USU Eastern Celebrating 75 Years of Transforming Lives
Thursday, Oct. 24, 2013
The Diamond Jubilee of a grand little college is worth a big community celebration and all of this week Utah State University Eastern is donning its party dress.
The college is celebrating the 75th anniversary of the day its doors were opened to the first 100 students in October 1938. Marking the milestone is food, festivities, concerts and awards throughout the week.
Utah Gov. Gary R. Herbert sent his congratulations in a letter to USU Eastern Chancellor Joe Peterson. He observed that the college has played a key role in the economic development and vitality of Eastern Utah over the past 75 years.
The ability to adapt is the legacy of the old Carbon College that today has transformed into Utah State University Eastern.
Born in the depression years of the 1930s and reborn in the recession years of the late 2000s as USU Eastern, it is a product of its surroundings, grounded in the toughness and work ethic of those who built the mines around it — people not afraid to work and certainly not adverse to risk. They may have to tunnel through tons of sedimentary rock to reach their goal, but they’ll get there, eventually.
These are the people who have sent their sons and daughters to this homegrown college for them to grow their own opportunities at home and away. Glance through the list of alumni and one readily sees how successful this endeavor in higher education has been for eastern Utah and how it has transformed lives and changed the world in the process.
The college’s ability to adapt and change has been a secret to its success. USU Eastern does not shy away from change, it embraces it, Peterson said.
“We are very much a transition college,” he said. “We don’t need to out Y the Y or out U the U. Our value proposition has to do with transformation. It’s the thing we do that others don’t do as well.”
USU Eastern gladly takes in a student demographic that is often not prepared for college or not often decided about professional and life goals. It is a role the college specializes in and has since it first opened its doors. It comes from understanding that not all students are alike. Some are late bloomers, while many others were simply not given the same opportunity and access to rudimentary education.
The fact that USU Eastern provides an environment that nurtures extraordinary students while fostering students with extraordinary challenges is a distinctive attribute.
It is the value proposition that Peterson talks about. It’s a college for prepared students who want to become great students and a college with an open door for less prepared and undecided students to transform into prepared and decided. The formula seems to be working with USU Eastern graduating nearly twice as many of its students compared to all of its peer institutions and earning a top three in the nation recognition for student graduation and transfer rate success.
Peterson said a second transformation distinction of the college is workforce education. The college is unique in its two-fold mission of providing higher education and workforce education on its same campuses. Its technical offerings provide a way for students to transform from unskilled, unemployed or underemployed to skilled and employed at higher, family sustaining wage levels.
It’s all about changing lives in a way that changes the community and the world for the better, and that is not a hard sell for Peterson to make among community members.
It is why he believes much of the early nervousness about the merger with Utah State University three years ago has dissipated. He said what has remained, however, is a general optimism for the college.
Indeed, the Monticello, Utah-born chancellor who presides over both the Blanding and Price campuses of USU Eastern, is breathing a little easier with enrollment up at his college by 15 percent. The increase marks the first of four important enrollment cycles for the college as part of the Four-in-Four initiative Peterson established for faculty, students, staff and community members. The goal is to raise total enrollment at the college to 4,000 students in four years.
Peterson said growth is essential because stagnation is neither good for the college or the community.
“We need this place to be one that people think of as wide open with opportunities,” he said. “I want us to be more a place like that. The college’s role is to tee that up, to prepare the environment for that. “
He said that is done by better preparing those who live in the community.
“If this is an economically stagnant place, then we have to prepare more of the people who live here to make economic contributions,” he said. “And as a college, we have to attract new people here and give them a high quality experience that forms an affinity for the region and prepare them to make economic contributions and have them become our neighbors and pillars in the community and build the community.”
In addition to the Four-in-Four initiative, Peterson launched a second program earlier this year — a much-needed building program for the college. USU Eastern’s Building Vitality campaign lays out the college’s vision for economic and educational vitality. It makes a case for community partnering with the campus for essential building upgrades to improve the college’s overall curb appeal.
As the community changes, adapts and grows, Peterson said, the college will be there every step of the way. It is a promise he can make because he knows that USU Eastern is, as USU President Stan Albrecht envisioned, part of one university that is geographically dispersed. The spirit of that message is that a baccalaureate offered in Price or Blanding is a USU baccalaureate.
“It is our win,” he said. “It is our victory. It’s the university’s victory if Price and Blanding are able to rise up and provide this.”
Tons of sedimentary rock has never stopped anyone before in this region. If they support it and want it as badly as their chancellor does, they’ll roll up their sleeves and get there, eventually.
Contact: Vicki J. Noyes, 435-613-5256; firstname.lastname@example.org
Writer: John DeVilbiss, 435-797-1358; email@example.com