The Cost of College


At the beginning of every semester, John Larsen sits down at his kitchen table with his wife, 13-year-old daughter, and 11-year-old son to figure out how he will juggle school, work, and time with family. “We have to go through it every spring, summer, and fall,” he says. Both he and his wife work at the University of Utah while he pursues a degree in mechanical engineering. It’s complicated and stressful. They calculate, “How are we going to work this out? How many hours can I work? When can we be there for the kids? There’s actually a schedule on our fridge right now,” he says. “You’ve got to find the groove.”

Larsen, a junior who lives with his family at the U’s Student Apartments, is cobbling together Pell Grants, work-study wages, and a small student loan to finish school. He acknowledges that his path to college has been long and winding. After high school in Bountiful, Utah, his interest in oil painting lured him to Snow College, where he studied art for a semester before marrying and going to work installing air-conditioning units for his father-in-law’s company. “I had to bring in the money,” he says. But his background in art kept beckoning, and he realized there was a limit to his earnings. “I wanted to take the next leap, provide for my family better, and get through college—to say I accomplished it.”

Larsen enrolled at Salt Lake Community College in 2011 and transferred to the University of Utah’s College of Engineering last spring. He views mechanical engineering as a “technical form of art” and hopes that once he has the U degree, he can design the HVAC systems he once installed. “Because I have a long time to work, it’s definitely a good investment, and it will pay off pretty quickly,” he says. “So we’ll tighten the belts right now for a few years, and then it will pay for itself.”

While state and federal funds for college have been shrinking, tuition across the country has been increasing, and students are carrying more and more debt to fill in the gaps. A national refrain has emerged: Is college worth it? Will students see a return on their investment? Especially in the past few years, as the nation has been recovering from the worst recession in its history and graduates continue to face a tough job market, the questions have been posed often—by political pundits, government leaders, and media commentators, as well as scholars, students, parents, and even college administrators. Universities have turned introspective, questioning how to define the worth of education and ultimately deliver what students need.

The University of Utah has focused on building value for students. That means not only attracting them to the U and seeing them graduate, but providing experiences that go beyond the classroom. It means keeping tuition low and providing students with scholarships, individualized financial aid packages, and debt counseling, as well as helping them balance their complicated lives and find opportunities after graduation, so that the return on their investment in education is self-evident.


Barbara Snyder, the University of Utah’s vice president of student affairs, says the U carries huge value for the money spent: “If you come into this institution, particularly if you come into certain programs, you are getting an Ivy League education at a public school cost. There’s absolutely no doubt about it.”

Barbara Snyder, the U’s vice president of student affairs, with students outside the U’s Union Building.

Barbara Snyder, the U’s vice president of student affairs, with students outside the U’s Union Building.

Tuition at the U will increase 3.5 percent this fall, but the University’s in-state tuition and fees, at $7,935 last year, remain the lowest in the Pac-12 and below the national average of $9,139 for four-year public institutions. U students also carry less debt, graduating with an average $20,019 debt load for a four-year degree, compared with $28,400 for students nationwide. About 40 percent of U students borrow at some point as undergraduates, compared with a national average of 57 percent. And the three-year default rate on loans of U students is 3.4 percent, compared with a national default rate of 9.1 percent.

A “best buy” is how the 2016 Fiske Guide to Colleges describes the U in ranking it among the nation’s top 20 public institutions for value. BestColleges. com lists the University of Utah at No. 8 this year among the nation’s public colleges for affordability, noting “students are able to find employment after graduation sufficient enough to cover the cost of their education.”

cost-graph1But Snyder says defining value involves much more than calculating the expense of getting a degree against the potential return of a high-paying job. In particular, as the state’s flagship institution with faculty who are leading scholars and researchers in their fields, the U is providing experiences that students often wouldn’t get at other Utah colleges.

“One of the most important things for U students is that they are learning from individuals who create knowledge, not those who just use and share knowledge that other people have created, but from individuals who are on the cutting edge of creating new knowledge,” she says. “That’s something you don’t get to do in many other places. It really is something that probably defines your future, and might very well help lead you to a different future than what you had before.”

Richard Fry, a senior researcher at the Washington, D.C.-based Pew Research Center, says earning potential alone makes college worth it. Over a 40-year work life, a typical high school graduate earns around $800,000, compared with the $1.4 million for someone with a bachelor’s degree. While it is true that students are borrowing greater amounts to finance their education, the $600,000 in extra earnings for college graduates is significant. “There is no way, even if the student has to borrow for their entire education, not to realize that benefit,” Fry says. “College will definitely pay off.”

Thirty-four percent of young adults in the United States have at least a bachelor’s degree, making them the best-educated generation in history, according to a 2014 Pew report. The income gap between those with a high school versus college education also has widened, and young college graduates with bachelor’s degrees now are earning an average of $17,000 more annually than people with only high-school diplomas. “What’s really changed is that for the high school-educated, their labor market opportunities have really, really diminished,” Fry says.

In some cases, people with college degrees have taken jobs that once required only a high school diploma, displacing the high school grads and making a college degree not only valuable but vital. Among young adults, 22 percent of those with only a high school diploma are living in poverty, compared to 6 percent of those with a college degree, according to the Pew study. “If you look at the typical outcomes, there is no doubt that for those who at least get a bachelor’s degree—in terms of their earnings, in terms of the economic outcomes—they tend to be substantially better off than young adults who finish their education at high school,” Fry says.


Stan Inman, director of Career Services at the U, says college graduates, regardless of major, are the ones who are expected to see increases in responsibility, leadership, and advancements in their jobs.

“A four-year degree is about creating the boundary-crossing skills that are going to make them successful in life,” he says. The University provides students with career-building help such as internships, networking, and advising, long before they graduate.

cost-graph2The U also counsels students about debt. Ann House, coordinator of the U’s Personal Money Management Center, says her office was organized about five years ago to help students navigate personal financial decisions. A portion of student fees—$3 per semester per student— helps fund the center, which provides workshops, classes, and other resources for financial planning. The aim is to alleviate some of students’ stress over money matters. (A national study by Ohio State found that 70 percent of students feel stressed about personal finances, and nearly 60 percent are worried about having enough money to pay for school.)

Mary Parker, who oversees enrollment as the U’s associate vice president of student affairs, says the University strives to meet one-on-one with students and build comprehensive financial aid packages to meet individual needs. The goal is to help students who are academically qualified and who can be successful at the University have the financial resources they need to enroll at the U and complete their education. “We don’t want cost to stand in the way,” Parker says.

This year, the U awarded more than $15 million in scholarships, focusing on three areas: providing access to the University for low-income students, attracting high-achieving students, and giving already-enrolled students near the finish line the boost they need to complete their degrees. The U also launched a campaign to encourage students to fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), after Utah placed dead last in the nation last year in the number of high school seniors completing the federal aid form. After the campaign, more than 14,600 students completed it, an increase of 20 percent over the previous year.

U student Olivia Wan works with Kevin Yu in the University’s Personal Money Management Center.

U student Olivia Wan works with Kevin Yu in the University’s Personal Money Management Center.

The average financial aid package for U students is about $18,000, including state, federal, and institutional resources, Parker says. “It’s not just about recruiting students and getting them here, but then we also help those students complete their degree.” To make ends meet, most U students also have jobs. A whopping 85 percent of U students work at least part-time, according to the University’s graduation survey that was completed by more than 2,500 students this past spring. “Our students work more than most students,” Snyder says. “They have multiple family responsibilities. So it’s very, very important that we do what we can so they are not put in a financial situation where they are going to be hamstrung.”

Erin Castro, a U assistant professor of educational leadership and policy, says that as the dialogue about the value of higher education grows louder, educational institutions need to define their worth. That can be difficult, especially when students are often viewed as consumers and higher education as a product, begging a measurable approach such as looking at job placement or first-year salaries after graduation.

“It’s not that I don’t want students to complete degrees and to do so in timely ways, but by solely focusing on these measurable outcomes, I think we tragically miss what makes public postsecondary education in the U.S. unique,” she says. She suggests institutions reiterate their loftier responsibilities. “We cultivate ideas. We nurture people. We foster a sense of wonder and exploration. These dispositions are all ‘products’ that are not easily measured, but that doesn’t mean they are not important.”


Fred Esplin MS’74 MA’74, the U’s vice president of institutional advancement, knows his future would have been different if not for higher education. He and his sister, who is a faculty member at Brigham Young University, are the first of their family to graduate from college. Their father had attended college for two years at the Branch Agriculture College, now Southern Utah University, and expected to attend veterinary school at Michigan State. But Esplin’s grandfather needed the young man to herd the sheep on their ranch in southern Utah, so that is what he did. “It was a source of disappointment for him, and I vowed at an early age to pursue a college education and achieve it,” Esplin says. “I consider myself very, very fortunate to have a college education.” (Back in 2008, at a U Humanities Happy Hour event, he told the story of his personal experience in a speech he titled “How the Humanities Saved Me from Becoming a Cowboy.”) “I think the virtues of a higher education are self-evident, not only for the practical benefits, but the benefits for a richer, fuller life,” he says now.

Fred Esplin, the U’s vice president of institutional advancement.

Fred Esplin, the U’s vice president of institutional advancement.

Even so, colleges do have an obligation to make higher education more affordable, which in turn builds additional value, he says. While his Pac-12 and Big-10 colleagues are amazed at how low the U’s tuition is, “our tuition and fees are still a lot of money for most people,” he says. To help, the University of Utah raised $1.6 billion, including $130 million for scholarships and graduate fellowships, with its recent Together We Reach campaign. Esplin says the U also plans a new “Student Success Initiative” this fall that will focus on raising funds specifically to support the undergraduate experience, including another $100 million for scholarships and fellowships.

cost-graph3Olivia Wan, a U senior studying business administration, says without the financial aid she has received, she probably wouldn’t be going to school at all. A first-generation college student, her parents moved Wan, her older brother, and two younger sisters from Hong Kong to Utah in 2007 in search of educational opportunity. Wan graduated from Salt Lake City’s West High School before starting at LDS Business College and receiving a transfer scholarship to come to the University of Utah. She lives at home, works two part-time jobs, and took out a subsidized loan this past summer to help her toward completing her degree. “It’s always a struggle with finances, but it’s worth it, definitely,” she says.

Larsen, who hopes to finish his mechanical engineering degree in another year, also recognizes that his education will open doors. “I’m sure there will be all kinds of opportunities I didn’t have before,” he says. “Doors that I probably don’t even see.”

—Kim M. Horiuchi is an associate editor of Continuum.

Balancing Act


The morning is a struggle for electrical engineering student Nick Elliott, who is operating on no sleep after pulling an all-nighter to study and finish homework that is now due. He rushes to head toward his two classes in differential equations and circuits, but on the way, he makes a stop at the Alfred Emery Building. There, in the “purple room” of the ASUU Student Child Care Center, he pauses for a moment with his 7-month-old daughter. “I try to set her down and get her used to sitting by herself so she doesn’t freak out when I leave,” he says. In about three hours, after his classes wrap up, Elliott picks her up from the center and tends her for the day while his wife, Alla, who is also a student at the University of Utah, attends her classes and works as an accounting clerk. He says there’s an art to balancing his schooling with responsibilities as a dad and work at Costco, where he spends three nights a week and a full shift on Saturday.

Elliott counts himself lucky to find child care on campus. “There aren’t many places that provide day care services for infants that are affordable,” he says. “When you total up how much it’s going to cost to have day care, it almost makes it insurmountable to finish school. It’s like, ‘Oh, how am I going to do this?’ ”

Graphic 1The University of Utah is trying to make the answer to that question a little easier for student parents and nontraditional students with families. Providing affordable, on-campus child care for students is a high priority as a means to help prevent them from dropping out, alleviate possible debt, and enable them to graduate sooner.

“Our goals are to help, support, and enable our students to focus on their learning, and one of the ways we do that is assuring them that they have great, safe, high-quality spaces for their kids,” says Ruth Watkins, the U’s senior vice president for academic affairs. The University also is providing quality and convenient child care for faculty members as a way to attract and keep them.

About a quarter of the U’s 31,515 students are parents, and an estimated 4,000 children of both students and faculty require some sort of child care, from full-time day care to part-time, hourly services. The University has eight child care programs with a total capacity for 480 children, meaning that only about 10 percent of the child care needs are being met on campus. Yet the U is doing much more than most colleges and universities across the country. In January, the University of Utah was ranked No. 2 in the nation by as a top school for nontraditional students, and the University is expanding child care and other family-friendly services even as institutions nationwide are cutting back because of funding constraints.

From left, Hanna Kordy, Haylee Puga, and Kate Rasmussen study a plant’s growth, in the U Child and Family Development Center.

From left, Hanna Kordy, Haylee Puga, and Kate Rasmussen study a plant’s growth, in the University of Utah’s Child and Family Development Center.

The ASUU Student Child Care Center groups children by ages in five rooms painted different colors. The center opened a purple room this past January, to provide part-time hourly care for infants at the U, a first on the campus. Within the past year, the University also added lactation rooms across campus, and starting in May, all new buildings and renovations totaling more than $10 million must include designs for a lactation space. In all, the University now has 21 private rooms for nursing mothers, and three more will be located in the new S.J. Quinney College of Law building when it opens this fall.


