Utah’s Economy Benefits from International Exposure of Sundance

(Graphic by Devin Wakefield)

(Graphic by Devin Wakefield)


Along with the celebrities and the spotlight that the Sundance Film Festival brings to Utah, it brings money.

According to a 2014 report by the Sundance Institute, last year’s festival brought an $86.4 million increase to the state’s gross state product. Guests spent a total of $63.9 million in the state, and the festival made a $42.2 million impact on wages, salaries and employer-paid benefits. In addition to the immediate economic impact, the state also benefits in the long term from being featured in media and from future tourism.

These numbers hover around the average of Sundance earnings over the past five years, with much of the revenue coming from non-residents from more than 30 different countries. The majority of their money is spent in the Salt Lake City and Park City areas on local businesses, transportation and lodging.

Gry Wheaton, a senior in psychology, said she is glad the festival benefits the local economy, but she has some hesitations about where that money ends up.

“I know people who make a lot more tips that week and that it does reach people who are lower,” Wheaton said. “But I think overall the people benefiting are the people who are already established.”

While Sundance spells good things for Utah economically, these earnings don’t always transfer to the films themselves. Matt Lieberman, a director at PricewaterhouseCoopers, an entertainment and media company, said in an interview for TheStreet, a news source focused on the stock market, that film festivals such as Sundance are important when it comes to directors and actors building reputations for themselves, but few films generate a significant revenue from it.

This networking is another prominent feature of Sundance that offers support to the film community both within and outside of Utah. Carrying the original 1978 Sundance goal of attracting more filmmakers to the state, the festival offers a program that anyone can apply for to learn more about it all. Their website says each program includes “labs, grants, workshops and ongoing resources for artists to nurture their projects and sustain their careers.”

Erin O’Kelley, a freshman in film and media arts and urban ecology, said she likes that Sundance is ranked with top European film festivals such as the Cannes Film Festival in France and the Venice Film Festival in Italy.

Wheaton said this aspect helps expose Utah internationally, even if people can’t exactly pinpoint where it is on the map before they fly out here.

“Where I’m from, my mom in Denmark has heard about Sundance,” Wheaton said. “Maybe she couldn’t say, ‘Oh, it’s Utah,’ but she’s heard of [it].”

O’Kelley said she also likes the amount of exposure Utah gets around the world for the festival.

“I know a lot of my friends will go up to Park City just to see all of the different people that have come to this event,” she said.


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Instagram Contest to Highlight “Humans of the U”

((Photo courtesy of Gaby Zumaeta) Pictured is Carlos Rivera, who was photographed as part of the "Humans of the U" initiative on campus.)

((Photo courtesy of Gaby Zumaeta) Pictured is Carlos Rivera, who was photographed as part of the “Humans of the U” initiative on campus.)


While the “Humans of New York” blog is building a sense of community in the big city, a “Humans of the U” Facebook page is doing the same on campus.

Tyler McDaniel, a junior in mathematics and sociology, currently runs the page. It began as “Voices of Salt Lake” in November 2013, but he decided to focus on the U’s campus and changed the name.


McDaniel’s group was slow to start, with about 100 followers after one year. Then “Humans of Salt Lake City” teamed up with them and helped to double the numbers in a couple of days. Now, with more than 500 followers, McDaniel said the Facebook group continues to grow. He has been happy with the success up to this point, saying the page unites campus.

“In general, social media is very self-centered,” he said. “You get on and think about yourself. All ‘Humans of’ groups are examples of how social media can actually build a sense of community.”

Since Humans of New York has gained popularity, it’s no wonder that another group on campus, the First Year Council with ASUU, had a similar idea to make a “Humans of the U” group. Amy Loret, a freshman in biology and member of the First Year Council, said when they heard about McDaniel’s page, they decided to work together.

From Feb. 2 to the 13, the council will host a “Humans of the U” photo contest through Instagram. A “best-of-the-week” photo will be chosen by the council, and winners will receive a $50 gift card to Amazon. Loret said each person who posts with #HumansoftheU will have their name placed in a raffle to win prizes from University Credit Union, the U Campus Store and other companies.

Mohan Sudabattula, a freshman in biology, was one of the council members who contributed to the idea of a two-week “Humans of the U” project.

“Our aim is to find people that we feel need to be recognized,” he said. “We want to spotlight people with interesting backgrounds, stories and passions.”

Each day during the event, the council will be posting their own “Humans of the U” story. Sudabattula said finding unknown stories and people was difficult, but through nominations by students, they now have two weeks worth of individuals to spotlight.

