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Opinion by Robert Sternberg

UW’s Land Grant Mission Brings Broad Responsibilities

By Robert J. Sternberg, President, University of Wyoming

Since I began my work as president of the University of Wyoming in July, I have emphasized the university’s land grant mission and laid out an ambitious goal of becoming the nation’s number one land grant institution.

At the heart of that mission is the university’s responsibility to educate the next generation of active citizens and ethical leaders who will make a positive, meaningful and enduring difference to the state, the nation and the world. 

That is our central focus as I begin my tenure as leader of Wyoming’s university.

Service to communities, the state

Related to that objective is the university’s three-pronged responsibility to provide first-class teaching, research and outreach/extension. Service to the state and its communities, as well as to the nation, was the reason UW was created in the first place. This requires the university to constantly reach out to businesses, nonprofits, K-12 education and state government to learn how it better can partner with these institutions to serve the interests of our great state.

Perhaps nowhere does UW better succeed in fulfilling its land grant mission than in its relationship with Wyoming’s agriculture industry. The ties between the university and the state’s farming and ranching communities run strong and deep – dating clear back to its creation in 1886.

Connection to every county, Wind River Reservation

During this academic year, we’ll begin celebrating the 100th anniversary of UW Extension, which directly connects the university to each of the state’s 23 counties and the Wind River Indian Reservation. Since 1914, UW Extension has helped Wyoming citizens and communities respond to a variety of challenges and changes – from helping farmers and ranchers adjust their operations to giving families the information they need to stretch their grocery budgets. 

As it prepares to begin its second century, the program has broadened its educational and service mission to encompass many of the contemporary challenges facing Wyoming’s people and its rural communities.

Another big piece of the university’s relationship with agriculture is our research enterprise – both on campus and through our research centers in Laramie, Lingle, Powell and Sheridan. UW scientists regularly produce valuable information regarding crop and livestock production, ag economics, weed management and food safety. Leaders of our College of Agriculture and Natural Resources – along with other academic units – are committed to making sure UW’s research priorities align with the needs of Wyoming’s agriculture industry.

Opportunities for students

When it comes to teaching, the university remains committed to educating students for jobs in agriculture. These students come to the university from farming and ranch communities across the state and beyond, where they have learned important skills from their families and from great programs such as FFA and 4-H. 

UW’s programs are focused on areas where students really have an opportunity to enter careers, grow and succeed. We want our graduates to have a strong work ethic, a sense of responsibility, the skills needed to work smoothly on a team, the willingness to learn from their mistakes, humility, high motivation to achieve, integrity and resilience in the face of failure. 

We want them to be job-ready on day one as they enter the workforce.

In our teaching, research and outreach, we at UW want to embrace the real world, not be divorced from it. UW graduates help form the bedrock of Wyoming’s agriculture industry, and many of them fill important leadership roles in the state and their communities.

Developing leaders

As I noted earlier, developing ethical leaders who will make the world a better place is a central theme for the University of Wyoming. I’m looking forward to building on efforts that include the 4-H youth development program under UW Extension. It’s no coincidence that Wyoming’s historic ranching industry served as the inspiration for the “Code of the West” outlined by author and retired Wall Street Investor James Owen, whose cowboy ethics have been adopted by UW and the state of Wyoming. They will help guide the university’s work to become the premier land grant institution in the country.