UW Campus

University of Wyoming students make their way across campus in 2014 in Laramie.

Alan Rogers, Star-Tribune

The University of Wyoming has created two task forces, one to develop a policy to employee salary increases and the other to study the school’s engagement with the rest of the state.

Each group is composed of more than a dozen university employees to study issues that are part of the university’s five-year strategic plan, approved last month by the Board of Trustees. Both task forces will have their work completed by the end of the coming school year.

Sixteen faculty and administrators — including key players like UW-Casper director Jeff Edgens and Associate Vice Provost Anne Alexander — will meet to draft a plan to improve the university’s statewide engagement. The group will convene focus groups and develop a strategic plan identifying certain engagement benchmarks.

University President Laurie “Nichols has launched the UW Engagement Task Force to assess what the university does already; assess what UW and its constituents need and want the university to do; benchmark itself against peer institutions; and then use these analyses to make decisions on the scope and vision for what community engagement means at UW and for Wyoming,” according to the release.

The committee will also draw up a blueprint to create an Office of Engagement and Outreach. The strategic plan calls for the creation of such an office and for the university to become designated as a “community-engaged university” by the Carnegie Foundation, according to a UW press release.

Essentially, that designation means that the university has collaborated with its broader community, to the mutual benefit of both.

“As the sole four-year public institution, we have an opportunity for an all-university, all-Wyoming approach placing UW students, staff and faculty at the center of a broad definition of community that includes state, local, tribal, regional, national and global contexts,” said UW professor Jean Garrison, who’s leading the task force.

The university effectively eliminated its Outreach School last year. University spokesman Chad Baldwin said last month that the engagement office will be focused more on serving the state — like increasing the number of lectures given by professors across Wyoming — rather than on recruiting students and offering coursework, which was the purview of the Outreach School.

The engagement task force will complete its final report by early summer 2018.

Meanwhile, 14 faculty and staff members will meet to draft a salary policy. In June, representatives from UW’s staff senate met with Nichols to discuss staff wages, which haven’t increased for some since 2008. In that time, as inflation has increased 17 percent, staff wages have effectively declined.

As a result, the staff senate estimates that some UW employees make roughly $5 million less than other state workers every year.

To address staff concerns — which come on the back of the university laying off 37 employees in May — Nichols pledged to form a task force that would create a policy addressing salary increases for employees. In July, Stevens said that policy was “long overdue.”

That committee will conclude its work before the New Year and present its plan to the Board of Trustees in January.

Follow education reporter Seth Klamann on Twitter @SethKlamann

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Seth Klamann joined the Star-Tribune in 2016 and covers education and health. A 2015 graduate of the University of Missouri and proud Kansas City native, Seth worked for newspapers in Milwaukee and Omaha before coming to Casper.

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