The University of Utah a perfect fit in Pac-10

Glenn Dickey’s Aug. 20 Examiner sports column passed along the concerns former UCLA Chancellor Chuck Young expressed at the inclusion of the University of Colorado and the University of Utah as new members of the Pac-10 Conference. While I certainly understand his concern at the addition of two new schools to a revered and celebrated conference, Young’s belief that the University of Utah is not on a par academically with other Pac-10 peer institutions is more than a little outdated and misguided.

Many on the West Coast may not know much about the University of Utah and its world-class reputation as one of the nation’s premier research universities. But Utah shares with its new Pac-10 partners a rich and unique tradition of hands-on, empirical learning and world-class research under the direction of nationally and internationally recognized professors.

Like the other great institutions of the Pac-10, The University of Utah promotes the discovery of profound innovation through interdisciplinary learning and collaboration, and it is tied with MIT as the best in the nation for the commercialization of that technology. Like other Pac-10 institutions, we are home to National Academy members, globally renowned experts, and Nobel Prize winners. Indeed, we are only the seventh public university in the nation to have been awarded a Nobel Prize.

Like the schools of the Pac-10, we invite the best and brightest students from across the globe to engage in a truly transformative educational environment and experience — one that prepares them for real-world challenges and opportunities.
But don’t just take my word for it. The University of Utah is already widely known for its academic accomplishments as shown in a recent ranking using the scholarly output found on the Internet. The Webometrics ranking of world universities puts Utah at No. 48, right in the middle of the rankings of the other world class Pac-10 schools. In addition, the Academic Ranking of World Universities ranks Utah 47th nationally and 80th in the world overall for academic excellence, again placing it prominently within the standing of other Pac-10 universities. Utah also ranks among the top public research universities in the nation, with particular distinction in medicine, genetics and engineering. Acclaimed geneticist Mario R. Capecchi, a 2007 Nobel Prize winner, will certainly fit in nicely with the outstanding Nobel laureates from other Pac-10 institutions.

Perhaps most salient to a California audience are the views of David P. Gardner, president emeritus of both the University of Utah and the University of California educational system (which includes UC Berkeley and UCLA, two of the great Pac-10 schools), a position to which Chuck Young reported as UCLA chancellor.

With regard to Utah’s inclusion in the Pac-10, President Gardner has said publically that, “The invitation extended to the [University of Utah] to join the Pac-10 is the most recent evidence of … a tangible expression of regard by other distinguished universities of the successes and accomplishments of the state’s flagship public university.”

President Gardner went on to state that Utah’s “Pac-10 affiliation is based on more than athletic prowess; it is also an affirmation by the Pac-10 universities of the University of Utah’s standing as a leading American university, also a condition for Pac-10 membership and without which judgment the invitation would never have been extended.”

That is a key point. The presidents of other Pac-10 schools made their regard for the University of Utah crystal clear by voting to include the University of Utah as a worthy member of this storied conference. These sitting presidents of the Pac-10 universities know the current academic landscape well. They understand better than anyone that the University of Utah’s record, quite simply, speaks for itself — in the classroom, research lab, and on the playing field. They exercised wise judgment on behalf of the entire Pac-10, recognizing that the University of Utah will continue to flourish as a leader in technological innovation, transformative educational opportunities for its students, life-changing research and athletic excellence on and off the field.

We at the University of Utah are honored to be counted among our peer institutions of higher learning in the Pac-10 and know, as do my new fellow presidents, that we bring athletic success to the conference, to be sure, but, even more, we bring demonstrable and inarguable academic excellence as well.

Michael K. Young is the president of the University of Utah.

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