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The U is committed to engaging the entire community through innovative health care and enhanced opportunities to access campus.

Editor’s note: This is the third in a series of articles outlining the University of Utah’s four strategic goals, an initiative that began with dialogue sessions last spring. 

By Jana Cunningham

Situated in a large metropolitan city, the University of Utah is committed to engaging the entire community to improve quality of life and health. University of Utah Health Care provides transformative and innovative health care with exceptional quality, while the campus provides offerings from arts to athletics to a variety of opportunities to engage and enhance access to the campus.

Utah is ranked as having the healthiest populations at the lowest per capita cost in the nation. This can be attributed to healthy lifestyles and health care systems like the University of Utah, which is focused on innovating its delivery systems with a focus on patient engagement, actionable data, high-quality care and strong physician engagement while simultaneously lowering costs.

With access to the world’s largest population database and with a long history of translational genetic science—having identified more than 30 genes responsible for increased risk of breast, ovarian and colon cancers, sudden cardiac death, and others—the U is dedicated to advancing precision medicine, which is in direct alignment with improving patient care.

“Inspired by the remarkable genetics research here in Utah, we are driven to translate scientific discoveries to benefit patients,” said Vivian Lee, senior vice president for Health Sciences. “Our ability to identify the genetic and environmental origins of disease advances our capacity to practice precision medicine by delivering the right intervention to the right patient at the right time and at the right cost.”

Community Engagement Day 2In other efforts to help improve quality of life, Continuing Education and Community Engagement at the U provides pathways to and through higher education and inspires a love of learning through interesting and educational experiences for all ages. In 2015, they served more than 15,000 people through resources in university pathways, professional development and personal enrichment.

“Through serving and working with the community, we are able to build reciprocal relationships,” said Sandi Pershing, dean of Continuing Education and Community Engagement. “They bring their strengths and expertise to the U and through our programs, we are able to bring our strengths to the community, which benefits all of us.”

Continuing Education and Community Engagement has acted as the first point of contact for higher education for more than 26,000 students since 1998 through its nine programs and the Office of Engagement. Youth Education, for example, is a program that provides classes, camps, programs and test prep for children ages 2-18 and exposes them to college life. Another program, the Utah College Advising Corps began placing advisors in high schools along the Wasatch Front in 2009 to encourage students to participate in higher education opportunities. They have since helped more than 12,000 underserved students enroll into college.

“Students served by the Utah College Advising Corps enroll in post-secondary education at a rate ten percent higher than the state average. In the summer, we reach out to every student served by program to be sure that they are on track at their institutions of choice. If they come to U, they have the opportunity to participate in a learning community, which we know contributes positively to retention and completion” added Pershing.

From kids to adults, the U serves the entire community. For those looking to learn more marketable skills, Professional Development offers noncredit courses, certificate programs, workshops and custom training for specific disciplines that can be immediately implemented in the business world.

Continuing Education and Community Engagement also offers programs for those looking to challenge, inform and enrich their lives. Lifelong Learning provides classes in art, photography, crafts, business, food and wine, home and garden, language, recreation, writing and more. The program brings more than 3,000 community members to the U annually and since 2001 has re-engaged more than 5,300 U alumni. Other programs include Go Learn, an educational travel program led by U experts, Osher Lifelong Learning Institute to serve community members 50 and older, the English Language Institute, Test Prep and Academic Programs – offering university courses at off-campus sites.

Students looking for credit courses, but require flexible schedules, have access to hundreds of classes through UOnline. The resource offers courses and programs in a high quality online format and includes many classes that meet general education requirements. In the past year, upper level courses in areas of high demand, such as nursing, psychology and economics have been developed to allow students to complete bachelor’s and master’s degrees. UOnline enables access to the U for students who are not able to relocate to attend and assists already enrolled students as they make progress toward their degrees.


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