The University of Utah’s “One U” mantra has become shorthand on campus for collaboration and inclusivity. But over the past 18 months, 1U4U faculty have been living and breathing the slogan.
Selected in January 2020, 33 cross-campus teams of scholars, researchers, artists and teachers developed and implemented interdisciplinary projects incorporating both health sciences and academic affairs fields of study:
- Two projects—one in the School of Medicine, the other in the School for Cultural and Social Transformation—developed pipelines to increase student diversity in graduate programs.
- Another group created a timely virtual reality anatomy program for students in nursing, medicine and dentistry at a time when most university classes were taught online.
- A team from Architecture + Planning and the School of Medicine launched a new graduate curriculum using human-centered design concepts to help healthcare teams make decisions in clinical settings.
- Another project organized through the School of Music gathered visual and musical artists to interpret and express science about climate change.
- Yet another team established a scholarly network to study and teach about gender-based violence.
Building cross-campus teams and boosting cross-disciplinary teamwork was the impetus for the 1U4U initiative, said Dan Reed, senior vice president for academic affairs. But supporting projects that could lead to larger research grants and have a lasting impact on the larger community was equally important.
“We wanted this project to catalyze collaboration and be a bridge to new opportunities,” he said. “These projects represent the best of the One U ethos. We hope their impact will continue for years to come.”
Ana Atunes, an assistant professor in the School for Cultural and Social Transformation, developed a culturally sensitive, 16-week sexual education program for refugee, immigrant and native Utahns, in areas where School of Medicine residents teach. Atunes says both U students and the community center kids were eager to learn. During the past three semesters, nine medical residents have taught 45 community youth. Sex education classes will continue at a community center in Millcreek and the community-engaged course will continue to be taught in the Division of Gender Studies.
“Our partnership with the medical school is continuing; the residents are still coming; and community youth still want to have healthy, age-appropriate conversations about maturation and sex education,” Atunes said. “This project exemplifies the vision of the One U initiative.”
Elaine Clark, a professor of educational psychology, worked with a team that staged a virtual conference with the Brain Injury Alliance of Utah that drew 600 participants from as far away as Idaho, Nevada and Wyoming. Clark said the 1U4U project reconnected her to colleagues and took her back to her research roots, after she served a term as interim dean at the College of Education. She says parts of the project will live on in connections made at Jordan School District in Salt Lake County and as far away as the Oregon Center for Brain Injury Research.
“This has been expansive—both within the state and beyond our borders,” Clark said. “It’s been quite fun.”
Each of the projects received seed grants of either $15,000 or $30,000, totaling nearly $900,000 in overall funding. Despite the coronavirus pandemic, which required moving classes online and limiting laboratory access for much of the research study period, most teams were able to complete their projects. Many of the teams have had their work published. One is seeking a patent. Another has resulted in a long-term, artist-in-residence installation, “Cairns.” The design team from Architecture and Bioinformatics have submitted a $10 million workforce development grant proposal.
“One of the things that is so satisfying about this initiative is the subsequent proposals and papers that follow on these initial projects,” said Mike Good, senior vice president for the Health Sciences. “These groups are going to keep pushing us, pushing the university forward.”
The 1U4U teams released their final reports and were honored at a symposium Sept. 24. Read more about the projects here.