Dark Skies

On a moonless night in Bryce Canyon National Park, you feel like you can reach out and touch the universe. Above the iconic sandstone hoodoos, the Milky Way stretches across the sky, a celestial rainbow arching from horizon to horizon. Visitors from around the globe come to the park to view stars undimmed by artificial light. In a world where excess artificial light, or light pollution, obscures the Milky Way from nearly one-third of humanity, Utah’s night skies are a natural resource rarer than any mineral—and potentially worth much more.

Bryce Canyon is just one of many International Dark Sky Places—locales that make efforts to preserve dark skies and educate about their value—and Utah has more than any other state or even country besides the U.S. And preserving dark skies does more than improve star-gazing; visitors will spend nearly $2.5 billion to see dark skies in national parks in the Colorado Plateau between 2013 and 2023, based on current trends, according to a report from Missouri State University. Light pollution also impacts public health, destroys wildlife habitat, and costs taxpayers—the U.S. alone wastes billions annually on inefficient lighting systems.

Worldwide, light pollution is growing twice as fast as Earth’s human population. In response, a new field has emerged that explores the impacts of artificial light and the loss of the night skies through a broad range of disciplines. The University of Utah is an international leader in this global movement; the U-based Consortium for Dark Sky Studies (CDSS) is the first academic center in the world dedicated to discovering, developing, communicating, and applying knowledge pertaining to the quality of the night skies. The multi-institutional consortium researches the public health, economic, and environmental impacts of the so-called “disappearing dark.”

“The importance of this issue reaches far beyond Utah’s borders. The consortium addresses the global issue: how to preserve dark skies and reduce the planet’s seemingly relentless increase, with multiple impacts, in light pollution,” says Stephen Goldsmith, co-director of the CDSS and associate professor of city and metropolitan planning at the U, who serves as the project’s principal investigator. “This makes the consortium a critically important resource for communities in the developed and developing world.”

A number of communities in Sourthern and Central Utah are seeking to transition from traditional industries to the clean economic growth afforded by dark skies.


The U is uniquely positioned to host studies of the dark sky. Utah’s vast tracts of public land provide substantial night skies unpolluted by man-made light, representing a boon of research opportunities. The consortium’s official status has spurred international collaborations; the CDSS partnered with the leading international ALAN (Artificial Light at Night) conference-organizing committee to host ALAN 2018 in Utah last November, the largest global conference to date examining the many aspects and impacts of artificial light.

“The Wasatch Mountains form the dividing line between the Wasatch Front, as light-polluted as the Los Angeles Basin, and the backside of the Wasatch, which boasts multiple parks in the process of becoming accredited International Dark Sky Parks,” says Dave Kieda, dean of the U’s graduate school and co-director of CDSS. “We believe this geographical juxtaposition gives us one of the best possible natural labs in the world for dark sky studies.”

In January, the W. M. Keck Foundation awarded $250,000 to the U to establish a new undergraduate minor in dark sky studies, the first of its kind in the country. Housed in the College of Architecture + Planning, the minor is open to all students interested in exploring issues through multiples lenses: the sciences, including public health, urban planning, and engineering, and the humanities, from religion to history and philosophy.

Students will also participate in field-based research, including inventing a new tool for understanding the impact of artificial light at night. The device, called Sky Drone, will be the first of its kind. Existing tools require an individual to record measurements by hand while traveling on foot, often taking weeks to survey an area. In contrast, the Sky Drone will remotely measure and map light sources over a large geographic space. After its development, all students in the dark sky minor will use the Sky Drone to research the impact of light in communities throughout the Colorado Plateau. Additionally, the technology could be patentable and become a vital tool for the increasing number of communities looking to improve their night skies and boost astronomy tourism, aka astro-tourism.

The minor seeks to create a new interdisciplinary model for undergraduate studies. Fifteen faculty members from all corners of campus are collaborating to develop courses that break down the traditional silos between the different departments. These course instructors will become a new cohort of scholars in dark sky studies, providing them a platform for working with peers from other institutions.

