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One thing in particular stood out to a powerful team of visitors to the University of Utah in October.
It wasn't a multimillion-dollar medical complex or the new, energy-efficient law school, but the college's 10-year-old motto. And it drew "significant criticism ... multiple times" from a group assessing school compliance with federal guidelines, according to an administrative memo calling the 120-word statement "long-winded" and lacking in references to broad university goals.
Now, the U. is taking to heart the poor review from the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities. The board of trustees in its Tuesday meeting approved a new, streamlined 70-word mantra with shout-outs to "students from diverse backgrounds" and mentions of "discoveries and innovation."
"It's a nice, tight mission statement," Academic Senate President Bill Johnson told trustees.
These new elements reflect a shift in focus at the school. Recruiting and retaining students whose parents have no diploma have become main calls among top administrators, echoed at graduation and other campus events. To have a more educated state, college leaders say, they must help the group they say is made up largely of racial minorities and low-income students.
A glossy entrepreneurship center also has opened, taking intellectual and physical inspiration from Silicon Valley startups and tech giants. The Lassonde Institute, part of the David Eccles School of Business, is one of several labs for budding startups nationwide. It's part of a national trend celebrated by the U.S. Department of Commerce in 2013, when more than 140 research colleges signed a letter of commitment to fostering young entrepreneurs.
The U.'s current mission statement was created by a task force in 2005. On Dec. 15, Academic Senate leaders wrote to their executive committee that it doesn't reflect the U.'s broad goals of diversity, research, health and a secure future.
The proposed update also gives a nod to the U.'s revenue-generating hospital arm. It's the university's goal, in part, the proposed mission statement says, "to promote 'health and quality of life.' "
Absent in the proposed shorter statement are the former "highest standards of intellectual integrity and scholarship" though they are mentioned in a supporting "values statement."
New University of Utah mission statement
The University of Utah fosters student success by preparing students from diverse backgrounds for lives of impact as leaders and citizens. We generate and share new knowledge, discoveries, and innovations, and we engage local and global communities to promote education, health, and quality of life. These contributions, in addition to responsible stewardship of our intellectual, physical, and financial resources, ensure the long-term success and viability of the institution.
Former mission statement
We serve the people of Utah and the world through the discovery, creation and application of knowledge; through the dissemination of knowledge by teaching, publication, artistic presentation and technology transfer; and through community engagement. As a preeminent research and teaching university with national and global reach, the University cultivates an academic environment in which the highest standards of intellectual integrity and scholarship are practiced. Students at the University learn from and collaborate with faculty who are at the forefront of their disciplines. The University faculty and staff are committed to helping students excel. We zealously preserve academic freedom, promote diversity and equal opportunity, and respect individual beliefs. We advance rigorous interdisciplinary inquiry, international involvement, and social responsibility.