Updates A look at what's happening around campus.

Refugee Camp Students Graduate from New Social Work Program

Gerawork Teferra

Gerawork Teferra

Gerawork Teferra fled to Kakuma, Kenya, from his native Ethiopia with nothing but desperation.

At a camp in Kakuma, the young man joined thousands of refugees from neighboring African nations, most of whom had traveled hundreds of miles to reach the safety of a refugee camp far from violence, religious persecution, and starvation in the places they’d once called home.

For Teferra, the experience of arriving at the camp was jarring. He met hundreds of people who shared stories unimaginable to most: young children who watched their families being killed and barely survived war erupting around them; survivors of sexual assault; people who’d been forced into labor by factions ruling their home countries.

As Teferra came to terms with his own situation, he took an opportunity to become a secondary teacher and also enrolled in a new online program, developed by the University of Utah College of Social Work, designed to train individuals living and working in refugee camps to provide care and services to other camp residents. In mid-October, Teferra became one of the first cohort of 12 graduates from the U’s new Case Management Certificate program. All lived in camp communities to receive their training and came into the social work program after already living in camps for years.

“As social workers, we have the duty to prepare students to better under-stand the global condition, and be well equipped with knowledge, skills, and tools that recognize and acknowledge the uniqueness and similarities of migrants and refugees’ experiences and demands,” says Rosey Hunter, an associate professor in the College of Social Work who oversees the new certificate program. “The unsettled global context requires that social work education develops innovative programs that will adequately prepare students to practice across diverse communities and complex sociopolitical settings.”

U Unveils Broad New Student Success Initiative

The U has a new five-year, $200 million Student Success Initiative to support projects in three areas of focus: scholarships and fellowships; living and learning communities; and transformative learning experiences.

Among the supported activities are the MUSE Project (My U Signature Experience), LEAP (Learning, Engagement, Achievement, and Progress), Student Success Advocates, Diversity Scholars, national and international internships, and service learning. Each of the programs provides students with deeply engaged, hands-on, experiential learning and community involvement opportunities.

For example, LEAP encourages the formation of a learning community by offering classes where the same students and professors remain together through multiple semesters. Another supported program, Capstone Initiatives, helps students design a one- or two-semester-long project in which they apply the knowledge and skills accumulated through their undergraduate careers to a project with a real-world application.

Other goals the university hopes to achieve as part of the initiative are enabling more students to learn and live on campus; replacing Orson Spencer Hall with a new learning center (with a student welcome center within it); creating more interdisciplinary science labs; and creating a new home for the theater, film, and media arts programs.

Renovated Kennecott Building: Part of Building a Better U

Kennecott BuildingThe newly renovated Rio Tinto Kennecott Mechanical Engineering Building is not just bigger and newer, it’s also much safer, and more energy efficient—one of the latest examples of the U’s efforts to build one of the most sustainable campuses in the country.

What began as a 54,000-square-foot building built in the 1950s for Kennecott Utah Copper Corp.’s research offices has become a 76,000-square-foot space with the latest in energy-saving technology and safety features. All told, the building will use nearly 53 percent less energy than a standard compliant building, and it is expected to receive a LEED Gold certification from the U.S. Green Building Council.

The building’s four-year, $24 million renovation was completed in October 2015, and the new home for the U’s mechanical engineering department now has nearly 60 offices, 11 student study areas, five conference rooms, and 12 research labs. The project was completed using all non-state and private funds, including a lead gift from Rio Tinto Kennecott.

U Launches New Kem Gardner Institute

GardnerThe University of Utah has announced the new Kem C. Gardner Policy Institute, an initiative of the David Eccles School of Business. The institute aims to support informed decision-making by developing and sharing economic, demographic, and public policy research. In addition, the institute serves as a prestigious gathering place for thought leadership.

Named in honor of businessman, philanthropist, and U alum Kem Gardner BA’67 JD’70, the institute builds upon his legacy of hard work and his great love for Utah. Gardner currently serves as chairman of The Gardner Company, a private commercial real estate company. During his 38 years in business, Gardner and his partners have been involved in developing more than 33 million square feet of commercial real estate.

“There are a lot of needs around us, and Utah has big decisions ahead,” Gardner says. “I love this state and want to make a difference. I look at the policy institute and know it will help our community and business leaders make better-informed decisions.”

Update, August 2016: The Gardner Policy Institute is now housed in the former Wall Mansion, a beautiful Renaissance Revival building that has been refurbished and renamed the Thomas S. Monson Center. Learn more here.

Water on Mars

Marjorie Chan

Marjorie Chan

While scientists previously identified ice on Mars, NASA in late September announced evidence of salty water flowing intermittently on the Red Planet. U geology and geophysics professor Marjorie Chan for years has studied landscapes and geological records on Earth that serve as analogs for those on Mars. More than a decade ago, she studied rocks in southern Utah known as Moqui marbles—round “concretions” that form underground when minerals precipitate from flowing groundwater. She predicted similar rocks would be found on Mars. And NASA’s Opportunity rover indeed found such rocks, which were nicknamed “Martian blueberries.” In the past six years, Chan has led Mars researchers on field trips to Utah sites that may help them understand similar sediments on Mars. With growing evidence of past and present water on Mars, Chan believes the possibility is higher than ever that microbial life may exist today on Mars or be preserved in soils there.

