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U to Begin Search for New University President and Head of Health Sciences

On May 1, President David W. Pershing announced that he will conclude his tenure as the 15th president of the University of Utah by the end of the 2017-18 academic year. He will remain in his role until a successor is in place. “Serving as the president of this remarkable institution has been the greatest honor of my life,” wrote Pershing in a letter to faculty and staff.

Appointed in 2012, Pershing has made student success his top priority. Under his leadership, the university has implemented new deeply engaged learning experiences (such as undergraduate research opportunities), and six-year graduation rates have risen from 59 to 65 percent. The university is attracting more students who are better prepared for college than ever before, and is doing more to support them with academic counsel and advice. Numerous outreach programs to find and assist students experiencing academic and personal challenges have been created, and the U has nearly doubled its number of scholarships and created more on-campus jobs for students.

Pershing had expected to announce this fall that he would finish his service at the end of the next academic year but chose to make the announcement sooner so the search for a new president would run simultaneously with the search for a new senior vice president (SVP) of Health Sciences. “We’d like to have a new president in place when we are making the final decision on a Health Sciences senior vice president,” says Pershing.

Just days before his announcement, Dr. Vivian Lee resigned as SVP of Health Sciences, CEO of U of U Health, and dean of the School of Medicine. During her tenure from 2011-17, the university has received national recognition for its focus on providing high-quality and patient-centered care, while stabilizing and reducing costs. “Dr. Lee has led a remarkable transformation of our academic and research operations and has been at the forefront of innovations in health care delivery,” Pershing said in a prepared statement. “On behalf of the entire leadership at the University of Utah, I want to express my gratitude for Dr. Lee’s extraordinary achievements.” Lee will remain at the U as a tenured professor of radiology. Dr. Lorris Betz, who was SVP of Health Sciences from 1999 to 2011, is serving in the interim while the national search to replace Lee is conducted.

The news from both Pershing and Lee came on the heels of a controversy regarding the dismissal and reinstatement in March of Dr. Mary Beckerle as CEO and director of the Huntsman Cancer Institute (HCI) at the U. The university is working with the Huntsman family on a new Memorandum of Understanding with the goal of reaffirming HCI’s role as an integrated and collaborative part of the university.

“The past few weeks have been challenging for our entire university community,” says Pershing. “However, I want to assure our U family and friends that Dr. Ruth Watkins, senior vice president for Academic Affairs, Dr. Lorris Betz, and I are determined to work collaboratively and energetically to keep the university on course. And although I have announced that my time as president is nearing its conclusion, I am committed to maintaining the momentum the U is enjoying so that my successor will inherit a strong, vibrant campus.”

Upon completion of his presidency, Pershing intends to return to teaching and research at the U as a Distinguished Professor of chemical engineering. He is the recipient of the university’s Distinguished Teaching and Distinguished Research awards and the Rosenblatt Prize for Excellence. This story was last updated at time of press, May 15, 2017.

 New Program Supports African American Students

The U is launching a first-of-its-kind program aimed at preparing African American students for success after graduation. The African American Doctoral Scholars Initiative, which begins fall 2017, provides eligible students with annual scholarships worth up to $5,000, among other resources.

The community-building program is designed to help students develop skills including teaching, creating syllabi, submitting grant proposals, publishing and presenting research, etc. The scholarship award money may be used for research and conference travel, professional development, and dissertation research and writing expenses.

“Many African American doctoral students are only prepared to conduct research upon graduating,” says Deniece Dortch, program manager for the initiative and a postdoctoral research fellow. “We recognize these gaps and want students to be competitive on the job market once they complete their degrees. This program provides students with a network of peers, mentors, and professional development workshops to set them up for success.”

To be eligible for the program, students must self-identify as a member of the African American community, be accepted into a doctoral program at the U, be a full-time student, have earned a 3.0 cumulative GPA or higher, be a U.S. citizen, and demonstrate a commitment to understanding black life, history, and culture in the United States.

U Now Offers Online-Only Bachelor’s Degrees

The U will offer fully online undergraduate degrees beginning in fall 2017. A new package of courses, called “Block U,” will fulfill all general education requirements. This set of courses will complement the select majors currently offered on the web. “In the past, the U has offered several online undergraduate majors, but without an online general education program, students going to school online couldn’t complete their degree,” says Ann Darling, assistant vice president of Undergraduate Studies. “Block U provides the flexibility of online delivery and the benefits of highly engaging instruction.”

Majors offered through UOnline will include economics, nursing, sustainable tourism and hospitality management, psychology, and social work, along with a minor in gerontology. Most general education courses in Block U will be available for students to take at their convenience, helping them fit school into their personal schedules and busy lives.

Web-based courses don’t come at the expense of developing relationships with classmates and professors. The global citizen course, in particular, was developed to give online students access to the benefits of a learning community experience. “U research demonstrates that learning community courses are especially powerful success experiences for students of diverse backgrounds,” Darling says.

The U offers more than 450 web courses in addition to these fully online undergrad programs. And online graduate degrees available through the U include electrical and computer engineering, occupational therapy, and information systems.

A Reason to Smile

This May, future dentists tossed their caps in the air as the first cohort of students to graduate from the U’s School of Dentistry. The university’s first new school in more than 50 years has racked up an impressive set of achievements in its four short years: the inaugural class had the second-highest GPA for incoming dental students in the U.S., all 20 students have passed their dental board exams and scored in the top 15 percent nationally, and all will practice dentistry either in private practice or with additional training.

Ski Team Wins NCAA Title

Photo courtesy

The Utah ski team claimed the 2017 NCAA championship in March, their first nationals win since 2003. A special shout-out goes to freshman Martin Bergström, who won two national titles at the meet, in the men’s 10-km classic and the men’s 20-km freestyle race.

Utah Director of Skiing Kevin Sweeney notes: “In all my years of coaching, it was one of the most challenging four days of competition.” Sweeney also led the program to its last title 14 years ago and served under Pat Miller as head Nordic coach on Utah’s two NCAA title teams in 1997-98. “The weather was incredibly cold and windy, and challenging from both a waxing perspective as well as visibility and conditions. It took a lot of perseverance and gutsy performances for us to win.”

The Utes have 11 NCAA titles and 12 championships overall, including an AIAW title in 1978. Utah's NCAA wins rank third all-time in skiing.

Varsity Esports Comes to the U

The U and its nationally ranked Entertainment Arts & Engineering (EAE) video game development program are forming the U’s first college-sponsored varsity esports program. Utah esports will compete in multiple games and has confirmed the industry-leading League of Legends as its first game, with additional games to be announced shortly. The esports program is the first of its kind from a school in the Power Five athletics conferences (Pac- 12, Big Ten, Big 12, Atlantic Coast, and Southeastern).

“Esports has had a dramatic rise in popularity in the U.S. over the last few years— especially on college campuses,” says A.J. Dimick BA’03 BA’06 MEAE’14, director of operations for the esports program. “We think college esports is a great opportunity, and we want our students to be part of it.”

The U’s esports program will be sponsored by the EAE program, which has been ranked the No. 1 video game design program in the nation for three of the past five years by The Princeton Review. “EAE is proud to elevate competitive gaming at the U,” says Robert Kessler BS’74 MS’77 PhD’81, director of EAE. “We think it is a great opportunity for our students, the vibrant gaming community here on campus, and Utah fans in general to come together and watch these players hone their skills and play competitively to represent our school.”