“Dark sky studies is a truly transdisciplinary field engaging disciplines ranging from the humanities, urban planning, and tourism to STEM and health,” says Daniel Mendoza, one of the minor’s core faculty members, who holds joint appointments in the Department of Atmospheric Sciences and the Division of Pulmonary Medicine. “The University of Utah has been leading the way since the inception of the CDSS, and, with the generosity of the Keck Foundation, we’re establishing the groundwork for continued educational and research opportunities.”


Did you know that light pollution can damage your health?

Like nearly every living thing on the planet, humans have evolved to Earth’s 24-hour day-night cycle, adhering to the so-called circadian rhythm, or our biological clock. Dawn’s first light (or the appearance of it) kicks off a chain of physiological actions in every cell in our bodies. Darkness cues our brain to release the melatonin that lulls us to sleep, setting off more actions that keep us alive—changing hormone levels, and even turning on and off various genes. But light pollution doesn’t just affect human health; the loss of darkness is linked to increased energy consumption and disrupted ecosystems and wildlife.


What harm can light pollution cause?


• Cancer

• Depression/anxiety

• Cardiovascular disease


•  Some 30% of outdoor light is unnecessary

• Costs at least $3 billion annually

• Releases more than 20 million tons of C02 a year


• Artificial lights create a fatal attraction for insects, which impacts all animal and plant species that rely on them for food and pollination

• Light pollution affects migratory schedules, killing billions of birds every year

• Millions of sea turtle hatchlings die each year by following lights on land


You can help.

  • Use shielded dark sky-friendly exterior fixtures that point down
  • Use long-wavelength lights with a red or yellow tint
  • Minimize blue light—you’ll sleep better if you put away electronics about 2-3 hours before bed
  • Install timers and dimmer switches
  • Turn lights off when not in use

Visit darksky.org to learn more.

Adapted from International Dark-Sky Association materials.


Dark sky studies provides opportunities for students to make real change as part of their undergraduate education. The Natural History Museum of Utah, a consortium member, recently mentored undergraduates studying multidisciplinary design to create an exhibit showcasing Utah’s unique exposure to the night sky. The exhibit was on display for many months, and due to its popularity, is being considered as a permanent installation. Illustrating how light pollution impacts the natural beauty and habitats of Utah, the interactive backdrop shows a silhouetted city against a night sky filled with stars. Visitors turn a knob that lights up the sky; the brighter the light, the fewer the stars.

The dark sky minor is training students for the emerging field of dark sky planning. A consortium partner, the International Dark-Sky Association (IDA), has worked extensively with Utah’s parks, monuments, and communities to preserve and protect their night skies. IDA provides guidance on implementing new lighting ordinances, retrofitting fixtures to reduce light pollution, and measuring light levels to ensure that starscapes are visible.

“You can’t ‘drive through’ dark skies; it requires an overnight stay plus two meals. That’s why astro-tourism is considered the most lucrative segment of the ecotourism market,” says Kelly S. Bricker, director of parks, recreation, and tourism at the U and a core faculty member of the dark sky minor.

“A number of communities in Southern and Central Utah are seeking to transition from traditional industries to the clean economic growth afforded by dark skies,” says Stephen Goldsmith. “Eighty percent of North America can no longer view the Milky Way and needs to travel to do so. The dry air of Utah and the superb public lands combine to make this one of the best geographies for exploring the night skies and our place in the universe.”

—Lisa Potter is a science writer for University Marketing & Communications.

Crosse Fit

Seth Neeleman feels like he’s been living out of his car the past two years. It’s a feeling the entire University of Utah men’s lacrosse team is familiar with. “We’d just pull up, put all of our gear on, and come to practice,” he says. “After, we’d have to pack all our stuff back in our cars and just leave it in there, then go home or try to find an open shower.”

As a club team, the lacrosse athletes haven’t had the amenities and assistance available to their peers sponsored at the NCAA level—like team locker rooms, for example. The players have been responsible for everything from buying their own equipment and uniforms to arranging their travel.