McDaniel and other members of the Facebook group find stories by taking out their cameras and approaching people. Once they mention “Humans of New York,” McDaniel said people seem to open up. He has enjoyed discovering personal connections with people he has just met, and said he’s had some very random conversations, but meaningful experiences.

“You never know what people are going to tell you when you start asking them questions,” he said.

The council wants to keep to this spirit and not just highlight the typical student. Sudabattula is excited for every “outstanding individual” they find. They hope the hype for the two week project will spike an interest in McDaniel’s ongoing Facebook page.

“It could crash and burn if nothing happens,” Sudabattula said. “Or, once the ball goes rolling it will keep rolling.”


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13th Market Street Waters the “Food Desert” on Campus

(Photo by Dane Goodwin)

(Photo by Dane Goodwin)


The 13th Street Market, which sits just one block below President’s Circle, offers U students a 10 percent discount on groceries to encourage sustainable, local shopping near campus.


But the owner Jenny Zemp said food isn’t the only benefit.

“The market should increase foot traffic through the area, decreasing environmental impact, bolstering the local economy and promoting strong community interactions,” Zemp said.

According to the United States Department of Agriculture, the university neighborhood, which stretches from 1300 East to Fort Douglas, is a food desert. There are convenience stores and restaurants, but residents aren’t within walking distance of stores with affordable, healthy groceries.

Tyler Nelson, a senior in mathematics, and Jack Lawless, a senior in finance, both live near campus and have cars. They see the appeal of the market, but said they probably won’t shop there.

“It’s cool if you live in the area, if you don’t have a car,” Lawless said.

Nikol Yonemura, an undecided freshman, said even with a car, getting groceries to the dorms is difficult.

“Even if you have a car, it’s still annoying because you need an A pass to park [nearby],” Yonemura said.

Janie Saviers-Steiger, a freshman in biomedical engineering, lives in the dorms and doesn’t have a car. Saviers-Steiger is excited about a sustainable market nearby, but says it doesn’t address all of her grocery shopping needs.

“If it’s more expensive even with the discount, it might not be worth it,” Saviers-Steiger said. “It’d be great if they had some sort of store in the heart of the dorms.”

To address these concerns, the 13th Street Market offers a grocery delivery service to students.

“Our weekly delivery service is still running, and it’s a great option for those living on the other side of campus,” Zemp said. “We are moving to a next-day or possibly even a same-day grocery service very soon.”

Students can sign up and learn more by going to


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U Prepares Heightened Security for Sotomayor Speech

(Photo Courtesy of Collection of the Supreme Court of the United States, Steve Petteway)

(Photo Courtesy of Collection of the Supreme Court of the United States, Steve Petteway)


Students planning to see Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor at the Huntsman Center should be aware of new security protocols put in place for the event.


One of these new security measures will be requiring attendees to “pass through a metal detector and have their bags checked” according to a press release by the U’s public relation communications.

Maria O’Mara, communications director for the U, explained these altered guidelines are because of Utah’s concealed carry law. The U complies with the state law allowing a permit holder to possess a concealed weapon on campus. However, in accordance with federal security guidelines through the United States Marshals office, no guns or other weapons will be permitted at the venue for Justice Sotomayor’s visit, O’Mara said.

Patrick McShane, program manager for the U’s MUSE Project, encouraged students to be aware of these changes and take proper precautions.

“Students, if they are able, should try not to bring in any bags or purses that will [not] go through a security scan,” McShane said. “The reason this is important to the event is to provide a safe environment for those attending.”

McShane didn’t think these security precautions would have an overall impact on the success of the event.

“We have had a really great response from students and the community at large about this event,” McShane said. “We initially started distributing tickets to students and staff back in November and gave 800 away on the very first day.”

Shawn Smith, a sophomore in communications, has been looking forward to seeing Sotomayor since last semester, but was unaware of the security protocols.

“It almost feels like I’m going to be getting on a plane,” Smith said, “not seeing a speaker at the Huntsman.”

To prepare for Justice Sotomayor, MUSE has also sponsored a number of lunchtime lectures that all revolve around the theme of justice. A full list of these upcoming dates can be found on


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Rare Books at the U Make History Come Alive

(Photo by Erin Burns)

(Photo by Erin Burns)


There is only one place at the U where students have access to a $500,000 copy of Isaac Newton’s first discussion of gravitational theory — the U’s rare book collection.


