Moab Happenings Archive
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University Happenings - June 2022

Porscha Doucette: First USU Statewide Peak Summer Research Fellow

Utah State University Moab student Porscha Doucette has been awarded the Peak Summer Research Fellowship, becoming the first student from a USU Statewide campus to receive the prestigious fellowship. Doucette is a junior majoring in social work in USU’s College of Humanities and Social Sciences.

Doucette will join other Peak Summer Research Fellows in the program which starts May 16. She will work with USU faculty member Chris Babits, a post doctoral teaching fellow in the Department of History.

“This is the highest honor that CHaSS awards,” Doucette said. “I appreciate this research fellowship program because I excel as an independent learner. The opportunity to delve deeply into a topic, with only my own goals and deadlines, is exciting - but it is even more exciting to be able to do so with a mentor and the support of the university and faculty.”

Endowed by David and Terry Peak, the Peak Summer Research Fellowship funds a select cohort of highly engaged undergraduate students in the Peaks’ colleges—the College of Science and the College of Humanities and Social Sciences—through a summer research experience. These fellows will spend 10 weeks actively engaging in research with faculty mentors, have access to special trainings and workshops, and will come out of this fellowship poised to succeed in competitive applications for graduate school and national fellowships and grants.

Together, Doucette and her mentor will be researching how the history of social work is taught in undergraduate programs and will seek to find out how more diverse voices could be included in curriculum. The project hopes to create a multicultural and diverse understanding of the history of social work.

“As I’ve seen so far, the history of social work is largely framed around the contributions of white middle- and upper-class women and ignores the similar contributions of racial and ethnic minorities,” Doucette said. “Through this research fellowship, I hope to engage in effective social justice by influencing the history of social work which is taught at USU, and hopefully, all undergraduate social work programs.”

Babits encouraged Doucette to apply for the fellowship and will act as her primary mentor during the 10-week research project. Babits is excited to see how the project evolves, seeing its potential to have an impact in the social work landscape.

“Porscha’s promise as a researcher and as an advocate for change are on full display in her Peak Fellowship project,” Babits said. “‘Investigating the Erasure of Diverse Perspectives in Social Work’s History’ expresses a dire need for greater historical literacy in social work education. Porscha has outlined an impressive research endeavor for this summer– one that has the potential to transform how social work educators teach the history of their profession, both at USU and throughout the nation.”

Doucette is a non-traditional student, having returned to school after 20 years of being out of college. She reenrolled in college in spring 2021. She chose USU Moab because of its proximity to her home and the flexibility the campus offered a non-traditional student such as herself.

“I have been living and working in Moab for the last 14 years,” Doucette said. “The ability to go to school without moving was essential in my decision to go to USU.”

Located in the outdoor recreation paradise of Moab and boasting one of the greenest buildings on any USU campus, Utah State University Moab offers students the personalized attention and small class sizes of a small-town college with the resources of a large university. With programs such as Nursing, Elementary Education, Recreation Resource Management and Social Work, technical education in Health Professions, Automotive and Business, and degree options ranging from associate to doctorate degrees, USU Moab offers programs that help fuel local economies and empower individuals and their communities. Learn more at

USU Names Irungu as Inaugural VP of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion

Jane Irungu will join the Utah State University executive cabinet as the school’s first vice president of diversity, equity and inclusion. Her hiring was announced following a six-month national search.

“We want to ensure Utah State is a place where all people feel they belong and can thrive,” said President Noelle E. Cockett. “Dr. Irungu has years of experience working with students, faculty and staff in strategic leadership roles, as well as being a teacher. We’re excited to bring her to USU and confident she’ll be an effective leader.”

Irungu has been serving as the associate provost of inclusive excellence at the University of Oklahoma. Her previous roles have included interim vice president for diversity, equity and inclusion and chief diversity officer for that university, as well as assistant vice president in the division of equity and inclusion and director of the Center for Multicultural Academic Excellence at the University of Oregon.

At USU, Irungu will be the university’s executive-level strategist responsible for guiding practices and creating opportunities to define, assess and promote inclusive excellence, access and cultural proficiency for students, faculty and staff

“The opportunity to lead USU in this important role gives me a measure of excitement but also an awareness of the hard work ahead of us,” Irungu said. “I appreciate that there are many ongoing DEI initiatives at USU’s different campuses, and I look forward to working with university leadership, faculty, staff, students and other stakeholders to take us to the next level.”

The creation of the vice president position was a top recommendation from the Diversity and Inclusion Task Force created by President Cockett in spring 2019. That task force has also made recommendations on the university’s approach to diversity, equity and inclusion, which Irungu will review before leading the university in creating a strategic plan.

In June 2021, USU released results from its first diversity and inclusion survey in 2019. The survey found that students with an underrepresented identity status reported a lower sense of belonging on campus. In addition, students with a disability, LGBTQIA+ students, students of color and international students reported feeling less safe in the classroom and found USU to be less welcoming. Complete survey results are at

Irungu is looking forward to stepping into her new role on July 1. “I would like to start by learning more about USU’s vision for a diverse, equitable and inclusive community,” she said. “There is enthusiasm and commitment to inclusion, and with a collaborative approach – a shared sense of purpose and responsibility – I believe we can collectively continue the advancement of a caring and welcoming community for all.”

For more information on diversity, equity and inclusion at USU, visit inclusion.

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