campus map campus directory The University of Utah Home Page
Students    Future Students     Faculty & Staff     Alumni & Visitors

About Continuum Advertising Advisory Committee Archives Contact Us Continuum Home Faculty/Staff Subscribe

related websites

Alumni Association Marketing & Communications University of Utah Home

  Reaching Farther and Higher

Up front


By Jason Matthew Smith, editor

No doubt many of you have heard the old adage that athletics represents the “front porch” of a university. In other words, most individuals in a community get to know their local institution of higher ed through football, basketball, gymnastics, or whatever sport interests them most (or is doing best). The main idea here is that a strong athletics program (read: a winning program) is powerful PR for a university, an optimal student-recruitment tool, and a slick way to introduce an educational institution to the rest of the world. It’s by no means the only “porch” at a university, but it is oftentimes the most visible one. That’s why what happens on that front porch is—and always will be—a big deal. And what is the U’s biggest athletics news to hit the stands in a long time? Well, if I must spell it out, then you haven’t picked up a newspaper or watched television recently.

In “The Whole Hundred Yards,” Paul Ketzle parses the meaning of the U’s historic Sugar Bowl victory, demonstrating how fundamentally unfair the BCS system is, particularly to non-BCS schools such as the U. There have been calls to change the BCS system before, but voices became exponentially louder with Utah’s trouncing of fourth-ranked Alabama, 31-17, on January 2, and the U’s subsequent ranking at No. 2 in the nation—despite being the only undefeated team in 1-A college football. Ketzle’s story in this issue offers a primer on the BCS and the fundamental problems underlying a system that may, in essence, rely too much on a school’s “reputation,” rather than its actual performance.

But if you have attended a U of U football game recently, you know that what happens out there on the field would hardly be possible without the “spirit squads”: The Marching Band, Crimson Line, Cheer Team, and, naturally, Swoop. John Youngren traces the history of these diverse teams behind the teams and shows how essential they are to Utah’s success on the field.

A university’s arts programs are also a kind of front porch for the school, through stellar programs that attract students from across the nation, or through museum exhibitions and performing arts groups that enrich the community. The College of Fine Arts celebrates its 60th anniversary this year, and we commemorate the occasion with an article by L. Scott Marsh , former chair of the U’s Department of Modern Dance, who traces the establishment of an enduring partnership between dancers extraordinaire Shirley Ririe and Joan Woodbury. Through their efforts, the Ririe-Woodbury Dance Company has helped cement the U’s status as one of the pre-eminent universities in the nation for modern dance—and make Salt Lake City a regional center for performing arts. As Marsh notes in his story, “The University of Utah is now known as one of the top universities in the nation at which to study dance—due, in part, to its close association with professional dance companies such as Ririe-Woodbury. In turn, Ballet West, Children’s Dance Theatre, Repertory Dance Theatre, and the Ririe-Woodbury Dance Company—all of which grew out of the University—have long drawn interested students to the U.”

In “Opening Pathways to Success,” Kelley Lindberg introduces us to the Utah College Advising Corps (UCAC), funded through the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation. The U is one of only 10 institutions across the country to have received a four-year grant from the foundation in 2007. The U’s program aims to raise college enrollment rates for first-generation and underserved students by focusing on eight target high schools. While Utah high school students are some of the most college-ready in the nation, they are also some of the least likely to be in college by age 19. The UCAC program manages to open doorways to students who might otherwise miss the chance to pursue a college degree. In addition, this issue features profiles of pharmacological researcher Chris Ireland and Ute football superstar and super-fan Joseph B. Wirthlin, who passed away in December, as well as an And Finally column describing the “U”phoria fans felt at the Sugar Bowl extravaganza in New Orleans, by Alumni Association Executive Director John Ashton.

Enjoy. And Go Utes!


Return to Spring 2009 table of contents | Back to top