PRIORITIES 2000-2005

By Brett Sampson

Much- maybe too much- has been said in the last year about a new century and a new millennium. In the midst of all this talk, the administration of Ricks College was busy and focused on entering another kind of time-sensitive phase: a new set of philanthropic priority goals. These now-approved goals say much about the direction of the college and reflect the range of areas to be focused on in the next five year fund-raising period.

It is a systematic process involving the Board of Trustees- which currently consists of the First Presidency, seven other General Authorities, and two general auxiliary leaders. Every five years the Board reviews, counsels, and eventually approves a set of goals proposed by the Ricks College President’s Council. These goals and subsequent priorities are not simply a reflection of administrative hopes and wishes, but the most critically important objectives- determined only after careful consideration of expressed needs and wants from across campus.

At present, there are 9 divisions, 39 departments, and 120 academic programs at Ricks College, each with its own endeavors and challenges. After submission of individual proposals and requests from each of these, a succession of meetings and discussions ensued in which representatives of each division were heard. It was only after comparing these eligible and worthy appeals to the missions of the Church and college that a final list was prepared and presented to the Board of Trustees.

Since his inauguration as president, Elder David A. Bednar has emphasized that one of the “fundamental principles” at the heart of what takes place at Ricks College is that “the most effective teaching and learning experiences occur ‘one by one.’” He has said, “This college is legendary for the individualized and nurturing attention given to students by the faculty and staff. Some people on campus candidly have shared with me their concerns that the growth in our student body and technological changes may inhibit our ability to provide ‘one by one’ support in the future. Let me now emphasize an important point just as forcefully as I can. New technologies and innovative pedagogies at Ricks College cannot and will not replace the special powers of people in the processes of learning and teaching.”

You may be aware that Ricks College is no longer physically confined to the sweeping hill in Rexburg, Idaho but is now reaching out through satellite facilities and online courses. In light of this and the rapid torrent of changes taking place in society, technology, and education today, the Board of Trustees is greatly concerned with reaching out to more students while maintaining the nurturing atmosphere for which Ricks College has become identified.

The fact that these new goals and priorities are philanthropic by nature indicates essential charitable involvement by alumni and friends of Ricks College. Each goal will be a focus, a point of discussion, and an impetus for many who desire to do their part in building up a portion of the Lord’s kingdom through gifts to the college during the next five years.

Based upon, but not to be confused with the four parts of the elemental Ricks College Mission Statement [see sidebar], are the following four philanthropic goals for 2000-2005:
1.  Expand the doors of educational opportunity for deserving and needy students.
2.  Enhance the learning environment.
3.  Support selected building and beautification projects.
4.  Extend the influence of Ricks College and prepare for future opportunities.

Falling under each of these goals are “priorities” (representing the more specific means of achieving the desired outcome) and the corresponding monetary need [see table entitled “Ricks College Philanthropic Priority Goals 2000-2005”].

The variety of these priorities shows not only the scope of efforts on the part of the administration but also the opportunity provided for people to find an area close to their heart with which they wish to have affiliation and through which they may offer support.

Following is a brief description of each of the individual goals and the priorities that fall under them. It is intended to give you a better understanding of the several areas.

Providing worthy, qualified students the opportunity to experience that very real “Spirit of Ricks” is the focus of the first goal. Need- and merit-based scholarships enable the administration of Ricks College to assist more students than just those with the highest GPA or ACT score.

“Some of those who get turned down don’t necessarily have low scores,” says Alton Hansen, assistant director of Admissions and Scholarships. “And having sufficient funds allows us to include more students by considering other criteria such as seminary and other high school participation, developed and potential leadership skills, as well as their ecclesiastical endorsements and their own desires for an education .”

The other part of scholarships is giving opportunities to students who, because of difficult financial situations, could not otherwise attend. Luz Salcedo, for example, is from Washington Heights, an inner-city neighborhood in New York. From the time she was eleven years old, she took jobs to help supplement her family’s income. Because she was working, Luz struggled in junior high and high school but held on to her “American dream,” as she puts it, “to become and be something more.”

With limited funds, Admissions and Scholarships was almost unable to help Luz, but ultimately did offer her assistance. Luz was astonished at her gifted opportunity to pursue her education at Ricks. She had been told for years by everyone, including the school guidance counselors, that she should forget her aspirations because she did not have the grades or the money she needed.

