- Tech Insights
Since 1911, Utah Tech University has delivered a high-quality, affordable education amid the beautiful red rocks of Southern Utah. Under President Richard “Biff” Williams' direction, Utah Tech's student enrollment has risen by 50% since he became president in 2014. In fact, fall 2022 enrollment consisted of 12,556 students, up 2.36 percent from last year. To support this student growth, the university has built two campus housing facilities, a human performance center, and a science, engineering, and technology complex. Scholarships totaled $28.5 million, and donations are up 33% from the previous year.
Utah Tech emphasizes a polytechnic education that is open, inclusive, and comprehensive. The university’s personalized services, teaching methods, and open educational materials foster diversity. Utah Tech offers more than 250 programs in the humanities, arts, education, health sciences, business, and STEM, and internships, externships, clinical experiences, and undergraduate research enhance classroom learning.
On his path to becoming Utah Tech’s president, Biff looked up to Dr. Chris Edginton, his supervisor at the University of Northern Iowa, who provided him learning opportunities, held him accountable, and encouraged him. Dr. Edginton supported Biff’s plan to become a university president, and after he shared his strategy for accomplishing this goal, Dr. Edginton replied, "Let’s get to work!" Years later, they still have a great relationship, and during their most recent visit, Dr. Edginton asked the university president, "What’s your next goal?"
Being involved in his five children's lives and spending time with his wife, Kristin, has also contributed to Biff's development as a leader. For example, volunteering on his son's football booster club offers him the opportunity to interact with the residents the university serves and work with and learn from people from a wide variety of industries. Additionally, marathon training teaches him perseverance. Knowing he can finish a long run reminds him and the university community they can do difficult tasks if they address challenges, set goals, and are determined.
One difficult task Biff recently navigated through was changing the institution’s name from Dixie State University to Utah Tech University. Many stakeholders felt strongly about the name change, both for and against it, but the name change was the right move because it aligned the institutional name with the mission of being an open, inclusive, comprehensive polytechnic university. Additionally, the change has provided students and graduates with a strong university name on their diplomas.
When making difficult decisions, such as changing the university’s name, Biff studies the issue and gets the opinions of many, thoroughly vetting every decision with his cabinet. He solicits the opinions of others before expressing his own, so he receives their sincere, unfiltered thoughts.
Biff also advises leaders to serve the team members they are leading. He encourages them to know their employees, be kind and understanding, and always express gratitude. Practicing this himself, he tries to write at least 50 thank-you notes by hand every month, and he almost never falls short of this goal. He also motivates others by working as hard as everyone else, trusting them, and letting them oversee their project's work and progress. Finally, he's learned to accept colleagues' ideas, even when he has a different vision. Biff recommends letting people go through the process on their own; if their notion isn't the best, they'll change course, he adds.
Utah Tech’s strategic plans are great examples of how well the entire university community works together. As part of Status to Stature, the university's strategic plan that guided the institution’s growth during the first years of Biff’s presidency from 2015 to 2020, the university accomplished more than they set out to do. The university community was really inspired by the opportunity to create their own initiatives and build their own areas of expertise. Now, the university community is planning, implementing, and analyzing new projects as they work on Trailblazing Distinction, their strategic plan for 2020–2025. In Biff's view, many people must be involved to succeed not only in the university’s strategic plans, but in all that Utah Tech does.
Looking forward, Utah Tech will continue to offer active learning experiences that prepare students to enter the work force career-ready in all fields, according to Biff. This includes adding more certificates, bachelor's degrees, and master's degrees. Adding new academic programs is an ongoing process for the university, as Utah Tech has added 165 academic programs since Biff’s arrival in 2014, with 85% of those programs in STEM fields. These additions have been in line with community leaders sharing what skills and knowledge they need in the future workforce. Utah Tech will continue working with companies to train graduates and strengthen the university’s strategic plan pillars—open, inclusive, comprehensive, and polytechnic—so all students can succeed. IE
Utah Tech University
A UT education means active learning within all academic disciplines. Hands-on learning, industry partnerships, and a dynamic student-life experience prepare students for successful careers and meaningful lives.