The University of Wyoming promoted two department heads to lead its new Honors College and Office of Graduate Education, two units on campus called for in a broad strategic plan approved by the board of trustees in July.

Donal Skinner, who has led UW’s Department of Zoology and Physiology for four years, will be the dean of the Honors College. James Ahern, the head of the Department of Anthropology, will become the associate vice provost for graduate education.

The board approved the hirings at its meeting late last week.

In the university’s strategic plan — approved in July for the first time in years — UW officials outlined a number of goals they hope to achieve between now and 2022. Two were establishing an Honors College and an office to support graduate education.

Previously, there was only an honors program. Converting it into a full college is “part of the university’s effort to recruit more high-achieving high school graduates and enrich its undergraduate experience,” according to a university press release.

Skinner will be tasked with developing faculty advisory groups, raising money and creating upper-division honors courses and college-track curricula. The university previously announced that it would move the Honors College into the Guthrie Home, which had formerly housed the UW Foundation. A newly created Native American center will occupy the old honors building.

With graduate services, Ahern is charged with building enrollment, recruitment, diversity and retention, among other duties.

“We are excited to have Dr. Ahern take on this important job in re-establishing the Office of Graduate Education within Academic Affairs,” Provost Kate Miller said in a statement.

Ahern has been at UW since 2000, when he was hired as an assistant professor in anthropology. He took charge of the Department of Anthropology in 2014.

Skinner arrived in Laramie in 2002 and has led the zoology and physiology department since 2013.

The establishments of both the Honors College and the Office of Graduation Education are part of the university’s broader push to expand UW’s offerings and appeal, both in and outside Wyoming. Officials have ramped up recruitment efforts since the arrival of President Laurie Nichols in May 2016.

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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