College esports is in its infancy, but there are scores of teams sponsored by student gaming clubs across the United States. “We have more than 750 university League of Legends student clubs, and more than 20 official varsity programs across North America,” says Michael Sherman, college esports lead for Riot Games. “The U continues to showcase why it’s among the nation’s most innovative and competitive as the first Power Five school to build its varsity League of Legends team.”

Debate Society Earns National Championship

Congratulations to the U’s oldest student organization, the John R. Park Debate Society, for earning the season-long national championship awarded by the National Parliamentary Debate Association. The debate team also finished sixth place (first place in Pac-12) at the NPDA National Championship Tournament in March. The tournament included more than 140 teams from 41 universities and colleges.

The U Takes on Real Food Challenge

In February 2015, President David W. Pershing committed the U to the Real Food Challenge—a goal to have 20 percent of the university’s food categorized as “real” by 2020. “Real food” is a newer term used to describe food that is local/community-based, fair, ecologically sound, and humane.

Spring semester, “real food” labels began arriving in some campus stores. The new labels highlight the elements of “real food” and are now on food items at Mom’s Café and Mom’s Pantry at the Marriott Library and the Counsel Café in the S.J. Quinney College of Law.

“These labels increase transparency about the food students are consuming,” says Emily Paul, co-chair of the U’s Real Food Challenge student group. “This will give students the opportunity to make more sustainable and ethical food choices now and moving forward.”

Piano Scholar Inspires Underserved Communities

"Music is a moral law. It gives soul to the universe, wings to the mind, flight to the imagination, and charm and gaiety to life and to everything." ~ Plato

Desireé González, multiple award-winning pianist, teacher, and senior doctoral student in the U’s School of Music, uses this quote as her inspiration. González is the O. C. Tanner Piano Service Scholar for the 2016-17 school year. The program, created by the O. C. Tanner Company, selects one piano student at the U each year to receive an award in support of a teaching assistantship. The scholar presents 15 performances or presentations during the academic year with the community’s underserved populations.

It’s no accident that many of González’s recitals feature works by Latin American and well-known classical composers. “I want specifically to help the Latino and refugee communities because I am one of them,” says González. “I want to reach out through musical experiences to let them know that they are strong enough to pursue their dreams.”

Susan Duehlmeier BFA’70 MFA’73, piano area chair at the School of Music, has described González’s performances and assemblies in Salt Lake area public schools as remarkable. “The children are mesmerized by her presence,” she says. “Desireé is a leader in the School of Music and is already considered an expert in the field of pedagogy [teaching].”

Born in Monterrey, Nuevo León, México, González began playing the piano before she was three. At age 14, she studied with the Mexican-German concert pianist Alicia Monfort, and later attended the School of Music at Universidad Autónoma de Nuevo León in Monterrey. She received bachelor’s and master’s degrees in piano performance from Brigham Young University and currently is an associate private instructor at the U’s Preparatory Division and a U-Piano Outreach Program piano instructor under the tutelage of Vedrana Subotic, an associate professor (lecturer) in the School of Music. González’s piano excellence has taken her to concert venues and music institutions across Mexico, the United States, and Europe, where her talent, academic research, and pedagogical interests have led to numerous presentations and performances, including a solo recital in Rome.

For González, music is the answer. And now she is using music to inspire others, as Plato’s quote inspired her, to pursue their dreams and give “wings to their minds, flight to their imagination, and gaiety to their lives.”

U Student Awarded Prestigious Hertz Fellowship

Ethan Lake, an undergraduate student in physics and math, has received the prestigious and highly competitive Hertz Fellowship, a $250,000 grant for up to five years of graduate study in the STEM fields. Lake is one of only 12 students nationally to receive this award and the second Hertz Fellow for the U.
The Hertz Fellowship seeks to support America’s most promising students in the applied physical, biological, and engineering sciences. This year, 721 students applied and went through a rigorous meritbased process. The top 150 applicants were invited for an in-depth technical interview, and of those, 40 were invited back for a second interview, with each interview increasing in difficulty. “I found the application process, especially the interviews, to be intellectually rewarding and very enjoyable,” says Lake. “I would definitely encourage other students to apply.”

During his undergraduate career, Lake has published six first-author papers, with another three either submitted or in progress. Through his research, he has collaborated with scholars at institutions around the world including Princeton University, Caltech, the University of Colorado-Boulder, Peking University, and Tokyo University.

“I’m very grateful to the mentors I’ve worked with for their constant patience, and I appreciate the freedom they’ve given me to explore and think about research problems independently,” adds Lake.



Badger Caught Burying a Bovine

Photo courtesy Evan Buechley

While studying scavengers in Utah’s Great Basin Desert, U biologists observed an American badger do something that no other scientists had documented before: bury an entire calf carcass by itself.

While badgers and their relatives are known to cache food stores, this is the first known instance of a badger burying an animal larger than itself. The finding suggests that badgers may have little or no limit to the size of animal they can cache, and that they may play an important role in sequestering large carcasses, which could benefit cattle ranchers in the West. “This is a substantial behavior that wasn’t at all known about,” says U senior Ethan Frehner, first author on the paper documenting the finding.

Badgers spend a significant amount of time either underground or in nocturnal behavior, which is hard to directly observe. Camera traps, a relatively new tool for researchers, made it possible to document the caching. A badger at another site in the study also attempted to bury a calf carcass, suggesting that the behavior could be widespread.

Badgers cache food to isolate it from other scavengers and make it last longer. But doing so could also provide an ecological service to ranchers, many of whom see badgers as pests, because they dig burrows through rangeland and can eat chickens. But burying carrion could prevent disease from infecting other cows. And, adds fellow U senior Tara Christensen, “If the carcasses are being buried, they’re not going to be attracting large predators.”

Both Frehner and Christensen participated in the study as undergraduates. The work was funded by a National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship to doctoral candidate Evan Buechley. The team’s research was covered by dozens of major media outlets, including National Geographic, NPR, and Newsweek. The time-lapse video of the caching had garnered more than 1.5 million views as of mid-May, more than any other video produced by the U.

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Promising Results in Protecting Bones from Cancer

Once breast cancer spreads through the body, it can degrade a patient’s healthy bones, causing numerous problems. Scientists at Huntsman Cancer Institute (HCI) at the University of Utah have identified a new way that bones get destroyed through cancer. And they’ve also learned how to block that destruction with a new drug. Initial tests with patients show promising results.

Forty-thousand people die every year of breast cancer because the disease has spread to other sites in the body. And approximately 75 percent of the time, it spreads to their bones. Alana Welm, an investigator at HCI and associate professor of oncological sciences at the U, explains: “It’s a similar process to what happens in osteoporosis, except to a much greater extent. The cancer causes bone to be eaten up.”

Welm and colleagues discovered that a protein called Ron is responsible for destroying the bone. In mice, the scientists then studied what happened if they knocked out the gene containing the Ron protein. “We found it completely protected the bones from destruction,” says Welm. But it isn’t possible to simply knock out peoples’ genes. So to test the process in humans, HCI scientists worked with a biotechnology company that was developing an oral drug that blocks the activity of Ron. Welm’s group first tested this drug in mice and again saw positive results.

The biotech company was conducting a Phase 1 clinical trial to test the Ron inhibitor in men and women with various types of cancers, so Welm and her group collaborated with them to investigate the effect of the drug on human bones. The data showed encouraging results, and the drug was also well-tolerated in patients, with few side effects. But this trial was initially created only to test the safety of the drug. The next step will be specifically testing the drug in clinical trials with breast cancer patients.

Welm thinks the drug might work well in combination with existing drug therapies to improve outcomes for patients, especially those whose disease is resistant to current treatments. She also believes the drug could potentially be used for patients with other types of cancer that degrade bones, or for non-cancer-related osteoporosis.

