You are the owner of this page.
A1 A1
The rate of women pursuing STEM in Utah colleges hasn't changed

The percentage of women pursuing education in the fields of science, technology, engineering and math hasn’t changed much in the last several years, according to a research snapshot released Thursday.

The Utah Women and Leadership Project at Utah Valley University looked into how many women had been awarded STEM degrees in Utah’s public universities and colleges for its August research brief, turning back to a topic it had previously tackled in 2013.

From 2012 to 2017, the number of STEM degrees awarded at public Utah universities and colleges increased from 2,358 to 3,279. In 2012, 20% of those degrees went to women. Five years later, that only increased to 21%.

“My hope was that we would at least see some increases,” said Susan Madsen, the director of the Utah Women and Leadership Project.

Madsen said the organization wasn’t planning to do an update on the topic so soon, but then got requests from female leaders within Utah’s technology sector to look at the numbers.

The research brief, written by UVU’s Cheryl Hanawics and Susan Thackeray, along with Madsen, found that women make up 47% of the national workforce and 28% of the tech workforce. In Utah, those rates are much lower, with women consisting of 44% of the workforce and 19% of computer and science engineering fields.

From 2012 to 2017, UVU saw its number of women receiving STEM degrees rise from 305 to 335. During that same time, the percentage of women being awarded STEM degrees at UVU dropped from 44% in 2012 to 33% in 2017, making UVU the public college or university in Utah with the lowest percentage of female students receiving STEM degrees.

Madsen said there needs to be women pursuing STEM degrees in order to see an increase in women in the professional fields. She said there’s been efforts to draw more women to STEM, including from the Women Tech Council and at the university level.

“I think we see some increases, some steady ones,” Madsen said. “So we feel like we are going in the right direction.”

She said there is still work to do. University faculty don’t always understand the differences in teaching men and women, she said, or know that women speak 75% less when they are surrounded by men.

“Oftentimes if there’s only a few women in the class, they aren’t going to engage as much and that affects the learning process and the people around them,” Madsen said.

Madsen recalled a story she’d heard from a female student who was the only woman in her STEM class. When she entered the room, the professor assumed the student was in the wrong place.

“The unconscious bias is strong, and it impacts education and decisions,” Madsen said.

Majority-male workplaces can also create cultures that are not attractive to women. Madsen said many tech companies have cultures that are masculine and focus around competition, which often doesn’t retain female workers.

“Women can be just as successful, but many of them don’t thrive in those kinds of environments,” Madsen said.

Thousands dine on Alaska salmon during sold-out annual Payson event

The smoky smell of grilling salmon fillets wafted through Memorial Park on Friday afternoon during the 65th annual Payson Salmon Supper.

More than 5,000 people shuffled through the park and waited impatiently in line for a heaping plate of salad, rolls, baked potatoes, corn on the cob and an entire pound of Alaska salmon.

“When it’s perfect, you don’t want to change anything,” said city event coordinator Janeen Dean.

Tickets for the event sold out again this year at $16 a plate, and all the money goes back to benefit the city’s parks and events.

“We’ve got it down to a science where we can feed about 650 people every half hour,” Dean said.

The tradition began in 1954 after a local church leader visited Alaska and brought back salmon for a small church event.

More people attended the dinner each year and eventually the event became a fundraising effort for the leader’s Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints ward.

“It just became bigger and bigger,” Dean said. “Back then, that’s how they raised money for their ward.”

When the event became too popular to manage, the church leaders asked Payson City officials to take charge of the dinner.

“It takes a lot of volunteers to pull this off,” Dean said, adding that high school extracurricular teams helped shuck corn and wrap potatoes days before the dinner.

The city buys nearly 5,000 pounds of farm-fed salmon from a company in Alaska and started cooking the food at least 24 hours before the event.

Volunteers shut down the street near 200 South and Main Street, spread sand across the ground, dump wood in enormous piles and construct metal trays and supports to cook the salmon.

Firefighters in yellow with Payson Fire and Rescue prepare the fillets and man the grills. The secret ingredient is using apple or cherry wood on the open fire, Dean explained.

“That’s the key to a great salmon,” she said.

Utah Education Board forms panel to examine charter schools

SALT LAKE CITY — The Utah Board of Education will form a new task force to examine charter school finances.

