On a recent trip to a journalism conference in New York, a number of our newspaper staff members were constantly asked about UVU. When we said that we’re a university near BYU, and that we have a larger student population than our neighbors, people were astounded to have never heard of us. “Is it a new University? Was it just built recently?” These are questions that are hard to answer yes or no to.
Yes, UVU has a recent university status but the school itself has been around since 1941. UVU is the largest employer of residents in Orem, with over 1,400 full time, staff and faculty positions and supports over 3,000 part time employees. Our campus consists of 48 buildings and our library is the most energy efficient state-owned facility in all of Utah. We have alumni who have gone on to be world champion bull riders, famous painters, NBA basketball players, nationally acclaimed dancers, Olympic gold medalists and professors at Ivy League institutions. We have current faculty members who publish books and articles regularly and have been cited in the New York Times and Newsweek.
Scott Carrier who is in the communications department and the publication board to our student paper, contributes regularly to NPR.
All of that being said, why is it that people outside of Utah have not heard of UVU? The first and most obvious answer is, perhaps, our lack of a football team. A lot of schools get national acclaim for their athletics, particularly the televised conferences and competitions. While a football team has been in the works for quite a while, there are other ways that our athletics department could be highlighted. For instance, there are a lot of small schools that get fringe attention because of their participation in conferences that allow them to compete in the NCAA tournaments. Our school doesn’t compete in these conferences, but we should. Least of all things, we should try.
Another reason UVU lacks national representation is because there’s a “peculiar” school up the street and UVU doesn’t know how to handle that. A lot of students start here and finish there and that’s fine. A lot of students go here because they can’t go there and that’s fine, too. However, this mentality that UVU is the little brother of BYU is detrimental to its original philosophy and student pride on our campus. UVU started as a trade school that was fitting for Orem, which was once a blue collar environment with orchards and farmers and Geneva Steel workers. The growth of both Orem and UVU is a good thing. The construction of our enormous library is a fantastic thing. The liberal arts departments from whence come some of the best professors in the state are an incredible thing.
UVU is a commuter school. We don’t have dorms or a widespread student culture. In fact, aside from J Dawgs Wednesdays (which some of our staff consider the best day of the week), most students go to school and go home. There are ways to change this. There are ways to visit every department and see what the needs are and allot the student fees to the interests of all the different groups. There are a lot of people you can please and a lot of niches you can fill with twelve million dollars a semester. There’s a way we can not only not be BYU, but define ourselves positively and confidently. There’s a way to take more pride in our trade school roots- the Gunther Trades building is long overdue for remodeling as well as new equipment. There’s a way to diversify our student body and attract people of different races through our affordable tuition and then help them feel welcome when they get here (UVU is not the greatest with this). There is a dire need to revise the policies protecting sudents and faculty from discrimination based on sexual orientation and genderder expression. There are many things to be done, and we here at the paper want to see it happen.