University Affairs

A Look Back: Utah State Today Reflects on 2018

As 2019 begins, Utah State Today would like to thank everyone for a wonderful 2018 at Utah State University.  Look back at some of our favorite moments (and most-popular stories) of the past year, with particular focus placed on the exceptional experiences and achievements of our faculty, students and alumni.

USU Among Nation's Elite in 2018
(August 2018)

USU was ranked as the 5th best public national university in the nation, No. 12 overall, in Washington Monthly’s 2018 College Rankings

Washington Monthly rates schools based on their contributions to the public good in three broad categories: social mobility (recruiting and graduating low-income students), research (producing cutting-edge scholarships and doctorate programs) and service (encouraging students to give something back to their country).

In the Washington Monthly rankings, USU is in company with the likes of Stanford University, Princeton University and Yale University. 

“Utah State University continues to be a leading institution known for our quality discovery, learning and outreach opportunities,” said USU President Noelle Cockett. “These rankings showcase our strengths, particularly in the area of service that resonates in the rankings criteria. While our students are taking full advantage of the many academic offerings our institution provides, they are also dedicating themselves to service outside of the classroom to the betterment of society.”

The Aggie Chocolate Factory Grand Opening
(November 2018)

There are many ways to describe chocolate: Dark, milk, bittersweet, creamy, rich, smooth. And now, chocolate has become a delicious and intriguing new venture for Utah State University’s food science program with the opening of The Aggie Chocolate Factory.

“You won’t be able to swim in a chocolate river like in Willie Wonka’s factory, but you will see chocolate making from bean to bar,” said Dave Irish, who knows about sweet treats as manager of the USU Creamery and Aggie Ice Cream.

The process of sorting beans, grinding and roasting them, tempering and molding the chocolate is visible behind a glass wall in the newly renovated space.

“The factory will serve several purposes, but it is first a laboratory for students in food science,” said Professor Silvana Martini. “It will also facilitate research and outreach to the confectionary industry. This will be the only chocolate factory at a university in the western United States, and people in the industry are excited about the opportunities for short courses and working with us to produce certain flavor profiles.”

In addition to operating as a laboratory, the Aggie Chocolate Factory will produce the chocolate used in Famous Aggie Ice Cream. Large bars of processed and aged chocolate will be sold to candy makers, and a new Chocolate Café will sell chocolate confections, pastries and chocolate drinks, and there will be a line of high-end, high cocoa content chocolate bars.

USU Student’s Research Could End Negative Side Effects in Diabetes
(February 2018)

Ryker Hacking, a Vernal native and student at Utah State University, performed vital research in the USU-Uintah Basin summer internship program that could end the negative side effects in diabetes

Under the direction of Professor Mike Christiansen, Hacking developed a way to synthesize, MBT, a molecule that is able to inhibit aldose reductase, an enzyme responsible for causing kidney, retina, nervous system, and red blood cell damage. The research group will further develop and refine the process of making MBT, with the goal of making it available to the public to treat Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes.
“This was an amazing experience that helped me learn things I couldn’t have learned just sitting in a classroom,” said Hacking. “I think the USU-Uintah Basin summer internship programs is one of the most important steps the university has taken to help students grow professionally.”

NASA Launches USU Student-Built Experiment into Space
(March 2018)

USU aerospace engineering graduate students Marc Bulcher, Zac Lewis and Rob Stoddard, and aerospace engineering professor Stephen A. Whitmore designed and built a USU experiment that was launched into space by NASA. Their goal was to flight test a new type of thruster developed and patented by Whitmore. 

Thrusters are small motors used to orient spacecraft in zero gravity. The new USU thrusters are made with printed ABS plastic — the same material used to make Legos — and do not burn conventional liquid rocket fuel. 

“The vast majority of liquid rocket fuels used for space propulsion are extremely dangerous and toxic,” said Bulcher. 

To test the new thrusters, the team mounted two of the soda-can sized units to a small test frame inside the large sounding rocket. The team will determine if exhaust plumes from the thrusters contaminated a nearby optical sensor. If the thrusters burn clean, the technology could revolutionize the space industry.

USU Named Top Producer of Fulbright Scholars
(March 2018)

USU was named one of the Top 10 Fulbright U.S. Scholars producing research institutions by the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs. The university is the second-largest producer of Fulbright scholars in the Western states.

“The Fulbright grants have empowered us to do research with lasting impact on communities and nations worldwide,” said USU President Noelle Cockett. 

The USU Fulbright Scholars 2017-2018 Academic Year

  • Alan Blackstock, English, USU-Uintah Basin – literature in Ecuador at the University of Cuenca. 
  • Daniel Holland, Marketing and Strategy – entrepreneurship in Japan at the Kyoto University of Foreign Studies. 
  • Nancy Hyde, Office of Global Engagement – international education in South Korea at the Korean-American Educational Commission. 
  • Randal Martin, Civil and Environmental Engineering – environmental engineering in West Bank at An-Najah National University. 
  • Michael McFarland, Civil and Environmental Engineering – water pollution and environmental sciences in the Dominican Republic at Ibero-American University. 
  • Ann Roemer, Intensive English Language Institute – teaching English in Tanzania at University of Dodoma. 
  • Gilberto Urroz, Civil and Environmental Engineering – hydraulic engineering in Mexico at University of Sonora.   

Utah State's Caine Dairy is Home to the Number One College Dairy Herd
(October 2018)

For the second time, cows at the Caine Dairy Teaching and Research Center were ranked the number one college dairy herd in the nation by the Holstein Association USA.

