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UWyo MagazineThe UW Family

September 2014 | Vol. 16 No. 1

A circle of support and pride keeps UW growing strong.

By Micaela Myers

The University of Wyoming reaches every corner of the state through outreach, delivers a world-class education to undergraduate and graduate students in more than 200 areas of study, conducts important research in a broad array of disciplines, offers Division 1-A athletics and proudly shares Wyoming’s famous bucking horse icon. For all these reasons and many more, friends and family of the university enjoy a unique sense of pride and devotion to UW.

UW embraces incoming students with support and opportunity, and by the time students don their caps and gowns at graduation, most are already becoming lifelong supporters of the university. Here, we explore this cycle of life that keeps the UW family growing strong.

The Student Experience

Students at UW have a wealth of opportunities beyond the classroom, including Division 1-A, intramural and club sports; the WYO-Gold Student Alumni Association; Associated Students of UW (ASUW); more than 250 recognized student organizations through the Wyoming Union Campus Activities Center; residential leadership development experiences through UW Residence Life and Dining Services; undergraduate student research experiences; recreation and outdoor programs; fraternities and sororities; student professional societies; and mentoring programs. In addition, UW offers the single largest study abroad scholarship endowment in the United States, with hundreds of students studying abroad each year. These opportunities allow UW students to gain an international perspective, meet people around the world, learn leadership skills, shape their own experiences and create their own adventures.

“Being a student at UW provided me with the chance to study abroad at the University of Costa Rica,” says Daniel De Cecco of Green River, Wyo., who also traveled to Mexico before graduating with degrees in business economics and international studies in May 2014. “Understanding our world from the perspective that people are different but that we share many of the same values has been very important to me.”

Student Claire Dinneen of Cheyenne, Wyo., wasn’t sure she wanted to go to school in state, not realizing the opportunities available at UW or that the university is home to students from all 50 states and more than 94 countries. Since arriving, she’s made the most of her experience with a plethora of activities that helped her determine who she is and where she wants to go in life.

"I’ve been an ASUW senator for the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources for two terms and am also chair of the ASUW Programming Committee,” says the senior majoring in microbiology and French. “I’ve learned a lot about myself leadership-wise.”

Dinneen also serves as an Ag Ambassador, an orientation leader and a prospector for UW’s student visit programs. “I like to talk to potential students, especially since I can relate to someone coming from Wyoming,” says the third-generation UW student. “I like to provide insight to new students when arriving on campus to encourage them to try to accomplish anything that comes to mind. UW students are the ones who represent this really great institution—we represent a lot of pride and a lot of good opportunities.”

Dinneen’s involvement includes being a member of the Student Affairs Student Advisory Board, teaching fitness classes at Half Acre Gym and conducting undergraduate research in partnership with the Laramie Downtown Clinic to determine the efficacy of probiotics supplements provided to patients. She also studied abroad at Shanghai Normal University in the summer of 2012 and is participating in a 2014–15 student exchange with the University of Massachusetts

Dinneen believes her extracurricular involvement goes hand in hand with coursework. “I don’t think I’d be the same student in class if I weren’t involved in leadership on campus,” she says.

Claire Dinneen Stands outside holding a clipboard

"I like to provide insight to new students when arriving on campus to encourage them to try to accomplish anything that comes to mind. UW students are the ones who represent this really great institution—we represent a lot of pride and a lot of good opportunities."

—Student Claire Dinneen

Friends & Family

UW’s involved staff, faculty and administrators demonstrate a passion for giving UW students the best experience possible. “There’s so much cross-pollination among all the divisions of the university in supporting students,” says Sara Axelson, vice president for student affairs, citing the commitment for outstanding educational opportunities that are delivered by the faculty through excellent classroom instruction and undergraduate research experiences for students, financial literacy workshops provided by the UW Division of Administration, daily support by Information Technology and the many employees across the university reaching out to students to provide support in and outside the classroom. “I love being in student affairs at UW because our other divisions are so student-oriented,” Axelson says.

“We have so many faculty members who take a personal interest in the students and become a de facto mentor,” says Axelson, who is a second-generation UW graduate. “When I look at the most worthwhile part of my role, it’s when you make individual connections with students who you really believe in, and you know they’re going to make a difference in what they do upon graduation.”

Parents also have the opportunity to support students by attending Family Weekend each fall and by volunteering with the Cowboy Parents organization.

“Our older daughter Erin was the first to come to Wyoming, and then two years later her sister Colleen also attended UW,” says Dan Herlihey of Loveland, Colo. Vickie Herlihey volunteered for the Cowboy Parents council, and Dan soon joined her. “The Cowboy Parents organization is an organization for all parents of UW students,” he says.

