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Kobulnicky Receives UW Foundation Stewardship Award

May 31, 2022
man talking with two people
UW Department of Physics and Astronomy Professor Chip Kobulnicky, here leading an active-learning project with students, is the winner of the 2022 UW Foundation Stewardship Award. (UW Photo)

University of Wyoming Department of Physics and Astronomy Professor Chip Kobulnicky has received the UW Foundation Stewardship Award.

The UW Foundation Stewardship Award recognizes the leadership of a UW faculty member who excels in the relationship-building and stewardship of alumni and donors through effective use of private gifts, engaging former students in the activities of the university, and a commitment to strong external relationships for the betterment of UW.

“When the passion of a donor intersects with the mission of the university, wonderful things can happen. Even greater things are possible when a donor sees that their gift is having enormous impact,” says UW Provost and Executive Vice President Kevin Carman. “Dr. Kobulnicky has done a wonderful job of building the Teton STEM Academy, advocating for it and delivering on fulfilling its vision.”

Kobulnicky was nominated by UW College of Arts and Sciences Associate Dean Danny Dale. Kobulnicky is being recognized specifically for his leadership of UW’s Teton STEM Academy -- a science camp for high school students that incorporates life science, physical science, math and engineering.

“Chip has done a fantastic job in creating and executing a stimulating and impactful experience for our youth,” Dale says. “And he has put in considerable legwork in developing and maintaining an effective relationship with the donor. It is our hope that this camp will be permanently funded through an endowment. I know Chip is doing his usual very best in conveying to the donor the impact of their remarkable ongoing gift.”

Teton STEM Academy was founded in 2003. The science-based camp has inspired the next generation of scientists and citizen leaders and has become one of UW’s best recruiting tools, as it helps students and families become more familiar with the university.

Since its inception, the program has faced challenges in fundraising. The Teton STEM Academy operated on a shoestring budget for the first six years before receiving $80,000 in annual funding from the Bernard Harris Foundation and ExxonMobil -- private funding that significantly enhanced the program. The Bernard Harris Foundation and ExxonMobil funded the Teton STEM Academy from 2010-15. The camp was then paused due to lack of funding.

In 2021, the Teton STEM Academy was reinstated with the support of a private, anonymous donor. Kobulnicky worked with the UW Foundation and the donor to reenvision the camp as a weeklong experience for 24 high school students.

“Private support for UW’s outreach mission enables faculty like me to touch the lives of so many young people and their families across Wyoming,” Kobulnicky says. “We want to encourage Wyoming youth to see college and see UW as part of their future. There’s no better evidence for the impact of these private gifts than when I meet a freshman and they say, ‘Remember me? I came to your summer camp here four years ago!’ What they mean is that they had a good experience here at UW, and so they came back.”

Kobulnicky earned a Ph.D. in astrophysics from the University of Minnesota in 1997. He was a Hubble Postdoctoral Fellow at the University of California-Santa Cruz and an associate scientist at the University of Wisconsin-Madison before joining the UW faculty in 2002. Kobulnicky is an observational astronomer, using ground-based and space-based telescopes at radio, infrared, optical and X-ray wavelengths to study stars, star formation, the chemical composition of interstellar material and the evolution of galaxies.

“Chip has done a wonderful job of building a trusting relationship with this particular donor,” says Senior Vice President for Development John Stark. “That relationship has been built, in large part, because of Chip’s ongoing communication and personal touch points with the donor that clearly demonstrated the impact that the donor’s philanthropy was having on the lives of young people.”

The UW Foundation Stewardship Award recognizes the pivotal role faculty members play in donor philanthropy. Stewardship is critical for the university, as it connects donors with the mission of campus and inspires private funding for areas that need it most. It also builds lasting relationships that promote loyalty and generosity.

Recipients of the UW Foundation Stewardship Award personally receive $5,000. Their college/department receives $2,500, with another $2,500 that the recipient can direct to a separate university unit or club. The UW Foundation funds the awards.

“I know this particular donor has a great deal of faith in Chip as a result of the strong relationship that has been established,” Stark says. “Chip is very deserving of this recognition.”

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