[Courtesy photo]

At Utah State University-Moab (USU-Moab), Steve Hawks is referred to as “the program builder.”

He enjoys building new degree programs so much that he recently stepped down from serving as executive director and dean of USU-Moab’s campus after nine and a half years to focus on creating more academic programs.

“I get a lot of enjoyment from helping USU-Moab grow into a great resource for locals to better their careers by furthering their education,” Hawks said. “Students need options when it comes to a college degree, especially in rural Utah, and we are working to meet their needs.”

Ten years ago, Hawks began working with leaders at USU, the faculty and staff at USU-Moab and Moab community leaders to create the Higher Education Action Team (HEAT), with the goal of “turning up the heat” on education in Moab.

HEAT was created in 2008, during an economic slump. At a time when budgets were being cut, USU officials said, investments were set aside at USU to continue growing programs where they were needed, which resulted in helping improve local economies throughout rural Utah, especially in Moab.

HEAT met regularly to get input from local businesses, school districts, and city and county officials to find out what degree programs were needed for Moab.

It’s thanks to this collaborative effort, Hawks said, that USU-Moab was able to offer such a high number of programs, resulting in a growing campus and the current need for a new campus. However, these programs weren’t solely created at USU-Moab; they were created with the help of USU’s statewide system, with the idea of growing higher education opportunities throughout rural Utah.

One request coming from a need in the community was a hospitality and tourism management program. Hawks and other faculty members got to work, and made USU-Moab the first USU campus that offered this program as a minor from the Jon M. Huntsman School of Business.

Another major development was the creation of the recreation resource management degree. Originally, the degree was available only at the Logan campus, but it was clear to USU officials that the program was a perfect fit for Moab due to the surrounding landscape and national parks. Now, thanks to the efforts of Hawks and USU to bring this degree to Moab, it has become one of the most popular programs at USU-Moab.

More recently, USU-Moab and other USU campuses around the state have focused on Career and Technical Education (CTE) programs, which offer certifications in the business, health and technology fields, and can also be a starting point to earning a college degree.

Hawks has also been instrumental in developing USU’s new master’s degree in public health. In addition to being a key player in creating this new graduate degree, Hawks now serves as a faculty member in the public health degree program.

“The amount of work that goes into bringing a new degree to a campus is extensive,” Hawks said. “Without the support and organization of USU’s statewide system, many of the degrees we now offer at USU-Moab would have never been possible.”

Numerous resources are required to bring new programs to a campus: new faculty, office space, overhead expenses, infrastructure, technology and lab space.

USU officials said that because of the forward thinking of Hawks and other university and community leaders, the campus has developed into a vital component of the local economy.