Student Success

Showcasing the student journey

As we reflect on the year, we are proud of our students’ achievements and resilience, particularly in the face of unique challenges related to the COVID-19 pandemic. Our campus community of faculty and staff was united in our mission to support students and help them achieve their educational, professional, and personal goals.

Include, engage, achieve. Student Success. Exceptional care, exceptional accountability, exeptional results.

Our mission:

Utah Valley University is an integrated university and community college that educates every student for success in work and life through excellence in engaged teaching, services, and scholarship.

First day of school, 2020

Charting College Completion

We applaud the extraordinary efforts of our recent graduates, who completed their college degrees with diligence and determination. As we look to Vision 2030, we pledge to continually implement strategies designed to minimize barriers to college completion and help students finish their degrees in a timely fashion.

Class of 2020

Congratulations to UVU’s largest-ever graduating class! The Class of 2020 achieved exceptional results, displaying an extraordinary commitment to completing their degrees amidst uncertainty. While we had to push back our celebration to the next fiscal year, we ultimately pulled off a one-of-a-kind drive-in celebration that was fitting for our remarkable 6,410 graduates. Well done, Wolverines!

Record number of graduates 6,410 for 2020

“The ceremony yesterday was far more fun, celebratory, and fulfilling than a typical graduation ceremony. I’ve been a proud Wolverine since being a student at UVU, and yesterday I was reminded once again of why. UVU puts students first, always.” — Amy King, Class of 2020

Drive in Convocation. Graduate and tailgate.

Students at Commencement 2020
Creating clarity: Completion Plan 2.0

As we celebrate a record number of UVU graduates, we are setting our sights even higher by applying comprehensive initiatives designed to help students succeed in work and life. This year, committees in Student Affairs and Academic Affairs developed a forward-thinking plan that includes actionable strategies intended to help meet individual student needs. Completion Plan 2.0 covers practical goals focused on course scheduling, first-year advising and support, general education, data-driven intervention, stackable credentials and pathways, student communication, faculty development, and high-impact practices.

First-year frame of mind

The first year has proven to be a critical point in a student’s educational journey. To assist incoming students and support their success, UVU implemented a new First-Year Advising Center (FAC). The FAC provides free individualized and holistic academic advising services to first-year Wolverines and helps them successfully transition to university life. Academic counseling is available to all newly-admitted students exploring potential majors and to those who have completed 30 credits or fewer.

First-year Advising Center Logo

Student Snapshot

Students enrolled
for fall 2019

UVU serves a wide array of learners. We believe everyone deserves to access a meaningful postsecondary education, and we are committed to providing a variety of educational paths to meet the needs of our diverse community.

Infographic dipicting percentages. Students of color 19%. First-gen students 37%. Employed while taking classes 81%. Older than 25 30%. Married or in a partnership 38%. Work more than 31 hours per week 24%. Support at least one child 17%. Part time students 52%
Students on campus

Student Achievements

Wins for wolverines

This year, many Wolverines were recognized at the local, national, and international levels for their skills and accomplishments. We commend our students for their hard work, and we are pleased to highlight their exceptional results.

Distinguished dancers

In January, the UVU Dance Team won two national titles in the jazz and pom categories at the Universal Dance Association (UDA) College Cheerleading & Dance Team National Championship in Florida. They also won gold representing Team USA at the International Cheerleading Union World Cheerleading Championships in April. These wins increase national and international recognition for the Dance Team program and provide important exposure for top dancer recruitment.

UVU Dance Team wins gold
Students from Woodbury School of Business running the Wolverine Fund
MFPA: Mastering a monetary mindset

The Master of Financial Planning and Analytics (MFPA) is the newest degree program in the Woodbury School of Business. Founded on UVU’s nationally ranked Personal Financial Planning program, the MFPA seeks to develop the next generation of financial professionals. The degree offers professional certifications, real-world application, engaging courses, personalized tracks, and a flexible schedule. The MFPA is flexible and offers options to take classes part time or full time, allowing each Wolverine to find the best fit for their financial education.

