When the University of Wyoming at Casper began in 1976, it offered four majors and taught about 170 students. Today, it boasts 18 bachelor’s degrees, 13 master’s, six doctorates and some 650 students.
The UW-Casper program will celebrate its 40th anniversary Friday with featured guests including Dr. Pete Simpson, the school’s first director, and UW President Laurie Nichols.
“It was one of the great investments that both the state and the university made was to bring that opportunity to Casper,” Simpson said. “I’m very pleased to have been a part of it.”
Simpson said in the beginning there were only two administrative staff and about six full-time faculty. Classes were held in whatever rooms were available at Casper College for a semester, along with an off-campus site in what was the former Children’s Home.
“It was a perfectly collaborative effort,” Simpson said of the program’s relationship with Casper College.
The UW-Casper program is now centered in the $32 million Casper College Student Union/University of Wyoming at Casper building completed at the college in 2014.
“It’s spectacular. I was there at the dedication about two years ago, and it was impressive to see what had happened,” Simpson said.
There are currently 13 staff and 20 full-time faculty, and UW-Casper Director Jeff Edgens noted the new building gives the program an opportunity to grow, with enrollment increasing by 13 percent since last year.
“It’s definitely been able to allow us to expand more. We’ve got a lot more classroom space, and of course the technology itself,” said Edgens.
Advances in digital learning increase the usefulness of the new facility even more, Edgens explained.
“We’ve got capacity to handle additional academic programs here for at least the next five to 10 years or so, and with the technology that’s available online, there’s less of an emphasis needed sometimes on the infrastructural aspects of what we’re doing,” Edgens said.
UW-Casper was the first program established beyond the university’s main campus in Laramie. It has become the hub for five other UW programs offered at community colleges throughout the state.
“UW-Casper is larger in about every aspect because we’ve been here longer, and we have had the community support to grow,” Edgens said.
The future will cross paths with the past at the anniversary event as Simpson and his first assistant Renee Woodward, who retired in February as the UW-Casper’s program manager, will be honored.
About 3,500 people have graduated from the UW-Casper program since its inception, and four of them will be recognized at the event: Kelly Keenan (class of 2008), Rob Hill (class of 2010), Carrie R. Blasé (class of 2015) and Mance Hurley (class of 2010 and 2016).
To mark the anniversary, UW-Casper is also creating a new scholarship that will be announced at the event.
“We will have a name for it actually Friday night. We are keeping that in secret for right now,” Edgens said.
The anniversary event, at the Parkway Plaza, is open to alumni and the community. Proceeds will go toward the new scholarship.
The event runs from 5:30 to 7 p.m. Friday at the Parkway Plaza. Tickets are $25 at the door, which includes a reception and two drink samples provided by Backwards Distilling Company.