Come January the University of Wyoming will no longer have its outreach school offices or classroom space in Jackson.
The university leases four rooms — two offices and two rooms for educational purposes — in the Center for the Arts and chose not to renew the lease in 2019. Amy Schmidt, a recruitment and enrollment specialist who holds monthly office hours in the space, said her support for Jackson students won’t change.
“Nothing will change in how I serve Teton County,” Schmidt said. “Nothing will change in terms of educational services. We’re not really shutting anything down; we’ll just have a smaller footprint.”
In a press release UW’s associate vice provost for enrollment management echoed that sentiment.
“The educational opportunities in Teton County will not change,” Kyle Moore said. “We intend for professional guidance, consultation and support from the university as well as our community constituencies to continue through monthly visits to personally meet with students and the community. But we have not finalized arrangements for the exact location.”
Central Wyoming College-Jackson will fill the vacated space.
Schmidt has served remote students as an academic coordinator since 2016. Though based in Riverton, she covers the west-central region of the state by visiting Fremont, Teton and Hot Springs counties and spends four, five or sometimes more days a month in each.
Schmidt’s role, like that of others at UW’s regional centers around the state, has expanded in the past year. She now provides preprogram advising and transfer student support for all UW students and prospective students, and handles exam proctoring and advising for students in the distance programs.
“It’s exciting,” she said. “It’s not a time to panic.”
Schmidt will remain available by email when she’s not in town. She also provides telephone and web-conferencing support for students, of whom she estimated there are roughly 60 in Jackson. They’re working toward their bachelor’s, master’s and even doctoral degrees with the help of the outreach school.
UW started the distance outreach presence in Jackson in 2000 and began renting office space in the then-brand-new Center for the Arts in 2005.
But in recent years many of UW’s outposts have closed. Traditionally the university had physical space at all seven of the state’s community colleges. In recent years facilities in Afton, Newcastle, Wheatland, Green River and Rawlins have closed, coinciding with approximately $41 million in state funding cuts in the 2016-18 biennium. The Casper Star-Tribune reported in June that the university appears to be turning a corner, with the board approving $5.5 million in staff raises.
The university said changes in technology have also hastened closure of the “little-used” facilities. Courses used to be delivered through a site-based web-conferencing system that mandated students all travel to one location. Now UW distance courses are mostly delivered online to students in their homes, offices or other place of choice. Tests can be proctored online.
Despite the changes in the new year UW will still have other outreach programs in Jackson. The UW Extension, which offers programs in 4-H and youth development, agriculture, horticulture, nutrition, food safety, natural resources, ecosystems and a community development education program, will retain its office. It has offices in all 23 counties in the state and on the Wind River Indian Reservation.
Other examples of the university’s presence in Teton County include the research center at the AMK Ranch in Grand Teton National Park, as well as academic events like Saturday University and programs brought in by UW’s Haub School of Environment and Natural Resources, UW’s School of Energy Resources and the UW College of Business’ Master of Business Administration Program.
“We’re not going anywhere,” Schmidt said. “We’re still dedicated and the university has a huge presence here, we just have one less physical building.”