VOL.10 NO. 4      SPRING 2001

Up Front
by Theresa Desmond, Editor

Two issues ago (Fall 2000), our cover read, “What Lies Beneath.” It was a reference not only to paleontologist Scott Sampson’s work in uncovering dinosaur remains but also to the treasure of specimens and artifacts currently housed in the basement of the Utah Museum of Natural History. When a new museum is eventually built in Research Park, the expanded space will allow many more of the fascinating skulls, bones, stones, and fossils to be displayed. (And in the meantime, don’t miss the museum’s annual “What’s in the Basement?” day in the fall for a chance to view the hidden collection.)

I was reminded of that cover line as the current issue of Continuum began to take shape. For every story that gets told, there are many more that don’t. For every printed quotation, there are pages of unused interview transcripts. For every explanation of a program or issue, there is a sub-text rich in other ramifications. In short, a great deal lies beneath the pages of every issue of the magazine.

Of course, short, quarterly magazines are not meant to be the definitive word on any subject. But universities seem to be one of the few places where depth is valued (just peruse dissertation titles sometime), so accurately representing that depth is a temptation, if not a responsibility. Rarely does a writer submit a Continuum article that is at or under the suggested length; instead, most express frustration that there is so little space to tell such interesting stories. I choose to view that frustration positively, as an indication of the level of activity and innovation of thinking taking place within the University.

This issue’s cover story is an obvious example. Health-care costs, and the unique situation of educational hospitals in our current health-care system, are national issues, not at all unique to University Hospital. In almost the same week the draft of the article was completed, the New York Times ran a front-page story detailing how American workers will pay more for health care next year, while the Chronicle of Higher Education reported the financial difficulties of Loyola University Chicago: “When Loyola’s medical center stopped bailing out the institution, everything fell apart.” Cheery news for a new year. What’s beneath the hospital story, then, is a tremor of rising costs and declining revenues being felt by institutions across the country, one that the U’s entire health-sciences system is scrambling to address, and writer Christopher Nelson BS’96 faced the challenge of understanding the larger movement of the plates while describing just one of the quakes.

Likewise, Elise Lazar found much to be mined in the work of Professor Mauricio Mixco. The rescue of disappearing languages, she learned, not only provides research about how language is learned and the breadth of language construction that is possible but also demonstrates how language preserves a society’s history, culture, and knowledge. It raises many questions, including, for me, some about the effects of the “English as the official language” initiative recently passed by Utah voters. As Mixco observes, “Linguistic diversity is an essential link to respectful cultural diversity.”

Every other story has its own buried layers. Looking at how the College of Education is helping to improve the quality of K-12 education in Utah, Anne-Marie Wright found that there are as many ideas about quality as there are former K-12 students. The college continues to turn the best ideas into reality, finding incentives and support for those who wish to teach. For example, the T.H. Bell scholarship covers a portion of student’s educational expenses in exchange for several years’ teaching in the public schools. And a recently announced $25,000 Urban Teacher Academy Program planning grant will allow the college, the Salt Lake City School District, and the School of Education at Westminster College to plan a teaching career academy to help high school students make the transition into higher education and the teaching profession. These and other efforts echo a call by Derek Bok, former president of Harvard University, who notes in his book, The Cost of Talent, “In public education, no sensible person can suppose that our schools will improve without attracting abler people into teaching and giving them better working conditions.”

We hope that these stories—and the others in this issue—serve as an invitation to study what lies beneath each one, to visit the U’s metaphorical basement of treasures. Its living specimens, from the swimmers and coaches at the natatorium to the doctors and nurses in Tibet, deserve a longer look.

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Copyright 2001 by The University of Utah Alumni Association