1 of 6
Mike Terry, Deseret News
UVU sophomore Chase Brown takes a moment from a busy day to watch the women's volleyball team practice at UVU in Orem. Wednesday was the school's first day of its first year as an official university.

OREM — The electric feeling on campus at Utah Valley University Wednesday was more than mere first-day-of-school jitters, teachers and students said.

It was, after all, the start of the school's first year as an official university.

"We have more people and more options now that we're a university," said Karilynne Jones, a 20-year-old art major, as she waited in the hallway for her class to start. "It's kind of a fun change."

Because of the status change, 58 new faculty members started work on campus Wednesday. UVU hired the professors to ensure the student-to-teacher ratio stays low as the school grows.

"I'm excited about UVU's potential," said Leo Chan, a newly hired UVU finance and economics professor. "I'm excited to see what direction the school is going to take in the future. I hope I can help shape what it becomes in some way."

One of UVU's biggest attractions as a place of employment, Chan said, is its newness. To professors, UVU's recently acquired status means more students, resources and malleability.

Another perk to working at UVU, several new professors said, is not being required to split time between teaching and research. While UVU professors are required to stay current in their fields, unlike the other major schools along the Wasatch Front, the school's main focus is not pumping out cutting-edge studies.

"I want to teach," said Raquel Cook, a professor in the school of education, whose last job was teaching language arts at American Fork High School. "I'm interested in research. I keep up on it, I do. But what I really love is being with my students."

There are plenty of students at UVU to teach. There were record numbers of students milling around campus Wednesday.

Preliminary counts indicate enrollment has increased 9 percent since last year, said Elizabeth Hitch, UVU's interim president. The largest increase is in registration for trades classes, like technology management.

Hitch spent the morning mingling with students and passing out candy bars.

"I was just struck by the amount of energy on campus," she said. "Oh my gosh, we have so many students."

Skippy Jessop, a third-year communications major from Orem, said he's never seen UVU so bustling — especially on the first day of school. In an effort to secure seats in an overflowing classroom, some students offered to pay others to drop out, he said.

"I think there really is a buzz about UVU in Utah County," Jessop said. "Now that we're a university, I think people are starting to have a little more pride in this school."

E-mail: [email protected]