As enrollment drops, Trustees move forward

For the first time since an outing to the Riverside Country Club in June, UVU’s Board of Trustees met Thursday, Sept. 20, this time sitting around a polished wood table the size of a backyard swimming pool.

Twenty people were seated at the table, including trustees and university staff. The attendees seemed to be divided into three informal groups: the school employees whose job it was to be there, the socialite hobbyists who have taken a personal interest in the university, and the “old money” that look to the university as a business. At the head of the table sat President Matthew Holland with his aggressive vision for the future of UVU.

“We’ve been this commuter campus where kids drive on, they take a class, and drive off, but this is us saying, ‘you are part of a learning community here,’” Holland said as the board discussed changes and improvements for the university.

Among those changes discussed were the addition of two new degrees: an associate degree in Theater for Children and Youth and a bachelor degree in Music in Media Composition and Production. Both programs are slated to begin fall semester of 2013.

The decision to approve the majors came after a long dialogue about how this would affect the school and how these new programs would benefit the community.

“One of the things I love best is that Utah Valley University is known in the state as being the most up-to-date, most relevant, most technological and I think this is a piece we need to have in order to keep that reputation,” trustee Curtis Morely said.

Both majors will consist of courses that will help students find work after graduating. In the case of the associate degree, the hope is that the program will encourage students to return to UVU and continue working toward a bachelor degree.

The board also approved, for their part, an expansive $1.2 million technology update to the systems in the UCCU Center, PE building and the softball field. The changes, which will draw funds from the Conference Affiliation Fund, are still pending approval from the UCCU board.

Cory Duckworth, vice president of student affairs, said that the decision to update the digital video signage will make the school more attractive to conferences that may be considering UVU. The hope is that this new system will also help the institution in its recruiting efforts and expand the fan base in a larger move to give back to the community.

All of these changes come as UVU faces its first semester with a decline in enrollment, something that has never happened since the school became a university in 2008. While the official numbers aren’t yet available, the administration knows that the numbers are low. Board members aren’t worried, though.

“Enrollments are down all across the state,” Holland said. “Layered on that we have the impact of a collection of new policies that we’ve instituted.”

These new policies, such as the implementation of structured enrollment which began this fall and necessities for new students in meeting certain GPA and ACT requirements, are believed to be a reason for the drop in enrollments.

“We saw this coming, and we feel like we have to bite the bullet because it’s the right direction for the institution,” Holland said.

Even with these changes in policies, Holland hopes the school will preserve its policy of openness and access.

“Universities are only young once. This is not a proliferation but a refinement of something we already have,” Holland said.

With support from the Board of Trustees, Holland will move in a new direction with his bold plans for UVU as a leading institution for higher education.

Alex Sousa is studying journalism in UVU’s communication department. He’s serving as the managing editor at the UVU Review as well as the editor of the music blog on uvureview.com. He’s had experience working as a freelance writer and also as a copy writer at a marketing agency. Currently he’s working as the Editor-in-chief of the Utah Tech Magazine, an interactive, digital publication. He’s a Utah native who’s traveled around the world; having lived in Mexico, backpacked through Europe, studied in the Middle East and—for a time—been stranded in the Ukraine. He can be found on Facebook and he’s available on Twitter @TwoFistedSousa or by email at aljosousa@gmail.com.

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