Neeleman embraced the personal sacrifices to play at a school he loves. He grew up in Connecticut and originally committed to play lax for Loyola Maryland. But after serving a two-year church mission, he decided to transfer to the U, a school where his uncle Danny Vranes ex’81 made a name for himself as a basketball star nearly four decades ago. Like many of his teammates, Neeleman came to the U with no promise of anything more than a club team. Yet here he is two years later forging new ground for U lacrosse as they join the ranks of NCAA Division I programs. The Utes began their inaugural NCAA season on February 1 when they opened to a crowd of more than 3,200 fans against Vermont in Rice-Eccles Stadium.

Gone are the days of living out of their cars. The team now has access to all the perks that come with being a Division I athlete—their own locker room, a training facility, help with class scheduling, scholarship opportunities, and access to nutritionists, trainers, and sports medicine specialists. And while these benefits will help, these players are all sports pioneers in a sense and have a lot to prove. Utah is just the third university west of the Mississippi River—joining Denver and Air Force—to sponsor men’s lacrosse at the NCAA Division I level.


Starting a new men’s Division I sports team is becoming rare in an era when Title IX concerns and start-up expenses often eliminate such ideas from consideration. It becomes an even bigger challenge when a school’s conference does not sponsor the sport. Utah overcame many of these obstacles thanks to a big-time assist from a major gift.

Seth Neeleman

Alum David Neeleman ex’81, founder of JetBlue, wanted his son Seth to have a chance to play lacrosse at the highest level. To that end, he got the ball rolling on shaping Utah’s club team into a program that could transition upward. David personally convinced Brian Holman, an assistant coach at North Carolina, to come to Salt Lake and coach the Utes. He rounded up donors who helped fund a $15.6 million gift that endowed the lacrosse program—a gift that cleared the way for the university Athletics Department to decide in 2017 to begin sponsoring the lacrosse team at the NCAA I level in 2019.

“My dad loves the U, and he really loves the sport of lacrosse and thought there was a need for it [at a higher level] here,” says Seth. “It just shows that when he has an idea, he’ll chase it in any aspect of life.”

Already, the Utes are drawing serious interest from student-athletes and fans alike, with healthy sales of their 2019 season tickets. Following their Rice-Eccles debut, the remaining five regular season home games— concluding on April 27 against Detroit Mercy—have been at the 1,600-seat McCarthey Stadium on the Judge Memorial High School campus. And the Utes have drawn in a mix of talented freshmen and transfers from universities including Massachusetts, Rutgers, St. John’s, Robert Morris, and Bellarmine who are excited to play a part in building a new lacrosse program.

“It’s definitely a unique experience, something really special,” says redshirt junior Jimmy Perkins, a Robert Morris transfer. “It’s something I took into consideration before coming here. It’s a really special opportunity for the sport of lacrosse, too, being the first Pac-12 school to have a program. This coaching staff is awesome. There are a lot of people who would want to play for them, and I’m just lucky to be part of helping to build this program.”


For Cam Redmond, a senior, the change in the program is as different as night and day from what he first experienced when he joined the club team as a freshman in 2015 after graduating from Utah’s Bountiful High. “Before, we never did anything as a team outside of games or practices,” he says.

Brian Holman

Now, Coach Holman insists that from the moment players set foot on campus in fall until the final week of the spring season, the team gathers weekly on Wednesday nights. Activities can entail anything from watching movies to having cookouts. The players sometimes discuss serious topics and other times crack jokes—all the while building camaraderie and brotherhood.

Holman brings with him an impressive track record of knowing what makes a successful lacrosse athlete and team. He first made a name for himself as a three-time All-American goalkeeper at Johns Hopkins from 1980 to 1983 and helped Hopkins win the 1980 NCAA championship. He began his coaching career at Johns Hopkins as a goalkeeper coach and defensive coordinator. Holman had two stints at Hopkins, from 1986 to 1991 and 1998 to 2000, before joining North Carolina as an assistant coach in 2009. During his stint with the Tar Heels until 2016, Holman helped coach his team to the 2013 ACC Championship and the 2016 NCAA Championship.

