The U gets a gold star for its sustainability efforts

On the "U Rising" podcast, President Ruth V. Watkins engages in insightful conversations with students, staff, faculty, alumni and community stakeholders who are at the center of the state's flagship research university. President Watkins also connects with other leaders to give listeners a fresh take on top issues and innovations in higher education in Utah and across the country. You can subscribe to U Rising via iTunes, Spotify, Stitcher and other podcast streaming services.

The University of Utah recently received a STARS Gold rating for its all-encompassing efforts to promote sustainability—in campus operations, research and in the curriculum. Dan Reed, senior vice president for Academic Affairs, talks with Kerry Case, the U’s chief sustainability officer, about what the rating means, how we are approaching sustainability on campus and ways faculty and students are making an impact in environmental issues. Plus: Get ready for Earth Day! Recorded on March 16, 2021. Thanks to Brooke Adams, Emily Black and Dave White for technical assistance. Original music by Taylor Hartley. Read the full transcript.


SVP Dan Reed: Hi there. Earlier this year, the University of Utah received a STARS Gold rating from the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education. This is a big deal. It's the result of over a decade of work on an all-encompassing sustainability program here at the University of Utah.

We've made some really fundamental changes in the way we construct and operate new buildings and in the way we manage our energy and water consumption on campus. We've also supported interdisciplinary research focused on sustainability and addressed sustainability more broadly in our educational offerings because we believe taking a holistic 360 perspective on sustainability is critical, not only to who we are but to achieving our goals.

The U has also joined other institutions as a member of the University Climate Change Coalition and is committed to working together to address climate change as part of that coalition.

We know sustainability matters to our campus community—that's our students, our faculty, and our staff, to the state, our community, and to the world. This is really about what we can do to build a better future.

I'm Dan Reed. I'm the senior vice president for Academic Affairs here at the University of Utah, and I'm delighted to be hosting today this edition of the U Rising podcast. My guest today is Kerry Case, the chief sustainability officer at the University of Utah.

Today, we'll talk a bit about the STARS recognition and also about the actions we've taken to address sustainability in our operations, our research and in our curriculum. So, welcome Kerry.

Kerry Case: Thank you so much, SVP Reed. I'm excited to be here today and be talking with you about sustainability.

SVP Dan Reed: Well, I'm really looking forward to it. There are exciting things happening on our campus. So, let's jump right in and I'll pose a few questions and let's have a conversation about sustainability. Kerry, you joined the University of Utah about a year ago as chief sustainability officer. Tell us a little bit about your background and what your role is here at tehe U.

Kerry Case: Yeah, thanks Dan, I'm happy to. So, yeah, as you mentioned, I started just over a year ago, right before everything shifted. I had two weeks in the office before we entered this new reality that we're in right now. And I came to the U with nearly 20 years of experience working on sustainability in Utah higher education. I sometimes jokingly say I am on the slowest tour of Utah higher ed ever, right? And by the time I'm in my nineties, maybe I'll make it to the schools down south.

But having worked on sustainability in higher ed for nearly 20 years really makes me an old timer in what's a relatively new profession. And in a lot of ways, my career and my experience actually mimic the changing landscape of sustainability in higher every day. When I started at Utah State University it was really all about energy efficiency and the way that saving energy could save you money and really good business practices, right?

And then I spent most of my career at Westminster College where I started and directed their environmental center, and really the focus was on environment and sustainability and environment were essentially synonymous, and that's kind of where the field of sustainability has been for over a decade. And still to this day, when I tell people I'm a chief sustainability officer, they typically talk to me about environmental things. And so, I was really excited to join the U last March because not only does it represent an important shift in my own professional career, I think it also represents a shift in the field of sustainability and our understanding.

You mentioned this more holistic approach to sustainability that is not just about operations and facilities and solar panels. It is still about that, and that's very important, but also looks at our curriculum, our research agenda, the way we are engaging students and that more holistic sort of scope of sustainability also mirrors a more inclusive definition of sustainability.

So, I want to share the way we define sustainability at the University of Utah, which is the integrated pursuit of social equity, environmental integrity and economic security for both current and future generations. So, I'm really excited to be here, to focus on that more holistic definition. It isn't just environmental, it's all of these things coming together to make a sustainable future.