Located on the fourth floor of the Marriott Library, Newton’s first edition is one of the many famous works students have access to. Among the shelves are journals from 1917 when Albert Einstein was first seen in print, books inscribed with the signature of Nikola Tesla, first editions of John Locke and Martin Luther as well as copies of Shakespeare’s “Much Ado About Nothing.”

Alison Conner, a curator in rare books, said the U’s collection is unique from other ones in the nation because people don’t need permission to access even the rarest book.

“Being a public university, the students of the U as well as the general public have a right to know about the books we have and we want to allow people to come in and experience the books for themselves,” Connor said.

The books are kept in a locked vault where humidity is controlled and the temperature is kept at 58-62 degrees Farenheit to ensure safety and preservation of the books. The floor is lifted to ward off water damage and the shelves are bolted to the ground and built to sway slightly in case of an earthquake.

Luise Poulton, the managing curator of the rare books collection, said the U’s collection is the single largest asset Utah owns.

According to Poulton and Conner, there are currently 80,000 pieces. The most expensive piece is a Book of Commandments containing a description written by Joseph Smith about his revelations from God. The book is valued at one million dollars.

However, Poulton said the collection goes beyond the monetary value.

“The real value of the collection cannot be measured in numbers or even in the physical sense,” Poulton said. “It is scary to allow people to come in and hold the books, but it is necessary. It is not about the money, but absolutely about the emotional connection that can be made with the past and with the books.”

Poulton and Conner are currently trying to bring the rare books collection to the virtual world. Everything in the collection is scanned and students can find the material on the rare books website through the Marriott Library website. Additionally, rare books has a blog updated weekly with a “book of the week” and any upcoming workshops.

“Our hope is that students will look us up online and come in to see for themselves the amazing treasures we have available to them,” Poulton said. “We want students to hold centuries old books in their hands, feel the textured pages, breathe in the scent of the past and really connect with the books and the people who made history come alive.”


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Dental Program Finds New Home in Research Park

(Photo by Kiffer Creveling)

(Photo by Kiffer Creveling)


The U’s School of Dentistry now has 86,000 square feet to house its growing program.

The dentistry program, previously located in the Health Sciences Education Building, has moved into a recently completed three-story structure in Research Park called the Ray and Tye Noorda Oral Health Science Building.


Rick Pike, development director of the School of Dentistry, said the new space matches the new program. The School of Dentistry, which began offering classes in fall of 2013, is still in its early development.

Rachel Smith, a second-year student in the dentistry program, said she is amazed by the facility’s technology.

“It’s making a big difference on our education — just the accessibility that we have [and] the space that we have,” she said. “It makes it so that we can be fully prepared for when we serve the public.”

One of her favorite additions is the simulation lab, where each student has access to a dummy for practice.

The building accommodates up to 45 students in each class, and the dentistry program will likely expand as a result. The current two classes have about 20 students, which is a limit set by state legislation to regulate the number of dentistry graduates per year. Officials from the school hope to pass legislation to allow more students into the program, especially those who live out of state.

Gary Lowder, assistant dean and professor in the School of Dentistry, was one of the founding fathers of the program. He and Lynn Powell, founding dean of the school, have worked for about 15 years to get dentistry its own home at the U. Lowder is pleased with the new building.

“They are meeting every need for students, faculty and research,” he said. “We’re really excited.”

Pike said the overall cost of the building and facilities was $36 million and was made possible by a $30 million donation from Ray and Tye Noorda. Construction took 18 months to complete.

Another feature of the space is the clinic on the ground floor. Sixty spacious cubicles sit ready for use by patients from the public and dentists from the school. There is a pediatric unit as well, Pike said. Since the school is fairly new, simple dental care will be performed for now and the oral surgery labs will be used as students become more experienced.

“Dentists do a lot of continuing education,” Pike said. “We want this to become a real continuing education hub for dentistry along the Wasatch front. We’ve got the technology and the size to, we hope, do it.”


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Street Name Change Reflects Students at the U

(Photo by Kiffer Creveling)

(Photo by Kiffer Creveling)


The street formerly known as Bailiff Road has been renamed Student Life Way.

The road begins at Wasatch Drive, runs between the Student Life Center and the McCarthey Track and Field Complex, past the HPER Complex and ends near the Carolyn Tanner Irish Humanities Building.


The previous name originated from Bailiff Hall, a residence hall that no longer exists. Lori McDonald, the dean of students in Student Affairs, petitioned for the alteration to reflect the U’s changing campus. Michael Perez, associate vice president for Facilities Management, said the street was renamed to make it relevant to students by relating it to the new Student Life Center.

