Vol. 14 No. 4
Spring 2005

The National Center for Community of Caring, a national K-12 character education program, has made its new home at the University of Utah. With 20 percent of the nearly 1,000 public, private and parochial Community of Caring schools located in Utah, the selection of the U for its headquarters was a plus for the organization and for the school. Eunice Kennedy Shriver, founder and honorary chair of Community of Caring, says, “Utah school districts have been especially supportive of the Community of Caring program. I am confident the program will continue to grow and flourish in its new University setting.”

The program focuses on the inclusion of students with intellectual disabilities. With this emphasis, the center will be housed in the U’s Department of Special Education. Michael Hardman, a longtime Kennedy Foundation advisor and chair of University Special Education, is the U of U Center’s coordinator.

University College of Education Dean David J. Sperry BA’67 MS’70 PhD’70 says, “The College of Education is proud to be the future home of the National Center for Community of Caring. The inclusion of Community of Caring into our college is part of a broader strategic effort to expand upon our academic strengths. The center will further differentiate what makes the College of Education at the University of Utah unique by enhancing the education we are able to offer our students and increasing our research and outreach capacity.”

Additional information on Community of Caring can be found at www.communityofcaring.org.


Cataracts in Children
A team of researchers, led by U of U Assistant Professor of Ophthalmology Kang Zhang, has identified gene mutations responsible for causing cataracts (a clouding of the lens of the eye) in children. Cataracts can cause permanent damage and blindness in children if not properly treated. Zhang notes that while cataract surgery in adults and children is highly refined and with minimum complications, prevention is still the optimum answer, especially outside the United States.

“Cataracts are still the leading cause of blindness for every age group outside of the United States,” says Zhang. “Identifying these gene mutations responsible for inherited cataracts could eventually save the vision of tens of thousands of children around the world.”

Additional investigators in this study are University College of London’s Institute of Ophthalmology, Moorfields Eye Hospital in London and the Chinese Academy of Military Science in Beijing.

“Beehive Syndrome”
A gene mutation responsible for causing a rare disease in four generations of a single Utah family has been discovered by researchers at the John A. Moran Eye Center. Thirty members of a Utah family were screened, and 18 showed symptoms of the disease, which causes vision and hearing loss in patients. Because of its connection with Utah (the Beehive State), it has been dubbed “Beehive Syndrome.”

Beehive Syndrome patients suffer from optic atrophy (optic nerve degeneration), deafness, ptosis (drooping of the upper eyelid) and ophthalmoplegia (loss of eye movement).

Assistant Professor of Ophthalmology Kang Zhang believes the study will result in more patients being diagnosed with this disease. He advocates that ophthalmologists whose patients have optic atrophy ask their patients about possible hearing loss. The findings of the Beehive Syndrome study will be used to develop treatments toward preventing vision and hearing loss in patients who have the gene mutation.


A celebration was held Nov. 4, 2004, to inaugurate a U of U graduate program in environmental humanities. David Livermore, Utah state director of The Nature Conservancy; Terry Tempest Williams BS’79 MS’84, the Annie Clark Tanner Fellow in Environmental Humanities; and Nicole Walker MFA’02, a poetry editor of Quarterly West magazine, each spoke to a packed audience at Libby Gardner Hall.

The celebration also included photographs by Subhankar Banerjee taken during a 4,000-mile trek through the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska, while ornithologist David Allen Sibley spoke about global bird migrations, accompanied by his drawings projected on overhead screens.

The event saluted the first-of-its-kind graduate program in environmental humanities, which will help bridge the divisions that have been created between groups with different ideas of how to use the environment, says Robert Newman, dean of the U’s College of Humanities. “There is an urgent need for creative discourse about environmental issues where interested parties can find their way to common ground. It is on this ground that the health of the environment will be understood as the wealth of our communities,” he says.

The students who receive their master’s degrees in environmental humanities will have a broader, more inclusive base than those who graduate with traditional environmental studies degrees, according to the program’s creators. “These students will be incredibly marketable,” says Newman.

The program is awaiting the expected approval of the State Board of Regents, and the College of Humanities hopes to accept applications for 15 to 20 students who will begin the Fall 2005 semester.


University of Utah researchers often have studies published in prominent scientific journals, but a particularly impressive run occurred in late 2004 when the British journal Nature published four studies from the U in as many weeks.