Attracting a top-tier coach is a game changer. “The whole program literally did an upside-down turn,” Redmond says. From day one, Holman placed an emphasis on building the student-athletes on his roster into better people, not just better players.

Five pillars guide the Utah lacrosse program under his watch—humility, honesty, passion, gratitude, and trust. These pillars impress upon the entire roster the importance of being good students and outstanding members of the community. They form the backbone of Holman’s efforts to help his players shape what he believes are critical physical, mental, tactical, and spiritual aspects related to lacrosse. “Everything in a program starts with the culture,” Holman says. “For us, it starts with our pillars. There’s got to be a foundation.”

Holman pushed his team to get ready for graduating from club sport to the NCAA both on and off the field. Practices became more structured, disciplined, and rigorous. And players were encouraged to become more visible in the local community, from simple things like going to class in a Utah lacrosse shirt to organizing free clinics with local youth participating in the sport.

Holman estimates that they interacted with more than 750 kids in his first year at Utah. The team went to high schools, recreational games, and club practices to hang out with younger athletes and coach them in facets of the game. These efforts have given Utah lacrosse players a sense of pride that they’re building something special. “It’s kind of cool watching everything that’s happened, being here from the start to when they launched the program this year,” says Redmond, who is graduating this May.


Racking up frequent flyer miles comes with the territory for Utah in the school’s first NCAA Division I foray. The team will travel a total of 23,219 miles during a 15-game regular season. The Utes play nine of those 15 matches on the road, with seven road trips to the East Coast. Their closest opponent, Denver, is 496 miles from Salt Lake and is one of only two competitors less than 1,900 miles away from campus.

Jimmy Perkins

In some ways, it is a jarring introduction to what this new chapter for Utah lacrosse will entail. “This is a DI program,” says Mark Harlan, Utah’s athletics director. “I remember when I met with the team this summer, I said, ‘On July 1st, everything changed, guys. Although we appreciate club sports, this is a whole different level. This is not high school to college. This is elementary to pro.’ ”

Distance isn’t the only consideration in Utah’s schedule. The Utes’ 2019 slate features four road games against teams who made the 2018 NCAA Tournament—including national runner-up Duke. Those types of games aren’t going away, either. Utah has embraced a philosophy of playing with the best teams anytime and anywhere. “Coach [Holman] did a great job of putting together a challenging schedule for us, especially for a first-year program,” says Perkins. “We get to play the big dogs right off the bat. It will be awesome getting to go to some of those venues.”

Utah’s goals aren’t simple or modest for a first-year Division I program—they aren’t just happy to be here. They want to be a program that carves out a spot among the sport’s elite and stays there.

It shows in the approach to both scheduling and recruiting. Holman casts a wide net and works to fill out his team with talent drawn from across North America: Utah’s 45-man roster consists of student-athletes from 15 different states and British Columbia, Canada. The U, he believes, is uniquely positioned to take a leap forward in lacrosse and wants nothing less than for the Utes to stand toe to toe with other schools on the national stage. “We have two goals. One is to be the best program in college lacrosse. The other is to compete for and win national championships,” says Holman. “How do you do that from scratch? You recruit the right players.”

The next big step in growth for the Utah lacrosse program will come with the completion of the relocated soccer field. Both the women’s soccer team and the lacrosse team will use the field for their home games starting in the 2019-20 season. The new natural grass field is being constructed next to the U’s Dumke Family Softball Stadium. It will feature a stadium of its own that can be expanded with additional seating capacity, a press box, locker rooms, and coaching offices.

An adjacent practice field will also be constructed for the lacrosse team to use. Currently, the team holds practices on an artificial turf field atop the Central Parking Garage on the business loop section of the campus and at the infield of the McCarthey Family Track & Field Complex.

These are small steps in a journey that Utah hopes will serve as a blueprint for other Pac-12 schools considering adding lacrosse to their Division I offerings. The Utes embrace having an opportunity to be pioneers in a growing sport. “It’s an innovative move that the university made to bring it in,” Harlan says. “We are trailblazers in that regard.”

