Perception is everything, a new view of UVU

Utah Valley University is opening the eyes of the public with startling success, skyrocketing enrollment rates, and ever-evolving academic quality.

The school has risen from trade school to community college and upward through the ranks of accreditation, leading to the 2008 transformation into a university. That title of universityh as impressed the community to view UVU with greater respect and acknowledgement of its capability, capacity and potential.

UVU has also earned the invaluable pride of its 34,000 students. NFL champion Chad Lewis attended UVSC long before achieving fame with the Philadelphia Eagles and Super Bowl victory with the St. Louis Rams. Lewis has said that the best teachers he encountered in his college career were from UVSC rather than his publicly recognized alma mater, BYU.

Positive perception in the eyes of the students arises from a satisfying educational experience. Public approval of the institution is largely the result of skilled UVU graduates stepping into important roles within the local community.

When Val Hale, president of the Utah Valley Chamber of Commerce and former vice president of UVU, was graduating high school, the majority of students attended BYU. Only a small number attended UVSC, or previously, UVCC. Hale said if someone had told him then in a handful of years the little trade school would be thriving as the most rapidly growing university in Utah, he wouldn’t have believed it.

Upon transferring in 2004 from BYU as Men’s Athletic Director to the then-called UVSC, Hale said, “I was extremely shocked when I saw how good the institution was.”

He said that most Utah Valley residents had no idea just how big it was or how good the quality of the classes were. Surveys conducted in the last eight years reveal that community perception of the school has skyrocketed in virtually every category, according to Hale.

“The perception is reality,” said Hale. “It is a better institution.”

UVU student Janice Otteson said, “We used to have this reputation as the school you went to if you couldn’t get into BYU, or if you weren’t Mormon.”

She says the “little brother school” stigma is fading, largely due to the identity as an official university.

Surveys also indicate that in certain fields, UVU is viewed differently in academic circles than in the eyes of the general public. Because of its education program, for instance, UVU has been ranked as the top school in the state for producing valuable teachers.

“Among principles and other educators around here, given the choice between hiring a UVU student and a BYU student who have equal credentials, most will take the UVU student,” said Hale. “They will flat out tell you that UVU’s program is producing the best teachers in the state.”

The exceptional education program is not the university’s only highly valued department. Science and medical departments, specifically pre-med and pre-dental, are attracting the attention of the academic world, and the business program at Utah Valley University is said to be the best in the state.

“I have worked quite a bit at UVU in the local business community,” Hale said. “I was surprised at how many businesses told me that they recruit exclusively UVU students now.”

Hale said that reasons cited included that UVU students are more likely to stay local, whereas BYU graduates often depart for out-of-state jobs. Perhaps more importantly, it was mentioned that UVU students have a more practical, experienced worldview which equips them to do well academically in addition to functioning socially and capably in a real-world environment.

The school’s momentum is only increasing. The continual refinement of academic excellence, as well as the skyrocketing enrollment rates and valuable alumni, it is likely that the UVU of the near future will be equally remarkable.

UVU has benefited from extraordinary leadership, including the current president, Matthew Holland. While prominent community members have applauded the remarkable academic credibility Holland affixes to the university, several students and faculty alike have affirmed appreciation for Holland’s leadership.

Analyses of current trends are unanimous: the future of UVU is blindingly bright. As educational ratings improve, innovation increases, and community support swells, the school strengthens its magnetism to students, scholars and professionals from near and far.

“Within a generation UVU is going to be one of the finest institutions of higher education in the western United States,” said Hale.

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