Newswise — June 17, 2020 — A COVID-19 webinar series at the University of Utah’s David Eccles School of Business has helped shape Utah's formal response to the coronavirus pandemic while counseling hundreds of businesses statewide – a practical and service-driven model for higher education efforts in the global crisis.

“Higher education’s ability to bring together experts and convey information in a practical, impactful manner is a strength we can bring to the pandemic recovery. It is our obligation as educational leaders to work for the betterment of society,” said Taylor Randall, dean of the David Eccles School of Business. “Powered by the generous underwriting of the George S. and Dolores Doré Eccles Foundation to ensure the series was provided free and open to the public, coupled with insights and expertise from Leavitt Partners and The Cynosure Group, this webinar series has limited the pandemic’s damaging effects in Utah by informing state policy and creating new projects to lift Utah’s businesses.” 

Garnering more than 18,000 views since its debut in April, the series counseled hundreds of businesses and nonprofits statewide with practical and service-driven guidance during this uncertain economic time. Through its 14 webinars, the series also fostered the creation of several COVID-19-related projects that will continue to support the health and economic recovery of Utah. The informative webinars are still free and accessible to all via the following link: 

The series paired experts in government, policy, economics, and health with Utah business leaders in “how to” discussions addressing state and federal economic aid programs, planning for uncertainty, reopening strategies, and recouping losses, all while following health guidelines. Originating at the Eccles School’s Marriner S. Eccles Institute for Economics and Quantitative Analysis, the series was underwritten by the George S. & Dolores Doré Eccles Foundation to provide it free and open to the public. Other sponsors included The Cynosure Group and Leavitt Partners, with Mike Leavitt – former Utah Governor and former U.S. Secretary of Health & Human Services – sharing his leadership and expertise as moderator of many of the forums.

In addition to helping countless Utah businesses and nonprofits plan for the unknown, the series also helped create and shape several important statewide policy initiatives including:

  • Utah Leads Together – the plans for health and economic recovery developed as part of Utah’s COVID-19 Economic Response Task Force.
  • Utah HERO (Utah Health and Economic Recovery Outreach Project) – the project mapping the true spread of coronavirus infection in the state.
  • Hope Corps – teams of college and university students in Utah developing innovative solutions to COVID-19 challenges. 

The Navigating COVID-19 series came together in rapid response to the pandemic, with its first webinar offered less than three weeks after Utah schools shut down on March 15. Spencer P. Eccles, managing director of The Cynosure Group and former executive director of the Utah Governor’s Office of Economic Development, noted that as the coronavirus spread and the worldwide economy began to shut down, the volume and often-conflicting nature of emerging information added to public uncertainty.

“As a family, we wanted to assist Utah’s businesses and nonprofits, large and small alike, as quickly as possible,” said Eccles, “and with its incredibly talented faculty, the Marriner S. Eccles Institute was the perfect place to launch the webinars. Our goal was to help business leaders frame their response plans to the daunting economic landscape by sharing actionable, timely tools they could use immediately to navigate this crisis with more confidence and success.”

Having led both Utah and the nation through economic and healthcare challenges, Mike Leavitt’s perspectives were invaluable as he moderated many of the forums. “This is a pandemic. It’s a historic fact that these come. They come seldom enough that we forget how profound they are in shaping the world,” Leavitt said. “They shape the economy, they reshape sociology, and even reshape politics. We have no choice but to embrace change at a moment like this…. You can fight it and die as you’ll be overcome by events; you can accept it and have a chance; or you can lead it and prosper. That’s my personal motto, and it is a testament of how we get through this together.”

According to Dean Taylor Randall, “The positive impacts of the series are clear. It’s been a privilege for the Eccles Institute faculty to share their solution-minded suggestions during such unprecedented times.” He praised the generosity of the George S. and Dolores Doré Eccles Foundation, coupled with the expertise of Leavitt Partners and The Cynosure Group, for providing insights that have helped many business owners keep their businesses afloat now and plan to thrive in the future.

Utah’s health and economic recovery will continue to benefit from the series and the projects that grew out of it, including those highlighted below 

“Utah Leads Together” –  As part of Utah’s COVID-19 Economic Response Task Force, the Eccles School and its Kem C. Gardner Policy Institute, in collaboration with the Utah Governor’s Office of Management and Budget and the Utah Department of Health, helped lead and author the Utah Leads Together plans (versions I, II and III).  These documents presenting Utah’s plan for health and economic recovery, include contributions from dozens of public policy experts. Published by the Gardner Institute and released by Governor Herbert in news conferences, each plan drew extensively from the Navigating COVID-19 webinar information and the leadership of Spencer P. Eccles and the series’ team of public policy professionals.

