skip to content
  • Calendar
  • Maps

Community Engagement

A Sustainable Future

Weber State prides itself in equipping students to build a more sustainable future, whether that’s through community programs such as the Empower Northern Utah Light Bulb Exchange, which collectively reduced energy bills for participants by $40,000 each year, or quickly pivoting to virtual for events such as our Intermountain Sustainability Summit.

Here are two more ways WSU boosted its sustainability efforts during the 2019–20 academic year:

Net-Zero Home

Students from the Department of Construction & Building Sciences had the opportunity to build a “netzero” home for their senior project, even being named finalists in the 2020 Department of Energy Solar Decathlon. The home is designed in a way that nearly eliminates all energy bills, with costs to operate the home estimated at just over $100 annually or around $9 per month to be connected to the electrical grid.

For the project, the students were able to help with every aspect of the futuristic home, from excavation to finish work. They quickly turned into online project managers when the COVID-19 pandemic halted a lot of in-person work on the project in March.

“It was fun to be able to teach them that this is real life,” said Jeremy Farner, WSU Building Design & Construction associate professor. “Nothing goes exactly how it’s planned.”

The home went on the market in September, and the proceeds from the sale will be used to build another net-zero home next year.

Weber State is on track to meet its goal to become carbon neutral by 2050 ahead of schedule.

Sustainability Attribute

An incredibly powerful step the university has taken toward sustainability this year is adding a sustainability attribute to courses, said Bonnie Christiansen, academic sustainability coordinator for the Sustainability Practices and Research Center (SPARC).

Faculty can now apply to have the sustainability attribute added to their course, allowing students to search their classes specifically for sustainability. It can be applied to any course that meets requirements. For instance, if an English course has a module or writing assignment about sustainability, it could meet the criteria for the SUS attribute.

“My personal goals are to make sure that every student that graduates from Weber State understands the importance of sustainability and how to incorporate it at home and in their careers,” Christiansen said.

Weber State Opens Virtual Doors to Master of Education Students from Shanghai

Weber State students in the Master of Education program will now have their educations enriched with new classmates from Shanghai Normal University Tianhua College.

Six students from the college joined graduate-level education courses at Weber State for the fall 2020 semester, and more are expected to participate in the future.

Tianhua College students are participating virtually in fall courses this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Over the summer of 2020, this group also took virtual courses taught by Weber State education faculty. In the future, when international travel restrictions are lifted, Weber State faculty will travel to China to teach these summer courses.

“The value of bringing international students to Weber State is not only to increase the diversity, but also to bring world knowledge to campus,” said Yimin Wang, senior international officer for Weber State and assistant professor of education at the Jerry & Vickie Moyes College of Education.

Weber State has a relatively high proportion of students who participate in study abroad programs, Wang said, but not all of them can afford to study abroad.

Like Weber State’s other international collaborations, the collaboration with Tianhua College is a way to bring those international experiences to Weber State.

Discussions are underway with several potential partner universities in different parts of the world to create more joint programs like the one with Tianhua College, Wang said. Utah’s population is diverse, she said, which requires Utahns to be proficient in skills that are built through international exchange, even if they’re living and working locally.

“Giving students this opportunity for them to practice the skills of perspective-taking, intercultural communication and problem-solving not only expands their own knowledge, but it's a necessary skill for them to be successful in society,” Wang said.

Perspectives in Printmaking

Weber State's Mary Elizabeth Dee Shaw Gallery exhibited the work of contemporary printmakers from around the world in Perspectives in Printmaking: An Evolving Dynamic during fall 2019.

Susanna Castleden, a Hurst Artist-in-Residence for the Lindquist College of Arts & Humanities, was a featured artist. An associate professor at Curtin University in Australia, Castleden creates art inspired by movement and mobility. She gave a lecture on her work before the opening reception.

Featured artists also included Sean Caulfield, Miguel Rivera, Annu Vertanen, Miriam Rudolph and Shawn Bitters. Shaw Gallery director, Lydia Gravis, and printmaking professor, K Stevenson, co-curated the exhibit.

’CATapult Scholarship Supports Grateful Wildcats

When WSU President Brad Mortensen announced the ’CATapult scholarship at his inauguration, on Founders Day, Jan. 7, 2020, he had no way of knowing the increased need students would soon experience as lives were upended with a global pandemic.

’CATapult was launched to provide an energetic, upward burst of momentum for students nearing graduation but without the means to continue.

“I was just furloughed from my job due to COVID-19,” wrote one student in a thank you note. “I know we will make it through this hard time in our lives, but having the help of a scholarship means so much!”

