Campus was abuzz with Laurie Nichols’ first visit to the University of Wyoming after her selection as president in December.
“What my first impression is, is how excited everybody is to have this process done and have a president named,” she said. “There seems to be enthusiasm about me taking the position, and I have to tell you, it makes me feel so good and makes me excited.”
Nichols, who was only on a quick two-day trip Sunday and Monday, met with various campus officials and Gov. Matt Mead.
“(Mead and I) covered the gambit — we talked about lots of topics and it was great, he’s a wonderful man who cares a lot about this university,” she said “It was also an opportunity for me to ask him questions about where he stood, so it was a good introduction.”
Nichols plans to spend some time during her Feb. 19 and 20 visit with the Legislature, introducing herself and getting to know legislators.
She also spent time at Monday’s Faculty Senate meeting, introducing herself to members and answering a few questions before catching a plane back to Brookings, South Dakota.
“I am absolutely thrilled to be coming in as your next president at the University of Wyoming,” she began. “It’s a dream come true for me, actually. This is such a great university, and it’s so humbling and an honor to be coming here as a top-level leader.”
Acting as both provost and vice president at South Dakota State University as well as learning as much as she can about UW, she’ll have a tough four months until she takes position May 16, just four days after she finishes her job at SDSU.
“Quite honestly, I’m probably insane to do May,” she said. “I probably should have done the June 1 start date, but I started thinking about it and thought, ‘I don’t want to waste any time, and summer is precious time because there’s so much we can get done.’”
Visiting faculty and staff members and traveling the state are the first items on Nichols’ agenda once taking office in Old Main.
“I’d like to come in the last part of May or maybe June and schedule meetings in each of the academic departments and each of the other units on campus and just come and spend an hour over coffee with you,” she said. “Just meet the department and unit and just listen about what you’re up to — tell me a little about what you do here, let me see your facility and learn a little more about you.”
Traveling to various communities around Wyoming is also key to her first months as president.
While Nichols said she is still learning much about the university and its operations, she answered some questions posed by faculty members. For several, she continued to emphasize the importance of a strategic plan.
“We will want to put together a very inclusive process by which we put together the next five year strategic plan for this university,” she said. “There will be more faith in the university because they feel like we really do have a direction.”
Nichols also had confidence in the UW Foundation, saying there is a lot of potential for private fundraising, but a little direction is required to get gifts going to important projects and needs of UW.
“I think sometimes, when the Foundation doesn’t know where the university is going to go — where the resources are most needed — they’ll keep fundraising, but they’ll get money where they can,” she said.
Nichols also found time to meet with members of the UW Staff Senate and students at the Wyoming Union. A gaggle of students surrounded her as she chatted about anything and everything — there wasn’t a set topic.
“It’s fun to be here on the first day students come back,” she said. “I just thought, ‘Well, I really want to go down and greet them and welcome them back.’”
The student meet-and-greet was sponsored by the Associated Students of the University of Wyoming.
“It’s important for students to go out and get to know their new president,” ASUW President Brian Schuler said.