Monday, June 5, 2017

Jennifer Walstad Had Full Confidence When She Entered the Job Market

When Jennifer Powell Walstad graduated from SUU in 2002 with a bachelor’s degree and certification in elementary education and theater arts, she was ready to hit the ground running with full confidence gained from exceptional hands-on experience she gained as a student.

She was not shocked by the “real world” when she entered the workforce, and her preparation helped her pursue a lifelong dream of teaching, leading her up the ranks to become the district academic director for American Preparatory Schools, as well as a stage manager for the Corporation of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. 

As district academic director, Jennifer oversees the hiring, training, and professional development of staff as well as K-12 curriculum and academic progress of all of the students at the seven charter schools in her district, ranging from Las Vegas, Nevada, to her hometown West Valley City, Utah. As stage manager, she is able to serve her church community through productions such as Mormon Tabernacle Choir concerts, Temple Celebration events, Savior of the World, Nauvoo and British Pageants, and New Year’s Eve events. Even with all of this on her plate, Jennifer has had 100 percent of her students pass their Criterion Reference Tests in every subject area for three straight years, and has successfully managed a production of more than 20,000 participants.

Jennifer lives in Lehi, UT, and when she isn’t busy in her administrative and stage managing roles, she enjoys playing with her kids, singing, participating in theater, teaching anything, spreadsheets, and reminiscing about the happy memories of hard work and laughs from her time at SUU. 

Friday, May 19, 2017

Utah Shakespeare Festival's First Full-Time Employee

R. Scott Phillips first came to Southern Utah University in 1971, as a business major. However, like many students he soon developed other interests. “By the end of my second year, I wanted to change my major from business to theatre, but I was terrified to tell my parents,” he said. Yet, he managed to gather his courage, and he went home to Caliente, Nevada, to tell his mother and father of a decision that would change his life.

Phillips gets a little reflective as he finishes the story: “My father said ‘Scott, if this is a thing that makes you happy, then you should do it—but don’t give up your business degree.” So, Phillips graduated two years later with a double major in speech and drama, and in business. It has been a decision that has served him well as he has worked in various capacities at the Utah Shakespeare Festival for 40 years, and has now retired to pursue other interests.

“I had a great time here. I learned a great deal,” he said as he talked about how SUU prepared him for his future at the Festival. “I learned to think on my own, and I met some fabulous people while I was here.”

After graduation and nearly two years of graduate work at Idaho State, he was hired by the Festival leadership, notably founder and mentor Fred C. Adams, as the Festival’s first full-time employee, beginning work as the marketing director on March 1, 1977. Since, then he has worked as the Festival’s manager director, interim director, and (for the past nine years) as executive director.

In his 40 years, Phillips has made numerous friends as he has mingled with Festival crowds nearly every matinee and evening performance, welcoming old friends and making new ones. “Working here is like planning the biggest family reunion imaginable,” he said. “The 100,000 who come here every year are a family.”

In the process he has also been recognized as a leader in his field. Most notably he received the prestigious Mark R. Sumner Award from the Institute of Outdoor Drama in October, and in January was honored with the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Shakespeare Theatre Association.

Phillips has hundreds of wonderful memories of his time at the Festival, but the ones he treasures the most are the Festival being awarded the Tony Award for Outstanding Regional Theatre in 2000 (“Imagine a boy from Caliente on the stage of the Radio City Music Hall to accept theatre’s greatest honor”); the Festival’s 50th anniversary in 2011 (“a non-profit organization turning 50 is really something to celebrate”); and the opening of the Beverley Center for the Arts in 2016. “The opening of the Beverley was an amazing accomplishment,” he said. “To raise nearly $40 million and build this center, including two new theatres, is almost beyond belief.”

And, now, for the future? Phillips is still working on exactly what he will do, but promises he will stay busy and involved in the arts and his community. “I love Cedar City, and I love the Utah Shakespeare Festival,” he said. “I expect both of them to continue to improve and be beacons to other communities and arts organizations.”

“I do believe Cedar City and SUU are much better and stronger because the Festival is located here,” he concluded. “It has elevated the conversations in our community. It has allowed us to be presented on a national and international stage. It has encouraged diversity and inclusion which I think have made Cedar City and SUU a better place for all of us.”