Huge Black Holes Found in Tiny Galaxies

Artist’s depiction of a supermassive black hole. Illustration by Dana Berry of SkyWorks

Three years ago, a University of Utah-led team discovered that an ultra-compact dwarf galaxy contained a supermassive black hole, then the smallest known galaxy to harbor such a giant black hole. Now, the same group of U astronomers and colleagues has found two more examples of the phenomenon, suggesting that black holes lurk at the center of most of these galaxies— potentially doubling the number of supermassive black holes known in the universe—and that the dwarfs are likely tiny leftovers of massive galaxies that were stripped of their outer layers after colliding into larger galaxies.

“We know that galaxies merge and combine all the time—that’s how galaxies evolve. Our Milky Way is eating up galaxies as we speak,” says senior author Anil Seth, assistant professor in the Department of Physics & Astronomy. “But we have a really incomplete picture of that.”

Chris Ahn, postdoctoral candidate in the Department of Physics & Astronomy, and lead author of the international study, notes: “Maybe a fraction of the centers of all galaxies are actually these compact galaxies stripped of their outer parts.”

Stopping Chronic Pain Before it Starts

For millions of sufferers, there is nothing more debilitating than chronic back or joint pain. It can feel like a lifetime of misery. But researchers led by U bioengineering assistant professor Robby Bowles have discovered a way to curb chronic pain by modulating genes that reduce tissue- and cell-damaging inflammation.

Typically, inflammation is nature’s way of alerting the immune system to repair tissue or tackle infection. But chronic inflammation can instead lead to tissue degeneration and pain. Slipped or herniated discs, for example, are a result of damage after inflammation causes cells to create molecules that break down tissue.

Bowles’ team is using new genetics technology to stop the process. “This has applications for many inflammatory-driven diseases,” Bowles says. Now that researchers know they can do this, doctors will be able to modify genes via an injection directly to the affected area.

“The hope is that this stops degeneration in its tracks,” says Bowles. So far, the team has developed a virus that can deliver the gene therapy and has filed a patent on the system. They hope to proceed to human trials after collecting more data.

Alum News

UUAA scholarship spotlight: Turning adversity into passion

Meet Nora Ismail, recipient of a 2017 Achievement Scholarship granted by the University of Utah Alumni Association (UUAA) at its annual Spring Awards ceremony. This award is reserved for students who have overcome particular hardship to get an education.

Ismail was born in the U.S. as an American Egyptian/Russian, but her father’s business took them to Dubai when she was 11. Not long after settling in, a community of radical Islamists began targeting her family. Ismail was Muslim, but she attended church with her Christian mother, resulting in more harassment and even death threats from extremists. The persecution became so severe that Ismail was kicked out of school, and her family lost their business, home, and at one point didn’t have money for basic necessities.

At age 17, when Ismail was about to be forced into a marriage with a much older man, her parents desperately sought help and found someone who arranged for her escape back to the U.S., but she had to leave her parents behind. Ismail was taken in by a family in Utah, where she was able to finish high school and prepare for college. She entered the U last fall. Ismail is majoring in business and Middle Eastern studies and hopes to create an organization to empower women and children to get their educations.

When asked what she has enjoyed the most about her experience at the U, Ismail says, “the privilege of getting a chance to have an education. I had my education taken away from me by force and lived without it for a few years, so I got to feel the loss and need for it in my life.”

At the annual Spring Awards banquet, the Alumni Association honored 85 students with scholarships ranging from $1,500 to $6,000 per student.

Alumni Association honors academic advisor

The association’s Spring Awards ceremony also included the Perlman Award for Excellence in Student Counseling, which is given annually to a faculty or staff member who has made an outstanding contribution to the university through student advising and counseling.

The recipient this year is Maria Creasey-Baldwin, who is an academic advising coordinator with the U’s TRIO Student Support Services, providing support to students who are low income, have disabilities, and/or are first-generation college-matriculated. She has also coordinated a comprehensive six-week summer residential components in which students become familiar with going to college.

Creasey-Baldwin is beloved and respected by students and administrators alike for being deeply committed to helping students in any way needed. “If it was not for her, I would have not gone to school at all,” wrote a student who nominated her for the award. Creasey-Baldwin says the best part of her job is witnessing student self-discovery and seeing them reach their goals. “Being a part of their journey is profoundly rewarding,” she says.

Which counties drive with U pride?

Did you know that every dollar spent on University of Utah license plates goes directly to scholarship funds? Last year, license plates contributed to more than $700,000 for student scholarships! Are you supporting scholarships by driving with U pride? What about your family, friends, and neighbors… see how your county ranks as the Ute-est in the state.



Learn more about our scholarships in the fun infographic here.

Where will you fly your flag?

The Alumni Association is offering an incentive for first-time members—a U Alumni garden flag. For as little as $50, you can join a robust network of Utah alumni living all around the world. Becoming a member offers an array of perks and also helps support the association’s scholarship program, which will provide more than $700,000 to deserving students this year.

Association members enjoy benefits ranging from special members-only discounts, event invitations, career networking opportunities, and a subscription to all four issues of Continuum a year. Membership can be purchased annually, for three years, or for a lifetime, and is open to U alumni, family, nongraduates, and other friends of the U.

Visit to join and learn more about additional member benefits and promotions (including limited-edition U Alumni socks). And, if it is a first-time enrollment, start planning now where you’ll fly that U Alumni flag!

Save the date: Homecoming 2017

SEPT. 30-OCT. 8: Mark your calendars for this year’s exciting Homecoming lineup, including our traditional tailgate before the game against Stanford on Oct. 7. Go Utes!

Class Notes


Stephen Wilson Hales MD’73 reigned as the 2017 Mardi Gras Rex, or King of Carnival, in New Orleans this February. Rex’s proclamation opens the celebration of Carnival, and he and his Queen preside over its glittering conclusion at the Rex Ball. A New Orleans pediatrician and community leader, Hales is the founder and senior associate of Hales Pediatrics and has practiced in New Orleans since arriving there in 1975. After receiving his medical degree from the U’s School of Medicine, Hales completed his residency in pediatrics in Phoenix, Arizona, as well as a fellowship at the University of Texas Health Science Center in San Antonio. A Fellow of the American Academy of Pediatrics, he served as acting chief of pediatrics at the New Orleans Public Health Service Hospital.


Yuan Chang MD’87 and Patrick S. Moore MD’85 MPL’86, University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine faculty members, have been awarded the 2017 Paul Ehrlich and Ludwig Darmstaedter Prize, an international research honor considered one of the most prestigious in the field of medicine. The award recognizes medical researchers who have made significant contributions in the fields of immunology, cancer research, microbiology, and chemotherapy. The duo’s Chang-Moore Laboratory is credited with discovering two of the seven known human viruses that directly cause cancer: the Kaposi’s sarcoma-associated herpes virus, and the Merkel cell polyomavirus.


Adrienne Gillespie Andrews BA’93 BA’96 has received the ATHENA Leadership Award from the Ogden Weber Chamber of Commerce. The award recognizes professional excellence, community service, and active assistance helping women advance. Hired at Weber State University in 2005, Andrews was selected in May 2015 to serve as the school’s first chief diversity officer. The recipient of several other awards, she facilitated the creation of Ogden’s first diversity commission in fall 2016 and the Weber State Town Hall Conversations on Race series. In addition to her degrees from the U in political science and gender studies, Andrews has a master’s degree from Minnesota State University-Mankato, and another from Rutgers. She currently is a doctoral student in the U’s Department of Education, Culture, and Society.