Afamily reading room where parents can study while their children play also opened last fall at the J. Willard Marriott Library, along with three adjacent lactation rooms. And renovation of the Child and Family Development Center, located next to the ASUU care center, is planned for next year.

Debra Daniels, right, director of the U Women’s Resource Center, with student Victoria Farrimond and her daughter Tori Anne.

Debra Daniels, right, director of the U Women’s Resource Center, with student Victoria Farrimond and her daughter Tori Anne.

Lindsey Reichlin, research and program coordinator for the Institute for Women’s Policy Research in Washington, D.C., says the U’s efforts to provide comprehensive child care options are “fantastic.” “For students with children, child care can be one of the biggest, if not the biggest, factors in a student’s ability to complete college and be successful,” she notes. “It’s the most obvious solution that schools can seek to provide in order to help student parents graduate.”

Even so, fewer colleges nationwide are providing such services. The research institute, which follows women’s policy issues in the United States, released two studies last November that found child care services on campuses across the country are declining, even as the number of student parents is increasing. According to one of the studies, 26 percent of U.S. college students, or 4.8 million undergraduates, have children, and 71 percent of those students are women.

From 1995 to 2011, the number of student parents increased by more than 1.6 million. Meanwhile, the number of four-year institutions providing child care decreased from 54 percent to 51 percent from 2002 to 2013, and federal funding for child care through CCAMPIS (Child Care Access Means Parents in School) grants dropped from $25 million in 2001 to $14.8 million in 2013. (The University of Utah received one of the coveted grants, totaling $1.3 million, last year.) Students with children also have much higher debt after graduation, the study found.

Reichlin says the numbers are concerning. “When you’re having to balance so many competing responsibilities, child care plays an even greater role,” she says. “Child care is the crux in a lot of ways.”


The U has made child care a priority, in part, because the unique demographics of both the University and the state of Utah dictate that focus, Watkins says. “I do think that our undergraduate student population is very different than most flagship universities, and I think that puts some special responsibility on us to think about this creatively and assertively.”

Graphic 2A higher proportion of Utahns—28 percent, compared to 22 percent of people nationwide—has taken some college coursework without finishing. “That does tell us that we do have a fair number of working-age adults who have started college but haven’t been able to complete their degrees,” Watkins says.

At the same time, more than half of students at the U are taking six years or longer to graduate, and for the past decade, nearly a third of students enrolled at the U have been over age 25. “That then leads us to question, ‘What’s different about our population and our students?’ ” Watkins says.

Two important factors are that half of undergraduates at the U marry before they complete their degrees, and about a quarter of students have one or more children before graduating. Many students also delay their education to serve religious missions for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and because those students are older when they return to school, they are often also starting families.

Shauna Lower directs the University of Utah’s Center for Child Care and Family Resources.

Shauna Lower directs the University of Utah’s Center for Child Care and Family Resources.

“As an institution, possibly the single most important thing we’re working on is increasing the retention and graduation rate of our students,” says Watkins. “So that leads us to look at the most important things to be doing to promote student success, and clearly one of them is to help our students with access to quality child development and child learning opportunities.”

Mary Parker, associate vice president of student affairs at the U, agrees that the picture is different in Utah than in other states, especially when it comes to women in higher education and the number who graduate. “We know we have to do a better job of helping young women understand the importance of an education and how that helps their families.”

According to the U’s Office of Budget and Institutional Analysis, 45 percent of undergraduate students enrolled at the U this year are women, compared to 55 percent who are men. Nationally, more women than men are enrolled in public universities, at a ratio of 56.4 percent to 43.6 percent.

When students begin families, their finances also can become stressed. The U surveys students who are enrolled one semester but not the next, and the number one reason they indicate for not coming back is “financial constraints.”

“Student parents take longer to graduate, and many times it’s because they go to school, work a semester, go to school, work a semester,” says Parker. Once they do leave, she notes, there’s a strong risk they won’t come back. To help students defray some of their costs, the University is utilizing the CCAMPIS funds it received from the U.S. Department of Education to subsidize child care for low income students during the next four years, through the duration of the grant. About 150 families at the U now receive such subsidies each year.

Pull Quote 7The University has an array of campus child care options. The U’s Center for Child Care and Family Resources manages the ASUU Student Child Care Center, which offers a variety of services such as drop-in evening care, free finals week care, and a “Parent Night Out” one Saturday per month for students. The center, which is open from 7:15 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Thursday and until 6 p.m. on Fridays, serves 160 children ages six weeks to five years. Student parents sign up each semester for the hours they need to cover for study or classes, and a sliding scale based on income is used to calculate cost.


Shauna Lower, director of the Center for Child Care and Family Resources, says the efforts are making a difference. “There are parents with infants, in particular, who have said, ‘I am so thankful. I wouldn’t be in school right now.’ Some have dissolved into tears when they’ve heard there is a space.”

Other child care programs at the U include the BioKids center, started by faculty in the biology department in 2000. It provides full-time care to children ages six weeks to five years, and generally has about a nine-month waiting list. The Child and Family Development Center, which opened back in 1930, is the oldest program on campus. It primarily serves as a child care development lab for University students studying early childhood and human development, and enrolls children ages 18 months to five years in a three-hour morning or afternoon session.

There’s also the Early Childhood Education Center, a full-time center that mainly serves employees’ children ages two to eight years, and the Fine Arts Preschool for children ages three to six. The full-day University Kids, a private national program run by Children’s Creative Learning Center, enrolls children ages six weeks to eight years, and University Head Start provides morning and afternoon classes for three- and four-year-olds. And then there’s Club U and Youth Academy, summer programs run by U Continuing Education.

“If you’re looking at Pac-12 schools, most of them do not have child care at this level,” Lower says. “Even in the state, having eight programs that serve children in different capacities is pretty unique.” Lower knows firsthand the challenges of juggling school and child care. “I’ve experienced all of this. I’ve taken children to class before, which is an awful experience.” She says she wants to make it easier for students at the U: “I don’t think wanting to be a parent should stop you from going to school.”

Erin Beeghly, a U assistant professor of philosophy, with her daughter Esme Rivkin in the Marriott Library’s Family Reading Room.

Erin Beeghly, a University of Utah assistant professor of philosophy, with her daughter Esme Rivkin in the Marriott Library’s Family Reading Room.

Debra Daniels MSW’84, director of the Women’s Resource Center at the U, notes that by far, women shoulder the responsibility for finding and providing child care. To help, her office provides emergency grants to students each year. The grants, funded by a number of foundations, range from $10 for a needed stroller, formula, or diapers, to thousands of dollars for a child care voucher or help with tuition.

Graphic 4The goal is to keep student parents, especially mothers, in school. “We know that if they step out, the chance is slim to none that they will come back,” she says.

U student Cassie Smith has three young children who are enrolled at the ASUU child care center for a few hours here and there while she goes to class and studies. “I wouldn’t be able to go to school if I didn’t have this,” she says. Her husband just graduated from the U with a master’s degree, and while she has had to take some semesters off due to parenthood, she plans to graduate this summer in elementary education after enrolling six years ago.

Elliott, whose daughter is in the infant room at the ASUU center, says student parents face many challenges that other students don’t. “It’s intimidating, too, because sometimes you may not get the academic performance that you would like maybe because of all the other things that are going on.” But there’s no question that having a child as a student also has its pluses, he says. “It’s surprising how much motivation there comes from that. No matter how stressed you are, you always find little times of thinking, ‘Oh, I get to go see my baby.’ And that cheers you up. It’s weird how that works.”

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Danielle Dunn introduces herself to her social work statistics classmates with a hula hoop around her waist. She’d never bring the large plastic ring into an actual classroom, but this is a video recording for an online class, and she spins the hoop while explaining that she is from Salt Lake City and likes to hula-hoop for fun. “You can find me doing it in parks, on the U of U campus, anywhere that I can freely move and dance. Nice to meet you. Hope to see you in class,” she says in between breaths as the hoop goes round and round.

The statistics class was the first she had taken online at the U. A junior majoring in social work, Dunn says the course was unavailable in a traditional classroom that semester, but was only taught online. She thought the class would consist simply of watching videotaped lectures and doing coursework on a computer. She expected to feel disengaged and isolated. “I was nervous about taking the class online because I love the environment of the classroom,” she says.

Cynthia Furse, the U’s associate vice president for research, teaches a “flipped” course in electrical and computer engineering.

Cynthia Furse, the University of Utah’s associate vice president for research, teaches a “flipped” course in electrical and computer engineering. (All photos by Keith Johnson)

She was surprised to experience even more interaction with other students and her professor than in many of her traditional classes. The online course included a blog where students, many taking the class from St. George, Utah, through a partnership with Dixie State University, could compare notes. Lectures were taught in 10- to 15-minute chunks that could be watched over and over again to grasp concepts. Dunn connected with other students taking the class through interactive video classrooms. Her professor gave extra points for engagement. Dunn says that in a traditional classroom, it’s often the extroverts raising their hands and always speaking up. “Being in an online class, you got to hear from a lot of people you probably wouldn’t hear from.”

That’s all part of the plan, says Ruth Watkins, senior vice president for academic affairs at the University of Utah. For the past year, the University has been developing the UOnline Initiative. The goal is to bring more classes online to give students greater scheduling flexibility in an effort to help them complete their degrees on time, while also providing students with a better way to learn by combining technology with best teaching practices. This fall, the University will offer five new bachelor’s degrees that can be obtained solely online, in business administration, psychology, economics, nursing, and social work. The new degree programs will require developing 84 new online courses over the next three years. The University also expects to offer online master’s degrees in electrical and computer engineering beginning in 2017.

“When I look to the next phase and strategic priorities, we are really using online education as a cornerstone of achieving our higher education agenda of student success,” Watkins says. “We’re not looking at this as some appendage out on the side that’s run as a separate operation but as really core business to what we are doing.”

Ruth Watkins, the U’s senior vice president for academic affairs, has been leading the UOnline Initiative, which includes five new degree programs.

Ruth Watkins, the U’s senior vice president for academic affairs, has been leading the UOnline Initiative, which includes five new degree programs.

Over the past few years, online learning options across the country have multiplied, from MOOCs (massive open online courses) and BOOCS (big open online courses) to venues such as Minerva, a new accredited online university that applies rigorous pedagogical practices while taking students to seven major cities around the world to live during their years of study. Minerva enrolled its inaugural class last fall, and the student dorm rooms, which are located in San Francisco this first year, are the only facility the company operates.

Online learning platforms are not only readily available but popular. Coursera, the largest provider of MOOCs, now has 10 million users and offers 900 courses, with plans to provide 5,000 courses in the next three years. The for-profit endeavor makes money by charging $50 for a certificate of each completed course. Students can also pay for college credit. EdX, a nonprofit organization that has partnered with prestigious institutions such as Harvard University, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cornell University, and the University of California at Berkeley, is offering more than 300 online courses taught by more than 400 faculty and staff. There’s also Khan Academy, a nonprofit organization—with significant financial backing from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation—that provides free online math tutorials. Meanwhile, traditional colleges across the country are coming up with their own online offerings. Penn State University with its Penn State World Campus offers more than 120 online degrees and certificates, and Arizona State University teamed up with Starbucks last summer to provide online programs to its employees. The aim for both institutions is to attract more students by increasing accessibility and affordability.

Nationally, 5.5 million students took at least one course online in 2012, and 2.6 million were fully enrolled online, according to the latest data from the U.S. Education Department’s National Center for Education Statistics. At the University of Utah, 19,573 students—more than half of the 31,515 students currently enrolled at the U—are taking at least one class online. The increases in online enrollment have corresponded with the rise in online class offerings. Enrollments in individual online classes grew tenfold in the last 12 years, from 2,598 total enrollments in online sections in 2001 to 29,046 in 2013. The U now offers 478 courses online, and online enrollment is expected to increase to 33,000 next fall with the five new degrees.

The upward spiral of students taking online classes begs weighty questions about the future role of a traditional university and whether a physical campus will be necessary anymore. “One question we get a lot is, ‘Why do we need all these buildings if we’re going to go into online education?’ ” Watkins says. The answer, she says, lies in the different ways students learn and the varying formats they need.

For instance, a student who wants to become an organic chemist could readily find the necessary content for the profession online, she says. The problem some students report is: “I can’t really learn it that way. I need a guide. I need a facilitator. I need a community, and, frankly, I probably need somebody to make me do it.” Because of those realities, a brick-and-mortar campus is still very necessary, Watkins says. “It might mean we need different kinds of spaces, but I think we have a physical presence that transcends the classroom.”

Cory Stokes, the University of Utah’s associate dean of Undergraduate Studies, was appointed last July to be director of the U’s online education initiative.

Cory Stokes, the University of Utah’s associate dean of Undergraduate Studies, was appointed last July to be director of the U’s online education initiative.

Without the connection to peers and teachers, students are more likely to drop out, researchers have found. A 2013 study by the University of Pennsylvania’s Graduate School of Education found that MOOCs, which enroll hundreds of thousands of students in a single course, have relatively few active users, and engagement declines dramatically after the first few weeks of a course. The study, which analyzed a million users taking 16 courses through Coursera, found that only 4 percent of the courses were completed.

