I Never Knew


Outstanding Academic Programs and how Alumni Contribute to Them

 By Brett Sampson '88

Several years back when the campus only spread halfway up the hill and long before the revered junior college became a university, Dave Richards gave a tour to a small group of visitors.
     Brother Richards, who still works as the assistant to the president for philanthropic support and alumni relations, was pleased to host these alumni, former employees, and community members—none of whom were strangers to the institution.
     At the conclusion of the tour, the visitors were somewhat quiet. One gentleman, a Rexburg native, finally spoke up and said, “You know, I live just down the street but I never knew just how much was going on at this relatively small school.”
     If that group—or other alumni and friends of the school—were to visit campus today and be introduced to the enhanced education students now receive, they would be astounded at the quantity and quality of academic programs available to students.


Since becoming Brigham Young University–Idaho, the most obvious academic achievement is the creation of baccalaureate programs. In the last four years, faculty and other department personnel have worked diligently at developing 49 previously non-existent programs.
Organizing this many lean, focused, and high-quality upper-division programs was no less than a miraculous feat. It required long days of analyzing and sometimes painfully rethinking everything from individual course curriculum to departmental philosophies.
     In academia this kind of accomplishment is remarkable. It is not unusual for a university to take several years developing only a handful of accreditation-worthy programs. With all this work in mind, however, what has truly made these new four-year degrees a hallmark at the emerging university is the unique nature of the programs.
Bachelor’s degrees at BYU–Idaho include those identified as specialized or integrated, as well as a wide range of secondary education programs that lead to certification for high school teachers.
     Specialized baccalaureate programs are more traditional—with specific requirements and specialized training. Integrated degrees, unique to BYU–Idaho, actually require students to act for themselves. They work with an advisor to carefully craft their own program according to their specific postgraduate intentions and interests.
Innovative degree options and the freedom to work toward appropriate and sometimes individually clustered areas of interest empower students to formulate what they choose as their most personally beneficial educational path. In doing so, students gain added value to their marketability in the workforce as they learn invaluable self-management skills.


Another academic program, impressive in its relatively unique approach at BYU–Idaho, is internships. While participating in internships is not generally unusual within certain college majors, credible and challenging internships have become integral to the overall academic experience in most majors at BYU–Idaho. Recognizing the potential value of internships in nearly any discipline is one more example of “rethinking education” at this university.
     Guy Hollingsworth was hired three years ago to oversee the increased focus on students participating in internships. Since that time, his office has assisted and managed the placement of over 3,000 students, with over 700 companies and organizations, in 40 states and 10 foreign countries.
According to Brother Hollingsworth, “Internships become an invaluable aspect of a complete educational experience as students learn by connecting academics with practice and become familiar with already-established individuals in their field.” 


One more example of exemplary academic offerings at BYU–Idaho is the Department of Academic Learning. This department provides tutoring for students in any class, but has specific areas for help in reading, writing, math, and basic study skills. Services for students with disabilities are also provided. In the fall semester alone, the Department of Academic Learning assisted over 2,700 different students.
     Karl Edwards, who has headed the department since its inception as a tutoring center 23 years ago, reports that he employs about 270 student tutors. It is impressive and telling that many of the tutors are students who were tutored themselves in previous semesters.

     One of the most significant aspects of this learning assistance center is that tutoring services are free to students. “Other universities charge for much of the things we are able to do for free,” Brother Edwards says. “All a student has to do is come and say, ‘I need help.’”  


The impressive number of new baccalaureate degrees, internships, and the Department of Academic Learning are just a few examples of significant academic achievements at BYU–Idaho. What many people do not realize is that advances like these are accomplished through more than the sacrificial efforts of university employees.  
     While the faculty and staff give their time, talents, and often treasure toward the advancement of the university, alumni and friends also contribute much toward the evolving programs on campus. Alumni and others contribute to campus programs through advisory roles and philanthropic support.
For example, as part of the ongoing development and reevaluation of current academic programs, alumni representatives sit on some of the college academic advisory committees. In addition, the Departments of Horticulture, Humanities and Philosophy, Physics, Theatre, and others conduct regular and varied surveys with alumni from their respective departments to determine the effectiveness of curricula and receive input for change.
     As for academic internships, those “outside” the physical university community become indirectly involved through financial contributions that provide a stipend to unpaid interns. Of course every effort is made to procure paid internships; but with so many BYU–Idaho students seeking valuable experience, some must do so from a sponsoring organization that does not provide financial compensation.
     The Department of Academic Learning receives philanthropic support from alumni and friends who specifically provide permanent funding for tutor wages and general materials needed in the program. In addition, donations to the department allow for small, unsolicited grants-in-aid. These are given to a select few students to reward their dedicated efforts in overcoming extraordinary learning difficulties. To these struggling students, receiving a grant is a complete surprise and literally renews hope and confidence in them.  


