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UW’s Susan Jerke Honored for Community Engagement in Five-County Region

April 5, 2019
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Susan Jerke

Susan Jerke is the University of Wyoming’s Marvin Millgate Engaged Staff Award recipient for her work as a regional director of the Wyoming Small Business Development Center (SBDC) Network.

The Wyoming SBDC Network offers business expertise to help Wyoming residents think about, launch, grow, reinvent or exit their businesses. Jerke, whose office is in Gillette, heads the northeast SBDC region.

Wyoming’s small businesses and business startups have not only helped those businesses hire or retain hundreds of employees, but have injected nearly $2 million into Wyoming’s northeast corner economy.

Jerke has played a major role.

“These achievements, along with the consulting and teaching activities that are a daily part of Jerke’s job, embody the key element of this award: namely, supporting community development -- in this case, economic development -- through engagement, building strong, reciprocal relationships between the campus and the community,” says Paul Flesher, the interim UW Office of Engagement and Outreach director, which sponsors the Millgate awards.

The Marvin Millgate Community Engagement Awards were established by President Laurie Nichols and Provost Kate Miller, in cooperation with UW’s Engagement Task Force, to recognize collaborative teaching and research that extend beyond the UW campus. The selected honorees each receive $1,000, which may be used to fund additional engagement work by the recipients.

“With these awards, we acknowledge that community engagement is an integral component of UW’s land-grant mission and honor those faculty, staff, students and partners whose collaborations involve the exchange of knowledge and resources in a context of reciprocity with the citizens and institutions of Wyoming, the nation and the world,” Flesher says.

The Engaged Staff Award is presented to a full-time UW staff member who supports both learning and development through community engagement and builds strong, reciprocal relationships between the campus and the community.

The SBDC team of experts, and other state resource partners and stakeholders, provide a diverse, all-encompassing array of business services for every client, says Jill Kline, the state SBDC director who nominated Jerke for the award.

“Susan finds that helping people organize their ideas and translate them into successful businesses is incredibly rewarding,” Kline says.

Jerke’s work in helping new and existing businesses develop strong marketing, financial and business plans has directly impacted the communities of the five counties she serves: Campbell, Crook, Johnson, Sheridan and Weston.

“But, the reach of her expertise extends to the entire state through sharing her knowledge of branding/graphic design, sustainability and human resources,” Kline says. “When a client anywhere in the state needs her specific areas of expertise, Susan easily works virtually.”

The impact of her advising translates into real numbers for the region she represents. In 2018, Jerke met with 248 clients, helped with 21 business startups and helped these clients hire or retain 917 employees. Additionally, $1.8 million was introduced into the local economies through loans and equity infusion. The businesses she directly assisted reported more than $62 million in sales during that time.

“This is insightful, as Wyoming, especially the northeast corner, continues to recover from the recent economic downturn,” Kline adds.

Dana Robertson, the executive director of UW’s Literacy Research Center and Clinic, received the Marvin Millgate Engaged Faculty Award; Annaliese Fitzsimmons, of Greybull, received the Marvin Millgate Engaged Student Award; and the Marvin Millgate Excellence in Community Partnership Award was won by Wyoming Humanities.

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