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University update: Interim dean believes UW CALSNR is poised for success

by Wyoming Livestock Roundup

Cattlemen, women and other industry stakeholders gathered at the Wyoming State Fairgrounds in Douglas June 5-7 for the 2024 Wyoming Cattle Industry Convention and Trade Show, hosted by the Wyoming Stock Growers Association (WSGA)

Themed “Building Partnerships: Opportunities and Challenges,” the first and second day of the convention included business and committee meetings, annual reports, guest speakers, the Cattlemen’s Club Luncheon and a dinner banquet attended by Gov. Mark Gordon and First Lady Jennie Gordon.

On the last day of the convention, attendees heard updates from several agency representatives, a panel discussion and the WSGA’s Annual Awards Luncheon. 

University of Wyoming (UW) College of Agriculture, Life Science and Natural Resources (CALSNR) Interim Dean Kelly Crane took the stage to offer his vision for the future of the college and discuss the challenges faced and opportunities available to UW CALSNR. 

“In keeping with the theme of building partnerships, I just want to start by mentioning how important our partnership is with WSGA,” Crane began, noting one of the fundamental responsibilities of a land grant university is to ensure it is responsive to the needs of the state and relevant to local industries.

“We have a longstanding partnership with WSGA, and it is really hard for me to imagine how we would know we are doing a good job of meeting these responsibilities or have a functional land grant university and Extension Service without having a partnership with WSGA,” he added. “It is a partnership I have personally valued for many years, and something I think our college needs to strengthen moving forward.” 

Overcoming challenges

Other things Crane believes UW CALSNR needs to be successful in the future include increased funding and undergraduate numbers. 

He explained between 46 to 48 percent of the university’s entire revenue comes from the state of Wyoming, while around 30 percent of funding comes from federal, state and private sector grants used to fund research. 

“We are also great beneficiaries of the generosity of donors, especially in our college,” he stated. “But, we can’t fund a university or an ag college on donations alone.”  

He added, “The important point is if we want to grow UW CALSNR, we have to grow state support.”

Although UW CALSNR undergrad numbers have remained steady and may see an uptick in freshman enrollment this fall, Crane noted the unifying challenge for all colleges at UW is student enrollment, mainly due to the demographic cliff in upcoming high school graduates, meaning there are simply fewer students entering the college portal. 

“We also know there is changing public sentiment relative to the value of a college degree – it was once highly valued by society but people are beginning to question this,” he said. 

Crane continued, “But, no matter the cause, we are going to have to fight for students. It’s a competitive market out there, and frankly, I’m not sure if UW is good at competing in the market because we have never had to – our tuition is low, our acceptance rates are high and we have the Hathaway Scholarship.” 

“We have never really had to get down in the mud and scrap for students but we are going to have to start, and I think this is a challenge all leaders at UW – especially in our college – face,” he reiterated.

In order to combat this, Crane explained UW CALSNR has been putting more effort into recruitment, especially out of state, including student and family campus visits, virtual visits and outreach and beefing up their presence on social media.

“Back to the theme of partnerships – I think this is something we can look to our partnerships for. We need Wyoming communities and organizations, WSGA and producers to help us,” he said. 

Taking advantage of opportunities

Additionally, Crane provided some insight into his vision for UW CALSNR and opportunities available to the college. 

“From my perspective, my vision for the college is simple – it’s to grow the college in terms of research outcomes, student enrollment, statewide engagement and impact on communities,” he stated. “The goal is to have our college recognized as one of the leaders in the nation – possibly as the absolute leader in the nation in a lot of things – and I think we can do this as long as we remain responsible and relevant to the industries and communities we serve.” 

Crane explained in order to do this, UW CALSNR has come up with a few internal and external strategies including embracing and playing on the state’s unique strengths and competitive advantages.

“Wyoming is unparalleled on the resource side of things. We have the largest population of Greater sage grouse in the world, the largest expanse of intact sagebrush and rangelands in the world, some of the largest wild migratory ungulates in the world and some of the most well-developed energy resources in the nation,” he said.

“On the people side, Wyoming is home to the most innovative, effective and progressive managers of wildlife, rangelands and ranches in the nation, and our college is poised to take advantage of the resources and people in our state,” he added.  

“As we compete for students, grant money or faculty, we need to take advantage of what we have to offer,” he said. “I don’t know if it was intentional or not, but when UW President Ed Siedel did the university reorganization, he created an absolute powerhouse in our college – we have almost everything in the CALSNR.” 

With the new restructure, Crane noted UW CALSNR can offer integrated education including everything from wildlife management; beef, sheep and wool production; rangeland management; tourism and natural resources and energy production.

Crane further noted he believes UW CALSNR is poised to meet the changing needs of students, providing more hands-on, experimental education, with things like the university’s commercial beef and sheep herds, multiple research and experiment stations, the Rocky Mountain Herbarium, Red Buttes Environmental Biology Lab and the Wyoming State Vet Laboratory, just to name a few. 

“I think we can attract a lot of students from in and out of state for our ability to do this, but we have to better integrate it into our curriculum,” he said.

“We are also trying to design some new programs to reflect new opportunities and demands of the work force, including our new Ranch Management and Agriculture Leadership curriculum,” he added.

Externally, Crane said the college is focused on maintaining productive and positive relationships with stakeholders and securing more state funding. 

Hannah Bugas is the managing editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup. Send comments on this article to

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