University of Wyoming President Hears Hopes, Concerns from Casper Residents
Worries over potential program cuts, budget reductions and the direction of Wyoming's only public, four-year university were a few prominent topics during a listening session hosted by University of Wyoming leaders Tuesday at Casper College.
UW President Laurie Nichols was at Casper College Tuesday for one of several listening sessions scheduled across the state. She held a similar session in Riverton earlier in the day.
Nichols opened by highlighting some key points to give those in attendance a feel for where the university stands currently. She then opened up the floor for comments, emphasizing that her goal was to listen rather than answer questions.
One of the first topics brought up was the importance of recruiting from Wyoming high schools. Nichols says the issue has cropped up frequently throughout the listening sessions.
"The bottom line is being more aggressive," Nichols said after Tuesday's session. "I think we've had a little more a 'sit back and wait' kind of attitude, and the way higher ed is today, with such a competitive environment, we need to be out there much more recruiting students."
Nichols said she has heard a variety of ideas about tackling the issue, such as recruiting through 4-H, getting high school guidance counselors more involved and working more closely with community colleges across the state.
Members of the Casper crowd also told Nichols they feel the Career and Technical Education programs offered -- particularly those at UW-Casper -- are vital to the community, the university and the state, and should not be eliminated.
The B.S. in Secondary Education: Technical Education offered at UW-Casper has been proposed for elimination. The proposal cites low enrollment -- a trend which the proposal says is likely to continue -- as a primary reason to drop the program.
"There's very strong CTE programs in Casper," Nichols said. "There are three or four [different programs] that are bubbling up where people are saying 'don't cut it -- this is too important to the state.'"
Nichols says the CTE program, the Art Education and the Ph.D in Adult and Continuing Education are the three programs that have been brought up the most.
"We're hearing that loud and clear," Nichols said.
Other comments made Tuesday and at previous listening sessions have been directed at the budget, in general, regarding allocation of resources.
One commenter on Tuesday said it is crucial that UW -- as the state's only public, four-year institution and a land-grant university -- provide a broad education to students.
The man who made the comment said he graduated with a degree in agriculture business, but no longer works in agriculture at all.
"I work in a start-up company now here in town, and really what we find is we have a lot of people that we would like to hire that have great skills in the programs they're trained in, but not so much outside of that," the man said.
"Things like entrepreneurship, leadership -- those kind of things would really be beneficial for when we're looking at hiring graduates from the university."