Within the first few months of its creation, 261 students received a total of $281,512.

Thanks to generous donors, including Bob and Marcia Harris and Wells Fargo Bank, an additional $114,615 was added to ’CATapult to provide emergency assistance to students who were ineligible for CARES Act money and were struggling with school and other expenses. A total of 255 students applied, and every one received help.

The university plans to raise $10 million for ’CATapult to create a lasting, meaningful endowment to inspire future Wildcats in their educational pursuit.

“Going into the final semesters has been stressful enough without these unprecedented times throwing a wrench into everything,” wrote one grateful student. “This scholarship will enable me to spend more time on my studies, and I hope it will help to put me in a position after graduation where I can join in on the generosity and help future Wildcats make ends meet and thrive in their educational pursuits.”

Wildcat Micro Fund

From late 2018 through July 2020, the Wildcat Micro Fund has hosted 15 pitch competitions and distributed 40 grants totaling $35,150 in cash and $6,250 in services.

Weber State business administration major Michael Carver might still be in school, but that hasn’t stopped him from building an innovative moving service. His business, called Boundia, doesn’t only help clients move their belongings but also lines them up with a job, home and new social network — taking care of every aspect of the relocation process.

In May, Carver got a boost of $1,000 from Weber State’s Wildcat Micro Fund, which hosts monthly pitch contests for Weber State students and local entrepreneurs to receive grants of up to $2,000. With his grant, Carver is paying a local web designer to build his website, and he anticipates the grant will cover the entire cost.

When a new business is in its early stages, a small influx of funds can be crucial to the venture’s success.

“It can make a huge difference,” Carver said of the small grant. “People think you need a ton of money to start up, and that’s why I didn’t try to start up my own business for a while, but that’s not the case.” In combination with a little financial support, “it’s really just putting in the effort — the money will eventually get there,” he said.

To prepare applicants for the pitch contest and help them best use their grant money, entrepreneurs are also matched with expert mentors, said Bob Gruhler, manager of the fund at the John B. Goddard School of Business & Economics.

Established in October 2018, the fund is part of a larger collaborative effort among community partners to create an “entrepreneurial ecosystem” in northern Utah, Gruhler said. In November 2019, the fund was awarded a grant of $718,968 from the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Economic Development Administration. This grant will ensure the fund’s continued support of local entrepreneurs for three years, Gruhler said, and allow it to expand its involvement in the community, with a focus on serving underrepresented groups.

WSU Partners with U of U Dental Programs to Help Underserved Communities

Weber State’s Department of Dental Hygiene began an innovative collaboration with the University of Utah School of Dentistry in the spring 2020 semester, allowing students at both schools to learn from each other while providing care to underserved patients.

WSU dental hygiene students and dental students from the University of Utah visited one another's campuses throughout the semester to work in teams that simulate a private dental practice with a full range of services. Patients receiving care included Utahns with limited access to dental services, such as low-income families, those with disabilities and those receiving Medicaid.

“This endeavor is an ideal educational approach at many levels,” said Yasmen Simonian, dean of the Dr. Ezekiel R. Dumke College of Health Professions. “We pledge to enrich the experience of students at both institutions. The program promotes interprofessional education, while addressing current and emerging needs in dental education.”

The arrangement fulfills a commitment to the state legislature to combine interprofessional educational experiences between students in state schools while providing care to underserved communities.

WSU Team Takes Second in Outdoor Weber

A Weber State team led by Madsen Wessmen managed to snag the $15,000 second-place prize from Outdoor Weber, an outdoor recreation business-idea competition.

Wessmen, a professional sales major with a minor in entrepreneurship, had his idea for DOSE Hydration even before he heard about Outdoor Weber.

“We developed a lid that fits on any wide-mouth insulated water bottle or Nalgene bottle and converts it into a hydration pack,” Wessmen said.

Winning the second-place prize meant a lot for a small team that previously had no funding. The money allowed them to afford a prototype of the product and pay for initial startup costs.

“It was $15,000 that we definitely did not have,” Wessmen said. “It just enables us to accelerate a lot of our plans.”

The competition, which has students from colleges and universities across the nation competing for a first-place $30,000 prize, normally brings the 10 finalists to Ogden for the final round of competition. This year, due to COVID-19, everything had to pivot at the last minute to virtual.

First-Ever Pacific Islander College Prep Night

Last fall, Weber State hosted its first event at the Davis campus location to help Pacific Islander K–12 students and their families prepare for college.

