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By Ed Seidel
Since 1886, four years before statehood, the University of Wyoming has been Wyoming’s land-grant university, with a three-fold mission of providing a high-quality education; conducting research for the benefit of the state and nation; and serving the people of Wyoming on many fronts.
We take pride in continuing to meet that obligation, which requires a high level of engagement with the state and its far-flung communities. To know what the people of Wyoming need and want, we must constantly be listening, responding and collaborating. We have made such engagement a top priority during my time as president, and our current strategic plan aims to take us to new levels of performance in serving the people of Wyoming.
I’m delighted to report that our efforts have been recognized. For the first time in its history, UW has been selected as having met the criteria for the 2024 Carnegie Elective Classification for Community Engagement by the American Council on Education and the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching. We are among the institutions shown to be making significant strides in finding ways to engage with community partners, build on community assets and address a wide array of challenges.
This is a highly-sought-after designation, particularly by land-grant universities such as UW. The process to apply is rigorous and lengthy, and it required intense focus for a team assembled by Provost and Executive Vice President Kevin Carman and led by Professor Jean Garrison. The American Council on Education and the Carnegie Foundation found that UW’s application “documented excellent alignment among campus mission, culture, leadership, resources and practices that support dynamic and noteworthy community engagement,” with “both descriptions and examples of exemplary institutionalized practices of community engagement.”
Many of those examples can be found on the pages of this issue of UWyo Magazine.
They include efforts to reach out to the state’s pre-K-12 students and educators with science, civics and other programs; work with the state’s key minerals, agriculture and tourism industries; new programs in the humanities, arts and the creative economy; efforts to improve health care for the people of Wyoming; and what our new School of Computing is doing to help the state thrive in our digital world.
But these constitute only a small slice of the examples of UW’s engagement with the people of Wyoming. There’s not enough space to detail all of them.
As part of my commitment to get out and around the state, I am in the midst of a series of monthly “UW in Your Community” events planned in each Wyoming county, where I get a chance to speak directly with and receive input from the state’s citizens. At these events, we also shine a light on local collaborations. It has been invigorating to see something unique in each community we have visited.
In Rawlins and Cody, our wildlife biologists described the innovative research that has documented migrations of big-game animals that people in those communities — and, really, all Wyomingites — treasure.
In Gillette, our School of Energy Resources (SER) noted its groundbreaking work on carbon capture and storage, which is so vital to the future of our state’s coal industry.
In Rock Springs, soda ash producer Genesis Alkali discussed how the university responded to its need for training in process controls.
In Newcastle, the mayor thanked UW’s Center for Business and Economic Analysis for performing an economic impact analysis of the community’s planned Heritage Park.
At Sheridan College, we celebrated our deep collaborations on the state’s new software engineering program, agriculture and the arts.
In Kemmerer, one of our researchers presented groundbreaking research valued by the people who work in the area’s famous fossil beds, and SER leaders laid out collaborations on the emerging nuclear and hydrogen industries.
In Jackson, local educators expressed appreciation to our College of Education for the collaborative Master Educator Competency Program, which aims to address K-12 teacher attrition, and we highlighted research on Yellowstone National Park’s hydrothermal system, Snake River cutthroat trout and more.
Our program in Casper was filled with work being done in that community by UW-Casper faculty members, including development of a play therapy lab for preschool and K-6 educators and virtual reality-based training to help mental health care workers better identify suicidal risks in clients.
In Torrington, UW’s collaborations with Eastern Wyoming College on precision agriculture and business ethics were among the efforts noted.
Most recently, in Douglas, we highlighted UW’s efforts to support rural K-12 teachers — and how the local community helped with a Department of Anthropology dig at the world-famous La Prele mammoth site, where Wyoming’s first humans killed and butchered one of the behemoth mammals 12,900 years ago.
I’m excited to visit more Wyoming counties — in almost all cases, those will be return visits for me — and celebrate UW’s work with each community.
The Carnegie community engagement designation is a badge of honor for Wyoming’s university, but we will not rest on the laurel. In fact, it signifies a commitment to do even more to connect and collaborate with the people of the state. We recently restarted our Office of Engagement and Outreach, which will play a lead role in these efforts. And faculty, staff and students across all of our units are working harder to meet the state’s needs.
UW is proud to be Wyoming’s university, which has been serving our people before we were even a state. With an incredible heritage — and strong support from the state’s leaders, alumni, donors and others — we are committed to continuing and expanding on that legacy.
Ed Seidel is UW’s 28th president.