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Q&A with the Dean

Dean David SprottWhy did you choose to come to the University of Wyoming?

I came to the University of Wyoming after being at Washington State University for over 20 years. While it was less than an ideal time for me to move – my middle daughter is a senior at Pullman high school – UW acted like a magnet for me. From the moment of the first phone call about the position, it was clear that amazing opportunities would come from working here in Wyoming. It also became clear during the interview process that there was something very special about this place and this state.  Few business schools in the world have the amount of support that ours does – alumni, Wyoming citizens, donors, businesses, legislators, and university administration – all of whom want us to thrive.  This is a recipe for success.

What are some areas you are focusing on during your first year as Dean?

With all of the amazing opportunities around here, I find myself asking the same question. It’s very important to me to get out and meet the people and businesses of the state. I want to understand the culture of Wyoming because this is my home now.  I have already spent time in Casper, Cheyenne and Jackson, but there are many other towns and locales that I will be visiting in the coming months. At the same time, it’s important for me to build my team at the college and developing a strategic plan that we can invest in is a key step. We will be launching the new plan to the public in late January 2019, so stay tuned. A key area reflected in the strategic plan will be a focus on internationalization and as the dean, I want to provide students an enhanced set of international opportunities. I have spent the last 15 years of my life working on various international issues at WSU and I want to leverage all those experiences to the benefit of those here in Wyoming.

Why do you think international experiences are important for our students?

International experiences are critical not only for students, but are also important for faculty, staff, and really everyone. We live in a world that operates globally and I believe it is critical for people to understand, or at least appreciate, other cultures. Amazing faculty with significant international experiences teach our students every day, but that’s not enough to infuse a global mindset in our students. In an ideal world, students should be experiencing it first-hand! Thus I believe it is critical for our students to have a meaningful international experience while at UW in order to help solidify their understanding of global markets and prepare them for today’s business world. As you may know, one of the university’s strategic goals is to have an over 50% increase the number of students and faculty who are part of study abroad; The College of Business will be key player in achieving this important goal.

How many international experiences have you had? Do you have a favorite?

I have spent quite a bit of time abroad as an academic and have visited over 35 countries and counting.  My parents gave me the love of travel and visiting new places. I have been blessed to be able to have this as a part of my career, including having a permanent faculty appointment at the University of St. Gallen in Switzerland (one of Europe’s top business schools). A favorite experience might be hard to come up with. I have had opportunities to take both undergraduate and graduate students abroad though, and I will say that seeing the lightbulbs turn on in their eyes when they first arrive someplace remains one of the greatest experiences I have had in my career.

What are some misconceptions that people have about studying abroad?

I think there are a lot of misconceptions about studying abroad and this must be something we focus on here within our college. Some of the confusion surrounds funding – many say it is just too expensive to study abroad.  I find this as a convenient excuse, as there are many types of experiences that range in price. Also, Wyoming is fortunate to have extremely low tuition and strong scholarship support, such as the Cheney family study abroad endowment.  For most students at UW, funding really should not be a significant issue. Other confusion involves the value students place on studying abroad versus staying at home and powering through their classes. The truth is that every employer I’ve spoken with would prefer students who have been able to get out of their comfort zone, succeed (or even fail) in a new place, and understand global markets. For me, this is a big point that we need to get across – studying abroad is not just for students who want to work internationally anymore, it is about better preparing you for today’s job market right here at home.  As many are fond to say, all business in international.

How does a focus on international tie in with your strategy for the college?

In my opinion, internationalization of our curriculum and student experience underlies nearly every aspect of our college. We have some amazing international research occurring by our faculty. We continue to recruit students to come here from other countries. And if we can ensure that our students have meaningful global experiences, we will produce stronger students who can stay in this great state to grow our economy. At present, the state of Wyoming exports over $1 billion in goods around the world that supports approximately 5,000 jobs. As we think about our college’s growing student success initiative and our potential impact on Wyoming’s economy, I’m confident that our students’ and state can benefit by this focus.

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