From the Office of the President
Planning to Deliver on UW’s Land-Grant Mission
By Laurie S. Nichols
In my travels around the state since becoming UW’s president last spring, I have been encouraged and invigorated by my interactions with the people of Wyoming. They care deeply about the state’s university, and they have great expectations that we will deliver on our land-grant mission of teaching, research and service to the state, the nation and the world.
The words of affection and expectation I have received firsthand are backed by recent statewide surveys, which show that strong majorities of Wyoming residents perceive UW as providing an excellent undergraduate education and as a desirable place to attend college. Most also believe the university is responsive to the needs of the state and has a strong level of engagement with their communities.
But the survey data and my personal interactions show we have room for improvement in meeting the state’s needs. And those needs are wide ranging, including: recruiting and educating more of our young people; preparing more graduates for the Wyoming workforce; conducting research that helps to overcome the state’s challenges; and stimulating and incubating ideas to diversify the state’s economy and move Wyoming forward.
All of those needs fall under UW’s land-grant mission, and we are committed to fulfilling each in a more robust manner than we do now.
That’s not to say that we are starting from scratch in any of these areas. This edition of UWyo Magazine is replete with examples of UW faculty, staff and students who are engaged in significant service to the state—from experimental research to help the agriculture industry, to dealing with the aftermath of pine beetle infestations, to managing Wyoming’s water, to helping prison inmates prepare for release, to carrying cultural opportunities around the state, to collaborating with community colleges on multiple fronts.
These examples show how the three-fold mission of teaching, research and service is intertwined. Students receive excellent education in large measure because their instructors are accomplished researchers in their fields; at UW, even many of our undergraduates participate in research projects along with their teachers. Research findings produce solutions to a host of challenges in Wyoming, from natural resource concerns to human health issues to social and economic problems. As our faculty, staff and students share their expertise in these matters, people around the state and beyond are positively impacted. And making higher education more accessible to Wyoming people helps them improve their individual situations, and it benefits their communities and the entire state.
These are the issues the university is addressing as we prepare a strategic plan to guide our efforts for the next five years. After receiving input from around the state and the UW campus community, our Strategic Planning Leadership Council, led by Provost Kate Miller, will begin writing the document this month, and we will present a draft to the public for comment later in the spring semester. After incorporating that further input, we will take the plan to our Board of Trustees, with the intention of beginning implementation at the start of the next fiscal year July 1.
Undertaking strategic planning during a period of declining state revenues does present challenges, but it is essential for the university to move forward. Once we establish a vision for the university, we will have to work very hard to achieve it. I am confident we will do so.
I greatly appreciate those of you who have shared your hopes and dreams for Wyoming’s university. We will most certainly count on you to help us fulfill them.