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Published May 18, 2020
Two new graduates from the College of Engineering and Applied Science drew upon their fields of study -- including big doses of ingenuity and creativity -- to capture top honors in the University of Wyoming’s first mortar board decoration competition.
Called “Cowboy Caps,” the competition was conducted in conjunction with UW’s spring 2020 virtual commencement ceremony as a way to connect the new class of graduates and celebrate their achievements from a distance amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
Mike Gardner, of Vernal, Utah, who received a bachelor’s degree in petroleum engineering, won first place with an elaborate, three-dimensional scene featuring a moving pumpjack. He receives a $250 gift card to the University Store.
“I participated in Cowboy Caps since we weren’t having a ceremony, and it seemed like a great way to end my college career and to share with my family and friends,” Gardner says. “I built the pumpjack a couple of days beforehand because I love the oil and gas industry and decided it would look great on that cap. I went to the dollar store and picked out as much stuff as I could that I could relate to Wyoming and the university, because I love both places.”
Kristen Newbury, of Yuma, Colo., who received a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering, took second place and won a $100 gift card to the University Store. She stayed true to her major by spelling out “2020” in the binary computer numeral system, accompanied by a circuit board.
“I knew what I wanted my cap to look like from the beginning of my senior year. I didn’t get to decorate my cap for my high school graduation, so I was super excited,” Newbury says. “When I finished with the lights and the circuit drawing, it exceeded all of my expectations, and I had to enter it in the competition so more people could see it.”
Cowboy Caps, conducted via UW’s social media channels, attracted 57 entries from graduates around the country. Winners were selected by a panel of judges in UW Institutional Marketing based on categories including creativity, such as unique use of materials and eye-catching design; school spirit, including use of UW’s colors and the bucking horse and rider logo; and individuality.
“We were amazed by the response and the quality of the entries,” says Mindy Peep, Institutional Marketing’s associate director of digital and content strategy. “Based upon the creativity and ingenuity these new graduates showed with their incredible creations, it’s clear that the world has just received an impressive crop of UW Cowboys.”
A gallery of all of the entries may be viewed here.
Thousands of new graduates and others viewed Saturday’s virtual commencement ceremony, which featured UW head football Coach Craig Bohl as the keynote speaker.