Transformation: Our most important contribution
Albrecht's belated inaugural address, which was scheduled for the fall and cancelled in light of the tragedy, was titled “Transformation.” And though his call for change wasn't heard publicly, real evidence of such was already palpable in the bitter air. As the canyon wind loosened leaves across campus, many fell upon new terrain. Three of the most celebrated academic facilities in the West: the Merrill–Cazier Library, the Manon Caine Russell Kathryn Caine Wanlass Performance Hall, and the Jim and Carol Laub Athletics–Academics Complex were all under construction, and have since been completed [President Albrecht's Goals 4, 5, 6]. The president's silenced address, though, spoke not of buildings, but of three imminent themes for his tenure at the USU helm: providing access and opportunity, responding to 21st century globalization, and facilitating economic development.
Access seems to be a word with special meaning in the Albrecht household. It's spoken often. Joyce says access to education is what changed her husband's life, and it remains his highest hope that everyone might enjoy that same gift. He talks about it constantly in public, and becomes visibly impassioned as he brings it up in private. He's grateful for his parents, who couldn't attend college, but who made sure their children would. In “Transformation,” he says, “The founding philosophy of the public land–grant system is that education is altruistic, that expanding knowledge improves people's lives in real ways � It is this process of personal and individual transformation that is perhaps our most important contribution.” On that individual level, Albrecht's devotion to access is manifested through an open–door policy, wherein any student may carry their questions and concerns straight into his office. Senior Chris Barney once exercised this right and approached the president with a question about athletics. After discussing it together, Albrecht felt that his response was inadequate, so he called Athletic Director Scott Barnes and asked him to meet with Barney to answer it better. “That the leader of a huge university would devote that much effort to one student's concern,” Barney says, “is incredible.”
On a broader scale, the “People's University,” as Albrecht likes to call it, carries a special land–grant responsibility to educate the state. It is to this end that he has focused so much attention on building the USU System [Goal 15]. Though it's easy for Cache Valley residents to miss, the USU system is constructed on a model already in use for many years in most other states, wherein the land–grant university operates several campuses of varying types. The system has flourished under Albrecht's direction. Enrollment is up 11 percent at the regional campuses of Brigham City, Tooele, and the Uintah Basin this year, and should collectively surpass the Logan student population before long. “We are one university, geographically dispersed,” he says, and the extent of the dispersion continues to grow along with overall size. The university has forged new partnerships with Snow College and the College of Eastern Utah, expanding options for those living in the southern and eastern parts of the state. In addition, Albrecht has increased the scope of the Extension program, which maintains a presence in each of Utah's 29 counties. Cockett says that Albrecht has a profound understanding of the “USU Family,” and that he's as committed to the students in the outlying campuses as he is to those in Logan. “He's gone out to the campuses many, many times,” she says. “Tooele had not even had a president visit them before.” Albrecht particularly enjoys attending the commencement ceremonies, which feature many non–traditional students with limited opportunities for education. “Those graduations tug at your heartstrings,” he says.
Albrecht is well aware that snowballing interest in distance learning is neither an anomaly, nor a fleeting fad. In his inaugural address, he pointed out that the 21st century brings changes, challenges and opportunities associated with globalization that must be addressed. Under his auspices, USU's reach is extending outward in other ways as well. Relations with the local community, formerly strained at times, have been much repaired [Goal 16]. Once a month, the first couple welcomes civic leaders to their home for breakfast and open discussion, in what Albrecht calls the President's Community Cabinet. Down I–15, Albrecht has become somewhat of a fixture at the state Capitol. He sometimes stays overnight in Salt Lake City during legislative sessions due to his frequency there, and he spends months preparing for meetings. According to Brent Miller, the university's Vice President of Research, Albrecht is “proactive in looking out for the best interests of higher education in Utah.” One of his first major victories in the state legislature entailed the championing of House Bill 118, which reversed HB 331. This, coupled with major recruiting efforts, has effectively stabilized USU's enrollment, which has been up for four straight years following the slide into 2005 [Goal 1]. Even at the federal level, Albrecht's presence in government is felt. Miller says, “He goes out of his way to meet with Senator Bennett, Senator Hatch, and Representative Bishop. He helps them understand our issues, and he enables them to help us.”
But as the word “globalization” denotes, Albrecht's and the university's reach should and does extend even farther. Collaborations with foreign institutions and governments have multiplied during his tenure [Goal 3]. Albrecht has met with the president of the Dominican Republic, and enhanced the agreement that brings dozens of its exceptional students to USU. Along with the road trips around Idaho and Utah to recruit students, Albrecht cites such international meetings as among the most fun things he's done as president. And he's done plenty of them. Programs have been developed in Armenia, China, Saudi Arabia, Korea, and elsewhere, and countless projects are underway in Africa. Most recently, Albrecht has secured the future of such ambitions with a new administrative position: Vice Provost for Global Engagement.
Back on campus, more classes are now being offered in such fields as intercultural communication. A full–fledged religious studies program has begun, and already features its own peer–reviewed journal [Goal 14]. Starting next year, students can minor in climate change. And though each college and department has hands reaching over the wall, so to speak, many of the university's newest globalization initiatives have emanated from the Jon M. Huntsman School of Business. Following a $25 million donation to the college from the noted philanthropist (and another million or so for the Armenian student exchange), the students, faculty, and programs have renewed energy, and accolades to show for it [Goal 7]. Global vision is one of the four pillars of emphasis of the new and improved college, and intensive international programs have sent dozens of students to five continents already.
The Huntsman donation has been one of the most publicized events in USU's history, but what many don't know is that university officials had been working with the philanthropist for about a decade in efforts to elicit such support. Sources say Huntsman was waiting for the right leader to come along.
He wasn't waiting alone.
Marc Bingham graduated from Utah State in 1963 and had only cursory contact with the university for about 40 years. But when President Albrecht paid the business leader a visit in 2007, hoping to install Bingham on a board, the Vernal native was ready with other ideas. “I'll build you a building,” he said, and within no time, construction on the Bingham Entrepreneurship and Energy Research Center was underway at the Uintah Basin campus. Bingham said that though they were meeting for the first time, he felt confident that his resources would be in good hands with Albrecht. In reference to the unexpected gift, Albrecht remarks, “You can go two lifetimes and not get something like that.”
At the time, Bingham's $15 million gift was the university's largest ever, only to be eclipsed by Huntsman's donation two months later. But as if 2007 wasn't productive enough, two weeks after the Huntsman announcement, and just before Christmas, President Albrecht came to the podium again. He had finalized a deal with the Emma Eccles Jones Foundation for $25 million for the College of Education and Human Services, which was then renamed in Jones's honor [Goal 8]. The Very Reverend Frederick Q. Lawson, a family member and foundation trustee, speaks of his “total confidence” in Albrecht as well. “He's good at sharing ideas with us,” he says, “as opposed to just coming upon us and saying ‘this is what we're doing.’”
Photo GalleryMouse over thumbnail for detail
Joyce and Stan Albrecht welcome USU students from the Dominican Republic to Logan.
Groundbreaking for the Emma Eccles Jones Early Childhood Education and Research Center.
Opening of the David G. Sant Engineering Innovation Building.
Sisters Kathryn Caine Wanlass and Manon Caine Russell at their namesake Performance Hall.
Uintah Basin Regional Campus announcement with Bob Williams and Marc Bingham.
The Uintah Basin Applied Technology Center/Utah State University Vernal classroom building.