History of UVU

Historical Development Summary

Utah Valley University was established in 1941 as Central Utah Vocational School (CUVS) with the primary function of providing war production training. CUVS was part of the Provo School District located in south Provo. The institution received a state appropriation in March 1945 of $50,000 to operate for the 1945-1947 biennium. In 1947, the school received funding as a permanent state institution.

A new site for the school was acquired on University Avenue in Provo in 1948; in the 1952, the state appropriated funding for the first construction on that site. As enrollments grew, the state acquired over 185 acres in southwest Orem and the first building was completed in 1977. Today, the University’s facilities consist of a combined total of 412 acres with 50 buildings with campuses in Orem, Provo, and Heber City and property in Vineyard and at Thanksgiving Point in Lehi.

In 1963, the school’s name changed to Utah Trade Technical Institute to reflect its growing role in technical training. The name again changed in 1967 to Utah Technical College at Provo. The institution was approved in 1966 to grant Associate of Applied Science degrees, in 1967 to offer general education courses, in 1971 to grant Associate of Science degrees (discontinued in 1974 and reinstated in 1981), and in 1987 to grant Associate of Arts degrees. With its expanded degree offerings, the institution’s name changed again to Utah Valley Community College in 1987. In 1993, the institution’s name changed to Utah Valley State College and the mission was expanded to include the offering of bachelor’s degrees. On July 1, 2008, the institution underwent another mission and name change to Utah Valley University and began offering master degree programs.

Throughout its history, UVU has responded to its service region’s (Utah, Wasatch and Summit counties) population changes and business/industry needs. This responsiveness is evidenced in its mission, program offering, degree level, and enrollment changes.

Sources: A Miracle in Utah Valley—The Story of Utah Technical College 1941-1982, Wilson W. Sorensen

Utah Valley University Self-study Report, 2010

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More on the History of the University

In 1941, the nation was slowly recovering from the Depression of the 1930s. The shadow of war was creeping closer, and the need for arms and ammunition by the Allied forces demanded skilled craftsmen. Many citizens had benefited from the federal work programs during the Depression but needed more training to qualify for better jobs. Vocational classes were taught at various shops and businesses throughout Utah and Heber valleys under the direction of the State Vocational Office. In fall 1941, under the direction of Hyrum E. Johnson, those vocational training courses were moved to a central location in south Provo and were named Central Utah Vocational School.

After World War II, 90 percent of the school's budget was lost with the cancellation of the war production training funds. A bill was introduced in the 1943 Utah Legislature to make the school a state-supported, two-year vocational school. The bill, although approved in the House, was defeated in the Senate. Cutbacks followed, and fewer classes were offered until the college received a $50,000 operating costs appropriation for 1945 through 1947. The appropriation was strongly opposed by local two-year colleges and the two local universities because it posed a threat to the money those institutions received from the Legislature. In 1947, the school received funding as a permanent state institution.

During the summer of 1945, Johnson was given a leave of absence. Following a short transitional period, Wilson W. Sorensen, former purchasing agent for the school, was appointed director. Sorensen was instrumental in obtaining a new 13-acre site for the school in Provo, purchased by Provo City, Utah County, and the four local school districts with the understanding that the state would finance new college facilities.

In 1952, the state appropriated $400,000 for the first phase of the Provo Campus. The complete facility was built in three phases and completed in 1963. The campus was designed for 1,200 students. In 1961, enrollment was nearing 1,000 students; by 1971, it increased 100 percent to nearly 2,000, far more than the campus could accommodate.

Growth brought many changes to the College. During the Sorensen years, the name of the College changed several times to reflect these dynamics. In 1963, it changed from Central Utah Vocational School to Utah Trade Technical Institute. In 1967, it became Utah Technical College at Provo, and with this change, the College was given authority to confer associate degrees. Demand for more space sent college officials searching for land. One hundred and eighty-five acres of farmland were purchased in southwest Orem adjacent to I-15. The first phase of the new campus used state and student funds for the first buildings and a $1.5 million federal grant for landscaping. This initial campus was dedicated in March 1977 with a business and administration building. A learning resource center and trades building were added to the campus as soon as the state made funds available.

