By Marina Gomberg, Associate Director of Communications and Marketing for the College of Fine Arts

After an extensive and thorough search for a new director of the University of Utah School of Music, College of Fine Arts Dean Raymond Tymas-Jones has appointed professor Miguel Chuaqui to the position.

“Professor Chuaqui was the only finalist to receive a unanimous recommendation for appointment from the search committee,” Tymas-Jones said. “He had an overwhelmingly positive response from faculty, students and staff as well. I want to extend my heartfelt appreciation to the members of the School of Music Director Search Committee for their commitment and stellar work.”

Chuaqui has been with the University of Utah since 1996 when he began as an assistant professor in the School of Music. Over the past nearly two decades, Chuaqui has risen through the ranks to become a full professor, head of the composition area and most recently serving as the interim director of the School of Music.

“The University of Utah School of Music has a long legacy of musical excellence, and I look forward to the opportunity to work with its outstanding students, faculty and staff to advance the distinction of its programs through new creative initiatives,” Chuaqui said. “It is an honor and a privilege to serve a community inspired, sustained and dedicated to music.”

Chuaqui is a Chilean-American composer who was born in 1964 in Berkeley, California, and then grew up in Santiago, Chile. He studied piano at the Escuela Moderna de Música and the Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile. In 1984, he transferred to the University of California at Berkeley, where he majored in mathematics and music, studied electroacoustic music at the Center for New Music and Audio Technologies and went on to complete his doctorate in composition with composer Andrew Imbrie. His music, which includes orchestral, chamber, vocal and electroacoustic works, has been performed in venues in the U.S. and abroad.

His research interests include collaborations with colleagues in areas as diverse as modern dance (interactive dance systems) and the School of Medicine (interactive software development for therapeutic musical applications).

Chuaqui will be the next director pending approval by the Academic Senate and the Board of Trustees.


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The School of Music educates professionally oriented students by providing rigorous musical and academic experiences. It also strives to serve both the art of music and its communities through performance, composition, research and publication, and the participation of its students and faculty in festivals, conferences, competitions and recordings. The School of Music serves as a vibrant center for intellectual, educational, and cultural musical activities within the university, community, region and nation.


The University of Utah College of Fine Arts faculty and programs challenge, immerse and ultimately prepare the committed student for a rewarding career in the arts. The College is home to the School of Music, the departments of Art & Art History, Ballet, Film & Media Arts, Modern Dance and Theatre.






By Melinda Rogers

What’s it like to be a University of Utah student selected to be flown halfway around the world to teach other students?

Two students from the U’s Master of Public Policy program, Emily Strong and Eric Johnson, recently had that experience. The two received an all-expenses-paid trip to the United Arab Emirates to showcase their research at the Graduate Research Conference in Abu Dhabi’s Zayed University earlier this spring. Strong’s research focuses on elections in Scotland and the political capacities created and exercised by Scotland’s relatively new Electoral Management Board. Johnson’s research focuses on hospital readmissions for pneumonia patients in Intermountain Healthcare facilities.

Zayed University began a collaboration with the University of Utah in 2006, when former dean of the College of Social and Behavioral Sciences (and current professor of political science) Steve Ott assisted with establishing an executive Masters of Public Administration program in the UAE. University of Utah faculty have traveled to the country annually to teach public administration courses since the program’s creation.

Eric Johnson with CamelStrong and Johnson were selected from a broad group of candidates from around the world after Zayed University put out a call for research submissions from universities throughout Europe and the U.S. They recently spoke to @TheU about their experiences in a Q&A:

Q: What made you interested in going to Abu Dhabi?  How did the call for research submissions tie-in to what you’re currently doing in school?

Strong: When my Masters of Public Policy program advisor emailed me about the conference, the subject of her email was “Would you be interested in presenting your research in Abu Dhabi?” How could I pass up such an opportunity?

My research involved evaluating the administration of the Scottish Independence Referendum (undertaken by the rather new Electoral Management Board for Scotland) and involved a lot of aspects of capacity development. This is work that I have been doing for the last two years, so the call for research submissions tied in perfectly with what I was doing for the MPP program.

Johnson: The call for submissions was kind-of a surprise.  Dr. Ott had requested a few examples of quality research and my paper was listed among several that may have fit the bill.  The conference was a bit of a catch-all, covering several disciplines and I felt that my research would be of interest.  Plus, who can pass up the chance to travel somewhere else in the world and the experiences that go with international travel?

Q: Tell us about your experience over there. What did you do? Who did you meet? How did it change your perspective of the world?

Strong: Soon after arriving, we met other students who were selected to present at the conference. They were from the U.S., U.K., Ireland and Switzerland. We also met and networked with local UAE students studying public administration as well as social and economic policies in the UAE. I had the pleasure of meeting many women in particular with passion for public administration and education; women with enormous talent and potential for governing. I had the very special honor of presenting my research the day after arriving from a 13-hour flight. When I presented I realized how odd I must have looked (American presenting on Scotland in UAE).

After the conference sessions ended each day, we explored Abu Dhabi. We even went on a desert safari one evening, which included meeting some camels and enjoying aspects of Bedouin culture (even if they were a bit commercialized). We visited a mall and a couple souks (markets), the beach and the Sheik Zayad Grand Mosque

On our last night, we and the other invited students had dinner with a couple of UAE students. We talked mostly about Emirati food, but we also were able to learn about issues in public administration, public policy, history, and every day life in the UAE.

