SUU Celebrates a Decade of Major Accomplishments

Published: January 06, 2020 | Author: Savannah Byers | Read Time: 9 minutes

SUU Clock tower in the snowInnovation and improving the student experience has led Southern Utah University through the past decade. The University has seen steady growth, surpassing 10k students in 2018, and record retention rates in both first and second-year students with a 15.6% increase in first-year retention rates over the past four years.  

As President Wyatt continues to challenge the status quo of higher education and improve the student experience through innovative programs, growth and reputation, the next decade is sure to be better than the last. 

Here’s a look at Southern Utah University’s biggest stories over the past decade: 

2010 - SUU Joins the Big Sky Conference

Southern Utah University’s journey with the Big Sky Conference began in 2010 when the Thunderbirds accepted the invitation to join the conference. Former SUU President Michael T. Benson said, “Today marks the culmination of many years of effort on the part of countless people committed to Southern Utah University and its future.” 

Since 2010, SUU Athletics has continued to grow. In 2015, SUU became Big Sky Champions for the first time when the Thunderbird football team defeated rival Northern Arizona University, and claimed the school’s first ever Big Sky Conference Championship. Just two years later, gymnast Stacie Webb scored the first 10 in school history. More recently, SUU celebrated the completion of the George S. Eccles Sports Performance Center- a place on-campus for hundreds of student-athletes to train. 

2011 - L.S. and Aline W. Skaggs Center for Health and Molecular Sciences Dedicated

SUU’s L.S. and Aline W. Skaggs Center for Health and Molecular Sciences was completed and dedicated in September of 2011, just in time for fall semester. The new building was updated to include a five-room rooftop greenhouse, expanded and updated labs and lab support areas, animal care rooms, a science-specific study lounge, and office space for faculty and advisors. 

Earlier that same year, the College of Science and Engineering received $1 million for the new Science Center from the ALSAM Foundation. Half of the foundation’s gift was designated for the final phase of building construction, and the other half was set aside for scholarships and research endowments specifically for SUU’s College of Science students. The building was officially named the L.S. and Aline W. Skaggs Center for Health and Molecular Sciences in 2013. 

2012  - First NCAA National Title

Building on the success of their 2011 season in which the Utah Shakespeare Festival (USF) was awarded an Emmy; in 2012 USF celebrated 50 years since its 1962 opening season. The USF is a staple of southern Utah, and has grown immensely in size and influence since its founding. 

2012 was undoubtedly SUU’s year of anniversaries, as SUU also celebrated its 115th birthday. The dramatic account of SUU founders provides an example of fortitude for today’s modern university experience. To honor the University’s founding, every March SUU celebrates “Founder’s Week” with a series of celebrations. This is a tradition that continues today.

Thanks to the determination of track and field athlete Cameron Levins, SUU earned its first individual NCAA national title in June 2012. Later that month, Levins earned a second NCAA national title in the men’s 5k at the NCAA National Track and Field Championships. These two are the first and only NCAA titles for SUU. 

In July of 2012, Levins made his Olympic debut running the 10k and 5k in the 2012 Summer Olympics in London, England. In December of that same year Levins was named the 2012 Bowerman Award winner. The Bowerman, which is essentially the Heisman Trophy of the collegiate track & field world, is given annually to the most outstanding male and female track and field athlete of the year.

2013 - SUU Introduces Aviation Program

Now the nation’s largest collegiate rotor program, SUU introduced a new aviation program in partnership with Upper Limit Aviation in 2013. Since its start, SUU’s Aviation program has only grown. After years of working to change an outdated Federal Aviation Administration regulation for aircraft maintenance training curriculum, efforts were rewarded as President Trump signed SUU’s aviation bill into law in 2018. Just a year later, the School of Integrative and Engaged Learning (SIEL) was renamed to the College of Aerospace Sciences and Technology to demonstrate the increased emphasis SUU has placed on the esteemed aviation program.

2014 - President Scott L Wyatt Begins His Tenure

In January of 2014, current SUU President Scott L. Wyatt officially opened his tenure as a T-Bird. Before SUU, Wyatt served for six years as President of Snow College. During his tenure, Snow College’s enrollment increased by 40% and the school consistently ranked in the top 10% of two-year colleges in the U.S. by the Aspen Institute. 

“My family and I look forward to joining with the SUU family,” said President Wyatt, after being named the 16th President of Southern Utah University. “The university has an incredible history and great future, and we are thrilled to be part of it. I am very excited to engage with SUU students, faculty, staff, and community members to build on the university’s strengths, and chart a visionary future together.” 

2015 - School of Business Plans a New Home

In 2015 SUU received $7.5 Million from Dixie and Anne Leavitt Foundation, which remains the largest gift in the University’s history. From the gift, $5 million went toward the construction of the Dixie Leavitt Business Building, and $2.5 million went to student scholarships. 

