Vol. 14 No. 3
Winter 2004-05

Up Front


Michael K. Young, President

In the Summer 2004 issue of Continuum, editor Theresa Desmond used this page to ponder the tasks and challenges facing a new president of the University of Utah. Theresa and I have since traded locations; she moved east to pursue a career opportunity, while I moved west to tackle the tasks she so eloquently illuminated.

Her queries, and the thoughtful responses of former president David P. Gardner, are much on my mind as I begin my tenure as the University’s 14th president.

Certainly, challenges abound. There are fences to mend and bridges to build. The state’s demographic forecast promises a substantial increase in young people seeking a higher educa¬tion. Funding issues will require greater creativity, accountability and flexibility. Technology is impacting the way students think and learn, as well as the way we teach. The questions we are trying to resolve as teachers and researchers are changing almost as rapidly as the answers we give. Simply put, 15 years from now, the world of higher education—indeed the world itself—will not look much like it does today.

These are challenges that won’t be solved overnight, even though I have already spent many a sleepless night thinking about them.

Fortunately, the University of Utah is an extraordinary place, made so by the superb faculty and students who come here from all over the world and the dedicated alumni who support it in so many ways. The U is already internationally recognized in many areas and will, undoubtedly, become even better known for the research we conduct and the education we provide.

It is, after all, the U that teaches the doctors and nurses and pharmacists who provide exceptional healthcare from Blanding to Brigham City. It is the U that educates the teachers who teach our children about the wealth of American and world civilization as well as the intricacies of calculus and chemistry. It is the U that trains the dancers who inspire us, the musicians who excite us and the visual artists who uplift us. Ours is a task of monumental proportion—nothing less than improving the lives of every Utahn. I see that task as daunting, but given the quality and commitment of our faculty, it is eminently doable. It is a goal we embrace as the core of our mission.

As president, I am committed to creating and sustaining an environment that attracts the best professors and most qualified students to the U—those who can and will move us to greater national prominence in health sciences, bioengi¬neering, chemistry, literature, education, dance, theatre and every other discipline on this campus, and who want to use the talents and skills they develop here to make the world a better place, as so many of our alumni have done before them.

My primary goal is to ensure that the University remains an energetic catalyst for Utah’s economic and cultural development, even as it fosters explorations in future technologies and human knowledge that will benefit the rest of the world.

I am equally impressed with the University’s commitment to service learning. It is a tremendous privilege to be at a world-class institution like the U, and with that privilege comes an equally tremendous responsibility. Our emphasis on service learning provides an extraordinary education while instilling a sense of mission and duty. Together, these characteristics make our graduates uniquely qualified to serve as leaders in their professions, their communities, their countries, and the world.

With the support of an energetic and dedicated staff, a terrific faculty, an amazingly competent and qualified student body, and remarkably able and accomplished alumni, I am confident the University of Utah will meet this challenge with the same success that it has met other challenges for the past 150-plus years.

This is a marvelous time to be a part of this extraordinary institution, and Sue and I feel privileged to be here.

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