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    Vitae: People and Stories That Drive Our Research

    University of Utah Health 
    Special Events, Projects, Programs, or Campaigns 

    There are 1,000 faculty members at University of Utah Health, who research topics ranging from cell biology to community health. This scale and breadth make it difficult for academics to know, let alone understand, what’s happening across their own institution. Connection is essential for building community and collaboration, and the Vitae event was designed to address this need.  
    Six early-career faculty members were given intensive speaker training, and at the Vitae gala, were put in the spotlight like the rising stars that they are. They put a human spin on science by giving talks that highlighted how their professional and life experiences have led them to where they are today. Academic community members and donors attended the hybrid event. The videos were published online and subsequently publicized, which broadened the audience even more. Vitae has fostered community, led to unexpected opportunities, and elicited feedback indicating that this high-quality event is worthy of an even bigger stage. 
    What was the most impactful part of your entry? 
    The talks far and away stole the show. The speakers stepped out of their comfort zone to give short presentations about themselves and the motivation behind their research in a way that was unlike anything they had done before. The end result exceeded expectations. Their professionally told, captivating stories led to connections within and beyond the institution that would not have happened otherwise. 
    What challenge did you overcome? 
    The speakers were busy junior faculty members who were reluctant to invest time in training. Additionally, most felt uncomfortable talking about their personal lives, which is counter to typical scientific training. Three main factors turned these attitudes around: (1) Vitae is sponsored and led by research faculty leadership, demonstrating its significance; (2) Vitae speakers are nominated based on scientific accomplishments, and being selected is an honor; (3) in preparation for the event, we created a positive and supportive environment in which speakers learned from coaches and peers. The success of this approach was made apparent by the quality of the talks and overwhelmingly positive feedback from the speakers and audience alike. 
    Contact: Julie Kiefer