In contrast, the University of Utah’s approach to online learning is to create a “hybrid university” where students can take a combination of on-campus courses and online courses, using the best of each to build their degrees, Watkins says. The new approach is not just a matter of pointing a camera at a professor and recording a lecture. The U’s online initiative also focuses on delivering hybrid courses, often referred to as “flipped classrooms,” where students can watch short videotaped lectures and review key concepts online while using class time to engage in interactive problem-solving and discussion with the professor. “Over time,” Watkins says, “our opportunities have just increased dramatically in terms of the quality of what we can do, the ways we can embed best practices in teaching, such as interaction and active learning, and really using technology for the very best of what education can offer.”

A student exits the UOnline office in the J. Willard Marriott Library. More than 19,500 students now take online courses.

A student exits the UOnline office in the J. Willard Marriott Library. More than 19,500 students now take online courses.

Time, not distance, is the main reason more students nationwide are turning to online courses. With most students working while attending school, online access allows them to fit the classes they need into their schedules without travel time, and sometimes, to learn on their own time. In fact, 59 percent of undergraduate students taking online courses live less than 100 miles from the college or university providing the classes, according to a study by New Jersey-based Aslanian Market Research. But the reputation of the institution is more important to students choosing online courses than the flexibility and convenience, the study found, and online learners do not always select the least expensive alternative.

“The nearby college has advantages both to campus-based learning and online learning,” says Carol Aslanian, the company’s senior vice president. “The growth is due primarily to more and more college students seeking efficiency and convenience in their programs of study.”

Cory Stokes, director of the U’s online education initiative and associate dean of Undergraduate Studies, says that demand is driving universities, including the U, to do more in the online arena. “We’ve come to a point, I think, as a school and as a nation, where higher education must move into the online space. That’s where the demand and the market are driving us. And so taking a more strategic approach to what we are offering online is really the charge going forward.”

The U has been involved in online learning for the past decade, but previous efforts were informal, with faculty independently exploring ways to teach online. To advance the UOnline Initiative, Stokes’ new position was created, and he was appointed last July. The U’s goal is to use technology to enhance, not replace, the university experience, he says. “It’s not about creating a degree factory. We don’t want the Sneetch to come in, go through the machine, and come out with a star on her belly, and we’re done.” Rather it’s about providing “a high quality, engaging experience that helps students grow as individuals and connects them with other people.”

To do that, Stokes is working to provide more and better online offerings around high-demand degrees and general education courses, as well as broadening access to degrees, both demographically and geographically, and developing certificates and programs to support businesses in addressing regional workforce needs. The U’s Teaching and Learning Technologies center employs 30 students and 21 full-time staff members, including instructional designers and experts in video and media production, to design online courses, provide video production resources to faculty members, and handle test proctoring. They are developing early-warning dashboards to help faculty members identify students who are enrolled but not participating in their online classes, and discover the reasons why. Stokes is also focused on building virtual systems to provide online students greater access to campus resources, including service learning and international study, as well as tutoring services and a writing center where online students will be able to email their papers to a writing coach for review and editing starting this summer. A pilot system will also be put in place in the summer to allow students to Skype with academic and financial advisers, and Stokes is working on a tuition model for students obtaining degrees solely online. He expects it will be less than out-of-state tuition and closer to the amount paid for in-state tuition.

Students in Cynthia Furse’s “flipped” engineering class at the University of Utah use class time to engage in interactive problem-solving. They watch short videotaped lectures before coming to class and review key concepts online.

Students in Cynthia Furse’s “flipped” engineering class at the University of Utah use class time to engage in interactive
problem-solving. They watch short videotaped lectures before coming to class and review key concepts online.

Many U students taking online courses are ages 25 or older and have been delayed by life experiences from finishing their degrees. Most are women. They also live close to campus. An estimated 80 percent or more of U students taking online classes are also on campus weekly, Stokes says. “It’s all about being free of time and place constraints.”

Cynthia Furse BS’86 MS’88 PhD’94, associate vice president for research at the U and a professor of electrical and computer engineering, has long experience in the benefits of online learning. In 2009, Furse decided to flip all her classes, making her the first professor at the University and perhaps in the nation to do so. Through a National Science Foundation grant, she now teaches a MOOC (in partnership with Salt Lake Community College) to help other professors and teachers learn how to do it. “It’s student-centered instead of professor-centered. It’s not like one student is working and everyone else is taking notes,” she says. “They all have to think about what they are doing, which means they find what they don’t know, and everyone’s got a little something different they don’t know that they’re struggling with.”

Furse’s videotaped engineering lectures have now been viewed on YouTube by more than 2 million people worldwide. While visiting other universities, students who have never formally enrolled in her classes have even stopped her in hallways because they’ve seen the YouTube videos. “It’s a little like being a YouTube diva, or a celebrity, or something,” she says.

Patrick Panos BA’85, director of the U’s undergraduate social work program, also has found that online learning can be more productive. “In a funny sort of way, I’m actually giving students more interaction with me, and it’s a higher quality interaction because I’m not boring them if they’ve mastered the concept.”

For Panos’ hula-hooping student, Dunn, who gave birth to her second child in January, the online courses at the U have become a big help. “It’s just easier, especially with a baby,” she notes. She says the online classes are providing greater flexibility that will help her, and many other U students, toward graduation. With any luck, she expects to have her bachelor’s degree next year.

Kim M. Horiuchi is an associate editor of Continuum.

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Marketing Innovation

The canning jar containing a quart of murky, brownish-yellow water sits at the front of the room. The water has been disinfected with iodine and is unquestionably unappealing. “If anyone wants to try it, we’ve got cups,” Jason Young calls out to the 50 or so investors, inventors, entrepreneurs, and industry executives gathered to hear about some of the latest technologies discovered and developed at the University of Utah.

No one grabs a paper cup from the stack for a drink of the cloudy water. But there is plenty of interest in an invention that will make iodine-treated drinking water unnecessary. Young BS’01 MD’10, a business development manager with the University of Utah’s Technology and Venture Commercialization (TVC) office, passes around a prototype of the solar-powered water purification device. No bigger than a cell phone, the white plastic rectangle contains a maze-like framework holding a coiled metal wire arrayed with microscopic titanium dioxide nanotubes. Using ultraviolet light to produce free radicals, the device can decontaminate a liter of water in five minutes. It weighs about one ounce and is expected to retail for around $40.

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Ninghai Su, left, a U postdoctoral researcher, and Megan Bulte, an undergraduate student, run tests on Nanoxene, a nanocomposite that may change the way homes are heated.

The water purifier was invented a year ago by Krista Carlson, a research associate with the U’s Metallurgical Engineering Department, and Swomitra Mohanty, a research assistant professor in the Department of Chemical Engineering, and they are looking for help to get it to market through their company SolaPur. More than a hundred inventions such as their water purifier are disclosed each year at the University, and more than a dozen start-up companies are formed annually to market them. Assisting them is the U’s Technology and Venture Commercialization office. Since 1967, that office and its precursors have been responsible for managing all of the University’s intellectual assets, as well as those of its medical centers and hospitals, the Huntsman Cancer Institute, and ARUP Laboratories. The technology commercialization office has helped launch leading companies such as Myriad Genetics, BioFire Diagnostics, and Anesta, as well as hundreds of lesser-known, smaller start-ups.

Each year, the U office manages dozens of new patents and licenses, invests hundreds of thousands of dollars in technology development, and brings to the mainstream inventions that range from a compound that could prove to be the next major class of antibiotic to a new type of radiant floor heating. In the last 45 years, 5,500 inventions have been disclosed by researchers and faculty at the University of Utah, and 230 spin-off companies have been launched from those technologies.

“If you think about a modern university, there are traditionally two really big legs of a stool: teaching and research; and those are really important,” says Bryan Ritchie, who has led the University’s TVC office since 2011 as the U’s associate vice president for research commercialization. “What the U has done is legitimize a third leg of the stool, which is commercialization.”

Bryan Ritchie, whose office is in Research Park at the University of Utah, has been the University’s associate vice president for research commercialization since 2011.

Like its counterparts at most universities across the country, the U office has historically handled “technology transfer” and been responsible for licensing inventions to existing companies and start-ups. At that point, it was the licensees’ job to develop and ultimately commercialize the technology. During the past three years, however, the U office has been focusing on building value for inventors and the University through not only licensing and patenting intellectual property but building sustainable ventures and finding viable markets for those inventions. Since the office’s inception in 1967, 21 faculty members have become millionaires by commercializing their inventions, including 15 or 16 in the last decade, and revenue back to the U from the companies and technologies totals tens of millions of dollars each year. “We’re not just transferring but also commercializing and creating ventures,” Ritchie says. “I think we’re really leading the country in how this happens.”

Because the University owns all intellectual property at the U, faculty and researchers must disclose their inventions to the U Technology and Venture Commercialization office. The University does not own the intellectual property of student inventors, so their work with the TVC office is optional. The office currently assists about five to 10 student-led companies. It also works closely with the U’s David Eccles School of Business, which just this fall was ranked by Princeton Review as a top-25 school for entrepreneurship for the fourth straight year. The U tech commercialization office collaborates, too, with the Lassonde Entrepreneur Institute, which broke ground in October on the new Lassonde Studios student center. Each year, about 40 students also work with the TVC office as interns who assist in the commercialization process.

U Technology Commercialization Numbers

TCO infographicsD

Source: U Technology and Venture Commercialization Office

Darrell M. West, founding director of the Center for Technology Innovation at the Brookings Institution, a Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit public policy organization, applauds the U’s focus on giving faculty the tools they need to create a successful business around their inventions. “That’s where faculty members need help,” he says. “Professors are great coming up with ideas, but it’s hard for them to develop a business and find capital and bring their ideas to market.” Like the U, universities across the country are recognizing that successfully commercializing technologies goes beyond tracking the number of patents filed and start-ups launched each year, he says. “Universities are putting much more effort into commercialization. They know there is value in what is being created by faculty and students.” Commercializing technologies also brings money. “Almost every university is looking for new revenue sources,” West says. “Research and development is a big growth area.”

The U has consistently ranked near the top among universities in the United States for the number of spin-off companies it has created, according to the Association of University Technology Managers. In 2010, the U ranked first in the country, along with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, in creating new start-up companies around research-based inventions, and it was first again in 2011. But the recognition also came with questions about whether the University was starting companies that would last, and Ritchie notes that only 3.4 percent of inventions at the U have produced revenue and just .7 percent have returned more than $1 million to the University.

“At some level, I do think it is important that we are a leader in start-ups, but we don’t have to be No. 1,” Ritchie says. “If we’re in the top five, I’m really pretty happy. It’s only one metric; it’s only one measurement. It’s an important one, but by itself, it doesn’t mean all that much because we could start a hundred companies that weren’t worth anything, and who cares, right? So we do want to start a lot of companies, but we want to start a lot of good companies. We want to create the foundation for these companies to succeed.”

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Cynthia Furse, the University of Utah’s associate vice president for research, stands in an electromagnetic anechoic chamber for measuring antennas, at the U’s College of Engineering, where she is a professor of electrical and computer engineering.

The focus is now less on the number of start-ups and more on the quality of management, investment, and structure of the start-up, he says. The University’s new vision also came with a new name. Formerly the Technology Commercialization Office, TCO became TVC last year to emphasize its dedication to building ventures.

Past practice too often shelved inventions after they were disclosed, and that was the end, Ritchie says. Now, after an invention is disclosed, his office makes contact with the inventor within two weeks and begins assessing the technology, its possible applications, and options for commercializing it. The office then helps protect the intellectual property by completing patent filings. Next, staff members gather feedback from experts and define milestones to help bring the invention to market.

TCO-economic-impact-pg21Ritchie also has started an “engine process” at the U. Every eight weeks, the Technology and Venture Commercialization office brings in about 100 industry executives, entrepreneurs, and private investors from across the country to attend “engine meetings.” There, researchers and inventors present their latest inventions and technologies. The company executives sometimes decide one of the inventions is worth their investment, but mostly they advise TVC staff on how to assess the potential of the technology, and they aid with networking and identifying markets. The business leaders even advise on whether an invention is worth continued investment from the TVC office. Last year, the office put more than $500,000 into University of Utah technologies for development.

Bradley Collings, a businessman who has launched several of his own information technology and records storage companies, is a regular at the engine meetings. Collings, who lives in South Jordan, Utah, began attending after TVC leaders invited him, because he thought it would be a good networking outlet. He now volunteers tens of hours each week as a business mentor to faculty members and TVC staff. The thrill of starting up a company and moving inventions from lab to market keeps him coming back, he says. “Don’t kid yourself: There are some amazing technologies coming out of the University, and I think people are recognizing that.”

The “engine process” also is used to identify inventions and technologies that have no chance at commercialization, Ritchie says. “Some people see us as a gardener over here, and maybe that’s true to some degree, but we’re also an executioner. We want to make sure we’re not putting resources and time into things that don’t have an opportunity, and we want to learn that as fast as we can.”

