Dean Sylvia Torti: Resident Renaissance Woman

Dean Sylvia Torti has been one of the greatest inspirations to me during my undergraduate career. She has encouraged me to find a truly wonderful honors experience by encouraging opportunities in areas across the board. I sat down with Dean Torti to learn a bit more about her and how her personal life has influenced the honors experience for students, staff, and faculty.

Q: What has been your favorite part of overseeing Honors?

Getting to know students and working with a fabulous team of faculty and staff to better the honors experience by making it easier to navigate and more inclusive for all students. I think we’ve been successful. The number of degree recipients has more than tripled in the last 7 years! The diversity, with respect to ethnic background, in-state and out-of-state students, rural/urban, of the college has changed a lot too. Really, though, students inspire me with their curiosity, optimism and passion despite some major global issues facing us.

Q: How do the intersections of science and the humanities make a worthwhile honors experience?

Science and the humanities (and the arts) provide powerful lenses for looking at the world. Each discipline offers us a method, a perspective, provides “data” and allows us to draw [conclusions] about who we are and how the world works. In addition, these disciplines need each other because each discipline shines a kind of mirror on the other, helping us to see ourselves, our work and our blind spots more readily. Science, humanities and the arts are strengthened by being queried by one another.

On a personal level, I’m a scientist who writes fiction. Both my novels, The Scorpion’s Tail and Cages, had scientists as main characters. Science informs my writing. Writing helps me to better understand the complexity of science and scientists.

Q: What is your favorite intersection in your own life, why?

One important intersection in my life is the way that my self-definition as scientist and writer intersect. I’d also have to say that being Latina (having an Argentine father/extended family) and having lived half my time from age 17-35 outside the USA has been hugely influential to my development of self and perspective on the world. I’ve been invited into homes, fed, talked with people living very different lives. They helped me to become me. I hope I left something for them as well in the exchanges.

Dean Torti also shared some of her more personal life experiences with me. She is able to speak 3 (going on 4) different languages. Denmark, Argentina, and Kenya are only three of the six countries she has lived in. She boxes in her spare time, gardens as well, and has just begun bee-keeping. Dean Torti inspires me in many ways, but getting to know her more personal side reminded me of the importance of taking every opportunity by the reigns. She inspires me to continue taking opportunities that come my way. Whether that be in honors, school, or life. Who knows? Maybe one day I’ll take up boxing too.

Written by Michelle Valdes, honors student, Writing and Rhetoric major

Honors Tip: Want to apply your knowledge to real world issues? Praxis Labs are a one year hands on course. Take your knowledge and go out to change the world! Ask your honors academic advisor or head onto honors.utah.edu for more information!

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