U Expands Initiative to Help Women Students Succeed

WomenThe Women’s Enrollment Initiative has built new campus and community partnerships providing a network of support such as mentorships, grants, and internships for women students, and a new website (women.utah.edu) now helps them find the resources they need.

“Women face a unique set of challenges in their journey to achieve an education,” says Debra Daniels MSW’84, director of the Women’s Resource Center and assistant vice president for the initiative, begun in fall 2014. “Through the focus groups and research we conducted during the past year, we’ve gotten better insight into the specific issues that prevent women from graduating and what resources are needed to help them succeed.”

The Women’s Resource Center has now grown its annual scholarship offerings to more than $220,000. During the past 10 years, the U has found that women who receive these scholarships have an 88 percent graduation and retention rate. The center also offers emergency grants to help women who are facing financial emergencies—such as unexpected car trouble or unplanned day care expenses—as well as for educational expenses such as books, so women don’t have to postpone school for a job. Among those who receive these emergency grants, there is an 83 percent retention rate.

“We understand the value of having a diverse campus, and women are an important part of that,” says Daniels. “Everyone is part of this initiative, because we all benefit when women have college degrees. Education helps women grow personally and allows them to better care for themselves and their families, be better role models for their children, and improve our state, the nation, and the world.”

Read more about the Women’s Resource Center in the Continuum feature here.

Temporary UMFA Closure in 2016, But Many Programs Continue

UMFAThe Utah Museum of Fine Arts will close temporarily in 2016 for a major gallery reenvisioning, as well as to install state-of-the-art vapor barrier technology in the award-winning Marcia and John Price Museum Building. The changes will significantly enhance the visitor experience and extend the lifespan of the building, which protects the nearly 20,000 art objects stewarded for the university and the people of Utah.

The UMFA is holding a “Long Live Art!” party Jan. 16-17—with free admission both days—offering visitors everything from film to yoga, art-making to a big dance party, before closing for the first four to six months of 2016. After the first phase of construction, the museum’s auditorium, café, and lobby are expected to reopen to the public. Anticipated reopening for the entire museum is spring 2017.

The popular Third Saturday for Families monthly program will continue during the closure, at UMFA or at locations else-where on campus. The extensive statewide outreach to K-12 educators and students through a variety of programs will also continue, as will programs for members. And on Feb. 25, the UMFA will launch a new series called “ARTLandish: Land art, Landscape, and the Environment,” a yearlong initiative of lectures, films, panel discussions, tours, and other events investigating humans’ complex relationship with the Earth.

Academic Freedom and tenure

The oft-misunderstood status is at the core of protecting new ideas and independent thought.

By L. Jackson Newell

Academic FreedomGreat universities play a unique and vitally important role in American life, one that is often misunderstood and sometimes slammed by other institutions. In the Fall issue of Continuum, I told the story of the University of Utah’s pivotal place in the history of academic freedom. Here, I explain the defining principles of academic freedom, on which universities like ours are anchored worldwide.

In the U.S., the “Statement of Principles on Academic Freedom and Tenure” was hammered out nearly a century ago by the American Association of University Professors (AAUP). Virtually every academic organization has endorsed it, and democratic nations invariably acknowledge the AAUP’s belief that “institutions of higher education are conducted for the common good and… the common good depends upon the free search for truth.”

The remarkable freedom that professors enjoy in teaching and research comes with a sobering set of responsibilities:

~ In research, professors may pursue truth or meaning wherever they may lead, regardless of whose ox may be gored, but they also have a duty to be perfectly honest regarding the sources of their information, about the reasoning they use to analyze what they find (their methods), and in reporting their conclusions—neither inflating nor distorting the facts, and avoiding unsubstantiated claims. Faculty in the creative arts—visual, performing, literary, and the like—are granted comparable rights and bound by similar responsibilities.

~ In teaching, professors may assign readings and conduct discussions as they deem necessary to give students a full understanding of the ideas or issues under study. While they may require students to know and under-stand controversial ideas, professors also have a solemn duty to respect each student’s right to arrive at his or her own conclusions.

~ Like other citizens, professors enjoy the right to engage in public debate and express their opinions on any issue they wish. But they cannot claim that they speak for their university, nor can they use their academic title unless their point of view is informed specifically by their field of study.

Academic tenure—a career-long faculty appointment—exists to protect scholars and teachers from dismissal for exercising their freedoms. Tenure is not won easily. New professors serve a probationary period of up to seven years, during which they must prove their competence as scholars and teachers, and also demonstrate their acceptance of the ethical duties that attend their freedom. Only after senior colleagues are satisfied on both accounts, typically after three to five years, can an early-career professor be awarded tenure. Importantly, tenure does not protect a professor from dismissal for moral turpitude (such as committing a felony or having an improper relationship with a student) or if the university chooses to eliminate the department in which tenure was granted.

These are the principles and practices to which professors and their universities owe allegiance. Like members of other institutions, we sometimes fall short. When we do, we violate the public’s trust and place our cherished freedom of inquiry at risk. I take satisfaction in the respect the faculty, students, and presidents of the University of Utah have shown for both the rights and the duties of academic freedom. This century-long legacy serves the peoples of Utah and the world with critically needed new ideas and independent thought. It is to be prized.

Jack Newell is a professor emeritus of educational leadership at the University of Utah who currently teaches in the Honors College.

Read Newell’s Fall 2015 article on the broader history of academic freedom at the U here.

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