Utah Tech president touts big plans including hosting a world summit, larger campus buildings – St George News

Utah Tech president touts big plans including hosting a world summit, larger campus buildings – St George News

ST. GEORGE — Standing center-stage in the Cox Performing Arts Center, the president of Utah Tech University said the campus’ immediate future includes hosting a world summit, bigger new buildings and doctorate offerings.
Presenting the annual University President’s Report to those gathered in the theater on Wednesday, Utah Tech President Richard B. Williams said the school’s “eighth era” has started with a boost in enrollment and donations since Dixie State became Utah Tech.    
The State of the University Address covered numerous aspects of Utah Tech’s development, focusing on numerical growth and school identity. Here are the highlights of the presentation, including several multi-million-dollar plans for the future.
Education progress
In 2014, what was then called Dixie State had 8,341 students enrolled, Williams said. In 2021, 12,279 students were enrolled at the university and Williams said even more students are enrolled this year, as well as more Washington County resident students than last year.
“Although I won’t give you the official numbers,” Williams said, “we have the largest enrollment in the history of this university right now, right here on this campus.”
Occupational therapy will be Utah Tech’s first clinical doctorate degree after it was approved by the Utah Board of Higher Education in July 2022, and it is being reviewed by Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities. 
Over the last school year, Utah Tech added nine online degree programs and four interdisciplinary research centers.
Graduated students from 2021 to 2022 had 91% career placement after graduation. Some of the businesses that took Utah Tech graduates include Disney, the Chicago Cubs, Yellowstone National Park, HintonBurdick and Zonos. 
Moving forward with the school’s polytechnic vision, Williams told the audience that Utah Tech will host the 2023 World Polytechnic Summit. Utah Tech representatives attended the 2022 World Polytechnic Summit at Darmstadt University in Germany. Utah Tech Provost Michael Lacourse provided the keynote address and professor Meena Lyer presented at the summit.
Along with the limelight on the world stage, Williams said the university will soon have a larger classroom presence. The Utah State legislature granted the university over $55 million to build a 120,000 square-foot new General Classroom Building. The building is set to open in fall 2025 and will house 45 classrooms, 105 faculty offices and 20 study rooms.
“(It) will be the workhorse building for our campus,” Williams said.
Name change process
Williams spent a significant amount of time describing what went into the name change process from 2021 to 2022. 
“If I look at the history of our institution over the last 111 years, if we were to look at the different names, we are in our eighth era as Utah Tech University, every era having a very important part of our evolution as a university and as a community,” Williams said.
“Sometimes we have very hard decisions. Last year, we engaged in a name-change process. This was a process that took over two years, a process that many of us didn’t really want to acknowledge, but … we knew that there needs to be a new era.”
Over two years, Williams said, the university conducted three major market research studies, 67 focus groups, 102 in-depth interviews and 17,704 survey responses regarding the need for a name change.
They concluded the name “Utah Tech University” checked the most boxes in what the administration believed the university represents, including the state name, mission, a strong acronym, logo opportunities, differentiation and athletic branding. The logo design process itself had 20 graphic designers, 27 logo concepts, 20 focus groups and 400 participants.
Utah legislature allocated $3 million for the university’s rebrand, which went to thousands of rebranding and marketing efforts.
University sees boost in donations
Utah Tech received almost $1 million more in donations this year compared to last year, Williams said, totaling $3,565,608 from 2021 to 2022 compared to the $2,684,776 received the previous year. Utah Tech athletics received almost $440,000 more in donations than the previous year’s athletic donations.
During Utah Tech’s Day of Giving event back in April, the school raised $203,070 for charity and employees donated $29,828 through payroll deductions.
Utah Tech students received over $28 million in scholarships, and over 71% of students retained academic scholarships.
The U.S. Navy gave the university a grant for $30 million over five years for Utah Tech students to teach children on Navy bases across the world in 12-week internships, beginning with Navy bases in Washington State, California and Hawaii.
A rivalry reborn
Williams walked off the stage, and came back hefting an antique, steel-headed battle-ax in his hands.