Thiago Ize PhD’09 and his colleagues at Solid Angle received a Science and Technical Award from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, hosts of the Oscars. Presented on February 11 in Los Angeles, the award honors their highly optimized geometry engine and novel ray-tracing algorithms that unify the rendering of curves, surfaces, and subsurface scattering. Developed at Sony Pictures, Imageworks, and Solid Angle SL, the team’s visual effects software, “Arnold,” is becoming one of the most popular programs in the industry and can be seen in films such as Captain America and the two new Star Wars movies. Arnold’s computer animation abilities include rendering photorealistic images of actors who are no longer alive. Ize lives in Utah, where he continues to work on improving the Arnold software.

Holly Rowe BA’04, ESPN sideline reporter for college football games since 1998, is co-recipient of the U.S. Basketball Writers Association Pat Summitt Most Courageous Award, named for the women’s college basketball coach who accrued a record-breaking 1,098 career wins, and died from early-onset Alzheimer’s disease. Rowe, known for her unique style in pursuing stories of athletes and teams, has been diagnosed with cancer and in February 2016 had surgery to remove two tumors. She has battled her illness with the same passion and relentless commitment with which she approaches her job. Rowe is the first recipient of the Summitt award who isn’t an athlete, coach, official, or team public relations person. She was honored at the women’s Final Four in Dallas in April.


Alex Mejia MS’13 and co-authors of the article “Latina/o Adolescents’ Funds of Knowledge Related to Engineering” (published in the Journal of Engineering Education) will receive the William Elgin Wickenden Award of the American Society of Engineering Education at the society’s annual conference this summer. The award recognizes the author(s) of the best paper published in the journal. An Angelo State University faculty member since 2015, Mejia’s primary research centers on working with K-12 schools to improve the success of Latino and other under-represented students in the science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields. He received a bachelor’s degree from the University of Texas at El Paso, a master’s degree from the U, and a doctorate in engineering education from Utah State University.

To submit alumni news for consideration, email


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Campus Bids Farewell to Milton Bennion Hall

Since 1960, students studying to become educators at the University of Utah have been taking classes in Milton Bennion Hall, and many others have walked its halls as well. This winter, alumni, students, and faculty celebrated the legacy of Milton Bennion and bid a fond farewell to the building that helped shape the futures of thousands of general and special education teachers, counselors, administrators, and educational leaders. The building came down to make space for expansion of the David Eccles School of Business.

“What I experienced during my time in Milton Bennion Hall was a life changer; it enabled me to learn more, to appreciate who I am, what skills I have, what new skills I need to learn, and how I can contribute to education,” says Cecelia H. Foxley PhD’68, former Utah commissioner of higher education, who received her doctorate in educational psychology from the U. “It enabled me to have a whole new future.”

Milton Bennion, who served as dean of the School of Education for 28 years (1913-1941), was well known for his Socratic teaching style and his keen interest in personal and social ethics and character education. Bennion also served as vice president of the university from 1940-1941.

“A big part of Bennion’s legacy, which still continues today, was his focus on character education and the role of education, not only in academics, but also in preparing individuals to be good citizens,” says Michael Hardman BS’71 MEd’73 PhD’75, chief global offcer for the U and former dean of the college. “In my early years of being a professor, I read a lot about Milton Bennion, and it shaped a lot of my thinking.”

In 2013, the College of Education found a new home in the Beverley Taylor Sorenson Arts and Education Complex, but Milton Bennion Hall continued to be used for other classes, clinics, and office space for faculty.

“The building has been home for remarkable students, incredible research innovations, and distinguished faculty for over half a century,” says María E. Fránquiz, dean of the college.

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U Aims to Build Top Pacific Islander Program

The U is embarking on an initiative to become the nation’s leader in Pacific Islander studies. As part of the initiative, the university is hiring two new full-time faculty in Pacific Islander studies and recently created a new scholarship aimed at recruiting and retaining talented students of Pacific Island heritage.

Utah has one of the oldest and largest Pacific Islander communities in the country (with members from throughout Polynesia, Micronesia, and Melanesia, from Hawaii to New Zealand). In fact, Utah has the largest population in the continental U.S. per capita, and U.S. Census figures show the numbers increased by more than 60 percent between 2000 and 2010. Pacific Islanders have lived continuously in Utah since 1870.

“Because of Utah’s long history with Pacific Islanders and the strong network of professionals, community groups, and associations within the Pacific Islander community, the U is well positioned to strengthen these partnerships and build the top program in the continental United States,” says Adrian Viliami Bell, assistant professor in the Department of Anthropology and co-director of the Pacific Islander Studies Initiative at the U.

The initiative will take a three-pronged approach: Collaborating with and serving the state’s Pacific Islander community, increasing the diversity of the university’s faculty by hiring scholars whose expertise lies in studying the area, and providing scholarships and mentorship opportunities to students of Pacific Island backgrounds.

To learn more about the initiative or to donate to the Pacific Islander scholarship, email

Conrad Anker to Speak at 2017 Commencement

Photo by Jimmy Chin

World-renowned mountain climber, filmmaker, author, philanthropist, and U alum Conrad Anker will deliver the 2017 commencement address on Thursday, May 4, at 6:30 p.m. in the Jon M. Huntsman Center. The event is free and open to the public.

Anker BA’88 was featured in the 2015 Sundance film Meru, which chronicles his attempt to lead the first team to summit the notoriously difficult Shark’s Fin on Mount Meru in northern India. Anker was a founding member of The North Face Climbing Team and began his relationship with the outdoor company as a retail employee while he was a student at the U. He graduated with a degree in recreation and leisure.

“I want all of the graduates, regardless of how they choose to define success, to find greatness within themselves,” Anker says. “That’s why I’m thankful for the opportunity to come back to the University of Utah to deliver this message to the class of 2017.”

Anker began climbing at a young age and jokes that he chose to attend the U because the brochure showed mountains in the background. He worked for the school’s campus recreation program and enjoyed the U's close proximity to the outdoors while taking classes. He says he found his business courses to be especially useful, and even started a company while in school, KÜHL, that he eventually sold for $10,000—which he used to go climbing.

“I want graduates to live in the moment,” Anker says. “Utahns are known for their kindness and generosity. The goodness that comes from being part of the U community is something that will always be with you and that you can share around the world.”

Student Crowned Ms. Wheelchair America 2017

Eliza McIntosh, a junior studying political science, wears the title of Ms. Wheelchair America 2017. She won with the platform: “Where there is a wheel, there is a way—identify your passion, invite people to join you, and ignite your community behind you.”

Over the next year, McIntosh will travel the country as a spokeswoman for the disability community, visit with advocacy groups, make public appearances, and participate in parades. McIntosh uses a wheelchair for mobility because she has spinal dysgenesis and is paralyzed from the waist down. An intern at the Disability Law Center in Salt Lake City, she enjoys politics, wheelchair basketball, and chess. “Being disabled is normally seen as a very negative thing. It sounds kind of funny, but I was basically born a celebrity,” she says. “Every time I come into a room, people notice. I can go for years without seeing somebody, and they’ll still remember me. That’s impact. That’s power. And so, I feel like you should use what you have available to your advantage.”

At the weeklong Ms. Wheelchair America competition last August, McIntosh competed against 25 other contestants from different states. Although the contestants are showcased in pageant format, physical beauty is not a consideration. McIntosh says of her new role, “I am excited and honored to be Ms. Wheelchair America 2017! I hope to use this opportunity to exhibit just how much you can do because of a wheelchair, not despite it.”

