William A. Sederburg
Taking Education to the Next Level
January 1, 2008
With a distinguished 30-year career as a state senator and later as the president of a state university, the average person might be ready to rest on his laurels. Not so for William A. Sederburg. “My wife and I were walking in front of the Capitol in Lansing [Michigan], and a lawmaker came up to me and asked how we did it in the ‘old days’ at the Legislature. I knew it was time to start looking to the future.”
Seeking a new adventure, Sederburg left Michigan’s Ferris State University in 2003 to take the helm as president of Utah Valley State College (UVSC). And in four short years, he has propelled the regional college well into the future, more than doubling the number of four-year degree programs and, most significantly, helping the school attain university status.
Sederburg was appointed by the Utah State Board of Regents with the understanding that he believed UVSC should become a university and that he would strive to achieve that goal.
Initially, everyone involved thought it would take at least 10 years to transition the college into a university. Just four years later, in early 2007, the Utah Legislature passed a bill conferring university status on UVSC, which will be known as Utah Valley University as of July 2008.
“It wasn’t me that sold the Legislature. It was the support built up by UVSC over 30 years,” says Sederburg. “It was the college that sold itself.”
He also attributes the quick approval process to supportive legislative leadership and to the Huntsman administration, which highly values economic development. And a key to economic development is an educated workforce that will attract companies that offer high salaries. “The question is, what number of higher-paying jobs are we going to have in the state? The best investment anyone can make in Utah is to go out and get a degree,” he says, explaining that college graduates earn on average $23,000 more each year than high school graduates.
The transition process has also meant more money for the school, allowing it to increase the number of full-time faculty and create graduate programs. Additionally, Sederburg is focusing on forming new partnerships with the community.
“We now have $400,000 a year in faculty grants to help meet the needs of the local community,” he says. “Faculty will be involved with their classes in projects throughout the region.” Furthermore, many of the dozens of new degree programs were created in direct response to community needs.
UVSC is also instrumental to the economic development of Utah County and the state. The college houses the Utah Manufacturing Extension Partnership and a small business incubator program. UVSC recently hired a director of economic development to help align the school with the demands of local businesses and industries.
Having achieved university status for UVSC, Sederburg is still not ready to sit back; he continues to look to the future for the soon-to-be university. “We are in the process of envisioning what we want to be in the year 2018,” he says. Within a few short years, enrollment at Utah Valley University is expected to reach at least 40,000. “Schools can change so much in 10 years, so it’s hard to predict exactly what the university will look like…but in the future, people won’t be able to envision the region without us.”