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Inauguration Ruth Watkins

Dr. Ruth V. Watkins

As the 16th president of the University of Utah, Dr. Ruth V. Watkins is focused on ensuring the U builds on its legacy of innovation, discovery and delivering outstanding value in higher education and health care. For students, this means an excellent and affordable educational experience culminating in timely degree completion. For patients, it means innovative, compassionate and affordable care. To enable the University to continue to excel in research, teaching and patient care, Dr. Watkins is committed to providing faculty with unwavering support and resources. Before her appointment as president this past spring, Dr. Watkins served as senior vice president for academic affairs. She came to the U in 2013 from the University of Illinois, where she spent 20 years in faculty and leadership roles. Dr. Watkins earned master’s and doctorate degrees at the University of Kansas, where she studied communication development and disabilities in young children.

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The inauguration event is designed to be accessible for all guests. Live closed captioning will be used during the event, American Sign Language interpreters will be on site, and ADA seating is available. To request any of these accommodations, please contact Keven Myhre, Kingsbury Hall operations director, at

Watch the Inauguration Here

If you missed President Ruth V. Watkins' inauguration, watch her speech below.

Inauguration Symposium

Prior to the inauguration ceremony, the U will hold an inauguration symposium Thursday, Sept. 20, 8:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m. focused on public universities and America’s future. The symposium will bring together thought leaders from across the country to explore some of today’s most pressing issues facing higher education, including the role of universities in preparing students for the workforce in the 21st century, collaboration in research and innovation and its economic impact, and ways in which universities and communities can be partners for change. Everyone is invited to watch live online here!

Videos from Inauguration Symposium Sessions

The university role in exceptional education and workforce in the 21st century

Experts kicked off the inauguration symposium by discussing how the university system needs to evolve to meet the needs of our changing society and economy. Rich Kendell, the former commissioner of the Utah System of Higher Education, introduced the first talk, “The university role in exceptional education and workforce in the 21st century.” He welcomed Pam Perlich, director of demographic research at the U’s Kem C. Gardner Policy Institute, who discussed the changing demographics in Utah and what that means in terms of access to education. “We have challenges that are played out by the opportunities that people either have, or are blocked from, in our neighborhoods,” she said. “We are called as a community to reengineer these infrastructures of opportunity so that they work for a new day.”

Next, President emerita Dave W. Pershing introduced Teresa Sullivan, president emerita of the University of Virginia and professor of psychology, who discussed The public university and tomorrow’s workforce. She shared her experiences as both as university president and a labor market demographer to illustrate how job preparation is a critical part of the modern university.

Daniel Reed, senior vice president of academic affairs at the U, moderated Preparing students to succeed in the global economy. Jayne Hart, executive vice president of human resources at Myriad Genetics discussed the qualities that her company values in new employees, Courtney McBeth, project director of the American Dream Ideas Challenge at the U talked about getting students to finish their degree, Taylor Randall, dean of the U’s David Eccles School of Business, asked why can’t we mix work and education together to ease students’ financial burden, and Barbara Wilson, executive vice president and vice president for academic affairs at the University of Illinois System, talked about how important it is to teach students the “soft skills” required to work in a multi-cultural, team-driven world.

Nina Barnes, vice chair of the Utah Board of Regents, introduced Deneece Huftalin, president of Salt Lake Community College (SLCC). Huftalin talked about the partnership between SLCC and the U, the successes, and where there is room for improving student success.

University research and innovation

In this session, presenters explored the barriers to interdisciplinary research, the economic impact of institutional research and the value of close proximity and partnership between academic and medical campuses.

Mabel Rice, director of the Merrill Advanced Studies Center at the University of Kansas, spoke about the administrative roadblocks that can “gum up” interdisciplinary research. Following Rice, Andy Weyrich, vice president for research at the University of Utah, introduced a panel discussion on “Institutional research impact on economic development” that explored how a university impacts an economy, through bringing in outside dollars, partnering with local government, and developing basic research into marketable products. The panel also highlighted the impact of services that may not have a monetary value, but still positively impact the university’s home community. The final panel, led by Michael L. Good, senior vice president for health sciences at the U, addressed the strengths of leveraging a research university with an academic medical center. The panel talked about the potential for cross-campus collaborations and training, and the economic revitalization that can come from such comprehensive and entrepreneurial institutions. “For the magic to happen,” Good said, summarizing the panel’s remarks, “you have to get the right people in the room.”

Community and university: Partners for change

The final session focused on case studies about what it means to be both anchor institutions and engaged public universities with their communities.

