UVSC on wrong path?

University status would be mistake, ex-chief says

Published: Thursday, Jan. 18 2007 12:10 a.m. MST

Deseret Morning News graphic

SOUTH JORDAN — The longtime former leader of the school now known as Utah Valley State College says a proposed move to university status is a misguided effort.

In fact, he doesn't support it at all.

"I think they're going the wrong way," Wilson W. Sorensen told the Deseret Morning News. "We have enough universities already."

Sorensen essentially founded the school, first known as Central Utah Vocational School, and served as president for 37 years — from 1946 to 1982. He led the school, which was started to help develop equipment for the war effort, as it made several name and location changes.

"They've already dropped the machine shop and heavy equipment programs," said Sorensen, now 90 and living in South Jordan. "They cut the welding program. Eventually, the liberal arts will take over."

Utah's other universities can pump out research, he said.

Sorensen said he believes the losses will outweigh the benefits.

"It will give the school a social image. That's all it will do," he said.

Sorensen said he is more than willing to testify or speak to the Legislature about the idea "but nobody has asked me."

A spokeswoman for UVSC said that the Orem school emphasized trades and technology when the local economy depended more on industry.

"That's no longer the case," the spokeswoman, Megan Laurie, said, adding that today's demands are bachelor's and master's degrees.

UVSC became accredited to offer bachelor's degrees in 1993.

The "machine shop" program to which Sorensen referred, called Machine Tools, was dropped in 2002 due to low enrollment. The heavy-equipment program was dropped for the same reason.

Welding has not been cut, she said, but some courses are not regularly offered because of low student demand.

Some technology programs have evolved with industry.

For instance, an electrical and computing technology program dropped two years ago may come back in the form of metronics — a combination of mechanics, electrical and computing technology, Laurie said. The governor-appointed State Board of Regents has to approve the metronics program before UVSC can offer it.

William Sederburg, current president of UVSC, is disappointed Sorensen does not support the effort for university status.

"What has happened that Wilson doesn't really recognize is the creation of the applied technology college in 2001," Sederburg said.

The Utah County campus of the Utah College of Applied Technology is Mountainland Applied Technology College.

The difference between the trades and technology programs at UVSC and MATC? UVSC offers its programs for credit; MATC offers courses to prepare students for industry certification exams, MATC President Clay Christensen said.

However, UVSC and MATC have begun to work jointly. Beginning Monday, MATC and UVSC students studying for electrical, electrical lineman, HVAC and plumbing apprenticeships will take classes together.

The arrangement will provide more options for students if they want to continue with school or return in the future to receive from UVSC associate in applied science degrees or bachelors' degrees in technology management.

"UVSC has not eliminated programs" and passed them on to MATC, Christensen said.

Some of the school's other presidents support the university-status proposal.

Kerry Romesburg, president from 1988 to 2003 and now president of Jacksonville University in Florida, said discussions about university status for UVSC began after 2000.

Now is the time, said Romesburg, who oversaw the school when it matured from a community college to a state college.

"I think that it would be a wonderful move for the state of Utah, for Utah Valley to become a university," he said. "It would be good for the people, it would be good for the state. And the institution is ready."

Lucille Stoddard, who served as interim president at UVSC in 1988 and 2003 and now is the associate commissioner for academic affairs for Utah's System of Higher Education, believes university status is the "right direction" for UVSC as long as the school continues to address eight improvement points identified in 2005 by Utah Commissioner of Higher Education Richard Kendell.

The improvement issues range from student retention to raising the number of full-time faculty.

"I think if President Sederburg holds to the eight points the commissioner has developed, I think they'll be fine," she said.


E-mail: haddoc@desnews.com; lhancock@desnews.com

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