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University of Wyoming

University Of Wyoming Says COVID Is To Blame For Enrollment Drop

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

The COVID pandemic is largely to blame for a 3% decline in the University of Wyoming’s enrollment in the last year, a UW spokesman told Cowboy State Daily.

According to census data collected on the 15th day of classes, UW has enrolled a total of 11,479 students this semester, down 3% from the overall enrollment of 11,829 last fall. The 15th class day is used because it falls after the class drop/add deadlines, and after the first tuition and fee payment is due.

University spokesman Chad Baldwin said that there were various reasons for students leaving the university, but all of them were related to the pandemic in some way.

“Regarding the overall enrollment decline, we know that we lost hundreds of students last year because so many classes were taught online due to COVID-19 and because of the campus pandemic restrictions, not to mention the financial difficulties the pandemic caused for students and their families,” he told Cowboy State Daily on Thursday. “We’re working to re-recruit as many of them as possible, but research shows that once students pull out of college, a good number of them don’t return.”

The drop in nonresident students has been most pronounced, with a total of 3,644 students from out-of-state attending UW this fall, compared to 3,844 last fall.

There are 568 first-time nonresident students in this year’s class, down 6.7% from last fall’s 609.

During the 2020-21 school year, the university had limited in-person classes and events due to the pandemic. This year, the university board of trustees has implemented and indefinitely extended a mask mandate for anyone on campus.

The university has not implemented a vaccine mandate for either employees or students, but have created an incentive program for those who are vaccinated and also report it.

The university reported this week that the number of first-time students from Wyoming attending the university has grown by 11.5% this fall, contributing to an overall 3.7% increase in UW’s first-time student enrollment.

Some 909 students from Wyoming have enrolled in the state’s university for the first time, up from 815 the year before and topping the pre-pandemic number of 902 in fall 2019. As a result, the total number of first-time students this semester has grown to 1,477 from 1,424 last year.

“Our favorable in-state, first-time numbers are a reflection of intensive recruitment efforts and a return to a traditional fall semester with fewer pandemic restrictions, among other things,” Baldwin told Cowboy State Daily on Thursday.

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University Of Wyoming Sees 3% Drop In Enrollment This Year

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

The University of Wyoming saw a 3% drop in enrollment for the 2021 fall semester, the university announced this week.

According to census data collected on the 15th day of classes, UW announced Monday it has enrolled a total of 11,479 students this semester, down 3% from the overall enrollment of 11,829 last fall. The 15th class day is used because it falls after the class drop/add deadlines, and after the first tuition and fee payment is due.

However, the university also noted the number of first-time students from Wyoming attending the university has grown by 11.5% this fall, contributing to an overall 3.7% increase in UW’s first-time student enrollment.

Some 909 students from Wyoming have enrolled in the state’s university for the first time, up from 815 the year before and topping the pre-pandemic number of 902 in fall 2019. As a result, the total number of first-time students this semester has grown to 1,477 from 1,424 last year.

“We’re excited that our class of new freshmen, particularly those from Wyoming, has increased. It’s a sign that we are on our way to recovering from the losses incurred by higher education institutions nationwide,” UW Vice Provost for Enrollment Management Kyle Moore said. “After we enrolled the two largest freshman classes in UW’s history in 2018 and 2019, the financial and other uncertainties caused by the COVID-19 pandemic have been impactful and significant. We’re working hard to rebound as quickly as possible.”

The drop in nonresident students has been most pronounced, with a total of 3,644 students from out-of-state attending UW this fall, compared to 3,844 last fall.

There are 568 first-time nonresident students in this year’s class, down 6.7% from last fall’s 609.

At the same time, the number of nonresident transfer students enrolling this fall rose to 251 from 223 last year, a 12.6% increase.

“Across the country, the COVID-19 pandemic has caused many students to stay closer to home to start their college experience. It also has resulted in large decreases in community college enrollments in Wyoming and nationwide, which impacts transfer numbers,” Moore said. “The pandemic seriously hampered our ability last year to do face-to-face recruiting out of state and bring nonresidents in for campus visits, and that is reflected in our current numbers. We’re redoubling our efforts to recruit students from outside the state while still making recruitment of Wyoming students our No. 1 priority.”

