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Opening of Wyoming Outdoor Recreation, Tourism and Hospitality Initiative March 2 at UW

February 18, 2022

Efforts by the University of Wyoming and the state’s community colleges to support Wyoming’s second-largest economic sector are taking a big step forward with the opening of the Wyoming Outdoor Recreation, Tourism and Hospitality (WORTH) Initiative.

A kickoff ceremony for the WORTH Initiative is scheduled Wednesday, March 2, at 11 a.m. in Legacy Hall at UW’s Marian H. Rochelle Gateway Center. The public is invited to attend, and a livestream will be available here.

One of several new initiatives tied to the Wyoming Innovation Partnership initiated by Gov. Mark Gordon, UW President Ed Seidel and community college leaders, WORTH is a new hub for the state’s tourism, hospitality and recreation industry. WORTH is launching with $3.14 million allocated by the governor through the partnership.

WORTH is designed to provide real-world experiences for students; courses, training and certificates via distance technologies to working professionals; outreach services such as market analyses; and applied research in collaboration with industry.

“The WORTH Initiative will be extremely valuable in continuing to grow and support the state’s second-largest industry, tourism and hospitality,” says Diane Shober, executive director of the Wyoming Office of Tourism and one of the members of WORTH’s advisory committee. “We need to foster the next generation of hospitality industry leaders, as they will be vital in strengthening and diversifying our local and state economies going forward.”

UW currently offers a minor in hospitality, and WORTH is working to grow that program to offer a bachelor’s degree focusing on the business side of tourism and hospitality management. At the same time, it will offer expanded coursework to students in UW’s existing outdoor recreation and tourism management degree program, and vice versa. Students will be able to do both majors concurrently. These two degree programs are partnerships between UW’s College of Business and the Haub School of Environment and Natural Resources.

“It was always our No. 1 goal to expand and diversify Wyoming’s economy by ensuring WORTH industries are supported and thriving,” says Dan McCoy, coordinator of the outdoor recreation and tourism management degree program. “Our industry partners are very excited about the possibilities of the WORTH Initiative, and I cannot wait to see what we accomplish.”

Unlike some hospitality programs that focus on hotel management or culinary arts, this new program focuses more broadly on the industry itself and the business of it. As part of the WORTH Initiative, UW personnel met with industry leaders around the state to gauge their needs.

“The collaboration of the WORTH Initiative with industry partners from throughout our state has been tremendous,” says Jim Waldrop, another advisory board member who is the president and general manager of Silver Dollar Inc., the parent company of Jackson’s The Wort Hotel, The Million Dollar Cowboy Bar and The Wort Plaza Shops. “The initiative has been thoughtful and strategic in support of our state’s second-largest industry. To bring all of our resources together with the WORTH Initiative is overdue and timely, and will truly help our industry by providing a skilled, work-ready workforce.”

Partnering with community colleges is a key aspect of the Wyoming Innovation Partnership and WORTH. Not all jobs require a bachelor’s degree but, for community college students who want to go on to UW, transfer planning guides make transferring a seamless process. Online offerings also are key for those around the state looking to learn new skills and advance their careers without relocating. These could include webinars and certificate courses, in addition to the degree offerings.

To aid the industry, WORTH will offer services such as market analyses and applied research projects led by faculty and students. It will conduct detailed business analysis and studies for the industry. Companies, towns or organizations can approach WORTH for help evaluating their ideas.

For more information about WORTH, email McCoy at dan.mccoy@uwyo.edu or call (307) 766-5009.

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