Long-Time Professors See Changes at the U


(Professor Ann Engar – Courtesy of Ann Engar)


(Professor Ann Engar - Courtesy of Ann Engar)
(Professor Ann Engar – Courtesy of Ann Engar)
(Professor Tom Sobchack - Courtesy of Julie Sobchack)
(Professor Tom Sobchack – Courtesy of Julie Sobchack)


Because most students spend just four to six years at the U, it’s difficult for them to see generational changes in the student body. But for long-time U professors, these changes are more apparent.

Professors who have made the U their academic home have noted changes from increased technology on campus to the different ways students approach life and school. One of the biggest changes to the university’s student body is increased diversity.

According to U’s Office of Budget and Institutional Analysis, the U’s undergraduate minority ethnic population went from less than one percent in 1970 to 23 percent last fall. The presence of women on campus jumped from 38 percent to 44 percent of the student body in the same time period.

Ann Engar, a professor in the Honors College and LEAP Program who has been teaching at the U for 31 years, said this increased diversity helps students “to see from different viewpoints and cultures and ideas.”

Thomas Sobchack, a professor in film and media arts who has been at the U since 1966, said this diversity has created what he views as a more liberal and global outlook on the world than previous generations had.

“They themselves are so multifaceted with their interests in foreign cultures,” Sobchack said, “that there will be more understanding of people from different cultures and attitudes and ideas.”

Theresa Martinez, a professor in the Sociology Department who has taught at the U for almost 25 years, said her students are more socially aware and open to discussions on diversity issues than they used to be.

“People are a lot more open,” she said. “We did a poll in my deviant behavior class … and I said, ‘How many of you are aware of white privilege?’ And 70 to 75 percent of them raised their hands — that’s a huge deal. That wouldn’t have been the case 10 years ago.”

Engar said another of the biggest changes to come with the millennial generation is the influx of technology.

“When I started teaching, it was before the advent of a lot of computers,” Engar said. “I remember in 1985 teaching the first writing class when we used word processing.”

She said students should strive to balance technology and social interaction, but for her the access to knowledge outweighs the costs.

“I think that’s all to the positive in that students have information right at their fingertips,” Engar said. “That’s really wonderful, the explosion to that access of information.”

Engar, Martinez and Sobchack said, regardless of any changes, they see millennials continuing to produce great work in the arts, sciences and humanities.

“Utah’s kind of a nursery of the nation, and we have incredible students that have gone on to do tremendous things in all kind of avenues,” Engar said.

Martinez said the U’s millennials can be too into themselves and their technology, but “once you can get past the self-absorption and tap into their empathy, they can be your best allies.”

“Realize that you’re not the center of the universe,” she said. “Get out of your mind and go give to others, take care of other people.”

[email protected]