Ritchie knows firsthand the intricacies of creating a company. He began his career in the computer industry, developing products for companies including Iomega, Megahertz, and Novell. Fluent in Thai and Laotian, he spent a year in Asia working under a Fulbright-Hays fellowship. He also owned and sold two of his own companies, both in the computer industry. “My first company was wildly successful and took off, just exploded. I remember thinking, ‘Wow, this entrepreneurship thing is pretty easy.’ My second company was a slog,” says Ritchie, who holds an MBA from Brigham Young University and a doctorate in political economy from Emory University. “It was so hard, and we ended up exiting and selling, but not in a way that made us very much money. I learned far more from the second venture than I did from the first.”

After launching his companies, Ritchie worked as an economics professor at Michigan State University for a decade before coming to the U. He has a patent pending at Michigan State for technology he invented to convert biomass into alternative energy and is currently going through that institution’s technology transfer process. “Michigan State is like most universities. They’re almost waiting for a lucky bounce of the ball to have someone come in and pick it up.”

Cynthia Furse BS’86 MS’88 PhD’94, associate vice president for research at the U and a professor of electrical and computer engineering, agrees that the TVC office’s work is much different than what other universities are doing. “I originally had this delusion, and it is a delusion, that the scientist takes their idea and tosses it over the fence to the business community, who then markets it,” says Furse, who started her own company, LiveWire Innovation, in 2002. “That’s a brilliant idea, but it doesn’t work. So you have to do a combination of teaching the technologists about business and teaching the business side about technology, and that’s when you see how it starts fitting together.”

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Dustin Williams, left, a U professor of orthopedics, and Ryan Looper, an associate professor of chemistry, worked with the Technology and Venture Commercialization office to create a company to market their antimicrobial compounds.

Furse is working with TVC to find markets for LiveWire, which produces handheld devices that detect faults in electrical wires. The technology is replacing outdated, cumbersome, and sometimes dangerous equipment in mines and could be used by the airline industry to find faulty wiring in planes.

Another start-up company the TVC office is assisting, Curza, was created last year to commercialize antimicrobial research by Dustin Williams PhD’12, a U research professor of orthopedics, and Ryan Looper, U associate professor of chemistry. Curza is in the process of commercializing more than 130 classes of the chemical compounds that kill, disperse, and inhibit growth of bacterial biofilms, including those that have developed antibiotic resistance. The researchers have secured two patents and 12 provisional patents and are working with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to prepare for clinical trials. The hope is that the compounds can be used in an ointment to treat serious wounds, such as diabetic foot ulcers or military injuries. The compounds could also be used in industrial settings to disperse bacteria buildup.

Feng Liu, chair of the U’s Department of Materials Science and Engineering, is working with the TVC office to commercialize Nanoxene, a multi-component nanocomposite he discovered that may change the way homes are heated. The substance graphene is a key ingredient of the material, which Liu paints onto plastic sheets that have electrodes on each end to conduct heat. The sheets can be laid under flooring to provide radiant heating. Liu has received a provisional patent and hopes to market his technology in the next two years to the high-end home market through his new company, Life-E.

SolaPur’s Carlson and Mohanty expect to begin taking orders for their water purification device next July, and plan to market it to backpackers and other outdoor enthusiasts. The purifier was a huge hit at last year’s Outdoor Retailer show in Salt Lake City, where they showed a prototype. The solar device also may eventually be used on a larger scale to help in developing nations that lack ready sources of clean drinking water.

At the recent U meeting where the device was presented to investors and industry leaders, Young, from the U’s Technology and Venture Commercialization office, noted that it could be very appealing to the 8.7 million backpackers in the United States who make up an estimated $435 million market, or to anyone for that matter who doesn’t like the taste of iodine. At the end of his pitch, he pointed once again to the jar of discolored liquid. “Anyone thirsty? We still have this water up here.”

–Kim M. Horiuchi is an associate editor of Continuum.

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Art and Learning

Piano music wafts out the doors of the small school tucked in Salt Lake City’s Avenues neighborhood. Inside a classroom at Wasatch Elementary, children are leaping into the air and singing about colorful and peaceful dreams that they hope to catch with hula hoops lifted high toward the ceiling. They play recorders and beat drums and act out The Legend of the Rainbow, an opera they wrote themselves. “Nightmares, do you have your costumes?” third-grade teacher Kathy Travers calls out to the children playing bad dreams, who swoop across the stage as a black light illuminates their white tunics. The opera took the children more than five months to put together and culminates in a performance at the Rose Wagner Performing Arts Center.

But this production is about more than music and dance and drama. As they perfect their play, these third-graders are learning lessons in core subjects of science and math, as well as social studies, reading, and writing. They count out the beats to their dances and songs, perfecting basic math skills. They develop a script by researching various legends as part of their class curriculum. They construct chalk murals of rainbows and other weather elements for the stage’s backdrop, and their corresponding essays line school walls.

Tiny dancers imitate fireworks exploding, in a creative movement class taught by Chara Huckins at the Beverley Taylor Sorenson Arts and Education Complex. (Photo by Brian Nicholson)

Tiny dancers imitate fireworks exploding, in a creative movement class taught by Chara Huckins at the Beverley Taylor Sorenson Arts and Education Complex. (Photo by Brian Nicholson)

What’s happening at Wasatch Elementary can be traced to the University of Utah’s new integrated teaching approach developed over the past several years through a complete redesign of the U’s teacher education program. Facilitating that approach is the new Beverley Taylor Sorenson Arts and Education Complex, which opened early this year and brings together under one roof the University’s College of Education and the Tanner Dance Program, as well as programs from the College of Fine Arts. In addition to traditional classroom and research space, the facility features six dance studios, a performance auditorium, a black box theater, and a visual arts studio. (Milton Bennion Hall will continue to be used by the College of Education, as well, for its classroom, research, and lab space).

“The way the new building has been set up so that we can collaborate together and across is one of the most unique characteristics I’ve seen in any College of Education,” says María Fránquiz, who became dean of the College of Education this past January. “It’s going to create possibilities for interdisciplinary learning that would not have been possible in a space that is more constrained.”

Standard educational models are based on teaching students to learn subjects across the curricula, one at a time in separate blocks, with standardized tests measuring learning, again focused on each subject in isolation. But the U’s new program is preparing teachers to use an evidence-based integrated curriculum model in which children simultaneously explore multiple subjects, such as art and science, and apply them thematically. The program also emphasizes using the arts as a teaching tool for all subjects. Housing arts and education programs in one building is vital to advancing that integrated approach, Fránquiz says.

María Fránquiz, left, dean of the University of Utah's College of Education, and Raymond Tymas-Jones, dean of the College of Fine Arts, are working together to foster interdisciplinary collaboration and creative ways of learning. (Photo by Trevor Muhler)

María Fránquiz, left, dean of the University of Utah’s College of Education, and Raymond Tymas-Jones, dean of the College of Fine Arts, are working together to foster interdisciplinary collaboration and creative ways of learning. (Photo by Trevor Muhler)

“To be able to think beyond the standards hasn’t been highly encouraged in the last couple of decades, and that’s what’s possible here,” she says. “You’re looking beyond the standards. You’re offering more than content.” The key is that the arts, including both fine arts and the performing arts, are incorporated as a part of learning other subjects, rather than provided as a separate, add-on program to students. “The arts are a way of learning,” Fránquiz says. “They are a way of constructing knowledge. The idea is that all our senses play a part in education. Not everyone learns from a book.”

Mike Sikes, a former assistant director for education at the National Endowment for the Arts in Washington, D.C., calls the U’s new teaching model “groundbreaking.” “You’re not just filling kids’ heads with knowledge, but making them world-class thinkers,” says Sikes, who now works as an education consultant based in Greensboro, North Carolina. “It’s weaving content and knowledge together.” By focusing on conceptual and higher-order learning, the teacher is no longer the “sage on the stage, but the guide on the side,” he notes. With an integrated teaching and learning approach, students are more responsible for framing the knowledge they assimilate, making projects and tasks more relevant. “Something powerful happens when you break down the barriers between disciplines.”

Michael Hardman was dean of the College of Education when the changes in teacher education began. He now leads the U's Office for Global Engagement. (Photo by Brian Nicholson)

Michael Hardman was dean of the College of Education when the changes in teacher education began. He now leads the U’s Office for Global Engagement. (Photo by Brian Nicholson)

The U’s College of Education began restructuring its teacher training program in the spring of 2006 in response to national research and data that led to many of the same conclusions, mainly that children were better served and learned more through an integrated curriculum model that intentionally overlapped subject areas and facilitated collaboration among teachers with various specialties.

“Traditionally, those subjects are taught in silos—a half hour of reading, a half hour of math, a half hour of social studies,” says Michael Hardman BS’71 MS’73 PhD’75, who initiated the redesign of teacher education when he was dean of the College of Education. “The research, the literature, focuses on integrating those areas in ways that make sense so they’re much more applied,” says Hardman, a Distinguished Professor who became the U’s chief global officer in 2013, heading the U Office for Global Engagement. “We don’t want students to just be feeding back information. We want students to be involved in the creativity.”

The U also recognized a major retooling was needed because of the complicated landscape created by federal No Child Left Behind mandates, which emphasized mastery of core subjects and required standardized testing to gauge adequate yearly progress. Educators were concerned the tests were too narrow in measuring the scope of children’s learning, Hardman says. It is much harder to measure arts knowledge and creativity, and there simply wasn’t enough time in the day to cover all the subjects separately. “Arts education was being pushed out,” he says. So the U began looking at ways to connect arts curriculum with other subjects, to not only free up time for activities such as painting and music but to help students see how various forms of knowledge interrelate. “The integrated curriculum model changed the whole dynamic,” Hardman says.

Dance professor Sharee Lane works with students, from left, Megan Kleinman, Anne Burton, and Cynthia Chen during a class at the U's Sorenson Complex. (Photo by Brian Nicholson)

Dance professor Sharee Lane works with students, from left, Megan Kleinman, Anne Burton, and Cynthia Chen during a class at the U’s Sorenson Complex. (Photo by Brian Nicholson)

That new approach was championed by the late Beverley Taylor Sorenson BS’45, who graduated from the U with a teaching certificate and gave millions of dollars to arts education. Her efforts began in 1995 with her Art Works for Kids program, which provides professional development for teachers and arts specialists and is considered a national model for arts education in elementary schools. With added funding from the Utah State Legislature in 2008, her integrated arts teaching model was expanded statewide through the Beverley Taylor Sorenson Arts Learning Program. She also created and funded endowed arts education chairs at universities across the state and contributed the largest single donation—$12.5 million—to the new $37.5 million, 110,000-square-foot Beverley Taylor Sorenson Arts and Education Complex.

Raymond Tymas-Jones, dean of the College of Fine Arts and the University’s associate vice president for the arts, describes the new facility as “an unprecedented partnership between the colleges of Education and Fine Arts, along with Tanner Dance.” The building, which also houses the Center for the Advancement of Technology in Education, the new National Center for Science and Math Education, and the Utah Education Policy Center, will allow the College of Fine Arts to continue to prepare K-12 teaching specialists in art, music, theater, and dance education. The College of Fine Arts offers undergraduate degrees and endorsements for teaching specializations in all four art forms and will hold some classes supporting those degrees at the new Sorenson facility. The building also will provide the college with the space to continue providing professional development workshops for both in-service arts specialists and classroom teachers, as well as arts education programs for school-age children through its Youth Arts Division. “This complex will be a state and national source of scholarship and applied research knowledge on new cutting-edge approaches in education for K-12 students, teachers in training, and professional development for practicing teachers,” Tymas-Jones says.

Mary Ann Lee BA’68, director of the Tanner Dance Program, says the new building also will allow her to expand into other genres of dance and broaden programs, including day camps for adults with disabilities. Tanner Dance now serves about 5,000 students every week, including 4,000 students in site-based programs at elementary schools and another 1,000 dance students at the new complex. Since its establishment in 1949, Tanner Dance has moved from one temporary location to another around Salt Lake City, including the old Deseret Gym, the McCune Mansion, one of the “barracks buildings” on campus, and even the North Temple Bowling Alley. Lee is thrilled to finally have a permanent home, especially one with floor-to-ceiling studio windows that give the feeling of “dancing at the edge of the world,” she says. “To have a building where all of these ideas can be housed and then can flourish and grow is astonishing.”

The Beverley Taylor Sorenson Arts and Education Complex, which opened in February, brings together the colleges of Education and Fine Arts under one roof. (Photo by Brian Nicholson)

The Beverley Taylor Sorenson Arts and Education Complex, which opened in February, brings together the colleges of Education and Fine Arts under one roof. The sculpture in front of the building here is Sea of the Ear—Floating Oval, a 2013 work by Takashi Soga. (Photo by Brian Nicholson)

Take Kelby McIntyre-Martinez’s 15 students, who are gathered in a circle and tossing a bean bag back and forth at Milton Bennion Hall. Another bean bag is tossed into the mix, and another. Soon they are juggling multiple bean bags while yelling out facts about ancient Greece each time a bag is caught. The group laughs as bean bags are missed and tidbits of information are recalled or flubbed. But this isn’t another grade-school class. These students are juniors and seniors majoring in elementary education at the University of Utah.