So, what does a chief sustainability officer do with that, right? I'm really responsible for providing high level administrative leadership or strategic planning and implementation of institutional sustainability efforts here at the U. This is a One U effort, right? So, it includes our partners in U Health. I also oversee the work of the Sustainability Office—the Global Change and Sustainability Center is the research arm of that office—and our efforts to incorporate sustainability into the academic curriculum.

SVP Reed: Well, despite you joining us just as the pandemic struck, we're really glad that you're here and you have made a real difference already in the first year that you've been a part of the University of Utah community. You touched a little bit on what the Sustainability Office does and the places that you engage campus. I was wondering if you could just say a bit more maybe about the Sustainability Office itself and some of the initiatives that it leads.

Kerry Case: Yeah, I would be happy to. So, the Sustainability Office started in 2007 as part of Facilities. Its creation was a result of grassroots efforts by students and faculty—sustainability mattered to our campus community then, and I'm really pleased to see how much it still matters today.

Anecdotally, I was able to attend the first open forum for the presidential search and was pleased that I was not the only voice speaking up on behalf of sustainability as part of that. It's clear that sustainability matters to our students, faculty and staff, just like it did in 2007, but there've been some shifts with the office. As you know, the Sustainability Office now reports through Academic Affairs and includes the GCSE as the research arm. And really the point of the Sustainability Office is to lead efforts in campus-wide sustainability education, research and engagement. It really acts as a hub or an epicenter for students, faculty, and staff who are doing sustainability work. I would encourage anybody who is interested in learning more about the office and our programs to visit the website, which is

And I think it's worth mentioning that there are three areas where we're really focused right now. One of those is centering equity in health in our sustainability work. They're critical parts of sustainability that for a long time didn't receive the attention that they need. Also, as you mentioned, climate change is a critical part of what we do. So, a focus on climate and particularly on climate resilience—asking questions about how are we as a university poised to address the impacts climate change will have and is having on our campus, on our institution and our operations.

And then lastly, as we start looking over the horizon and envisioning what it might be like to emerge from this pandemic. We're really renewing our focus on expanding opportunities for students through additional internships, more research opportunities, virtual and, fingers crossed hopefully, some in-person events next year and a whole other suite of things that really bring our students into this conversation about sustainability.

SVP Reed: For those of you listening remotely, GCSE is the Global Change and Sustainability Center on the University of Utah campus. It engages in interdisciplinary activities around the environment. And so with that little clarification, let me turn to something I mentioned earlier, and that's the Gold STARS rating. Ever since we've been children, we know that getting a gold star is a really terrific thing. So, tell us a little bit about its significance and what that really measures and represents.

Kerry Case: Yeah, so obviously I think this is a really big deal. I may be a little biased, but I think it's a huge accomplishment for the university. So, STARS—which stands for the Sustainability Tracking Assessment and Ratings System—it is the metric that measures sustainability in higher education in North America. This is how all institutions benchmark their sustainability efforts.

It has five big categories that it looks at: academics, engagement, operations, planning and administration, and innovation and leadership. And across those five categories, it measures dozens of indicators. We looked at everything from how many sustainability courses we were offering to how much energy and water we use per square foot as a campus, to how we're investing our endowment, to what we do to support students from underrepresented groups. It really represents that more holistic definition of sustainability that we've been talking about and achieving a gold rating for the first time is significant both internally and externally.

Externally it helps us keep up with our peer institutions and helps us earn our cred as a sustainability leader, if you will. Internally, I think first and foremost, this represents more than a decade of work by dozens of people, and that work is sometimes slow and sometimes not really flashy. And so, it's really nice to get a recognition like this that allows us to pause and look back and reflect and actually see how far we've come and see how much has been accomplished in this space and celebrate it. I would say internally, it also helps us identify where we want to go, right? And areas for future improvement. We didn't get 100%, there are always opportunities to improve and this highlights certain areas where we may put some extra attention. And then lastly, I think one of the things that STARS does, both internally and externally, is boost our transparency.

We're doing great work around sustainability and making great progress. But one of the things I've heard from student leaders, as I've been here the past year, is a call for better transparency about what that means and how we are doing and what progress we are making. And so, STARS does just that because it's accessible to anyone who wants to look online.

