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BYU Inquiry Conference Feb. 27 to feature distinguished guests

The BYU campus community, including alumni and friends of the university, are invited to attend a BYU Inquiry Conference on Friday, Feb. 27, in the Gordon B. Hinckley Alumni and Visitors Center. With an emphasis on inquiry, scholarship, learning and teaching at religiously affiliated schools, the conference will feature BYU President Cecil O. Samuelson, as well as BYU faculty, students and invited guests. President Henry B. Eyring, first counselor in the First Presidency of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, plans to attend part of the conference as a member of BYU's Board of Trustees.

The conference will include three sessions and will begin at 9 a.m. and conclude at 1 p.m. Seating in the Assembly Hall will be on a first-come, first-served basis.

Presenters at the conference will include President Samuelson; Thomas Hibbs, dean of the Honors College at Baylor University; and Sandra Elman, president of the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities. The two morning sessions will begin at 9 a.m. and 10:45 a.m. The afternoon session, which will be presented by President Samuelson, will begin at 12:15 p.m. Refreshments will be served before and after the 9 a.m. session.

"We invite all members of the BYU community to join this important conference," said John Tanner, Academic Vice President at BYU and a member of the conference planning committee. "This conference represents an important opportunity to come together as a campus community to discuss inquiry, scholarship and learning at BYU and at religiously affiliated universities generally."

"We at BYU are unique in many ways but are not alone in seeking learning by study and faith," said Gerrit Gong, Assistant to the President for Assessment and Planning and co-chair of the conference, along with James Gordon, interim dean of the BYU J. Reuben Clark Law School. Gordon added, "We can learn from other universities that seek to combine faith and intellect."

"Conference presentations and discussions are intended to be a natural part of ongoing campus discussions," said Gong. "For example, incoming BYU freshmen have been encouraged to read and discuss the book Learning in the Light of Faith. These were central themes in the Annual University Conference. BYU approaches to inquiry, faith and intellect, learning and teaching are part of new faculty orientation and ongoing training and development across campus."

Gong added that the conference invites all BYU students, faculty and staff to be a part of one of the "great discussions in history, one which has engaged the best minds and hearts at the greatest universities."

Sandra Elman, who will address the topic of "Tolerance, Diversity and Community" during the 10:45 a.m. session, said such discourse continues today and is part of the national discussion on higher education trends. "One of the hallmarks and one of the compelling strengths of American higher education is the diversity of our institutions," she said.

"We pride ourselves in this country on having not only public institutions but, in many ways as importantly, or one could even argue more importantly, independent institutions of all shapes and sizes," she said, adding, "I am a believer in the diversity of our missions and in the diversity of the programs and the types of institutions that we have."

During the 10:45 a.m. session, Elman will be joined by Jim Gordon, interim dean of the J. Reuben Clark Law School; Renata Forste, professor of sociology at BYU; and Natalie Quinn, a BYU student majoring in English. David Whetten, director of the BYU Faculty Center and the Jack Wheatley Professor of Organizational Behavior, will moderate the session.

Thomas Hibbs, who is the dean of the Honors College and Distinguished Professor of Ethics and Culture at Baylor University, said he will specifically explore inquiry, scholarship, learning and teaching at religiously affiliated institutions in his remarks during the 9 a.m. session. He said faith should be something that "broadens and deepens all intellectual pursuits."

Hibbs said he has experienced how religiously affiliated universities can seek to "enrich the life of the mind and the life of the university."

During the 9 a.m. session, Hibbs will be joined by three other presenters: Bonnie Brinton, dean of Graduate Studies at BYU; Brent Slife, professor of psychology at BYU; and Justin White, a BYU student majoring in comparative studies. James Faulconer, professor of philosophy at BYU, will moderate the session.

Through such discussion, the conference steering committee hopes members of the BYU community will continue exploring inquiry, scholarship, learning and teaching at BYU - including in comparative perspective with religiously affiliated schools and national trends in U.S. higher education.

Writer: Angela Fischer

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