2024 State of the University address
Reading Time: 5 minutes “We are still growing and that is really testimony to the experience that students are having here at UVU,” boasts UVU President Astrid Tuminez in the 2024 State of the University address.
Each year, President Astrid Tuminez delivers a State of the University address, in which she discusses the achievements, goals, and plans for the future of UVU. Along with student demographics, student and faculty accomplishments, and the university’s financial condition, this year’s address also focused on new facilities, UVU’s economic contributions, and artificial intelligence.
“Unlike the rest of the country where people are encountering big problems in enrollment, we are still growing,” explains President Tuminez, subsequently noting the reflection of the student experience at UVU. “Today, we have the highest ever retention rate in our history at 70%.”
In the fall, 44,653 students were enrolled at the university — 15,000 of whom were high school students taking concurrent enrollment courses. Tuminez explained, “Their confidence [has] grown in their ability to tackle college courses.” According to Tuminez, the hope is for them to choose UVU after graduation.
First-generation students who are “seeking to change their own trajectories and the trajectory of the people who will follow after them” makeup around 38% of the enrolled.
20% of enrolled students are people of color, while 18% are adult learners over the age of 25. 14% have at least one child 18 years or younger and 35% are married or in a partnership. 78% of enrolled students are also employed, and “that requires a lot of courage, a lot of hard work.”
“As a young and growing university, we still need new facilities,” explained Tuminez.
Young Living Alumni Center, which allows all UVU alumni and advancement staff to centralize their work and collaboration to one building, opened its doors in August 2023.
The UVU Art Museum at Lake Mount is the only house museum in Utah. “It is extremely elegant and extremely inspiring,” said Tuminez.
In other news, ground was broken on the new Scott M. Smith College of Engineering and Technology building, and construction is underway. The facility, which will provide adequate space for engineering majors, is located at the southeastern edge of UVU’s campus. Tuminez described this as a “game changer” for students who “deserve these kinds of spaces.”
When the remodel of the second UVU building in Lehi is completed, it will be the place for students studying dental hygiene and respiratory therapy, along with those studying to be paramedics, EMTs, and those attending the Police Academy.
“I’m sorry for the property developers,” Tuminez joked in regard to the 225 acres of land UVU also owns in Vineyard. “We’re not planning on selling it.” The property will be developed in partnership with the private sector. The first was the Huntsman Cancer Institute (HCI). The organization is planning to build a hospital on the land. In preparation for this project, HCI donated one million dollars to UVU “to begin having our students do clinical and volunteering opportunities in their facility in Salt Lake City.”
Drawing from statistics regarding UVU’s graduated class of 2021, it’s evident that UVU has an immense impact on and relevance to the workforce, both in and out of Utah. 87% of 2021 graduates are employed with 79% in a field pertaining to their degree.
Tuminez referenced a commissioned study, which found that UVU alumni were more willing to hire UVU graduates than alumni of other universities were willing to hire their own graduates. “This is a data point that underlines the quality of the graduates who go out there to participate in the economy of Utah,” she explained regarding the whopping 83% of 2021 UVU alumni who are employed in the state of Utah.
Notable student and faculty projects and achievements
Dr. Vern Hart, an associate professor of physics, is working with a team of students in the Center for Imaging and Biophotonics Experiments Advancing Medicine (CIBEAM) to develop a non-invasive imaging technology that will detect cancer in its early stages, including metastatic cancers. “This is just an exciting opportunity. These are not PhD students and they get to be involved in something like this,” Tuminez proudly explained.
Exercise science is “one of the more popular majors” at UVU. Students conduct an analysis and assessment of a UVU employee and design a personalized exercise program to help increase the employee’s health and lifestyle. Tuminez comments how these students are not only helping individual employees, but they are nurturing and fostering “an overall culture of fitness and wellness.”
In the biology department, students have been working with Professors Eric Domyan and Colleen Hough to develop genetically engineered algae that, as Tuminez explains, “can be used to help prevent the formation of toxic algae blooms in Utah Lake.” The genetically modified algae will absorb nitrogen and phosphorous. These students shared their research in Paris with 6,000 students from 66 countries.
The physician assistant program, which was launched two years ago, had 600 applicants competing for 32 spots. The first cohort is graduating this May. Tuminez hopes “to be able to expand this program because these are the people who will help deliver healthcare to thousands of people down the road.”
Tuminez also discussed the success that UVU’s Center for Autism has seen in recent years. As part of the Wolverines Elevated program, students on the autism spectrum are taught skills such as self-advocacy, which “is so important for people on the spectrum,” Tuminez explains. Students in the program are also presented with specific and unique opportunities and awards.
In terms of UVU’s athletics, 18 coaches have received Coach of the Year awards, and there have been 25 WAC Championships since UVU became division one. UVU’s student-athletes have a 92% graduation rate, with a 3.48 overall GPA.
UVU has almost $6 million of funding for the NSF S-STEM Program. This money is supposed to primarily help students pay for student research and scholarships. So far, 149 low-income UVU students have received support. Nationally, UVU is ranked #20 for NSF S-STEM grants.
Additionally, the Center for Constitutional Studies was awarded a $350,000 grant from the National Archives.
UVU was voted the top design school in the United States. Other competitors for the title included Boston University, Yale, and University Parson School of Design. Graduates from the UVU design program have gone on to work at Disney, ESPN, and Nickelodeon.
“Every day at UVU, we get to do exciting things and hard things, and we succeed by bringing our best selves here every single day,” said Tuminez, who went on to discuss several other students, faculty members, and programs that made substantial progress or received awards, grants, or recognition.
Tuminez explained UVU’s part in the national conversation around artificial intelligence (AI). The goal is to make people more aware of cyber security threats, including deepfakes. All UVU faculty and staff members have been given access to professional AI technologies. The goal is to use it to make improvements, “whether that is teaching, or student support, or advising.”
She acknowledged the potential AI has to “change the way we work, live, play, learn,” and notes that “we don’t even understand what it is going to do to us.” Tuminez thanks those who have joined UVU’s AI Task Force. They are reportedly moving quickly to gain a comprehensive understanding of its implications and hope to soon be able to leverage the technology as a tool.
Financial state of UVU
According to Tuminez, reshaping the Planning, Budget, and Assessment (PBA) process is “one of the best things I think we’ve done this year.” The goal was to shift the conversation away from asking for resources and money to questions such as “How do you use the money you already have?” and “How do you reallocate your resources to higher value added uses?”
Tuminez’s closing remarks recalled the past six years she has spent in office. She shared a few personal experiences during this time and expressed her love for UVU, education, and her culture and upbringing.
She concluded by thanking everyone who has been involved in the advancement of UVU. “We’re in the business of hope, we’re in the business of dreams, and nothing really honestly can be more exciting than that,” she stated proudly. “Except perhaps dancing to Taylor Swift music.”
The address was on Wednesday, Jan. 31 at 1 p.m. in the Vallejo Auditorium on UVU campus.