Pakistani Youth Leaders Here on Exchange

The University of Utah’s International Student and Scholar Services recently hosted 94 emerging youth leaders from Pakistan as part of that country's Global Undergraduate Exchange Program. Through the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs and administered by IREX, an international nonprot organization based in Washington, D.C., the program brings undergraduate students from underserved populations in Pakistan to study in the U.S. to increase their academic knowledge, enhance their leadership capacity, and build new life skills.

Having spent the past semester at 42 different colleges and universities around the country, the students concluded their experience together at a re-entry workshop at the U, learning how to integrate their individual and shared experiences in the U.S. into a blueprint for becoming leaders in their communities. “The workshop was a great success,” says Chalimar Swain, director of International Student and Scholar Services. “Particularly in this time of divisive national politics, it was a healing, uplifting experience to see these future leaders engaging in lively discussions about diversity, inclusion, ethics, and leadership.”

Forbes Recognizes U Engineering Professor

Luther McDonald, a 28-year-old civil and environmental engineering assistant professor, as well as a faculty member in the U’s nuclear engineering program, was just named one of Forbes’ “30 Under 30” in science. He joins academics from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Harvard, and NASA’s Langley Research Center, among others, in being named one of this year’s outstanding young scientists and scientific entrepreneurs in fields from mathematics to neuroscience and genetics. McDonald was the only researcher from Utah named.

“It’s an honor,” he says about the announcement. “It’s also motivation to keep doing more—to get more research funding and get more students to the University of Utah and grow the research program.”

McDonald received his bachelor’s in chemistry at the University of West Florida and a doctorate in radiochemistry at Washington State University. “My favorite class in high school was chemistry, and for my first chemistry course in college I had one of the most phenomenal professors,” he says. “I thought, ‘If this is what chemistry is like, I want to do it.’ And I was hooked since then.”

From left to right: Jason P. Perry, Director of the Hinckley Institute of Politics, Kirk Jowers, VP for Corporate Relations, DoTerra, Heidi Hatch, Reporter with KUTV, and Rich McKeown, CEO of Leavitt Partners. Photo courtesy KUED.

Now Airing The Hinckley Report

From GOP infighting to the WikiLeaks email hacks and the rise of a surprisingly strong third-party presidential candidate in Utah, there has been no shortage of recent political surprises— providing perfect timing for the fall launch of The Hinckley Report. KUED—the public television station affiliated with the U—began airing the weekly half-hour public affairs series in partnership with the Hinckley Institute of Politics this past September. The Hinckley Report is modeled after Washington Week on PBS, which features a roundtable of journalists discussing the issues of the week. Its goal: elevate the dialogue surrounding pressing political issues and how they relate to Utah. The show airs on Fridays at 7:30 p.m. on KUED Channel 7.

Past episodes and web extras are available at


What Tweets Can Tell Us About Our Health

“Coffee” was the most tweeted food in the continental U.S. from mid-2014 to mid-2015, followed by “beer” then “pizza.” Besides hinting at which foods are popular, tweets may reveal something about our health. Communities that expressed positive sentiments about healthy foods were more likely to be healthier overall.

Scientists at the University of Utah surveyed nearly 80 million Twitter messages—a random sample of 1 percent of publicly available, geotagged tweets—over the course of one year. They then sorted through the 4 million tweets about food for ones that fell on opposite ends of the health spectrum: tweets mentioning fast food restaurants, or lean meats, fruits, veggies, or nuts.

The real insights came after cross-referencing the two types of food tweets with information about the neighborhoods they came from, including census data and health surveys. They found, for instance, that tweets from poor neighborhoods, and regions with large households, were less likely to mention healthy foods. People in areas dense with fast food restaurants also tweeted more often about fast food.

Twitter has previously been used to track health by gauging the prevalence of smoking and finding the source of its spread. Here, the comparisons could provide clues as to how our neighborhoods— the environments that we live, work, and play in—impact our health and well-being. “Our data could be telling us that certain neighborhoods have fewer resources to support healthy diets,” says Quynh Nguyen, an assistant professor at the U’s College of Health and lead author of the study, published in JMIR Public Health and Surveillance. She explains that perhaps neighborhoods laden with fast food restaurants could benefit from having more supermarkets or farm stands that sell fresh produce.

Nguyen and co-authors are working on future versions of the analytical programs to improve results and deepen the findings. “This is a promising new, cost-effective method for studying the social and environmental influences on health,” says senior author Ming Wen, professor of sociology at the U.

See the full paper here.

Sankar Swaminathan and Dinesh Virma

Heart Med Offers Hope as Antiviral

Today, there is only one class of antiviral medicines against herpesviruses— a family of viruses that cause mononucleosis, shingles, and meningitis, among other illnesses. And if viruses become resistant to these frontline treatments, a growing problem particularly in clinical settings, there are no alternative drugs to serve as backup.

Scientists at the U’s School of Medicine found that a medicine routinely used to treat heart failure, spironolactone, has an unexpected ability to block infection by Epstein-Barr virus (EBV), a herpesvirus that causes mono and is associated with several human cancers. Spironolactone’s target is distinct from that of existing drugs, revealing that it could be developed into a new class of anti-herpesvirus drug, providing another treatment option and helping overcome the problem of drug-resistant infections.

“It’s remarkable that a drug we have used safely in the clinic for over 50 years is also an effective EBV inhibitor,” says senior author Sankar Swaminathan, chief of infectious disease at U of U Health and professor of internal medicine. “It goes to show how basic research can reveal things we would never have found otherwise.” Conducted in collaboration with research assistant professor of internal medicine Dinesh Virma and lab specialist Jacob Thompson BS’11, the study is published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

L to R: Benjamin Fogg, Samer Merchant, Mackenzie Hales, and Sean Runnels. Photo courtesy Lassonde Entrepreneur Institute

A Safer Way to Intubate

Breathing tubes are commonly used during surgery and other instances when someone isn’t able to breathe on their own. Each year, some 400,000 intubations require three or more attempts to get into the windpipe, and complication rates rise with each attempt.

So when U faculty member and anesthesiologist Sean Runnels had an idea for an upgrade to reduce injuries, deaths, and associated costs, he reached out to the U’s Lassonde Entrepreneur Institute to find talented graduate students to help realize his vision. Together with MBA student Mackenzie Hales, bioengineering doctoral student Samer Merchant, and Benjamin Fogg, a medical and bioengineering student at the U, they created the award-winning Through the Cords, LLC.

Fogg explains how their products make it easier to intubate safely. “One main feature is our device’s ability to gauge depth,” he says. “If you insert the tube too deep, you risk puncturing a lung or only ventilating one lung. If it’s too shallow, the patient doesn’t get the oxygen they need.”

The unique designs include a steerable, flexible device that, when inserted, is easily monitored using a medical camera. Feedback has been positive from paramedics, anesthesiologists, and others, most of whom were surprised something like this didn’t already exist. To bring it to market, Runnels and the students have entered entrepreneur competitions and grant programs, winning more than $150,000 so far toward further development of their devices and FDA approval.

You can observe the Through the Cords intubation process here in this device demonstration.

Stopping a Complete Waste of Energy

According to the National Resources Defense Council, Americans waste up to $19 billion annually in electricity costs due to “vampire appliances,” always-on digital devices in the home that suck power even when they are turned off.

But U electrical and computer engineering professor Massood Tabib-Azar and a team of engineers have come up with a way to produce microscopic electronic switches for appliances and devices that can grow and dissolve wires inside the circuitry that instantly connect and disconnect electrical flow.

