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BYU President's Report

January 2020

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Giving is Helping                 BYU News & Features

From My Perspective: The Real Value of a BYU Education

By President Kevin J Worthen

President Kevin J Worthen

Forbes magazine issued a ranking in April of what it called the “best value colleges” of 2019. Brigham Young University was ranked number one, just ahead of Princeton. I understand that there are other metrics that might be used and that there is subjectivity even in these metrics, but you don’t have to look very far across campus to see a number of accomplishments and recognitions that provide evidence of the remarkable value we provide to our students.

In February, College Magazine, which is primarily catered to and written by students, ranked the various advertising programs in the nation. Again, BYU is number one. The accompanying article concludes that the BYU students learn in such a way that they are ready to be involved in the industry right from the beginning.

In January of this year, the Chronicle of Higher Education published an article on foreign language programs in the United States and ranked them according to the number of foreign language degrees conferred. BYU is number three. We are the only private school in the top 10, and we produce more graduates in Russian, Arabic, and Portuguese than any other university.

In every college on campus, students, faculty, and staff are regularly exemplifying the extraordinary value of a BYU education.

Faith, Emotion, and Intellect

In 2016, the keynote speaker at the annual Council for Christian Colleges and Universities conference was David Brooks. He is a New York Times columnist who was raised in a secular Jewish home and who has taught for several years at Yale University. He comes from a world that is in many ways far removed from that found on the campuses of most of the council members and on BYU’s campus. Perhaps because of this different perspective, Brooks shed light on the often unrecognized value of the education that faith-based schools—including BYU—can provide. He said:

You have what everybody else is desperate to have: a way of talking about and educating the human person in a way that integrates faith, emotion and intellect. You have a recipe to nurture human beings who have a devoted heart, a courageous mind and a purposeful soul. Almost no other set of institutions in American society has that, and everyone wants it. From my point of view, you’re ahead of everybody else and have the potential to influence American culture in a way that could be magnificent.

This statement fairly describes one part of the real value of a BYU education. It is an education that engages and improves the whole person. Brooks could just as well have cited the Aims of a BYU Education in describing the kind of distinctive education that faith-based universities can provide. A BYU education is to “be (1) spiritually strengthening, (2) intellectually enlarging, and (3) character building, leading to (4) lifelong learning and service.”

students studying foreign language

The Chronicle of Higher Education ranked foreign language programs in the United States based on the number of foreign language degrees conferred. In this ranking, BYU is number three and is the only private school in the top 10. BYU confers more degrees in Russian, Arabic, and Portuguese than any other university. The pictured linguistics class was held in Ecuador as part of a study abroad program.

The Measure of Success

A BYU education does not focus solely on the acquisition of knowledge, as important as that is. As our mission statement makes clear, a BYU education focuses on “the full realization of human potential.” And modern-day prophets, who direct this university, have emphasized that that potential is much greater than most people understand. Each of our students—indeed, every human being—“is a beloved spirit son or daughter of heavenly parents, and, as such, each has a divine nature and destiny.” If we can help our students understand and act on the deep truths in that simple sentence, it will transform and increase the value of their BYU education in ways that no earthly ranking system can measure. It will give them confidence to do hard things. It will cause them to love all whom they encounter—even those who are different from them or who dogmatically disagree with them. It will enable them to be community builders and national leaders. Understanding those truths, which are at the foundation of God’s plan of happiness, will help them realize not only who they really are but what they can become in this life and the next.

BYU students working with professional agencies

Faculty and students from the BYU AdLab work with professional agencies and their clients on real-life creative assignments, providing inspiring learning opportunities. From strategic development to creative execution, the AdLab creates work that ranges from activations and stunts to Super Bowl commercials and develops campaigns that impact people across the globe.

Our ultimate measure of success is the impact on our students—on what happens to them as a result of their time at BYU. Our mission statement indicates that our graduates are to be “broadly prepared individual[s] [who] will not only be capable of meeting personal challenge and change but will also bring strength to others in the tasks of home and family life, social relationships, civic duty, and service to mankind.”

We do not provide an education at BYU solely to prepare students for their first job, although we are interested in that. We do not provide an education to prepare them for their last job, although we are interested in that as well. In the end, we are not preparing students for jobs; we are preparing them for their eternal destiny as sons and daughters of Heavenly Parents. Our mission is to assist them “in their quest for perfection and eternal life.” That is real value, and it is a value beyond price.

I bear you my witness that BYU is part of the rolling forth of the kingdom of God on the earth. You, through these students, can have a magnificent impact on the world. Thank you for the opportunities you provide.

READ MORE: This article is based on President Kevin J Worthen’s address to faculty and staff on August 26, 2019. His full remarks, also titled “The Real Value of a BYU Education,” can be read or watched at at speeches.byu.edu.

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