Perez said the change is important to the student-centered nature of its route. The transformation of the HPER Mall, the Student Life Center and the in-construction Lassonde Studios lead members of the U to “anticipate and fully expect that this will now be a new spine full of student engagement,” Perez said.

“Student Life Way better describes what we really expect to be a really exciting and really engaging student corridor,” Perez said.

Perez clarified the modification was unrelated to the naming of Commonwealth Avenue, the name given to the walkway that runs north across campus, starting at the UMFA. However, Perez said the changes share the same goal to help students and visitors better navigate the U.

This is not the only plan to make the school more navigable. Perez said a shuttle-only street will travel between Milton Bennion Hall and the Sorenson Arts and Education building, go past the Tanner Irish Building, connect to Central Campus Drive and end near the Warnock Engineering Building. This route will be for the U’s electric shuttle. Perez said the route, funded through university and federal funds, will hopefully be completed before Fall 2016.

Shireen Ghorbani, spokesperson for the U’s Facilities Management, said they offer a mapping service with data from new maps and a mobile routing map for on-foot navigation of campus. The map only works when the person using it is on campus, but Ghorbani said Facilities Management is always open to feedback on improving their services.

Ghorbani said changes like the new street sign and the electric shuttle are part of “the institutional responsibility to help people navigate around the space.”

Marina Neofitos, an undeclared freshman, said she wouldn’t notice anything as small as a street sign change. However, Neofitos said she is excited for the electric shuttle’s new route.

“I would use them for winter times when no one wants to be walking on campus,” Neofitos said. “This kind of stuff is way more important than renaming street names.”

Before these larger changes are put into effect, the U is starting to simplify its campus in smaller ways that, Perez said, “didn’t cost us anything other than a new street sign.”


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    New Utah Education Model Will Provide Incentives

    Entice a kid with some candy, and he may do his homework. Entice a university with funding, and every student will.

    Regents from The Utah System of Higher Education (USHE) gathered on Friday to discuss a panel of stories, including a new funding model project. The performance-based funding model provides an incentive for universities to meet goals and therefore receive further funding, said Melanie Heath, director of communications for the USHE.

    “They are funded based on the percentage of the goal that they complete each year. If they only make 50 percent of their goal, they will only be funded 50 percent of their allocation,” she said.

    The new proposal, on its way to Capitol Hill to pass legislation, would provide $5 million to be distributed as universities meet benchmark goals similar to universities from across the nation.

    “Rather than giving them money up front, we are rewarding them for progress,” Heath said.

    President David Pershing, along with President Charles Wight of Weber State University and President Scott Wyatt of Southern Utah University, helped develop the proposition, and they are excited to see it put into action.

    “The idea is to give us funding to be able to help departments in their strategic growth,” Pershing said. “In some cases it would be adding faculty, in other cases it might be helping with new student programs.”

    Pershing hopes the initiatives will drive the university as a whole to do better.

    “I think it will encourage the administration and the faculty to try to move toward best practices,” Pershing said.

    Utah institutions have been running on a small scale version of the plan since 2013, when the performance metrics were set. Metrics are partly decided by the board and partly chosen by the president of each institution.

    David Buhler, commissioner of Higher Education, presented the model to the board and the public on Friday, explaining how performance would be measured.

    Completion, affordability and access are the set metrics, while retention of different student groups and other measurable statistics are optional metrics, Buhler said.

    This model is seen nation-wide, and Utah will be using national statistics to measure their success.

    “The objective in the model is to have institutions become the best-in-class,” Buhler said. “We are defining this by being in the top third of their peers.”

    Heath clarified that the goals are set and revised every three years. As peer institutions get better, they expect USHE schools to get better, Heath said.

    The performance-based funding would provide only a part of each institution’s budget. If an institution meets 100 percent of their goals, their funds become on-going to support them at that level each year, Heath said.

    Other issues such as retention, completion and new initiatives for Utah institutions, including construction projects, were also addressed at the meeting.


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    Cuba Trip Gives U Students New Perspectives

    (Photo Courtesy of Morgan Byrne)

    (Photo Courtesy of Morgan Byrne)


    A course at the U took a group of students to Cuba last October for a brand new type of study abroad experience.


    Melissa Hall, the program manager for the class entitled “Cuba: Community, Complexity and Change,” said the group was a mix of undergraduate and graduate students. Once enrolled, students began preparing for their trip, learning about the country they would be exploring.