I will note that if there's a student who's not ready to totally nerd out on BTUs per square foot and some of the wonky stuff that's in STARS, we are creating a sustainability dashboard on the Sustainability Office site that will look at some high-level metrics for people who want to see that without digging all the way into STARS. So, it's a big deal. And I really, I didn't do the work to get us here, I just pushed it over the finish line and it's a great thing to come into.

SVP Reed: Well, I think you're being modest in terms of your work. You brought all of the pieces together to help us submit our response for the STARS evaluation. And as you noted, it's a holistic metric. It's not just how we're doing in terms of energy efficiency with our facilities or what doing on the educational front. But it's really trying to look at the intersection of all of those things, which I think is probably a hallmark of what you've been trying to do. And what the campus has been trying to do is what we talk about in a One U kind of partnership that brings education, research, academic and health affairs together with Facilities and thinking about these things in an integrated way. And I just mentioned Facilities, so let me shift to that.

Obviously, as you mentioned at the outset, our Facilities Management team plays a big role in our sustainability efforts. So maybe talk a little bit about some of the things that the university has done with the support of our trustees to shift what we do in Facilities to conserve energy and be more environmentally friendly.

Kerry Case: Absolutely. There has been extraordinary work happening on the Facilities side of the institution, and we see that represented in this STARS Gold accomplishment. And one of the things personally that I've been so excited to find is clear passion and support for sustainability at all levels of our Facilities team—planning, design, and construction. There are so many people working on this and doing really good work, and we could not have made the progress that earned us STARS or the progress we're making toward our climate commitment without their expertise, without their passion, without their leadership in that space.

A couple of specifics to note: the university recently achieved its Better Buildings Challenge goal of increasing our building energy efficiency by 25%. That's pretty significant. We did this by both building more efficient new buildings, but also by improving the energy efficiency of our old buildings. And Chris Benson, who's our associate director for Sustainability and Energy likes to tell me that we're using about the same amount of energy now as we were in 2011, despite significant growth both in terms of buildings and in terms of our campus population. And this has been achieved by a whole host of upgrades to lighting, control systems, different building systems as well. And the Facilities Management team has a really good path forward to continue driving down our building energy use over the coming decade.

And I would note that these energy savings have real impacts in terms of valley air quality and in terms of our greenhouse gas emissions. They are helping us meet our carbon neutrality goals, and we have already reduced our greenhouse gas emissions by 25% thanks to their work.

Plus, I think it's also worth noting this isn't energy savings, but Facilities has really led the way in shifting the source of our energy. And so right now, 50% of our electricity comes from renewable sources, and we just signed a big new solar deal that will bring us up to 71% of our electricity when the project is complete at the end of 2022. So, these are huge accomplishments on the Facilities side, and I'm so glad to have them as partners working on this.

SVP Reed: Thanks, Kerry. So that contribution to how we think about designing buildings on campus, as well as our partnerships for energy sources, are part of that.

On the campus as well, on the human side, of course, we've talked a little bit about education. Let's talk a little bit about the research enterprise. As one of the things that's a distinguishing characteristic of the U is that it is a flagship research university and we can draw on intellectual expertise to address core issues in sustainability. So, as you think about some of those projects and some of the faculty that are leading those, how do you see them contributing to our sustainability goals?

Kerry Case: So today we're talking about STARS. I think one of the things to note is that part of the way we achieved gold were the huge gains we made in terms of the number of faculty doing sustainability research. We increased from 40% of departments doing sustainability research when we last did STARS in 2017 up to 65% this last round. And so I think what that shows us is sustainability research is being contributed by our faculty all across our institution, right? And so it's not coming out of just one or two departments—it's really widespread. And I think that is a huge strength when we think about sustainability problems as requiring multifaceted approaches, right? These are not just environmental problems. They are not just social problems. They are not just economic problems. And so, we need the research contributions of multiple faculty to contribute to these solutions, and we're seeing that happen.

Take, for example, air quality in our valley. We have multiple researchers doing work on air quality, including looking at the disproportionate impact of air quality on low-income communities and people of color right here in the Salt Lake Valley. So again, pulling from multiple disciplines, multiple areas of expertise, to find a common solution.

And if we had 10 hours, I could really dig into all the host of ways that our faculty are doing sustainability research. I think that would be a pretty long podcast! So, I would say a couple of things. The Global Change and Sustainability Center alone has 150 faculty affiliates from 30 departments, spanning 12 colleges. And the good news is they also have an inventory of all the sustainability researchers at the institution.