SkillsUSA: Nine named national champions

In late June, Wolverines competed in the 55th Annual SkillsUSA National Championship in Louisville, Kentucky. Students participated in 22 categories and received medals in nine of those competitions. Notably, nine Wolverines were awarded gold medals in the categories of collision damage appraisal, entrepreneurship, firefighting, photography, and robotics and automation. For 19 years, UVU has continuously been ranked among the top five colleges and universities in the nation. In 2019, UVU earned the ranking of #2 based on the medals earned.

Department of Engineering first graduating class

Excellence in engineering

Congratulations to the Department of Engineering, which celebrated its first graduating class! The new program enjoyed another “first” this year: a team of mechanical engineering students ranked best in the nation at the American Society of Mechanical Engineers event in the spring, which took place virtually due to COVID-19 precautions. As part of the competition, teams from universities across the United States created drones designed to lift a payload and move it successfully to a specified location. The winning Wolverine design included two cameras, specialized handles, and lightweight 3D-printed components.

Representing in research

Student researchers Sydney Houghton and Hannah Veltkamp’s work was published in the scientific journal Forests this summer. The research study, led by Professor Michael T. Stevens, investigated the effects of a common plant–animal interaction called frugivory by coyotes on woody plants.

Student researcher Joshua Zushi’s work was published in the scientific journal Ecology and Evolution this spring. The research study, led by Assistant Professor Geoffrey Zahn, explored seagrass-associated fungal communities collected from Singapore and Malaysia.

Student researchers Jordan M. Clawson, Abigail Kovash, Jeremy Orellana, and Anna Karina Thornock’s work was published in the scientific journal Prostate Cancer early this year. Led by Professors Mohammed A. El-Saidi and Ruhul H. Kuddus, the research study investigated polymorphisms in prostate cancer and benign prostate hyperplasia among Lebanese men.

Athletic Accolades


  • Between fall 2019 and spring 2020, student-athletes achieved a total of 84 perfect GPAs.
  • The cumulative average GPA for all student-athletes is 3.34.
  • Women’s golf led all teams with a cumulative GPA of 3.7.
  • Every team had a cumulative GPA above 3.0.

WAC Trophy

Utah Valley University was awarded its first Western Athletic Conference Commissioner’s Cup in 2020 after finishing with 50 points following the pandemic-altered athletic season. The Wolverines were crowned conference champions in men’s cross-country and recorded second-place finishes in women’s cross-country, men’s soccer (in both the regular season and tournament), women’s soccer (in its tournament), and men’s indoor track and field. The WAC awards its Commissioner’s Cup to the school that performs the best in each of the conference’s 19 men’s and women’s championships.

Four track and field athletes won individual titles at the WAC Indoor Track and Field Championships.

Larry Still was named an All-American in pole vault, and he graduated in spring 2020 with a 3.25 cumulative GPA.

The Utah Valley men’s cross-country team claimed its fifth WAC Championship in the past seven years. UVU senior Kevin Lynch won the individual WAC cross-country men’s championship. He also earned WAC Men’s Athlete of the Year honors and held a 3.65 GPA.

Cross-country Head Coach Scott Houle was named WAC Men’s Coach of the Year, the fifth time he has received this distinction.

Cross-country runner

Men's Golf

Men’s golf was honored by the Golf Coaches Association of America with All-Academic Team honors (team GPA of 3.0 or better) for the eighth consecutive year under Head Coach Chris Curran.

The UVU volleyball squad earned a team academic recognition for the eighth time in the past decade, after posting a 3.56 GPA for the 2019-20 academic year. Sophomore outside hitter Kazna Tarawhiti was also named first team all-WAC for the second time after leading the WAC in kills for the second consecutive season.