Luz currently has nearly a 3.5 college GPA and will graduate this year to pursue a job in social work.

Programs such as work study and mentoring are expanding the possibilities for many current students. Through the mentoring program, professors enter a one-on-one working relationship, guiding students in research and practicums applicable to their areas of interest. Usually a student will assist the professor in research, and for all practical purposes, engage in an apprenticeship with him or her. It is a unique opportunity to gain real work experience while furthering the work of the professor. The experience is invaluable to both.

Tutoring and structured learning assistance is provided to any interested students (including students with disabilities) free of charge in the areas of reading, writing, mathematics, and study skills. There were 6,821 students served last year, representing 35,837 hours of service by fellow students. In many cases, those being tutored turn around and tutor others the following semester. This free service and the students’ level of involvement are almost unprecedented. The programs have even been recognized, envied, and emulated by other colleges and universities.

In large part, the second major goal covers existing elements of the college’s milieu. It is through this goal that elements of the learning environment will be enhanced. The Thomas E. Ricks Endowment, for example, aides in the professional development of Ricks College professors.

In order for Ricks to continue furnishing eager students with current and thorough information, its already meritorious faculty must be fortified, not just maintained. It is through funds from this endowment that instructors receive timely and necessary teaching enhancement training and are able to stay abreast of the constant flow of new information in their disciplines.

Today’s world will not be the same tomorrow- almost literally- especially in the area of technology. Changes are taking place incessantly, and the realm of education is particularly sensitive as it evolves in an effort to bring up a new “information generation.”

However, President Bednar has stated, “We at Ricks College will be both high-tech and high-touch.” Some of the ways Ricks College is striving for that ideal are through ensuring reliable Internet access in approved housing, offering instructional training of faculty and students, working with professors in identifying and developing course work for online classes, and providing various student services (such as the application process) via the Web. Beginning this fall, new students will also be required to take at least one online course. Professors will still be available for one-to-one discussions and assistance, of course.

With help from gifts, Ricks College Leadership and Service Institute will expand and enhance its three areas of focus in the next five years: leadership and personal development, community service, and marriage enrichment. Service is central to their efforts in all three areas as students are able to plan and participate in substantial service projects and learn the significance of service in leadership and marital roles.

“The wonderful thing about these programs is that regular kids gain self-esteem through meaningful service and leadership training,” says Brian Schmidt, director of the Institute. “It doesn’t take special qualifications or a leadership scholarship to participate; it’s open to any student who is interested.”

The motto of Ricks Adaptive Adventure Program is “We are always doing something!” Activities this year include skiing, arena horseback riding, rappelling, dog sledding, and canoeing. “We get people- disabled and non-disabled- to do things they never thought they would or could,” says RAAP’s coordinating director, Steve Andersen.

RAAP’s philosophy is that people learn more, adapt better to change, and gain insights when they are having fun. Their experience is that when a disability is faced and accepted, most of the challenges and difficulties that come with it become secondary, and often minimal. Anderson adds, “We just try to speed up this difficult process.” He exemplifies this as he leads most of the adventures despite his own cerebral palsy. 

Appropriate locations for contemplation and gathering are an important aspect of any college setting. Indoor and outdoor beautification efforts at Ricks College, however, not only represent the high ideals of the Church-affiliated school, but they also maintain a proper spiritual atmosphere. As students and visitors walk through buildings and across quad areas on campus, various feelings are evoked, including reverence, introspection, studiousness, and fellowship.

The most recently completed outdoor beautification project is the main quad. It is surrounded by the Hyrum Manwaring Student Center, the John Taylor Building (housing religion and humanities), and the Spencer W. Kimball Student Administrative Services Building. Because of its pivotal location, it has quickly come to be considered the “heart of campus.”

Another project is the low-maintenance Arboretum. Entering through the riverstone gateway just south of campus, one is immediately struck by the beautifully landscaped hills, already dotted with trees and rockery. The master plan includes more foliage, trails, picnicking spots and an amphitheater, to be used by students and the community.

