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Sara Teter, Townsquare Media

University of Wyoming community engagement, STEM courses and student retention rates were among the issues discussed during a listening session hosted by University of Wyoming officials Wednesday night at the Albany County Public Library

The event at the library was one of several listening sessions UW President Laurie Nichols arranged across Wyoming.

Nichols began with a short presentation hitting on important aspects of the university like enrollment, major initiatives and the financial base. She then opened up the floor for community input.

Many of the comments were centered around community engagement and UW student retention rate. City Council member Andi Summerville said that both were important and interconnected. She called for additions to UW’s strategic plan.

“I’m advocating for UW to include community engagement as an aspect of their strategic plan,” Summerville said. She pointed to student disinterest in UW intramural offerings and the need for the city of Laramie and UW to work together to provide recreation opportunities, saying that student community engagement would lead to higher student retention rates.

Summerville said that often, the relationship between the university and the city is not viewed as one of a mutually beneficial partnership or exchange, but that it should be.

“During this time of economic downturn, financial resources are in short supply. Instead of cutting programs, the city and the university should be working together to provide services and programs.”

Summerville cited the multiple Laramie bus systems as an example, saying that UW and the city should work together to provide one comprehensive service rather than spending money to provide duplicate services.

Strengthening STEM courses at the university was also discussed. Representative-elect Dan Furphy advocated for more attention to be paid to these programs.

“We need to continue to strengthen the sciences, engineering and entrepreneurial programs in order to create jobs in Wyoming,” Furphy said.

Furphy said he had been told Wyoming had all the conditions to become the next Silicon Valley.

“And I believe it, too,” he said.

Nichols' final listening sessions will be held Thursday, Dec. 8 in Gillette and Sheridan.