By Anna Tibbitts
Photography By Gabriel Mayberry
and August miller

UVU's open enrollment and dual-mission model give students their own paths to progress.

Utah Valley University’s open enrollment and dual-mission model combine to provide its students with options and opportunities they may not otherwise have. With access to multiple levels of degrees under one roof, UVU students can pursue further education without transferring or moving. The open enrollment provides a place for anyone to begin where they are and progress further on their personal educational path.

Many students have walked through UVU’s doors and back out again with more education than they originally believed possible. UVU Magazine asked a few of those students to share their stories.

Brooke Schroeder

Growing up in San Diego, California, Brooke struggled with crippling guilt and shame. That shame manifested itself as isolation, lying, and eventually an all-consuming drug habit from the ages of 17-22. She flunked out of three universities and survived several overdoses. Years of reckless behavior and abusive relationships culminated with Brooke being admitted to a combination psych ward and detox unit — and a month into her sobriety, her mother died of colon cancer.

It took years for Brooke to become functional following the trauma of her early 20s, and the thought of attending school again was overwhelming. Five years into her sobriety, she decided UVU’s certification for Substance Use Disorder Counseling (SUDC) was not only realistically manageable but also genuinely interesting. Her anxiety around this choice was so debilitating that she met with an advisor at UVU several times over the course of a year before officially deciding to apply.

Brooke was accepted to the SUDC program and found she was capable of excelling in challenging courses. Though she was determined to simply complete her certification and jump back into the workforce, Brooke was surprised and flattered by how often UVU students and faculty assumed she would not only earn her bachelor’s degree, but also attend graduate school. After many corrections, she finally asked a professor why so many people assumed she’d be continuing her education beyond certification. He shrugged and answered with, “Well, you’re an academic.”

“That was when it finally clicked for me,” Brooke says. “Of course people saw me as an academic. I’d been one all along. I had just put myself in this tiny box years ago and never realized it. I absolutely needed other people to see me as a bright and driven person for me to ever see myself that way. Imposter syndrome is so real, and the casual way folks at UVU assume the best in everyone made considering graduate school feel natural.”

“If every professor, advisor, and administrator wasn’t on board for the dual mission at UVU, I wouldn’t have been able to transition so seamlessly from an SUDC certificate student to a bachelor’s student and even a grad school hopeful.”

Brooke’s transition from a certificate track to a bachelor’s degree track became a reality in large part due to UVU’s role as an integrated dual-mission institution. She was able to earn her certificate, develop her goals further, and then pursue higher degrees.

“I needed an environment where I could outgrow my original goal without losing momentum by having to change schools and lose the support system I had built for myself,” Brooke says. “If every professor, advisor, and administrator wasn’t on board for the dual mission at UVU, I wouldn’t have been able to transition so seamlessly from an SUDC certificate student to a bachelor’s student and even a grad school hopeful.”

As she worked toward her bachelor’s degree, Brooke took advantage of the networks and engaged-learning opportunities UVU offers its students. These included the UVU Presidential Internship program, a legislative internship, a study-abroad program at the University of Oxford, and a two-year research project that earned her prestigious off-campus jobs.

“Based on my interests in professional development and public interest, professors gave me the chance to lecture in classes and told me about internship opportunities,” Brooke says. “Others pulled me into research groups or recommended certain books. It felt like my personality was geared to a million different things, and I was given the chance to explore many different fields.”

Not only had Brooke set her sights on a bachelor’s degree, but she began seriously considering a doctorate as well as law school. This trajectory was fully supported by her professors and other employees at UVU. She was taught how to find valuable mentors within the grad school realm, and she was given contacts and referrals to individuals who could answer her questions and guide her.

Brooke graduated from UVU in May 2019 with a bachelor’s degree in behavioral science and a minor in political science. She says she’ll honor UVU by continually expanding her goals beyond what feels possible.

grad school
bachelor's student
SUDC certificate student

Terri Sawyer

Terri Sawyer never had intentions of attending college. She and her 14 siblings were raised in the back hills of Appalachia by her mother and father. Both parents stopped attending school after ninth grade, and her father began working in the coal mines at age 14. Terri first came to campus when UVU was known as Utah Valley State College. She was able to complete two semesters before finding out she was pregnant. She and her husband separated shortly after, and she dropped out of school and moved back to Pennsylvania.

Two years later, Terri was back in Utah with a second child, ready to take on her education once again. She had originally planned to only pursue an associate degree, but after considering the $8 in her bank account, she knew that without a higher degree she would be unable to provide for her little family.

“Although it was difficult for me to see how I could make it through a bachelor’s degree as a single mom with two kids, I knew from my first class at UVU that I could have the support to do more than an associate degree,” Terri says.

“I knew from my first class at UVU that I could have the support to do more than an associate degree.”
Terri teaching a class

With the ability to move from an associate degree to a bachelor’s degree under the same roof, Terri’s progression was seamless. “All of my credits transferred, and my advisor showed me what I needed to complete the bachelor’s degree,” Terri says. “The journey was always crystal clear for me, and I always knew where I was progressing on my journey at the end of each term.”

Terri originally pursued a bachelor’s degree in computer networking, but she soon changed to behavioral science and loved it. Surrounded by professors who answered her questions and expanded her vision to include more education, Terri began to set her sights on graduate school.

“The professors taught me to trust in my learning experience and have faith in my talents and abilities,” she says. “I was constantly acknowledged and praised for my work. There is a spirit at UVU that lets students know that success is so very possible.”

After receiving her bachelor’s degree, Terri went on to earn a Master of Social Work degree at the University of Utah and then a doctorate in social work at Capella University. She has now been working as an adjunct professor in behavioral science at UVU for four years.

Master of Social Work
bachelor’s degree
associate degree
Terri teaching

Charlie Jensen

Charlie Jensen came to UVU with his sights set on Nashville, Tennessee. As a talented singer and songwriter from Layton, Utah, his original plan was to attend UVU and obtain an associate degree in business. From there, he would move to Nashville to turn his passion of songwriting into a career. This plan quickly changed once he had a look into the commercial music program at UVU.

“After taking a few music production classes and listening to the experiences of other students in the program, I realized I had so much more to learn,” Charlie says. “I knew I needed to get a bachelor’s degree to do that, and I met with my advisor to make the change. The whole process was really easy. It took about five minutes, and I was suddenly on track for a bachelor’s.”

Soon after earning his associate degree in business management, Charlie auditioned for UVU’s commercial music program and was not only accepted but also offered a scholarship. Being able to make the easy transition from an associate degree to a bachelor’s degree allowed Charlie to continue honing his music skills without worrying about moving or transferring schools. He was able to stay in the community he had spent two years building for himself and use his time and energy to focus on furthering his education.

Charlie in concert
associate degree in
business management

While Charlie has attended UVU only, he says it wasn’t where he originally planned to get an education. When he wasn’t accepted to his first-choice school, he looked to UVU as a place to land. UVU’s open enrollment allowed him to pursue his education when other institutions might not have.


“After taking a few music production classes and listening to the experiences of other students in the program, I realized I had so much more to learn.”


“I’m so glad UVU is open enrollment and that I didn’t get accepted to the other school,” Charlie says. “The culture and educational quality at UVU is everything I was looking for. Not only does UVU provide a phenomenal learning environment, but the open enrollment here allows anyone a second chance to achieve excellence in college.”

Achieving excellence is exactly what Charlie is doing. With two years left in his degree, Charlie’s passions and abilities have been magnified by the faculty and fellow students around him. He is excelling in his courses and looks forward to completing his bachelor’s degree and pursuing his dream of songwriting.