Before I left for Abu Dhabi, I didn’t fully grasp the extent to which the UAE is investing in education. When I arrived, this conference made it clear that the UAE is serious about diversifying an economy that has to rely less on oil revenue and more on research, development and education in a variety of fields.

Johnson: We met several other graduate students from around the world.  There were 300 presentations at the conference— 285 were by Emerati Nationals and 15 were by international graduate students.  I was impressed by all of the research that was happening, but was even more impressed by the UAE’s commitment to diversify what they are supporting (they understand that the oil that has contributed to their great wealth will eventually run out).

I can only imagine what the U.S. would be like if our federal government had the same motivation to invest in students as the UAE’s federal government does.  In the time when the conference wasn’t happening, I tried to sneak away and get a feel for the local area.  Abu Dhabi was a very modern city with obvious wealth – things that I had been told about but don’t think I was fully prepared for.  We were also able to sneak away for a desert safari where we were able to meet camels and get a bit of tourist-y exposure to very traditional culture.  I was also able to meet several locals and was impressed by the dedication that the local graduate students had to their education, particularly the women, who vastly outnumbered the men.

Q: What do you hope the lasting impression you left with students will be?

Strong: Aside from small (but still meaningful) cultural exchanges, I hope the UAE students we presented with and interacted with became aware of the strong international interest in not only improving research but research collaboration as well. Many of the projects I saw had significance not only in the UAE, but in other parts of the world as well (I recall one paper in particular that focused on polygamy and policies in Shariah law. It got me thinking of this issue in a comparative sense).

Johnson: I would hope that the lasting impression I left with other students would be that of the quality research that is happening at the University of Utah.  There were so many different topics addressed in this conference, but the majorities were of a hard sciences/technical (chemistry, engineering, etc.) nature. There is so much room for quality social science research and I think we only saw a brief glimpse of what is possible.   Hopefully, others around the world will see that we’re doing quality social science as well as medical research in Utah and someone will take note and be interested in these fields in the UAE.

Q: What was the most memorable part of the experience for you?

Strong: The Sheik Zayad Grand Mosque in particular was a favorite of mine that impacted my perspective of the world. It has many aspects of a traditional mosque plus some modern flair (and it was my first visit to a mosque!).  It was the first time I wore a hijab and the first time I had heard a call to prayer. It was unforgettable.

Johnson: Other than the hours in an airplane to get there and back, I would say it was the culture of the people themselves.  The city looked very similar to other modern cities in the world, but for someone who has spent most of their life in Utah, seeing a large number of women in traditional Islamic clothing as well as the men in traditional clothing was something that I found interesting.  In Utah, I’m part of the majority culture, but over there, I was definitely not in the majority population and it was refreshing cultural perspective.

Q: What surprised you about Abu Dhabi from the initial impressions you had before leaving the U.S.?

Strong: The general blend of modern and traditional was so surprising to me. I remember one day after the conference was over going for a swim and I realized how odd it was to see women in bikinis next to women in abayas walking along the beachfront. More generally, though, Abu Dhabi is a fascinating city! I think if more people spent time in the UAE, they would realize that there are many parts of the Middle East that are safe and extremely hospitable to foreign guests.

Johnson: The vast wealth.  I saw more luxury vehicles than I think I’ve ever seen in one place in the United States.  I was told that there was wealth, but wasn’t prepared for how much there really was.  Also, I was amazed how clean the city was, as well as how few police officers were in the city – I believe that I only saw one police car the entire trip (lots of private security though).

To learn more about the program at Zayed University and its collaboration with the University of Utah, click here.


Melinda Rogers is a communications specialist at University Marketing and Communications. Got a story idea for her? Email:








By Annalisa Purser

The entire University of Utah campus community is encouraged to participate in the fourth annual Community Engagement Day celebration, April 29. A variety of engagement opportunities are available throughout the day and are designed to connect the campus to the community it calls home.

“This is an incredible opportunity for us to celebrate the many ongoing ways our campus and community engage,” said Sandi Pershing, co-chair of the event. “We are so grateful to the many volunteers—students, staff, faculty, administration and community partners—who come together to make amazing things happen in our community and on our campus every day.”

In the morning, the U will welcome nearly 1,000 sixth-grade students from 10 Title I elementary schools in the Salt Lake school district for the annual Project Youth event. The students will hear from U President David Pershing; Sandi Pershing, assistant vice president for engagement; Brian Rasmussen, director of university marketing; a member of the football coaching staff; several football players; Infrared, the U’s contemporary a cappella group; Swoop, the mascot and more. Then they’ll live like college students as they participate in workshops across campus taught by faculty volunteers.


Click to enlarge

Volunteers needed
Student volunteers will accompany and mentor a small group of sixth-graders by sharing their personal college experiences as they attend a welcome assembly, participate in faculty-led workshops and eat a pizza lunch on the Union lawn. There will be a volunteer party following the event at Tanner Plaza, between the Union and Student Services buildings. Volunteers are still needed. Email to sign up today.