–John Coon is a Salt Lake City-based freelance writer.



Shannon McNatt is no stranger to rigorous training. The U senior and NCAA regional beam champion gymnast spends more than 20 hours training each week preparing for competition. And her dedication in the gym is paralleled in her coursework. She’s in one of the David S. Eccles School of Business’ most demanding majors, Quantitative Analysis of Markets and Organizations (QAMO), which requires advanced courses in mathematics, statistics, economics, and business.

The QAMO major helps put the Eccles School on level with places such as Berkeley, Columbia, and other top schools from around the country, says Adam Meirowitz, director of the Marriner S. Eccles Institute for Economics and Quantitative Analysis. And in a competitive market, graduates like McNatt—with exhaustive training both in the gym and in the classroom—enter the business world on even better footing. Skills such as time management and teamwork that student-athletes excel at have tremendous value in both the classroom and the workplace, adds Meirowitz.

In addition to a successful gymnastics career, including a 2017 NCAA regional beam win with a 9.9 score, McNatt is a two-time Pac-12 All-Academic first-team member, a College Sports Information Directors of America Academic All-District first-team honoree, and a three-time Women’s Collegiate Gymnastics Association Scholastic All-American. She’s currently an intern at the U’s Kem C. Gardner Policy Institute and is exploring career options for utilizing her analytical and leadership skills after she graduates.

“You don’t just go from the floor to the high beam and say, ‘I hope it goes well.’ We have progressions for how we learn skills… and that progression is the same in academics.”



Utah is at the heart of many recent environmental debates, ranging from national parks and water to land use and air quality. These crucial issues can seem impossibly complex, and finding solutions requires collaboration and creativity. Here are just two of many researchers exploring these topics from different perspectives.

A cultural perspective: The data is available. And brilliant minds are working tirelessly to create solutions to big environmental questions. So why is change so hard? Why isn’t adoption of environmental solutions more widespread?

Oftentimes the real barrier to change is related to culture, says Jeff McCarthy, the director of environmental humanities at the U. Approaching climate change from just the hard sciences isn’t enough, he says. Instead, we also need to view it through the lenses of aesthetics, religion, history, and literature to create more effective solutions and have a wider adoption of those solutions.

And that’s where environmental humanities come in. “We have bigger storms, more heat, rising oceans,” says McCarthy—and the environmental humanities look at what these challenges mean to people who live on coastlines, or who rely on irrigation water for farming, or those who will be displaced from their homes by the changing climate. And the U is a leader in this field, he says. Students from the environmental humanities go on to work in journalism, academics, and nonprofits, and are helping communities learn to adapt to changing climates.

“These are crucial issues happening right here, and it’s all the more important that we approach these issues from as many perspectives as possible.”


Luisa Whittaker-Brooks

A chemist’s point of view: It may not be immediately intuitive for a chemistry professor to be focused on improving the environment. But Luisa Whittaker-Brooks, an assistant professor of chemistry at the U, is doing just that by training the next generation of researchers to create new materials to improve renewable energy and use fewer resources.

“Scientists used to just think about solving problems at a fundamental level, and then engineers would make devices. But that’s not how it works anymore. Now it’s blended,” Whittaker-Brooks says. And at the U, students and faculty frequently collaborate across departments. “We have this interdisciplinary network where we can address a problem from different perspectives.”

Passionate about the environment, Whittaker- Brooks hopes to inspire a new generation of critical thinkers and scientists to help address climate change. Her passion is fueled from her experiences growing up in Panama, where she saw a growing population stress already taxed natural resources. That’s one of the benefits to bettering our environment, she says: it doesn’t just benefit a single group of people—it helps the whole world.

“When our students leave, they have the know-how to proactively change people’s mindsets about the environment.”



Sayro Paw was 12 when she arrived in Utah from the Mae La Refugee Camp in Thailand. She recalls being totally overwhelmed by the language and cultural differences. “I didn’t know how to communicate with anyone,” she says. “I didn’t know anyone at school, and I couldn’t do homework.”

