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Communication From Cantwell: In Pursuit of a Better Tomorrow

USU president Elizabeth Cantwell poses for a portrait in front of a lit Christmas tree.
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By USU President Elizabeth Cantwell

It is hard to believe I’ve been here for almost half a year. It’s been challenging, as I knew it would be, but also incredibly rewarding to serve the Utah State University community. It is no secret that I’m a big believer in cultivating a sense of engagement, of civic duty, and of encouraging real-world, community service — it’s truly the reason I am here, serving as president of USU, today.

Earlier in my career, I’d planned on taking my newly earned MBA to create my own startup. But then on Sept. 11, 2001, the world changed. And my world and outlook changed with it. I felt strongly that it was the time to invest in our future, so I took that moment to continue my career in national labs, national security, and higher education. I’m not sure any administrator sets out to lead a university, but I chose to as a way to give back and serve succeeding generations who will build the future even after we’re all gone.

As I write this, I’m just coming off of a statewide tour of listening sessions at many of USU’s locations throughout Utah. Each campus has a unique perspective and distinct needs. In order for me to best serve them — and in serving them, create the best outcomes for students across the state — we need to work to understand their different goals.

There are many different avenues we can take to create a better future, in and out of the university. From expanding course and degree offerings and creating research opportunities to fostering a sense of belonging and cultivating the mindset of civic engagement, we are setting up our graduates for a brighter tomorrow. On Oct. 5, the university celebrated its fifth annual Day of Giving, where in just 24 hours, more than 800 donors gave $355,753 and other gifts to make an impact on our students’ lives. Together, we are helping Aggies grow and attain the skills needed to become servant-leaders in their communities and around the world.

These are just a handful of examples of service in the Aggie community, and there are many more examples you can read about in the winter digital edition of the Utah State magazine. You can learn about the psychological impacts of service on our brains, how veterans at USU leverage their military experiences post-service, how the USU gleaning team serves the community while combatting food waste and insecurity, see the behind-the-scenes work that goes into university events, and more. Join me in exploring these stories of service and their reverberating impacts in our communities and the world.

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