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Portrait of a Graduate: A North Star for Teaching and Learning in Utah

May 31, 2022

By: Kate Westrich

Utah has been making visions for the future of learning a reality through inclusive, collaborative efforts. That all started with the state’s Portrait of a Graduate.

“Utah’s Portrait of a Graduate was designed to identify the ideal characteristics of a Utah graduate after going through the K-12 system,” said Sarah Young, chief of staff for the Utah State Board of Education.

The process of creating the Portrait of a Graduate sparked conversations not just on graduation requirements, but about the expectations of graduates.

In Utah, the goal for the future is “preparing our kids to succeed and lead in whatever adventures and pathways they choose beyond high school,” said Young.

For Orchard View Schools in Muskegon, Michigan, the Portrait of a Graduate is both a guide but also a promise to their students.
Learn more >

The characteristics described in the Portrait of a Graduate include:

  • Academic mastery
  • Wellness
  • Civic, financial and economic literacy
  • Digital literacy
  • Communication
  • Critical thinking and problem solving
  • Creativity and innovation
  • Collaboration and teamwork
  • Honesty, integrity and responsibility
  • Hard work and resilience
  • Lifelong learning and personal growth
  • Service
  • Respect

This is the foundation of the vision for teaching and learning in Utah. “Vision is a wildly powerful guiding force; it is that north star,” said Jason Swanson, director of strategic foresight at KnowledgeWorks.

What helped the vision for Utah work is the collaborative way in which it was created. Led by State Superintendent of Education Sydnee Dickson, the public was invited to provide input at open meetings that engaged parents, teachers, educational leaders and community members. The state went directly to educational and teacher leaders as well as students.

The Portrait of a Graduate in Utah is being embraced by policymakers, educators and families. It’s truly serving as a north star for the state as they plan for the future.

More about systems transformation in Utah

Swanson and Young engaged in a longer conversation about education systems transformation and how the Portrait of a Graduate has been a guiding force for Utah. Watch their conversation.

Leading with Collaborative Vision

Sarah Young is responsible for external and internal communications and facilitates the execution of strategic initiatives. Sarah joined the agency in the May of 2012 and has served in a variety of roles including Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) Specialist, Digital Teaching and Learning (DTL) Coordinator, and most recently Director of Strategic Initiatives. Sarah was appointed to the position of Chief of Staff in December 2021. Prior to joining the agency, Sarah served as an Albert Einstein Fellow with the National Science Foundation in Washington D.C. Sarah earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in Environmental Population Organism Biology from the University of Colorado Boulder and her Master of Education degree from Lesley University.


Kate Westrich
Vice President of Marketing and Communications

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