Gradually things improved for Paw, especially once she connected with the U’s own University Neighborhood Partners (UNP) Hartland Partnership Center, one of more than 30 sites where UNP engages with west side neighborhoods. At UNP Hartland, Paw had faculty and student mentors who helped her with language and study skills and eventually helped her apply to college. In addition, Paw made new friends participating in UNP Hartland’s outdoors programs, where she got out on weekends to rock climb, canoe, and hike.

“UNP builds partnerships between the university and west side neighborhoods that reduce barriers to education and opportunity,” explains UNP director Sarah Munro. UNP brings together partners who work with about 4,000 west side residents each year on issues ranging from English language acquisition to mental health support, education and employment pathways, and after-school programs.

Paw is now studying at the U and wants to be a middle or high school art or English teacher. “I want to show my students that I made it this far and they can too,” she says.

“I’m so grateful for everyone at Hartland. They were always there for me. Without them, I wouldn’t be where I am now.”



For most people, a doctorate in human genetics isn’t a fallback career. But when Kristi Russell injured her hip as a tennis player at Weber State University, she says the injury changed the course of her education and profession.

She asked her doctor, “Why would this happen to someone so young?” The doctor’s response: sports and genetics. “That really piqued my interest in human genetics,” she says. Although she was always a self-described science nerd and was studying microbiology, the discovery that hip dysplasia may run in her family was a catalyst for her to better understand genetics.

Now a grad student at the U, Russell says she’s grateful to study with some of the field’s leading researchers. After all, she works directly with the U’s chair of human genetics, Lynn Jorde, who has authored more than 250 scientific papers and holds one of the most prestigious grants available to genetics researchers.

Among other things, Russell and Jorde are trying to understand the genetic mutations that cause Lou Gehrig’s disease (also known as ALS). They’ve already uncovered two genes that contribute to the disease. And with each new gene discovered, potential new treatments can be found, says Jorde.

Their work leverages the Utah Population Database (UPDB), the world’s largest genetic database, with information on more than 10 million individuals. Through the UPDB, U researchers have identified genes and risk factors for more than 30 conditions.

“Science is not easy. It’s mostly disappointing. But once in a while, we’re rewarded with a real pathbreaking discovery. And those are the times that keep us going.”



Derek Young BS’18 grew up in a town with just nine stoplights. And when he came to study biology at the U, the number of students was more than three times the population of his hometown, Price, Utah. While he was excited to be around other people who were passionate about learning, and he liked that there was a lot more to do, he found it difficult to navigate a much larger campus and city, he says.

“When I first moved here, I didn’t know anyone,” says Young. When he heard about a social gathering for transfer students, he decided to check it out, and that’s where he met Student Success Advocate Tramaine Jones.

Student Success Advocates help students connect to resources on campus and beyond. Whether it’s scholarships, job opportunities, or finding a sense of belonging, the advocates are a front-line resource for students, Jones says. They also can help in crisis situations, such as housing or food emergencies. “It’s important for us to meet students where they’re at, wherever that may be,” Jones says.

“For me, the biggest thing was to have someone to talk to, someone to help me navigate campus,” says Young. “Tramaine told me about events that were coming up and ways to get involved.”

Young graduated in May, and he’s applied to pharmacy schools and hopes to eventually work in his hometown hospital.

“Without Tramaine, my college experience would have been: go to school and go home. I wouldn’t have gotten as involved in school life as I did.”



Whitney Bitner BS’18 started chemotherapy just three days before her senior year at the U. The math and statistics major had been diagnosed with nodular sclerosis classical Hodgkin lymphoma after she noticed a lump on her neck while vacationing with her family at Lake Powell.

“It was just like, ‘How can this have happened?’ ” says Bitner. Rather than postpone her schooling, she started treatment 10 days after diagnosis and finished her senior year while undergoing chemotherapy.

She says her professors and the outstanding doctors and staff at Huntsman Cancer Institute, where she received treatment, made it possible. Her professors were accommodating, and she was able to schedule treatment on days without class. Her colleagues at the Park Building, where she was a receptionist, sent her encouraging videos throughout her treatment and even threw her a surprise party on her last day of chemo.

