The difference between a University of Wyoming student graduating or staying another semester comes down to the decision of one department, and it has a new leader.
Lane Buchanan was officially named registrar earlier this month after working in the department since 1997 as a degree analyst, he said. He’s since worked his way up to associate registrar and now heads the office, an important job affecting every student.
“We perform final degree checks, and award degrees to the entire university,” he said. “Every degree that’s awarded by UW is done by a person in this office.”
Sara Axelson, vice president of student affairs, oversees Buchanan’s department and gave him the official title of registrar.
“He’s served twice as an interim registrar,” she said. “His experience is such that he truly understands the role of the registrar. He’s got this real sense of fairness and discipline about everything he takes on, and he has the respect of many across campus.”
Buchanan has effectively served as acting registrar for about a year, Axelson said, as the university searched for a replacement.
The search was eventually dropped, and Buchanan was officially appointed to the position.
On a day-to-day basis, Buchanan is working with students who are having trouble, be it with registering for a class or confusion with degree requirements.
“I’ll talk with any student, any time, and give them whatever information I can to help them work out their issue,” he said. “I’ve been very fortunate to have worked here a long time, so through the years, I’ve acquired a good amount of knowledge, so I usually know where to direct the student.”
Creating and maintainging an effective online program, allowing students to sign up for classes through the worldwide web, is a necessary part of the registrar’s job, Buchanan said.
“I want to make sure we’re using the technology available to us through the university,” he said. “Working on the maintenance and upkeep of the software, it’s pretty important our office play a big role in that.”
Working with the information technology department to refine the way students sign up for classes is an important part of the registrar’s office, Axelson said.
“You want the students’ experience to be in the classroom, not with hassles along the way with registering for classes,” she said.
Thanks to the online presence, most students will never need to go to the registrar’s office. However, sometimes unique circumstances arise.
“The students that usually come to me — they’re in a bind, or they have a question they’ve tried to figure out or maybe just don’t know where to go,” he said. “I take a lot of pride that, perhaps some people across campus can refer a student to me so I can try to help them.”
Steve Barrett, associate dean of academic programs for the college of engineering, works closely with Buchanan to figure out if a student is ready to graduate.
“He is the decision-maker as to whether someone’s going to graduate or not,” he said. “Ultimately, [he] and his staff decide if a student has achieved graduation, and he’s done an outstanding job.”
Joining the UW Office of the Registrar was not Buchanan’s first job. He graduated from UW with degrees in math and secondary education.
“I spent a year teaching down in Colorado,” he said. “Afterwards, I was able to spend a year working for Barbara Cubin, the United States representative from Wyoming.”
Working mostly out of Washington, D.C., he said he met more Wyomingites in D.C. than in the state.
“I loved giving tours in the Capitol Building,” he said. “People were always excited.”
He came back to Wyoming to work on Cubin’s campaign. After her reelection in 1996, he applied for a job with UW and began work the following year.
“I was fortunate enough to get a job I wanted,” he said.