By Emiley Morgan
Utah Valley State College has had a long history, a history of evolution and change.
Yet throughout its 66-year history, UVSC has always been about serving the needs of the community. From its beginnings as a vocational school to its recently attained university status, UVSC has made it a point to respond to the needs of the community.
Val Hale, vice president of advancement at UVSC, explained this concept of an institution that has evolved to serve its community.
“I think the most interesting part of UVSC”s history is that it has a history of transition,” Hale said. “It has constantly evolved through the years to meet the needs of this region.”
Hale has only been at UVSC for three years, but he is well aware of the strides the institution has taken to get to where it is today.
“It began about 1941 and it started as a way to help with war manufacturing, and within five years that was over, so then it had to transition to a vocational school,” Hale said. “Each segment of history has been important, but we have been constantly evolving and changing. In terms of university status, the momentum has been building toward this for a long time. Where we go from here will depend on the needs of the community and the region.”
According to the UVSC Web site, the history of UVSC does, in fact, begin in 1941 during World War II, when the Allied need for arms and ammunition became increasingly important. The State Vocational School was offering vocational classes across Utah and Heber valleys to train the craftsmen needed, but a central location was necessary. In the fall of 1941, the classes were combined in such a central location in south Provo.
Scott Hammond, assistant vice president of academic affairs, spoke about the variety of classes that were offered at that point in UVSC”s history. Hammond also reinforced the idea of UVSC”s objective of fulfilling the demands of its community.
“One thing that makes all of it interesting is that we”ve always been an institution that responds to this community”s needs,” Hammond said. “In its founding days of 1941 we taught people wartime skills. We had a class on how to make canvas airplane wings because people had to know how to stitch canvas on the wing. Fast forward to today where we”re teaching global literacy skills. It”s a totally different knowledge-based skill set but each is a response to a community”s need. Our goal is to be responsive to this area”s economic need and that”s who we are. Each touch point in history has that theme.”
Following the war, UVSC became a two-year vocational school, and in 1947, it became a permanent state institution. In 1963, it”s name changed from Central Utah Vocational School to Utah Trade Technical Institute. In 1967, the name was changed to Utah Technical College at Provo, making an additional change in 1987 when the school became Utah Valley Community College. The college didn”t receive its current name until 1993.
Hammond said the technical school designation is one that has stayed with the school, and it may inhibit the public”s ability to accept UVSC as a serious university.
“Our image hasn”t caught up with our ability yet,” Hammond said. “There are people in the community who think of us as the tech school, and people at BYU see us as a step down. It takes a long time to change the reputation of an academic institution. It”s our project from here on out to have a better image and reputation so it lives up to our quality.”
Lucille Stoddard spent 41 years at UVSC, serving in roles as diverse as dean of the School of Business and interim school president. Stoddard said the most difficult transition UVSC faced during her time there was the shift to becoming a community college, which took place in 1987.
“We had faculty resistance, as many thought we were giving up the whole trade institution,” Stoddard said. “Once they understood that students could transfer with a general studies degree without a loss of credit, that was pivotal.”
Stoddard said the emphasis placed on finding diverse, qualified faculty was essential to UVSC”s ability to evolve and grow. She also said every phase laid the foundation for the next phase so that UVSC”s evolution was able to happen naturally. Above all else, UVSC is about change and growth.
“What I”ve found at UVSC is… if the challenge and the complexity of change is appealing, so that you move forward in a way that produces a superb institution then it”s very satisfying work,” Stoddard said.