Sherri-Ann Butterfield, executive vice chancellor and associate professor of sociology at Rutgers University-Newark, delivered remarks during lunch focusing on the role of a university as an anchor institution. She explained at Rutgers this meant the university had to redefine “what a good student looks like.” If the university was going to effectively serve its community it needed to reflect the community. This required rethinking admissions criteria and recognizing that “students wouldn’t have a chance to succeed, if they weren’t even selected to attend.” She challenged the audience to reflect on their own programs and evaluate what changes were needed to effectively serve their community.

Sarah George, executive director of the Utah Museum of Natural History, emphasized that listening to the community has been an important part of the museum’s success. She says the goal of the museum is to “foster informed and caring communities” and it does so through citizen science.

Brooke Horejsi, executive director of UtahPresents, said part of her group’s emphasis is on bringing artists and performances to campus that defy the traditional western view of art. Her vision is for UtahPresents to be venue for performers to be open, free and make a connection and impact on their audience.

Wyatt Hume, dean of the U’s School of Dentistry, explained the school is grounded in caring for the underserved. “When the Noorda family made their gift to the school, they said we’ll help pay for the building if you’ll take care of the dental needs of the community,” said Hume.  The school is supported in its mission through partnerships with other dentists and service groups around the state.

Julie Metos, associate chair of the Department of Nutrition and Integrative Physiology, talked about the university’s Driving Out Diabetes initiative. Like the dental school, the diabetes initiative was sparked by a donation from the Larry H. and Gail Miller Family Foundation and includes both outreach to the community and research. The U’s new Wellness Bus is the most visible part of the initiative and visits four underserved communities each week. Research is focused on making “insulin smarter” and more effective.

Sarah Munro, executive director of the University Neighborhood Partners, shared the important work that the program is doing in serving as a catalyst for change on the west side of Salt Lake City. She emphasized the university’s role in helping the community identify common goals, bringing partners together and bringing voice to groups that historically have been unheard in decision-making that affects their community.

The day wrapped up with remarks from Utah Lieutenant Governor Spencer Cox and President Watkins. Cox complimented the university’s efforts to serve the entire state and noted the community excitement around the university’s American Dream Ideas Challenge. Watkins closed the session by challenging everyone in the audience to continue to focus and act on the ideas discussed during the symposium.

Well-Wishes from the Campus Community

Inauguration Events

Utah Women in Medicine Exhibit
Opening Monday, Sept. 17, 2018
Library hours: Monday-Friday, 7 a.m.-7 p.m., Saturday 10 a.m.-6 p.m.

Main Level, Eccles Health Sciences Library

The Utah Women in Medicine Exhibit presents many of the female clinicians and researchers who have contributed to the health sciences legacy of excellence at the University of Utah.

Ice Cream with the President
Tuesday, Sept. 18, 2018 | 2-3 p.m.
Union Plaza

Share your congratulations with President Watkins at a free ice cream social while connecting with fellow U community members. This event is sponsored by the Union and the Union Programming Council.

Does Medical Humanities Still Bridge Only “Two Cultures?”
Tuesday, Sept. 18, 
2018 | 5:30-7 p.m.
Research Administration Building, Room 117

In 1959 a British novelist and scientist argued that “the intellectual life of the whole of Western society is increasingly being split into two polar groups…literary intellectuals at one pole—at the other scientists…between the two a gulf of mutual incomprehension.”

In 1986, Louis Borgenicht wrote an essay, “Medicine Between Two Cultures,” trying to reconcile these two poles. Is this cultural divide relevant to medicine in the 21st century? The U’s Program of Medical Ethics and Humanities presents a discussion of that essay and an exploration of a new cultural divide between medical humanities and health humanities. These distinctions affect the education of health care providers and trainees and, ultimately, healthcare delivery.

Learn more here.

Women’s Law Caucus Opening Social
Tuesday, Sept. 18, 2018 | 5:30-7:30 p.m.
S.J. Quinney College of Law, Level 6

Please join the Women’s Law Caucus for our Opening Social, where we will be hearing from Justice Paige Petersen of the Utah Supreme Court followed by refreshments, drinks and conversation. Admission is free for current members of both the Women’s Law Caucus and the Women Lawyers of Utah, and $10 at the door for all other students and guests.

Click here to RSVP.

Anita Hill: “From Social Movement to Social Impact: Ending Sexual Harassment”
Wednesday, Sept. 26, 2018 
| 7 p.m.
Alumni House, University of Utah

The U invites you to attend the Tanner Lecture on Human Values for 2018-19.  Anita Hill is professor of social policy, law and women’s, gender and sexuality studies at Brandeis University. She also chairs the Commission on Sexual Harassment and Advancing Equality in the Workplace. Her public testimony in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee prior to Clarence Thomas’ Supreme Court appointment in 1991 began a national conversation about sexual inequality and harassment, and her lecture will offer historical context and commentary.

