The University of Wyoming finds itself in a rare national controversy because of its new marketing slogan: “The world needs more cowboys.” Even though the recruiting video features a diverse student body on and off campus, some faculty members and activists complained the word “cowboy” is sexist and racist, because it implies only white men with guns are welcomed.
“If you’re not a white person and especially if you’re an Indian, it would make you feel out of place,” Darrell Hutchinson, cultural specialist with the Northern Arapaho Tribe in Wyoming, told Reuters. “It wouldn’t make you feel too good about yourself.” These critics of the slogan couldn’t be more wrong.
UW is my alma mater. Years ago, when I was still a new immigrant to this country, I rode the Greyhound bus for three days and three nights from upstate New York, to Laramie, Wyoming, to begin my pursuit of an MBA degree at the UW business school. It was my first cross-country trip in the U.S. and my first time in America’s west. When the bus dropped me off at the Laramie Greyhound bus station, I thought I had walked into a John Wayne western movie set: crystal clear blue sky, rugged mountains with snow caps, and miles and miles of openness.
As a female minority immigrant, my life in Laramie was a blessed one. UW has a beautiful campus and an amazingly diverse student body. In my MBA class, there were two Chinese students, three from Norway, two from Finland and four from the U.S. Two thirds of my class was made up of women. Some of us are more liberal than others. Next to the tall pine trees and inside the unique sand stone buildings, I often saw different skin colors and heard many different languages spoken.
UW is not only the place where I acquired an excellent education from many distinguished professors, it’s also the place I experienced many first time life experiences. This was where I bought my first car, a stick shift 1984 Ford Escort Pony. My roommate had to drive the car back to our apartment since I only knew how to drive an automatic. She gave me one lesson around the block and I was off on my own. I have to admit that the first couple of trips were rough, but I eventually got a hang of it. That is the cowboy way: someone is always there to help, but mostly you will learn to figure it out on your own.
At UW, I went to my first BBQ and learned how to grill hotdogs. I attended my first Cowboys’ football game and high fived with mascot Pistol Pete. The gold and brown hoodie with an emblem depicting a cowboy riding a bucking horse with hat in hand kept me warm through the harsh winter.
When it was near Christmas, two professors took several of us to the mountains. We got to pick out our own Christmas tree in the woods, cut it and drag it back to their pickup truck. I also learned how to snowshoe during this trip, and that has become one of my favorite winter sports. By the time I completed the MBA program, UW had transformed me from a soft spoken and somewhat timid young woman into a confident cowboy who was ready to take on any challenge.
Yes, I am proud to call myself, an immigrant from Communist China, a cowboy. Like UW’s new recruiting video says, “it’s not what you are that makes you a cowboy or cowgirl, but who you are. It’s a shared spirit. It’s the spirit of the underdog. The kind of spirit that longs for something to prove. The kind that emboldens those who possess it to stand on the perimeter and howl into the unknown with unbendable optimism.” After two years at UW, that cowboy spirit was ingrained in me.
Our higher education is in a deep crisis. University campuses used to be the first places for free inquiry, ideas and reason. Now they have become the first place where the freedom of expression is often pushed aside to make room for ideological purity. Non-progressive ideas often are not tolerated, sometimes rejected violently, for no reason except the political correctness bench marks set by a few.
So many elite universities, such as Yale, have bowed down to PC mobs and forgone their roles of teaching our young people critical thinking, curiosity, truth, reason and beauty. But, UW stands out and stands firm. The board of trustees voted “unanimously” to proceed with “the world needs more cowboys” campaign, because “the world needs more wonder. More outside thinkers hungry for a challenge.”
The annual cost for attending UW as an out of state undergraduate student is about $14,000, compared to almost $70,000 that elite schools such as Yale charge. If you are a high school senior, I’d strongly encourage you to apply for UW. At UW, it does not matter what your gender is, what skin color you have or what language you speak. This is the place where not only you will receive a quality education with little or no student loan debt, but also where you will join many fellow cowboys to “pick up the torch of progress and fearlessly venture onwards” to create wonders in this world.