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Published September 18, 2023
By Ed Seidel
It’s no secret that a majority of those graduating from the University of Wyoming move out of the state to pursue their careers. The most recent numbers peg this outflux at about 70 percent of our graduating classes.
Certainly, some of the graduates who leave Wyoming do so because they have a desire to live elsewhere and pursue other opportunities. Others leave because of a lack of job opportunities in their chosen fields. We also know that some who depart eventually come back, having experienced life elsewhere and wanting to return to the lifestyle afforded by Wyoming.
While the university, state leaders and others in the private and public sectors are working hard to find ways to retain UW graduates in the state, it’s worth shining a light on those who stay in Wyoming. That is the focus of this edition of UWyo Magazine. These stories not only show how important the university is to the state’s communities and economy, but they also illustrate the ways in which UW and its graduates are contributing to Wyoming’s current and future economy.
On these pages, you’ll read about how UW supplies the workforce for the state’s critical education, health care and legal sectors. Wyoming’s key minerals, agriculture and tourism industries — the Big Three — are driven by UW graduates. You’ll also read how some of our graduates are working to diversify and advance these important legacy industries, through efforts such as carbon research and indoor farming.
A number of new UW programs are meeting important workforce needs in the state, including construction management, process controls and software development. But we also are focused on helping create new opportunities for our students to stay in the state through new programs in entrepreneurship. In addition to stories about success in serving existing markets, you’ll read about budding entrepreneurs creating their own opportunities in robotics, computing and manufacturing.
Additionally, there are stories about UW graduates on the cutting edge of Wyoming’s expanding creative economy.
The fact that many of our graduates leave the state is nothing new — it is something that has been happening for many years. It’s something that multiple generations of state and university leaders have been concerned about and worked to address. The consensus is that retaining more of our graduates would contribute to their personal success, the state’s prosperity and moving the state forward.
The work to strengthen and diversify the state’s economy also is nothing new — it’s something that multiple generations of state leaders have been striving for. Since my arrival three years ago, I have put an increased emphasis on the role of UW in growing the state’s economy, including work in innovation and the creation of new markets. The university is a partner in the many efforts aimed at economic diversification, including the Wyoming Innovation Partnership (WIP) led by Gov. Mark Gordon that also involves the community colleges and the Wyoming Business Council.
UW’s role in these diversification efforts includes producing graduates with diverse skills so that companies looking to locate here can have a talented workforce to draw from; conducting research with potential for commercial application in a variety of areas, and then helping turn that research into new business opportunities; encouraging startup businesses through such things as startup challenges, and then helping incubate those businesses; instilling an entrepreneurial mindset and skills in our graduates; and helping our existing industries diversify through research and outreach efforts.
In support of these activities, we recently launched three new initiatives — the School of Computing; the Wyoming Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation; and the Wyoming Outdoor Recreation, Tourism and Hospitality Initiative. All are aimed, in part, at helping stimulate economic diversification. In particular, the School of Computing is working to instill computing skills in all of our students to prepare them for the wide variety of careers in our increasingly digital world. Additional initiatives in artificial intelligence, controlled environment agriculture, nuclear energy and in other sectors are in the works.
Please join me in celebrating the contributions of UW graduates to our state — and in striving to create an environment in which all of those who wish to stay here have the opportunity to do so. As a number of UW graduates featured in this magazine make clear, Wyoming’s future is indeed very bright.
Ed Seidel is UW’s 28th president.