Study shows more than 28,000 adults in Utah County are illiterate; UVU program wants to help offer solutions


As organizations struggle to research and identify ways to tackle the illiteracy problem in the United States, one Utah nonprofit — Project Read — is making headway, with help from Utah Valley University.

UVU’s newest program within its Center for Social Impact is the Social Impact Metrics Lab or SIMLab. The SIMLab was created with organizations like Project Read in mind.

Often, nonprofit organizations don’t have the necessary budget or expertise to run the sort of meaningful research and analytics needed to assess their social impact and document and memorialize the good work being done. However, the UVU SIMLab can do this for organizations for free. An outcome of the Social Impact Fellows program, the SIMLab is a faculty-mentored, interdisciplinary program where students from across campus conduct research, run analyses, and make strategic recommendations to organizations based on rigorous qualitative and quantitative research and analysis methodologies and industry best practices.

“We are trying to help Project Read assess the quality and impact of its various adult literacy curriculum, programs, and initiatives, as well as the overall impact their work has on the lives of the participants and on the surrounding community,” said Jonathan Westover, academic director for the Center for Social Impact and associate professor of Organizational Leadership.

According to Professor Andre Oliveira, a social impact fellow in the Center for Social Impact, “SIMLab projects are designed to give students the opportunity to learn how to handle and analyze data, help different types of organizations, and be introduced to the world of research methods.”

Currently, more than 250 students in six different service-learning courses (four different academic departments in two colleges/schools) across campus are running social impact research and analytics projects for 12 organizations like Project Read, and they plan to take more on each semester.

Results and recommendations will be turned over to the organization, and the data provided will be helpful in grant writing and fundraising, as well as in offering valuable insight into program efficacy.

Project Read is a committed community partner of the UVU SIMLab and is looking forward to both semester-based short-term projects and results, as well as a long-term, multiyear data gathering and analysis project ultimately aimed at increasing its impact in addressing adult literacy challenges in Utah County and the surrounding communities.  They know this data will tell them what activities are most productive and, based on this information, they will be more effective in fighting illiteracy.

“We are excited to work with UVU to conduct and analyze research that we could not do on our own. We just don’t have the resources or the manpower,” said Shauna K. Brown, executive director of Project Read. “The service UVU is providing allows us to use staff to focus on our mission, but then analyze the effectiveness of what we are doing to better inform future program decisions. We are thrilled at the prospect of having this data to show the impact Project Read is having on the Utah County community.”

The SIMLab is looking for additional organizations for students to work on. Interested parties can call 801.863.8888.
About Project Read
Project Read provides one-on-one tutoring services to adults with low literacy skills in Utah County and changes lives through literacy by empowering individuals, strengthening families, and building community. The goals of Project Read are met through the cooperation of community volunteers and other organizations that serve adults with low literacy skills. For more information about becoming a student or tutor, or to donate to Project Read, please call our office at (801) 448-7323 (READ), or visit our website at