Strategy 2025 Documents

Alumni Strategy Session Recap

On April 17, alumni met on Zoom to share their views on the University of Utah, its vision and mission, and its societal impact. Kris Bosman, chief alumni relations officer, hosted the session, with participants from across the country (including D.C., Massachusetts, Texas, Maryland, Florida). They ranged in age, with one in his 80s, and represented an array of majors—communications, business, psychology, English, engineering, marketing, international studies and French. The moderator engaged participants through discussion and an online feedback tool.

Characteristics that set the U apart: Location, location, location. The U’s beautiful setting, with access to recreational amenities, was the top characteristics mentioned by attendees. The campus was described as clean and safe, with state-of-the art buildings.

Qualities and skills the U cultivates in students: Alumni zeroed in on how the U teaches students to collaborate across differences, understand the value of hard work and be adaptable.

Missing from the list of qualities and skills: I am not sure this question was understood as some responses were not qualities or skills … Alumni mentioned safety on campus, networking, a sense of belonging and the ability to be a problem solver.

Additional societal impact goals: The group identified access to health care and access to higher education, especially on the valley’s west side; embracing diversity, recognizing the needs of an increasingly diverse state; and urged to the U to consider adding a 3-year undergraduate degree. They also identified degree completion within five years, including reforming the higher education model to streamline access to a meaningful education and clear career path. One interesting comment was that the U should address class differences and disparities rather than identity markers.

Key strengths: Alumni said the U has a strong academic reputation. Its athletic prowess also builds the U’s reputation nationally. Its focus on public service also is a strength. The cost to value ratio also is a strength. The U’s beautiful location is a “definer” and access to skiing is a strong selling point and helps students choose the U over other institutions. And the U should be planning now how to take advantage of hosting another Olympics to build its reputation. The Marriott Library is a great asset. One bit of advice: Don’t focus on rankings, especially given the salary inequity between states, at the expense of support students and their well-being.

Areas for improvement: Student safety predominated. Participants said that providing more on-campus housing would help it attract more out-of-state students. The U should prepare students for managing their finances and other life skills. Receiving multiple, overlapping calls for donations, sometimes back-to-back, from different entities on campus is “not cool” and the U should streamline advancement outreach. As athletics and donations go hand-in-hand, one alum wondered how the U will be impacted by leaving the PAC-12; it also is hard to follow U athletics when you live on the East Coast. One alum said he would welcome more interaction with department/college he graduated from and to connect with other alumni.

Reputation: Athletics and U of U Health are huge in building the U’s reputation, which most saw as positive and rising, a “hidden gem.” There is a need to elevate the conversation about and connection with alumni and their accomplishments across the nation and around the world. The message should be “You’re going to get a degree, but also be part of a culture.” The U also should work to address issues of internal alignment and siloes. The U’s reputation is hampered by the fact that Utah is seen as lacking diversity.

Experienced/observed societal impact: Participants mentioned research and in particular: cancer, clean energy, the Great Salt Lake, graphics innovations and drowsy driving. They also said U of U Health has a large societal impact, as does helping to build an educated populace with strong community engagement.

Addressing societal challenges: The U should do more outreach to the state’s growing Spanish-speaking population and the rest of Utah beyond Salt Lake City. Its focus should be local first, then national and international. Participants also voiced that the U should use its institutional voice and research to influence policy at the Legislature. And it needs to increase support/staff in student affairs to address students’ mental and physical health. The participants urged the U to devote more resources to addressing local problems, such as homelessness, the Great Salt Lake, domestic violence and air quality. Also: pay athletes as proposed under the NCAA framework.

Vision for increased societal impact: Do a better job of mirroring the surrounding community; the U is not representative and should engage in more community outreach as well as inviting the community to campus more often. It also should invest in more scholarship opportunities. The U needs to provide equal resources across campus and invest in more support services such as an on-campus domestic violence shelter. And there should be more transparency around career opportunities for different majors and more help with getting students their first job.

Careers and education: Participants suggested more hands-on experiential learning opportunities before graduation and better pipelines to jobs and advanced degree opportunities. They also think students need more financial skill training and greater awareness of alumni services, including having more on-campus alumni panels so students see what’s possible. Along those lines, someone said the U should create an alumni directory that students can view for networking purposes. One suggestion was to match curriculums more closely to the job market. An interesting idea: get students familiar with “7 Habits of Highly Effective People.”

Priorities to stay competitive: Participants mentioned career preparedness for students, exposure to AI as it impacts every career (what it is, how to use it, etc.), increased student diversity, fostering a sense of community and belonging and creating a 3-year degree.

Takeaway: The U’s location and access to recreational amenities is something the university should leverage more. Go out-of-state to talk to alumni more. And focus on intentional growth that benefits the state and residents rather than engaging in an arms race to rankings, awards and recognition. Participants appreciated the opportunity to share their views.

Additional feedback: Focus on undergraduate students, who are the lifeblood of the university and the next generation of all the U aspires to be. Also, re-examine the overall goals of higher education and make that the U’s priority.

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