Three years later, the Dixie Leavitt Business Building was dedicated and became the new home for the Dixie L. Leavitt School of Business. One of the business building’s innovative spaces is the Larry H. and Gail Miller Family Center for Entrepreneurship. The center, designed to foster creativity, collaboration, and innovation, is a place for all students interested in starting their own company and learning to think like entrepreneurs.

2016 - The Beverley Taylor Sorenson Center for the Arts Opens

Building community through the arts, the Beverley Taylor Sorenson Center for the Arts was dedicated and opened in July of 2016. “The Beverley” includes the Southern Utah Museum of Art, the Engelstad Shakespeare Theatre, Randall L. Jones Theatre, the Eileen and Allen Anes Studio Theatre, and the Utah Shakespeare Festival’s Artistic and Production Facility. At a cost of $39 million, the Beverley Center is the largest and most comprehensive construction project that SUU has ever undertaken.

Construction for the Beverley Center was made possible by generous donations and funding, including a $1 million gift to SUMA from the Sorenson Legacy Foundation. Despite the major costs to run and operate the Beverley Center, it remains free and open to the public today. 

2017 - SUU Becomes the University of the Parks

In the fall of 2017, SUU once again claimed the title of being the “The Most Outdoorsy School in the Nation” by winning the Outdoor Nation Campus Challenge and officially became the “University of the Parks.” SUU has developed a reputation for being an active outdoor campus since winning the 2015 Outdoor Nation Campus Challenge, and because of the ideal location, the university is the perfect basecamp for adventurers of all kinds. Students, faculty and staff immerse themselves in, and are inspired by, the diverse and stunning natural landscape of southern Utah. Professors make the most of SUU’s location by using it to enhance educational experiences and foster lifelong learning. 

2018 - SUU and Southwest Tech Launch Dual Enrollment Program

Forming an unprecedented partnership, SUU and Southwest Tech launched the Dual Enrollment Program after legislative funding was approved in March of 2018. The partnership developed from conversations between President Wyatt and Southwest Tech President Brennan M. Wood and is a direct acknowledgment of the diverse needs of students. 

Now in its second year, the Dual Enrollment Program allows students all registered students of SUU to be admitted to Southwest Tech and enroll in certificate programs, and all Southwest Tech students in certificate programs to be admitted to SUU and enroll in classes for credit. 

2019 - 3 Year Bachelor's Degree Program Approved

After being approved and funded by Utah Governor Gary Herbert and the Utah State Legislature, SUU’s 3-Year Bachelor Degree Program was announced in early 2019. The program continues the spirit of innovation at SUU and has the overall goal of reducing barriers to graduation, making it easier for students to save time and money. 

The optional program officially launches in January 2020 with three equal 14-week semesters. To finish a degree in three years, students will enroll in all three semesters during their first and second years. By taking all three semesters for the first two years, the 8 semesters can be completed in three years instead of four.

Southern Utah University and Best Friends Animal Society announced the nation’s first university-endorsed animal services leadership program for working professionals. The partnership between SUU and the nationally-renowned organization is a comprehensive, six-month blended learning program utilizing in-person and online interactive instruction. 

Beyond the bigger stories, SUU has welcomed many new faces across campus in the past decade. President Wyatt has built a strong leadership team adding Marvin Dodge as the vice president of finance, Dr. Jared Tippets as the vice president for student affairs, Mindy Benson as the vice president of alumni and community relations, Debbie Corum as the athletic director, and Dr. Schvalla Rivera as the assistant to the president for diversity and inclusion

On the academic side, SUU has welcomed a new dean to each college: Shauna Mendini began serving as the dean of the College of Performing and Visual Arts in 2011, Dr. Shawn Christiansen became dean of the College of Education and Human Development in 2015, and Dr. Mary Pearson became dean for the School of Business in 2017, Dr. Jean Boreen was chosen to lead the College of Humanities and Social Science in 2018, and Dr. Frank Hall became dean of the College of Science and Engineering and Dr. Patrick Clarke became the interim dean of the new College of Aerospace Sciences and Technology in 2019. And this past year, Student Affairs opened new doors with Heather Ogden becoming the dean of students.   

Over the past ten years, SUU has continued to build a reputation for excellence and has been at the forefront of undergraduate research, experiential education, and scholarship. SUU’s programs have consistently ranked among the top in the nation and the university is recognized for its value and excellence by The Princeton Review, U.S. News and World Report, and Colleges of Distinction. In 2019, SUU was among the top ten in the nation for student lowest debt and among the top 50 for affordable tuition. With a commitment to personalized student experiences and unique educational opportunities, SUU is gaining national attention, positioning SUU as a top university in the Intermountain West.

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