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Team UVU: 2018 Outstanding Educators

Awarded for each UVU college and school, based on votes from the Class of 2018

By Barbara Christiansen | Photography by August Miller and Hans Koepsell

Outstanding Educators

Woodbury School of Business: Hyrum Smith

A professional in residence, Hyrum Smith is a Certified Financial Planner and Certified Public accountant. He has been at UVU since 2013 and is also a partner at a wealth management practice. He has taught at Virginia Tech, worked for an international public accounting firm and been a senior treasury analyst for Albertson's headquarter offices.

He was recently the faculty advisor of a team of UVU students that placed first overall in a national financial planning challenge.

"I love challenging students to think not just about the content, whether it be retirement or tax planning, but showing them now in practice these topics can be crafted uniquely together to help a client more fully reach goals," he says.

College of Health and Public Service: Merilee Larsen

Merilee M. Larsen earned a bachelor's in community health from then-Utah Valley State College, and master's and doctorate of public health, both from Loma Linda University. She has been teaching at UVU for 18 years, beginning as an adjunct, then lecturer, instructor and assistant. She started in fire sciences for 10 years, then spent the last eight years in public and community health. She received the Adjunct Faculty of Excellence Award from UVU in 2010.

"There are two great aspects of working at UVU," she says. "First are the amazing students and alumni that I get to interact with. Second is the awesome faculty and staff. I get to be a part of a dynamic group who support each other, work well together, and work hard toward creating the next generation of health educators."

School of Education: Suzy Cox

An associate professor in the School of Education, Suzy Cox has a bachelor's degree in Spanish, and master's and doctoral degrees in instructional psychology and technology, all from Brigham Young University. She has been at UVU since 2006, has also taught at Lakeridge Junior High School and currently serves as a volunteer teacher at Springville High School. Cox received an Outstanding Educator award at UVU in 2011-12. She also received an award for online course design, a graduate mentor award and faculty excellence award from the School of Education, and was a finalist for the Wolverine Achievement Awards in 2009.

"I am lucky to work in secondary education, which allows me to interact with outstanding colleagues and an exceptional student body, all of whom are focused on the health and success of adolescents," she says.

University College: Kolene Mills

Kolene Mills is both an alumna and employee of UVU. She earned a bachelor's in English and literature from Utah Valley State College and a master's in rhetoric and composition from Northern Arizona University. She has worked in various capacities at UVU. She is director of academic tutoring in University College and is an active member of the National College Learning Center Association. She said she found a safe place at UVU as a as a student.

"I love that UVU continues to focus on student success and that I'm encouraged — professionally and personally — to make an impact...I love that it is still a happy and safe home to me, my curiosity is still encouraged, my growth is still a priority, and that our students are always the most important part of this campus community," she says.

College of Science and Health: Olga Ruiz Kopp

Olga Ruiz Kopp earned a bachelor's degree in Bogotå, Colombia, and master's and doctoral degrees from the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. She has been a post-doctoral research assistant in Knoxville, an invited research professor at Michigan State University, and has been at UVU since 2003, where she has been a full professor since fall 2017. She also received the Outstanding Educator award for the 2007-08 school year, plus numerous other awards at UVU and University of Tennessee.

"The best part of working at UVU is the opportunity to serve students and guide them on their path to success, engaging them inside and outside the classroom in learning and research, and encouraging them to find their inner strength, to publish their work, to find new horizons so they can be successful," she says.

College of Engineering and Technology: Matthew North

Matthew North is an assistant professor of information systems and technology. He has been a software engineer at eBay and project manager for University Computer Systems. He is a Fulbright Specialist in Argentina, received the Ben Bauman Award for Excellence and the Gamma Sigma Alpha Outstanding Professor honor at Washington & Jefferson College. He earned a doctorate in technology education from West Virginia University, master of science from Utah State University, bachelor's in history from BYU, and certificate of proficiency in legal studies from UVU.

"For me, the single best aspect of working at UVU is the students," he says. "Our institutional emphasis on teaching ensures that I get to be a true educator, and that my primary professional goal is the success of my students."

College of Humanities and Social Sciences: Alan Misbach

Alan Misbach serves as an assistant professor of social work and director of field education. He came to UVU after 20 years as a licensed clinical social worker with a master's degree in social work from the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. He had been director of social work at Utah State Hospital, where he was instrumental in implementing a successful trauma focused cognitive behavioral therapy program and other practices. He has been a therapist at six facilities and served as president of the Utah chapter of the National Association of Social Workers.

"The greatest aspect of working at UVU is the students," he says. "I'm honored to be a part of their education. Students never cease to amaze me. They're intelligent, mature, competent and eager to learn. It makes being an instructor a pleasure."

School of the Arts: Mark Borchelt

Mark Borchelt is an associate professor and has earned a bachelor's in psychology and master of fine arts — ballet, both from the University of Utah. He has danced professionally for 15 years, primarily with Ballet West, in classical and contemporary choreography. He has taught at the University of Utah, Southern Methodist University and Cornish College in Seattle. He has been director of dance at the Interlochen Arts academy in Michigan and a faculty member at Harvard University's Project Zero. He received a U.S. Department of Education Educator Award while at Interlochen and a Faculty Excellence Award from SMU.

"I am continually impressed by the degree to which our students at UVU want to make a difference in the world around them," he says.