“If we’re laughing and giggling, don’t you think your sixth-graders will be laughing and giggling?” says McIntyre-Martinez, director of professional development for the Beverley Taylor Sorenson Arts Learning Program and an instructor with the U’s College of Education. “It’s a tiptoe into what they may be experiencing.” The game is fun but overwhelming, she notes. “There are so many moving parts,” which is entirely the point. Movement—like the bean bag game, or dancing or acting out a part, or playing a musical instrument, or even painting or drawing—engages the whole brain. “Active learning has significant advantages over sedentary learning,” she says.

The new approach makes learning fun, Hardman says, for both schoolchildren and teacher-education students. “There’s a joy to it. You can learn and have fun and be happy. They’re not mutually exclusive.”

Beverley Taylor Sorenson’s son Jim Sorenson BS’75 and daughter Ann Crocker BS’74 say their mother realized the need for that different approach. Her advocacy for integrated arts education began decades ago when she heard that state funding for the arts had been cut. “My mother loved the arts,” Crocker says. “She was very passionate about the arts. The family was always playing the piano and dancing. So when she found out they had taken the arts out of the schools, she wanted to bring it back. She said it was wrong of them to do that.”

At the same time, one of her own grandchildren was struggling as a teenager. She was watching the sullen boy listening to rap music on his Walkman while his younger sister, who was five or six years old, was enthusiastically dancing to music from The Phantom of the Opera. “It hit her, the impact that art and media can have, particularly on children at a formative age,” Sorenson says. “That was really quite a catalytic experience for her.”

Not long after, Beverley Taylor Sorenson gathered a group of stakeholders around her kitchen table to discuss what could be done and how she could help advance development of the U’s new teaching model. To mark that beginning, a replica of a kitchen table from her home was brought to the new Beverley Taylor Sorenson Arts and Education Complex, where it is in the center of a conference room.

U education dean María Fránquiz, center, meets with Mary Burbank, left, assistant dean for teacher education, and associate dean Andrea Rorrer, at a replica of a table owned by Beverley Taylor Sorenson, whose portrait is on the wall. (Photo by Brian Nicholson)

U education dean María Fránquiz, center, meets with Mary Burbank, left, assistant dean for teacher education, and associate dean Andrea Rorrer, at a replica of a table owned by Beverley Taylor Sorenson, whose portrait is on the wall. (Photo by Brian Nicholson)

Integrating arts into the classroom not only involves schoolchildren, it also has an effect on parents and teachers. According to the Utah Education Policy Center, an education research center at the U, teachers at schools with integrated arts programs are more likely to collaborate and participate in professional development, and parents are more engaged. The policy center has been conducting annual evaluations of the Beverley Taylor Sorenson Arts Learning Program since the program’s inception in 2008. This past year, at the request of the Utah State Office of Education, the center used research on the arts program’s endeavors to complete a five-year study on the general state of arts education in Utah public schools. Besides the results for teachers and parents, the study, completed in December 2013, found that students at schools that were integrating the arts showed higher participation and attentiveness in class, and their attendance was higher. The research was inconclusive on the relationship between arts education and student learning outcomes but did find that the more years a school implemented the arts learning program, the higher students’ test scores were when averaged across three years.

Students at Salt Lake City's Wasatch Elementary School hold hoops to catch colorful and peaceful dreams as part of The Legend of the Rainbow, an opera they wrote themselves. Their work can be traced to the University of Utah's redesign of teacher education that infuses arts into the teaching of all subjects. (Photo by Kim Horiuchi)

Students at Salt Lake City’s Wasatch Elementary School hold hoops to catch colorful and peaceful dreams as part of The Legend of the Rainbow, an opera they wrote themselves. Their work can be traced to the University of Utah’s redesign of teacher education that infuses arts into the teaching of all subjects. (Photo by Kim M. Horiuchi)

Travers has seen those benefits first-hand with her third-grade class at Wasatch Elementary. By incorporating arts in learning, the students gain ownership of their work. “It empowers them for the rest of their lives. They know their ideas count,” she says. “It comes down to the desire to want to learn.” Sarah Munro, whose son Powell participated in the play as a student in Travers’s class, says the integrated approach has engaged her son and encouraged him to explore. “He’s just thrived. He likes the hustle and bustle and likes the art.” One day, he even told her, “I don’t want you to be sad, but I like school better than home.”

—Kim M. Horiuchi is an associate editor of Continuum.

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An Encompassing Lens

University of Utah English professor Jeff Metcalf ’s epiphany came eight years ago as he was teaching adult high school students enrolled at the Salt Lake City School District’s Horizonte Instruction and Training Center. Many of the students were dropouts, and none had ever had any contact with a university before. Their education had stalled when life got in the way, and Metcalf worried about them. He was also intrigued. “What fascinated me most were the stories that happened before and after class—stories about people who had come to this country for political asylum, refugees, people who had been on the streets, who were homeless, people who had never had a place for their voice to be heard.”

Metcalf BS’74 MEd’77 wondered how he could provide space in a university setting for people who had never thought their experiences and opinions mattered. “I thought, ‘Wouldn’t it be great to create a documentary class and teach them how to make documentaries so they felt less invisible? ’ I made a promise to these students that we would do that.” There was only one problem, he says: “I realized I knew absolutely nothing about documentary filmmaking.”

But Craig Wirth BS’73 did. Metcalf had met the fellow professor, an Emmy Award-winning documentarian, once or twice in the hallway at the U’s Language and Communications building. Metcalf ’s office was right above Wirth’s, so he introduced himself and explained his idea. “I told him, ‘You just need to meet some of these students,’ ” Metcalf recollects. “After that happened, there was no turning back for either one of us.”

They created the Humanities in Focus program, which helps “marginalized populations” make documentary films to tell their stories. Each Monday night, Metcalf and Wirth tag-team in teaching a class of 25 to 30 students in the J. Willard Marriott Library’s digital media lab. The program, which costs about $40,000 a year to run, is supported by the U’s College of Humanities and Honors College, as well as University Neighborhood Partners, a U endeavor that brings together University resources and community members in Salt Lake’s west-side neighborhoods.

Humanities in Focus 16_cropA Mother’s Choice

Lucia Chavarria’s mother was 27 years old when she became a widow with nine children. She had never gone to school, was living in Mexico, and had no way to make a living. She made a desperate choice and sent nearly half of her children, including Lucia, to live with their grandmother in the United States.

It was a decision that would haunt Chavarria’s mother for years. “Four felt they were given away. That was just tormenting her,” Chavarria says. After enrolling in the University of Utah’s Humanities in Focus program, Chavarria decided to tell her mother’s story in a 2008 documentary, My Mother’s Unheard Voice.

Communications professor and program co-founder Craig Wirth describes the film as “an absolutely unbelievable documentary about a mother’s love for her children.” Wirth says Chavarria, now a paid mentor to the Humanities in Focus class, went from a quiet student to someone “who began to match wits with me. And now she is one of the most amazing documentary-makers I’ve ever seen.”

When she first enrolled in the class, Chavarria says, she didn’t know anything about cameras, was “still kind of afraid of computers,” and often thought, “Please don’t make me talk in front of crowds or I will pass out.” But somewhere along the line, she says, “I got hooked.”

When she was finished with her film, she brought her mother to Salt Lake City from Mexico to see it, and after its screening in 2008 at the Episcopal Church Center of Utah, a member of the audience came up to Chavarria’s mom and said, “You are such a brave woman. I admire you.” The audience member’s comment and the film itself helped the mother accept her life decisions. “After the documentary, she felt she had done the right thing,” Chavarria says. “It’s given her some peace of mind. It helped her start to heal.”

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In the eight years since Humanities in Focus began, more than 350 students have collaborated in making 36 documentaries, and a half-dozen students have gone on to graduate from the University of Utah. The students have ranged in age from 17 to 82 years old. A majority are Hispanic (many coming from the Horizonte center and other programs serving west-side Salt Lake City neighborhoods), and almost all are living below the poverty line.

The first lesson is acquainting them with the video and digital equipment they will use, including iPads, cameras, and videocams. “That stuff is not in their lives, so it begins with this simple task of taking the lens off the camera,” Metcalf says. The next step is helping the students determine what their story is and how they will document it.

Beatriz Sanchez, center, answers questions while being interviewed and filmed at her home by Humanities in Focus students.

Beatriz Sanchez, center, answers questions while being interviewed and filmed at her home by Humanities in Focus students.

“I would say Craig and I could easily work at any carnival,” Metcalf says. “It’s fair to say we’re hustling them the whole time. It’s three-card monte. We’re always sort of creating this undertone of ‘Start thinking about what you’re going to do. What’s the most important story you would tell if you had 15 minutes’ worth of fame? ’ ”

Over the year-long course, the students earn six hours of University credit and become experts in lighting, sound, and editing, as well as writing scripts and interviewing. Perhaps most importantly, Wirth says, they learn how to express themselves—often on very personal levels. “I have not witnessed such pure and true documentary in my entire career,” says Wirth, who has produced broadcast feature stories as a television reporter for more than 40 years. “I can’t think of a better academic lesson but also a life lesson. It’s where academia and life come together in a really bold and new form.”

Humanities in Focus 19_cropFinding Lessons

Tony Aguilar’s documentary includes television news footage of the smoldering remains of a two-story, Dallas-area home destroyed by an explosion. Police determined the man found dead inside was in the middle of a divorce and had committed suicide by blowing up the house. The man was Aguilar’s son-in-law.

Aguilar wanted to make a documentary about his son-in-law’s suicide as part of the University of Utah’s Humanities in Focus program, in an effort to help others. He joined the class a year ago after a colleague at the Utah Transit Authority had taken the course and told him about it.

Aguilar, who works as a bus driver, had immigrated to the United States from El Salvador in 1975. While living in New Jersey, he had worked out of his home as a freelance video producer for a local television station. So he was interested to learn about the U program. “I thought, ‘Wow, this is what I have been waiting for,’ ” he says.

His first documentary was a group project about autism. He hopes the documentary he made this year about his late son-in-law will encourage others to listen to their children and be aware of signs of possible suicide. On the day of the explosion four years ago, Aguilar had read a message that his son-in-law had posted on Facebook, saying, “This could all be over soon!”

Aguilar saw the post and immediately called his wife, asking her to have their son, who was also living in Utah, telephone Texas police. The police, he says, helped get his daughter and her five children to safety. “One call made a difference,” he says. “If I didn’t call, it would have been a different story.”

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The Monday night classes begin with a potluck dinner— “We learned early that a lot of problems would be solved breaking bread together,” Metcalf says—and quickly progress to the work at hand. On one recent night, several former students offered advice and encouragement and talked about the results of their work in the class. Jeannette Villalta, who dedicated her film about AIDS to a friend who died of the disease, mailed a copy to comfort family in Guatemala after learning her own brother had tested positive for HIV. “You never know the impact your stories can have on another life,” she says.

Natalia Solache made a documentary about being homeless and working for 10 years to gain her U.S. citizenship. In 2006, the Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Salt Lake nominated her as their volunteer of the year, an honor that was recognized by the national organization Parents Anonymous and included a trip to the White House. “I went from sleeping on the floor to getting ready in this fancy room to go have breakfast with the First Lady.”

Humanities in Focus 04Stories that Heal

Judy Fuwell BS’10 was perfectly content learning about the literature and poetry that University of Utah professor Jeff Metcalf was teaching to low-income students in the Utah Humanities Council’s Venture Course eight years ago, until he started talking about documentaries. At his behest, she signed up for the inaugural Humanities in Focus class. “I thought we were going to watch documentaries and talk about them and put our stories with poetry,” she says. “When we went, I was a little shocked when they had cameras. I had not used any kind of video camera.”

In the years since, she has made 31 documentaries that include Family in Crisis, made in 2006, about her daughter’s meth addiction; and Hi Mom, My Name is Claire, finished last year, about another daughter’s struggle with pica, a disorder characterized by an appetite for unusual substances, including chalk or dirt.

After the Humanities in Focus class, Fuwell enrolled as a full-time U student and graduated at age 58 with a bachelor’s degree in communications. “It gave me a lot of self-confidence,” says Fuwell, now an adjunct professor at the U.

Fuwell says telling those stories has helped her family heal. “I just didn’t realize how important stories were or how they can help people until I started doing this.”

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Alejandro Miranda, a current student who is working on a documentary about his life, says he endured years of abuse at the hands of his stepfather before moving out of his house in Costa Rica as a teenager to work at a bed-and-breakfast, whose owner pressured him into a sexual relationship. Eventually, Miranda says, he was rescued by a couple who were lodging there while working with a nonprofit organization to save the country’s rain forests. They put him in touch with Metcalf and helped him move to Salt Lake City. Now, Miranda believes he has a voice. “I have a clear idea of where I’m going and what I want. I am not ashamed of myself anymore.”

It is stories like those that captivated Alexza Clark PhD’13, who made the Humanities in Focus program the focus of her doctoral dissertation at the U. Now the communications director at St. Cecilia Academy in Nashville, Tennessee, Clark had worked as a television producer in New York for CNN and Anderson Cooper. After marrying, she moved with her husband to his hometown of Salt Lake City, where she began pursuing her doctorate in communications at the U. She helped Villalta produce her documentary on AIDS and made her own documentary about Humanities in Focus. “I was utterly mesmerized that someone going through such devastating traumatic events in their life would be willing to dedicate a whole year to learning to tell their story and then show others that story.”

