Now that the Gateway Center is a reality, what's next?

2012-09-13T14:38:00Z Now that the Gateway Center is a reality, what's next? Casper Star-Tribune Online
September 13, 2012 2:38 pm

Money talks and millions scream.

That’s why it’s important to thank Marian Rochelle for the$10 million gift to the University of Wyoming. Her generous gift will be used in part to build the campus’ Gateway Center, which will serve as a welcoming point for students, gathering place for alumni and meeting area for students and faculty.

No doubt the facility will be a welcoming, classy first-impression for those coming to UW for the first time. It will also be a pretty cosmopolitan place for the city of Laramie.

The center, which will be named in honor of Rochelle and be in excess of 60,000 square feet, will undoubtedly help in efforts to attract students. Like it or not, marketing is an essential part of recruitment for any campus. Prospective students are deluged with materials and slick marketing pitches. No longer is it just good enough to be the University of Wyoming. No longer can Wyoming just expect students to come through the doors.

One other essential point should be realized when talking about the Gateway Center: Funds to build the center came from donors and fundraising. The project will be built by the University of Wyoming Foundation and then be gifted to the public university. This isn’t a case of spending taxpayer funds for some marketing dream.

That being said, this is also a good opportunity to look ahead to new projects and also new leadership with the retirement of university president Thomas Buchanan.

We hope, as new leadership is chosen for the university, that leader is transparent about his or her agenda for growth and fundraising.

While a welcome center puts the University of Wyoming on a level playing field when it comes to recruiting students, we also can’t help but wonder if the center is a want or a need.

Universities, Wyoming included, spend a lot of time and effort fundraising. That’s as it should be. Relying on a constant stream of state funding is a tricky proposition, always at the mercy of political whims and the economic rollercoaster. Yet, as university fundraisers and planners begin to look ahead, we hope they outline a clear vision of priorities.

In business terminology, it would be the highest-and-best-use argument. What is most essential at a university? What programs can and should be enhanced? Conversely, what other programs or offerings might need pruning?

As the state budget continues to contract, the university will have to rely on its own resources and funding streams. That also means that university and foundation personnel’s time will become even more valuable.

A university makes a statement every time it makes an ask for a donation. Where the donations are, so too are the priorities.

In this particular case, the university makes alumni and marketing key priorities. That aligns well with Buchanan’s policy of ensuring the university isn’t just a Laramie institution, but a place for all Wyoming. The new Gateway Center will welcome back many of its alumni throughout the state, and hopefully serve as a drawing attraction for prospective students who have more options and choices than ever.

Going forward, the question will change for both students and alumni, though.

In order for alumni to continue to make their alma mater strong, they’ll need to continue to support the institution, which will in all likelihood have less state support.

For students, once they get past the new Marian Rochelle Gateway Center, what will keep them there?

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