Tickets are now on sale for the Festival’s 56th season, which will run from June 29 to October 21. For more information and tickets visit or call 1-800-PLAYTIX.

The Utah Shakespeare Festival is part of the Beverley Taylor Sorenson Center for the Arts at Southern Utah University, which also includes the Southern Utah Museum of Art (SUMA).

Written by Bruce C. Lee, Utah Shakespeare Festival Publications Manager

Friday, May 5, 2017

Asai Gilman is Changing Lives in Hawaii

Asai Gilman, a 1992 marketing and information management graduate of Southern Utah University, is changing lives across the state of Hawaii.

He and wife Keawe founded a non-profit organization called Edu-1st (, in order to prepare Hawaii’s youth for college and career success. Through Edu-1st, all types of students learn the keys to success, gain self-confidence, and are motivated to adopt a “can-do” attitude in their lives. 

Born and raised in the islands, Asai and Keawe graduated from the Kamehameha School before leaving the mainland for college at SUU. While here, they dated, married and started a family. 
Asai served as SUUSA’s multicultural representative and shortly after graduation took a job as SUU’s assistant director of school relations. That was when he first developed the idea for Edu-1st, as he was conducting a college fair presentation on the Navajo reservation for young people and their families, and pledged then to return to Hawaii and create a non-profit organization that would give back to his people.

After working at SUU, Asai took a job at Dixie College where he coached football players from Las Vegas, Arizona, California and Hawaii.

“I got a chance to travel to Hawaii to recruit football players for five years, and each time felt impressed to follow my dream,” he says. “I saw families that lacked the college and career confidence and failed to see and believe in themselves based on social challenges and cultural stereotypes.”

He created a highly successful marketing company that specialized in yellow page advertising and design in the Las Vegas area. But his career path abruptly changed when he received a call from the president of BYU Hawaii asking him to interview for the position of director of admissions and recruitment. Feeling inspired by his dream of giving back to his community, Asai accepted the position and moved his family to Hawaii.

In the course of his work there, Asai met a colleague in the college’s parking and shared his vision of creating a non-profit organization to help families prepare for higher education and career success. This colleague, who worked in the grants division of the United States Department of Education, offered his help.

But it was not until three years later, after meeting this same colleague three different times—and a fair amount of prodding from his wife—that Asai decided to go for his dream and submit a grant.

Over the next few weeks, Asai and Keawe worked non-stop. They created Edu-1st in two days, secured 501c3 status in just three weeks, and finished writing nine different grants. Edu-1st was awarded two of the nine grants submitted, and received $3.3 million in funding. The couple went to work, hiring five full-time employees and another 20 part-time employees to help run the program.

“I have no idea how we did it, but I believe angels assisted,” says Asai.

He also believes the purpose of Edu-1st made all the difference, especially considering that many larger entities and agencies, like the University of Hawaii, were in competition for the same pool of grants.

Since its official inception in 2003, Edu-1st has served more than 6,000 students and families, and has helped build confidence in college and career success. Asai, who was the executive director, says, “Now, I serve on the board; it’s been a fun ride.”

The Gilmans have seven great children who carry on the tradition of excellence. Four of the seven are scholarship athletes at the United States Naval Academy, UVU, BYU and University of Hawaii (UH). Number four is a freshman in high school who has already received a Division 1 football scholarship offer to UH. The last three children, Asai says, “are amazing souls and keep us on our toes.”

Asai believes that he received great preparation skills for life from Southern Utah University because he received an opportunity to experience practical and hands-on learning.

“It was there where I learned how to create,” he says. 

Friday, April 21, 2017

Legal Consultant Chris Church Loves the Big Apple

Born in Cedar City, and a graduate of Cedar High, Chris Church completed his bachelor of science in history at SUU in 1994, then moved to Salt Lake City before taking off to New York City to attend Fordham Law School. Twenty years later, Chris now owns a condo in Manhattan and loves living and working in the Big Apple. 

Chris remembers his time at SUU as a period of tremendous growth and opportunity that prepared him for graduate school, and learned that anything was possible if he worked hard and had the courage to follow his dreams.

