On May 12, Gov. Matt Mead gave the University of Wyoming a $35 million budget cut, starting a rush to shrink the budget. However, Mead also said a collaboration between UW and state organizations could eventually lead us away from the energy-centric economy of today.
“I ask for a partnership with the University of Wyoming on how do we systematically and methodically build our diversity needs — build a diversity that will go beyond my term and the next governors term so that, when we look back 20 years from now, my kids and my grandkids are hopefully still staying yes to UW and that they will also, upon graduation, have the opportunity to say, ‘We’re staying in Wyoming,’” Mead said during the May 12 announcement.
UW administrators and Board of Trustees members have met with officials from the Wyoming Business Council to begin creating a plan for economic diversification, said Shawn Reese, CEO of the council.
“We’re talking about the economic development building blocks and how best to fold in the university,” he said. “It’s also about how we can make this plan actionable and performance-based that transcends and governor’s administration. This has to have a life of its own, setting itself apart from past economic development efforts and creating a plan for 20 years of diversification.”
The group is still figuring out where UW will fit into the long-term plan, Trustee John McKinley told the board during a June 15 meeting.
“It’s still, to me, difficult to determine exactly what UW’s role will be,” he said.
“There is a wealth of intellectual capital present at UW, and how that actually gets put on paper is something to be determined.”
Trustee President John MacPherson said students will be central to the plan.
“We’ll get a plan in writing, have the trustees and their board look at it, then do a focus group with students,” he said. “They’re the ones who are going to get involved more so than anyone else involved. We want some of their perspectives and ideas.”
While students should be a large part of the effort, faculty should also be involved, said Anne Alexander, professor of economics and associate vice president for undergraduate education.
“Some of those student ideas were fostered by faculty members and advisors,” she said. “There’s a lot to be said about both. It’s kind of symbiotic.”
UW already supports diversity in the state, but there is room to grow, Alexander said.
“Some of the programs we already participate in with the business council are the business incubators and small business development centers,” she said. “They’re primarily run out of here but are endorsed and somewhat supported by the business council.”
Locally, UW has been supporting Laramie’s economy and its diversification, Alexander said.
“One of the highlights of Laramie’s development over the past 10-15 years is, the technology sector has gone from about 6 firms to 60 firms,” she said. “That’s been kind of a result from spinoffs from UW as well as business council and State Loan and Investment Board investment in some of the infrastructure and backbone support, like business ready grants.”