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‘Breaking Through’ for Wyoming and Its Students

January 4, 2018
President Laurie Nichols

By Laurie S. Nichols

In the past few issues of UWyo Magazine, I have mentioned our work to develop a strategic plan to guide the university for the next five years. The nine-month planning process involved extensive public input and campus discussion, tackling a wide array of issues to help Wyoming’s flagship and land-grant university reach new levels of excellence.

The finished product, “Breaking Through: 2017-2022,” is a strong road map that charts an ambitious course for the university. As you’ll read in this issue of UWyo, the goals include driving excellence in teaching, scholarship, innovation and creative endeavor; inspiring students to pursue a productive, engaged and fulfilling life, and preparing them to succeed in a global economy; improving and enhancing the well-being of Wyoming communities; and assuring the long-term strength and stability of UW by developing human, intellectual, financial, structural and marketing resources.

The preamble to the strategic plan, published at the front of this issue, explains why we chose “Breaking Through” as the title. The name is symbolic, in that it conveys connecting a rich history to our future in breaking through barriers and creating new frontiers to be impactful for Wyoming and beyond.

While the strategic plan touches on all aspects of the university, the overriding focus is our students. We are committed to growing our enrollment, with a target of climbing from 12,397 in fall 2017 to 13,500 in 2022. We will work to increase our freshman-to-sophomore retention rate from 78 at present to 80 percent in five years. We intend to have two to three new residence halls under construction or completed by 2022 to create better on-campus living conditions for our freshmen and other students. We also will work to increase our four- and six-year graduation rates for undergraduates; increase the numbers of students taking part in international experiences; and step up our efforts to help our graduates find jobs.

Work is well underway on many of these student-focused fronts.

We have established an Honors College to help us attract the best and brightest students, and to provide an enriched academic experience.

Our new Native American Native American Education Research and Cultural Center is open, with a goal of recruiting, retaining and graduating more Native students, especially those from Wyoming’s Wind River Indian Reservation.

With funding from new program fees, we are implementing a professional advising program for students, while expanding student success and career planning and placement services. This will allow all first-year, distance and transfer students to interact with highly trained, professional advisers, with major and program advising done by highly trained, college-based professionals.

And we are working with the state’s community colleges to improve the experience for students who transfer to the university.

As I noted earlier, the strategic plan also addresses the university’s role across Wyoming. Aside from our central mission of making quality education available to students both on and off campus, we are committed to engaging with the state by offering resources, support and enrichment to communities throughout the state.

From an internal perspective, we are focused on becoming a higher-functioning university by working intensely on performance of operations, driving efficiencies, and improving employee pride and morale.

I encourage you to take a look at the full strategic plan, which may be found online at You’ll see that it includes specific performance indicators tied to each goal that will allow us to measure our success in executing “Breaking Through” over the next five years. We will report annually on the progress we’re making.

For us to succeed, we need the support and participation of everyone associated with the university—faculty, staff, students, alumni, donors, state leaders and Wyoming’s citizens. I am excited about our future, and I look forward to working with all of you to implement “Breaking Through” to help UW become an even stronger university.

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