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Birch Tapped as New Associate VP for Engaged Learning

24 September 2010 No Comment

September 24, 2010
For Immediate Release

University Marketing & Communications: Mike Rigert (801) 863-6807
Written by: Brad Plothow (801) 669-3134

Utah Valley University recently selected Brian D. Birch, a philosophy professor who has been heavily involved in the institution’s efforts in engaged learning, to fill the newly created role of associate vice president for academic affairs-engaged learning. Birch’s appointment is the latest effort to advance the institution’s efforts in the development of engaged learning — the combination of traditional academic and hands-on, contextual learning, and a major emphasis across the curriculum at UVU.

“Dr. Birch is a tremendous scholar and has been one of the most active champions of engaged learning on this campus, across various disciplines,” said Ian Wilson, interim vice president for academic affairs. “His enthusiasm for teaching and curricular engagement will be extremely valuable in this new position and as UVU takes the engaged learning concept to another level.”

Birch will officially assume his new role on October 1. His primary responsibility will be promoting and cultivating engaged learning opportunities and partnerships on campus and throughout the broader community. He will have management oversight for various campus entities such as the Center for Engaged Learning, the Faculty Center for Teaching Excellence, the International Center, the Capitol Reef Field Station, and the Office of Sponsored Programs. He will also have responsibility for programmatic areas such as community education, undergraduate research, and career and technical education.

“I am delighted to serve the University in this new role. UVU has demonstrated its commitment to engagement across the curriculum and I am honored to work on campus and in the community to foster this distinctive approach to learning,” Birch said. “Education in the 21st century demands innovation and relevance, and I look forward to helping our students realize their potential in their professional, civic and humanitarian pursuits.”

Birch earned bachelor and master degrees in philosophy from the University of Utah before completing a Ph.D. in the philosophy and theology of religion at Claremont Graduate University. After completing his doctoral studies in 1998, Birch joined the UVU faculty and, in addition to teaching, served in administrative positions ranging from associate director of the UVU Center for the Study of Ethics to interim associate dean for the College of Humanities & Social Sciences.

Since its earliest days as a vocational school and continuing through its current role as a regional teaching university, UVU has always placed heavy emphasis on both the theoretical and practical aspects of teaching and learning. In 2008, UVU’s commitment to engaged learning was recognized when the University received the distinctive “community engaged” classification from the prestigious Carnegie Foundation.

“From the outset of my administration, I have said that there would be more emphasis on engaged learning, not less, during my tenure as president,” said UVU President Matthew S. Holland. “The creation of this new associate vice president position is a reflection of how committed we are as an institution to the power of engaged learning in the educational experience of our students. I am thrilled that we’ll have someone as thoughtful and well respected as Dr. Birch to spearhead our efforts in this area.”

The Center for Engaged Learning, a grant support program headed by Senior Director of Engaged Learning Cary Boone Jones, also falls under Birch’s auspices. Under Birch’s direction, Jones will administer the CEL grant program and work closely with Val Hale in University Relations to cultivate relationships between the campus and local business and civic organizations. Birch’s appointment will free up Kathie Debenham, associate vice president for academic affairs-academic programs, to focus on program and curriculum planning and delivery, which are key areas of quality control for a young university experiencing record enrollment growth.

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