So, I would recommend people check that out. It's at And you can search by topic, by area, by department, it's a great resource. And I will say this has been one of the best parts for me about arriving at the U is having all of these researchers who are not just experts in their field, but also eager to contribute to our university work and solutions, both for our institution and our community. It's been really fun getting to know many of them.

SVP Reed: Oh, I completely agree with you. It's fascinating to see the interplay of engineers measuring environmental issues to people in social equity and policy and law, looking at regulatory issues, to people in our health system understanding how environmental issues affect human health and lifespan. It's that interplay that's really the defining attribute to me of this holistic approach that really is a hallmark of what an integrated university can do.

So, we've talked about infrastructure, we've talked a little bit about research, we've talked about partnerships. Let's talk a little bit about students because as you mentioned earlier, climate change and sustainability are important issues, rightly so, for our students. How do you view the U as addressing their interest in these issues and connecting them to the other thing that's really great about a research university, which is that education takes place not just in the classroom, but it takes place in the laboratory and out in the field?

Kerry Case: Absolutely. Getting students involved in sustainability, all aspects of sustainability is a top priority for the Sustainability Office, for the Global Change and Sustainability Center, and for me personally. We're trying to make a place for them in everything we do. And I'll give you one great example. We are currently conducting the university's first Climate Resilience Assessment, looking at the impacts of climate change on our institution and how we measure those, how we track those, how we prepare for those. So, it probably would have been easier to just bring in a consultant or do it with a couple of faculty but instead we, last fall, engaged eight different classes across multiple departments with hundreds of students in helping us with this work. We were able to gather the work that they did and create a subcommittee that also included student representatives to take it to the next step and then bring on a team of both graduate and undergraduate researchers to help us really begin measuring what are the potential impacts of climate change on our institution? How do we think about this? How do we move forward?

And so, I think you, we often think about engaging students in sustainability work on campus, again on an operational side, right? Which is important, there's great work happening. And our Sustainable Campus Initiative Fund, also known as SCIF, funds a bunch of student projects to get involved and do research or transform our physical campus.

I think we also have to recognize that there's great learning that can happen as we involve students in sustainability planning, in sustainability assessment, in all this work that we're doing. And the Sustainability Office is, as I mentioned earlier, really making this a priority to continue engaging students. And knowing that 75% of our departments offer at least one sustainability course, we know we're giving them some information and some understanding about sustainability on the academic side, expanding our research opportunities, but also trying to make a seat for them on our committees and the places where we make decisions about moving sustainability forward. Because like you said, climate change, sustainability, are critical to our students, and I hear it all the time.

SVP Reed: Kerry, we're speaking here in March, and as we all know Earth Day is coming up in April. And I know the U has a wide variety of events that are scheduled to intersect with Earth Day, I was wondering maybe if you could just give people a few examples and tell them how they might be able to get more information.

Kerry Case: Yes, there's lots going on in April for Earth Day, and we actually have an Earth Week at the University of Utah, which begins April 12. The Sustainability Office does this in partnership with ASAU and there're tons of virtual events happening that week, including I am doing an open forum about sustainability with students. So, I'd encourage them to come ask questions and hear what we're working on. Also, a bunch of faculty have put together a great event, Artvism4Earth. So, I would encourage people to watch at The U or visit the Sustainability Office's website to learn more about everything going on that month.

SVP Reed: Well, thank you, Kerry. It's been a pleasure to speak with Kerry Case, the University of Utah's chief sustainability officer. It's been my privilege to be a guest host of today's U Rising podcast. I'm Dan Reed, the senior vice president for Academic Affairs here at the U.

As you've heard there, extraordinary activities taking place across campus in research, in education and infrastructure to build a brighter future for our students and for our society, as we think about a sustainable future. Thank you for joining us. And we look forward to having you participate in a future podcast. Thank you, Kerry, and have a great day everyone.

Kerry Case: Thank you.

SVP Dan Reed on our fall semester plan

On the "U Rising" podcast, President Ruth V. Watkins engages in insightful conversations with students, staff, faculty, alumni and community stakeholders who are at the center of the state's flagship research university. President Watkins also connects with other leaders to give listeners a fresh take on top issues and innovations in higher education in Utah and across the country. You can subscribe to U Rising via iTunes, Spotify, Stitcher and other podcast streaming services.

