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UVU's perfect storm? Budget cuts, enrollment growth stall progress
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2009, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Joseph Watkins didn't plan to complete his bachelor's degree at Utah Valley State College when he moved to Orem a few years ago to study construction management. He saw the school as a stepping stone to a larger Utah university.

But Watkins realized Utah Valley, which on Wednesday marks its first anniversary as a regional university, offered everything he needed: a supportive community, talented faculty and broad degree offerings that allowed him to shift his studies toward business.

"I got involved so much I fell in love with the place ... It sucks you in and you can't get a way from it," said Watkins, a 25-year-old senior from Mesa, Ariz. He served as UVU's student president last year and is a finalist for student representative on the Board of Regents.

Watkins' experience illustrates the meteoric rise of Utah Valley University: In 22 years, the school has leapfrogged from technical school to community college to state college and finally, a regional university offering graduate degrees. Along the way, it has strived to preserve all four missions.

Only a few years ago, polls showed fewer than a quarter of Utahns knew what UVU was. No longer. Branding itself as "your university," UVU is no longer an obscure institution laboring in Brigham Young University's shadow. In fact, numerous faculty have left BYU for UVU, including a young political scientist, Matthew Holland, who took over as UVU president earlier this month.

"There is a greater awareness that something serious and significant is happening here," said Holland, the son of a former BYU president and apostle in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, which owns BYU. "We're experiencing a natural awakening of parents and family members who realized, 'We all went to BYU and the University of Utah, but now our kids are going to UVU.'"

Founded in 1936 to provide vocational training to Utah County high school students, UVU is on track to become the state's largest provider of undergraduate education.

In athletics, UVU is believed to be the only -- and perhaps the last -- school to jump from the junior college ranks to the big leagues. The Wolverines this year complete their probationary status in NCAA's Division 1 and will be eligible for post-season competition.

As a commuter campus coming of age after the information technology revolution, UVU has been well positioned to accommodate growth in a cost effective way, according to William Sederburg, higher education commissioner. The groundwork for university status was laid a decade ago when the school began padding its faculty base.

"It's in a highly educated community with qualified adjunct faculty willing to teach for very little money as well as salaried faculty making sacrifices economically to participate," he said.

Sederburg was an architect in UVU's institutional transition, having served as president from 2003 until his promotion last summer. During his tenure, flat enrollment, increasing budgets and a $10 million hiring binge helped Sederburg's team come close to reaching benchmark targets for upgrading academics. One goal was to increase the ranks of salaried faculty to 55 percent, making the school less reliant on adjuncts. Administrators also sought to lower faculty teaching loads to 24 hours a year, thus giving them more time for scholarly activities outside the classroom, and to lower the adviser/student ratio to 375, with an eye toward bolstering student success.

By last summer when the formal transition occurred, UVU had nearly achieved those goals when circumstances radically changed. Enrollment ballooned by 12 percent, or 2,800 students, and funding began to evaporate.

"We lost ground," said Liz Hitch, the academics vice president who served as interim president for UVU's first year as a university. "We had a perfect storm. We had huge popularity, an economic downturn that causes students to come back to school, and significant budget cuts."

By the end of the academic year, salaried faculty slipped to about 50 percent of the total, average teaching loads were around 27 hours, and the university employed one adviser for every 468 students.

Of the state's nine degree-granting public institutions, UVU spends the least amount of taxpayer money per student ($4,498 last year) and has the smallest amount of building space per student. Even with the new five-floor library, UVU has just 121 square feet per student, far less than the 200-plus at some peer institutions.

The dearth of facilities, particularly in the sciences and arts, is the most acute symptom of growing pains at UVU. And as enrollment grows, the pinch will worsen. The school will need more than 313,000 square feet by 2015 just to keep up with enrollment growth, projected to reach 32,000 that year, officials said.

"We are in the basement in terms of infrastructure to handle this growth," Holland said.

Plans call for a $48 million science center, which would open in fall 2012 under a best-case time frame. Officials envision the 140,000-square-foot structure wrapping around the existing science building.

Despite the challenges, a sense of optimism pervades the campus.

"It's been more fun than anything I've ever done. We have the opportunity to build something that will have an impact into the future," said Briant Farnsworth, dean of the School of Education. Farnsworth's school initiated UVU's first graduate program, the change that best exemplifies the university's new status. Next spring, UVU will award its first master's degrees. Among the recipients will be Jenny Stauffer, a 31-year-old working mother whose demographic is typical of UVU's student population.

A BYU alumna, Stauffer came to study instructional methods behind English as a Second Language (ESL) programs needed to serve Utah's burgeoning immigrant populations.

"There such a need for that," said Stauffer, who teaches sixth-grade at Park Elementary in Spanish Fork. Her two-year program entails one late afternoon course in fall and in spring, then full loads for summer.