As part of the Church Educational System, Ricks College is able to spread its influence and share the Spirit through programs such as athletics, performing tour groups, and Urban Discovery. While each program has its own unique mission, every game, performance, and youth camp provides an avenue for showcasing outstanding LDS young people. Unfortunately, along with high personal costs, students struggle with diminished earning potential while participating in these time consuming activities.

The idea of “spectator sports” has added meaning at Ricks College. As the various athletic teams travel for away games, they are some of the most visible groups representing the college and the Church. This opportunity to extend the influence of Ricks College means not only entertaining, but often volunteering to visit early morning seminary classes and put on firesides when they are on the road. Student athletes speak, sing, and share their testimonies with members living in areas who often do not have the opportunity of seeing such large groups of faithful LDS youth.

These young athletes work hard to maintain strict moral ideals, along with high standards of physical performance. Most could have chosen to take offers from other schools, but in their prioritized endeavors have opted to accept a significantly smaller scholarship and represent Ricks College. Ricks is simply not able to give scholarships comparable to some other colleges at this time.

Ricks College has maintained consistently superlative programs in the various arts including the mediums of music, dance, and theater. These particular vehicles for creativity not only serve a significant number of students on campus, but provide innumerable missionary and faith-building opportunities as they tour. These groups share talents and testimonies and open doors of understanding throughout the United States and the world.

Fenton L. Broadhead, former mission president of the Brazil Sao Paulo North Mission recounted, “These performers touched those who tend to be more difficult for the missionaries to reach, like the upper and middle classes and government and military personnel. The media coverage and response from those in attendance, including the mayor, was remarkable and truly helped our work along.”

Each summer, boys and girls, who live in literally life-threatening neighborhood areas of inner-city Chicago, have the opportunity to escape for a few weeks with Ricks students who are there for a variety of classes and experiences including putting on a camp. It is an opportunity for “at-risk” kids to recreate, participate in crafts, and develop self-esteem alongside caring Ricks students who typically learn more than they teach.

It is more than this, however. The experience these children have with Ricks College Urban Discovery students may be the safest and most important experience of their lives. At these all-too brief retreats, kids come from situations at least as bad as you can imagine, and are able to experience Christlike love. They encounter the examples of good men and women. They laugh, talk, and share. And they don’t look back over their shoulders in fear as they run and play.

Ricks is in fact an outstanding institution, providing a current and timely education in many areas. However, the rapidity of new and even more effective academic procedures and tools presents an ongoing challenge in furnishing students with the quality of progressive education they deserve. At the same time, not all of the Board-approved priorities receive as much recognition from donors as do others, and they need to be supplemented.

A separate priority, simply identified as “unrestricted funds” enables the administration to cover areas of greatest need as they arise. These funds at Ricks College not only allow the administration to prepare for unexpected opportunities, but to enhance existing programs regularly. Being able to take hold of immanent circumstances effectively requires the financial flexibility of reserves that restricted funds understandably do not allow.

So, Ricks College has not just entered a new century along with everyone else, but a vital period of time in which this new set of goals and priorities will be a driving force. With faithful eyes locked on the prize of a glorious future and with the ongoing help of alumni and friends like you, these goals will be met.

President Bednar has compared the efforts of those involved at Ricks College with Nephi’s experience building a ship. He said, “May I suggest that Nephi’s experience in building that ship is a model for us at Ricks College as we prepare for and move into the next century. We, too, must build something we have never built before in order to go some place we have never been before. . . . I know, brothers and sisters, that we will be guided and directed by Him whose school this is as we respond to the challenge to build an educational ship of curious workmanship. As we at Ricks College construct our ship and travel according to the coordinates set by the Board and identified in our mission statement, Ricks College will become increasingly different from and distinctive among other institutions of higher education.”

There is a curious trend of thought among alumni of two-year colleges. Often as educational degrees are accumulated and life’s requirements set in, loyalty and- perhaps more specifically- financial support end up earmarked and directed to the larger (or last) institution attended. While Ricks College alumni invariably confirm that their experience at Ricks ranks as one of the most formidable and memorable, some are not entirely immune to this thinking. For being among those who remember and stay connected to Ricks College as a meaningful step in your progression; for caring and supporting its direction- the students thank you, and we thank you.


Call: 800-22-ricks or 208-356-1128
Ricks College Development
220 Kimball Building
Rexburg, ID 83460 - 1655