From left, Lucia Chavarria, Jeff Metcalf, Sam Katz, Judy Fuwell, and Craig Worth watch Katz’s documentary video during the Humanities in Focus class at the U’s Marriott Library.

From left, Lucia Chavarria, Jeff Metcalf, Sam Katz, Judy Fuwell, and Craig Worth watch Katz’s documentary video during the Humanities in Focus class at the U’s Marriott Library.

Sylvia Torti PhD’98, dean of the Honors College, says honors students became involved in the program two years ago, as part of the college’s praxis labs, which are special year-long courses of 12 students who take on pressing social issues under the direction of multiple professors. The Honors College students also learn about filmmaking along with the students from the community. The program is unique, Torti says, in bringing students and members of the community together in a mix of different socioeconomic, cultural, ethnic, and age groups. “Really, how many courses in college do you have where you’re working on a project and interacting with people from all over the world, some of whom have spent time living on the street, others of whom have been abused or on drugs?” she says. “It really, I think, demystifies the idea of ‘the other.’ ”

Metcalf says the stories are often difficult ones, and documenting them can be transformational. “We all carry stories in our bones,” he notes. “The people who have been very timid living in the shadows, when they discover their voice, it means something.”

—Kim Horiuchi is an associate editor of Continuum.

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Watch Alexza Clark’s film about the Humanities in Focus program, and Jeannette Villalta’s film about AIDS.

Global U

Lisa Hawkins had never spent any significant amount of time outside the United States while she was growing up in Seattle. She participated in a couple of school field trips to Canada and took a “random cruise to Mexico” as a nanny for her sister’s baby. Even then, she says, “I didn’t get off the boat.” She doesn’t speak a foreign language, had never given international news much thought, and considered herself a typical American teenager, spending most of her free time on her high school dance team.

After graduating from high school two years ago, though, she came to the University of Utah, where she soon decided she was ready for an adventure. She signed up for a global internship through the Hinckley Institute of Politics, and it led her to India. She spent three months this past summer working for Maitri India, a nongovernmental organization based in New Delhi that advocates for India’s most vulnerable, including children, the homeless, and elderly widows. The internship took her half a world away from the comforts of home, and it was eye-opening. “So many things I’ve grown up with, things that seem so basic to me, are never attainable by people in India,” she says.

In the area around Alleppey, she witnessed the resilience of villagers drawing water from rice fields after a devastating monsoon. In Vrindavan, she held the knotted hands of a few of the more than 15,000 widows who have escaped to the city after being ostracized following the death of a husband. In New Delhi, she placed broken eggshells around her apartment to keep the lizards away. And in many places, she struggled to comprehend the reality of starving children begging in the streets.

“It opens up a whole part of you that you didn’t know you had,” she says. “You can’t experience something like that and not be changed by it.”

The U’s international efforts include being a partner in a new satellite campus in Songdo, South Korea.

The U’s international efforts include being a partner in a new satellite campus in Songdo, South Korea. (Photo by Nick Steffens)

Hawkins’ transformative international experience is an aspect of education that University of Utah President David W. Pershing wants for all U students. As a key initiative of his presidency, Pershing in 2013 appointed Michael Hardman BS’71 MEd’73 PhD’75 to be chief global officer for a new U Office for Global Engagement. The office, which was unveiled at an open house in the fall, is charged with bringing together under one umbrella a variety of international programs that previously had operated independently, and expanding on them. The U’s international strategy also includes a new Asia campus at Songdo Global University in South Korea, scheduled to open this spring.

“The Global U initiative is a campuswide commitment to the importance of developing international citizens through teaching, research, service, and engagement,” Pershing says. “Our goal is to create truly meaningful learning and service opportunities.”

University of Utah President David W. Pershing, right, takes a tour of the Songdo Global University campus in South Korea in November with Heeyhon Song, president and CEO of the Songdo Global University Foundation.

University of Utah President David W. Pershing, right, takes a tour of the Songdo Global University campus in South Korea in November with Heeyhon Song, president and CEO of the Songdo Global University Foundation. (Photo by Nick Steffens)

The new initiative will serve U.S. students, many of whom have had little exposure to global issues and the larger world around them, as well as international students navigating the challenges of leaving their home country to study at the University. The connections that international alumni have formed across the world also are “essential to achieving the Global U vision and goals,” Pershing says.

The U services that the office will oversee include the Learning Abroad program, which last year helped about 600 students, representing 76 majors, study in 42 countries. The U also has an English Language Institute, which enrolls about 900 students a year from 43 countries in its noncredit program aimed at improving English-language proficiency. The Hinckley Institute’s Global Internships Program has placed 400 students in internships in 51 countries during the past seven years. The U’s International Student and Scholar Services assists the 9 percent of the University’s 31,000 students who come from foreign countries to study on the Utah campus and contribute an estimated $75 million, including tuition, to the Utah economy. And the University of Utah Alumni Association connects more than 5,000 international alumni worldwide.

Pershing hopes to eventually house all of the U’s international programs in a “new state-of-the-art main campus facility,” currently in the planning phase. “We realize the importance of being a part of the global community,” he says. Development of the U’s global initiative stems from a desire to prepare students for a complex global economy, as well as provide them with profound learning experiences. “We are confident they will view the world with a greater perspective, will generate new knowledge, make a difference, and exemplify educational excellence here in Utah and globally,” Pershing says.

As a young assistant professor in the U’s Chemical Engineering Department, Pershing had the opportunity about 35 years ago to travel internationally as part of a consulting job for a company in California, and he came to realize the educational value of international experience firsthand: “We were working with energy people in various parts of the world, and it certainly changed my views and introduced me to the global nature of business today.” That globalization and its importance for education have only grown in the years since then, he notes.

University of Utah student Lisa Hawkins, center, shown here with Indian children in New Delhi’s Red Fort complex last May, was an intern with Maitri India, a nongovernmental organization that advocates for India’s most vulnerable.

University of Utah student Lisa Hawkins, center, shown here with Indian children in New Delhi’s Red Fort complex last May, was an intern with Maitri India, a nongovernmental organization that advocates for India’s most vulnerable. (Photo courtesy Lisa Hawkins)

Sabine Klahr, the U’s deputy chief global officer, says universities across the world are trying to figure out the best ways to suffuse their campuses with international understanding and appreciation, especially as graduates face an economy and workforce that have become ever more global. Klahr also serves as president of the Association of International Education Administrators, whose membership includes about 700 institutions worldwide, a role that has helped hone her perspective.

“All of our students need to develop global competency to be successful in today’s world,” says Klahr, who was born in Germany and came to the United States as a high-school exchange student. The role of the U’s Office for Global Engagement will be to work with colleges and other entities across campus to make sure that happens in substantive ways. “We’re here to make sure it’s not just a buzzword.”

U alum Gohar Stepanyan MBA’04, center, and Nelly Divricean, the University’s international alumni manager, at the 2012 European Alumni Reunion in Germany.

U alum Gohar Stepanyan MBA’04, center, and Nelly Divricean, the University’s international alumni manager, at the 2012 European Alumni Reunion in Germany. (Photo courtesy U Alumni Association)

The U’s efforts also will include working with faculty and students at a brand-new satellite campus in Songdo, South Korea. In 2008, South Korean officials began courting universities listed in the top 100 in world rankings as they sought to build an international university campus as part of the $40 billion Songdo International Business District. At the time, the U was ranked 79th in the Academic Ranking of World Universities, compiled each year by researchers at the Center for World-Class Universities of Shanghai Jiao Tong University, China. The rankings are based on the numbers of alumni and staff winning Nobel Prizes and Fields Medals, highly cited researchers selected by Thomson Scientific, and articles published in citation indexes and journals of nature and science, as well as per capita performance with respect to the size of the institution. Invited by the South Korean officials, the U agreed to participate in Songdo Global University, along with Ghent University, located in Belgium; George Mason University, in Virginia; and the State University of New York at Stony Brook. Developed on 1,500 acres of reclaimed land along the port city of Incheon’s waterfront, the Songdo Business District is located in a free economic zone and includes office space, urban housing, museums, a hospital, an 18-hole championship golf course named after Jack Nicklaus, and a 100-acre park patterned after New York’s Central Park.

“It’s a little strange, because we’d never do this in the U.S.,” Hardman says. “They built this city, they built this university, and they said, ‘Now come.’ That’s Field of Dreams.”

South Korean students walk past a building on the new Songdo campus. (Photo by Nick Steffens)

South Korean students walk past a building on the new Songdo campus. (Photo by Nick Steffens)

In anticipation of the campus opening, Pershing and Hardman led a delegation of University of Utah and legislative representatives to visit South Korea in November. The itinerary included tours of Songdo Global University and the city of Incheon, recruiting visits to area high schools, meetings with Korean officials, and several receptions, including a dinner at the Jack Nicklaus Country Club, where Pershing and U Alumni Association Executive Director John Ashton BS’66 JD’69 spoke to alumni about the historic venture.

The South Korean government and the Songdo Global University Foundation have pledged up to $17 million to the University of Utah over 10 years for operations at the Songdo campus, and they are subsidizing infrastructure costs. No state funds are being spent on the Songdo campus nor is the U investing capital in any facilities there. The U plans to initially enroll about 200 students and expand to 2,000 students by 2020, with tuition set at $20,000 a year. The University is recruiting students to attend from across Asia, including Vietnam, China, Thailand, and, of course, South Korea, which is already home to 900 U alumni. The University of Utah also has ties to South Korea through the College of Pharmacy, which has operated a joint research lab at Inha University in Incheon for the past four years. “Songdo will be a gateway for our students into Asia,” Hardman says.

The changes for the U come as the state of Utah itself has become more diverse and more connected to the international economy in recent years. Salt Lake City was recognized by Global Trade magazine this past May as one of America’s Top 50 Cities for Global Trade, coming in at No. 25 on the list, which noted the city’s $10.7 billion in annual exports. The 2002 Winter Olympics also were “a major turning point for the state,” Hardman says. “I think the Olympics are a perfect example of how we translated where we were as a state into a global context.” The drive to host the Olympics in Utah in part stemmed from wanting to belong to the larger global community, he says. “We wanted to be able to say we are very much a part of the world and engaged in world activities.” Those attitudes have remained among people in the state, long after the Winter Games ended. “We want people to come here and see who we are, and we want to learn from them,” Hardman says.

U Deputy Chief Global Officer Sabine Klahr, shown here in the U’s Union Building, notes college graduates today face a global economy and workforce. (Photo by Stephen Speckman)

U Deputy Chief Global Officer Sabine Klahr, shown here in the U’s Union Building, notes college graduates today face a global economy and workforce. (Photo by Stephen Speckman)

The University’s new Office for Global Engagement is focused on bringing those international learning experiences to more students. Julie Clark, a U student who grew up in Idaho Falls, Idaho, discovered this past summer during a Hinckley Institute internship to Romania just how connected the world is. Clark was adopted as a baby from Romania. During her childhood in the United States, she had no desire to locate her birth mother, and at the U, she had planned to complete an internship in France. Instead, she ended up in the country where she was born. “I feel like nothing was left to fate,” she says. In Iasi, Clark worked for the Fundatia Alaturi de Voi, which helps people with HIV and AIDS, and its director convinced her to look for her biological mother. While Clark didn’t find her, she did locate her own birth record and learned the name of her mother, who was 19 years old and illiterate when Clark was placed for adoption. Clark says she came to some realizations: “My life could have been drastically different, completely different. For me, it made me think, ‘I can’t waste my life.’ ”

Students who come from a foreign country to study at the University of Utah also learn from being in a new place and culture, says Varun Gowda MBA’09, who was born and raised in Bangalore, India, and now works as chief technology officer at the U’s Energy and Geoscience Institute. “Coming from a city of 13 million people to a place like Salt Lake and landing in Salt Lake City on a Sunday night was quite intimidating.” He says he often felt like “the lone man on the street,” and in 2011, he helped start the U’s India Alumni Club to help other students from his home country who are navigating similar culture shock in new countries. “We live in a world that is so dynamic that education goes beyond geographic boundaries,” says Gowda, who also traveled with the U delegation that went to Songdo in November. “Education is an experience, providing the students an experience, as much as it is training.”

U alum Michael Hardman is the University of Utah’s new chief global officer.

U alum Michael Hardman is the University of Utah’s new chief global officer. (Photo by Nick Steffens)

U International Alumni Relations Manager Nelly Divricean BS’09 MS’12, who came to the United States from Romania, says alumni including Gowda who have ties around the world serve as global ambassadors for the University, and they also mentor students and provide connections to internships and jobs after graduation. Divricean started tracking international alumni about three years ago; she has since located about 5,000 alumni from countries abroad and is working to find another 1,000. Divricean, who works for the U’s Alumni Association, helps connect alumni and students through seven international alumni clubs, in China, India, Europe, South Korea, Thailand, Taiwan, and Turkey. She also has plans to work with alumni to open more clubs, in Japan, Indonesia, Vietnam, South America, and Mexico.

