Putting Students Front and Center

Sometimes—particularly during an economic downturn—I think it becomes too easy for some individuals to trivialize higher education as simply “job training.”

We’ve all read the news stories: Want a better life? Then go to college, and get a good job. Yes, it’s vitally important for students to graduate with the skills they need to become productive (and employable) members of society. But a University education is so much more than a series of classes standing between student and job. It should be a time of discovery in which a student not only hones critical thinking skills, but also contributes something valuable to a chosen field or the community, even before strolling across the stage for that diploma. There’s no reason why a college education should be an either/or proposition—“job training” or “education.” The solution, I think, begins with the students themselves.

Engaged students take an active interest in their learning, and in turn take advantage of the opportunities available at the U, while developing the tools needed to obtain employment. In other words, engagement is the key, as it unlocks the curiosity and drive necessary to unite “training” and “education.” Susan Vogel introduces the MUSE program. MUSE stands for “My U Signature Experience,” a new initiative designed to create a more deeply meaningful educational experience for students. Although still in its infancy, the program has received accolades and backing across campus. U of U President Michael K. Young notes, “When we put students front and center, remarkable things happen.” That gets to the heart of what MUSE is and what it aims to accomplish: Connect students with resources, and their own deepest interests, and transform them into passionate and lifelong learners, not just passive vessels filling seats with the hope of picking up a few job skills. As the MUSE program gathers  steam in the coming years, more students will become accustomed to the notion that they are central to the quality and intensity of the education they receive. And I think they will find their lives more fulfilled because of it.

Teaching and engaging students are of the utmost importance at the U, but any institution worth its salt must also serve as a laboratory for innovation. New ideas should be posited, tested, and shepherded into the world. And here, too, the University has excelled. In this spirit, John Blodgett presents five ideas homegrown here at the U that have the potential to significantly impact their respective disciplines.

And speaking of successful ideas, Blodgett, featured twice in this issue, also delves into the founding of The MUSS. Without question, The MUSS—a student cheering section for athletics, which can literally shake the rafters and bleachers at U of U sporting events—is one of the University’s great success stories. At a time when some schools must contend with flagging student participation in institutional activities, the U (thanks in part to The MUSS) has bucked that trend.

Also in this issue are three engrossing stories about three very different individuals. Taunya Dressler explores the life and work of Nassir Marrouche, a celebrated cardiologist who has revolutionized the treatment of atrial fibrillation. Barry Scholl bids farewell to one of the University’s most popular and respected teachers—English professor François Camoin, who will be retiring next year. And finally, alumna Tracy McMillan shares an excerpt from her recently published memoir, a compelling tale of roadblocks—and redemption.

As always, we’d like to get your views on these or any other stories in this issue of Continuum. Please drop me a line via e-mail or good old-fashioned U.S. mail at one of the addresses below. Be sure to include the city and state where you live.


We’re eager to hear from you.

Please send letters to editor Jason Matthew Smith, jason.smith@ucomm.utah.edu, or to 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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