The Utah Leads Together plans continue to support the vital functions of the state’s economic response to COVID-19 in areas such as:

  1. Defining Utah’s three economic phases of “urgent, stabilization, and recovery”
  2. Presenting color-coded health guidance levels (red, orange, yellow, and new green) to help Utah’s public and private decision-makers target reactivation of the Utah economy
  3. Presenting protective information for Utah’s high-risk population
  4. Sharing recommendations for assisting multi-cultural Utahns facing the challenges of the digital divide, food insecurity, English proficiency, and other challenges
  5. Planting seeds for economic renewal through guiding principles, a strategic approach, and fresh thinking on re-imagined economic incentives.

The Utah HERO Project – Many of the academic experts featured in the Navigating COVID-19 webinar series were tapped in creating and implementing the Utah Health and Economic Recovery Outreach Project (Utah HERO), designed to map the true spread of coronavirus infection in the state. The project is a collaboration of the Eccles School, University of Utah Health, and Utah’s Business, Health, and Prosperity initiative. Economists from the Marriner S. Eccles Institute have created random household sampling maps where field teams will conduct health surveys, resulting in an accurate picture of viral spread. The resulting data will be key in determining policy on how businesses can reopen safely.

Hope Corps – The Hope Corps, in partnership with the Salt Lake Chamber’s Utah Community Builders, brings together college and university students from throughout Utah to develop innovative solutions to help ensure the viability of the state’s communities. The Corps came together due to the COVID-19 pandemic when, despite major efforts by the federal and state governments, some businesses and individuals were “falling through the cracks” in receiving needed assistance. Whether due to lack of awareness or eligibility to apply, or simply a shortage in capacity, it is the Corps’ belief that there is more to be done, and students have the passion and the ingenuity to make a difference. 


About the George S. and Dolores Doré Eccles Foundation

Among Utah's largest and most longstanding charitable organizations, the George S. and Dolores Doré Eccles Foundation has contributed more than $500 million during the past three decades alone to benefit Utahns statewide. Through its charitable grants to Utah nonprofits, it improves the lives of countless citizens, meeting vital current needs and strengthening the state's economic base for the future. The Foundation’s grants are focused in areas including the arts, community/social services, education, health care, and historic preservation and conservation. More information can be found online at 

About Leavitt Partners

Leavitt Partners is a health care intelligence business. The firm helps clients successfully advance value for health by informing, advising and convening industry leaders on market and industry influences, value-based care, alternative payment models, federal strategies, public health, digital health and alliances. Through its family of businesses, the firm provides clients with investment support, data and analytics, member-based alliances, and strategic advisory services, striving to make health more accessible, effective and sustainable.

About the Cynosure Group

Tracing its roots to the Eccles family of Utah, The Cynosure Group is an independent alternatives asset manager and advisor that makes long-term investments on behalf of families, foundations, and other like-minded institutions. Cynosure’s collaborative solutions focus on alternative asset classes that range from select direct investment opportunities in profitable small to mid-sized companies, to comprehensive portfolio construction and allocations.

About the Marriner S. Eccles Institute for Economics and Quantitative Analysis

The Marriner S. Eccles Institute provides transformational, interdisciplinary learning opportunities for students in fields related to economics. Through generous support from the George S. and Dolores Doré Eccles Foundation, the Marriner S. Eccles Foundation and the Charles Koch Foundation, the Institute is home to an academic faculty of leading economists, their innovative research, top-level student scholars and a new QUAMO academic major (Quantitative Analysis of Markets and Organizations). The Institute’s focus includes the development of students’ quantitative skills, which are widely seen as critical for success in today’s data-driven job market. In doing so, it promises to unlock career opportunities for Utah students in an ever-expanding array of areas from banking and private equity to technology and academia. 

About the David Eccles School of Business

The University of Utah’s Eccles School is synonymous with ‘doing,’ providing a world-class business education with a unique, entrepreneurial focus on real-world scenarios where students put what they learn into practice long before graduation. Founded in 1917 and educating more than 6,000 students annually, it offers nine undergraduate majors, four MBAs, nine other graduate programs, a Ph.D. in seven areas and executive education curricula. The Eccles School is also home to 12 institutes, centers and initiatives that deliver academic research and support an environment of entrepreneurship and innovation. For more information, visit or call 801-581-7676.