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Published January 22, 2018
Chants of “Go Pokes!” and “W-Y-O!” echoed through the National Western Stock Show (NWSS) grounds as visitors trekked through the evening darkness. Ahead was the Denver Coliseum, lit with the University of Wyoming logo of bucking horse and rider, beckoning them to “UW Night at the Rodeo.”
The event was just one of the activities that highlighted UW’s official partnership with the 2018 NWSS Jan. 6-21. Started in Denver in 1906, the NWSS is billed as the nation’s premier livestock, rodeo and horse show. A showcase for regional agriculture, Colorado’s largest Western trade show attracted 700,000 visitors in 2017. It draws thousands of K-12 students and their families from communities in Colorado, Wyoming, Nebraska and other states, and is in an area with a large UW alumni base.
“It’s meaningful and exciting,” UW President Laurie Nichols says of the institution’s partnership with the NWSS. “We’re really working on pushing our brand out to the Denver area through the National Western, recruiting students and connecting with alumni.”
Nichols, who visited the NWSS twice during its 16-day run, says she was struck by the large number of people she observed and the interest in the university by visitors to the UW booth in the Expo Hall. UW’s presence helped highlight its land-grant mission, she adds.
“We have a lot of excellent programs in agriculture, natural resources, engineering and science,” Nichols says. “We really feel these are in the interest areas of the students who come here. It’s a really good match.”
A UW Alumni Association (UWAA) reception was held before the rodeo to not only connect alumni, but connect prospective students and families with UW trustees, administrators, faculty, staff and students. Prospective students were greeted before entering the reception with UW Pride T-shirts handed out by Keener Fry, UWAA director, and Adrienne Loveland, UW Admissions’ assistant director and Denver-area representative.
Loveland says having a UW presence at the NWSS is important in showing the university’s commitment to its alumni and prospective students in the area.
“It’s so exciting to see all the energy and all the wonderful alumni rally around our school,” Loveland says. “It’s so easy to show that to prospective students so they see the UW family that they will potentially join.”
The feeling of family is a main reason that prospective student Brianna Specht, of Aurora, Colo., says she is enrolling in kinesiology at UW this fall. Wearing a Wyoming Cowboys hoodie, Specht and her parents mixed with others at the reception, including Nichols.
During her official visit to UW, Specht met with professors, something she says she wasn’t able to do at other school tours, and was impressed by the support and spirit for UW she witnessed.
“A lot of people told me they enjoyed going there (UW),” Specht says.
At the UWAA reception, Specht met with Nichols, who introduced her to Paul Andrews, NWSS president and CEO, who graduated from UW in 1987.
“It’s tremendous to see the support from the university so that we can expose the youth who come to our stock show here to the great University of Wyoming, to make that the option they choose when they get to the college level,” Andrews says. “This is a fantastic union between two great institutions.”
Andrews displayed his devotion to UW, galloping into the arena on his horse at the start of the rodeo, wearing a brown and gold UW jacket. Soon after, a stagecoach raced into the arena with Nichols riding atop and UW Board of Trustees President John MacPherson as shotgun. The rodeo wasn’t the only activity to be sponsored by UW: The school sponsored the NWSS Catch-A-Calf Contest, the NWSS Commercial Female Sale and the NWSS Processing Tent north of the Stockyards Arena.
Mackenzie Holmberg, of Steamboat Springs, Colo., a UW senior majoring in agricultural communications, was among the students who welcomed visitors and their inquiries at the UW booth during its two-week presence at the stock show. The booth featured promotional materials about UW programs and a camera stand for those who wanted to have selfies taken in front of a background featuring the famous statue, “Fanning the Twister.”
Holmberg isn’t a stranger to the NWSS, having served as a media intern in 2017. This year, she continued working as a part-time social media intern for the NWSS scholarship trust, while also lending her expertise to do “boots-on-the-ground coverage” for UW.
“We’ve met a lot of potential students,” Holmberg says. “We’ve had some great conversations with them about why they should go to UW.”
Holmberg says UW’s affordable tuition, Front Range location and variety of quality programs are conversation topics.
“It’s been a great experience,” Holmberg says.