Dr. Deneece G. Huftalin, president of Salt Lake Community College, was honored Thursday night by the University of Utah for her outstanding achievements as one of their distinguished alumni.
The event, held at the Little America Hotel, was part of the U Alumni Association’s annual Founders Day banquet to commemorate the founding of the University of Utah on Feb. 28, 1850.
Huftalin says she was humbled by the honor and it has allowed her to really reflect on her time at the U and the people that have helped her along the way.
“For me, the award is a reminder of the people throughout my life who have been around to help me realize my potential and say they believe in me. The people who saw things in me I didn’t know I had,” Huftalin says. “The award has really made me reflect on my experience at the U. … I have [both] undergraduate and graduate experience and I worked there early on in my career for a short time. The U was really powerful for me in that way.”
Huftalin has some advice for those who have big dreams and goals, but worry about the time and level of commitment in achieving them.
“Surround yourself with people who have been there or are on the same journey. If you surround yourself with people who have done the same things, and people who know you can do them too, they can pump you up,” she says. “The circle of friends you have, the circle of influences you have, to the extent that you hang with the people who have done those things will really make a difference.”
Huftalin also encourages students to overcome any personal obstacles and finish their education.
“If life gets in the way, take your time, but just keep going until you get there,” she says.
Huftalin earned a bachelor’s degree from the University of Utah, a master’s degree from UCLA and then her doctorate from the University of Utah. She has worked in higher education for nearly 30 years.
Her first job at SLCC was Director of Academic and Career Advising in 1992. She was named Dean of Students in 1994 and became the Vice President of Student Services in 2004.
Huftalin was named as president of SLCC in 2014 and says she loves it.
“Today I had a press conference and I told them that I have the best job on the planet,” she says. “It is a challenging position with the kind of intensity and sense of obligation I have to do right for students, but we have such a good faculty and staff and great students.”
Stopping the SLCC stigma
Dr. Huftalin has some words of encouragement for those students that feel a community college doesn’t have as much to offer students looking for a university experience.
“There is still a stigma and we are getting better, and I think the quality of our students is helping with that reputation. We have phenomenal students,” Huftalin says. “I would encourage them to come try it out just for one semester, one full load of 12-15 credits, and make a commitment everyday. If you are not satisfied by the end of the semester and you feel like you don’t belong and have not learned a ton, I would be surprised.”