SUU Wins PRSA Utah Chapter Award for Research on the Impact of the Great Resignation

Published: January 09, 2023 | Author: Susie Knudsen | Read Time: 3 minutes

Newsbites PRSA AwardThe Southern Utah University Office of Regional Services recently brought home a Golden Spike Award from the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) Utah Chapter for research measuring the impact of the Great Resignation in southwest Utah, including a model for action-response. A delegation of SUU employees and communication students traveled to Draper, where the gala was held, to commemorate the occasion.

“The Great Resignation is an event taking place across the nation, including right here in southern Utah,” said Stephen Lisonbee, assistant vice president of SUU Regional Services. “Publishing this research helps employers in our region understand what is causing employees to leave their positions, and how to reverse that trend.”

Finalists in the PRSA Utah Chapter research category included Brigham Young University (BYU), The Other Side Village Measurement and Evaluation; BYU, Provo Team for the Lymphoma Research Foundation; BYU, YouTube Channel Analysis; SUU, Impact of the Great Resignation on Southern Utah; and Utah Valley University, Affordable Housing in Wasatch County.

Commissioned by the Iron County Economic Workforce Development Committee and 16 collaborating partners, SUU’s award-winning research was led by Melynda Thorpe, executive director of SUU’s Community & Professional Development office. The effort commenced in the fall of 2021, due to a large number of unfilled job openings in the region, in an effort to cultivate understanding, combine resources and respond collaboratively to help meet the needs of southern Utah’s workforce in the post-pandemic economy.

“As a team of researchers, we are appreciative of this honor and grateful for the opportunity to help our region of the state respond to an employment crisis through research,” said Thorpe. “This work determines that, while southern Utah has distinct economic and workforce characteristics, we are no exception to the global phenomenon and impact of the Great Resignation.”

In Dec. 2021, the research program began with a regional employer survey garnering 192 responses from employers representing Beaver, Garfield, Iron, Kane and Washington counties. Focus groups representing the employee perspective (including unemployed participants) were conducted in April 2022 and resulted in more than 200 pages of transcribed interviews. Key findings indicate that one, employees need to feel valued; two, onboarding and ongoing training are crucial to employee retention and success in the workplace; and three, employees need to feel meaning and purpose in their work. If these three fundamental needs (among others that emerged in the research) are not met, the economic pitfalls presented by the Great Resignation could continue.

Another outcome of the research has been establishing a regional response and developing the Workplace Ready one-year employment resurgence program. This comes in the form of two no-cost career pathway programs: Hospitality and Tourism or Computer Technology. These programs are funded for 330 regional residents by a $476,400 grant from the Utah System of Higher Education (USHE). The two pathways – part of SUU’s “Learn and Work in Utah” campaign – will help southern Utah residents obtain the necessary skills and experience to secure higher-paying jobs in the industries mentioned above, while also encouraging them to remain in southern Utah. 

The research team: Melynda Thorpe, Executive Director SUU Community & Professional Development, Southern Utah University (Principal Investigator); Chris Healy, Ph.D., Assistant Professor of Management, Utah Tech University (Co-principal Investigator); Tanner Vario, Program Manager, Southern Utah University (Research Manager); David Olsen, Assistant Professor Information Systems and Analytics, Utah Tech University (Statistician); Patricia Keehley, Ph.D., Southern Utah University Emeriti (Research Advisor). The full research study report may be found at

The Office of Regional Services at SUU has a dedicated community engagement focus of working closely with local governments, state and federal agencies, and industry. Through partnerships and cross-jurisdictional collaboration, the office supports economic, community and workforce development. Through educational programming, Regional Services provides rural leadership and development opportunities and a central location to support innovation. More information can be found at

Photos courtesy of SUU Community & Professional Development:

Newsbites_PRSA Award.jpg - SUU’s Community and Professional Development team receive a Golden Spike Award

Tags: Regional Services Community and Professional Development Learn and Work

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