Volleyball Player

Men's Basketball player

Men’s basketball has had one of the top team GPAs in the nation over the past five seasons. The team has earned NABC team academic honors four times in the last five years, with eight players earning NABC honors court selections.

The women’s golf team tied a program record by having five student-athletes named WGCA All-American Scholars: Lauren Taylor (4.0 GPA), Kate Williamson (3.95), Bailey Henley (3.72), Nathalie Irlbacher (3.71) and Keila Baladad (3.54).

Woman Golfer

Men's Soccer player

Zach Maas of men’s soccer was named to the CoSIDA Academic All-America third team with a 3.8 GPA. He’s our fourth student-athlete to receive that honor.

Women’s basketball sophomore Maria Carvalho was named to the All-WAC second team and All-Defensive Team.

Women’s basketball senior Jordan Holland was named first-team All-WAC and finished her final year with a 3.84 GPA. Read: Year in Review

Women's Basketball

Softball player

Brooke Carter pitched a perfect softball game — the first in UVU’s NCAA Division 1 history — and held a 3.39 GPA. Head Coach Stacey May-Johnson was hired in January and helped lead the softball team to their best start in the NCAA Division I era before play was halted. Wolverine softball tied for the 30th-best GPA out of 296 NCAA Division I institutions. In 2018, a record 14 softball student-athletes earned national scholar-athlete honors.

Hannah Bruce earned All-WAC Academic team honors all four years at UVU and graduated in 2019 with a 4.0 GPA and a degree in psychology. She signed a professional contract and played this past year with Puerto Rico Sol FC. She will soon enter a master’s program in clinical and therapeutic neuroscience at Oxford.

UVU junior forward Amber Tripp earned United Soccer Coaches All-Pacific Region honors and earned a 3.97 GPA in the 2019-20 academic year.

Women's Soccer player

UVU Wrestler

The UVU Wrestling team ranked fifth in the country in the National Wrestling Coaches Association Division Scholar All-American Team ranking. This was the highest finish among Big 12 teams, the league in which the Wolverines compete — with a 3.40 team GPA.

Focusing In — Faculty and Firsts

Student success would not be possible without the crucial contributions of our faculty and staff. UVU educators and leaders significantly shape the educational experience. Their guidance allows Wolverines of all backgrounds to achieve their aspirations. We are thrilled to spotlight some of the accomplishments of our faculty and staff in the fields of research, leadership, and education. As we maintain a growth outlook, we will take steps to continue to enhance the academic quality and rigor of the UVU experience.

Engaged Teaching

Faculty Appointments and Rewards

Daniel Horns — Dean of Science
Dr. Daniel Horns headshot

Dr. Daniel Horns was appointed as the dean of the College of Science in May 2020. He had been serving as the college’s interim dean since August 2019, succeeding Dr. Daniel Fairbanks. Horns is an award-winning educator and leader who has served in a variety of positions at UVU for over 22 years.

Dr. Bob Palais — Department Chair in Mathematics
Dr. Bob Palais headshot

Dr. Bob Palais, the department chair in mathematics, was awarded a DNA analysis patent co-assigned to UVU. Palais developed the mathematical aspects for a method of DNA analysis that is simple, precise, efficient, and economical. Working with BioFire Diagnostics, Palais has received several patents on rapid diagnostic technologies. He has 11 U.S. patents to his name.

Laurie Bowen — Autism Hero Award
Laurie Bowen headshot

Laurie Bowen, associate director of the Melisa Nellesen Center for Autism, received the 2020 Autism Hero Award from the Autism Resources of Utah County Council. Her work played an instrumental role in bringing the autism studies program to UVU and has significantly strengthened UVU autism conferences.

Brandon Truscott — Fine Art Book Awards
Book cover: Dividing Colors

Brandon Truscott from graphic design led a team of faculty advisors (Travis Lovell of photography and Howard Fullmer of illustration) and student creatives to receive a Juror Cash Award in the 2019 Design Arts for the fine art book Dividing Colors: War & Rights. They also won a silver medal in the Independent Publishers Book Awards for cover design.