While it was a difficult year, Bitner’s advice to anyone going through something similar is to just keep going—no matter how hard it gets. “Throughout my treatment, I was going to yoga, football games, and school,” she says. “I kept doing the things I love to do.”

A few months before graduation, Bitner received the good news that her cancer was in remission. This fall, she started graduate school at Columbia University in New York.

“My mom and I always joke that they only hire happy people [at the Huntsman Cancer Institute] because it does not feel like a hospital.”



Service is in Daniela des Islets’ blood. Her father was an infantry officer in the Honduran military, and she’s been deployed with the U.S. Air Force twice, once in Afghanistan and once in Qatar. And now she’s studying biology, chemistry, and Spanish at the U, with plans to go on to medical school.

“I wanted to combine my passion for science and for people,” she says. The U’s research environment drew her to Utah. And at the U, the Veterans Support Center (VSC) has been a vital resource for her. The VSC helps veteran students or prospective students find services, support, and, perhaps most importantly, camaraderie.

“Having the opportunity to interact with other students who have had experiences similar to mine has been really reassuring,” says des Islets. “I have somebody to relate to, somebody who knows the experiences we have been through.”

Another U veteran, Craig Bryan, also understands the importance of veterans supporting each other—only his team’s focus is on the research end of that support. Bryan is an associate professor of psychology and executive director of the U’s National Center for Veterans Studies (NCVS), which focuses on research, outreach, and advocacy.

He says veterans’ unique life experiences provide irreplaceable insight when creating research to help improve the lives of veterans and active military. Some examples of the research from NCVS include understanding brain injuries, suicide, and novel treatments for PTSD.

“A lot of the research ideas we come up with are informed by our personal experiences,” says Bryan. “We’re reflecting upon the things we saw and experienced as veterans. And we’re now putting that into a scientific format so we can help our brothers and sisters in arms.”

“Sometimes things get stressful and I just want to quit. But then I look back at my deployments and say to myself, ‘You did that, you totally have this.’ ”



Private philanthropy has always been central to the University of Utah’s story line and our ability to deliver on our mission at the highest levels. Today we’re stronger than ever, by all measures, from student achievement and graduation rates to health outcomes and patient satisfaction, and from scientific breakthroughs and new business start-ups to the performing stage and the playing field.

“There is a palpable excitement about the university’s future,” says Fred Esplin MA’74, longtime vice president for Institutional Advancement at the U. “It’s the perfect time to ensure that we have a solid foundation to better serve our students, the state, and the nation.”

It is in this spirit that the U celebrated the public launch of “Imagine New Heights” in September. Funds raised during this comprehensive campaign, which began in 2014 and is slated to run through 2022, will enable the U to accelerate its upward trajectory in the following five key areas:


Enhance our exceptional student experience by offering additional scholarships, investing in real-world experiences that enrich learning, and supporting student success initiatives


Lead biomedical discovery and transform health care by revitalizing our health sciences campus, pioneering a new era of precision medicine, and training the health care leaders of the future


Elevate research and engineer innovative solutions by creating new endowed chairs and professorships, establishing undergraduate scholarships and graduate fellowships in STEM disciplines, and expanding research and sustainability programs


Enrich the arts, culture, and the human experience by creating learning and performance spaces for students in the arts, establishing endowed professorships and chairs in the arts and humanities, and supporting the cultural venues and organizations on our campus


Foster healthy, resilient, and inclusive communities by supporting university-community partnerships, expanding programs that advance diversity and inclusion, and investing in our student-athletes and sports facilities

Every day, thousands of students, faculty, staff, researchers, and health care providers work to imagine new heights and to make the University of Utah the University for Utah. The following pages are a sampling of these remarkable stories.

Our mindset is simple. And powerful. Imagine. Then Do.

$1.07 billion

committed to date

$111 million

donated by U alumni


alumni classes that have given


gifts recorded


gifts of less than $100

(July 2014 – October 2018)