Exploring the Capitol Reef, one of UVU’s most enviable secrets

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Photos by Brooke Morrill

Except for the students who have been lucky enough to go there, a lot of the student body has no idea that three hours south of campus is hidden gem of UVU’s. Tucked away in the vast expanse of the Capitol Reef National Park is UVU’s field station, where students and faculty are free to go explore and learn off the grid in a variety of disciplines. We were able to speak to the Capitol Reef Field Station Site Manager Jason Kudulis about his experiences down south and just how important this little known field station actually is.

 What exactly is the Capitol Reef Station?

It is a beautiful, off-grid, modern facility operated by UVU inside Capitol Reef National Park. It is essentially a hotel and classroom rolled into one, providing first-class accommodations in a natural setting allowing students and faculty to focus on unique, immersive educational experiences. We promote and support engaged learning, research, creative and scholarly activities and environmental ethics through the exploration of the Colorado Plateau.

Why does UVU have it?

The mission of the field station supports UVU’s mission as an institution. We create a unique engaged learning environment that cannot be replicated on campus. The experiences and interactions students have with faculty and fellow classmates undoubtedly benefit their education. No matter where a student’s interest lie, there is something down here they can find value in. And for icing on the cake when other Utah schools visit they usually confess their jealously of UVU for having the station.

How did we get it?

The station opened in 2008. The idea however started in the late 90’s. UVU visionaries realized a field station would further both UVU’s and the National Park Service’s missions. It took a lot of hard work and planning from a number of people at UVU to make it happen. Former UVU President Sederburg allocated significant financial support, tireless grant work led to a U.S. Congress appropriation and the Pope family donated a generous endowment for operations and program support. The field station is located on the site of the Sleeping Rainbow Ranch, a tourist outfit that operated from 1940 -1974. The full version of our history can be found here: http://www.uvu.edu/crfs/location/history.html

What do we use it for?

Research and experiential learning in all kinds of subjects. We get students from a variety of disciplines and not just from UVU. Just this month our calendar has botany, creative writing, plasma physics, the ESL program, the Honors program, plant ecology and the natural history of the Colorado Plateau. In addition to the academic nature of visits, I find the station serves as a comfortable environment where students can decompress from the world for a spell and be themselves while continuing to focus on the learning.

 What’s it like being the site manager for the Capitol Reef station? You’re a UVU employee but you’re so far from campus, that has to make for an interesting work dynamic.

It is a great gig. I get to meet and interact with smart and interesting people and they teach me just as much as I teach them.

We definitely do have a unique situation; luckily I work with great people back on campus. Currently, we are upgrading our communications infrastructure that will give us a UVU phone extension and high speed internet down here. Being able to pick up the phone and call someone has been a foreign concept to me for some time; I will be leaping back into the 21st century!

How much time to you spend down there?

I live on-site at the station voluntarily. I think I am the first person in decades to live here year-round. This area has been occupied by people for thousands of years and the fact it hasn’t changed much over that period excites me. There aren’t a lot of places left you can say that about.

What’s your favorite thing about working down there?

The station is at the heart of one of the most interesting and beautiful places on Earth and to share it with others is very rewarding. We have a live feed camera down here if anyone wants to admire the view sometime: www.uvu.edu/crfs/livefeed.

What should people know about the station?

1)    It was created to benefit the students and faculty at UVU.

2)    The educational experiences students and faculty have here are truly unique, and part of what makes a great university experience.

3)    It is arguably the nicest field station in Utah.

4)    It isn’t open to the public so they should talk with their teachers about planning a visit.