"We try to cater to their schedules. We know they are extremely busy that time of year," said Bryan Waite, an education professor hired two years ago to help establish the graduate program.

In keeping with UVU's workforce development mission, the new graduate programs address vocational fields in high demand, Hitch said. The university launches a graduate program in nursing this fall and is seeking approval to start a third in business administration the following year.

Watkins plans to chase a master's in business administration as the next step in becoming a real estate developer. Although Utah Valley's MBA program will likely be accepting students by the time he graduates, he doesn't expect to pursue his graduate education at Orem. But he hasn't ruled it out, either.

bmaffly@sltrib.com" Target="_BLANK">bmaffly@sltrib.com

Meet the new boss: The Matthew S. Holland file

Holland, a Brigham Young University political science professor and Utah County native, is Utah Valley University's sixth president. He hails from a family with strong connections to leadership of The Church of Jesus Christ of Later-day Saints: His father is LDS Apostle and former BYU President Jeffrey Holland.

Despite Holland's lack of administrative experience and relative youth, the Utah Board of Regents chose him after a national search to lead the state's fastest-changing institution. Holland, whose scholarly focus has been leadership, says his role in interdisciplinary academics at BYU has prepared him for running a dynamic institution.

"It's on the limited side, but the experiences I had signaled early on that there was great potential for success in a role like this. There is set of skills and attitudes that lend itself to leadership at this level," Holland said. "I do understand something about leadership. It's about forging shared vision and doing things in a collaborative way. It's about building the right team around you."

Vital stats

Age » 43.

Status » Married, four children aged 4 to 11.

Education » Brigham Young University, bachelor's 1991, Honors college valedictorian; Duke University, master's 1998 and doctorate 2001.

Academic posts » BYU, associate professor of political science; director of BYU's American Heritage faculty governance committee; served as a James Madison Fellow at Princeton University in 2006.

Research interest » American political philosophy, specifically the "complex relationship between ancient Christian ideals of charity and modern liberal democracy," according to his BYU Web page.

Major publications » Bonds of Affection: Civic Charity and the Making of America, Georgetown University Press, 2007; "Christian Love and the Foundations of American Politics: Winthrop, Jefferson and Lincoln," published in Democracy And Its Friendly Critics: Tocqueville and Political Life Today, Lexington Press, 2004; "Thomas Jefferson: Religious Beliefs and Political Doctrines," published in Lectures on Religion and the Founding of the American Republic, BYU Press, 2003.

Other experience » Board member, National Organization for Marriage, a New Jersey-based advocacy group committed to defending a faith-oriented definition of marriage and blocking legalization of same-sex marriages. Holland relinquished this post upon his appointment as UVU president.

-- Brian Maffly

Matthew S. Holland: Vital stats

Age » 43.

Status » Married, four children aged 4 to 11.

Education » Brigham Young University, bachelor's 1991, Honors college valedictorian; Duke University, master's 1998 and doctorate 2001.

Academic posts » BYU, associate professor of political science; director of BYU's American Heritage faculty governance committee; served as a James Madison Fellow at Princeton University in 2006.

Research interest » American political philosophy, specifically the "complex relationship between ancient Christian ideals of charity and modern liberal democracy," according to his BYU Web page.

Major publications » Bonds of Affection: Civic Charity and the Making of America, Georgetown University Press, 2007; "Christian Love and the Foundations of American Politics: Winthrop, Jefferson and Lincoln," published in Democracy And Its Friendly Critics: Tocqueville and Political Life Today, Lexington Press, 2004; "Thomas Jefferson: Religious Beliefs and Political Doctrines," published in Lectures on Religion and the Founding of the American Republic, BYU Press, 2003.

Other experience » Board member, National Organization for Marriage, a New Jersey-based advocacy group committed to defending a faith-oriented definition of marriage and blocking legalization of same-sex marriages. Holland relinquished this post upon his appointment as UVU president.

Matthew S. Holland, a Brigham Young University political science professor and Utah County native, is Utah Valley University's sixth president.

He hails from a family with strong connections to leadership of The Church of Jesus Christ of Later-day Saints: His father is LDS Apostle and former BYU President Jeffrey Holland.

Despite Holland's lack of administrative experience and relative youth, the Utah Board of Regents chose him after a national search to lead the state's fastest-changing institution. Holland, whose scholarly focus has been leadership, says his role in interdisciplinary academics at BYU has prepared him for running a dynamic institution.

"It's on the limited side, but the experiences I had signaled early on that there was great potential for success in a role like this. There is set of skills and attitudes that lend itself to leadership at this level," Holland said. "I do understand something about leadership. It's about forging shared vision and doing things in a collaborative way. It's about building the right team around you."

Brian Maffly

26,696

Students enrolled in fall 2008.

$4048

Tuition and fees (2009-10).

1,967

Bachelor's degrees in 2009.

1,760

Associate's degrees in 2009.

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