“This Saturday at 6 p.m., an old tradition is going to be revived,” he said. “In 1937, a history professor and a woodworking professor here at this institution decided to create the ‘Victory Ax.’”
Williams explained that any time the College of Southern Utah and Dixie State College played each other in football, the winning school would keep the ax for that year until the next game.
The tradition ended in the 1960s, but now Southern Utah University and Utah Tech University will reforge the rivalry, beginning with this Saturday’s football game in Cedar City. 
The winning team will retain a new Victory Ax, polished and printed with Utah Tech’s logo on one side of the head and Southern Utah University’s logo on the other. A video played for the audience showed Utah Tech’s Brooks the Bison confronting Southern Utah University’s Thor the Thunderbird in an old-Western ghost town, the new Victory Ax lying in the dirt between them.
New student center
Over the summer, Utah Tech hired architects and did an in-depth study of what the university can expect for the needs of a new student center building. The studies concluded that the university will need a student center that will be 100,000 square feet and cost approximately $70 million.
“We know that the Gardner Center has served our students well, but it’s much too small to provide the eating area, the meeting space, the types of resources that they need.”
Williams said Paul Morris, vice president of administrative affairs at Utah Tech, and his team have created a financial plan to pay for the building, including $10 million raised in private funding. Mark C. & Deborah H. Bingham Foundation has pledged $5 million to Utah Tech for the project.
“The other exciting part is this is a challenge grant,” Williams said. “They want to help us raise the other five million, so they’re going to put their five million as a challenge to others, and they’re going to help us meet people and raise that money.”
Outreach to Santa Clara
After last year’s “city alliance” with St. George that included providing faculty and students to help study crime trends, creating new bike path routes, employing drones to identify areas for water conservancy and completing a social media audit of the city’s promotions and marketing, Utah Tech will partner with Santa Clara for the next year.
Williams said Utah Tech will help update Santa Clara’s General City Plan, study environmental impacts along the Santa Clara River, revive the downtown commercial district and prevent further slope deterioration in the city.
Student health
Regarding student mental health and suicide prevention, Utah Tech has 520 campus members who are “Question, Persuade and Refer” qualified. Utah Tech hired two new counselors to help students with mental health.
Over the past year, Booth Wellness Center served 997 students with medical concerns in 1,917 appointments, and the counseling office served 609 students with 2,287 appointments.
Utah Tech implemented a “Come and Get It” program over the past year, which is a voluntary service for students where they can opt-in for text messages from the school that informs them of free, leftover food from school events and banquets.
“Students can sign up, and they will get a text after a banquet,” Williams said. “They’ll show up, we’ll have a Styrofoam box they can take for the food and we’ll send them a picture of the food in case they don’t want it.”
Despite completing a student housing complex, Campus View Suites II ,that houses 534 students, Utah Tech plans to build an additional complex, Campus View Suites III, estimated to be completed in fall 2024. The new building will house 563 students and will break ground in January 2023.
“(We) thought we could breathe a little — we can’t,” Williams said. “There’s more students that want to come to Utah Tech University.”
New Utah Tech school song
Utah Tech hired school alumnus Ricky Valadez, a born-and-raised St. George resident, to write a new original school song. Valadez’s wife, Julie Valadez, is the great-granddaughter of A.K. Hafen, who wrote the original Dixie song.
The lyrics of the new song are as follows:
Blazin’ trails is all we know,
The first to cross where the rest won’t go,
Because fate reserved this land for the brave,
The red rocks call,
I hear my name,
Tread this dirt and you’re never the same,
At Utah Tech it runs in our veins,
We’re Trailblazers,
Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2022, all rights reserved.
Truman Burgess grew up in Washington state, Virginia and Arizona. He graduated from BYU-Idaho with a bachelor’s degree in English. Before starting at St. George News in 2022, Truman was an editorial reporter and lead copy editor for “Scroll,” a news service in Idaho. He won Idaho Press Club’s 2021 award for best student column of the year. When he’s not reporting or writing, Truman spends his time Latin dancing with his fiance and climbing trees with his kids.
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