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UW Trustees Give High Priority to Science Initiative Facility

September 16, 2016

The University of Wyoming Board of Trustees has reaffirmed its commitment to UW’s Top-Tier Science Initiative, including construction of a new science facility on campus.

Trustees voted unanimously Thursday in favor of a resolution declaring the planned Science Initiative building as “one of the highest priorities for new facilities and buildings” at UW, while continuing the board’s “strong support of the implementation of the programmatic Science Initiative elements.”

The Science Initiative, aimed at lifting the university’s foundational science programs to “top-quartile” status, has received support from Gov. Matt Mead and the Wyoming Legislature. In addition to approving $2.3 million in annual recurring dollars for Science Initiative programs, the Legislature has allocated a total of $100 million in one-time funding for construction of a Science Initiative facility. The building will contain studio-style classrooms to facilitate active learning, along with state-of-the-art research centers in scientific imaging and biological research.

Lawmakers also appropriated $3 million to acquire property north of campus for the building and other potential projects in line with UW’s long-range development plan. Efforts to acquire those properties are underway, along with planning for the building itself. A timeline for construction has not yet been established.

“The new Science Initiative building is necessary to continue the progress and reach the goal of having Top-Tier Science Initiative programs at the University of Wyoming,” the trustees’ resolution states.

Endorsed by the governor-appointed panel of accomplished scientists, industry leaders and other professionals, the initiative aims to transform science education and improve student success at UW and across the state, while creating world-class facilities to propel research on issues important to the state and nation. The initiative emphasizes collaboration among multiple disciplines by assembling researchers into a single complex with shared instrumentation, technical support and collaboration spaces.

The plan also signals a dramatic change in the way the foundational sciences are taught at the university, moving from traditional lectures and laboratories to an active-learning format.

Botany Professor Greg Brown, the College of Arts and Sciences associate dean who heads the Science Initiative, told the trustees that significant progress has been made on programmatic pieces of the initiative. The Learning Actively Mentoring Program -- a mentoring and professional development program with an emphasis on helping instructors adopt active-learning strategies in large-scale classrooms -- started this summer. The Wyoming Research Scholars Program -- which pairs undergraduate students with faculty mentors who can model the scholarship, teaching, service and outreach activities of a professional scientist -- recently selected 22 new and returning students for the new academic year. And the Competitive Research Innovation Program -- aimed at helping UW attract and retain the nation’s best faculty in emergent areas of science relevant to the state -- will get started this year.

In other business, trustees this week approved a $2 million expenditure of reserve funding in UW Residence Life and Dining Services to expand the kitchen of the UW Conference Center. That will allow the staff of UW Catering and Events to move its food preparation facilities to the Conference Center from the aging Crane/Hill kitchen.

And the board authorized the purchase of the Alpha Tau Omega fraternity and Pi Kappa Alpha sorority houses, which have been vacant for more than a year. No decisions about uses for those structures have been made.

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