A Living Laboratory

Sometimes, it’s a good idea to get out of the classroom for a while—to get your hands dirty (sometimes literally) and to allow the physical world to be your instructor.

That, in part, is the goal of Rio Mesa, the University’s multidisciplinary field institute located near Moab. Rio Mesa brings together students, faculty, and community members from wide-ranging backgrounds—biologists, architects, geologists, writers, and more—and compels them to not only learn from one another, but to experience the Utah landscape in all of its gritty, inspiring glory.

Susan Vogel’s story on Rio Mesa (page 24) illustrates the impact of allowing artists and scientists to rub shoulders and see the natural world through each other’s eyes. At Rio Mesa, everyone is encouraged to experience the “real” world outside the classroom. For example, civil engineering students may encounter just about any obstacle Mother Nature might present, such as flood-ravaged roads. And these students are expected to come up with solutions to fix those roads. At the same time, a group of writers may be roving the site’s 380 acres, attempting to hone their linguistic skills by better understanding how flora and fauna and human habitation interact. Likewise, faculty in the arts and sciences have used Rio Mesa as a studio or laboratory to test their own ideas. Rio Mesa is unique, and it’s one of the University’s hidden gems.

On page 18, Kelley Lindberg explores another innovative teaching environment—the newly renovated home of the College of Nursing. The remodel is more than a cosmetic makeover (although the facility did benefit significantly from added windows). The revamped building now includes a state-of-the-art simulation center, allowing nurses to gain valuable experience before moving to the bedside of a living, breathing patient. Medical education has certainly come a long way from the days when neophyte nurses jabbed oranges with a syringe; nowadays, students gain experience in virtual hospital rooms equipped with lifelike, robotic mannequins programmed to exhibit a host of symptoms.

Also in this issue, Barry Scholl moderates a conversation between two of the University’s foremost legal scholars—Amos Guiora and Wayne McCormack (page 30). At issue is the First Amendment, and vital questions over when—or if—it should be limited. In this informative Q&A, Guiora and McCormack touch on the kind of religious and social issues that have come to define First Amendment arguments now taking place in living rooms, barrooms, and courthouses across the country. The story offers an unparalleled opportunity to examine the thought processes of a pair of renowned academics.

In our “Bookshelf,” Amy Albo offers a peek at a revolutionary new book for breast cancer patients and their support providers (page 36). The book is a brilliant collaboration between University physicians, a med student, and a photographer, and is designed to empower patients with information. On page 10, John Youngren introduces the U’s new track and field facility. And be sure to check out Taunya Dressler’s profile of artist, activist, and professor Kim Martinez on page 14.

Please don’t hesitate to let us know your views about these—or any other—stories in Continuum. We value your opinion. See the box below for contact information.

On another note, with this issue we bid farewell to managing editor Linda Marion, who retired at the end of April, as we were wrapping up production. For the past 11 years (more than half the lifespan of this magazine), Linda has served as an insightful wordsmith for this publication and as a director of alumni relations for the Alumni Association. We will sincerely miss her ability to polish sentences, as well as her wit and gentle demeanor. Best of luck, Linda. With her departure, we welcome our new colleague Julianne Basinger BA’87 MA’91. Julianne brings with her experience including writing and editing at The Chronicle of Higher Education, the Deseret News, Reuters, and the Associated Press. Hello, Julianne!

We’re eager to hear from you.

Please send letters to editor Jason Matthew Smith, jason.smith@ucomm.utah.edu or 201 Presidents Circle, Room 308, Salt Lake City, UT 84112. You’re also welcome to leave a comment on any of the stories on this site, or contact us here.

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