There was also a 4.9% increase in graduate and professional students, rising from 2,610 from 2,487 last year. Moore credited collaborative marketing and recruitment efforts with academic departments as factors in the increase.

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University Of Wyoming Football Attendees Chant “F— Joe Biden” During Saturday Game

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

A crowd at the University of Wyoming football game on Saturday followed what appears to be somewhat of a trend and participated in an obscene chant disparaging President Joe Biden, a video posted to social media showed.

It isn’t clear how many people are repeating the chant at War Memorial Stadium in Laramie, but their words can be heard distinctly: “F–k Joe Biden.”

The action received a mild rebuke from the University of Wyoming on Monday.

“The university doesn’t condone this type of behavior and encourages a family atmosphere at UW athletic competitions,” university spokesman Chad Baldwin said. “However, we recognize the right to free expression by our students and others. UW encourages respectful dialogue where there are political and other differences”

According to OutKick, a sports/political site founded by Clay Travis who replaced Rush Limbaugh on the radio earlier this year, this chant has become popular at college sports events all over the country, being heard at football games in Tennessee, Alabama and Mississippi.

The chant also surfaced at anti-vaccine rally in New York on Saturday and a Luke Bryan concert in Ohio on Sunday.

At the show, Bryan appeared to laugh at the shouts but later strummed along to the chant.

“Hide the beer,” he laughed.

Trying to transition the crowd from the chant to his next song, Bryan lightly scolded the crowd by telling them the slogan “wasn’t nice” but said he loved them all anyway.

Saturday’s Wyoming clip was included in articles on a number of conservative website over the weekend including Breitbart and The Daily Caller.

The only major news site to mention the chant is Britain’s Daily Mail which reported the chants were also heard in Coastal Carolina, Virginia Tech, Auburn, Alabama State, Mississippi State, North Carolina State and Texas A&M.

More than 179,000 people had viewed the video of the UW football attendees chanting as of Monday morning. More than 250 people retweeted the video, with most of the users poking fun at the crowd for living in Wyoming in the first place.

“To be fair @wyoathletics@wyo_football are pretty irrelevant so they need something to get known for,” user Daniel Johnson wrote.

“PS… Wyoming comes to CT to play UConn next weekend, top 5 most liberal states in the country, this should be fun! Lol” user Nick G wrote.

“Wait aren’t we supposed to keep politics out of sports?” user Abby Kleinschmidt wrote.

“University of Wyoming is in Albany County. Albany County voted for Biden 48.8-46.1 in 2020. But it’s fun to chant in the U.S.A.,” user Dan wrote.

Some users also pointed out that coronavirus infection numbers continue to rise nationally and that people could likely get sick from attending the football game. Just over 36% of the state is fully vaccinated.

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University Of Wyoming Indefinitely Extends Mask Mandate

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

The University of Wyoming has extended for an indefinite period of time its requirement that people within its buildings wear facemasks, the university announced on Friday.

The UW Board of Trustees voted Friday to extend the mask policy, as Albany County remains in the Wyoming Department of Health’s “moderate-high transmission levels” category for COVID-19. As of Thursday, the county had 150 active COVID cases.

“Our mask policy has helped us start our traditional fall semester without a major spike in COVID cases,” UW President Ed Seidel said. “We appreciate the willingness of our community members to follow this policy in classrooms, labs and high-traffic areas such as the Wyoming Union so that we can continue with in-person learning and activities.”

There currently are 63 active coronavirus cases among UW students and employees.

The policy will be revisited in subsequent board meetings.

Exceptions to the indoor mask requirement include voluntary public events such as athletics and music, theater and dance performances; voluntary social events; and private, by-invitation events that involve rental and/or use of UW spaces on campus.

For classes where the ability to see speakers’ mouths is essential, faculty members have the ability to seek exceptions to the masking policy.

