Weber State shows off to Regents

May 18 2013 - 10:42pm

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OGDEN -- Weber State University got its chance Friday to make an impression on the Utah State Board of Regents with recent accomplishments, thriving programs and projects in need of support.

The group, which rotates its meetings among campuses of Utah's public universities, started its WSU day with a breakfast meeting, then a closed session. Regents then broke into groups for tours of selected campus locations.

Board of Regents chairwoman Bonnie Jean Beesley and board members Leslie Castle and Robert W. Prince took the tour of cramped and antiquated laboratories in the cinder -

block basement of WSU's Science Lab Building.

"It was built in the 1960s as phase one, and we never got the phase two building," said David Matty, WSU Dean of Sciences. The Utah Legislature last year allocated $3.5 million so WSU can design a new space. School officials hope the remaining $58 million or so needed for actual construction will come out of the next Utah Legislature.

"It's amazing what we do with what we have," Matty said.

The group toured three basement level labs. A biology lab was small enough to seem crowded with five people. The regents stood outside a physics lab and peered in. A shared lab area, filled with a variety of lab equipment and a bubbling aquarium of green algae, was large enough to hold the group, except that the regents had to hurry off to their next meeting.

"The facilities and the students impress me in what is being accomplished," Beesley said. "Undergraduate research is a needed opportunity."

Prince agreed.

"I am delighted with what they are doing here," he said. "What they are trying to accomplish as undergraduates is remarkable."

The regents returned to the Shepherd Student Union for committee meetings and for lunch. WSU president Chuck Wight then stood to offer the customary State of the University speech.

Wight talked about the school's fall 2012 enrollment, a new record at 26,680 students, up from 18,306 students in 2007. Wight said he expects the numbers to be down a little this fall and next, then rebound after that.

Wight talked about the increase of Hispanic students. In fall of 2010, WSU had 805 Hispanic students, and by fall of 2012 the number was 2,220.

WSU welcomes all, but a vast majority of students are local, Wight said. Thirty-nine percent of WSU students come from Davis County, and 34.6 percent come from Weber County. Nearly 17 percent come from elsewhere in Utah, and 9.5 come from outside the state.

Wight noted the basketball success of Weber State graduate Damian Lillard, top honors won by professors and by the radiological training program, and the opening this fall of a new charter school.

Wight praised WSU as a leader in online education. He talked about students' and faculty members trips to international locations, where they shared their knowledge and expertise for the benefit of others. WSU students have helped groups in Ghana improve their health care training and technology, and have designed and donated a better patient software program for use in hospitals.

Closer to home, students have used their senior capstone projects to design software to improve efficiency at local charities, including a local food bank.

Wight said he hopes to build on the priorities established by former WSU President F. Ann Millner, who stressed access, community and learning.

Wight described WSU's plans to increase access by working with area school districts to make sure students arrive at WSU ready to succeed. WSU will also try to increase funding and contributions to the Dream Weber program, so it can raise the minimum family income requirement to $30,000. Needy students accepted in the Dream Weber program have their tuition paid through scholarships and private donations.

Wight said WSU strives to increase community through its plans to make Ogden feel like a college town, in part by opening a bookstore facility in a shared space downtown. Wight also hopes to increase internships by WSU students in the fields of business, science and politics.

The learning portion of planned improvements includes plans for the new Science Lab building, improved facilities in other classrooms, and the offering of more hybrid classes that ask students to master material in advance, Wight said, then come to class to ask questions and "cement their understanding."

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