The Ohana Association (TOA), a WSU Center for Multicultural Excellence (CME) Pacific Islander student organization, once partnered with GearUp and its director, Brandon Flores, to bus students to a similar event held annually in Salt Lake City. However, those in Weber and Davis counties called for an option closer to home.

“I’ve had a lot of students and parents reach out to me and say ‘Why don’t we have something like that closer to where we are?’” said Lulu Faumui-Latu-Peters, Weber State multicultural retention counselor and TOA advisor.

So, she teamed up with TOA officers to plan a new event.

The inaugural Pacific Islander College Prep Night offered students and parents information on degrees, scholarships and more at Weber State and four peer institutions. K–12 students at the event connected with Pacific Islander students currently in college, professors, college staff and community members through workshops and panel discussions.

“It was awesome to see younger students get involved and ask questions from us. Even though some were shy to ask, they still came up to us after the workshop to ask their questions,” said Finau Tauteoli, 2019–20 TOA vice president. “It was also great to see the commitment from parents in bringing their students to this event and wanting information themselves to better help their students.”

Since many K–12 students at the event would be first-generation college students, parents were educated too.

“I learned how important it is for our children to want to be successful students, and for that to happen, parents need to get involved and be the example,” wrote one parent in a follow-up survey. “Also, FAFSA and scholarships are free money that we should start applying for ASAP.”

2019–20 Pacific Islander College Prep Night by the Numbers


Parents and children


K–12 students


High school seniors (2 registered for college)


WSU student volunteers


Guest presenters


Community and student organization

WSU Prep Recognized for Collaboration and Diversity

The WSU PREP program finished up its sixth year with multiple accolades, winning Weber State’s 2019 Exemplary Collaboration Award and making the shortlist for the Airbus GEDC Diversity Award — a global awards program for engineering education.

The seven-week summer STEM boot camp for high-achieving junior high students focuses on populations that are often underrepresented in STEM fields, including girls, minorities and first-generation college students.

The PREP program requires many people working together to make it happen, said Dana Dellinger, WSU’s Center for Applied Technology Outreach director.

“For that reason, it is especially sweet to win an award that recognizes the value of collaboration,” Dellinger said.

PREP was one of 14 finalists for the 2019 Airbus GEDC Diversity Award for its work in increasing diversity in engineering, an award that Dellinger said is exciting to receive for a local program designed to benefit kids and families in the community.

“Having our work recognized as noteworthy and admirable by an organization seeking out great STEM programming worldwide gave us a wonderful sense of accomplishment,” Dellinger said. “It is a unique compliment to Weber State and to all the partners who come together to bring PREP to our community.”

Over the course of three summers, students are exposed to classes in STEM subjects such as math, engineering, and more. The students, ages 12–14, learn from industry, government and business professionals. The program first started in 2015 with 72 students, and by 2019, had grown to more than 191 students.

Despite challenges presented by a global pandemic, PREP adapted over the summer to make sure students still had access to the program. Through Zoom and Canvas, 171 students participated in classes, and they attended oncea-week PREP in the Park activities to meet one another and participate in activities.

Weber State Criminal Justice Department Builds Ties with U.S. Marshals

Weber State is now one of two universities in Utah to establish an internship with the United States Marshals Service.

During spring semester 2020, two students majoring in criminal justice interned with the U.S. Marshals, the country’s oldest federal law enforcement agency, known for transporting prisoners, searching for fugitives and protecting federal courts. These students were the first from Weber State to participate in the new internship, which will accept one Weber State criminal justice student each semester, tentatively starting in spring 2021, after a pause during summer and fall 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The great thing about the U.S. Marshals internship is that they do everything possible to expose interns to real life as a deputy marshal,” said Bruce Bayley, professor of criminal justice and internship director in the criminal justice department. “A lot of what the agency does is quite dangerous and dynamic, so they can’t bring interns on all of their activities, but they integrate interns anywhere they can.”

Weber State students and administrators were able to learn more about the agency during a special visit in February 2020 from U.S. Marshal Matthew Harris, who oversees the agency’s activities in Utah. Harris was accompanied by two Weber State graduates who majored in criminal justice: Supervisory Deputy Marshal Nick Chournos, former record-setting running back on Weber State’s football team, and Deputy Marshal Andy Desmond, who now oversees recruiting and internships for the U.S. Marshals in Utah.

Desmond suggested that the agency work with Weber State because he knew from firsthand experience that the university has a fantastic criminal justice program, he said.

Through the internship, Desmond hopes to help students who aspire to become deputy marshals or join other federal law enforcement agencies by exposing them to “the things that they need to know about in order to make their dreams happen,” he said.