In 1982, Sorensen retired after 41 years of service and 37 years as president. J. Marvin Higbee, former president of Snow College in Ephraim, Utah, was named the third president of the College. President Higbee took on the challenge of broadening the image and scope of the College by offering expanded educational opportunities to all facets of the community. In 1987, the Legislature changed the school's name to Utah Valley Community College to reflect this expanded mission.

The campus continued to expand under Higbee. Not only were major building projects initiated, but several education programs were also added to help the College keep pace with local demand. Higbee also emphasized the need for community support of the institution by focusing the involvement efforts of the Development Office, the Utah Valley Community College Foundation and the Alumni Association. In 1988, Lucille Stoddard, vice president for academic affairs, was appointed interim president during the search for a new president.

Kerry D. Romesburg was appointed president in 1988 and led the College into an era of incredible growth. President Romesburg analyzed the needs of the students and directed his efforts toward filling those needs. With the student in mind, Romesburg initiated the conversion of the College to a semester calendar, the first state school to do so. Also under Romesburg's direction, emphasis on international education, arts and humanities, and short-term training was instilled throughout the curriculum. Due to his attention to international relations, UVCC became one of the first community colleges to sign an exchange agreement with Soviet Russia. Additional exchange agreements were created with China, Hong Kong, Taiwan and Germany.

Romesburg focused on small class sizes, academics and the valuable trades and vocational training UVCC offered. During Romesburg's tenure, which stretched from 1991 to 2002, student enrollment skyrocketed. Some 8,700 students walked the halls in 1991, while more than 23,000 were enrolled in 2002.

In 1992, the Utah System of Higher Education and the Board of Regents proposed an initial offering of four-year degrees at UVCC. Romesburg jumped at the opportunity to increase the college's offerings. Business Management, Computer Science and Information Systems, and Technology Management were the first three bachelor degree programs offered.

After noting the institution was growing and expanding its mission and focus, the Board of Regents changed the name to Utah Valley State College in 1993, and the school received its provisional accreditation from the Northwest Accreditation Association. Additionally, a five-year consortium agreement was established between UVSC and the Kiev College of Hotel Management in the Ukraine, and UVSC became the first institution in the United States to receive accreditation for programs offered in the former Soviet Union. Official accreditation was awarded June 22, 1994.

The rest of the 1990s saw significant growth for the new state college. Bachelor degree after bachelor degree was added to the institution's offering plate, and by 2003 the grand total was 33. More than 50 associate degrees were also offered, along with certifications, diplomas and concurrent enrollment programs.

The Center for the Study of Ethics was created in 1993, with an emphasis on training ethical leaders. In 2001, UVSC was awarded the Theodore M. Hesbergh Award, a $30,000 cash prize rewarding innovative ethics curricula that inspired similar initiatives at other schools. In 1996, the David O. McKay Events Center for special events was completed and dedicated on the Orem Campus. UVSC, a member of the National Junior Collegiate Athletic Association, saw not only many Utah Valley athletic events but also many community trade shows, concerts and conferences. In January 1997, the single-game attendance record for an NJCAA team was set at 8,063 in the McKay Events Center.

The late 1990s and the early 2000s saw extensive construction on campus. UVSC announced the Liberal Arts Building to be completed in August 2003, and the Utah County Journal Building was purchased on the southeast side of campus and remodeled.

Other campus expansions included the addition of the Wasatch Campus in Heber City, Utah. UVU has campus offerings in both the north and south ends of Utah Valley. Additionally, UVSC opened the Woodbury Art Museum at the University Mall in Orem, displaying contemporary student and faculty works along with other artists and exhibits.

In 2002, Romesburg left for another administrative position and Lucille Stoddard, vice president for academic affairs, was again appointed interim president during the search for a new president. William A. Sederburg was chosen as the fifth president of UVSC. President Sederburg previously led Ferris State University in Big Rapids, Mich. — a school with both undergraduate and graduate programs.

