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Guest opinion: Join our compact with Utah

By Taylor Randall - Special to the Daily Herald | Aug 20, 2022
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Taylor R. Randall is president of the University of Utah.
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University of Utah President Taylor Randall samples ice cream at the BYU Creamery during a recent visit to Utah County.
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University of Utah President Taylor Randall flashes "the U" on a stop to Geneva Rock during a recent visit to Utah County.
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University of Utah President Taylor Randall greets employees at Podium in Lehi during a recent visit to Utah County.

In early August, as the University of Utah tour bus was about to cross the county line into Utah County territory, a few of the passengers jokingly started singing the BYU fight song. I think I surprised them when I knew the words! Blasphemy? Maybe. But my mother was a BYU grad, after all.

Like U presidents before me, I’m traveling around the state this summer to redefine and rededicate our university’s unique role in the state. The University of Utah has a lot of reach, but also tremendous responsibility to all Utahns. On this third leg of my tour, I visited with leaders at Podium and dōTERRA to discuss internships, recruitment and ways we can collaborate to meet the demands of Utah’s changing workforce. I ate lunch with elected officials and UVU leaders, where we talked about how the U can partner on research projects, expand educational offerings and provide more health care opportunities to residents and students in Utah Valley.

Our tastiest stop was the BYU Creamery, where university leaders hooked us up with ice cream, mint brownies, fudge and chocolate-covered cinnamon bears. While still on our sugar buzz, we drove back north to tour Geneva Rock and to learn more about plans for the Point, located at the former Utah Prison site, which will include a higher education innovation district.

We heard more than once on our tour that there was “a lot of red in the room.” What many people might not realize is how much “red” actually resides in the valley — more than 12,300 U alums and 2,300 U employees call Utah Valley home. I’d like to see these numbers grow.

At each stop on the tour, I asked how we can break down existential barriers between the U and Utah Valley. It’s easy to think competitive first, but I’d like to think collaboration. Each of the eight state institutions of higher education (and our private rival on the field) have remarkable strengths that the U can’t replicate. At the end of my tenure, I want to be remembered as a president who was a partner.

I recognize the responsibility the university has for making the lives of every Utahn better. During my first year, I’ve focused on three numbers: 40,000 students, 3.4 million Utahns and $1 billion in research funding. These goals help guide every decision I make.

These numbers tell the story of the university’s statewide impact:

  • Nearly 1 in 10 U alums call Utah Valley home.
  • Last year, more than 2,300 students from Utah Valley were enrolled at the U.
  • U of U Health served nearly 39,000 patients from Utah Valley last year — that’s about 12% of the valley’s population.
  • The U manages 550 buildings totaling 16.5 million square feet of space in 14 counties and 33 cities across Utah.
  • The U confers more than half of the advanced degrees awarded to Utah graduates.
  • The university is the state’s largest employer with 39,300 direct jobs, and directly and indirectly supports a total of 83,100 jobs.
  • The university trains two-thirds of Utah’s physicians.

But our renewed compact with the state around us is more than numbers. The state invests heavily in us, and that carries with it an obligation to teach, to advance knowledge and to help the communities around us. It’s a mission all state colleges and universities share. As we work together to improve the state around us, I make these Six Commitments to you:

1. To lead as the state’s flagship university.

2. To educate and elevate our students.

3. To innovate and improve lives through research.

4. To serve the communities around us.

5. To provide exceptional patient care.

6. To unify Utah’s higher education institutions.

To read more about the Six Commitments, visit president.utah.edu.

I hope to meet more of you on the 2022 “Utah Across Utah” tour. I’ll see you on the road!

Taylor R. Randall is the 17th president of the University of Utah. He previously served in the David Eccles School of Business as both dean and an accounting professor.


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