Where Affordability Meets Hands-on Learning and Career Readiness
Located in St. George, Utah Tech University has embedded innovation into every student’s learning experience through its “active learning. active life.” approach to education. As an open, inclusive, and comprehensive polytechnic university, Utah Tech is making the hands-on, career-preparing education synonymous with a polytechnic institution available to all students seeking an education. Dr. Richard “Biff” Williams, President of Utah Tech University, says, “Utah Tech is a comprehensive university that embraces polytechnic learning. We are truly unique because we are also committed to being open and inclusive.”
Utah Tech, as an open institution, not only accepts all students with a high school diploma or equivalent certificate but also removes any obstacles that traditionally get in the way of students earning an education while making resources available to anyone who seeks them. Similarly, Utah Tech helps diverse individuals learn and succeed by offering a variety of inclusive teaching methods that resonate with all students.
Utah Tech’s human-centered approach to problem-solving prepares students studying all disciplines – humanities, arts, education, health sciences, business, and STEM — for successful careers and meaningful lives. Dr. Williams shares, “Our students learn through hands-on education and authentic industry experiences that cater to diverse abilities. They make, create, and innovate while gaining real-world active learning experiences through internships, clinical experiences, undergraduate research, industry partnerships, and service learning.”
Offering Opportunities for Hands-on Learning
For example, Utah Tech’s Physical Therapist Assistant and Engineering students help area children with special needs become mobile by rewiring battery-operated cars through the university’s partnership with the Go Baby Go program. These cars function as power wheelchairs for kids too young for traditional wheelchairs and have been entirely dependent on others for mobility since birth. “Physical Therapist Assistant students assess the needs of each child while Engineering students build harnesses for supports and switches to replace the throttle for children who lack the motor control to use a gas pedal,” explains Dr. Williams.
Similarly, students in majors across campus are creating and participating in virtual reality labs. In the virtual reality dental hygiene lab, students gain real-world experience by practicing X-ray procedures and practice using materials made to scale. Dr. Williams adds, “Our students not only learn from participating in virtual reality labs but also from designing them, as students in 3D design and computer and software development classes assist with creating these labs.”
Combining active learning and active life, biology students hike and go canyoneering through Southern Utah’s beautiful national parks, forests, mountains, and canyons to research the area’s tree frog population. Others scour the campus for lizards to study, while others venture into the desert to tag rare Bearclaw poppy plants.
Creating an Entrepreneurial Mindset
Outside the classroom, Utah Tech’s students and community members can transform their ideas into products and viable businesses through the support and services offered by Atwood Innovation Plaza. Located right on the Utah Tech campus, this premier business development pipeline is a hub for innovation and entrepreneurship. Dr. Williams states, “Atwood Innovation Plaza’s unique, comprehensive approach to innovation has proven highly effective. The Plaza has vetted 767 innovations, submitted 195 patents and 104 trademarks and had 22 copyrights granted.”
Atwood Innovation Plaza offers an excellent platform for budding entrepreneurs to participate in free business consultations, receive support and the training necessary to launch or grow their businesses, and even rent workspace as they are incubating their businesses. In the Plaza’s makerspace, creators build prototypes of their inventions, manufacture small runs of products, and participate in educational workshops to learn more about making the products of their dreams. “When they’re ready to patent their ideas, inventors can even receive assistance with researching their proof of concept and help to secure patents, trademarks, and copyrights. Finally, when it’s time to get their businesses up and running, owners can receive help at Atwood Innovation Plaza with problem validation, customer segmentation, unit economics, market-sizing, and competitive landscape mapping,” explains Dr. Williams.
Thanks in part to the Plaza’s work, the United States Patent and Trademark Office officially designated Utah Tech University Library as a Patent and Trademark Resource Center, enhancing entrepreneurs’ ability to file patents and get them granted.
In another innovative move to offer students tech training outside of the traditional classroom, Utah Tech has partnered with Pluralsight to make more than 7,000 self-paced technology programs available to the university community. Students in all areas of study can increase their technology-based skills and digital fluency, preparing them to incorporate the latest technology into everything they do. As part of the only partnership of its kind, professors can learn best practices and receive training through the Center of Excellence.
An Active Academic Life
“Rounding out the active learning experience, we also offer students the complete college experience through student life opportunities, Division I athletics, and cultural events. We have more than 80 active student clubs offering myriad opportunities to fully immerse in the “active learning. active life.” experience,” says Dr. Williams. Additionally, Utah Tech’s Campus Life and Wellness division takes advantage of the university’s beautiful location, set amid striking landscapes and national parks, and offers outdoor adventures and learning opportunities.
Academically, the university’s Academic Performance & Tutoring Center is available to students at no additional cost and provides services such as one-on-one tutoring and a study hall, where they can work on homework and tutors are nearby for support as needed. Similarly, Utah Tech’s comprehensive Career Services offers students complimentary training and assistance as they prepare for their future careers.
Creating a Bright Future with a Solid Foundation
Utah Tech gained university status just a decade ago, having been a two-year and later a four-year college for a century. The institution has diligently worked to secure not only university status but also university stature, gaining recognition among students for its commitment to offering high-quality education at a great value. “We have added 165 programs since 2014 to more than 250 available options today. Furthermore, our 2022 student population reflects a 50 percent increase in student enrollment in 2014,” shares Dr. Williams, who began his tenure as the 18th president of Utah Tech University in August 2014 and has overseen incredible growth ever since.
To meet the needs of the growing student body, Utah Tech has added two student-housing facilities, a human performance center, and a science, engineering, and technology building since 2014, increasing facility square footage on campus by 39 percent. Additionally, a third student-housing facility and general classroom building will be underway soon. “We also plan to continue adding academic programs at the bachelor’s and master’s degree levels and new doctoral programs in the upcoming years. With a long-term commitment to an active education emphasizing career preparation, we are equipped to prepare graduates to meet industry demand in all fields for generations to come,” concludes Dr. Williams.
For More Info: https://utahtech.edu/
Dr. Richard “Biff” Williams, President of Utah Tech University
Richard “Biff” Williams began his tenure as the 18th president of Utah Tech University in August 2014 and has overseen incredible growth ever since. Under his leadership, Utah Tech enhanced student resources and experiences, nearly doubling the amount of scholarship funds, instituting the “active learning. active life.” approach to education, increasing campus diversity, and transitioning Utah Tech Athletics to Division-I. Thanks to his leadership, millions of dollars have been invested in employee salary increases, and the institution has been consistently included in U.S. News & World Report’s Best Colleges rankings.
Currently, Dr. Williams is guiding the University’s growth as an open, inclusive, comprehensive polytechnic university that offers hands-on learning opportunities that prepare students to graduate career-ready. As part of this mission, Dr. Williams forms partnerships with industry leaders to inform curriculum and prepare graduates to meet workforce demands. Previously, he has served as the provost and a dean at Indiana State University and an associate dean, faculty member, and department chair at the University of Northern Iowa. He holds a bachelor’s in lifestyle management from Weber State University, a master’s in athletic training from Indiana State, and a doctorate in curriculum and instruction from New Mexico State University.