The first was highlighted on the cover of Nature’s Nov. 18 issue, which ran a comprehensive study by U biologist Dennis Bramble. The study concluded that humans evolved from ape-like ancestors because they needed to run long distances—perhaps to scavenge for food—and that the ability to run shaped numerous features of our anatomy, from head to toe. The study gained extensive publicity worldwide—from China to France to Australia—including stories on the front pages of The New York Times and Los Angeles Times.

In Nature’s Nov. 25 issue, Gabriel Bowen, a postdoctoral researcher in biology, reported on a dramatic episode of global warming 55 million years ago—an episode that led to a much wetter climate.

Then, in the Dec. 2 issue of Nature, U physicist Ben Bromley published a piece in which he and a colleague conducted computer simulations of what might have happened if our solar system passed near another star some four billion years ago. The results suggest such a “near miss” could have allowed our young solar system to capture small planets from the other solar system, which could explain the existence of Sedna, a “planetoid” discovered in 2003 near the outer reaches of our system. This study was covered by The New York Times, Scientific American and Astronomy magazines and other news media.

Finally, the Dec. 9 issue included a study by U biologist Gary Rose and colleagues in which they trained baby sparrows to sing in a series of experiments that showed songbirds can put together an entire song after hearing only overlapping segments of the complete song. National Public Radio and the British Broadcasting Corp. were among media organizations reporting the findings, which may shed light on how humans learn language.


For the first time, the David Eccles School of Business is ranked in the top 75 MBA programs—67th in the world—as reported by the British newspaper Financial Times in its fourth annual ranking of international MBA programs. (The publication ranks the U’s program among the top 36 in the United States.)

Financial Times also placed the Eccles School’s faculty research and frequency of publication of faculty members’ work in industry journals as 23rd in the world.

Dean Jack Brittain notes that even though the ranking is only on executive MBA programs, the recognition will help attract others to the school—and its students—particularly corporate recruiters.

One criterion of the ranking is how much individuals’ salaries increase after graduation. The study states that the average salary for an Eccles School executive MBA graduate is $102,128.

Brad Vierig BS’79, assistant dean of executive education and a 1997 graduate of the Eccles MBA program, says, “It’s a confirmation that [the program] is high on quality.”


University Neighborhood Partners (UNP), a University of Utah program that brings University and west side groups and individuals together, has been awarded a $400,000 Community Outreach Partnership Center (COPC) grant from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).

UNP raised an additional $1.2 million—in donated time, cash, space, and in-kind contributions from partners—far exceeding the 100 percent match required by the grant. According to President Michael Young, these funds will “increase diversity on campus, build bridges between communities and offer opportunities for research, learning and service… This is a singular tribute to a wonderful partnership between the University of Utah and this great community.”

UNP Director Irene Fisher notes that the COPC grant will specifically impact and extend UNP’s capacity within the area of education—for both west side residents and University students and faculty.

The $400,000 grant will give UNP the resources to move forward in six specific programs, including The Westside Leadership Institute, which was established to support the development of Salt Lake City west side resident leaders as a catalyst for positive change in their communities; The Hartland Apartment Partnership, which proposes a new, onsite community center for Hartland residents—75 percent of whom are non-native English speakers—offering courses on financial literacy, English as a second language, health, youth leadership, law and life skills; and The Westside Studio, which will bring together University architecture, urban planning and business faculty, students and community representatives to develop concrete plans for revitalization on the west side.


By 2030, one in five people will be 65 or older. The University of Utah is gearing up for the graying of America through a comprehensive, multidisciplinary academic and resource program at its Center on Aging.

The center focuses on research, education and service projects at the local, regional and national levels. It administers programs leading to undergraduate and graduate certificates, and offers a master’s degree in gerontology.

The study of aging is multidisciplinary, encompassing the biological, psychological, sociological, health and economic aspects of the aging process. The center is a collaborative effort overseen by an advisory board composed of representatives from the School of Medicine and the colleges of Nursing, Health, Pharmacy and Social and Behavioral Science.

The center’s primary areas of research are family caregiving, intergenerational relationships, public policy, sustainable communities, safety and medication errors, and grief and bereavement.

In addition, the Eccles Health Sciences Library has a collection that includes more than 200 new titles and several video series on elder care. For more information about the center, visit www.nurs.utah.edu/centeronaging.


Leonardo Alishan, 53, a poet and former University of Utah professor (1978 to 1997). Alishan, who taught courses on Persian literature and comparative literature, was killed in a house fire Jan. 9.

John Robert Ward BS’44 MD’46, 80, who founded the University of Utah School of Medicine’s Division of Rheumatology in 1957, leading it until 1988. Ward retired in 1993 as professor emeritus of internal medicine.

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