Our personal and professional lives are defined by a series of inflection points. For all of us, the past two years have been extraordinary, shaped by a global pandemic unlike anything in the past 100 years, deep concerns about longstanding structural inequities in our society and global socioeconomic tensions unseen since the end of the Cold War. Concurrently, the compact between our society and its public universities is being renegotiated in deep and profound ways.
Working together at Utah, we have developed plans and processes that have protected our faculty, staff and students during the pandemic; developed new approaches to educational access and support; redoubled our commitments to equity, diversity and inclusion; and fostered new scholarship collaborations across campus. We have also completed the transition from one university president to another, with new opportunities ahead.
Reflecting on all of this, I believe the time is right for a personal transition that will allow me to devote more of my time and energy to national research policy issues, educational equity and access and global competitiveness. I have also placed several national research projects on hold and deferred books and research papers I want to write. Thus, I will be stepping down as Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs (SVPAA) at the end of this calendar year to take a yearlong administrative research leave, while supporting the transition to a new SVPAA this spring.
My time as SVPAA has been a truly wonderful experience, working on important problems with talented and passionate people. I’ve made new friends, built new relationships and learned an incredible amount from so many of you. I am especially proud of the following, which we have accomplished together, in a One Utah spirit. And if I didn’t mention you by name, please know that I am grateful to all of you for your partnership and dedication.
- The pan-campus Educational Futures and Student Success Taskforce, co-chaired by Diane Pataki and Bob Fujinami and assisted by Holly Godsey (faculty fellow), which created a blueprint for the future of online, lifelong and personalized education at the University of Utah.
- The For Utah Scholarship program, which has broadened access to talented, low-income Utah high school graduates, allowing them to graduate debt free, while also diversifying our student base with first-generation and traditionally underrepresented students. The past two years have seen the largest enrollments and most diverse first year classes in the U’s history. Thank you, Steve Robinson and team!
- Expanded in-person and online certificate programs, which augment degree programs with complementary skills and capabilities; a low-cost online degree completion program, targeting students who left the U without degrees; and online professional masters degree programs. Thank you, Deborah Keyek-Franssen and team!
- The U’s first campus-wide summer bridge program for entering students and expansion of concurrent enrollment with high schools.
- Salt Lake Community College partnerships—articulation agreements and the new Herriman campus. Thank you, Marti Bradley and Chase Hagood!
Research and Scholarship
- The 1U4U research program, which brought scholars from multiple colleges together in a One U spirit. Thank you, Mike Good and partnering deans!
- The Utah Informatics Initiative (UI2) to coordinate IT-enabled research, scholarship and education, which also led to planning for cyberinfrastructure fellows and cyberinfrastructure professionals. Thank you, Mike Kirby, Manish Parashar and Tom Cheatham!
- Celebration of scholarship via our banners program and reaffirmation of academic freedom.
- The libraries futures taskforce, co-chaired by Harriet Hopf and Richard Preiss, which charted a path for the future of academic libraries during a period of rapid change in publishing models and research data retention expectations.
- Expanded environmental science programs planning, co-led by Darryl Butt and Peter Trapa, which will leverage construction of the new Applied Science Building.
- An Air Quality Symposium, bringing scholars together from across campus, led by Jim Agutter (faculty fellow).
- Fair and Equitable Society initiative planning which would integrate issues surrounding social determinants of health, environment and educational, economic and social inequities.
Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion
- The campus Native American land use statement, which acknowledges our deep responsibilities.
- Recruiting program incentives for diverse faculty and dual career hires.
- Faculty recruiting best practices education and support.
- Student diversity support via the For Utah Scholarship and First Gen Student Office.
- Inaugural AVP for Faculty Equity and Diversity Myra Washington.
People and Processes
- A passionate and committed academic leadership team, with wonderful new leaders in enrollment management, undergraduate studies, connected learning, global programs, faculty affairs, sustainability, museums, informatics and SCI, as well as multiple new deans.
- Expanded new faculty administrator training and a regular cadence of academic leader lunches.
- Streamlined policy and SVPAA communication processes.
- Environmental sustainability initiatives and education.
- The Office of Nationally Competitive Scholarships, anchored in the Honors College.
We are a public research university, one entrusted with the hopes of parents, the dreams of children and our society’s future. Honoring that sacred trust depends on continued creativity and innovation, asking and answering the big questions.
In my very first meeting with the Council of Academic Deans, I read aloud from Kobi Yamada’s wonderful children’s book, “What Do You Do with an Idea?” The book’s summary is simple and succinct: You change the world! Keep using your ideas to build a better world, for all our citizens.
It has been an honor and a privilege to serve you as SVPAA!
Thank you and warm regards.