One USU alum stands with two USU students, all of which started their educational journey at USU's Logan Campus, but finished in USU's Statewide Campus system.
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By Marcus Jensen

If there is one thing that can be predicted with certainty, it is that life can certainly be unpredictable.

Oftentimes, students feel like they have their higher education journey figured out. But then, unexpected opportunities and challenges pop up that can derail those plans. However, with one of the more unique systems in the country, Utah State University and its Statewide Campuses help students navigate those challenges and opportunities while keeping their educational goals on track.

“Even though everyone starts at ‘A’, there is more than one way to get to ‘Z’,” says Vanessa Liesik, USU’s director of Statewide & Online Recruitment. “Our system has so many options.”

With multiple locations throughout the state — 30 to be exact — USU is willing and able to work with students as they seek the right fit for their education and pursuits.

“As our students are progressing through their life journeys, if they have other opportunities they want to pursue, moving into Statewide can make sense for them to help maximize these options,” Liesik says. “They can have their cake and eat it too — they get to have all of the good stuff. They can continue their education and pursue their dreams, all at the same time.”

The following are three examples of how USU worked with students who started their journey at the Logan campus, but through life’s unexpected opportunities, were able to continue their education through Statewide Campuses and stay on track to graduate, while pursuing other passions and dreams.

High Flying Goals and Aspirations

Olivia Lee performs an aerialist routine at the Dee Glen Smith Spectrum. Photo courtesy of Utah State Athletics.

From a young age, Olivia Lee saw the effects that higher education could have on a life. While Lee was in middle school, her mother returned to college while raising a family. The impact of her mother’s education and subsequent employment opportunities left a big impression on Lee and created positive change for her family.

“She went back to school and finished her degree, and it completely changed the trajectory of my whole childhood,” Lee recalls. “We had much greater stability at home.”

Lee was inspired by her mother’s example and noticed how the university she attended saw her not only as a name on a list, but as a person with specific needs and circumstances.

“It was inspiring to watch her go back, and to see that the university saw her as more than just a number,” Lee says. “They recognized she was a mom and a working professional. They saw all of the different aspects of who she was. That really changed my view around education.”

Seeing the impact education had on her mom, Lee prioritized her education above anything else in her life, even her passion of being an aerialist. Lee’s passion for acrobatics helped her earn a spot on USU’s Spirit Squad — first as a cheerleader and then as an Aggiette — during her time on the Logan campus. She even performed her aerialist routine at the halftime of USU basketball games, showcasing her incredible skills.

Lee loved her time at USU Logan, but there was a part of her that wanted to pursue this skill at the professional level. Yet, she had set school as her number one priority and could not see how to fit performing into her school schedule.

That all changed one day when she was speaking with a friend who went to school at the USU Salt Lake Center. Her friend was recovering from an intense surgery that required him to stay lying in bed for six straight weeks. Her friend told her how his advisors at USU worked tirelessly to make sure he could continue his classes online while recovering from home. Seeing USU go the extra mile to accommodate her friend’s specific needs, she thought, ‘Maybe USU can adjust for me too.’

“After seeing the support that Statewide offered to a peer of mine, I said, ‘I think I’m going to do it.’ I spoke with my advisor and asked how many semesters I could do down in Statewide,” Lee remembers. “And I worked closely with my advisor to be able to complete two of my semesters in Salt Lake. I got to perform in an awesome show, which was a good foundation that provided me with a lot of awesome opportunities with other performances here in Salt Lake.”

Lee went on to perform in a production of Seussical: The Musical at the Hale Center Theater. She loved being able to do her performances while balancing a job at the Salt Lake Center as a facilitator and taking 18 credit hours. She graduated with a degree in Communication Studies in 2020.

“It felt like the stars all kind of lined up perfectly for the transition into Statewide,” Lee says. “When I realized that USU could support not just the student piece of who I was, but also support the other things I was interested in, like working and performing and being close to my family, it was super meaningful for me.”

Lee is now the admissions specialist at USU Salt Lake Center. After graduation, she worked in the private sector for a short time, but felt like she just kept coming back to wanting to be a part of USU. She wanted to be a part of changing lives, just like hers and her mother’s were changed.

“I tell people all the time as I speak with them that the flexibility and the individualized approach that I was able to have during my educational journey, it is something I don’t think I could have gotten anywhere else,” she says. “Whether it is working with a traditional-aged student looking for flexibility and an individualized approach to their education or working with a post-traditional student who is reminiscent of my mom and her journey, I feel like I have personally benefitted from it, which makes me that much more motivated to help and support others’ unique journeys too. It quite literally changed my life, and I don’t say that lightly.”