Click here for more event information.

AIA Utah presents Ed Steinfeld
Friday, Sept. 21,2018 | 8 a.m.
S.J. Quinney College of Law, Moot Courtroom

Edward Steinfeld, ArchD, AIA is a registered architect and gerontologist with special interests in universal design, accessibility, and design for the lifespan. At The State University of New York at Buffalo (UB), he is a Professor of Architecture and Director of the IDeA Center. Dr. Steinfeld has directed over 30 sponsored research projects, including co-directing the RERC on Universal Design and the Built Environment and the RERC on Accessible Public Transportation. He has over 100 publications and 3 patents. Many of his publications are considered key references in the fields of accessible and universal design; he was a co-author of the seven Principles of Universal Design and the primary author of Universal Design: Creating an Inclusive Environment. He is internationally known for his research and has travelled widely to lecture in many countries.

Learn more here.

5th Annual Education Symposium: Enhancing Quality of Health Sciences Education
Thursday, Sept. 20, 2018 | 8 a.m.-4:30 p.m.

Health Sciences Education Building Alumni Hall

The Academy of Health Science Educators presents their 5th Annual Education Symposium focused on enhancing quality of health sciences education. With workshop topics ranging from using learner feedback to enhance skills, mentoring, educating millennials, teaching health systems and social determinants, team-based learning facilitation, responding to micro-aggressions and much more. Invest in your teaching through networking and learning at the symposium.

Find more details and register for the event here.

Registration fees include continental breakfast and lunch.

  • $10 for University of Utah trainees, staff and students
  • $40 University of Utah faculty
  • $50 non-affiliated University of Utah participants

Contact with any questions.

2018 Legacy of Lowell Day of Service: 15th Annual Legacy of Lowell Saturday Service Project
Saturday, Sept. 22, 2018 
| 8 a.m.-12 p.m.
Glendale Middle School

The event honors Lowell Bennion, the namesake of the Bennion Center, who devoted his life to one of civic engagement and serving the community. Legacy of Lowell will kick off at Glendale Middle School located at 1430 Andrew Avenue in Salt Lake City.  Project locations may vary.

The event will begin at Glendale Middle School at 8 a.m. and will feature Salt Lake City Mayor, Jackie Biskupski and University of Utah President, Dr. Ruth Watkins. Check-in and service projects taking place at Glendale Middle School will begin at 9 a.m.  Projects taking place at other locations will start at approximately 9:15 a.m. Please refer to the project descriptions and registration below to select your project of choice. Please pay attention to any age requirements or other special instructions.

Click here for more information.

The Great Polarization: Economics, Institutions and Policies in the Age of Inequality
Thursday, Sept. 27-Saturday, Sept. 29, 2018
Gardner Commons, 260 Central Campus Drive 

The Department of Economics is sponsoring a two-day conference examining inequality in American society. The conference features a public lecture by Nobel Laureate Joseph E. Stiglitz that is free and open to the public, though RSVPs are required.

Stiglitz will give his address on Thursday, Sept. 27, at 7 p.m. in the Siciliano Auditorium in Gardner Commons. His topic is “America’s Growing Inequality: Causes and Remedies.” Stiglitz is university professor at Columbia University, co-chair of the High-Level Expert Group on the Measurement of Economic Performance and Social Progress at the OECD, and the chief economist of the Roosevelt Institute. He received the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences in 2001.

For more information about the conference and to RSVP to Stiglitz’s lecture, click here.

Dean’s Distinguished Lecture, Presenting Bruce Mau
Friday, Sept. 28, 2018 | 12:30 p.m.
UMFA Auditorium 

The College of Architecture + Planning is pleased to announce that its Third Dean’s Distinguished Lecturer is the widely-acclaimed designer Bruce Mau who will join our community on Friday, September 28. Bruce Mau is a world-renowned visionary, innovator, author, and designer who founded the Massive Change Network in 2010. In doing so, he laid the foundation for the new discipline of enterprise design, successfully applying his design thinking methodology to economic, cultural, governmental, environmental, and social change for internationally celebrated designers, leading companies, and countries around the world. As Bruce challenges all of us, “We define design as the ability to envision a better future and systematically work to realize that vision. In other words, design is a method of leadership.” This ethos is one fully embraced by our Multi-Disciplinary Design program, and we hope Bruce’s presence will galvanize local excitement for this amazing, emerging program.

Learn more here.