    “Before we go, we spend a lot of time in the classroom focusing on the new culture they are about to experience, and once we are there they get to see a variety of groups, from redevelopment areas to the grassroots of Cuba,” Hall said.

    Gina Russo, the assistant director at the Bennion Center and organizer of the study abroad trip, received a grant to do an exploratory of her choosing. After a visit to Cuba, Russo wanted to share her experience with the culture.

    “I realized that it was viable and that students would love it,” Russo said. “We didn’t market it that well for that long of a time and we got 22 students right out of the gate who signed up. I was hoping for 12, and I was like “wow.” I think people were really intrigued to explore this mystery country that is only 90 miles away from us.”

    Russo said she feels there are negative misconceptions about traveling to Cuba, saying some may view it as scary and illegal.

    “People think they have Cuba in this little box, and once you start to peel the onion you see it’s different,” Russo said.

    Russo wanted the exploration to focus on Cuba’s expanding cultural landscape and the different demographics of the people and country.

    “[The] life expectancy in Cuba and the United States is only a year apart, and the gaps between the rich and the poor are much smaller,” Russo said. “In general the Cubans’ needs are met and therefore more people, you could argue, are getting their basic human needs met. Here people are really poor or living extravagantly. It is more socialism-oriented because it is socialism.”

    Regarding physical safety, Russo said she felt safe to travel in Cuba.

    “I can go out … at night and feel perfectly safe,” Russo said. “People speak English and are trying to learn it, so the language barrier isn’t as intense as people think.”

    Russo said she values the experiences students have when they return to the states.

    “My favorite part is once we are home and everyone has to reflect on the trip,” Hall said. “How they have changed, what they have learned; it’s a time for critical thinking of everything they just saw.”


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    U Student Shares Her Story at the White House

    (Photo Courtesy of Arielle Spanvill)

    (Photo Courtesy of Arielle Spanvill)


    The last day of Fall Semester was an exciting time for students at the U, but especially for graduate student Arielle Spanvill.

    A project manager for Utah Support Advocates for Recovery Awareness, Spanvill educates the greater Salt Lake recovery community on the benefits within the Affordable Care Act they could use. One day she received a phone call from a fellow USARA associate.


    “My co-worker asked if I had received my insurance through the exchange and if I had used it to help me maintain my recovery,” Spanvill said. “I told her yes, and when I asked why, my co-worker said, ‘Because the White House wants to know.’ It was an amazing moment.”

    Shortly after, Spanvill began gathering information for her bio to send to the White House. At the age of 12, Spanvill became involved in substance abuse. The addiction would follow her until age 24, when Spanvill decided to take back control of her life. Jan. 26 of this year will mark six years during which Spanvill has remained free of any mind-altering substances.

    Last spring, Spanvill participated as a Hinckley Institute intern at the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration in Washington DC. The Tuesday before Christmas, Spanvill did a phone interview with SAMHSA, who loved her personal story of recovery. The interview prompted an invite to the White House, and on Jan. 21 Spanvill addressed the nation with her story of recovery as well as her gratitude for the Affordable Care Act.

    “I feel like Cinderella at the ball,” Spanvill said. “This is nothing short of a dream come true for me. I am truly honored to represent the Salt Lake recovery community.”

    According to RyLee Curtis, a Senior Health Policy Analyst in Utah, a total of 135,450 adult Utahns are in need of treatment services for substance use disorders. Only 14,726 of them are able to receive treatments through county-funded services, which leaves over 120,000 Utahns in need of substance use disorder services. The Healthy Utah Plan closes the coverage gap by offering private health insurance.

    Curtis encouraged the younger generation to speak up to legislators to make a change.

    “Utah can do better than leaving over 120,000 Utahns in need of treatment services,” Curtis said. “Recovery is good for Utah’s economy because when Utahns get sober, they are working, they are paying taxes and they go back to school — much like Arielle — and become great successes.”

    Spanvill’s outlook remains grateful for the opportunities she has been given and hopeful that others who are currently fighting the battle of substance abuse will find access to the help they need.

    “The Alcohol and Drug Abuse Clinic in the U’s hospital has saved my life,” Spanvill said. “Recovery from drugs and alcohol is possible. Don’t count out the “junkies” — they will surprise you. Find a passion. When I discuss health care I can feel passion streaming through my veins, it gets me going. That is how I know I have made the right choice with my life.”


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