USU New President Elizabeth Cantwell visits Blanding campus
by David Boyle
Utah State University’s 17th President Elizabeth Cantwell began her tenure with a listening tour of USU campuses. Cantwell began that tour on November 15 at USU Blanding and took time to speak with the San Juan Record about the tour.
Cantwell’s listening tour included meetings with community leaders, USU Blanding staff and students.
Cantwell said the visit was a conscious mission of listening. One of the things she heard from community leaders was a plea for the campus to optimize its capacity to serve the community.
“The original concept for community engagement for land grant schools was that there would be research that went on there translated directly into the community. So community needs would be directly served by the research and its translation however. Over the many years we all understand what the cooperative extension offices do for agriculture and maybe for some aspect of community health but there’s a lot more that an institution like this does, that can get translated into everything from the energy companies that are around here, to public k12 education, to even community politics.”
One example Cantwell gave of service to the community would include USU’s ability to obtain grants through Economic Development Agencies from the US Dept. of Commerce. She said universities are usually well received to hold grants to address community needs.
Cantwell also talked about the uniqueness of the campuses throughout the USU system.
“One thing strikes me as interesting, the fragility of the students here is no different. Mental health challenges and anxiety challenges do not know cultural boundaries, rural or city divides, it is ubiquitous. And yet the needs of this community in terms of serving students with those challenges is going to be different here. This is a culturally different community.”
When asked Cantwell shared USU’s commitment to serving Indigenous populations is the same as serving all populations.
“However native nations are independent nations so our commitment is to work with those nations and their students with appropriate respect and to serve their needs as they express them. I think we do ok at that, I suspect that at that intersection of native knowledge and the way that we think about and ideate knowledge in the traditional higher education setup in the US there’s a big zone for learning in both directions.”
As part of that commitment, Cantwell did share that the USU Monument Valley building is progressing.
“That building will get built and it will have a remarkable capacity for the nation to have students at the high school begin to both influence and integrate into USU with physical proximity. That place has the capacity to grow into something really unique.”
Cantwell concluded the discussion emphasizing the Universities land grant origins means it has an obligation to serve the state of Utah.
“Not only to serve today, but that we are positioned to be there in 50-100 years. There’s no other higher education component beside land grant that’s really obligated to be here in perpetuity and be of service. We don’t have the opportunity to say there are things we don’t want to think about because they’re too hard, we have to do it. “