Faculty and staff presenters are needed for Project Youth next year, Wednesday, April 27, 2016. Volunteer presenters provide interactive, visual presentations that will excite and engage sixth-grade students. Presenters will give two 35-minute classes, 10:30-11:05 a.m. and 11:40 a.m.-12:15 p.m.

Contact Rhiannon Nuismer at if you’re interested in presenting during Project Youth 2016.

“Visits to campus expose and encourage students of all ages to pursue higher education because success in college can never start too early,” said Sandi Pershing. “Project Youth allows students to participate in engaged-learning that enriches their knowledge of a subject, instills in them goals to work hard in school and allows them to meet and interact with college students who will inspire them to continue their educational endeavors.”

Whether you’re already volunteering with Project Youth or not, there are a variety of additional opportunities to get involved throughout the day:

Red Butte Garden
9 a.m.-12 p.m.
Natural area (10-40 volunteers), floral walk/rose garden (10-15 volunteers)

Volunteers will pull weeds and spread mulch to prepare these areas for the summer season. Participants are encouraged to sign up in advance by emailing and need to arrive promptly at 9 a.m.

11 a.m.-2 p.m.
Campus walking route

A drop-in walk-a-thon gives employees and students a chance to enjoy the spring weather, and all are encouraged to donate to the Community Engagement Scholarship. The money raised from last year’s walk-a-thon provided four $2,500 scholarships, and the recipients will be recognized at this year’s Project Youth assembly. To join, find the checkpoint closest to you.

Arts and advocacy student poster presentation
11 a.m. – 2 p.m.
Marriott Center for Dance plaza

Teresa Molina, professor-lecturer in the College of Social Work, and Juan Carlos Claudio, from the Department of Modern Dance, have teamed up to teach a seminar about the role and use of the arts in effective social, political and environmental advocacy. They will share the findings from their involvement with local community partners, including the Road Home’s Palmer Court, the University Neighborhood Partners Hartland Partnership Center, Neighborhood House and National Alliance on Mental Illness Utah.

Bennion Center: Service Corner
2-4 p.m.
Bennion Center, Union Building, Room 101

Come to the Lowell Bennion Community Service Center to knit a hat for infants at Primary Children’s Hospital or write a letter to a U.S. solider.

Alumni Association: School supply assembly
2 p.m.
Alumni House, 155 Central Campus Drive

Come help the MUSS board fill backpacks with school supplies for children who need them. The completed backpacks will be donated to local organizations.

Alternative Breaks: Staff partner info session
2-3 p.m.
Union Building, Room 319

The U’s Alternative Breaks program sends teams of students to distant communities during school breaks to connect them with volunteerism and experiential learning while promoting holistic wellness and lifelong connection to service. U faculty and staff can join these trips as mentors. This info session will discuss how university staff can get involved by mentoring a student leader as they put together a service trip for fall or spring break.

Chalkboard pledge
2 p.m.
Union plaza

There are countless ways to be involved in the community, and the U invites you to pledge to be more engaged in community service by writing down your service commitments on a giant chalkboard at the Union Plaza.

Marriott Library: Hygiene supplies and baby items for the Road Home
Marriott Library east entrance

Collection bins at the Marriott Library have been available since March 1 to collect hygiene items for the homeless. Items needed include toothpaste, toothbrushes, deodorant, soap, shampoo, tissues, hand sanitizers, combs, socks and feminine hygiene products. On Community Engagement Day, April 29, staff, students, and community members are encouraged to bring additional donations and are invited to assemble the packages, which will be delivered to the Road Home. This project is part of the walk-a-thon route, so take a break from walking to assemble a kit.

College of Law: Immigration Q&A
5:30-7 p.m.
Horizonte, 1234 Main Street, Fifth floor auditorium

The College of Law’s pro bono initiative is offering a free Q&A session about immigration law with volunteer attorneys. The focus will be on recent changes within the law, citizenship, documentation status and visa issues.

Annalisa Purser is a communications specialist at University Marketing and Communications. If you have an interesting story idea, email her at



First-generation University of Utah students who have never had the chance to bike, hike or explore the slick rock of Moab will be able to do so thanks to a $3,000 Outdoor Nation Activation Grant.

The grant provides access to outdoor recreation activities to the Opportunity Scholars students at the David Eccles School of Business through the Outdoor Industry Club, which was one of five U clubs to receive the grant this year.

Opportunity Scholars students at the business school are a group of need-based scholarship, first-generation students who represent demographic groups typically underrepresented at the university.

“Most of these students are underrepresented in higher education and I think this is a great opportunity for them to get outdoors when they previously might not have had the opportunity,” said Tatiana Baca, a current senior and Opportunity Scholar at the University of Utah.

The grant comes from Aramark and the Outdoor Foundation and aims to bolster the existing network of outdoor clubs and programs across by getting more young people outside. Aramark is a food and hospitality partner for national and state parks. The Outdoor Foundation’s purpose is to connect young people with the outdoors.

The Outdoor Industry Club used the $3,000 grant to take the opportunity scholars to Moab for an overnight outing in early April where they hiked, biked and climbed some of Utah’s beautiful state parks.

MBA students at the David Eccles School of Business applied for the grant last fall.

