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Popular UW Program Saturday U Returns to Rock Springs April 22

March 31, 2017
head portraits of Mary Burman, Robert Kelly and Phil Roberts

Diverse topics focusing on the history of the state’s coal industry, attempts to repeal the Affordable Care Act and the four major “beginnings” of human history will be discussed by three University of Wyoming professors during UW’s popular Saturday University program Saturday, April 22, in Rock Springs.

The half day of college classes and discussion at Western Wyoming Community College (WWCC) begins with coffee and pastries at 8:30 a.m., followed by welcoming remarks at 8:50 a.m. The guest lectures begin at 9 a.m. The program is free and open to the public.

Participants may attend one, two or all three lectures. A free lunch and question-and-answer session will follow the program at 12:30 p.m.

In its ninth year, Saturday U is a collaborative program that connects popular UW and Wyoming community college professors with lifelong learners. Offered seven times a year -- twice each in Jackson, Gillette and Sheridan, and once in Rock Springs -- Saturday U is sponsored by the university, the UW Foundation and Wyoming Humanities Council, and is presented locally by WWCC, the Humanities Council and UW.

Listed below are program topic descriptions and professors lecturing:

-- 9-10 a.m., “When Coal Died in Wyoming: A History of Energy,” Phil Roberts, UW Department of History.

“Since 2015, the decline of coal seems to be without precedent, but it has happened twice before -- both times due to technological change,” Roberts says.

In the 1920s, the huge growth in oil and natural gas production practically eliminated coal as a heating fuel throughout Wyoming. Many mines remained open only due to mechanization, although miners’ numbers diminished steadily. The mines got by through supplying coal for Wyoming’s railroad locomotives.

In the 1950s, even this market dried up when diesel fuel began to power trains throughout Wyoming, Roberts says. Coal towns dwindled and disappeared, as did the need for locomotive repair facilities in towns such as Cheyenne and Laramie.

Roberts will review the impact of coal’s decline on Wyoming towns in the past, looking to them for lessons today.

-- 10:15-11:15 a.m., “Repeal and Replace: A Delicate Game of Jenga,” Mary Burman, Fay W. Whitney School of Nursing dean and UW professor.

A key component of the national Republican platform during the election was the immediate repeal of Obamacare. Now that Republicans control Washington, D.C., however, health care change is proceeding slowly.

“What makes the ‘repeal and replacement’ of the Affordable Care Act so difficult?” Burman asks.

She will provide a primer on health care reform and explain the interdependent components of health care coverage. Burman also will identify how different parts of the country’s health care system depend on one another, like Jenga pieces, discussing which ones can and cannot be removed without bringing down the entire structure.

-- 11:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m., “The Fifth Beginning: What Six Million Years of Human History Can Tell us about the Future,” Robert Kelly, UW Department of Anthropology professor.

Kelly’s lecture discusses the four major “beginnings” of human history -- the origins of technology, culture, agriculture and the state. He presents evidence that humanity is entering a fifth beginning, one that can be expected to mark dramatic changes in world economy, war, culture and governance.

For more information, visit the Saturday U website at

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