Employees and students who have legitimate medical reasons to not wear masks can seek exceptions as well.

An additional exception approved by the board is for patrons of Half Acre Recreation and Wellness Center when participating in recreational activities, sports or fitness, or when a spectator at a voluntary public recreational event. Half Acre patrons will still be required to wear masks when entering and exiting the building, at all customer service desks and in meeting rooms.

UW continues to strongly encourage COVID-19 vaccinations, as well as the reporting of those vaccinations. Those who report vaccinations become eligible for weekly prize drawings.

As of Monday, 4,282 UW students reported being vaccinated.

Of 2,877 total benefited employees, 2,191, 76.2%, reported receiving at least one vaccine dose. Adding in non-benefited employees, 3,457 of the total 6,372 staff and faculty members, 54.3 percent, reported receiving at least one dose.

In an anonymous survey at the start of the semester, 88% of employees and 66% of students said they had been vaccinated.

“We would love to see those numbers continue to increase, as vaccinations truly are the best hope for ending this pandemic,” Seidel said. “The vaccines are proven to be highly safe and effective in preventing infection and serious illness, even for the easily transmissible Delta variant.”

UW continues to conduct weekly random-sample testing of 3% of the on-campus population. The test positivity rate of 1.47% last week was down from 2.89% the week before.

The university was the first educational system in the state to require masks for the fall semester. Local school districts, such as Laramie, Albany and Teton counties, across Wyoming have begun implementing mandates as COVID cases continue to rise.

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UW President: University’s Endowment Worth Almost $800M

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

The University of Wyoming’s endowment is worth almost $800 million, an extraordinary amount for a college its size, President Ed Seidel said earlier this week.

Seidel, speaking during his “State of the University” speech on Wednesday, said the endowment, or value of the university’s investments based on donated money and financial assets, totaled $794.7 million.

The university saw almost $50 million in private donations last year alone, Seidel said.

In a wide-ranging address that also touched on coronavirus and the budget cuts faced by the university, Seidel said the university reduced its spending by more than $13 million per year by eliminating 75 positions and multiple programs at the school.

The changes will allow the university to better support its students and generate new revenue streams, Seidel said.

Programs not discontinued or reorganized will still see their budgets cut by 3%, he said.

He added the university will save another $18 million over the next 20 years by refinancing its outstanding debt.

“There are lots of things behind the scenes that are helping us save as much funding as we can,” Seidel said.

The long-term spending reductions are in addition to $42.3 million in cuts made when Gov. Mark Gordon ordered state spending cuts in the fact of dramatic downturns in the state’s mineral income.

Turning to coronavirus, Seidel said vaccination rates have steadily increased on campus, with around two-thirds of the student population having self-reported that they are vaccinated against COVID-19.

“We’ve got some more work to do there, but we’ve done relatively well,” he said.

As of Thursday, there were a number of active COVID cases among the UW population: eight employees, 14 on-campus students and 43 off-campus students, according to the university’s COVID dashboard.

The university was the first educational facility that implemented a mask mandate, with students being required to wear masks while on campus until mid-September.

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Bill Sniffin: UW Game Day ‘Back To Normal’ – It Is Just So Much Fun For The Cowboy State

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By Bill Sniffin, Cowboy State Daily

And by the way, the Pokes won last Saturday! But there was so much more going on besides a football game.

A real old-fashioned football weekend at Laramie had not occurred for over two years. But this weekend was just so much fun – the tail-gating, the banquets, the pomp, the huge crowds, and it even culminated with a nail-biter of a football game victory. 

I was there for most of it.  This column and these photos tell some of the stories that were occurring all over Laramie and Cheyenne during this festive weekend.

Fall weather in the mid-70s and just a slight breeze contributed to about as good an environment as in all of UW history.

We talked with tailgaters from Cheyenne, Yoder, Lander, Wheatland, and Laramie.  As you walked around the huge War Memorial Stadium, the smells of burgers, pizza, barbecue, burrito’s, and just about every other tasty item were in the air. My favorite was a breakfast burrito from the folks in Wheatland.