Internships and the Department of Academic Learning are counted among nearly 20 philanthropic priorities approved by the Board of Trustees. Most of these priorities are directly tied to academics.
     Every five years, the list of programs and projects (philanthropic priorities) is revisited by the Board to determine a new set of goals for each. These goals represent the amount of money alumni and friends are invited to contribute to help accelerate the work of the university. These priorities and applied goals are seen as a significant means by which individuals participate in sharing their abundance to literally build the kingdom of God.
     Following are some other philanthropic priorities through which the donated funds of alumni and friends directly support academic programs:
     Work Study and Mentoring
provides experiences for students to work “one-on-one” with their teachers on special projects.
     Selected Academic Programs
cover costs of many smaller department-driven programs across campus.
     Leadership and Service Institute
offers opportunities in leadership training and service to interested students.
    College of Business and Communication
provides practical experience through projects such as starting temporary businesses and consulting local businesses.
     Performance Tour Groups
assist students with travel expenses as they share their talents around the world.
     Urban Discovery Chicago
sends sociology students to the inner city to study issues first-hand and mentor troubled youth.
     Humanitarian Service
allows students to propose major service expeditions related to their areas of study.
     Scholarships and Grants-in-Aid
assist students by helping to pay for their education.
     BYU–Idaho is now in the last year of its current five-year fund-raising efforts with regards to the above priorities. With help from many alumni and others, 70 percent of the overall $30 million goal has been reached. The remaining 30 percent is still needed, however, before December 2004.
     By visiting www.byui.edu/giving, you can learn even more about all the priorities, read success stories of individual students who have already benefitted from them, get answers to complex questions regarding gifts to BYU–Idaho, and even make a gift online.  


A dedicated staff of faculty and administrators continues working on ways to improve programs to meet the evolving needs of the current student body. Likewise, no matter how far from campus you may now be, you—as an alumnus and/or friend—can play an active role in accelerating the achievement of continued academic success and make a difference in the lives of students at BYU–Idaho.
     Gifts, in any amount, can be made online at www.byui.edu/giving or by calling (800) 227-4257. The students thank you, and we thank you. SM



Promotion of innovative education and financial support did not begin when the college became BYU–Idaho. These aspects were not even new when Brother Richards led the campus tour. Thinking beyond horizons has been the practice of the school since Stake President Thomas E. Ricks organized it and Jacob Spori became the first principal. The institutional history is filled with examples of forethought and tremendous sacrifice to carry out its mission.

Since its humble inception in 1888, numerous individuals have consistently supported the school in remarkable ways and at times have even stood up to the threat of its doors being permanently closed.

According to The Spirit of Ricks by David Crowder: “Principal Spori worked hard, unselfishly, and almost single-handedly to see that the school remained open through the first difficult years. When the 1889-1890 school term ended, he felt personally responsible that his stewardship of the academy had not been good enough to avoid a deficit of $177. In addition to applying his salary toward the debt, Principal Spori worked on the railroad for a time, using some of his earnings to help pay salaries of other teachers” (p. 3-4).

The work begun by Ricks and Spori continues as it did in their day when nearly 100 frontier students benefited from a formal education. Now 10,730 students enjoy a gospel-centered education at BYU–Idaho. Unlike the first years of struggle, the university is financially stable; however, those inclined to help with the progress of the institution can do much to enhance its academic programs and more quickly accomplish what the Board of Trustees desires.

In honor of the generous work of many and the sacrifices of Jacob Spori in particular as he worked to pay the $177 debt so long ago, alumni and friends of BYU–Idaho are invited to consider giving at least $177 in 2004. Doing so will assist the university in its continuing work of blessing the lives of the wonderful young men and women who attend.

Who’s That Calling?
By Linda Draper ’93

If you own a telephone, chances are you have been (or soon will be) contacted by a BYU–Idaho student from the Telefund Center.

The Telefund Center, run by the LDS Foundation at BYU–Idaho, is located inside the Alumni & Friends Center on Rexburg’s Main Street. The center employs 20-25 BYU–Idaho students. They participate in raising funds which support the university’s many philanthropic priorities, including scholarships and grants.

Tuesday through Saturday, students place phone calls to university alumni and friends to announce upcoming events, ensure university communications are received, offer opportunities to assist BYU–Idaho students, and often just thank constituents for their support.

According to Ken Bridenstine, the Telefund Center manager, a high priority is having meaningful conversations between current and former students. “When our students call, we hope alumni feel the enthusiasm and spirit of the young men and women who attend BYU–Idaho. We would like them to feel connected to the university and recognize that they can participate in the great things that go on here,” he says.

While largely unaffected by the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) and the National Do Not Call Registry (See www.ftc.gov/bcp/conline/edcams/donotcall/), the Telefund Center nevertheless responds to topical concerns regarding privacy and call quality. The center honors all “do not call” requests, and student employees receive on-going training, mentoring, and supervision.

Overwhelmingly, alumni have responded positively to the Telefund Center’s message. They express genuine interest in hearing from and supporting the students of BYU–Idaho. Donations made through the Telefund Center by alumni and university friends collectively make a significant contribution to programs that benefit current students.

For more information on the Telefund Center, contact Ken Bridenstine at (800) 227-4257 or by e-mail to TelefundCenter@byui.edu.