professional, entrepreneurial and leadership experiences for its students,” Miller says.

Skinner received his Ph.D. in biology from the University of Cambridge before undertaking postdoctoral studies in England and France. He started at UW in 2002 as an assistant professor, was promoted to full professor in 2012 and has served as head of the Department of Zoology and Physiology since 2013.

Skinner has published 80 papers in scientific journals, mostly on hormones secreted by the brain. He helped develop the physiology bachelor’s degree at UW as a direct response to increasing student preparedness for engaging in the health care professions in Wyoming. Most recently, he worked closely with community colleges to initiate over 20 separate 2-plus-2 plans to assist students transferring to UW.

“I am excited by this opportunity to work with other colleges and departments to develop the Honors College at UW,” Skinner says. “This new college is part of a commitment by UW to advance undergraduate academic excellence and builds on the achievements of the Honors Program."

Earlier this year, the UW Board of Trustees approved a plan to convert UW’s Honors Program into an Honors College with its own dean. Among the first actions for the dean will be working with academic departments and colleges to develop upper-division honors courses and college-track curricula; develop faculty advisory committees; and begin private fundraising to support the college.

The Honors College has moved to the Guthrie House, former home of the UW Foundation, on the south end of the UW campus.

The Honors College will infuse and formalize high-impact practices for its students, including first-year experiences, writing-intensive courses, undergraduate research, service learning, internships and capstone projects. The experiences could be accumulated by students in an experiential learning portfolio or “passport,” signaling to prospective employers the especially rich experiences they had in earning their degrees.

Plans call for the Honors College to be fully in place by fall 2020, although several colleges and departments, including the College of Engineering and Applied Science, are moving forward with development of honors tracks that could be in place before then.

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