“Our club applied for this grant because we believe in Aramark and Outdoor Nation’s mission of expanding access to outdoor opportunities. We are excited about our partnership with the opportunity scholars and looking forward to our trip to southern Utah!” said Koby Elias, a first year MBA student who is currently the president of the Eccles Outdoor Industry Club.

The club, led by current MBA students at the David Eccles School of Business, also hosted events and outings leading up to the trip to Moab so students were able to learn the basic outdoor skills they needed to successfully explore the parks.

“Thanks to Aramark’s leadership and support, we are investing in the ideas, ingenuity and energy of college students to drive an increased interest in outdoor recreation on campuses and in communities across the country,” said Chris Fanning, executive director of the Outdoor Foundation.

Utah is a well-known destination for outdoor enthusiasts across the nation. It is home to several national parks and dozens of world-class ski resorts, making it the perfect place to get outside and explore. “Through these Outdoor Nation Activation Grants, we will inspire a new generation of outdoor enthusiasts, environmental stewards and park supporters,” said Fanning.


By Larissa McGarrity, University of Utah Doctoral Candidate, Clinical Psychology

Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia famously argued that the high disposable income of gay Americans gives them “disproportionate political power.” It was part of the reasoning in his dissenting opinion in Romer v. Evans, a landmark 1996 case that overturned a Colorado amendment prohibiting legal protections for gay men and lesbian women. And still today, Scalia’s reasoning isn’t unusual. Americans who view lesbian, gay and bisexual people as wealthier than average are significantly less likely to support gay rights, surveys suggest. It’s as if they believe that most LGB people are in the mold of Mitchell Pritchett, the Ivy League lawyer on “Modern Family,” or Arizona Robbins, the chief pediatric surgeon on “Grey’s Anatomy.”

But is it true that lesbian, gay and bisexual people are wealthier and more educated than the general population? What is the lived experience of people who are subjected to stigma for both their sexual orientation and socioeconomic status? And what are the unique health implications? Does consideration of socioeconomic status change our common assumptions about what it means to be LGB? You might be surprised by the answers to these questions, which I recently reported in an in-depth review in Psychology of Sexual Orientation and Gender Diversity.

Population-based studies make clear that the stereotype of gay affluence is, at best, an oversimplification and, at worst, a gross inaccuracy. Although education levels appear to be higher for LGB people, this advantage is not reflected in the individual income of gay men or the family income of lesbian couples. The majority of population-based studies find that gay men earn lower wages than heterosexual men. And while lesbian women earn higher wages than heterosexual women, same-sex female couples earn lower wages than different-sex couples. Both male and female same-sex couples have higher poverty rates than different-sex couples. It is clear from these studies that LGB individuals are at least as socioeconomically diverse as heterosexual individuals.

Being LGB and lower on the socioeconomic status ladder represents a unique experience in several ways. Individuals who are gay and poor, for example, may live in neighborhoods more hostile to LGB identity and expression, face stricter standards for gender role conformity, experience isolation from the mainstream LGB community and engage in higher-risk health behaviors than higher- socioeconomic status LGB individuals.

Antigay discrimination and related stressors that contribute to health disparities among LGB populations may differ by socioeconomic status. One’s place in the social hierarchy may provide a fundamental context for understanding the impact of these stressors on health. LGB individuals who are lower on the ladder of social status may be more psychologically and physiologically vulnerable to the negative effects of discrimination on health – and uniquely vulnerable to negative effects of sexual orientation disclosure on health. For example, the common assumption that disclosing one’s sexual orientation is uniformly healthy may be inaccurate for lower status groups. My earlier research with David Huebner, associate professor at the University of Utah, suggests that being out and open about one’s sexual minority status is beneficial to one’s physical health for individuals with high income and education, but it is detrimental for individuals with low income and education.

Overall, research to date suggests that the intersection of socioeconomic status and sexual orientation is health-relevant and worthy of future investigation. Researchers should re-examine the existing literature on sexual orientation with increased awareness that it is predominantly a reflection of white, middle class, gay male experiences. Going forward, it will be important to think critically about predictors that have traditionally gone unexamined, such as financial stress and poverty, and to develop interventions that are inclusive of diversity within the LGB population.

We need to not only integrate research on socioeconomic status and LGB health, but also recognize that socioeconomic status is a fundamental variable that should be examined more extensively in the field of psychology as a whole. Without specific attention to socioeconomic status in psychology research, the field may continue to assume that prominent theories and findings apply universally instead of recognizing that some apply only to specific economic groups.



McGarrity, L. A. (2014). Socioeconomic status as context for minority stress and health disparities among lesbian, gay, and bisexual individuals. Psychology of Sexual Orientation and Gender Diversity, 1, 383-397.

McGarrity, L. A., & Huebner, D. M. (2014). Is being out about sexual orientation uniformly healthy? The moderating role of socioeconomic status in a prospective study of gay and bisexual men. Annals of Behavioral Medicine, 47, 28-38.




By Annalisa Purser

The University of Utah Board of Trustees recognized students Allyson Armstrong and Katharine Blumenthal with the prestigious 2015-16 Ivory Prize for Excellence in Student Leadership at its April meeting.

The prize recognizes students for demonstrating a positive influence on student success and/or fostering efforts that have enabled meaningful change, and includes a $2,000 prize for the students along with a $10,000 donation to their cause.