He also has fond memories of being in classes with great professors, completing a six-month fellowship in Moscow, Russia, and performing with the American Folk Ballet. But his interest in attending law school was always his driving force, and he had dreams of becoming a litigator.

Today, he is a legal consultant in banking regulations at Citibank where he specializes in the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reforms and the Consumer Protection Act. Professionally he is most proud of being able to survive in New York City and live in a city he loves.

In his spare time, Chris loves cooking for friends and attending the theater. He also enjoys traveling and makes it back to Cedar City as often as he can to visit family and friends. He is also a first-time dog owner and enjoys having brunch with Dash on the Upper West Side of Manhattan on the weekends.

Monday, April 10, 2017

Anna Ables Searched for the Best Graduate Program and Found It at SUU

Anna Ables, a native of Midwest City, Oklahoma, and a Choctaw High School graduate, searched the nation for the best graduate program in arts administration and found it at Southern Utah University. She is now the director of marketing and public relations at the Theatre School at DePaul University in Chicago, Illinois.

Because arts administration was a relatively new field and at the time not many universities were offering such a program, she found SUU’s graduate program very appealing, largely due to its association with the Utah Shakespeare Festival and The American Folk Ballet.

Under the direction of SUU’s then-dean of performing and visual arts, Bill Byrnes, Anna immersed herself in the MFA arts administration program that puts theory to practice in a very real way, one that allowed her to create an actual marketing strategy plan for a dance company in Salt Lake City. She says that opportunity gave her the confidence to enter the job market fully confident with real-world experience under her belt.

Some of Anna’s fondest memories of SUU were the landscapes of southern Utah, particularly the canyons around Cedar City where she would often run and hike.

“It was a secluded space to study and learn, which allowed me to focus on my studies,” she says.

After earning her MFA from SUU in 2006, Anna moved to Chicago and began her first job as a marketing intern with the world-renowned Chicago International Film Festival, which was a quick introduction to the fast pace of marketing and promotion in a vibrant and artistic city. Her duties at the Theatre School now include overseeing and directing all marketing in print, social media, and online, as well as handling all press requests for the entire theatre department and three theatre performance spaces.
She previously held the position of director of public relations and outreach for the Oklahoma Arts Institute (OAI), a non-profit organization that provides pre-professional training for talented young artists and performers, as well as arts education training for public school teachers and university and college faculty.
Anna says that her greatest accomplishment professionally has been the 2013 opening of the new Theatre School building, which was designed by the internationally renowned architect C├ęsar Pelli, and his firm Pelli Clarke Pelli Architects. The school houses two theatre spaces—a 250-seat theatre and a 100-seat flexible theatre—along with costume, makeup, prop and scene shops, rehearsal studios, lighting laboratories, movement studios, and more.

She has a background in dance performance and instruction and was a member of the American Spirit Dance Company at Oklahoma City University, where she earned a BA in 2001. ​She has since channeled that passion for dance by completing her yoga certification training and teaches regular yoga classes for students at DePaul, as well as at Bloom Yoga Studio in Chicago. 

Riding her bike to work along the lakefront in the summer, and high power spinning classes at the gym are two great enjoyments in her life, and in her spare time, Anna also loves rebuilding and refurbishing, and is currently at work restoring a wooden desk for her new home office.

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

SUU Helped Marlyn King Nay Fulfill Her Lifelong Dream

Marlyn King Nay, a native of Antimony, Utah, and Richfield High School graduate, loves and respects Southern Utah University because of help she received in fulfilling her lifelong dream of becoming an elementary school teacher.

Growing up in the small farming community of Antimony, Marlyn wasn’t sure her four-year college degree would ever be possible or affordable. Following high school graduation, she attended a junior college, earned an associate degree in general studies and married her high school sweetheart, Lance Nay. The couple moved to Salt Lake City so Lance could finish his education, and then they moved back to Richfield and began their family, which includes three children: Chase, Larissa, and Colton. When her children were of school age, Marlyn began helping at a local elementary school and was eventually named as an instructional assistant at Ashman Elementary School. 

