Listen to BYU President Kevin J Worthen for any length of time and one thing becomes clear: our new university head is passionate about the BYU Mission Statement.
On Tuesday, at the General Session of the 2014 Annual University Conference, Worthen addressed BYU faculty and staff focusing his remarks on how the Mission Statement should guide university employees’ main purpose: to “assist individuals [particularly students] in their quest for perfection and eternal life.”
Assisting individuals in a quest for perfection can sound like a hard-to-reach vision. Drawing inspiration from the Mission Statement, Worthen provided doable suggestions each employee can implement now to sharpen their sense of purpose and support students throughout their BYU experience.
Expand your Vision
No matter your position, from professor to administrator to groundskeeper, it takes a community to carry out the Mission Statement, said Worthen. Each of us has a vital role to play in students’ education.
“We tend to think of [the education] domain as belonging exclusively to faculty, but the Mission Statement makes clear that not just formal instruction, but all programs and all services ‘should make their own contribution,’” Worthen said.
He continued: “This contribution is not limited just to the indirect kind of contribution to learning that is made by keeping the classrooms clean and functional or providing food in between classes. Each individual is to make his or her own contribution directly to the kind of learning experience that leads to the ‘balanced development of the total person.’ More of you than you realize may be involved in the intensive learning process.”
Increase your Influence
Once you define your role, Worthen said, another question becomes increasingly critical: "How can I perform better?" He then offered two ideas:
1. Become more familiar with the Mission Statement
"I urge each of you to read [the Mission Statement] and to reread it, even if you have read it many times before," Worthen said. "As you do so, consider ways in which what you do can enhance the student experience and then strive to do that better.”
2. Seek inspiration
"I firmly believe that through prayerful study, you will receive insights that will improve not only your individual efforts, but also, in some cases the institution," Worthen said. "I’m convinced that many, if not most, of the ideas that will greatly improve the university in the coming years will not come from task forces empaneled by the central administration with a top-down agenda. Instead, they will come from individual departments, which will bring to light concepts and practices that will benefit not just those departments or units, but the entire university.”
Curriculum Based on Gospel Truths
BYU has a distinctive end in mind, Worthen said. The university is seeking to pursue the "full realization of human potential," to strengthen students spiritually as well as academically. Worthen emphasized that spiritual strengthening is not an appendage to curriculum but rather an essential part of every aspect of a student's education.
"If the only insights that students receive on gospel truths are in their religion classes, we will not be that different from other good universities to which an institute of religion is attached," he said. "What will truly make us unique – and what we must uniquely do well - is to meet the challenge set forth by President Spencer W. Kimball: 'that every professor and teacher in this institution would keep his [or her] subject matter bathed in the light and color of the restored gospel and have all his [or her] subject matter perfumed lightly with the spirit of the gospel.'”
Remember the True Source of Direction
A phrase in the Mission Statement easily glazed over -- "founded, supported and guided by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints" -- can provide meaningful direction if we stop and consider it, said Worthen.
"As important as it is to remind ourselves constantly that students are the focus of our efforts, it is equally important to always remember the source of not only our founding and our funding, but also our direction," Worthen said. "We are blessed to be led by those who are prophets, seers and revelators. It was inspiration to such individuals, starting with Brigham Young, which has brought us to this point. And it will be their inspiration and vision that will guide us in the future. We will fulfill our mission only to the extent that we accept and follow that guidance."