With this technology, consumer products such as smartphones and computer laptops could run at least twice as long on a single battery charge, and newer all-digital appliances such as televisions and video game consoles could be much more power efficient.

“Whenever they are off, they are not completely off, and whenever they are on, they may not be completely on,” says Tabib- Azar, who also is a professor with the Utah Science Technology and Research (USTAR) initiative. “That uses battery life. It heats up the device, and it’s not doing anything for you. It’s completely wasted power.”

The research, published in a paper in Solid State Electronics, was co-authored by Intel engineer Pradeep Pai PhD’15, Omnivision Technologies engineer Yuying Zhang PhD’15, and IM Flash engineer Nurunnahar Islam Mou MS’16.

Alum News

University of Utah 2017 Founders Day recipients from L to R: Pamela Cipriano, Alan Sullivan, Bruce Bastian, David Jorgensen, and Miriah Meyer.

Founders Day Celebrated with Alumni Awards

On March 3, the University of Utah celebrated its 167th year since its founding in 1850 with a gala bestowing its Founders Day awards (among its highest honors, alongside honorary doctoral degrees), to four outstanding graduates and one honorary alumnus. The awardees were recognized for their exceptional professional achievements and/or public service, as well as for their support to the university.


Pamela Cipriano
PhD’92 is president of the American Nurses Association, which represents the interests of the nation’s 3.1 million registered nurses. She is a research associate professor at the University of Virginia School of Nursing, where she has served in faculty and leadership positions since 2000. She previously led the University of Virginia Health Systems employees as chief clinical officer and chief nursing officer. She was named one of the top 100 Most Influential People in Healthcare in 2015.

Pamela Cipriano tribute video:

David Jorgensen BS’61 was a successful Silicon Valley exec and entrepreneur before devoting himself full time to philanthropy. Former CEO of Dataquest, a high-tech market research company, he also cofounded a highly successful copier/printer supply firm. Since selling it in 2002, he has served as president of the David and Annette Jorgensen Foundation, whose work has included supporting more than 40 U engineering students with scholarships for up to five years each at nearly full tuition.

David Jorgensen tribute video:

Miriah Meyer PhD’08 is a USTAR (Utah Science Technology and Research) assistant professor in the School of Computing at the U and a faculty member in its Scientific Computing and Imaging Institute. Previously, Meyer was a postdoctoral research fellow at Harvard University and a visiting scientist at the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard. She has been named a TED Fellow, as well as included on a Fast Company list of the 100 most creative people in business.

Miriah Meyer tribute video:

Alan L. Sullivan JD’74, a prominent Utah attorney of 30-plus years, has been sought out for high profile litigation including an intellectual property case in which he obtained the largest jury verdict in the history of the state court system. A past chair of the Utah Supreme Court Advisory Committee on Civil Procedure, he led the “And Justice For All” campaign to establish ongoing private funding of pro bono legal services for Utah’s most vulnerable citizens.

Alan Sullivan tribute video:


Bruce Bastian
(B.A. and M.A., Brigham Young University) co-founded WordPerfect, which revolutionized word processing and document-generating features that are still relied upon today. He used his success to found the B.W. Bastian Foundation, which focuses its gifts on LGBTQ equality and the arts in education. To the U alone he has given 55 Steinway pianos, a major contribution for renovations to Kingsbury Hall, annual support to the University’s LGBT Resource Center and U Pride, and thousands of dollars to various other areas across campus.

Bruce Bastian tribute video:

Founders Day Scholar Embraces Her Cultural Identity

For Sydney Chan, our 2017 Founders Day Scholar, cultural identity has made her who she is—a successful second-year nursing student, an active volunteer with several groups supporting the underrepresented, and an outstanding service leader with the U’s Bennion Center.

Sydney’s parents are African American and Chinese, so she was raised in both cultures and traditions. “My beliefs have saved me many times, and the traditions sustained by my family have had an enormous impact on me,” she says. “I am very proud of my heritage and hope to build confidence, courage, and character in those I help.”

But Sydney’s life wasn’t always so bright. For many years, comments about her mixed heritage affected her confidence and made her question who she is. At one point, she felt painfully misjudged based on racist stereotypes. “I was hurt and frustrated that because of my skin color, people assumed I was scary, bad, a lowlife,” she recalls. “But I quickly snapped out of it when I remembered all the beautiful teachings my cultural background has given me.” Sydney uses these experiences as motivators to make a difference and help others who might have experienced similar hardships.

Sydney gained leadership experience working with girls from refugee, homeless, and domestic abuse shelters, and became involved with diversity committees and underrepresented student groups at the U. “Through my involvement on campus, I’ve been able to understand how my culture and beliefs have shaped me,” she says. “As I further my nursing career, I’m determined to take my experiences and use them to advocate for my patients and their beliefs.”

The Alumni Association awards its annual $8,000 Founders Day Scholarship (its largest single award) to a student who has overcome difficult life circumstances or challenges and who has given service to the university and the community.

New Marketing Director Joins Alumni Association

The Alumni Association welcomes a new director of marketing, Andy Cier, an award-winning marketing and communications executive with extensive strategic marketing experience in education, tourism, health care, and government. The University of Utah is lucky to have his expertise.

Cier attended K-12 in Salt Lake City (and went to the U for a brief time) before graduating from the University of Notre Dame in communications and film production. Since then, he has worked for companies such as Helix Education (previously Datamark) and Riester to ensure their clients’ marketing strategies were the best they could be.

Personable and interested in telling relatable stories, his approach to marketing takes on a more human quality than a stiff, corporate one. He enjoys working with a team, encouraging them to align their personal goals with the success of the company, and considers himself a people person.

Cier also runs an independent consulting firm that offers marketing advice and coaching. He is an avid film lover and a member of the Utah Advisory Board for the Sundance Institute. Always involved in local events, he looks forward to applying his community spirit to the U.

Your Legacy Can Live On at the Alumni House

The new Cleone Peterson Eccles Alumni House construction is well under way but could still use your support. While many of the rooms and areas have been named for our generous donors, plenty of naming opportunities remain to leave your legacy in the new house. And if you’ve already donated, consider hosting your events starting in the fall of 2017 at the newly updated Alumni House to enjoy and help support the beautiful new facility.

Call 801-581-6995 to make reservations.

Class Notes


Julie Smart BA’68 MA’70 has received the Distinguished Career in Rehabilitation Education Award from the National Council on Rehabilitation Education, a professional organization of educators dedicated to quality services for persons with disabilities. In 2001, she was awarded the council’s Outstanding Researcher/ Educator Award. Now retired, Smart was a faculty member for 24 years at Utah State University’s graduate program in rehabilitation counseling, and served as program director for 10 years. Smart has translated into Spanish two testing instruments used in rehabilitation and disability practice and has published widely in the rehabilitation/ disability literature. In addition to holding a bachelor’s degree in history and a master’s degree in educational psychology from the U, Smart received a doctorate in rehabilitation counseling from the University of Northern Colorado.


Mary Hyacinth-Houser MS’76 was inducted into Voorhees College’s 2016 Homecoming Hall of Fame. Hyacinth- Houser graduated from Voorhees in 1971 with a bachelor’s degree in history. She received a master’s degree in human resource management from the U and furthered her studies at Long Island University in guidance counseling. After spending her professional career with the New York State Department of Labor and the New York City Board of Education, she retired after 36 years in supervision and counseling. Hyacinth-Houser, an ordained minister, also founded and remains active with a Helping Hand Ministry to assist the needy, currently in Georgia and South Carolina. “A desire to help and empower others has always been my life’s focus,” she notes.