The association’s classification scoring system is known as the official herd Breed Age Average and shows dairymen how their herd measures up against other registered Holstein herds in the industry. The magazine uses the scores to rank dairies by size and has a special category for college dairies.

“This notable recognition speaks not only to the expertise of our faculty, staff and students, but also their dedication to the daily operation of the Caine Dairy,” said Dirk Vanderwall, department head of Animal, Dairy and Veterinary Sciences. “Their collective efforts ensure that we are able to fulfill our teaching, research and Extension activities that support the dairy industry throughout Utah and well beyond.” 

The Caine farm is a valuable tool for helping students gain hands-on experience by handling animals and learning basic animal health management practices. Additionally, many students and faculty conduct ground-breaking research at the dairy, including studying many aspects of production and herd health since the opening of the dairy’s fully robotic milking system earlier this year.

Celebrating the 'Spirit of the Scotsman' 100 Years Later
(October 2018)

USU celebrated the “Spirit of the Scotsman” in 2018 as the classic Aggie anthem turned 100 years old. Penned by agronomy major Ebenezer J. Kirkham in 1918 during his senior year, the song is embraced as part of the university’s culture and played at Aggie basketball and football games.

As a student at USU, professor emeritus Larry Smith led a 17-member dance band called the Scotsmen that played for most of the student dances and served as the pep band for the basketball games in the Fieldhouse.

Smith led the band from 1957-59 as a student and in 1965 as a faculty member. In the 1980s, Smith wrote a new arrangement of the Scotsman for the USU band to play. This is the version USU fans now hear at the games.

Craig Smith Named Utah State Head Men's Basketball Coach
(March 2018)

Craig Smith was named the school’s 19th head coach in 113 seasons of Aggie basketball.

"Utah State has a rich tradition of excellence with tremendous fan support,” said Smith. “The Dee Glen Smith Spectrum is one of the best home-court atmospheres in the country and I am amped to see 'The HURD' in full force. We are looking forward to making USU hoops a force in the Mountain West."

In all, Smith has 22 years of collegiate coaching experience, including seven years as a head coach, and has been to postseason play 10 times during his career, while winning three regular season and two postseason conference championships.
USU Grad Michael Scott Peters Named U.S. Youth Observer to the UN
(July 2019)

The United Nations Association of the United States of America (UNA-USA), in partnership with the U.S. Department of State, selected USU graduate Michael Scott Peters as the 2018-2019 U.S. Youth Observer to the United Nations. Peters was chosen from a competitive pool of young Americans between the ages of 18-25 from across the country.

Peters graduated Summa Cum Laude from USU, where he earned a double major in international business and marketing while serving as student body president. As the president of the Utah Student Association for the 2017-2018 school year, he helped spearhead a statewide voter participation campaign engaging 180,000 students. Peters is a committed advocate for human rights, and is particularly passionate about raising global awareness on human trafficking through his work as a volunteer for Operation Underground Railroad.

USU Awarded $1M Grant to Mentor Native American Scholars
(June 2018)

USU is among 33 institutions nationwide selected to join the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Inclusive Excellence Initiative. The $1 million in grant support over five years will build on the university’s efforts to encourage students who are interested in transferring to USU’s main campus in Logan from USU Eastern, Blanding, a two-year campus in remote, southeastern Utah. 

Utah State was selected based on its proposal to initiate Mentoring and Encouraging Student Academic Success (MESAS). This program will build on the university’s efforts to encourage students who are interested in transferring to USU’s main campus in Logan from USU Eastern, Blanding, a two-year campus in remote, southeastern Utah. More than 70 percent of the Blanding campus student body is Native American, while Native students make up 0.3 percent of the Logan campus.

“Utah State University is grateful for this opportunity to initiate the MESAS program,” says USU President Noelle Cockett. “This initiative builds on years of the university’s commitment to encouraging underrepresented groups to pursue degrees in the natural sciences and other STEM disciplines.”
USU's David Peak Receives National Award for Undergrad Research Mentorship
(March 2018)

Utah State University physics professor David Peak was the 2018 recipient of the national Council on Undergraduate Research-Goldwater Scholars Faculty Mentor Award. Selected from 10 finalists nationwide, Peak has mentored, to date, more than 30 USU undergraduates, who have received a phenomenal 36 Goldwater Scholarships and Honorable Mentions – a number that rivals Ivy League competitors.

“Utah State University is thrilled David Peak is receiving this well-deserved national honor,” says USU President Noelle Cockett. “Professor Peak has tirelessly mentored undergraduate researchers throughout the university and guided them in successfully competing for prestigious national scholarships and recognition. He epitomizes the aims of our land-grant mission in providing world-class learning opportunities for our students.”

Peak was an early leader of the National Conference on Undergraduate Research, a co-founder of the CUR Physics and Astronomy Division and has helped to foster USU’s renowned, campus-wide Undergraduate Research Fellows program, the nation’s second oldest. 

USU-Uintah Basin student Ryker Hacking is working on ending negative side effects in diabetes.

Craig Smith, USU's Men's Basketball Coach

USU Eastern, Blanding students, from left, Kylie Reese and Tyanna White, collect wetlands data in northern Utah. An HHMI-funded program will provide mentorship for students who transfer from the two-year campus to USU's main campus.

David Peak was the 2018 recipient of the national Council on Undergraduate Research-Goldwater Scholars Faculty Mentor Award


Maren Aller
Public Relations Specialist
University Marketing and Communications
(435) 797-1355


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