Dan Reed, senior vice president for Academic Affairs, has led our planning efforts for Fall Semester 2020—no small task. In this episode, he shares the principles that have guided our efforts, explains our mixed format approach to instruction, the reasoning behind our fall schedule and the many precautions the U is taking to promote health. Recorded on Wednesday, Aug. 13, 2020. Thanks to Brooke Adams and Dave White for technical assistance. Music by Taylor Hartley.

President Ruth Watkins: Welcome to the U Rising podcast, where you get a chance to meet some of the great people who are helping the U achieve new heights. I'm Ruth Watkins. I'm the president of the University of Utah and my guest today is Dan Reed. Dan is the U’s senior vice president for Academic Affairs. Dan, welcome.

SVP Dan Reed: Thanks. Delighted to be here.

President Watkins: Well, Dan, I know a big part of your job has been, over the summer, preparing us to be ready for fall semester—as ready as we can be in a pandemic. I know you've spent much time, energy and effort on this work, and we're now just days away from returning for fall semester. Tell us a little bit about the principles and the values that you've used to guide our efforts as we've prepared for fall.

SVP Dan Reed: Thank you. Well, the overriding principle is protecting the health and safety of our faculty, staff and students, and that's really guided every decision that we have made. As important as we think it is to have students back on campus for an in-person experience, health and safety is by far the most important thing, as well as those who we interact with and support and teach them. There've been multiple planning groups working really from the spring across the summer to prepare for the fall. Looking at logistics, looking at teaching strategies and approaches, understanding how our students interact with the community and how we think about how all of those things interplay to provide and support student success.

Some of our principals have been that we want to provide for our first-year students a real sense of what it's like to be on the campus at a leading public research university. So, the notion that there will be in-person experiences for those students in classes has been really one of our guiding principles. We want them to experience that sense in a safe and effective way.

The other has been to recognize that there were some things one could do virtually, online, and there are other things that one can really only experience and learn by doing. I sometimes joke that if visiting art museums and listening to music would make me an artist or a musician, I'd be famous for that. But obviously it takes more than watching. You need to actually do. And so experiential education touches so many things of what we do on campus from STEM-based disciplines, where students are in undergraduate research labs and in instructional labs and chemistry and physics and engineering. But also in architecture and design where designing and building things is a part of the experience. In art and music, where performing in small groups and together is a part of the experience. And then for all of the professionals that we train, who need to have real hands-on training.

So whether it be student teachers who need to have student teaching experience, social worker trainees who need prep clinic experience before they're licensed as social workers and then all of our health professionals, our dentists, our nurses, our physicians or pharmacists. They depend on hands-on experience before they become professionals. So, our second goal was really to support that experiential education. And then the third one, really, is to make sure that students graduate. So, ensuring that those courses and offerings that our more advanced students need to complete their degrees are available, but doing all that in a safe and protected way.

President Watkins: I think what you've described really, Dan, is a very hybrid university, where we're trying to use the best of technology to help us continue our important mission. As you say, we want our students to graduate and then using face-to-face for where it's critical. Is there anything else that you'd want people to know about the format of teaching and learning for fall semester?

SVP Dan Reed: We've really chosen multiple formats, recognizing those differences that exist. So, we have traditional in-person instruction and that includes both lectures, but physically distance with safety protocols. And we can talk more about the details of those in a moment. So, there's this, what you might think of traditional instruction both in labs and experiences in lectures. There is synchronous video, which is much like watching a Zoom lecture where you have a class of participants and a lecturer, but it's live and you can interact in those, but it's electronic rather than physical. And then we have some fully asynchronous courses that build on the long history the U.S. has in offering online education. Many of our undergraduate degrees, long before the pandemic, were available to complete via online mechanisms and those draw on a long history of pedagogy about how to deliver effective educational experiences online. And those rely on course materials and other things that don't require you to be at a meeting at a particular time in order to participate.

And then we have some that are a mix of those things, recognizing that for a class that might involve instruction, plus some experiential education, those are hybrid. So, the lecture would typically be online, but the laboratory would be experiential and in person. We've tried to tailor each group to the opportunities, but within the context of the priorities that I mentioned just a moment ago.

President Watkins: I think that's really spectacular innovation and creativity. And I applaud you for that. There's another area where I think some innovation is at work and that is the fall semester calendar. I think there are some modifications there. Tell us a little bit about the rationale for that and about what's happening.