John Newman — Theatre Education Book Award
Book cover: Playwriting in Schools

Dr. John Newman, associate professor of theatre arts and Noorda director, won the top honor for books on theatre education — the American Alliance for Theatre & Education (AATE) Distinguished Book Award — for his book, Playwriting in Schools: Dramatic Navigation. The book examines the differing approaches of drama teachers in New York, Maryland, Ohio, Wisconsin, Utah, and Hawaii.

On-Point Publications

The academic publishing process represents scholarly achievement, ensures academic rigor and honesty, and allows researchers to share important findings with other experts in their field and with students and the general public.

Research studies by numerous UVU professors and faculty members were published in renowned peer-reviewed journals and publications this year. We applaud our researchers’ hard work and contributions, and we would like to highlight several significant publications below:


College of Health and Public Service
(Teri) Sue Smith-Jackson, Matt O. Flint, Mary V. Brown, and Merilee Larsen

Smith-Jackson, T., Flint, M. O., Brown, M. V., & Larsen, M. (2019). Familiarity with diabetes as a protective factor for severity of condition at type 1 diabetes diagnosis: The need for more secondary prevention methods in public health. ARC Journal of Diabetes and Endocrinology, 5(1), 29-34.

Hsiu-Chin (Sunny) Chen, Joohyun Chung, Francine Jensen, and Gary Measom

Chen, H., Chung, J., Jensen, F., & Measom, G. (2020). Exploring faculty perceptions of teaching cultural competence in nursing. Teaching and Learning in Nursing.

Emergency Services
John R. Fisher

Fisher, J.R. & Lanicci, J.M. (2019). Media impacts on disaster management and policy. in Lanicci, J., Murray, E.H., & Ramsay, J.D., eds. Environmental Security: Concepts, Challenges, and Case Studies. Boston: American Meteorological Society, 137-143.

John R. Fisher and Steven D. Allred

Fisher, J. R, & Allred, S. D. (2020). Using crowd-sourced wikis to teach an online undergraduate course. Online Learning: The Official Journal of OLC, 24(3).

Rodger E. Broomé and Eric J. Russell

Broomé, R. E., Castle, B. J., & Russell, E.J. (2019). Police administration and ineffective civilian oversight: A grounded theory. Journal of Humanistic Psychology, June 2019.

School of Education
Mia (Mi Ok) Kang

Kang, M., & Shin, K. (2020). An ecological analysis of Korean version IB curriculum implementation process. Journal of Education & Culture.

Lee, J., Kang, M., & Park, B. (2019). Factors influencing choosing teaching as a career: South Korean preservice teachers. Asia Pacific Education Review, 20, 467-488.

College of Science
Geoffrey Zahn

Amend, A. S., Datlof, E., Hynson, N.A., Kivlin, S. N., Sheridan, P., Tipton, L., & Zahn, G. (2019). Fungal aerobiota are not affected by time nor environment over a 13-year time series at the Mauna Loa Observatory. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America.

College of Engineering & Technology
Terrance K. Orr

Orr, T. K. Project shock factor. Hot Rod magazine, January 2020.

University College
Joshua C. Hilst and Rebecca Disrud

Hilst, J. C. & Disrud, R. (2019). Unhurried conversations: Writing center models for ideological intervention. In Alden, A. L., Gerdes, K., Holiday, J., Skinnell, R., & Crowley, S. (Eds.), Reinventing (with) theory in rhetoric and writing studies: Essays in honor of Sharon Crowley. Utah State University Press, 133-148.

Thomas Mgonga and Kuo-Liang (Leo) Chang

Mgonja, T., & Chang, K. (2019). Difficulties in solving linear equations that contain fractions. Utah Mathematics Teacher.

Woodbury School of Business
Kari J. Olsen

Cragun, O., Olsen, K. J., & Wright, P. M. (2020). Making CEO narcissism research great: A review and meta-analysis of CEO narcissism. Journal of Management, 46(6):908-936.