In that same year, the school was given a provisional status in the NCAA Division I athletic competition. UVSC started D-I play in the 2003-2004 school year. A new wrestling program was added and continues to be the only one of its kind in the state of Utah. Other intercollegiate programs include men's baseball, basketball, cross country, golf, and track and field, and women's basketball, cross-country, golf, soccer, softball, track and field, and volleyball. A new baseball stadium was added in 2005. Also in 2005, what had been the Vineyard Elementary School was remodeled to house the School of Education.

In September 2006, ground was broken for a new 190,000 square foot library to be completed in 2008. In February 2007, the Utah Legislature unanimously voted to make Utah Valley State College a university in 2008. With the new name came a new mission, role statement and set of core values to guide the University in the coming years. On July 1, 2008, UVSC officially became Utah Valley University and the UVU Library held its ribbon-cutting ceremony. The Capitol Reef Field Station opened in October 2008 as a unique learning facility within a National Park.

In August 2008, President Sederburg officially resigned his position as president of UVU in order to fulfill his new responsibilities as Commissioner of Higher Education in Utah. Dr. Liz Hitch, vice president for academic affairs, was appointed as interim president, and Karl Worthington assumed her duties as acting vice president for academic affairs.

Under President Sederburg's leadership, a strategic planning model was developed that aligned planning with budgeting and accountability (PBA Process). The athletic and academic programs prospered. The institution went from college to university status. The number of bachelor degrees offered went from 31 in 2003 to 58 in 2009. Today the University offers 66 bachelor degrees, and the number continues to grow. UVU began offering master degrees in the fall of 2008 with the Master of Education. In the fall of 2009, the Master of Nursing was offered, and a Master of Business Administration began fall 2010.

On June 1, 2009, Dr. Matthew S. Holland was selected as the university's sixth president. Throughout his career, President Holland has established a reputation as a respected educator, savvy problem-solver and master communicator. His highly developed leadership skills have served him well as he leads UVU into the future.

UVU was granted official NCAA Division I membership on July 7, 2009, after a 7-year provisional process. UVU became a member of the Great West Conference and received three consecutive Commissioner's Cups for highest performance of all athletic teams. New facilities were added for track, soccer and softball. On July 1, 2013, UVU began a new era in the Western Athletic Conference. Student athletes have won academic and athletic honors, including a softball national title and a 32-game winning streak by the baseball team in 2012.

President Holland realized the need for additional facilities with the burgeoning student population. In March 2010, the Utah Legislature approved funding for the new Science Building, which was completed April 2012. The new Facilities Building, Noorda Theatre, Business Resource Center, expanded Wee Care Center, Student Life and Wellness Building, and Classroom Building have all been approved or completed during his tenure, along with numerous remodeling projects.

The University made several changes to the institution's schools and colleges with the move to university status, including the naming of the Woodbury School of Business. The other schools and colleges include the School of the Arts, School of Education, University College, College of Humanities and Social Sciences, College of Science, College of Technology and Computing, and College of Aviation and Public Services, which was approved in the fall of 2011.

During Holland's first year, he developed four themes for the University — student success, inclusive, engaged and serious. Holland was instrumental in UVU's designation as an All-Steinway School, the development of a Business Engagement Strategy, the addition of the Freshman Reading Program and Presidential Lecture Series, the development of a strategic enrollment management plan and strategic planning advisory council, the implementation of the University Project and the creation of the Women's Success Center and the Center for Global & Intercultural Engagement to support the institution's inclusive focus.

Structured enrollment was instituted fall 2012 to maintain UVU's historical role as an open admission institution while increasing the seriousness of the university experience. Enrollment in fall 2011 topped at 33,395 students. More than 80% of UVU's students are from Utah, with students representing all 50 states as well as 80 countries.

President Holland is eager to build on the successes of previous generations and emphasizes the institution's role as a key contributor to the region's academic development and economic growth. UVU provides access to quality education as the current provider of higher education for more Utahns than any other state institution. Utah Valley University has overcome many challenges through innovation and creativity to provide opportunities for student success and engaged learning, which are the heart of UVU's mission.