SVP Dan Reed: Well, as we started the planning, we looked at the lessons one can learn from public health. And one of them that was readily apparent from history is that cold and flu season happens later in the fall and that there are risks with that. In addition, we know that the normal Thanksgiving break, when students would scatter to visit their families and come back, was a potential health risk because people scattered and then they come back together. So, our initial plan was that we would end in-person instruction at Thanksgiving and complete this semester online, given that health risk. We had another interesting wrinkle that affected our planning and that is the University of Utah is privileged to host the vice presidential debate. And that is the first week of October. And so recognizing that the security for the vice presidential debate was going to disrupt part of our in-person instruction, we decided early on that that week would be online.

And then as we continued to talk with our public health experts, one of the things that they began to do was to build public health models about the spread of COVID and the ways that the frequencies of interactions could affect that. And what quickly became clear, if you think about the incubation period for the virus, is that if you could separate people for enough period of time, the group interaction dissipates and potential infections can dissipate. So, we decided based on that to add an additional week of online instruction—the week before the vice presidential debate.

With all that backdrop, here's the summary. We start on August 24 with the mix of modalities I mentioned, we switch to all online for two weeks, starting September 28. We return after that to the mix of modalities I mentioned until Thanksgiving break and then students do not return to campus and we continue and finish the semester in all online mode.

President Watkins: Thank you for that summary and for the willingness to adapt as needed, based on the pandemic. You mentioned earlier we are doing many things to promote health and safety that go a little bit beyond the things we've talked about with class formats. Can you give a little overview of some of those additional actions that we believe are going to be helpful in reducing infection and supporting health and safety?

SVP Dan Reed: Well, I will, but I want to begin by echoing and amplifying something you just said. All of this planning has been an intensive campus-wide team effort. It has involved multiple planning groups of faculty, staff and student engagement, academic leaders, our health experts at U health, looking at pretty much every aspect of this and continuing to adapt and trade ideas and experiences.

In addition, we're drawing insights from participation in state activities, but also from our academic peers around the country, both our membership in the AAU and our Pac-12 colleagues. So, drawing ideas from across groups.

But with that background, here are some really concrete things. Facilities and our environmental health and safety groups have walked through and measured every classroom on campus, looking at how many students could occupy that space, subject to the physical distancing rules, and then removing chairs from those spaces. And then that input was used with university scheduling, or the registrar, to map socially distanced classes to physical classrooms.

We also examined the airflow in the classrooms and adjusted that, installed new filters to protect and filter out materials in the air. And then we've invested a lot of effort in technology upgrades, both to support students and in the classrooms. We outfitted over 100 classrooms with new audio/video technology to allow those instructors to be able to record lectures and discussions and post them online for students who might not be able to attend or who might need to be isolated because of potential infection. Delivering instruction to them in those circumstances is really important. Hand sanitizer stations available across campus and in classrooms, syllabus guidance about face coverings for students, faculty and staff and processes associated with that.

And then recognizing that, one of the lessons we learned from the spring as we surveyed our students from the abrupt transition that all of higher education experienced in March, what were the pain points experienced? And one of them was a realization that some of our students suffer from limitations for broadband access at home. And so we've upgraded broadband access across parking lots and public spaces on campus so that students can socially distance while being on campus. And if they don't have broadband at home, they will have access to it without necessarily needing to go into buildings. And then finally, the other thing that surfaced in the spring was a recognition that not all of our students had laptops and access. And so we had started a large scale loaner program of laptops. We are dramatically expanding that for the fall. We've added an additional 1,000 laptops and hotspots that can be loaned to students who might not otherwise have technology for access to these online and remote courses. So, all of these things are really about, what I like to call it, defense and depth. We're attempting to protect our faculty, staff and students in every way we can, but ensuring that they have access to the means needed to access the education we're committed to delivering to them.

One of the things I would offer for those of you who are listening is we post regular updates about the status of the university, about instruction, access and services on a publicly accessible website. And it's easy to remember— Watch that space for updates on a regular basis.

