Dean Rushforth dicusses vision of science department

Dean Sam Rushforth of the College of Science of Health shared some of his vision for his department. "We want to be the best undergraduate teaching university in the western United States," he said. Shane Maryott/UVU Review

Many students are wondering about how the new science building will affect the College of Science and Health, its students and its mission.

After an interview with Dean Sam Rushforth, his vision for the college and the new science building is much more clear.

Rushforth explained that he and the faculty of the college are working on long-range planning. They are currently asking themselves what they want to look like in five or 10 years and setting things in place to reach those goals.

Their first goal is to recruit more women and minorities.

“We need more women in the sciences,” Rushforth said. “In my field of science, the majority of the workers are women, and the best workers are women.”

Another one of their goals is to improve fundraising.

“Running excellent science programs is expensive,” Rushforth said. “We are working very hard to increase our fundraising abilities.”

He also mentioned his personal mission to hire only the best faculty.

“In the last 10 years we’ve hired more than 50 faculty members in this college, and we don’t have a single lemon,” he said. “We have superb faculty.”

“We will never become a first-tier research university; we don’t intend to.” Rushforth said “But we really do want to be the best undergraduate teaching university in the western United States and we also want to be known throughout the country for our undergraduate research program.”

He emphasized that instead of adding new programs and majors, they want to focus on excellence in their current programs.

One of the programs he hopes to focus on is biotechnology. Already, the college has 150 Biotechnology majors without advertising. The university currently has a two- and four-year program in Biotechnology.

Rushforth explained that biotechnology is a very broad discipline and is “essentially the manipulation of nature.”

In day-to-day life we see biotechnology in things like genetically-modified crops and genetic medicine. With biotechnology growing rapidly in popularity not only in the sciences, but in the world, Rushforth expects to be “one of the biotechnology centers in the West.”

Often a focus on biotechnology means the incorporation of research on animals. But the college is planning quite the opposite.

“We don’t intend to go into large animal-based research,” Rushforth said. “We are very, very conscientious in not causing harm to animals.”

The new building does incorporate a small vivarium for mice bred on campus to be used in research. Professors will also obtain animal tissues from other universities for research, but animals will not be bred or housed on campus.

Though Rushforth hopes to be the best at the undergraduate level, he does not intend to compete with schools like the University of Utah and Utah State at the graduate level. He said that they hope to be the No. 1 “feeder school” for graduate programs in Utah and across the U.S.

“We certainly know that we can turn out undergraduate students that are equal or better quality than anybody in the state,” Rushforth said.

Rushforth explained that the new building has not changed their mission, but rather given them the means to accomplish it.

Rushforth’s vision and mission for the college is “to continue to be an excellent undergraduate institution, to continue to be an excellent teaching institution and to become the best,” he said. “That’s what we’re going to do.”

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