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UW Students: A Source of Pride and Inspiration

April 19, 2018
President Laurie Nichols

By Laurie S. Nichols


Being a university president is a challenging job, in part because institutions of higher education are large, complex organizations with multiple constituencies. But leading the University of Wyoming also provides the opportunity for me to access a great source of inspiration and energy: our students.

Whenever the weight of the office begins to press down, I turn to UW students to brighten my outlook. They’re a wellspring of positive energy, and interacting with them helps me focus on the primary reason for the university’s existence: providing them with a high-quality education to prepare them for successful lives and careers.

In this special digital edition of UWyo Magazine, you’ll meet several dozen UW students, along with a number of recent graduates who have transitioned to successful careers and graduate studies. As you read their stories, I’m sure you’ll understand why I find our students to be so inspiring.

There’s Garrett Cruzan, who will graduate this spring with a Bachelor of Fine Arts and a minor in disability studies. Cruzan, who uses a wheelchair, has been deeply involved in improving accessibility on campus and other campus leadership activities while succeeding in his studies. A special highlight for Garrett? Spending a year studying abroad in the Netherlands—made possible by a special memorial fellowship.

There’s Jonet Jennings, who will graduate with degrees in international studies and political science after performing undergraduate research on community-based approaches to counterterrorism.
She hopes to work for the FBI as an analyst or a special agent.

There’s Morgan Robins, who transferred to UW from Central Wyoming College and has excelled as a member of our Nordic ski team while majoring in anthropology, with a focus on archaeology. She has conducted fieldwork at the Wind River Range’s Dinwoody Glacier, where the highest bison jump in North America was discovered.

There’s Heather Baker, a communication major who completed an internship at Disney World in Florida and has been on a number of education-abroad and service trips—to Puerto Rico, India, Northern Ireland and the Wyoming Women’s Center.

There’s freshman animal science major Braxton Crofts, who grew up on a cattle ranch in central Wyoming and has made connections with students from across the country while living in UW’s residence halls.

And there’s Kirsten Phillips, whose UW experience prepared her to work as a video producer for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers—where she showed support for a Buccaneer player’s fundraising efforts for pediatric cancer research by shaving her long, blonde hair.

These stories are a testament to the quality of both these students and their UW experiences. They paint the picture of a university where knowledge is gained through hands-on learning alongside some of the world’s top scholars, and where the opportunities to grow are almost limitless.

As I noted in my last UWyo Magazine article, the university is committed to further enhancing the UW student experience. Our strategic plan, “Breaking Through,” is full of student-focused objectives. They include boosting our retention and graduation rates through improved advising and other methods; increasing the numbers of students taking part in international experiences; reaching out to prospective students from underrepresented backgrounds; recreating residence halls into living-learning communities; exposing students to more entrepreneurial opportunities; improving the experience for students who transfer from community colleges; and stepping up our efforts to help our graduates find jobs.

UW already is recognized as one of the nation’s best-value universities for students. Student Loan Hero put us at the top of its list of “20 States Where College Is Worth the Cost,” comparing the cost of bachelor’s degrees in each state to how much holders of four-year degrees earn in those states. Growella, a consumer website that offers finance, career and life advice, recently ranked us No. 3 in the country based upon how long it takes our graduates to pay off student loans. And U.S. News & World Report has Wyoming at No. 5 on its new “Best States for Higher Education” list, based upon our low tuition and low student debt.

Our efforts to improve will do nothing but increase UW’s standing in a variety of college rankings.

I couldn’t be more excited about our university’s future. We have strong support from Wyoming citizens, alumni and other backers; dedicated faculty and staff members committed to our three-fold mission of education, research and service; a modern and beautiful campus; and a strategic plan that provides a strong roadmap for our future.

Perhaps most importantly, we have students who want to learn and make a difference in the world. They are my inspiration.

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