Students and professors who come to the University from other countries are aided by the U’s International Student and Scholar Services, which serves about 2,900 students and 500 faculty members and researchers. Its director, Chalimar Swain, says the office is primarily responsible for overseeing their compliance with work and immigration laws, but more importantly, she wants to provide them with a “home away from home.”

“I think a lot of our students deal with culture shock and homesickness and the things that you can expect when you are away from your family and friends,” she says. To help, the office employs several “peer advisors” and supports a number of international student clubs on campus, including the International Student Council and International Women’s Association.

Lisa Hawkins, shown here at the Salt Lake City Airport as she prepares to depart for India, now wants a career where she can do international work. (Photo Courtesy Lisa Hawkins)

Lisa Hawkins, shown here at the Salt Lake City Airport as she prepares to
depart for India, now wants a career where she can do international work. (Photo courtesy Lisa Hawkins)

In unifying all of the U’s international efforts, the new Office for Global Engagement is centered on ensuring that all students have “global competency,” whether they are coming from or going to another country or not leaving at all, Hardman says. “We don’t want to lose the fact that it’s a two-way effort. It’s not just our students going out into the international community. It’s scholars and students coming into the University. It enhances our diversity. It enhances our understanding of new ideas within the world.” Ultimately, the U’s global efforts are about helping students figure out where they fit in the world, he says. “It’s how they can contribute, where they would see themselves, understanding not only the bigger global picture but understanding ‘me’ as a person.”

Since completing her internship to India, Hawkins now hopes to someday work in an international capacity, possibly with the U.S. State Department, USAID, or even the United Nations. Her experience refocused not only her professional aspirations but her entire life. In her personal blog, titled “Finding Sahas” (sahas means adventure in Hindi), Hawkins says her months in India were both humbling and transforming. When she reads a newspaper report or clicks on a Web article about India, she doesn’t have a sense of distance. “They don’t tell of global issues, they tell of here issues. Now issues,” she says. “I wish there was a way for me to convey it, but even then, it would be only words. And that wouldn’t be enough.”

—Kim Horiuchi is an associate editor of Continuum.

Note: See this issue’s related article on Maitri India and its CEO, U alum Sonal Singh Wadhwa, here.

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Of Multitasking and Medicine

Dr. Vivian S. Lee doesn’t use an alarm clock. She wakes up on her own around 6:30 a.m. and grabs her laptop. Balancing it on the stationary handles of her stair stepper, she answers email as she tries to ignore that she is exercising. She and her husband, Benedict Kingsbury, an international law professor at New York University and a visiting law professor at the University of Utah, then get their four daughters ready for school. That “mostly entails making sure their teeth are brushed and they have suitable (sort-of matching) clothes,” as well as putting together four meals for breakfast and four “reasonably health-packed” lunches, she says. (She has no full-time domestic help, but relies on a couple of babysitters.) After a day of back-to-back meetings at the U, she returns home, and she and her family sit down for a dinner Lee prepared over the weekend and pulls out of the freezer. Then she reads bedtime stories to the children and tucks them in for the night. It’s “just one day in the life of the SVP,” says Lee in a blog she also finds time to write almost weekly for the University of Utah’s Health Sciences.

“SVP” refers to her job as the U’s senior vice president of Health Sciences, one role in her triple title that also includes chief executive officer of University of Utah Health Care and dean of the School of Medicine. Any one aspect of her life and work could be overwhelming. But Lee delights in the hectic pace of bringing change to the nation’s health care industry. She smiles at the intricate challenges she is tackling as a leader of a $2.4 billion integrated health sciences system, and she revels in figuring out what she sees as puzzles waiting to be solved.

“I’m taking it on step by step,” says Lee, who came to the University of Utah in the summer of 2011. “I don’t feel overwhelmed. There’s a phased pattern to it. You can’t change everything at once. There’s some foundational work that first has to be done before you bring in the next level. There is a logic to it and kind of a flow—even though it does feel like a lot sometimes.”

In her job at the U, she oversees a health care system of four hospitals, multiple specialty centers including the John Moran Eye Center, a network of 10 community clinics, more than 1,400 board certified physicians, and five colleges, including the School of Medicine, the colleges of Nursing, Pharmacy, and Health, and beginning this year, the School of Dentistry—the first new academic dental school in the nation in more than 25 years. “We’re all thinking together, ‘How do we create the best academic health care system in the country?’ ” she says.

She already has achieved several hefty goals since her arrival at the U. The School of Dentistry enrolled its first cohort of students this fall and named its first permanent dean. The U also has a new dean of the College of Nursing, and Lee recruited from Harvard University a new chair of the Department of Surgery. More students will be able to enroll in the School of Medicine, thanks to a law the governor signed in June that expands the school’s class size from 82 to 122 students by 2015. And the College of Pharmacy dedicated the $75 million L.S. Skaggs Pharmacy Institute in April.


Vivian Lee, shown here with U medical students, says the U must train professionals for a changing future. (Photo by Kristan Jacobsen)

Vivian Lee, shown here with University of Utah medical students, says the U must train professionals for a changing future. (Photo by Kristan Jacobsen)

Dr. Dean Y. Li, associate vice president for research and chief scientific officer for University Health Care, attributes Lee’s success to “energy, vision, excellence, and what we call B-HAG—Big Hairy Audacious Goals. Skin in the game. She’s willing to work harder at what you’re supposed to be doing.” Li says he often finds himself communicating with Lee by email at 2 in the morning. “She’s a little crazy. Right? I mean, she has how many kids and all of this. But she just wants to move, move, move.”

Lee grew up in Norman, Oklahoma. Her parents, both faculty members at the University of Oklahoma, showed her that any challenge can be overcome and anything is possible. They had immigrated from China when they were graduate students, both coming to Berkeley, California, in the early 1960s “with just a few dollars in their pockets,” Lee says, and to this day, “refuse to retire.” Her father is a professor of electrical engineering, while her mother, a former dean of Oklahoma’s School of Public Health, teaches statistics and epidemiology.

Lee was born in New Jersey, where her parents were working at Bell Laboratories. Following Chinese tradition, her grandparents bestowed her with her middle name, Shu-Ching. “It comes from a Chinese poem, and alludes to the clarity and light of the moon,” she says.

During those years after her family moved to Oklahoma, her childhood was also filled with lots of Americana. She admittedly watched a “boatload of TV” as a child and was raised on “that whole afternoon rundown of Gilligan’s Island and Brady Bunch and Star Trek,” she says. While she and her younger sister were expected to do well in school, her mother and father were “not pushy parents by any means,” Lee recollects. “They really let me do what I wanted to do. I had a carefree childhood, pretty unstructured.”

As a young student in Norman’s public schools, Lee was already interested in science and math. “Much to the credit of my parents, I was never told that there was any reason why I shouldn’t, and so I was completely oblivious to gender biases and those kinds of things,” she says. “I think sometimes kids might be told or have the sense that they can’t do things, and I was just never told that.”

Her parents encouraged her to explore. “I think I am internally motivated, and I attribute that to my parents just letting me do whatever I wanted to do, and then eventually I got really interested in some more serious things,” she says.

Starting in seventh grade, at the request of one of her teachers, her parents also shuttled her to Norman Regional Hospital, where she spent her Saturday mornings shadowing a local doctor, Hal Belknap, on rounds. Lee now credits Belknap with not only sparking her interest in medicine but for showing her the importance of connecting with others, whether treating patients or leading organizations.

After high school, Lee attended Harvard-Radcliffe College and graduated at age 19. She applied for—and won—a Rhodes Scholarship and went on to Oxford University, where she met her future husband, and graduated with her doctorate in medical engineering at age 22. Three years later, she completed her medical doctorate from Harvard Medical School.


Utah Governor Gary Herbert in June signed the bill that allows the U to expand the Medical School’s class size. (Photo by Kristan Jacobsen)

Utah Governor Gary Herbert in June signed the bill that allows the University of Utah to expand the Medical School’s class size. (Photo by Kristan Jacobsen)

At 30, she finished her residency in diagnostic radiology at Duke University. At 39, she completed an MBA at New York University’s Stern School of Business while working at NYU and after giving birth to her third daughter. That year, she was among Crain’s New York Business magazine’s “40 under 40: New York’s Rising Stars.”

In New York, where she and her family made their home for 14 years, they spent weekends bicycling around Manhattan and visiting the city’s museums, zoos, and aquariums, while she spent her days helping scientists advance their work as well as investigating new models for understanding health care delivery in her job as inaugural vice dean for science, senior vice president, and chief scientific officer at New York University’s Langone Medical Center. Her own scientific career also advanced as she became a leader in magnetic resonance imaging, with multiple grants from the National Institutes of Health and a flourishing lab. She also wrote a textbook. “I was very happy,” she says. “I was not looking at all.”

But a few things kept needling her. Not only was she impressed by the University of Utah’s reputation as a leader in genetics research and by the work of Nobel Prize-winner Mario Capecchi, she was keenly aware of U Health Care’s No. 1 ranking in 2010 by the University HealthSystem Consortium for quality and accountability in patient care, above “the likes of Hopkins and Stanford,” she says. The same year that the University of Utah topped the list, NYU was ranked No. 10, the only New York academic medical center to make the top 10. “We were very proud of it. I saw that list frequently. Our PR guys really drove that home throughout the city,” Lee says with a laugh. “And every time I saw the list, the University of Utah was No. 1.” At the same time, she had been learning about Intermountain Health Care. “Between the University and Intermountain, Salt Lake City seemed like a place really pushing the envelope of health care,” says Lee.

She had those “data points” in mind when headhunters from the U came calling. They didn’t have to do much convincing.

Lee was especially lured by the opportunity to lead an integrated medical center, in which the academic, research, and clinical sides all report through her office. Only about a dozen academic medical centers in the nation are structured that way, even though, Lee says, such integration brings opportunity for synergy and partnership across the entire health sciences system. She sees that integration as the key to broader health care reform, by focusing efforts on improving the quality of patient care while reining in costs.

Dr. Darrell Kirch, president of the Association of American Medical Colleges, was one of the health care leaders who encouraged Lee to consider the job at the U. “[She] is well suited to transform medical education, research, and patient care—both at the University of Utah and on the national stage,” he says. “Vivian embodies the vision of leadership we need across academic medicine. In a word, she is a ‘multiplier’ who increases the potential of those around her to solve our health care system’s most pressing challenges.”

Once in Utah, Lee was awed by the state’s beauty. “Plus, I was struck by the people I met and by the culture here—the sort of attitude that ‘Well, we can do it. If you’ve got some good ideas, we’ll figure out a way to get it done.’ ” She has plenty of ideas on her list. “I am often asked what has surprised me the most about the job, and one of them is simply just how much opportunity there really is here,” Lee says.


Vivian Lee, right, visits the Huntsman Cancer Institute’s infusion center, part of the U Health Care system, where nurse Brandi Welker helps patient Jay Holt. (Photo by August Miller)

Vivian Lee, right, visits the Huntsman Cancer Institute’s infusion center, part of the U Health Care system, where nurse Brandi Welker helps patient Jay Holt. (Photo by August Miller)

At present, she has in mind three main endeavors for the U’s health care system. She and her team are focused on leading the transformation of academic health care, which includes strategically and innovatively changing health care delivery, advancing science and discovery, and training professionals for a changing future. Success will depend on maximizing the integration of the University’s research, educational, and clinical strengths, she says. She aims to further the Utah Genome Project, which was launched in 2012 to investigate the genetic signatures of diseases and drug responses in large families and which has the potential to transform personalized medicine and accelerate drug discovery. And she wants to expand the U’s Center for Medical Innovation, which encourages invention by students and faculty.

Lee also sees advantages in collaboration between health sciences and the broader University. For example, faculty members at the U’s David Eccles School of Business are “partnering with us to train our faculty and administrative staff in principles of lean management and continuous quality improvement for our hospitals, clinics, and academic departments,” she says. Students and faculty members also are working with colleagues in engineering, physics, and computer science, among others, to develop better technologies, including devices and software. “I love the energy that comes from teams of people working together to come up with ideas that are better than the sum of the parts,” she says.

In preparing the U for reforms mandated under the federal Affordable Care Act, which takes effect next year, Lee and her team are developing new infrastructure, information technology tools, and methods of delivery. Her efforts to help the U increase the Medical School’s class size this year in part were aimed at addressing the physician shortage in Utah, as the demand for health care will only grow under the new federal law. Lee expects the University of Utah to emerge as a model for the country as health care systems evolve to focus on high-quality, low-cost, and patient-centered accessible care.

“She’s willing to let people try new things, and she’s very engaged in trying to look at the health care system and bring us through these times of challenge and transition,” says Dr. Carrie Byington, vice dean of Academic Affairs, whose position was created by Lee after she recognized the need for faculty to develop cross-skills in research, education, and clinical care. Dr. Sean Mulvihill, CEO of the University of Utah Medical Group, says Lee is willing to raise fundamental questions. “She’s not afraid to ask, ‘What should we look like? What’s our role in health care delivery? What’s our role in science and discovery, in medicine, and how can we make the most contribution?’ ”

Associate vice president Li, in the School of Medicine, says it’s a responsibility that Lee takes on at “all hours of the day and all hours of the night,” and he notes that “the hand she was dealt is actually perfect for her personality.”