Physical therapy doctoral students Armstrong and Blumenthal co-founded the Student-Run Pro Bono Physical Therapy Clinic in November 2013, which has been open every Saturday morning for a year and has provided $50,000 worth of services while giving students invaluable fieldwork experience.

Their vision was to provide community-based educational opportunities for U students while addressing health disparities in Salt Lake City. After a collaborative process that involved a review of existing practices, the two students devised a simple, efficient and low-cost infrastructure for clinic operations.

Since the clinic opened, Department of Physical Therapy faculty have aligned coursework with events at the clinic, including a doctoral seminar in which students reviewed and provided evidence-based critiques of care delivered by students at the clinic.

The project has grown to include students from the physical assistant program, as well as nutrition, medicine, pharmacy and nursing. The clinic’s success has prompted other clinics along the Wasatch Front to engage students in physical therapy clinical services.

“What Katey and Ally have accomplished through their work at the Student-Run Pro Bono Physical Therapy Clinic is truly remarkable and, with their collaborative and entrepreneurial approach, embodies the spirit of the Ivory Prize,” said Martha Bradley, senior associate vice president of Academic Affairs. “In a short amount of time, these inspiring students have created a welcoming clinic space where students learn from their patients and the community joins together to mutually address a challenge.”

The Ivory Prize was established by Clark Ivory, former chair of the University of Utah Board of Trustees, to encourage student involvement and leadership.


Annalisa Purser is a communications specialist at University Marketing and Communications. If you have an interesting story idea, email her at

Photo caption
From left: Rick Lifferth, CFO, Ivory Homes; Dave Wolfgramm, CEO, Ivory Homes; Allyson Armstrong, Ivory Prize recipient; Katharine Blumenthal, Ivory Prize recipient; Mary Kate Ivory, director, community relations, Ivory Homes; Abby Ivory, Ivory family representative


By Melinda Rogers

Bullets pierced through Milo Quiroz’s left arm as he returned fire from a Humvee turret in Baqubah, an insurgent hotspot north of Baghdad.

Moments earlier, the 20-year-old specialist who served as a machine gunner with the 1st Infantry Division of the U.S. Army out of Bamberg, Germany, braced for the worst when his weapon jammed in the middle of a war zone in 2004.Quiroz Iraq 2004

“It was a planned operation. We were prepared for casualties,” recalls Quiroz, now a 31-year-old who works as a health system specialist at the Department of Veterans Affairs Salt Lake City Health Care System.

But Quiroz hadn’t planned that one of those casualties might be him.

He managed to make it to safety, with a wounded arm. Seven months into a yearlong deployment to Iraq, he found himself on a plane back to his duty station to start a long process of rehabilitation.

While he worked on regaining fine motor skills that once were easy as a left-handed soldier, he thought about what his future would bring. Born and raised in Ventura County, California, Quiroz, a first generation American, had been the first in his family to join the Army. College had never been on his mind, but as he recovered with other wounded soldiers, a new thought came to him: Why not pursue a higher education?

“After the war, nothing seemed that challenging anymore. Any fear I had? Nothing seemed difficult —long hours cramming for a test seemed like such a minor thing compared to being in a combat situation,” said Quiroz.

“I never really expected to go to college. It wasn’t in my deck of cards. After I was wounded in Iraq, things changed. I knew college was the right move.”

Once rehabilitated, Quiroz was honorably discharged from the Army and received the Purple Heart for wounds suffered in combat. He enrolled at Ventura College in California with the help of the G.I. Bill, a law that helps support veterans with tuition costs while they attend college. In 2008, Quiroz transferred to the University of Utah, lured by the school’s solid reputation and a support system of family that had moved to the area.

He graduated with an undergraduate degree in history in 2009, a proud moment for his family, including three younger brothers who traveled to Utah from the Los Angeles area to see Quiroz become the first person in the family to earn a college degree.

With his military background, Quiroz was drawn to the idea of working at the VA and began a position there in 2010, helping to ensure programs are delivered smoothly to patients in his job as a health system analyst. As he delved further into his career, another thought occurred: He’d made it through his undergraduate program, but could graduate school be a good option to advance?

Quiroz FamIt didn’t take long for Quiroz to return to the University of Utah, this time as a student in the Masters of Public Administration program, housed in the U’s Department of Political Science. The program aims to help students gain general public management skills and develop special depth in a particular administrative area, policy field or level of government.

“I thought I was ahead of the game with a bachelor’s degree. Once I looked into the MPA program, it seemed like something that would be for me. I really liked what the program had to offer,” said Quiroz.

“I’m a firm believer in public service. And with the MPA program, you can touch so many aspects of public administration. It will help me go in any direction I want, whether I would want to serve as a public administrator or run for public office.”

Quiroz was a natural as an MPA student, said Melissa Hall, MPA, Ph.D., program manager of the MPA program.

“He was a good fit as an MPA student, already carrying an interest in public service as well as a desire to advance his skills and knowledge of the three sectors,” said Hall, noting Quiroz’s major research paper stood out for the way it explored important veteran issues in a thoughtful manner.

Quiroz started on his MPA degree in 2012 and this May will walk across the stage as one of 78 students to earn an MPA in the 2014-15 school year, joining hundreds of U graduates from other disciplines at commencement.

