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Laramie Murals

Murals in downtown Laramie, pictured Aug. 4, 2014. 

The Economically Needed Diversity Options for Wyoming (ENDOW) Executive Council has released sound preliminary recommendations for “actions and investments… needed now” in Wyoming’s infrastructure, education system and entrepreneurial environment, yet we notice a missing piece.

Actions to attract and retain younger individuals appear not to be “needed now.” Understanding the reasons for out-migration and providing desirable and competitive opportunities to the younger workforce of Wyoming will be crucial to meeting the overarching goal of ENDOW. Our generation is the future of the Wyoming economy; our priorities, opinions and insights deserve to be part of this discussion. We authors are early professionals and graduate students who are Wyoming natives and passionate about Wyoming’s livelihood, but who have, at one point or another, left the 307. We are concerned regarding ENDOW’s limited commentary of how its cultural and young professional-oriented components contribute to its economic diversification efforts. To confront this, we put forth a set of recommendations to actively engage young Wyoming residents and Wyoming-connected non-residents in ENDOW’s process.

A diverse economy requires a diverse workforce, and being unwelcome to folks who think outside of Wyoming’s established box precludes this possibility. Diversity requires not only recruiting Wyoming’s departed homegrown, but new talent as well. As ENDOW’s Stakeholder Outreach Recommendations and Final Report from November 2017 states, “Wyoming does not market itself well and its perception is not always favorable to people living outside of the state” and “...there is no intrinsic reason why Wyoming cannot change parts of its perception and culture.” We agree.

Wyoming can welcome different perspectives and live up to its nickname of “The Equality State” by implementing several policy measures increasingly important to the Millennial Generation, such as equal pay and non-discrimination legislation. Furthermore, we believe an economy thrives with a diversity of professions, no matter if they weld in Thermopolis, teach civil engineering at UW, perform opera around the country, code for SpaceX, incubate a startup in the Bay Area, or are an Ivy League educated trauma surgeon. An effective and robust economic portfolio emphasizes a broad array of professions and such diversity is needed in the ENDOW initiative to diversify and strengthen Wyoming’s economy. After all, the D in ENDOW does stand for diversity.

Listening to these perspectives is not enough- we believe this can go a step further. ENDOW’s November 2017 Stakeholder Report suggests “A study should be conducted to interview 30-50 year-old people that were born here but left the state and do not live in Wyoming now,” and “ENDOW should consider engaging representatives from [the Millennial Generation] in discussions.” Young Wyoming residents and Wyoming-connected non-residents need to be at the decision-making table.

We encourage the Wyoming Legislature to implement the following recommendations, needed now, by:

1. Assembling a committee responsible for the development of an annual, voluntary survey of Wyoming migrants and their attitudes toward Wyoming’s socioeconomic environment in order to inform ENDOW’s ongoing efforts, and

2. Updating ENDOW’s statute to include the following as voting members of the Executive Council, as appointed by the governor with the advice and consent of the senate for two-year terms:

a. two non-residents with demonstrated Wyoming ties and executive level experience;

b. two non-students residing and employed in Wyoming under the age of 30; and

c. one student of higher education in Wyoming (selected on a rotating basis from the University of Wyoming, Casper College, Northwest College, Sheridan College, Eastern Wyoming College, Laramie County Community College, Western Wyoming Community College and Central Wyoming College).

Governor Mead said that “the younger generation is ready to move forward” when he addressed the ENDOW public meeting in Cheyenne on Jan. 26. The recommendations outlined above would allow our generation to help Wyoming move forward.

Since millennials will comprise the majority of the workforce 20 years from now, Wyoming’s cultural and socioeconomic environments should be diversified not only with millennials’ cursory input, but also with their meaningful influence. Does Wyoming truly, deeply value its younger generations? Yes, but it can, and should, do better. Wyoming’s younger folks stand to inherit and participate in Wyoming’s potentially bright future. That is, if we are part of the conversation crafting the diverse opportunities welcoming us to stay.

Trust us, after reading these reports, we already have plenty to say.

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Jonathan Updike graduated from the University of Wyoming in 2013 and received a Master of Public Health from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in 2017. He is anticipated to graduate with a Doctor of Medicine from the Columbia University Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons in May 2018. Emily Beagle is a PhD Candidate and NSF Graduate Research Fellow in Mechanical Engineering at the University of Wyoming. Her research focuses on ways to use biomass for energy. Allison Connell is a Sheridan native, currently pursuing a J.D. at the University of Wyoming College of Law. She previously worked for Senators Enzi and Barrasso, and Representative Lummis in Washington, D.C. Ty McNamee grew up on a farm and ranch outside of Shoshoni. After graduating with his degree in English from the University of Wyoming and his master’s from the University of Connecticut, he is now pursuing his doctorate from Teachers College of Columbia University in New York, where he studies rural contexts and higher education. Megan Jenkins, a Sheridan native, is now based in Beijing China where she works as an Energy, Power, and Clean Tech Analyst. After attending Sheridan High School, she graduated from Yale University in 2014 with a BS in Molecular Biophysics and Biochemistry. Levi Higgs is a former resident of Sheridan, Wyoming, and is currently a resident of New York City where he works as a jewelry archivist and decorative arts historian. He holds a BA in art history from the University of Washington and an MA in the History of Decorative Arts and Design from Parsons the New School in conjunction with the Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum.

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