Saturday, March 3, 2007

UVSC graduates to university status

It isn't quite official just yet but Utah Valley State College has been given the greenlight to become a university. Utah governor John Huntsman will be on the campus Monday March 19 to sign the bill that will make UVSC a level II institution effective July 1, 2008.

Along with the name change comes a commitment of $8 million more in ongoing funding, money that will be used to hire more full-time faculty (about 60) and to develop the school's first graduate programs.

UVSC president Bill Sederburg said he hopes the hires will decrease the school's dependence on adjunct faculty, increase the number of professors with terminal degrees, and reduce the average teaching load of existing profs on campus.

College administrators have made it quite clear that the first master's degree programs will be in nursing, education, and business administration. Sederburg said recently that he does not want to be flooded with degree proposals. He seems more interested in shoring up existing programs and rounding out the catalog to include a more comprehensive list of undergraduate offerings.

That $8 million is a bit short of the $10 million that the school was hoping for, and Sederburg has already told the local press that he'll be back on the hill next year to lobby for the remaining $2 million. In the meantime he will put new Vice President of Academic Affairs Liz Hitch to work when she gets to town just one year before the school switches over.

Along with overseeing all the new faculty hires (which is usually handled at the dean and department level), Hitch will need to hire a new Dean of Technology and Trades, a school that will probably feel the growing pains more than any other. Tom McFarland's replacement will have to deal with the problems associated with integrating an entrenched, and often stubburn trades program into a new university setting. And with Sederburg wanting new grad degrees that meet market needs don't be surprised if Technology isn't first in line with a new master's program (after a few years of course).

Don't be surprised either if in a few years the all-powerful school of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences doesn't come begging at the postgrad door. HASS is the biggest school on campus, and they will soon be itching to prove themselves.

Of course it is easy to get lost in all of this university hoopla and forget that there are many other things happening at UVSC. Ira Fulton has raised $10 million in the last two months (kicking in $5 million of his own). The new library is inching out of the ground and steel work will begin this month.

And while ther are many good things it also worth noting that UVSC has its share of problems. The faculty is underfunded when compared to professors at other colleges. Athletics is running out of time on their provisional NCAA Division I status, and seems no closer to finding a conference. Utah's warm economy is keeping many students in the workforce. Infrastructure woes like registration and advising still cause a lot of student frustration.

Sederburg still has a lot of work to do before UVSC can become UVU.

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