It’s another first for Quiroz, and will be another proud day for his family —including his wife and 14-month-old daughter —who will be cheering for him from the audience as he walks across the stage to receive his diploma. While Quiroz said he’s proud of his accomplishment, it’s more important to him that his story be shared with other veterans who may not feel confident they can make it through college or graduate school.

“To me, it seemed a little unattainable,” Quiroz said of his own old beliefs about college. “I want to show veterans that they too can do this. There’s a life after the military,” he said.

“I did it and so can you.”


Melinda Rogers is a communications specialist at University Marketing and Communications. If you have an interesting story idea, email her at


By Melinda Rogers

 Details of the case haunted the normally quiet suburban community of Draper, Utah: On March 11, 2012, the body of a severely beaten 15-year-old girl turned up in the Jordan River.

Few clues —outside of a bloody sneaker belonging to the victim, identified as Anne Grace Kasprzak —initially emerged.

For more than two years, the girl’s family waited for answers about what happened the night their daughter left their Riverton home and wound up dead in a neighboring town a few miles away.

Then in October, a break in the case: Colorado police arrested a 17-year-old suspect in connection with the crime. He had been the girl’s 14-year-old boyfriend at the time of her death, and she’d told him she was pregnant, according to police reports. The boy, extradited to Utah, was charged in 3rd District Juvenile Court with murder, a first-degree felony, and obstruction of justice, a second-degree felony, for tampering with evidence.

The case has been playing out in court, with University of Utah assistant professor Rob Butters among the list of witnesses making the argument that the teen boy belongs in the juvenile court system until he is 21 years old, instead of being certified as an adult where he could be punished by up to life in prison.

After evaluating evidence from both prosecutors and defense attorneys, Judge Dane Nolan ordered the 17-year-old defendant to stand trial as an adult. The case is the latest in a string of murders committed by juveniles in recent years where judges have been left to make tough calls to weigh what’s best for public safety, what’s just for victims and what is a fair punishment considering the young age of perpetrators involved in some egregious crimes. Those difficult questions are why Butters, who is also director of the Utah Criminal Justice Center at the University of Utah, has turned the Kasprzak proceedings into a live case study for students enrolled in his Social Work 6702 (advanced forensics) course this semester.

About 20 students, most in the second year of their Master of Social Work program, worked to build a case that the juvenile defendant and general public would best be served by keeping the defendant in juvenile court. Students learned a broad set of skills in the process, including how to effectively work with offenders and victims of crime; how to interact with the court system; how to assess an offender’s risk level to the community and gage treatment resources; and how to gather testimony to build a compelling argument.

“One of my goals as a faculty member and a researcher-practitioner is to try to integrate what’s going on in the community with what I’m teaching my students,” said Butters. “As researchers we must ask, how do we derive justice from a tragedy like this and what does that look like?”

Butters worked with the boy’s defense team, including attorneys Christopher Bown and Bill Russell, who agreed to allow students to assist Butters with his own testimony preparation through research. The defense team reached out to the College of Social Work for assistance through the state-of-the-art Bridge Training Clinic, in which counseling services can be deeply discounted for people who cannot afford counseling services under normal circumstances.

The research process led to Butters and the students’ ultimate finding that the defendant —if convicted—will be best served in the juvenile system. The recommendation cites numerous studies that show youth offenders often have better outcomes after serving their sentences in youth facilities, instead of being housed with hardened, older criminals in adult prisons.

“The evidence is incontrovertible that sending this young person to prison will be detrimental to his development, growth and personality. In addition, because of the iatrogenic effects of prison, he will almost surely emerge as a higher risk to the community,” Butters wrote in a recommendation to Nolan.

“Based on the best scientific instruments we have, and in my opinion, (the defendant) is a low risk to commit future crimes. The absolutely worst thing we can do for a young person who is a low risk to commit future crime is to incarcerate him with a few thousand moderate and high-risk adult prisoners. Certification as an adult means increasing long-term risk to the community and this is not justice,” Butters wrote.

The defendant in the Kasprzak case is the second to receive assistance from one of Butters’ classes of future forensic social workers. In 2009, a different team of students led by Butters took on the case of Hunter Farani, who was barely 14 when he shot teenager JoJo Brandstatt on a West Valley City golf course with three other gang-affiliated defendants.

In Farani’s case, defense attorneys argued the boy’s age prohibited him from making sound judgments the day he killed Brandstatt, noting teens have diminished capacity to perceive risk, to manage their lives and to make autonomous decisions. Farani was ultimately certified as an adult and is currently serving a 25 years to life sentence at the Utah State Prison after pleading guilty to the murder.

While Butters found the outcome of the Farani case disappointing, he notes the climate has changed since then, with prison reform taking center stage in public policy debates. The Utah State Legislature passed HB348 by Rep. Eric Hutchings, R-Kearns, during the recent session, which has been championed as a major overhaul of the state’s criminal justice system. The new law reduces the time some drug offenders stay in prison by reducing some crimes from a felony to a misdemeanor, while providing a boost to drug and mental health treatment options.

Students who’ve participated in Butters class said the experience has been life-changing. All were provided with access to their own support systems as they delved into graphic details associated with the case.

