Laurie Nichols

The University of Wyoming is less than a week away from activating the board tasked with developing a long-term plan for its future.

When UW President Laurie Nichols began her tenure in May, she announced one of her top priorities would be developing a strategic plan, something the university has lacked for several years. During a kickoff event at the Marian H. Rochelle Gateway Center on Friday, all 17 voting members and eight ex-officio members of the Strategic Planning Leadership Council should be announced and officially begin their work.

The council, which Nichols said would be the driving force for building the plan, includes a spectrum of representation from the university. During the Board of Trustees meeting Thursday, Nichols acknowledged the council would be large, but that it was part of making developing the plan a transparent, inclusive process.

“It’s plenty big, but we felt like it was important to have this representation,” Nichols said.

In August, a call for nominations was opened. Nichols said she wanted to make sure outreach efforts were made to encourage all departments and constituency groups to submit nominations.

“While I was out visiting with units and departments, I made sure to remind them to please nominate people,” she said. “I really tried to push it as hard as I could.”

Nichols said she thinks the effort paid off, as she received 175 submissions nominating 117 individuals. The nominees included most of the college deans, department heads and directors, dozens of faculty, as well as undergraduate and graduate students.

“We had really nice representation across all those categories,” Nichols said.

In meeting with the appropriate constituent groups, Nichols said she asked for first tier and alternate picks. It was important to Nichols to have alternates as she wants to see a diverse council in terms of demographics in addition to departmental diversity, she said.

“We say, ‘Give me your first tier and an alternate because we might have to go into that because it’s really important we balance this Leadership Council,’” Nichols said. “We want to have both genders adequately represented … We want to have as much ethnic diversity as we can.

“We really want to balance this to the point we can.”

Recently-hired Provost Kate Miller, who will chair the council, met Wednesday with Nichols to put together what is “pretty close to the final leadership council,” Nichols said.

Though they have a preliminary list, Nichols said she wanted to make some “minor modifications.”

“I can tell you right now, there’s a college that needs representation that’s not on here, and we’re a little heavy on male,” Nichols said. “We’re going to work just a little to see if we can achieve a little better balance as we go.”

Though she wasn’t able to announce all of the nominees being invited to join the council, Nichols did note Chair of the UW Foundation Board April Brimmer Kunz, Board of Trustee Secretary Jeff Marsh, President-elect of the Alumni Association board and UW Deputy Director of Athletics Matt Whisenant were selected to serve. Nichols said she expects all invitations would be sent out before the weekend and the final list would be ready in time for the kickoff event Friday.

“Those were the individual selections, but other than that, I’m working with constituent groups and we’re finishing that up right now,” Nichols said. “We’ve given a very quick turnaround, but if someone doesn’t commit, we’ll have the alternate list so we can get a second invitation out.”

The kickoff event includes a keynote address by F. King Alexander, president of Louisiana State University at 3 p.m. Nichols said Alexander is scheduled to meet with a variety of groups on campus to share his experiences, including in working on a public-private partnership to build student housing at LSU. The need for new student housing was a recurring topic through the Board of Trustees meetings Wednesday-Friday.

“That will help us better understand some of the options for us in terms of student housing,” Nichols said.

Nichols said it would be a very busy fall for the council. During her time as provost and executive vice president for academic affairs at South Dakota State University, Nichols led two separate efforts to develop strategic plans and said she knows it’s a significant commitment.

“I’ve told Provost Miller that if she hasn’t already, she needs to start clearing her calendar,” Nichols said. “It’s a very busy time when you’re out doing all this information gathering. But, it’s rich and it’s full and it is very worthwhile, because you hear some really good things you can look into.”

Following campus-wide and statewide meetings, a draft plan is expected in January, with a tentative plan for the Board of Trustees to review and approve the final document in May.

IF YOU GO ...

What: UW Strategic Planning Kickoff

Where: Marian H. Rochelle Gateway Center, 222 S. 22nd St.

When: 3 p.m. Friday

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