The bright gold color favored by Coach Craig Bohl was all over the place as folks dressed up in their golden best.  And yet, at the game, the fans sat in an organized manner so the crowd was striped, with sections alternately gold and brown.

Our weekend started Friday night with a gala event at the Governor’s Residence in Cheyenne where First Lady Jennie Gordon saluted individuals and organizations that had taken her Wyoming Hunger Initiative and made it a huge success.

Blue Cross/Blue Shield has become a major sponsor on the project.  When BC/BS also became the primary sponsor the UW’s game Saturday, it only made sense to incorporate the “Tackle Hunger” campaign into their game sponsorship, too.

A big crew of volunteers wearing “Tackle Hunger” tee shirts worked hard raising awareness of hunger issues in Wyoming, especially among young people.

The Cheyenne event Friday night was outside under a nice tent and included a spectacular meal.  And then the sky opened up and it rained like crazy for about 20 minutes.  The tent held up but those of us sitting on the edge got pretty soaked.  Gov. Mark Gordon was in a good mood and announced:  “Here in Wyoming, we never, never complain about the rain!”

We sat with Chuck and Katie Brown of Wheatland, Susan and Doug Samuelson of Cheyenne, and Kim and Mary Kay Love of Sheridan.

Author CJ Box was there and said the new TV series called Joe Pickett about his successful books is progressing nicely.  More on that later.  Very exciting news.

Some other folks there included Katie Legerski, Jonathan Downing, Diane and Jeff Gore and a slew of people from all around the state. I apologize for forgetting all their names. It was a who’s -who of generous Wyoming folks.

Later that evening, we attended the induction ceremony at UW of some fantastic former Cowboy athletes. They were also recognized during halftime of the game.  My personal favorite was “The Greybull Rifle,” Tom Wilkinson, who went on to fame in the Canadian Professional Football League.

Special note: the UW band was outstanding. They even performed a song from the rock group Queen.  Not an easy play for a marching band, I would assume.

There was a huge amount of tailgating events being held inside the football team’s practice facility. 

As for Covid, we saw probably 10 people masked up during the whole time outside.  Yet there was a nurse named Terri Garner roaming around with a mask on and holding a sign asking people to get vaccinated. She predicted this game would be a super spreader event for the state.

That truly was the only discouraging word I heard during the entire weekend.

It was a huge crowd, probably over 27,000.  Montana State brought a large group of fans, but the overwhelming fan base was pro-Cowboy “gold or brown.”  And yes, with less than one minute remaining, the Cowboys snatched Victory from the Jaws of Defeat, with a 19-16 victory.

We spent the second half in the Wildcatter Suites.  What a nice facility. Ran into Dave Crum of Casper, Judy and Don Legerski of Lander, and my old pal Gus Fleischli of Cheyenne.  Gus just turned 95 and is a World War II vet.

Keener Fry was all over the place.  He was truly everywhere from their tailgater stand, to the Hall of Fame banquet, to leading the folks at the Wildcatter Suites in cheering on the Pokes in the final minutes. He is in charge of UW Alumni Association.  

It is easy to love being in SE Wyoming on a game day in September. Life just does not get any better than this. It was a wonderful time full of fantastic Cowboy fans.

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UW Football Players Taking Online Classes Due To COVID

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

The University of Wyoming football team has gone virtual for the fall semester, with many team members choosing to take online classes to reduce the risk of coronavirus infection.

University spokesman Chad Baldwin told Cowboy State Daily on Tuesday that many of the football players have decided to take as many online classes as they could, due to an uptick in COVID cases both in Albany County and statewide.

“Due to the potential for an increased risk of transmission in a classroom setting (indoors, potential inability to social distance, mix of vaccinated/non-vaccinated people), many football student-athletes decided to take as many online classes as possible,” Baldwin said. “That said, there are still some football players who are taking classes in-person – such as upper-division classes that are only offered in-person.”

He added that 94% of the team’s members are fully vaccinated against the coronavirus.