But her desire to be a school teacher never faded. After working at Ashman Elementary for a few years, Marlyn learned of a somewhat nontraditional path to earning a four-year degree: SUU professors would travel to Richfield to teach, and at other times students would make the trip to SUU for classes on campus. Noting that “SUU is very well respected and has an excellent reputation in Sevier County,” she jumped at the opportunity and met with representatives from the University who mapped out her course work which led to a bachelor’s degree in elementary education in 1999. She was so impressed with her undergraduate experience that five years later she earned a master’s degree in education.

Like many alumni, one of Marlyn’s fondest memories of SUU is of the people. “The professors at SUU were so good to me. They went above and beyond to help me obtain my bachelor’s degree. They want to see the students succeed. They understood my needs and helped me achieve my goal,” she says.

She fondly remembers both of her commencement ceremonies and the unpredictable Cedar City spring weather. It rained at both ceremonies and she was grateful for the friendly and warm confines of the Centrum Arena. Another of Marlyn’s favorite aspects of SUU is the beautiful campus, it buildings and how the University respects and maintains the history of campus.  

Marlyn is now in her 20th year of teaching first grade at Ashman and says of her role as teacher, “Children need multiple opportunities to grow with positive character traits representing the person that they are and the person they can become as a positive contributor to society.”

Principal Jill Porter says that Marlyn is a wonderful teacher and adds, “She has a passion for teaching, a strong content knowledge and a true love for her children!”

Marlyn enjoys spending time with family, particularly her five grandchildren, playing games and cooking. She also readily shares her philosophy of life: “If you want to do something, you can find a way to do it!” SUU certainly played a key role in that philosophy for Marlyn.  

Monday, March 13, 2017

Las Vegas Photojournalist Brad Boyer Remains a Strong Advocate for SUU

Brad Boyer, a native of Cheyenne, Wyoming, and a graduate of Central High School, is a strong advocate of Southern Utah University and is quick to recommend SUU to prospective students or proudly wear an SUU shirt while working for Channel 3, the NBC affiliate in Las Vegas, Nevada.

A 1999 graduate of SUU with a degree in broadcasting and communications, Brad was introduced to SUU by his older sister who was a member of the track team. Brad watched her success and enjoyment of SUU and knew from his very first visit to campus that this was where he wanted to attend college too. 

Brad arrived in Cedar City in 1993 and walked-on to the SUU cross country and track teams. He has fond memories of Coach Eric Houle ('81) and his willingness to give him a chance. Brad served a two-year mission for the LDS Church after his first year of college and was back on campus in 1996 and once again, Coach Houle gave him the opportunity to be a member of the team. Brad credits the opportunity to be part of the cross country and track teams with helping him gain confidence in himself and strengthen his interaction with other people. He has fond memories of traveling with the team and building strong friendships.

After graduation, Brad moved to Las Vegas with plans to eventually relocate to California and work in film production. He found odd jobs filming various events in Las Vegas and remembers watching the band KISS walk by him and thought, “This is crazy! I want to do this forever!” By luck, SUU alum Kim Turley Chambers (’89), part owner of DK Productions, gave him a job at her company. One of Brad’s highlights from working at DK Productions was being on stage during a David Copperfield show and actually being in a couple of the illusions. A year later, Brad took a job at Telemundo and attended large Las Vegas events as a member of the media interviewing the likes of Kobe Bryant, Shaquille O’Neal, Manny Pacquiao, Shakira and Oscar De La Hoya.  

Now, as a photojournalist with Channel 3, Brad enjoys reporting on local high school sporting events and notes, “There are a lot of good kids doing good things!” And he is never shy to introduce them to his alma mater. 

He credits great relationships with SUU professors as being a crucial part of his success. “I knew my professors and they knew me,” Brad says. Professor Jon Smith gave him the advice to never be afraid, and Brad took that advice to heart, particularly as he began his career. “SUU was a great environment and it changed my life for the better,” he explains.

Brad’s favorite place on campus is the Centrum, and that is where he spent a lot of time cleaning the building and working events. He even made small films there and filmed countless highlight videos of Thunderbird athletes. It was the beginning of his career.

When asked what stands out from his time at SUU, Brad cannot identify just one moment, but rather it is a combination of friendships, dances, professors, ultimate Frisbee on the Quad, graduation and the overall charm of Cedar City.