One By One
Life is full of change. We all know this, and for the most part accept it. I, for one, have never been a big fan of change.
In an intensely dynamic world, persisting in static ways of thinking may not only be detrimental but also counterproductive; therefore, “rethinking” is necessary for both institutional and personal growth and progression.
Rethinking does not necessarily mean a wholesale discarding of past philosophies in favor of completely new ones. The university’s mission statement remains constant. The principles of building testimonies and providing quality education, even in the context of “rethinking education,” do not change, just as the principles of the gospel do not change though some of the programs and processes do.
This institution must remain a teaching institution—an institution whose every effort, every decision, and every focus must be placed on educating students academically and spiritually. Its success will be measured by quality graduates who will go out into the world and influence it for good. What will make this institution great in the eyes of God and the world will be the sacrifice of educators who choose to forego the prestige of faculty rank and the accolades of the world, and instead, as Elder Henry B. Eyring states, “put the Savior first and take His life as their model.” Such a faculty emulates the Savior by putting others—in this case, students—first.
How do we keep this focus on the students when so many more are here, when academic programs are expanding, and when faculty and staff are considering how these changes will affect individual programs and departments? President David A. Bednar tells us how this focus will come: “We have access to the gifts of the Spirit, which cannot be quantified nor counted. There are simply things we cannot adequately define and describe about the process of teaching with the Spirit.” As we focus on the Spirit, we will receive the blessings of a Heavenly Father who does and will make more of us than we can become alone. By working through “inspired inquiry and innovation,” we will be able to teach our students “one-by-one” as encouraged by President Bednar.
Since coming to campus, I have struggled with how I can accomplish the charge President Bednar has given us: “Everyone on this campus is a teacher.” How is this possible in my day-to-day activities as a cataloger in the McKay Library? How can I be a part of this rethinking of education? How am I supposed to emulate the Savior and participate in one-by-one teaching, when I spend most of my day behind a set of double doors, organizing information for students I don’t regularly see?
An answer came yesterday in the form of a student on crutches who came through those double doors and asked for me. She wanted to see me in my capacity as her academic advisor. In the few minutes we spent together in my office, we explored different options for her long-term academic career and her class schedule for next semester. During our conversation, nothing spectacular happened; no epiphany took place. It was only after she left, as I reflected on this unexpected visit and made notes on what we had talked about, that I felt the workings of the Spirit upon me.
As I wrote about what we had just discussed, my mind was flooded with things I would like to tell her the next time we meet. I realized that this young woman, unfocused and searching for her own place in life, needed the experiences and guidance of someone who had been there before—someone like me. I realized that the contribution I could make to the university’s mission and its focus on “rethinking education” could happen in little ways, one person at a time. I could help this person and others like her rethink their own education and development, both academically and spiritually. My experiences and my testimony could help her build her own. At that moment I realized the responsibility and obligation I have to change my focus, to facilitate the growth and development of students “one-by-one,” and to do what I can to lift them. My thinking broadened even further as I realized that in accomplishing God’s work I can uplift and serve my colleagues, bringing them closer to Christ as they, in turn, embrace this same philosophy and uplift and strengthen me. As President Hinckley said, “you don’t have to be a genius” or even a great person to do that.
The rethinking I did has applicability not only in the context of this university but also in my personal life and my family life. Rethinking or refocusing my efforts to extend beyond myself, to put others first, to serve others, to esteem not myself and my needs above others—that is what this university is all about and what will make it great. Rethinking education here is nothing more than doing what we all must do in our individual lives as we progress eternally: it is putting others first. This philosophy faithfully applied and carried out in companionship with the Lord will allow BYU–Idaho to become more than the sum of its parts. This is what will make Brigham Young University–Idaho unique and produce graduates who, like ourselves, will be rethinking and refocusing throughout their lives as we all proceed on our journey toward eternal refinement and perfection.