University officials were insistent on the fall semester running as normally as possible. The university’s board of trustees agreed earlier this year that UW would move forward with in-person classes after more than a year of holding mostly virtual classes, with some in-person hybridization once the virus numbers lowered in the spring semester.

As of Monday, Albany County had 139 active coronavirus cases and Ivinson Memorial Hospital in Laramie had six coronavirus patients but no available intensive care unit beds, according to the Wyoming COVID hospitalization tracker.

A total of 70 University of Wyoming students and employees tested positive for COVID-19 in the UW’s one-time testing program which started the fall semester, with the test positivity rate remaining consistent at just over 1%, according to data released by the university on Monday.

Students and UW fans will be allowed to attend football games in person this semester, a luxury that was taken away for much of the fall 2020 football season due to the pandemic.

This is in sharp contrast to the volleyball players at Eastern Wyoming College, about half of whom have either been infected with or were exposed to the virus in the last few days. The college had to cancel four upcoming games due to players being infected or exposed.

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1% Of University Of Wyoming Students, Employees Test Positive For COVID

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

A total of 42 University of Wyoming students and employees have so far tested positive for COVID-19 in required testing to start the fall semester, a test positivity rate of 1.2%.

However, a survey conducted during the university’s mandatory five-day testing program last week found that 66% of students and 88% of employees reported they had been vaccinated against coronavirus, a much higher percentage than indicated by self-reporting to UW’s Student Health Service and Human Resources.

“We’re encouraged by the results of this one-time testing event and the related survey on vaccination,” UW President Ed Seidel said. “While the numbers are incomplete, they show that we’re beginning the semester in conditions that will allow us to proceed with in-person classes and activities. We’re counting on those who’ve tested positive and those with whom they’ve had contact to isolate and quarantine as required by the state.

“Those who haven’t yet been vaccinated and are medically able should strongly consider doing so,” he continued. “Everyone should adhere to our indoor mask requirement to start the semester and follow basic health guidelines, such as staying home when you’re sick, so that we keep our infection numbers under control.”

A total of 9,296 students and employees were tested Wednesday through Sunday. The testing is required of all students and employees spending any time on campus this fall.

As of Monday, there are 70 active cases of COVID-19 among the UW community: 45 students off-campus, 18 students on-campus and seven employees. Some of the on-campus students have decided to isolate at home before returning to UW.

A much more limited testing program, also for both the vaccinated and unvaccinated, will resume the week of Aug. 30. Under that program, on a weekly basis, a random sample of 3% of the UW community will receive emails directing them to be tested.

Also as of Monday, 2,192 of UW’s total 2,897 total benefited employees, 75.7%, have reported they’ve received at least one dose of the COVID vaccine. Adding in non-benefited employees, some of whom are students, 3,410 of UW’s 6,129 total employees, 55.6%, have reported receiving at least one dose.

As of Monday, 3,727 individual students have reported receiving at least one dose of a COVID vaccine on the Student Health Service portal, up from 3,216 one week ago.

The anonymous survey conducted during the testing program found that 4,402 students, or 66% of those who took the survey, said they’d been vaccinated. Of the employees who took the survey, 1,789 said they’d been vaccinated, or 88%.

“We had a good idea that many of our students and employees haven’t reported their vaccinations, and the survey indicates that’s indeed the case,” Seidel says. “We strongly encourage everyone to not only be vaccinated, but to also report their vaccinations.”

At this stage, the university continues to highly encourage, but not mandate, the COVID vaccine for faculty, staff and students, in concert with a directive from Gov. Mark Gordon.

Vaccinated, faculty, staff and students have been asked to report it to allow the university to track overall vaccination numbers. The information is not being used for any other purpose, except to enter those who’ve reported their vaccinations into the drawings for prizes.

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University Of Wyoming Requiring Employees, Students To Get COVID Tests

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

The University of Wyoming is requiring all employees and students who will spend any time on campus this fall to be tested for the coronavirus this week, the university has announced.