Martha Raddatz ex’75, chief global affairs correspondent for ABC News, was selected as one of two moderators of the second 2016 U.S. Presidential Debate between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, in October, alongside Anderson Cooper of CNN. The New York Times said the two journalists “steered debate with sharp question.” The Columbia Journalism Review noted, “Audiences for debates tower over those of all other political coverage… upping both the potential and risk of more assertive moderating. But Raddatz… proved that such hands-on direction can ultimately lead to a more revealing look at the candidates than the public would otherwise get.” Raddatz has written for The New Republic and is a frequent guest on PBS’s Washington Week. At the U, she studied speech and hearing science.


Genevieve Atwood MPA’91 PhD’06 received the 2016 Lehi Hintze Award for Outstanding Contributions to the Geology of Utah from the Utah Geological Association and the Utah Geological Survey. Atwood, who is chief education officer of Earth Science Education and former adjunct associate professor of geography at the U, has spent her career on the interface of Earth science and public policy. As a representative in the Utah Legislature, she was instrumental in establishing Utah’s mined land reclamation program, Seismic Safety Advisory Council, and dam safety program, and the state’s acquisition of Antelope Island. She also served as State Geologist. Atwood received a master’s degree from the U in public administration and a doctorate in geography.


Viet Le BS’01 MPS’04 was honored with one of Utah Business magazine’s 2016 Healthcare Heroes awards. Since 2012, Le has been employed as a cardiology research physician assistant, working with the director and co-director of cardiovascular research at Intermountain Medical Center Heart Institute and at the University of Utah Hospital. He devotes a portion of his time to seeing patients in clinic and the rest of his time to research projects. Le’s research interests are wide and varied. He particularly enjoys the study of mobile health technologies and interventions. He is a member of the American College of Cardiology and the American Heart Association, and was named Physician Assistant of the Year in 2014 by Intermountain Healthcare, Urban Central Region.

Vicki Fish MBA’08, vice president of dermatology at Myriad Genetic Laboratories, in Salt Lake City, has received a Women Tech Award for leadership excellence. Fish is one of six women recognized in late 2016 by the Women Tech Council, Utah’s most visible trade organization focused on the economic impact of women in driving high growth for Utah’s technology sector. Fish has spent 18 years at Myriad focused on patient care in the field of personalized medicine and molecular diagnostics. She is responsible for launching a gene expression assay aiding in the diagnosis of melanoma, and founded Myriad’s Women’s Leadership Forum. In addition to her degree from the U, she has a master’s degree in genetics from the University of North Texas.


To submit alumni news for consideration, email


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Lassonde Studios Opens Its Doors

After much anticipation and excitement, the new Lassonde Studios opened in August to welcome its first cohort of 400 student residents. The $45 million facility is a place where students from any major or background can live, create new products, and launch companies.

A nationally ranked division of the David Eccles School of Business, the Lassonde Institute announced the building project in April 2014 and broke ground in October of the same year. During construction, Lassonde Studios received worldwide attention, with features in publications such as the New York Times, Fast Company, and Bloomberg.

Lassonde Studios is about 160,000 square feet on five floors. The first floor is a 20,000-square-foot innovation space, workshop, and cafe open to all students on campus. That floor has many spaces and tools, including workbenches, group work areas, 3-D printers, a laser cutter, power tools, and more. The first floor is similar to a student union for those interested in entrepreneurship and innovation. Above are four floors of student housing.

More than 1,300 students applied to live at Lassonde Studios this year. Those selected are often referred to as the “Lassonde 400.” This year’s residents have a variety of academic interests—the most popular include business, engineering, computer science, video games, and film—and they are 37 percent female, 63 percent male. Half are freshmen, and the rest span across every class, including graduate students. “We think we have assembled one of the best groups of entrepreneurs anywhere,” says Troy D’Ambrosio BA’82, executive director of the Lassonde Institute. “We can’t wait to see what the Lassonde 400 accomplishes this year and in the future.”

Lassonde Studios is made possible through the vision and generosity of Pierre Lassonde MBA’73, a world-renowned gold investor, founder of the Franco-Nevada Corporation, and U alumnus who has donated $25 million to support the Lassonde Studios and related programs “We wanted to create a community of entrepreneurs unlike anything anywhere else,” says Lassonde. “The Lassonde Studios will help make this possible by providing all the space and tools students need to do amazing things. The University of Utah is now the place to be for young entrepreneurs.”

Learn more about the Lassonde Studios at

Learn more about the Lassonde Institute at

The FanUp Pledge

The U invites its loyal sports supporters far and wide to “FanUp” and stake our claim as one of the best fan bases in the nation. Last spring, President David Pershing formed a committee of students, trustees, athletes, fans, alums, and university employees to create a campaign to promote the kind of sportsmanship that reflects the values of the University of Utah. As a result, the university launched the FanUp campaign asking fans everywhere to take the following pledge.


1. Love our Utes and welcome visiting teams and their fans

2. Promote a family-friendly experience

3. Enjoy the game responsibly

4. Cheer loud and be Ute Proud!

The campaign also has designated a text number to report poor fan behavior during a sporting event. Text “FANUP <issue and location>” to 69050.


UMOJI ManiaGood news for those who are tired of using the high-five emoji as a substitute for Flash-the-U. The U has released an official emoji keyboard called UMOJI —with a “Lite” version for free and a paid version with more choices for $1.99. The icons are available in the App Store and Google Play Store, and can be found by searching “Utah Umoji.”

Click here for the UMOJIS page.

Manufacturing a Brighter Future

Photo by Dan Hixson

Photo by Dan Hixson

One of the hot-button issues these days is outsourcing overseas. The big question is how to keep jobs in America. To help convince businesses they can perform better in their own backyard, two U mechanical engineering professors, Bruce Gale PhD’00, and Bart Raeymaekers (pictured L to R), established a center to show local manufacturing companies how they can spur innovation and utilize the latest technology.

The new Manufacturing Extension Partnership (MEP) Center will deliver services for small and medium-sized manufacturing companies by providing expertise in advanced technology, innovation, worker education, operational excellence, and investment strategies. “The goal of the program is to provide these services so businesses can remain competitive against cheap overseas labor and to keep those manufacturing jobs here,” explains Raeymaekers.

In partnership with other entities and organizations throughout the state, the center will help local businesses use data to identify products and growing markets and provide prototyping resources. The MEP Center receives funding from the U.S. commerce department’s National Institute of Standards and Technology and the Utah Governor’s Office of Economic Development. All told, the center will receive $16 million in funding over the next five years.

The center is under the U’s College of Engineering and engages more than a dozen permanent employees, consultants, and industry professionals. Headquartered on campus, it will also have satellite offices in Cache and Utah counties as well as consultants in eastern Utah and Cedar City.


Chinese Coaches Train on Campus

The U has had a few extra coaches hanging around campus this fall—89, to be exact, and all from China. The high school coaches are here as part of the first-ever China coaches training program. For three months, they are training with U Athletics staff to learn coaching techniques for sports including men and women’s basketball, track and field, swimming, and cheerleading.

Part of the Pac-12 Globalization Initiative and funded by the Chinese Scholarship Council, the program specifically focuses on coaching strategy, game preparation, film review, assistant coach development, and practice structure. In addition, the curriculum includes off-the-field items such as sports psychology, strength training, nutrition, public relations, and marketing.