The board voted Thursday to create the panel to look into charter school spending and how the schools can restructure their finances.

“We need to clean it up. We have some problems,” said Mark Huntsman, the board’s chairman.

The decision comes amid ongoing financial strife with the closure of the American International School of Utah in Murray. The charter school is closing with more than $400,000 owed in state and federal funding and other debt.

State officials have demanded repayment after finding funds were improperly spent. The school’s board voted in May to shut down after concerns grew about its financial viability.

The state board’s audit committee recommended creating the task force.

“There have been some questions come up over a school closing with some real financial issues,” said Janet Cannon, vice chairwoman of the committee. “This would help alleviate anything like that happening again.”

Board members have questioned the oversight of the state Charter School Board and why officials didn’t intervene in the school sooner. The two boards have been at odds at times over how to regulate charter schools.

Jennifer Lambert, executive director of the charter board, said she doesn’t yet know how the task force will affect her organization.

“I’m still kind of digesting all of this,” Lambert told The Salt Lake Tribune . “But we would be happy to participate in it.”

The state auditor’s office has also asked for all charter schools to move to the same accounting standards that public schools use.

Fire near Provo did not grow overnight, still at 35% containment, 489 acres

The Alaska Fire near the border of Springville and Provo is still at 489 acres and 35% containment as of Friday morning.

The fire, which officials believe is human-caused, started Tuesday evening.

The firefighting plan for Friday, according to a press release, is for hand crews and one helicopter to continue securing fire lines and focusing on “hot spots” of the fire that they can access safely.

The eastern flank is burning in inaccessible, steep and rocky terrain.

“Due to the risks to firefighters, ground crews will not be directly deployed on the steep slope on this part of the fire,” the release said. “Instead, indirect tactics utilizing natural fuel breaks are being used.”

A section of the Bonneville Shoreline trail is closed to the public between Slate Canyon and Little Rock Canyon. That is the only closure associated with the fire, the release said.

There are currently three hand crews, four engines and one helicopter on the fire.

Orem to open first shaded playground among other park amenities

Residents of Orem will notice some major improvements to some of the parks in the city over the next few months, though none will be more exciting than what is happening at Geneva Park.

Geneva Park will be getting two new futsal soccer courts and the first covered children’s playground in the city.

For many years, Geneva Park had unusable tennis courts that will be torn out to make room for the futsal courts. Real Salt Lake logos, colors and branding will identify the courts.

The parking lot will be expanded in the spring for more patrons. However, that expansion will encroach on the playground. So the playground is being moved to a more central location.

“The Geneva playground will be moved to the south central part of the park,” said Reed Price, Maintenance Division directors. “It will be a new larger playground and be the first shaded playground in the city.”

Because of the lower income neighborhood, the playground project qualified for Community Development Block Grant money.

“Orem is known throughout the county for both the number and quality of parks,” said Steven Downs, city spokesman. “In survey research done over the years, citizens have asked the City Council to prioritize investments in existing parks over expansion of the number of parks. The improvements happening right now are a sign of the City Council keeping that promise.”

According to Price, there are 21 parks in the city; seven regional parks with 11-55 acres, 13 neighborhood parks — nine of which are adjacent to schools — and one mini park.

“About 90% of Orem residents live within a half-mile of a park,” Price said.

Other parks in Orem getting a facelift include Windsor Park, which is getting a new playground. Installation has already begun on the new facility.

Bonneville Park is losing some of it tennis courts. It will get one new court and four new pickleball courts.

“We hope to have that park ready by Oct. 1,” Price said.

The city is in the process of adding shade at multiple parks around the city, such as Bonneville Park and the All-Together Playground.

The city is saving up to replace the north playground at SCERA Park with a playground full of toddler-dedicated equipment.

“We are looking at options to add additional 2- to 5-year-old playground equipment at multiple existing parks throughout the city – specific parks are not yet determined,” Price said.

Although the public may not consider it a park per se, the Orem City Cemetery is considered park land. The large field that has been used as a soccer field is no closed to sports.

“We just completed the north-south road the separates the field,” Price said. “It was completed in June. No more soccer games are allowed. We need to keep a respectful cemetery setting.”