President Watkins: So, Dan, really, that's just remarkable work. And thank you for all those efforts. I have to say, I'm thrilled about the efforts and investments that you and your team have made to close the digital divide, that access to technology, resources, tools, internet. It's just a critical part of being a successful citizen today. And we owe it to our students and our communities to provide that. You and your team have led the way. I’m so grateful for that good work. I'd also like to give a shout out of appreciation to our remarkable faculty. What we have asked of our faculty is unprecedented rapid-pace change, new ways of teaching and ways to support learning. I'm sure that you and your colleagues have worked on providing assistance and support to faculty as they made that transition. Can you talk a little bit about that?

SVP Dan Reed: Absolutely. And there are multiple aspects to that. There's both the social and the technical and competency aspect. When we talk about each of those in turm, if you think about what it means to teach online, it is a very different set of skills than teaching in a group. And if you doubt that as an individual, try talking to a wall for an hour as opposed to talking to an audience, and if nothing else, you'll gain a great deal of appreciation for newscasters who do this every day. We rely deeply on social feedback when we interact with people, the mechanisms and processes to deliver high-quality education via electronic means are different. And our center for teaching and learning technology and teaching technologies, our faculty really stepped up and worked with them for a lot of training to draw on pedagogical insights about how best to interact with our students.

So, a huge shout out to both the staff who have really invested huge time in that training activity, but equally importantly to our faculty who rose to the challenge and were willing to, if you will, go back to school to learn how to teach. It really has been remarkable to see that activity play out over the summer. But in addition to that, if you think about the world in which we live, our faculty and staff, as do our colleagues listening, face a wide variety of personal challenges, everything from physical health issues that might put them at risk, to childcare or student education issues as school have moved online. Life has a way of making things complicated. And so how we think about supporting our faculty and staff via temporary work adjustments that would allow them to work at home if they have health issues, or if they have childcare or home educational issues has been a big part of that.

And a lot of that has been coupled with our shift to largely online, allowing our faculty and our staff to do their jobs remotely. And so all of those work adjustments and processes support that, support for some individuals who might've chosen to retire and to do that in a thoughtful and supportive way, are all part of how we support one another. I'd like to say that the U is family and family takes care of its own. Part of our responsibility is to help one another. And that means looking at each individual’s circumstances and balancing those with their job responsibilities and in a fair and thoughtful and respectful way.

President Watkins: Dan you have done a remarkable job of taking care of the U family and I'm so grateful to you for that. And I know you joined me in a little shout out to the University of Utah's faculty and staff who have done so many creative things to help us get through this difficult period and help us prepare for fall 2020. I'd like to ask you about any insights that you have gained through this period, innovations that you think may stay with us in how we do business as we look forward, particularly in the academic world, the pace of change and the types of changes that might actually strengthen higher education going forward.

SVP Dan Reed: Well, one of the things I think that's important in any domain is to periodically step back and ask which things are we doing for good reasons and which things are we doing because, well, we've just always done them that way. And COVID has certainly forced all of us to look at the things we do in some different ways. So, some concrete examples of that. It has really driven home the fact that virtual meetings can be really efficient, both in terms of an individual's time, but also in the cost of travel. I think we'll see a lot more academic meetings take place virtually even after we have effective treatments and a vaccine for COVID. I think there were insights to be drawn from our educational experiences as well, how we deliver content and how we do it in a way that responds to societal needs.

There is this continuum of education of the long-term values, but also the just-in-time skills refresh. And so that's another place where we really try to draw on that insight and work to provide upskilling to Utahns in a time of economic uncertainty. And then there are a whole range of other issues around access to services. I was talking to our university librarian this morning about the fact that the library has been open—and I would hasten to say, the university has always been open, we have never closed, we've changed our modality at work—but the librarian and I were talking about the fact that the library continues to support educational and research needs, even though access was entirely virtual and electronic. And so there are lessons to be drawn there as well. All of this is about saying, how can we be nimble and efficient and learn from insights that will make us better in the future? And we're still learning that, there's still things to expose.

And then that, as I said, what a research university does, respond to the public needs in a thoughtful and nimble way while preserving the things that have made education a transformative societal force throughout all of our history.

President Watkins: My guest today—Senior Vice President Dan Reed. Dan, you have been a remarkable leader through this challenging time. We are all grateful to you. Thank you so much.

SVP Dan Reed: My pleasure. As I said, it's a team effort. Thanks to so many people.

President Watkins: And listeners thank you for being with us today. And I hope you'll join us again for the next episode of the U Rising podcast.