“Working on this case has given me a completely new perspective on dealing with teens who are in the legal system for extremely violent crimes. It is much more complicated than I ever thought. It’s easy to make a judgment and say ‘just lock ‘em up and throw away the key.’ But it is much more difficult to find an ethical answer that takes into account the immeasurable loss the victim’s family has experienced and the transgression against one of our society’s highest moral statutes, while also providing sanctions in the most appropriate venue for this particular young man,” said student Lujean Marshall.

“I have learned from this case that there are pros and cons to sending this young man to the adult system as opposed to the juvenile system. The ‘right’ decision in this case is entangled in individual rights, debts to society, restorative justice, possibilities of rehabilitation, understanding the developmental level of young teens, and their risk of recidivism.

“This was not just an assignment from a text book for me and my classmates. This was an experience in reality, with real people whose lives will be forever affected by the decision made,” Marshall said.

Student Devin Scallions echoed his classmate’s sentiments.

“This has been the most experiential learning opportunity in my graduate curriculum. Forensic social work opens a new understanding to the client population we will all work with in the future. Working on this case has been eye-opening in understanding the strengths of the client rather than weaknesses that are portrayed by opposing arguments,” said Scallions.

Defense attorney Russell said that student involvement from the University of Utah brought a unique perspective to the defendant’s assessment of whether to stay in the juvenile system or become certified as an adult. He said he will continue to work with the U in the future if the right case presents itself.

Russell said Butters’ class helped the duo prep before Butters’ took the stand in court —an unprecedented request for Russell. Usually, the defense attorney and expert witness do a run-through of expected questions privately.

“To my delight, I found that the questions, lively interactions, and comments of the students not only helped me to better focus my outline and direct examination, but that it also gave me fresh perspectives about both the science and the literature that I so needed to get before the court in an effective way,” said Russell, who graduated from the University of Utah College of Law in 1980.

“To me, this interdisciplinary symbiosis not only helped my client’s cause and better informed the court, but also gave me —a 35-year veteran of trial practice —new and valuable ideas and tools for future litigation.”


Melinda Rogers is a communications specialist at University Marketing and Communications. If you have an interesting story idea, email her at


By Joseph Rojas-Burke

Salt Lake City has an air pollution problem, and news reports often give the impression that air quality is getting worse. Graphic designer and U assistant professor Yvette Shen dove into the data and created an interactive visualization of changing air quality over 35 years. The big surprise is how much cleaner the city’s air is today compared to 1980.

“By looking at the big picture you can see we actually have some improvement,” says Shen, a lecturer in the Department of Communication.

Air of Salt Lake City, Shen’s web-based visual study, allows you to scroll through the years and see the changing proportion of unhealthy air days – color coded in bright red – as they give way to more yellow and green days with moderate and good air. It’s based on Air Quality Index data from the Environmental Protection Agency, which incorporates five major air pollutants regulated by the Clean Air Act: ozone, particle pollution, carbon monoxide, sulfur dioxide, and nitrogen dioxide.

1980 vs 2010

Air quality in Salt Lake City improved substantially from 1980 to 1997, followed by a 10-year plateau in air quality levels, and more recent signs of a trend toward healthier levels since 2007. That’s notable, given that the population grew more than 5 percent between 2000 and 2013. “On the other hand,” Shen notes, “it should also be recognized that no clear improvement of the air quality has been achieved in the last decade.”

In the data visualization, you can track how the mix of air pollutants has changed, year by year, since the 80s when sulfur dioxide levels dominated. SO2 and related sulfur oxides at high concentrations cause acute respiratory problems and have been linked to increased hospitalizations for respiratory illnesses. Salt Lake City’s SO2 levels plummeted in the 1990s.

In 1997, the EPA began to track fine particulate matter (less than 2.5 micrometers in diameter) and the interactive graphic shows how ozone, nitrogen oxides and PM2.5 have become the dominant pollutants in recent years. Ozone in particular remains a problem for Salt Lake City. Ozone forms from chemical reactions between airborne oxides of nitrogen and volatile organic compounds. The major sources are emissions from industrial facilities and electric utilities, engine exhaust, gasoline vapors, and chemical solvents.

Pollutant comp 1980-2014

Fine particles can fill the air directly from forest fires, but more often come from reactions between mixtures of gases emitted from power plants, industries and vehicle engines.  Fine particles are small enough to breath deeply into the lungs, where they can trigger serious problems, including heart attacks, irregular heartbeat, aggravated asthma, and difficulty breathing.

Shen says graphic design is a powerful communication tool that can overcome barriers of cultural background and lack of technical training. “It’s not just pretty looking graphics, it’s about communicating abstract data clearly,” she says. She hopes her latest project will help raise awareness about what Salt Lake City has done right, and highlight the work that still need to be done.


Joseph Rojas-Burke is a communication specialist at University Marketing and Communications. If you have an interesting story idea, email him at



Staff Council LogoThe University of Utah Staff Council is currently looking for positive, service-minded individuals to join. The University of Utah Staff Council is an organization established by University Policy 5-003 to make sure the interests of staff on campus are represented. The University of Utah Staff Council had several achievements and was involved in many events during the 2014-15 academic year.

