After more than a decade of mentoring students at Utah Valley University, Vegor Pedersen is stepping down from his position as the school’s coordinator of student media.
When we found out Vegor was leaving UVU, we knew we had to recognize his years of service to the campus community. We acknowledge that we might not ever be able to match what Vegor has given to thousands of students: confidence, opportunity, and empowerment.
He has a knack for listening to your story, identifying your talents and challenging you to become a better version of yourself, while serving your community in the process. Vegor’s listening skills have compelled people from all walks of life to tell him their successes — and their grievances.
Phil Gordon, a communication professor at UVU, said Vegor loves UVU like a patriot would love the country. He noted that when Vegor walks down the school’s halls, most people including professors, students and janitors go out of their way to greet him.
Before becoming his colleague, Gordon, who has taught at UVU since 1999, has known Vegor since he walked into his classroom as a student in 2003.
“I’m emotionally rocked by it,” Gordon said about Vegor’s departure. “I’ve been mentally processing it like it’s a death.”
Gordon doesn’t believe there’s anyone on campus he’s shared a longer history with.
“I’ve had so much trust with him and when I sent a student his way, I knew that he was going to see the talents in the student and be able to help them cultivate their skills,” he said.
Before the Student Life & Wellness Building was constructed, before UVU introduced its first master’s degree and even before UVU was considered a university, Vegor first stepped into campus as a student in 2001. At the time, UVU was known as Utah Valley State College.
Vegor joined the newsroom in 2002 at the age of 28 writing movie reviews for the newspaper. At the time the newspaper was dubbed The College Times. He eventually rose to become the student newspaper’s editor-in-chief in 2004.
As difficult as it is to imagine a more politically divided time in the country than now, Vegor became the newspaper’s top student leader as tensions over the Iraq War were high.
The country’s political climate only grew hotter with the release of the documentary “Fahrenheit 9/11” directed by Michael Moore in 2004. When a student reporter broke the news that the controversial filmmaker was set to become a prominent speaker at the school, it was clear to Vegor that it was the biggest story of the year.
The year before, he said, the Vagina Monologues had come to campus for the first time and the school had just established its first queer literature class on campus.
“That started off just a crazy semester and really crazy year,” he said. “There was a lot of pushback from the conservative community in Utah County, and it culminated with Michael Moore.”
The newsroom was also the place where he met his wife, Errin Julkunen, who was drawn to the newsroom’s energy at the time.
After serving as the newspaper’s editor, Vegor worked for the school’s Woodbury Art Museum and became a public relations coordinator for UVU’s School of the Arts. In 2009, he was hired as an academic advisor in the school’s communication department, where he worked for four years and later worked as a communication specialist for the school’s College of Humanities & Social Sciences.
While working as an advisor, he was accepted into the University of Utah’s Educational Leadership and Policy program where he focused his research on how the student newsroom experience prepared students for leadership roles and jobs in the industry. He graduated with his master’s degree in 2013.
Ashley Larsen, UVU’s associate dean of students, met Vegor in 2007 when she joined The Review as a student reporter. She also shared classes with him while attending graduate school at the U.
Larsen has mixed feelings about Vegor’s departure.
“Everyone knows that he’s a guru when it comes to journalism and storytelling,” she said. “While I’m sad for myself, I also can’t help but be excited for him and his family. It’s bittersweet.”
Return to the newsroom
Between his roles at UVU, Vegor eyed the opportunity to become the newspaper’s advisor.
After the newspaper’s advisor retired, Vegor returned to the newsroom as the newspaper’s coordinator of student media in 2015.
Ty Bianucci, a UVU Review alumni who graduated from the school in 2019, said Vegor was the kind of person you could spend hours talking to about anything.
“He seemed to enrich your knowledge about any topic,” he said. “More than anything, though, he was a UVU encyclopedia — he knew everything and everyone. It made him the first person I would consult on for every major story I wrote.”
“He’s got a lot of institutional memory,” he said. “He could probably write a better history of the school than anybody I know. He’s a good listener, so everybody tells him everything.”
Kim Bojórquez, who served as the newspaper’s editor-in-chief in 2017, noted Vegor’s commitment to making the newsroom a space for everyone.
“Vegor was serious about including students with diverse backgrounds and life experiences in the newspaper because it made our storytelling better,” she said. “He was always readily available to give students advice about anything.”
Kayla Baggerly, The Review’s current editor-in-chief said, “Over the years, Vegor has taught me, and so many other students, countless valuable lessons. He’s been an amazing asset to not just The Review, but the school as well. I wouldn’t be where or who I am today if it weren’t for his mentoring. He will be greatly missed.”
There’s been tremendous change since Vegor began working at UVU. The Review now focuses on posting its content online, publishes a physical copy of the paper once a month and recently introduced a podcast and broadcast to the mix. Amid the mounting layoffs faced by the news industry, the university recently decided to phase out its journalism program.
After spending 19 years at UVU, Vegor said he looks forward to other career opportunities and projects, and home schooling his daughter, Evie, amid the coronavirus pandemic.
For now, he plans to stick around and continue virtual teaching a communication class this fall. His last day as the newspaper’s advisor is Sept. 15.
We wish Vegor the best in this next chapter of his life and wholeheartedly agree with Gordon when he says, “He’s going to be really hard to replace.”