BYU President's Report
From My Perspective: The Certain Cause of BYU in a World of Uncertainty
By President Kevin J Worthen
During this past year, to use the scriptural phrase, we have “both . . . act[ed] and . . . [been] acted upon” (2 Nephi 2:14). And the result is that 2020 is much different from previous years for nearly everyone.
On March 12, the world changed dramatically for Brigham Young University. In a period of only five days, we completely changed the mode of instruction for almost every class. We rethought and reconfigured almost every service we offer on campus. We endeavored to make it safe for students and employees to accomplish what they set out to do, despite the devastating effects of the worst pandemic of our lifetime.
The actions and support of our entire BYU community provide definitive proof that we can act even while being acted upon, and because of Christ’s atoning power, in the long run the impact of our actions can overcome all things that act upon us.
I hope that we do not just survive this unusual experience, but that we lean into it in a way that both reconfirms the essential components of our prior core goals and also accelerates our progress toward them. That is admittedly a very ambitious, audacious - and some would say unrealistic - aspiration. But I believe that we are better positioned than any other university to do this - that we were, if you will, built for this.
BYU cross country nearly swept last year’s NCAA championship when the men’s team won their first-ever national championship and the women’s team came in second. The men beat the reigning three-in-a-row NCAA champs, Northern Arizona University, by 54 points. (Photos taken pre-COVID-19 restrictions).
Celebrate What Was and Is
If we focus solely on how significantly things have changed since March 12, we may miss the opportunity to celebrate and be reenergized by the numerous accomplishments of last year, many of which happened before the pandemic.
The 2019–20 school year was amazing. To cite just a few of our students’ successes:
- Students from the Marriott School of Business took first place in at least five different competitions.
- Students from the BYU animation program - a collaboration between the College of Fine Arts and Communications and the College of Physical and Mathematical Sciences - won their sixth Student Academy Award, this time for their short Grendel.
- Students from the animation program also made history by winning first place in two categories at the Intel University Games. Their video game Avast Ye received first place for both best game play and best visual design, making them the first team to win two first-place prizes in the same year.
- On a rainy day in Terre Haute, Indiana, our men’s cross-country team won their first NCAA national championship, and the women’s cross-country team took second in their national championship event.
- The women’s soccer team advanced to the Elite Eight round of the NCAA tournament.
- At the end of the fall 2019 season, BYU was ranked fifth in the Learfield IMG Director’s Cup standings, which measure overall success among the more than 350 NCAA Division 1 programs.
- The men’s volleyball team finished its season ranked number one in the nation, and the men’s basketball team was ranked 16th in its final poll. In both cases their seasons were truncated by the pandemic.
Avast Ye, a game designed and produced by students from the College of Fine Arts and Communications and the College of Physical and Mathematical Sciences, won best gameplay and best visual design at the 2019 Intel University Games Showcase.
What Was Important Remains Important
We are - and have been for our entire history - engaged in a work that is enduring, even everlasting. We are laying a foundation for the eternities, not erecting a tent for temporary shelter.
With that in mind, let me briefly review three strategic objectives we have been working on over the past few years - and that we will continue to work on in the next few years, notwithstanding the pandemic:
The first is to ensure alignment with the university mission. To succeed, we need to ensure that our teaching and learning is “faith-based” and our research and scholarship is “student-centered.”
The second is to enhance the educational experience of our students. We will continue to focus on inspiring learning, on expanding and enhancing experiential learning opportunities, and on improving classroom instruction.
The third is to expand enrollment - to make this mission-aligned, enhanced education available to more students. To this end, we will increase enrollment by up to 3,000 more full-time students over a six-year period.
Student entrepreneurs from more than 30 countries and 600 universities brought their A game to the 2019 International Business Model Competition, and the team of Zoia Ali, Abby Warner, and Taimi Kennerley from BYU Marriott brought home the grand prize. (Photo taken pre-COVID-19 restrictions).
Pressing Forward: Plan, Do, and Adjust
This COVID experience, like all our mortal experiences, can and should help us improve. Learning how to deal with the unexpected and unpredictable will not only prepare us and our students to “be capable of meeting personal challenge and change,” but it can also help them achieve “the full realization of human potential.“
I thank and love each of you for what you contribute to our mission, especially in these trying times. I do not think any university community has worked harder, more diligently, or more cooperatively than has ours to allow our students to gather to safely learn the lessons of eternity in an atmosphere of faith.
I acknowledge that no matter how hard we have worked, things will not all go according to plan. We will have to adjust. But we will continue to focus on the essentials outlined in our mission statement, confident that even as we are acted upon, we will, with God’s help, succeed because this is part of His work that will not fail.
I witness that God lives. He has a perfect plan for His children - for each one of us. Because of the atoning sacrifice of His Son, Jesus Christ, Christ has the power to make all things right.
READ OR WATCH President Kevin J Worthen’s August 24, 2020, university conference address, “How to Act While Being Acted Upon”.
Other President's Report Articles