Lee now helps students find their specific path and works to do everything she can to have USU adjust for them. No matter what life throws their way, as Lee says, “USU always seems to have a really good answer.”

Nashville Dreams

Alivia Hadfield grew up with a guitar in her hands and songs in her heart. Throughout her early years, Hadfield loved to sing, perform, and write country songs. She also has a passion for journalism, which led her to USU.

Hadfield wanted the true college experience, which meant moving away from home and branching out on her own. She stepped onto the Logan campus in fall 2022, joining the staff of The Utah Statesman, USU’s student-run newspaper. During this time, she thought she had to put her music aspirations on hold. That was, until a unique opportunity presented itself. Out of nowhere, someone reached out after viewing her music on Instagram. She was offered an opportunity to join an artist development program.

Alivia Hadfield.

“I got a rare opportunity when I got picked up from my Instagram,” Hadfield says. “I was able to have some really cool experiences.”

As amazing as this opportunity was, it also meant she needed to live closer to home, so she could have more time to practice her music — sometimes needing to sing four hours a day. She started to worry about how she would continue school during this time, thinking she might need to transfer.

“I was really starting to stress out, because I didn’t want to be switching schools,” Hadfield recalls. “I had already transferred over my high school credits, and I had taken around 30 credits in my first two semesters. So, I didn’t really want to switch over.”

Just by luck, Hadfield saw an advertisement for the USU Orem campus. Realizing that Statewide Campuses had locations near her home, Hadfield contacted her academic advisor, and together they worked out a plan that allowed her to finish her general education requirements at the USU Orem campus.

“I learned that I could transfer my credits to the Orem campus and do some online and broadcasting classes while I get my music situation figured out,” Hadfield says. “It has been a great transition, and it was super easy. And I’m getting the same level of education that I received up in Logan.”

For the time being, Hadfield is taking advantage of classes at USU Orem while also creating music. She says she’s incredibly grateful that USU worked with her to manage both of her passions.

“Being able to do both and having the flexibility of having online and having professors that understand and allow me to pursue this has been a great blessing,” she says. “It is amazing that I can pursue both.

“USU follows you wherever you go, they have you backed up fully, 100%. There has never been a moment during my transition where I ever felt alone or didn’t know what I was doing. For students who have a crazy opportunity and are scared what their school life will look like, don’t you worry. USU is the school that follows you and will support you, all the way.”

Jumping at an Opportunity

Austin Smith. Photo by Levi Sim.

Austin Smith came to USU after applying for and being accepted into the school’s Ambassador program. Receiving a full-tuition scholarship made his school decision easy. However, after starting his finance degree, Smith got the urge to begin his job search.

“After about two years, I started to get the itch to start working more in my field,” Smith remembers. “But I still wanted to finish my degree, because I had made a lot of progress.”

He first looked for opportunities to work in Logan, so he could continue his degree progress. However, he was unable to find a good fit. So, Smith expanded his search to Salt Lake County. After applying for several opportunities, Smith was offered a job that was too good to pass up.

But he still wanted to continue his schooling and get his degree. So, he got in contact with his academic advisor and worked out how to begin taking courses online.

“I talk to my academic advisor at the beginning and sometimes at the end of each semester to make sure I have my classes available online at whichever campuses I need,” Smith says. “For some of my classes, I’ve had to get some restrictions removed, so I could get into some of them. But they have made adjustments, and it hasn’t been a problem for me.”

Smith worked his full-time job and was taking between 13-14 credit hours per semester after transferring fully online. He says he’s grateful that his academic advisors worked with him to find him courses to take wherever he could, and that they worked hard to find solutions that worked for him. He will graduate this summer with his bachelor’s degree.

“I had a team working with me, instead of me doing it on my own,” Smith recalls. “I didn’t have to figure it out on my own, which was helpful having people who understood the system and who made the effort to make sure I could successfully get through everything. It was pretty smooth, and I didn’t really have any hiccups.”

Smith continued his work as an ambassador by joining the USU Wasatch Region’s pilot Ambassador Program. His advisors worked with him to find roles that fit with his work schedule and allowed him to continue to receive mentorship and participate in service projects, outreach, and recruiting.

“Everyone I’ve worked with at USU has been very accommodating, and I’m very appreciative,” Smith says. “With my work schedule, everyone has been very graceful. In the end, they want you to have your career, and they’ll work with you to make school fit in your specific circumstances. Working with people who understand the system and who make the effort to make sure I can successfully get through everything — it’s been really great.”

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