  • Awarded 20 scholarships at $500 each (summer, fall, spring).
  • Members participated in the District and Staff Excellence Award selections.
  • Sponsored several events for staff including Shred Day where staff members were able to shred personal documents and dispose personal e-waste at no charge, U nights at Real Salt Lake, Utah Grizzlies and Salt Lake Bees discounted tickets.
  • Members actively represent staff interests on several committees across campus.
  • Members participated in the legislative process as advocates for staff of the University of Utah.
  • Continues to co-sponsor Employee Appreciation Day.

If you are interested in making a difference here at the U by participating on Staff Council, submit an application before 5 p.m., Friday, May 8 (Incomplete applications will not be considered).

Qualified applicants must meet the following criteria:

  • Applicants are benefits eligible (.75 FTE or greater).
  • Applicants have successfully completed the probationary period of employment prior to the beginning of the term of service (July 1 of each year).
  • Once cleared through HR, applicants will need to submit the “Supervisor’s Notification” form.
  • Once cleared through HR, applicants will need to submit the “Staff Council Membership Agreement” form.

The University of Utah Staff Council time commitment involves a two hour meeting on the first Wednesday of every month and participation on at least one of the subcommittees that involves one to two hours monthly.

For detailed information about being on the University of Utah Staff Council, please visit

EMBA Team Walk (8)

A Master of Business Administration degree can be the key to advancing your career and the University of Utah David Eccles School of Business now offers four world-class MBA program options right here on-campus.

Tuition reduction is available for staff and faculty who qualify and with daytime, evening, weekend and online formats available, there is a perfect MBA program fit for every individual.

The Full-time MBA program holds classes primarily during the day, and is an immersive, cohort-oriented experience. The Professional MBA program holds classes two evenings a week, and is for early to mid-level professionals looking to gain additional skills. The Executive MBA program is completed in two weekends a month, and is for experienced, senior-level professionals looking to gain high-level strategy and leadership skills. The MBA Online program is for working professionals seeking an innovative, flexible online solution for earning their MBA degree.

We are currently accepting applications for Fall 2015, so don’t wait! Attend an upcoming on-campus admissions event or contact our advisors soon. Please visit the links below for more information.

Full-time MBA | Attend an event
Professional MBA | Attend an event
Executive MBA | Attend an event
MBA online | Attend an event

Juliette Tennert
The David Eccles School of Business at the University of Utah has announced the appointment of Juliette Tennert as director of Economic and Public Policy Research.

In this role, Tennert will direct the economic and public policy research and analysis prepared by The Policy Institute, a newly created center within the Eccles School that prepares applied research and analysis for Utah decision-makers. Tennert joins a team of talented professionals from the University of Utah’s Bureau of Economic and Business Research and Center for Public Policy and Administration.

“Juliette brings a wealth of professional experience to this role as a former state budget director, chief economist and fiscal analyst for the Utah governor’s office and Legislature,” said Taylor Randall, dean of the Eccles School. “Her knowledge about the Utah economy, state finances, public policy and data analysis will be a great addition to our staff as we build out a public policy center within the Eccles School.”

Read the full story here.



A medical innovation company founded by a team of University of Utah students won big — to the tune of $153,000 — at the prestigious Rice University Business Plan Competition held April 16-18 in Houston.

Launched by a team of bioengineering and medical students at the University of Utah’s 2012 Bench-2-Bedside competition, Veritas Medical created and is continuing to develop its LIGHT LINE Catheter, which eliminates infection-causing bacteria using high-intensity light. Catheter-related infections are common in hospitals in the U.S. and throughout the world, and the students sought to find a way to eliminate the problem.

“When we first started, we had big plans to change the world,” said Nate Rhodes, a recent bioengineering graduate and CEO of Veritas Medical. “It started out as a learning activity, and we ended up loving the process. We knew we had a really great idea, but we had never done anything like this before, and we weren’t sure how far we would actually get.”

At this point? Pretty darn far.

Veritas Medical took home a competition-best eight awards and finished in fourth place overall at the Rice University contest, which featured teams from many of the world’s top universities including Johns Hopkins, Harvard and Stanford. After repeated trips to the stage to collect prizes, the crowd took notice of the group from Salt Lake City.

Read more about this story, here.


University of Utah students won two individual events, two team events and placed fourth overall at this year’s National Inter-Collegiate Pistol Championships at Fort Benning, Georgia, the best in the 20-year history of the university’s team.
Pistol 2015 (82)
Wyatt Brown, a sophomore majoring in film and theater studies, won the open air pistol and free pistol competitions. He also brought home all-American honors in all three open events and took second place in the aggregate of those events.

Pistol 2015 (66)Lexi Lagan, a junior majoring in physics and pre-law, won the women¹s aggregate competition and took the silver medal in women¹s sport pistol and the bronze in women¹s air pistol. She also brought home three all-American awards. Lagan went on to compete for a slot on the USA Shooting team, which represents the United States internationally and is sponsored by the U.S. Olympic Committee. She placed fourth in the sport pistol category at the USA Shooting Rifle/Pistol Spring Selection.

The national championships were held at Fort Benning on March 22-27. The NRA-sponsored competition determines the national collegiate individual and team champions in free pistol, standard pistol, open air pistol, women’s air pistol, women’s sport pistol and national collegiate team and individual champions in ROTC standard pistol. Competitors must qualify for an invitation to the national championships with exemplary scores fired in sectional competitions throughout the U.S. in January and February.

Click here to read more.