The program is coordinated through the U’s Office for Global Engagement. “A critical part of the U’s mission is to explore and better understand the interconnectivity between people and places around the world, and then apply that learning here at home,” says Michael Hardman BS’71 MEd’73 PhD’75, chief global officer for the U. “This very unique program brings some of China’s best high school coaches to our campus, providing us the opportunity to share our expertise as well as learn from and about Chinese culture.”

Uni Introduces Suicide Prevention App

SafeUT.webUtah children and teens in crisis have a new way to reach out for help. An app developed by the U’s Neuropsychiatric Institute (UNI) aims to reduce the suicide rate among young people in Utah. The SafeUT app is a statewide service funded by the Utah Legislature that provides real-time crisis intervention to youth through texting and a tip program.

Students can use their smartphones to connect directly via chat, text, or a call to licensed clinicians trained in mental health crisis management and suicide prevention. Clinicians are available 24/7 to assist with a wide variety of problems, including emotional crisis, grief, bullying, addiction, abuse, mental health issues, and suicidal behavior.

The SafeUT app is free, anonymous, and confidential. The program has rolled out to more than 160 schools so far and plans to enroll all Utah schools in the program by next summer.

Download the app at the iTunes store, Google Play and elsewhere.


Welcome to the First Cohort of Students from the U’s Asia Campus

In 2014, the University of Utah Asia Campus (UAC) opened its doors in Incheon, South Korea, to students looking for a global and culturally diverse education. This fall, the U welcomed the first group of students from the campus to Salt Lake City to complete their degrees.

Although most undergraduate students will spend three years at the Asia campus before finishing their degrees in Utah, several of these students are on an accelerated path and have already accrued enough credits to enter the U’s main campus as college seniors. The group also includes graduate students in the master of public health program, who are coming to complete the second year of the two-year program.

Fall 2016 enrollment at the UAC has increased to 225 students, and next year, a larger cohort of about 60-70 undergraduate and graduate students are expected to arrive in Salt Lake City. As the UAC increases its degree offerings in the years to come, more than 300 students are anticipated to arrive each year to complete their U degrees.

As one of the founding institutions of Incheon Global Campus, the U currently offers undergraduate degrees in communication, psychology, and social work, and the master of public health. Planning is under way for four new degrees to be offered beginning in spring 2017. Students will soon be able to get an undergraduate degree in film and media arts or urban ecology, a master’s degree in biomedical informatics, or a Global Juris Doctorate.

The global campus also includes Belgium’s Ghent University, George Mason University, and the State University of New York, Stony Brook. All students attending the UAC meet the same admissions and program degree requirements as main campus students, are taught and mentored by qualified U faculty, and receive a University of Utah degree.

The U will accept student applications for the spring semester until Jan. 15, 2017, and admission will be granted on a rolling basis. Main campus students are encouraged to take advantage of a global learning abroad experience at the UAC.

The Asia campus also celebrated the opening of its new building in September. The nine-story, 170,000-square-foot facility is modeled after the iconic J. Willard Marriott Library. The LEED-certified building includes a welcome center, student lounge, 26 lecture halls and classrooms, counseling center, and more than 100 faculty and student support offices.

Utah Entrepreneur Joins Board of Trustees

james-lee-sorenson.webJames Lee Sorenson BS’75 has been named a member of the university’s Board of Trustees. A globally prominent entrepreneur, Sorenson has built highly successful enterprises in fields ranging from technology and life sciences to real estate and private equity investment, all of which have added thousands of jobs to Utah’s economy.

After launching several successful business ventures while still a U student, Sorenson became a leader in the field of digital video compression and later co-founded Sorenson Capital. In 2013, he provided the U with a $13 million gift to create the James Lee Sorenson Global Impact Investing Center.

“As Utah’s flagship institution of higher learning, this great university has a major impact not only on the city and state I choose to call home, but in the nation and the world,” says Sorenson. “I’m honored to serve on the Board of Trustees for my alma mater.”

Pharmacy College Appoints New Dean

Randy Peterson.webRandall Peterson, a prominent Harvard chemical biologist who pioneered the use of zebrafish to discover new precision drug therapies for cardiovascular and nervous system disorders, has been tapped to serve as dean of the College of Pharmacy. He assumes his role as dean and L.S. Skaggs Presidential Endowed Chair for Pharmacy effective Jan. 1, 2017.

A Salt Lake City native, Peterson holds an undergraduate degree in molecular biology from Brigham Young University and a doctorate in biochemistry from Harvard University. Until Jan. 1, he is associate professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School, Charles and Ann Sanders Research Scholar at Massachusetts General Hospital, and senior associate member of the Broad Institute.

New Refugee Services Center Launches

Refugee_Center-69.webUtah has a population of around 65,000 refugees, according to Department of Workforce Services data, and that number grows by nearly 1,000 each year without accounting for other immigrants. Recognizing the challenges these new Americans face assimilating to their new environment, the U’s College of Social Work recently launched the Center for Research on Migration & Refugee Integration.

The center focuses on welcoming and integrating immigrants and refugees into mainstream communities and also serves as a hub for research. It is the first academic center of its kind west of the Mississippi River and is the result of a year-long discussion between the college, university faculty, and community partners including the Office of Refugee Services, International Rescue Committee, and Utah Department of Workforce Services.

Both university and community researchers will network through the center to explore issues related to immigration and refugee integration. Areas of immediate research focus include youth and parenting challenges; development of a certification process for accepting academic and professional degrees granted in other countries; and an assessment of currently available services and research on refugee and immigrant issues.


Iconic Wall Mansion to Serve as Off-Campus Embassy

The historic Wall Mansion in the heart of Salt Lake City has a new name and purpose. The recently refurbished building opened in August and has been renamed the Thomas S. Monson Center after the current president of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Monson BS’48 is a distinguished alumnus of the U’s David Eccles School of Business, a past faculty member, and an honorary doctorate recipient.

The mansion is now home to the Kem C. Gardner Policy Institute, which develops and shares economic, demographic, and public policy data to help business and community leaders make more informed decisions. The new center will play a pivotal role in bringing economists, business leaders, and civic authorities together to examine issues pertinent to the state of Utah, and advance policies that will stimulate its growth and development. The mansion also provides a space for community gatherings and private events, encouraging further interaction between the U and the community it serves.

The historic 50,000-square-foot mansion has been restored to its original elegance and function, including restoring the original east entrance to its former state. The mansion was designed by renowned architect Richard K. A. Kletting, who also designed the Utah State Capitol. Enos A. Wall, who remodeled and enlarged the home into a Renaissance villa, purchased the property in 1904 and lived in it until 1920. After serving as the Jewish Community Center and then LDS Business College, the mansion was donated to the U by the LDS church in 2014.

Learn more about Kem Gardner here.

Happy Birthday, Swoop!

Swoop Cut out CMYKThe U’s beloved mascot, a red-tailed hawk named Swoop, turned 20 in 2016. Festivities ensued, including a party at the Campus Store and a halftime celebration during the first home football game. Instead of gifts, Swoop requested donations of school supplies for local children. Lowell Bennion Community Service volunteers responded by helping stuff 400 bags with school necessities that Swoop helped distribute to Lincoln Elementary School students in Salt Lake City.

After having gone many years without an official mascot, the U introduced the indigenous bird as the new symbol of school spirit in 1996. Since then Swoop has been busy bolstering Ute pride, whether he’s energizing crowds, high-fiving kids, or helping at charity events. Cheers to you, Swoop!

Find out more about the student who named Swoop 20 years ago here.

Web Exclusive Video

Check out a video tribute to Swoop made by U student filmmakers: