U Researchers Conduct Study on the Benefits of Walking

You could lengthen your life in just two minutes — at least according to the U’s School of Medicine.

A recent study conducted by the school’s researchers found that spending two minutes walking per hour can potentially add time to your life expectancy. The group compared people who sat for long periods of time without a break to those who engaged in a little exercise for a few minutes each hour.

Using existing national health and nutrition survey data, the researchers found that the average adult spends 35 minutes sitting each hour. When two minutes of that time are traded off for light-intensity activities — walking, lifting weights, etc. — they found a mortality risk decreased by 33 percent.

Standing instead of walking for the two minutes did not produce the same results. The group will conduct further trials to confirm the benefits.

Julie Kiefer, spokesperson for the U’s Health Sciences, said this study differs from others in the field.

“Most studies have focused on determining how much moderate exercise and vigorous exercise that people should do to stay healthy,” she said. “This study shows that even small amounts of light activity can have health benefits if they are done consistently throughout the day.”

Srinivasan Beddhu, the lead investigator of the study and a U professor of internal medicine, said Americans need to be more aware of their lifestyles, particularly when it comes to sitting around. He recommends more moderate to vigorous activity, such as running or biking, in addition to walking.

“We need to … be conscious of how much time we spend sitting,” Beddhu said. “We need to take breaks from sitting frequently.”

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Getting Summer Schooled

When June and July become more about textbooks and tuition than sun and surf, you might be in summer school.

While hitting the books during the warm months isn’t always fun, it’s not all bad either. Kate Keddington, an academic counselor at the U, said it often helps students graduate quicker.

“Summer school is the easiest way to complete the hours,” she said. “I think most students either need to take a summer or add another semester [to complete enough credits].”

In order to complete a bachelor’s degree, students need a minimum of 122 credit hours. Keddington said for many students that is too many credits for just eight semesters (or the typical four years of college).

The U offers summer courses from May through August. Students like Jamie Sciammarella, a senior in biology, can use the classes to complete final requirements for graduation. He walked with his graduating class in May, but has a few credits to finish up this summer.

“I want to be done, and summer seems like the best solution as opposed to going back again in the fall for a heftier semester,” he said.

But Sciammarella also said it’s not necessarily the easiest solution. He advises younger students to fill credits sooner rather than later.

“Take summer classes earlier if you think that you might need it,” he said. “It would’ve been easier for me to get it done sophomore year then right now when I already have the mindset that I graduated.”


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New Bill Protects Digital Data for Students

Sometimes it seems like your computer might know more about you than your family and friends. Due to efforts to collect and share personal data online, digital privacy has become a top concern — especially for students.

Two national legislators may have found a solution. In April, they introduced the Student Digital Privacy and Parental Rights Act of 2015 as a way to protect student digital information from third parties and give parents more access to modify student information.

Although the bill targets K-12 students, any changes it makes to the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) may affect university students, said Dan Bowden, chief information security officer at the U. FERPA mandates that personal student educational records or files can be released only with the student’s written consent. The changes with the 2015 act may add restrictions to who can access those records.

Bowden said there has been a growing interest in the use of data that third-party online services collect from students.

“There’s a lot of concern about what does that particular business feel its obligations are for protecting the data and not using the data for other purposes,” he said.

In the digital age, most schools use online programs for teaching, communicating and posting grades (such as CIS and Canvas at the U). The bill would prohibit online services from selling student information or using that information to create demographic or marketing data.

The act was modeled after a California bill passed last year called the Student Online Personal Information Protection Act. Bowden believes if the national act is not passed, Utah may follow suit and pass a state law.

Tim Ebner, university registrar, said even though changes may come, the U has consistently adjusted its privacy of digital records to be ahead of the game.

“We are already doing what I would anticipate any legislation would require,” he said.

Possible changes could include lock-downs on what the U can send to vendors, such as student contact information, but Ebner is doubtful.

“Currently, I believe we have [students’] best interests in mind,” he said. “We hold their data to be very serious and very confidential.”

In order to stay on top of digital data security, the Academic Senate decided on May 4 to approve a new information security policy and new rules. This would address data classification and encryption, including FERPA data, Bowden said. A faculty committee will work over the summer to update the data protection policy and will convene with the full senate again in the fall.

Though not set in stone, the policies and changes would only affect faculty and staff who manage student data.

Bowden is eager to see security improvements and he is hopeful that the bill will pass.


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More Women Pursuing Careers in Video Game Design at the U

Video game culture has long been a boys-only club, with women rarely making an appearance.

This is rapidly changing. According to recent studies from the Entertainment Software Association and the Internet Advertising Bureau, about 50 percent of gamers now are women. Additionally, there is a push for more female producers, designers and programmers to create video games. The U’s entertainment arts and engineering program is no exception to this movement.

The number of undergraduates enrolled in the program is difficult to track because students don’t have to declare until they graduate. Rachel Leiker, a graphic designer in the department, said they typically have around 150 to 225 students in the program. Of these students, Leiker said upwards of 30 percent are women — well above the industry standard, which hovers around 20 percent.

“There are more women into games now than there ever have been before,” Leiker said. “It’s becoming this really cool, new interesting job prospect for [students] — especially women.”

There are two tracks for undergraduates in the program: film and media arts or computer science. Both majors skew male, according to the U’s Office of Budget and Institutional Analysis. In addition, both have around the same number of women, Leiker said.

The program doesn’t actively recruit women, but there are public information sessions every Friday at 10 a.m. in the Merrill Engineering Building, room 3345, for students interested in the program.

“There’s never not been at least one woman in the informational session,” Leiker said, “at least as long as I’ve been around.”

Even though they don’t specifically target women, Leiker said it is important to have gender diversity in the program.

“It increases a perspective that is not grown and just kind of broadens the experience for everybody,” Leiker said. “Things can get kind of closed in games, especially when you’re not taking into account other people’s perspectives and life experiences. A broader range of gender, cultural background, sexuality helps to expand the experience of not only the team but also the game.”

Corrinne Lewis, an academic program manager and associate instructor in the program, said the increase in female undergraduates in gaming at the U is part of a broader trend of women seeking higher education. It is also due to the rise of younger women playing video games and pursuing that interest in college.

She said women face systemic problems deterring them from pursuing careers in science, technology, engineering and math.

“The funny thing about it is that games don’t just skew towards those disciplines. Games are everything … There are producers, project managers, marketers, programmers,” Lewis said. “Which is not to say we don’t have female programmers; we do, but we need to do a better job showing girls who are interested in games that our program is interdisciplinary.”

Lewis said that she has been a part of the program for the past five years, and she’s noticed more girls enrolling.

“The game industry and game players and gaming community sometimes gets a really bad rep for being very male-centered,” she said. “I’m not saying that isn’t true, but there are a lot more women here, and we need more girls.”


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Is the Bachelor Degree the New High School Diploma?

Graduation has come and gone but students with a bachelor’s degree may have to return for a master’s if they want the future they desire.

Matt Lopez, the Director of Administration for the graduate program, said the worth of a degree has shifted over the last few years.

“If you compare what a bachelor’s degree is and was … it has become the new high school diploma,” Lopez said.

The U offers two routes for upper education, a certificate and a degree. A certificate is a narrowed focus and requires fewer hours whereas a degree is two to three years of a focused experience.

Lopez said he believes an undergraduate degree will not take students as far as it did a few years ago, however he noted that a master’s degree will continue to be prestigious.

“I don’t think it will be the norm to get a master’s,” Lopez said. “When comparing to the past, there are a level of skills that the marketplace wants and in many instances a lot of jobs are looking for those skills and that critical thinking that accompanies a master’s.”

The U will likely see a lot of returning students from undergraduate into the graduate programs. According to Braden Green in the office of administration, the 2015 numbers have not been posted and “have not been tallied because so many are still applying.”

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U scientists investigate second magma layer in Yellowstone volcano


(Grand Prismatic Spring, Midway Geyser Basin, is a 200 foot-wide, steaming boiling hot spring. This large, vividly colored hot spring captures the essence of Yellowstone's world renown geysers and hot springs. The wide array of colors on the sides of the spring are produced by bacteria that thrive in hot water.)

U seismologists have discovered an additional magma reservoir below the crust of Yellowstone’s super-volcano.

The volcano may be one of the world’s most famous because its potential eruption is rumored to be massive enough to alter the western landscape. Research suggests that underneath Yellowstone’s initial magma crust, there’s an additional layer of magma.

U seismologists, Jamie Farrell and Hsin-Hua Huang, are two of six collaborators who helped discover and analyze the additional layer.

“The goal of this research was to image the lower crust beneath Yellowstone,” Farrell said. “And for the first time to image the connection between the previously known upper-crustal magma reservoir and mantle plume the feeds the Yellowstone hot-spot.”

Below Yellowstone’s first magmatic layer is another that is 12 to 30 miles deep. In it, there is a magma reservoir that is 4.5 times larger than the one above it. It is connected to the upper crust and the mantle-plume of the volcano.

This discovery is what Farrell called Yellowstone’s “plumbing-system,” and Huang said their studies have provided the first 3-D image to show the entire magmatic system beneath the volcano. Models can now be produced to show what the magma bank looks like.

Huang said research was dependent on local and distant earthquake data recorded by seismic systems and the Earthscope Transportable array, a series of broad-band seismographs. Once data was efficiently collected, the team then conducted seismic tomography analysis, which Huang said was similar to a medical CT scan. This process was able to provide the 3-D images.

Farrell claimed this technique will be able to reveal increased earthquake and hydrothermal activity and monitor the rise of ground temperatures and gas emissions in the area. New findings will be placed into mathematical models where the movement of heat and fluids from deep to shallow crust can be monitored, Farrell said.

“This discovery does not only reach some academic achievement for the U, but also demonstrates the long-term effort of operating this seismic network,” Huang said.


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Grad Student Explores Decline in TV News Consumption

(Photo Courtesy of Rosie Nguyen)

(Photo Courtesy of Rosie Nguyen)

Rosie Nguyen, a graduate student at the U, is creating a documentary about how the Internet has altered the face of news reporting.

With a background in communication and journalism, Nguyen is making a film for a final project. She’s titled it “The Correlation Between Social Media Engagement and Viewership Levels in TV News” because it examines how social media has helped and hurt television broadcasts.

“I am focusing on how well their social media strategy aids with drawing viewers in and what other outlets are competing,” Nguyen said.

According to her ratings, the number of viewers watching news on TV has dropped by 50 percent in the past 10 years. Nguyen thinks it is due to the Internet providing news more quickly.

So far she has discovered that about 50 percent of TV viewers between 18 and 24 years of age get their news through apps, such as Facebook and Twitter. After she collects more data, Nguyen plans to predict where the television industry will be in 10 years.

“The documentary is aimed at anyone who is involved in news gathering, news production and news consumption,” she said. “This includes journalists, news viewers and users of social media.”

Nguyen is working with ABC Channel Four in Utah and Craig Wirth, a graduate committee member. She is interviewing students at the U on their news consumption habits, as well as people who have worked in the news industry. She said the best part of creating this documentary was the process.

Bradon Anderson, a senior in English, said he’s noticed people becoming more dependent on online news, including himself.

“People relate to others from around the world, like penpals, without having to engage in person,” he said. “This plays out in news because people can just tweet, rather than watch the TV.”

For more information on Nguyen and her project, or if you want to get involved, email her at


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Writing Center Continues to Help Students

As the end of the semester approaches, appointments at the U Writing Center in the Marriott Library are filling up fast, and walk-ins are frequent.

However, just up the road, the Spencer Fox Eccles business building’s writing center location had nearly no appointments — only four of the available 24 slots were used as of press time. When the library’s writing center opened in 2003, it was similarly empty.

According to The Daily Utah Chronicle archives, ASUU gave the center a year of funding when it first opened. At the time, the U was the only college in Utah to not have a writing service for students, but the program needed to demonstrate demand. Only 800 appointments were filled its first semester, amounting “to tutors helping students with their writing approximately 70 hours per week.”

Furthermore, students complained about the center’s “stringent set of rules,” which they argued made it more difficult to use the resource. Hours of operation and the number of appointments a student could fill a day were limited. If you missed three appointments, you would be barred from making more. In addition, some students were worried about their work being criticized or didn’t think their writing needed the center’s guidance. Some students, when they went to the center and subsequently failed the assignment, blamed the tutor and not their work.

Beyond working with students, ASUU only gave the writing center $25,000 in funding — not enough to provide an adequate wage for tutors and faculty, as well as maintain operational costs. Back then, the center was located in a corner of the third floor of the library. Away from its now-prominent location above the west entrance, few students knew it even existed.

In March of 2004, it was unsure whether or not funding would continue. However student feedback for the program ensured it would. In a 2005 Chrony interview, one student said: “If it wasn’t for the writing center, I would be flunking two of my classes. The tutors there have a way of talking to me better than my teacher.”

By 2008, nearly 2,000 students were being tutored each year — a jump from the 800 a semester when it first opened. In 2009, the center relocated to its current location, where it continues to help students throughout the school year.


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U Students Develop Video Game Centered on Net Neutrality

(Photo Courtesy of 404Sight Team)

(Photo Courtesy of 404Sight Team)

If you don’t run, jump and avoid obstacles fast enough, the Internet service provider will throttle you.

This isn’t a glimpse into a dystopian future or the plot of a new science fiction novel. It’s the premise of “404Sight,” a video game created by U graduate students in the Entertainment Arts and Engineering program.

The game is a statement about net neutrality, the idea that service providers should keep the current status quo of the Internet that allows equal access to all content without blocking or favoring specific websites for financial gain. In February, the U.S. Federal Communications Commission ruled the Internet was a utility, which kept it open and costs low. However, the game developers said this doesn’t mean a more expensive Internet can’t happen in the future. Tina Kalinger, community manager for the team, said service providers like Comcast are petitioning the ruling and trying to get it repealed.

Rachel Leiker, an artist for the project, said they latched on to the idea of making a game centered on net neutrality because it appealed to them on a personal level.

“As a student game development team, we don’t have a lot of resources that are open to us,” Leiker said. “Having … access to the Internet has been absolutely vital to our development process and, we think, to the game industry as a whole.”

The title “404Sight” comes from the computer error code 404 Not Found, a response users get when they follow a dead or broken link. It’s also a play on the word “foresight,” a reflection of the team’s belief that people aren’t planning for the future of the Internet constructively.

Leiker described “404Sight” as a “3-D parkour runner” with similar elements to games like “Temple Run,” where users run from a monster while collecting coins and dodging hurdles. The parkour elements were inspired by “Mirror’s Edge,” a first-person game in which the protagonist carries messages while avoiding government surveillance.

As of April 23, a week after the game’s release, “404Sight” had over 80,000 downloads on STEAM, making it one of the most successful products from the program.

“It’s kind of just taken on a life of its own,” Kalinger said. “We’ve just been stepping back and looking on it in awe because we never imagined that it would be this popular.”

The team began working on “404Sight” in January 2014 as a requirement for graduation. Leiker and Kalinger said they don’t have any immediate plans for future development and are focusing on graduating next week.

“This is a very rigorous program and by getting to this point in publishing, we have not slept in two years,” Kalinger said.

“404Sight” is available for download at or on the online video game store STEAM.


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ASUU Senate Passes Potential Smoke-Free Campus Bill

(Photo by Preston Zubal)

(Photo by Preston Zubal)

With only one opposing vote, the ASUU Senate passed joint resolution 14 that could make the U a smoke-free campus.

Sponsored by Sen. Ryann Cooley and Rep. Kevin Shields, the bill calls for a task force of 10 to 15 students and faculty to examine tobacco policies at the U. The group will survey students and draft policy recommendations to be approved by the ASUU legislature next Fall Semester, which may include banning all smoking, creating designated smoking areas or not instituting any changes.

The Assembly amended the bill on April 14 to include a referendum — similar to an ASUU election ballot — for students to vote on next year. The Senate approved these changes Thursday night with 12 in favor, one opposing and one abstaining (with three senators not present at the meeting to cast a vote). It will now go to U President David Pershing for a final approval or veto.

Madison Black, current ASUU vice president, who spoke in favor of the resolution before the Senate, is confident the U will implement the bill.

“Tobacco is unhealthy, and there’s a movement toward making our air cleaner, making our bodies cleaner,” she said. “I think it’s great that we’re putting it in our hands and students’ to help progress the university forward.”

But Sen. Andy Moyle, the one opposing vote, is not as assured. He said the bill’s first draft — which called for an outright ban of all tobacco products, as well as e-cigarettes — shows different, and perhaps underlying, intentions behind what’s included in the most recently passed version.

The line Moyle referred to previously read: “In order to promote the betterment of health on campus, we support the University of Utah reexamining our current smoking policy to ban tobacco throughout the entire campus, which includes the residence halls, lower campus, auxiliary services and health sciences.”

Additionally, the task force outlined in the original draft was intended to enforce the no-smoking ban and “make this policy change as
comprehensive and effective as possible.”

The task force from the accepted version of the bill is instead going to collect data on student opinions.

“I don’t think there’s any harm in initiating more research,” said Sen. Eric Leishman, who voted in favor of the legislation.

One potential problem, however, is bias. Stephen Alder, Academic Senate president and chief of the Division of Public Health at the U’s School of Medicine, will lead the committee, which will also include health officers from U Health Care, among others. Sen. Cindy Chen said the group, weighted with medical professionals, needs to include students with “different points of view” to offer balanced perspectives.

Black said anyone wishing to be involved could email Alder at to potentially serve on the task force.

“It’s not like there’s an application process,” she said.

There will also be an email account set up for anyone to send comments about the potential changes. And some students have already contacted their college’s representatives to do so.

One student wrote: “I strongly agree with the smoke-free campus! I’m glad this student body is doing something about it. I personally get terrible headaches when I smell smokers and second-hand smoke.”

Another said: “I believe that to restrict activities on a state campus beyond the scope of state law is a gross overstep of authority … I believe that this resolution should be rejected and forgotten.”

The U currently follows Utah Clean Air Act guidelines which prohibit smoking inside buildings and within 25 feet of entrances. According to a 2011 study by the U’s Center for Student Wellness, this applies to the 4.99 percent of students on campus who consider themselves habitual smokers.

If the U does ban smoking, it will become the third university in the state to do so, following BYU and Dixie State University, and the fifth in the Pac-12, after ASU, University of Oregon, Oregon State University and UCLA.

The smoke-free policy at the U, if decided upon, would be enforced by an honor code similar to UCLA’s, where students informally pledge to follow the rules. Black said she’s looked at these schools and considered policies for the U for more than a year.

“I know this issue is really controversial,” she said. “This is not just something we threw together last-minute. We’ve been having conversations with administrators about what’s the best way to go through with this issue.”


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