Campus Notebook

U’s Honors College Celebrates 50 Years of Excellence

From left, students Marianne Carpenter, Derek Monson, and Tianna Tu discuss the results of the 2012 Honors Think Tank on Transparency and Privacy. (Photo by Andy Page)

The Honors College hit an important milestone in 2012, celebrating 50 years of educating students.

The Honors Program—a precursor to what would eventually become the Honors College—was created in 1962. Following a national trend at other universities, the Honors Program was established to provide an alternate way for students to satisfy their general education requirements in classes that were smaller, taught by distinguished and engaging professors, and that often used innovative teaching methods. The program created an environment that nurtured the whole person academically, socially, emotionally, and intellectually.

Over the years, Honors students were invited to propose new courses for the curriculum, with innovative topics and professors. Even Utah governors Scott M. Matheson BS’50 and Norman H. Bangerter were recruited to teach classes.

Under former director Martha Bradley’s leadership beginning in 2001, the Honors Program was transformed into the Honors College and grew to 2,400 students. The name change “focused the University community on how Honors enriches the undergraduate experience,” says Bradley BFA’74 PhD’87. During her tenure, the Honors College began to look at new ways to educate students by taking them out of the traditional classroom setting. One such program is the Honors Think Tank, which brings together students, faculty, and community partners in a year-long research project to find solutions to pressing social issues.

Most recently, the 2012 Honors Think Tank on Transparency and Privacy included 10 Honors students who looked at transparency in government and personal privacy. The student researchers sampled 16 local governments in Utah to assess their transparency practices. They collected data on 53 different aspects of each, ranging from the entities’ Twitter feeds and Facebook pages to the accessibility of public records request forms. After aggregating the data, the students composed short summaries of each government and produced a list of recommended principles and best practices for local governments. Those recommendations have been embraced by the Salt Lake City Council, as well
as the office of Salt Lake Mayor Ralph Becker JD’77 MS’82.

In early 2012, Sylvia Torti PhD’98 took the reins as director of the Honors College. “Our students are highly motivated and academically inclined,” says Torti, “and they have a strong commitment to make the world a better place.”

Today, the honors curriculum is well integrated within all departments on campus, and students complete their honors degrees and theses while pursuing their majors. The new Donna Garff Marriott Honors Residential Scholars Community, which will provide housing for more than 300 honors students, just opened this fall and will foster more growth of the college.

Continuum Takes Steps to Environmental Sustainability

Continuum has gone green. With our new printing contract that begins with this issue, we’re continuing the theme of our Summer 2012 issue, and the magazine is now printed on 10 percent post-consumer-waste recycled paper. Our cover now has a varnish protective coat that is far more environmentally friendly than the UV coat we used in the past. And Continuum now bears the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) logo (take a look at the bottom of page 2 in the print magazine).

FSC certification ensures that trees harvested for paper are obtained using sustainable methods and according to fair labor and human rights practices. The FSC standards are regarded as the world’s strongest system for guiding forest management toward sustainable outcomes.

Royle Printing, the Wisconsin-based company that now prints the magazine, is also FSC certified, which guarantees that it receives its paper through an environmentally responsible supply chain. The company has taken further steps toward sustainability. Royle’s inks are made from non-toxic soy and vegetable oils. The company’s plant has energy-efficient features and policies. Reclaimed heat from a pollution-control unit is used to heat the facility. Unused paper from the plant is shredded and recycled. And the company has an anti-idling policy for any trucks on its shipping docks.

All this means that Continuum now meets the highest standards for sustainability. We’re quite pleased to be leaving a smaller ecological footprint.

Utah/BYU Rivalry Will Go On Hiatus for Two Years

Utah’s move to the Pac-12 conference means Utah/BYU games will be put on hold for 2014 and 2015. (Photo courtesy University of Utah Athletics Department)

The University of Utah will not play Brigham Young University in 2014 or 2015. The two-year suspension is the result of scheduling conflicts with other teams, and will interrupt a rivalry that has gone on for decades.

The U will travel to Michigan in 2014 to face the Wolverines, and will host the same team for the 2015 opening game. U Athletics Director Chris Hill says that he believes facing Michigan and BYU in the same year—plus difficult games against top-tier teams in the Pac-12—might be overdoing it.

Utah and BYU have played each other annually since 1922, except for a brief interruption during World War II.

Digre and Varner Share 2012 Rosenblatt Prize

Michael Varner and Kathleen Digre, who are married, shared the Rosenblatt Prize this year.

Two University of Utah physicians—Kathleen B. Digre, a professor of neurology and ophthalmology, and Michael W. Varner, a professor of obstetrics and gynecology—were honored during May’s Commencement ceremonies with the Rosenblatt Prize for Excellence. The $40,000 gift—presented annually to a faculty member who displays excellence in teaching, research, and administrative efforts—is the U’s most prestigious award for faculty members and was shared this year for the first time by two individuals.

“This year, we found it impossible to choose one over the other,” says U President David W. Pershing. “Kathleen and Michael are both extraordinarily gifted teachers, dedicated and proficient administrators, and are internationally regarded as two of the foremost researchers and leaders in their fields. The University community is enhanced by their work, and it is a distinct pleasure to bestow this honor on them.”

Digre and Varner also happen to be married to each other. Digre is a world-renowned ophthalmologist and neurologist. Through her efforts, the U is one of a few institutions in the world with certified fellowship-training programs in neuro-ophthalmology, a medical sub-specialty focusing on brain
problems that affect vision.

She was the first woman president of the North American Neuro-Ophthalmology Society and currently sits on the board of directors for the American Headache Society. She received a medical doctorate from the University of Iowa and has been a member of the University of Utah faculty since 1987, with primary appointments in both neurology and ophthalmology, and adjunct appointments in obstetrics
and gynecology, as well as anesthesia. She also directs the U’s Center of Excellence in Women’s Health.

Varner is an internationally recognized expert in maternal fetal medicine clinical research, and he also established a service mission to bring education and improved health care to Tibet.

He received a medical doctorate from the University of Minnesota and joined the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at the University of Utah in 1987, where he is currently that department’s
vice chair for research. He holds the H.A. and Edna Benning Endowed Presidential Chair at the U and is the co-director of the Clinical Genetics Institute for Intermountain Healthcare.


Buhler Appointed State Higher Ed Commissioner

David L. Buhler

David L. Buhler BS’83 has been appointed commissioner of the Utah System of Higher Education.

Buhler was previously the system’s associate commissioner for public affairs and succeeds William Sederburg, who retired in August.

Buhler also has served in the Utah Senate and on the Salt Lake City Council, and he was a University of Utah trustee in 1999 to 2000.

He is a former adjunct professor of political science at the U, where he is currently completing his doctorate in political science.

U Will Test Electric Shuttle Buses on Campus

This fall, the U hopes to begin testing on a new electric shuttle system that uses “charging pads” to keep buses fueled and ready to go.

The buses will park over a charging station embedded in the roadway, and power will be transferred through the air to the vehicle’s undercarriage. No cables are required, and no battery is needed on the bus.

The technology was developed at Utah State University through the USTAR initiative, and the University of Utah will be the test site for the system. The first route of the electric buses will run between the South Campus TRAX station north to the Warnock engineering building, and includes a stop at the Union Building.


Leave a Comment

Comments are moderated, so there may be a slight delay before approved comments are posted. Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked with an asterisk (*).