Lee says her plan is to keep forging ahead. That means fixing those meals for her family and taking her children hiking, biking, and skiing. It also means delivering health care in a timely and cost-effective way, working on new models to transform the industry, and leading an integrated health sciences system into the future.

“My typical day? No such thing,” she says. “Right now, I just want to help move us forward each day so that we can make the contributions to patients and to society that we are so well suited and well positioned to make.”

Kim M. Horiuchi is an associate editor of Continuum.

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Stories Within Stories

Luise Poulton casually holds out the small, unassuming—even plain-looking—book. It lacks the exquisite line drawings, the delicate rice-paper pages, the elegant typeface, and even the literary credentials of many of the other books in the University of Utah’s rare book collection.

“It’s a tiny little book. It’s not very fat, it’s not very tall, and it’s very unprepossessing. The paper isn’t particularly great,” says Poulton BA’01, the rare books manager at the U’s J. Willard Marriott Library. “There’s nothing fancy about it.” But this book is likely the most valuable of the 80,000 pieces in the University’s rare book collection. It’s a treasure among treasures, all of which visitors are free to handle, touch, and read from cover to cover.

That includes this deceivingly valuable little Book of Commandments, or a surviving original of Galileo Galilei’s Dialogo, or the first novel Charles Dickens wrote (at age 25), or a tome of sacred Buddhist writings from China printed in 1440, 10 years before Gutenberg’s famous press.

“Here, you want to hold a million dollars?” Poulton says as she hands over the palm-sized Book of Commandments, written in 1830 and containing Mormon church founder Joseph Smith’s description of what he said were his revelations from God. The book, which sat in his brother Hyrum Smith’s library, was donated to the U by LDS Church leader John M. Whitaker in 1969. The U Rare Books Division also has one of only two known copies of the Book of Mormon inscribed by Joseph Smith; The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints owns the other. But the Mormon pieces are, by far, not the only storied stories.



Sumerian clay tablet

The one-by-one-inch square block is smooth like polished ivory and covered with little etchings. The Sumerian clay tablet dates to 2276 BC and is one of the earliest examples of writing. It’s one of three such tablets at the University of Utah, says Luise Poulton, manager of the U’s Rare Books Division.

This tablet is the smallest and was recently purchased by the U as part of the Kenneth Lawrence Ott collection from the small Okanogan County Museum in Washington state. Ott, who was a schoolteacher in the area, began collecting books on the history of books in the 1920s and ’30s and donated his collection to the museum during the Great Depression, with the stipulation that the collection be kept together.

Poulton says none of the U’s clay tablets have been translated, but because of its size, the tablet is believed to be “something like a receipt: ‘Yes, I acknowledge you bought two goats from me,’ or ‘I acknowledge that you paid your taxes this year.’ ”

The Marriott Library is home to one of the top rare book collections west of the Mississippi. The books are shelved in the library’s “inner sanctum,” a 7,000-square-foot, humidity-controlled, secured vault kept cold—between 58 and 62 degrees—and dark, with posted signs demanding, “Lights Out! Lights Out!” Stretching 120 feet long by 80 feet wide, the vault houses the world’s third-largest collection of Arabic papyrus, the largest collection of medieval facsimiles in the state, and the largest collection of fine press and artists’ books in the region. The books are brought to the vault after cataloguing in a “staging area,” but they don’t stay in the vault.

Poulton’s strong belief is that anyone who desires should have access to the collection—from a leaf of the Gutenberg Bible printed between 1450 and 1455 to Isaac Newton’s first-edition Philosophiæ Naturalis Principia Mathematica, an “extremely valuable book” that was printed in 1687 and is worth up to a half-million dollars. Poulton describes her job as balancing security and access. She shoulders the task of safeguarding the books, a responsibility that she acknowledges makes her nervous and keeps her up at night. But just as important, she says, is ensuring access to the books and making them as available as possible. “And I love that. I love the idea that you don’t have to come in with a letter from the president of Harvard to see these books. I love it that anyone—anyone—can walk into that room and say, ‘I’d like to see this book,’ and they get to see it.”

While other universities and institutions around the world may have larger, more impressive collections, Poulton marvels that the University of Utah, a public university, has the collection it does. “This is not Yale’s Beinecke Library, this is not Princeton’s library that has two full copies of the Gutenberg Bible. This is not Oxford. This is not Bibliothèque de Paris. This is a state institution,” she says, “and we have these things.”

U student Matthew Scholl, left, examines a page of a Gutenberg Bible, with Luise Poulton.

The way Poulton speaks about the renowned collection reflects her own background. As a young ballet dancer working in New York, she realized she had advanced as far as she could and needed a degree, so she came to the U as a student in the Ballet Department but ended up switching majors and graduating in history. Of Rare Books’ latest exhibition, Fighting Words: American Revolutionary War Pamphlets, which took months to curate, she says with a dancer’s aplomb: “We want the end-product to look effortless, like any good performance, right?” She rattles off an intricate history of each book but in the next breath betrays a performer’s anticipatory excitement: “The props that I have are just so incredible.”

Poulton has worked at the Marriott Library for the past 20 years, including the last 15 with Rare Books, and her enthusiasm for the job is palpable. She wants everyone to have the sensory experience of holding a centuries-old book—to not just touch it while leafing through pages but to inhale the mustiness of a book’s scent, to hear the thick rustle of pages made from rag paper, to see the fine craftsmanship of books that were early printers’ pride and joy, to handle ideas that were revolutionary.

“To hold a copy of Common Sense, printed in 1776, that was held by hands in 1776, and most likely read out loud to other people in 1776, that’s a connection. That’s a very physical and visceral connection,” Poulton says. And anyone can have that experience, by visiting the Rare Books room during its regular hours, Monday through Saturday. A staff member usually supervises the visits.

The power of holding these books is unmistakable. “There’s just nothing like it,” she says. But equally powerful are the stories behind each book, and the paths of the books through history. Among the most compelling is that of the U’s copy of Galileo’s Dialogo. Only 1,000 copies of the book were printed in 1632. The book’s discourse on astronomy and Galileo’s contention that Nicholas Copernicus was correct in postulating that the planets revolved around the sun rather than the Earth drew the ire of the Catholic Church.

The church considered the book so dangerous that Galileo was convicted of heresy by the Inquisition, placed under house arrest until his death, and prohibited from publishing any future books. The Dialogo was placed on the Inquisition’s list of forbidden books and remained there until 1835. Most of the copies were destroyed. It is believed only about 200 copies survived, and somehow, some way, one of those copies made its way to the U, hidden away and changing hands throughout the centuries.

Other highlights among the scientific books in the U’s collection include Euclid’s Elements of Geometry, the oldest mathematical textbook still in common use today. The first-edition copy, also among the U’s most valuable at $185,000 to $200,000, was printed in 1482 by famous German printer Erhard Ratdolt. “This was his book,” Poulton says, pointing out Ratdolt’s “self-congratulatory blurb” on the first page, in which he describes the quality of work his shop produces. Or there’s the first-edition Novum Organum, printed 138 years later, in which Francis Bacon disagrees with Aristotle to set “the stage for a new way of seeing, studying, and understanding the world around us.”


Da ban ruo bo luo mi duo jing

The delicate rice paper on which Da ban ruo bo luo mi duo jing is printed is just one part of the book’s multifaceted history. Purchased by the University of Utah as part of the Kenneth Lawrence Ott collection, the book is the first volume from a set of sacred Buddhist writings and was printed in China in 1440, during the fifth year of the reign of the Ming Emperor Cheng Tung.
The book’s 100 pages are bound accordion-style and contain Chinese characters, made from a wood-block print, interspersed with lavish illustrations. Most of the U’s rare books tell a strong Eurocentric story, says the collection’s manager, Luise Poulton. “But we do have pieces like this, and we try to use these pieces as often as possible to make the point that book-making—communicating with the written word—has been going on all over the world for a very long time.”




“This is the book for which Galileo nearly had his head cut off,” says Luise Poulton, manager of the U’s Rare Books Division. Only 1,000 copies of Galileo Galilei’s Dialogo were printed in 1632, and all of them were supposed to have been destroyed during the Inquisition. Somehow, about 200 copies survived.

Poulton says the book at the U was purchased for $2,250 in 1970 from a private collector, Herbert M. Evans, through donations the U received when the Marriott Library was built. A copy in similarly pristine condition sold a few years ago for $155,000. Evans, a professor at the University of California at Berkeley who co-discovered vitamin E, collected books on the history of science. The exact path the U’s copy of Dialogo took over the centuries to arrive in his hands remains a mystery.

In the book, Galileo supports the astronomical ideas of Copernicus, who had been censured almost 100 years earlier by the Roman Catholic Church for concluding that the planets revolve around the sun, and Earth is not the center of the universe. Galileo intentionally tries to make his case in a casual way. He writes his book in Italian as a conversation or dialogue—hence, Dialogo. The book’s frontispiece, a picture of three men engaged in conversation, seems to suggest, “Don’t worry about us, we’re just three guys talking,” Poulton says. But the pope, who was a childhood friend of Galileo, would not be fooled. Galileo was sequestered for the rest of his life and was forced to recant the book “to save his head.” Most of the copies of the book were rounded up, confiscated and presumably burned.

The pieces are among the “big guns” in the U’s science collection, Poulton says. But the science collection is just one part of “a world-renowned archives,” says book dealer Ken Sanders, owner of Ken Sanders Rare Books store in Salt Lake City. There are “hundreds of significant collections housed at the library, any one of which could provide a student a master’s thesis and a lifetime of research,” he says. One of the U’s rare pieces, an aquatint by Karl Bodmer featured in the 1839 book by German Prince Maximilian of Wied-Neuwied, is now on display at the Smithsonian through January 27.

But Poulton finds the simple stories of some of the books in the U’s collection to be as compelling as those of the grander works. She recalls curating an exhibition of 18th-century multi-volume herbal books. In one of the volumes, a dried plant had been pressed on a page that matched the picture of that plant. “This was at least a 200-year-old book,” Poulton says, “and who knows when that particular specimen was added in that 200 years and by whom—and why just that one, and why didn’t they keep going, or maybe they did and the rest fell out. So there’s the find. There’s this very personal touch, and then there are all these questions. So I love knowing. I also love the mystery.”

Like the discovery she stumbled upon in a lesser-known book given as a gift to a woman. Poulton doesn’t even remember the book’s title, but in it, she found an inscription by inventor Nikola Tesla. “I just flipped out,” she says. “I called one of my sisters and said, ‘You won’t believe this.’ ” Poulton’s students have had similar experiences. Just this fall, Poulton was giving a lecture on artist books, which are unique, newer books in the collection, mostly made in the 20th century. “One of those students was looking at a book smaller than a cell phone and burst into tears. I mean, lost it,” Poulton says. The text was about charity and quoted the medieval Jewish scholar Maimonides.

“I’ve had reactions like that often. It gets to be personal. … The smell, the touch, the sound really does have meaning to it. It’s the difference between getting an ‘I love you’ in an email and getting a hug in person,” Poulton says.

Emily Michelson, a history professor at St. Andrews University in Scotland who taught at the U from 2006 to 2009, says those stories and the experiences they elicit are extremely valuable. In Utah, she brought her students every semester to visit the Rare Books room. “It was enormously important for the students,” Michelson says. “Often the books were the oldest man-made objects they had ever seen, much less held.”

Poulton says she is always striving to expand the “depth and breadth” of the collection. “I have a wish list that’s five million lines long and a Microsoft-worth of money.” Besides expanding the collection, Poulton also is working to digitize many of its works so that readers can look at them online. It’s an interesting juxtaposition, given her desire for people to physically hold the books and equal wish for the greatest accessibility. She can’t help but think the early printers from centuries ago would feel the same way.



The Posthumous Papers of the Pickwick Club

With the publication of his first novel, The Posthumous Papers of the Pickwick Club, Charles Dickens became famous overnight.

The book, written when he was only 25 years old, was published in installments of serialized, once-a-month chapters. The University of Utah’s Rare Books Division is home to a complete set of the first printing of the novel, printed in 1836 and illustrated by Hablot K. Brown, nicknamed “Boz.”

“I can see them saying on the one hand, ‘Wow, what a great idea,’ because part of the reason for Gutenberg developing printing with movable type was out of an obvious need for more copies of less expensive books. On the other hand, they did make a big deal about making what they produced beautiful.” Poulton—who doesn’t own a Kindle, has “no plans to get a Kindle,” and won’t use an iPad because it has no keyboard—can relate: “Texting is a great example. That’s not spelling,” she says.

Yet that modern-day dilemma is another example of what makes the rare books so intriguing. By handling and touching the books, it is easy to grasp that they are the reflection of real lives and real people who grappled with many of the same everyday circumstances that exist today. Their stories are rich, and the stories behind them even richer.

“The rewarding part is sheer selfishness,” Poulton says. “This is what I do. This is what I am surrounded by. To give students a context as to why they should care about some musty old books and see their reaction, that’s the most gratifying thing.”

—Kim M. Horiuchi is a longtime journalist and freelance writer based in Salt Lake City.

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