You have all seen the billboards and bus ads proclaiming Utah Valley University an “engaged” university. What does that mean? One important component of engagement deals with the institution’s involvement with local communities. Essentially, we want to be both in the community and of the community.
We want to have close ties to local businesses, governments and non-profits. UVU desires to play the role of convener for local issues where different parties must be brought together to solve difficult issues.
President Matthew S. Holland has established an aggressive civic engagement program that is designed to keep the university tuned in to local issues and concerns. Beginning in September, President Holland began taking members of his Cabinet each month to visit key leaders of local communities.
The first meeting took place in Pleasant Grove and involved approximately 40 influential citizens from Pleasant Grove and Lindon. President Holland took advantage of the occasion to explain the Unique Educational Mission Initiative and talk about some of the equity funding challenges facing UVU. He concluded the event by asking about challenges facing Pleasant Grove and Lindon that UVU might be able to help solve.
Feedback from that first meeting was very favorable. Leaders were impressed that a university president would take time to visit their community and listen to their concerns. They were pleased to find out about the direction of the University. They understood more clearly that UVU is “Utah Valley’s University.”
The community visits are just one prong of a multi-pronged approach to civic engagement. The Community Relations Council has been active for seven years, bringing community members together to counsel with the President and university leaders about community issues and to serve as a sounding board for proposed university programs.
One of these new programs is the University Project, an institution-wide effort to address a single issue in our community that requires the creative and collaborative effort of faculty and students in partnership with business and civic leaders. Stay tuned for more information on this innovative new enterprise.
Another component of the Civic Engagement strategy is the Business Advisory Council that is being formed as part of the Business Engagement Strategy. These key business leaders will meet twice a year with President Holland to provide direction for UVU’s business and economic development efforts. Further, they will serve as advocates for UVU in political circles.
And, finally, an Engagement Council has been organized on campus to coordinate UVU’s off-campus efforts to engage with local entities. Luke Peterson was recently hired to oversee the Council and serve as the liaison between academics, university relations and local entities with which the University is developing partnerships. He will work closely with Val Hale, Brian Birch and Marc Archambault in planning and implementing partnering efforts with a variety of organizations, including businesses, civic organizations, local governments and humanitarian efforts.
Added together, these components make up a vibrant community engagement program that will put UVU increasingly in the Valley spotlight and will make the University more relevant and significant for our local communities.
— Val Hale