“We try to come up with ways to increase communication with the families of students,” says Vickie Herlihey, whose daughters graduated in 2011 and 2013. Approximately 20 parents sit on the Cowboy Parents council, and council members are available at orientations, Discovery Days for prospective students and Family Weekend to talk to parents and answer questions. Cowboy Parents also raise money for an emergency fund that helps families with transportation costs during emergency trips to or from campus.

Even Brande and UW student Chelsea Combe

As president and CEO of Handel Information Technologies Inc., Even Brande is one of many alumni who welcome UW interns. UW alumna Chelsea Combe was offered a job at Handel after completing her internship.

Alumni Connections & Giving

At graduation, the UW Alumni Association welcomes new alumni into the fold. “We present each graduate with a bucking horse and rider lapel pin and a one-year membership to the alumni association that is sponsored by the UW Foundation, student affairs and the alumni association,” says Keener Fry, executive director of alumni relations.

“Student experiences when in school are the defining experiences that will shape attitudes in becoming active alumni,” says Ben Blalock, president and CEO of the UW Foundation. “If you have a great student experience, there is an increased likelihood that you will become a member of the alumni association. In addition, an alum may seek expanded opportunities to become engaged with their alma mater through a host of activities. Financial contributions may also follow. The student experience is the first step in what so very often becomes a lifetime commitment to a university.”

“I’m an alumnus, and I contribute to the areas that influenced me when I was in school,” says Toby Marlatt, senior associate vice president for marketing and communications at the foundation. “Being involved in fundraising and philanthropy at the university allows me to see how programs are impacted by even the smallest gift.”

In addition to giving in support of the university, alumni become involved in many ways, including serving on UW advisory and governance boards for specific colleges, the foundation, the alumni association and the Cowboy Joe Club. “We need leaders, and those come from engaged and excited alumni,” Fry says. “Serving on UW boards is a very rewarding experience.” He also encourages alumni to advocate for UW to prospective students in their areas.

“When you have alumni who are willing to come back and get engaged with students, it helps the students to understand what they can become,” Blalock says. “I’ve been in this career for about 25 years, and I’ve really enjoyed seeing the impact that alumni play in the lives of students.”

“I think the alumni connection is the most important,” Jo Chytka, director of the UW Center for Advising and Career Services, says of the businesses that hire UW interns and graduates. “The loyalty of the people who have left and their willingness to come back or help students is one of the things that make UW special. I often send students to alumni with questions, and the alumni respond. If they’ve opened a door, it’s just amazing how willing they are to help other students come through it.”

Among the many programs that help students transition into the workforce is a mentoring program that pairs UW seniors with alumni on the foundation and alumni association boards. “You will find that our alumni want to help UW students,” Blalock says. “When we give them that opportunity, and we’ve trained our students well, they will do anything to help these students succeed.”

“Helping students figure out what they want to do is one of the greatest joys there is,” Chytka says. “Our students are amazing and turn into amazing alumni and employees.”

In the last fiscal year, the UW Foundation raised $50.7 million in private gifts to the university, much of that from alumni or companies where alumni work.

“Some of the biggest smiles I see are when people have made large gifts to the university,” Blalock says. “They feel very good about what they’re doing. They know they’re having an impact—they know they’re making a difference.”

Milo Page "I strongly believe that I couldn’t have received a better educational experience at any other university in the country."
—Alumnus Milo Page.

Alumnus Greg Dykeman

Greg Dykeman
Presented with the Distinguished Alumni Award in 2012, Dyekman—a partner at Dray, Dyekman, Reed and Healey P.C. in Cheyenne, Wyo., who received his bachelor’s degree with honors in accounting and his law degree from the University of Wyoming—exemplifies the giving spirit of UW’s alumni.

Student Chase McNamee

Chase McNamee
Chase McNamee serves as a student engagement graduate assistant heading up the UW Alumni Association’s WYO-Gold student organization and as an admissions student ambassador.

Alumna Kass Sprague

Kass Sprague
Kass Sprague enjoyed her time at the University of Wyoming so much, she has been working at UW since she graduated in 2005. In late July, Kass and Ryan Sprague welcomed their future Cowboy, Archer.

The UW Life Cycle

A graphic detailing information presented in the article The UW Family.
The life cycle starts when a student decides to attend the University of Wyoming. Often that decision includes speaking with alumni.

The Magazine for Alumni and Friends of the University of Wyoming

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