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Reaching the next level University of Wyoming focuses its sights on continued improvement

by Wyoming Livestock Roundup

Casper – As a land-grant university, the University of Wyoming (UW) started with the Morrill Act in 1862.

“We had humble beginnings,” said UW President Laurie Nichols during the Wyoming Natural Resources Rendezvous on Nov. 28. “This act forever changed higher education in our country. It became the pathway for the working class to gain higher education.”

She continued, “Land-grant universities are the envy of the world, and ag and natural resource conversations remain a central role of these institutions.”

Nichols noted that UW’s College of Agriculture and Natural Resources is committed to fulfilling the mission of a land-grant university to the state of Wyoming.

“We have added another academic unit – the Haub School and enhanced economic components from the College of Law, College of Business and College of Arts and Sciences to fulfill our mission,” Nichols said. “We fulfill a tripartite mission of teaching, research and outreach and engagement. We’re very committed to that.”

UW today

While UW remains committed to its missions, Nichols said currently, the state is experiencing an economic downturn that has resulted in budget cuts to the university.

“We had to work through a significant decrease in our state appropriation,” she said. “Much of my first year was working to make sure we could live within the means by which the state funded us.”

At the same time, Nichols said UW used budgetary review as a chance to start looking further into the future.

“While we worked through our budgets, we did something else that was more important,” she emphasized. “We took time to plan for the future.”

In July, UW released its five-year plan, titled, “Breaking Through.”

“We need to break through to the future for this state,” she added.

Broad goals

The strategic plan lays out four broad, overarching goals by which the university strives to abide by in its future.

“We simply called our first goal ‘Riding for Excellence,’” Nichols said. “In this goal, we talk about,  whatever we do, we want to do it well. We want to be excellent, specifically as we look at teaching and research. We want to take our college to the next level.”

Secondly, the university strives to inspire its students.

“We have to do the very best job possible to recruit people in Wyoming to go on to post-secondary education. It is critical,” she commented. “Then, we talked about retaining students, graduating them in four years and preparing them for their future.”

“Goal three is to impact communities,” Nichols continued. “This is about our outreach effort, which is something Extension and Agriculture Experiment Stations do very well across the state at the community and county level.”

Finally, Nichols noted UW strives to be a higher-performing university.

“We really talk about what we can do to better fulfill our mission,” she said. “The most important part of our mission is the development of an education workforce and our future leaders of Wyoming.”

“Our role is serving the ag and natural resource community and celebrating our next generation who are ready to engage,” Nichols added.

College of Ag

The College of Agriculture and Natural Resources enrollments have steadily increased, with enrollment in the fall of 2017 at 1,080 students, of which 967 are undergraduates and 113 are graduate students, said Nichols.

“This is a 7.4 percent increase this past year and, in the last two years, about 11 percent,” she commented. “I’m so happy to say we would like to see enrollment in ag and conservation increased. We’re committed to increasing our enrollment goals and will work hard at increasing enrollment.”

Increased engagement from the College of Ag specifically has resulted in opportunities beyond the state of Wyoming for promotion of the college.

“Last year, I went to the National Western Stock Show (NWSS) with the Wyoming Stock Growers Association, and it struck me that we needed a stronger presence there,” Nichols explained. “We started having conversations about what we might be able to do to increase our presence.”

This year, UW has signed a two-year agreement with NWSS, with partnership of engaged leaders at the College of Ag and Natural Resources, to increase its presence at the event.

Among the areas where UW will increase its participation, the university will sponsor a rodeo on Jan. 17 and is a sponsor in the Catch-A-Calf event and the Female Commercial Sale. UW will have a presence in the processing tent and will be featured in digital and print media. Additionally, the university will have a booth in the trade show.

“We hope by doing this to increase the presence of UW,” Nichols said.

Influencing the state

“We are working hard to make sure we’re producing the next generation of ag leaders that we need,” Nichols emphasized. “Teaching is not our only role. We’re committed to outreach and research.”

Extension and research are a two-way street that encourages interaction and relationships with producers across the state.

“Our commitment is to ensuring responsible conservation and stewardship beyond food and fiber,” Nichols said.

“The University of Wyoming is so very proud of its rich land-grant heritage,” Nichols commented. “We have 155 years of history in building the university, and in the next five years, we re-dedicate ourselves to our mission of teaching, research and outreach.”

She added, “I am so proud to serve as president of UW. I have spent my whole life in land-grant universities and this is one of the finest.”

Saige Albert is managing editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup and can be reached at

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