Students, faculty and staff are required to be tested sometime between Wednesday and Sunday. The fall semester begins Aug. 23 with face-to-face classes at full capacity, along with face-to-face student engagement programs, in-person athletics experiences and the like.

Those who do not follow the testing directive will face disciplinary consequences, up to and including dismissal for employees, and a loss of university access for students due to temporary suspension. The testing requirement applies to both vaccinated and unvaccinated individuals.

The UW Board of Trustees directed that all employees and students be tested upon return to the university as part of a plan to proceed with a traditional, in-person fall semester while taking steps to manage COVID-19 amid an increase in cases locally and nationally.

“The testing upon return will give us a good idea of the prevalence of the virus in our community to start the semester, and allow those who are infected to take proper steps to reduce the spread,” UW President Ed Seidel said. “We understand that we are creating one more thing for everyone to do as the semester begins, but it is an important step to help us keep the campus as safe as possible. We appreciate the willingness of our community members to do their part.”

Those testing negative will be notified by email, usually within 24 hours. Those who test positive will also be notified via email and directed to take additional tests to confirm the outcome.

Students who must miss classes and employees who must miss work because of positive tests will receive authorized absences and other accommodations under UW’s quarantine and isolation protocols.

A much more limited testing program, also for both the vaccinated and unvaccinated, will resume the week of Aug. 30. Under that program, a random sample of 3% of the UW community will receive emails directing them to be tested on a weekly basis.

Students living on campus who test positive will be required to report those results, and quarantine/isolation housing will be available for those students. Voluntary diagnostic testing will continue to be available to asymptomatic faculty, staff, students and the public as well.

Other parts of the fall semester plan approved by the trustees last week are strong encouragement and incentives for COVID vaccinations, a requirement for masks in most indoor public spaces through at least Sept. 20; and a mandatory education seminar on the virus.

Vaccination clinics are being planned during several events on campus starting next week, including at the testing location. UW continues to highly encourage but not mandate the COVID vaccine for faculty, staff and students, in concert with a directive from Gov. Mark Gordon.

UW requires all faculty, staff and students who are vaccinated to report it to allow the university to track overall vaccination numbers. Additionally, those who report vaccinations become eligible for weekly prize drawings.

As of Aug. 12, there are 12 active cases of the virus reported by UW’s COVID-19 Hub — six students living off campus and six employees. The total number of confirmed COVID cases among UW students and employees since the pandemic began is 2,280.

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UW President Seidel Says UW Is Entering ‘Exciting Time’

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By Bill Sniffin, publisher

The University of Wyoming and the state’s community colleges are partnering to help improve the state’s economy, UW President Ed Seidel said earlier this week.

Seidel, speaking in Riverton on Monday during the first of the university’s presentations on “The World Needs More Cowboys — And So Does Wyoming,” said by working together, the university and the state’s colleges can promote entrepreneurship.

“We are working with the community colleges to build the state’s economy,” he said. “We are building partnerships with the community colleges and aligning all forms of higher education. We are promoting entrepreneurship and statewide cooperation,”

Seidel cited the efforts of Central Wyoming College and its president, Brad Tyndall, to work with the university.

CWC hosted the event at the InterTribal Center on the campus.

Several current and former students spoke about the ease with which they could complete their first two years of college at CWC and transition smoothly to the UW. 

Seidel also pointed to the new School of Computing that is starting at UW that will also involve the community colleges. 

Meanwhile, he said COVID continues to be a problem at the university.

“We are prepared to do what is necessary,” he said.

He recalled some of the problems during last year’s school year with the university being open and closed.  He was proud of the fact that the UW was able to have an “in-person” graduation.  

“It meant a lot to everybody,” he said. 

Seidel also said he was happy to be the new president of UW, a position he was appointed to in March 2020. 

“I had waited until I was 63 years old to finally get the job I wanted where I wanted,” he said.

He added, however, that being greeted by a COVID pandemic and a $50 million budget shortfall were challenges. 

He invited everyone to come visit the campus to see what all is happening.  “It is a very exciting time,” he concluded.

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