Name: Renee Ballenger
Wesley Curtis, director of the Utah Center for Rural Life for the past nine years, is now going to play a more prominent role in the administration at Southern Utah University, in fulfillment of the institution’s revived vision of its service role to the region.
As a newly-named Assistant to the President & Director of Regional Services, Curtis will be a member of the President’s Council at SUU and as such, will actively participate in regular meetings with the president and vice presidents. One of the objectives of this new appointment is to guarantee more attention to the expanded emphasis placed on regional services, as decreed in SUU’s current Strategic Plan.
For more than 15 years, SUU has advanced its chartered mission as a regional institution by addressing the policy, planning, and economic development needs of the state’s rural communities through the Utah Center for Rural life. SUU is recognized statewide for the flagship role it plays in rural community and economic development.
SUU has a clear and optimistic vision for the unique and critical role it must continue to play as a regional university serving a broad and diverse region. Its aim is to be a catalyst for regional economic growth; a partner and resource to businesses, communities and governments; a source of artistic and cultural enrichment for the regions residents; and an impetus in building regional pride and identity through outstanding sports and recreation programs.
SUU’s Strategic Plan in regional relations is three-pronged including development in the areas of academics, the residential campus experience, and economically and culturally-enriching endeavors. The Utah Center for Rural Life will contribute to reaching these goals by continuing to practice its traditional leadership role in the rural communities of the region, but now, by also striving to focus even more heavily on a few extension areas in which SUU is equipped to be a prime service resource.
One of the main new initiatives will be the implementation of a regional economic development and applied research center--a “business incubator without walls,” as Curtis describes it. This center will be a business development center for existing businesses as well as specific kinds of start-up businesses—at times even providing the space in which these businesses can “get on their feet,” so to speak.
In his position, Curtis will also develop the educational and recreational opportunities in the region by establishing a station in the southern area of the state of the Utah Science and Technology and Research (USTAR) Outreach program. He will also work to develop public and private partnerships, and hold a series of business and community roundtables to increase understanding and responsiveness to the needs of the region.
During his 12 years at SUU, Curtis has also spent six years on Governor Leavitt’s senior staff as Rural Affairs Liaison and as State Planning Coordinator, and one year in the same capacity with Governor Walker. He currently serves as the Legislative Liaison for SUU and has worked with both the state executive and legislative branches for 15 years on a variety of community planning, rural economic development and public lands issues. His affiliations extend to the federal level as well, having worked with Congress on two lands bills and with the White House on a National Monument proposal.
Through its more than 100-year history, Southern Utah University has evolved from a teacher training school into its current role as a comprehensive, regional university to 6,000 students from across the globe. It serves the southern region of Utah and contiguous counties in surrounding states with undergraduate and graduate programs in six colleges. People of the region look to the University for outreach services, culture, economic and business development, higher learning, regional history, public affairs, major academic specialties, and significant entertainment and recreation. Accentuated by the notable, economic value of its services, SUU's hallmark is its quality staff, faculty and academics.
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