Don Capener

Cebula, R., Capener, D., Foley, M., & Boylan, R. (2020). Spread between the Moody’s Aaa-rated corporate bond yield and the yield on municipals: Cointegration analysis. Atlantic Economic Journal.

Mitchel R. Murdock

Irmak, C., Murdock, M. R., Kanuri, V. (2020). When consumption regulations backfire: The role of political ideology. Journal of Marketing Research, 57(5), 966-984.

Laying the Groundwork

This year, faculty members were the recipients of many prestigious research grants. Just a few of those grants are highlighted here, including from the National Science Foundation and the National Endowment for the Humanities. These grants will finance research in the fields of engineering, technology, ethics, philosophy, and history. The funds will allow both students and faculty to achieve excellence in scholarship. Additionally, the Melisa Nellesen Center for Autism received a grant from the Utah State Board of Education. These funds will support students pursuing degrees in special education and autism studies.


National Science Foundation (NSF) Grants

The College of Engineering and Technology received an NSF grant of $400,000 to fund undergraduate student research related to wireless and sensor networks, scholarships for transfer students from Salt Lake Community College and Snow College, and graduate student research on wireless communication techniques.

The principal investigator of the NSF grant is Dr. Kazem Sohraby, professor of engineering and associate dean of Student Affairs.

The NSF also recognized the work of Dr. Elaine Englehardt, distinguished professor of ethics and professor of philosophy at UVU. She received a competitive grant totaling more than $600,000 to fund her work with a team of researchers on the ethical attitudes and behaviors of engineering students and future STEM professionals.

National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) Grant

The Center for Constitutional Studies received a highly competitive grant from the NEH to support a research and digitization project that involves entering constitutionally-based historical documents into a data analytics platform. The funds total $424,791 and will support student research on the history of state constitutions of Idaho, Washington, and Wyoming. The primary author of the grant application was former professor Dr. Carl Scott.

Utah State Board of Education (USBE) Grant

In April 2020, the Melisa Nellesen Center for Autism received a grant award totaling $103,322 from the USBE. The grant will fund two years of scholarships for students majoring in special education and minoring in autism studies. The USBE award will also finance the development of hybrid and online versions of courses to allow for flexible delivery to students.

Highlighting #UVUHeroes

In the midst of unprecedented challenges related to the COVID-19 pandemic, the UVU community truly exemplified our core values of exceptional care, exceptional accountability, and exceptional results. The safety of students, faculty, and staff is the university’s highest priority. We would like to recognize several #UVUHeroes who have demonstrated exceptional accountability through ensuring the well-being of our community. These #UVUHeroes have allowed our university not only to thrive and achieve exceptional results but also to extend exceptional care to the community in Utah Valley and beyond.

Lesli Baker headshot

Lesli Baker, director of the Fulton Library, went above and beyond to implement creative solutions to adapt library operations. While some university buildings shut down in the spring, the Fulton Library remained a central location for students to access necessary resources to continue learning.

Andy Byrnes headshot

Andy Byrnes, Firefighter Recruit Candidate Academy director, helped test 4,898 individuals for COVID-19 throughout the state and on the Navajo Reservation, logging more than 215 hours of testing, travel, and training.

Sue Womac headshot

Sue A. Womack, early childhood specialist and quality improvement specialist, provided significant virtual feedback and training for child care center providers. She made regular calls and socially-distant visits to deliver needed supplies, treats, and encouragement.

Boldomero Lago headshot

Baldomero Lago, chief international officer, made heroic efforts to retrieve students from international locations in the midst of COVID-related lockdowns. He worked with faculty, administrators, third-party companies, and the offices of Senators Lee and Romney to assist with student travel in accordance with all advisories.

For more stories on the exceptional efforts of faculty and staff in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, please visit the #UVUHeroes feature on our website.