Chapter Five: Ears to Hear—Listening to



Chapter Five: Ears to Hear—Listening to
Chapter V: Ears to Hear—Listening to Participants’ Stories
Ricks College employees and students, selected community members, and local
media responded to their late night phone calls and gathered in the Hart Auditorium even
before 8:00 a.m. They were anxious, curious, and speculative. Then the Chairman of the
Board read the announcement to those gathered on campus and to the Salt Lake City media
who had gathered for the press conference. To recreate the sentiments of the initial response,
the text from announcement (Hinckley, 2000) has been presented below in italics and
interspersed with reflective comments about the reaction from those who were in attendance:
The First Presidency of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and the
Board of Trustees of Ricks College announce that Ricks College will change from its
present two-year junior college status to a four-year institution.
“Immediately a burst of applause broke out in the Hart Auditorium. A near halfcentury of speculation on the subject of whether Ricks would ever again become a four-year
institution had ended” (Kinghorn, 2000, p. 61).
The new four-year school will be known as Brigham Young University–Idaho, with
the name change designed to give the school immediate national and international
Applause again filled the auditorium. Some students said that even in their “naiveté,”
they could sense they “were witnessing something very significant” (E. Nelson, personal
communication, June 30, 2007).
The memory of Thomas E. Ricks will continue to be appropriately honored and
“The name Ricks College was to be dropped. What do you do about that? And how
do deal with the Ricks family which is a huge family and has contributed over the years so
much. How are they going to be made to feel good about this change?” (B. Kinghorn,
personal communication, May 2, 2007).
This change of status is consistent with the ongoing tradition of evaluation and
progress that has brought Ricks College from infant beginnings to its present position
as the largest privately owned two-year institution of higher education in America.
With some additions and modifications, the physical facilities now in place in
Rexburg are adequate to handle the new program. Undoubtedly, some changes to the
campus will be necessary. However, they will be modest in nature and scope.
BYU–Idaho's move to four-year status will be phased in over a period of time
and accomplished in such a way as to preserve the school's autonomy and identity.
Adjustments to its mission will be minimal. The school will have a unique role in and
be distinctive from the other institutions of higher education within the Church
Educational System. For the immediate future, the president of BYU–Idaho will
report directly to the Commissioner of the Church Educational System.
To remain autonomous within the CES was significant. Many realized the trust of the
Board in the leadership and abilities of those on campus.
BYU–Idaho will continue to be teaching oriented. Effective teaching and advising will
be the primary responsibilities of its faculty, who are committed to academic
The institution will emphasize undergraduate education and will award
baccalaureate degrees; graduate degree programs will not be offered. Faculty rank
will not be a part of the academic structure of the new four-year institution.
BYU–Idaho will operate on an expanded year-round basis, incorporating
innovative calendaring and scheduling while also taking advantage of advancements
in technology which will enable the four-year institution to serve more students.
The statement was ongoing as Brent Kinghorn sat facing the audience. He observed
the audience’s reaction: “I had picked out some of our coaches, and I had noticed how happy
everybody was. Here they were thinking an opportunity to now take their level of coaching
up to a four-year level as a college or university conference somewhere, and they had
excitement for that…”
In addition, BYU–Idaho will phase out its involvement in intercollegiate athletics
and shift its emphasis to a year-round activity program, designed to involve and meet
the needs of a diverse student body.
“…and then when that announcement was made it was just like taking the wind totally out of
them. All of a sudden not only are they not going to do that, they are not going to have
athletics period. You could see the look on their faces. Does this mean we are out of a job?
And I had not even thought of that until I saw that. It all happened so fast” (B. Kinghorn,
personal communication, May 2, 2007).
Of necessity, the new four-year institution will be assessing and restructuring its
academic offerings. Predictably, the school will need to change and even eliminate
some long-standing and beneficial programs as the school focuses upon key
academic disciplines and activities.
Kinghorn said, “I felt immediate compassion for many of my friends who have
devoted their lives to intercollegiate athletics. I could only imagine the feelings they were
experiencing. And I knew there might be others, in similar circumstances, who would face
the same challenge” (Kinghorn, 2000, p. 61).
Specific programmatic details about and time lines for the change are presently being
worked out. These details, which will be discussed with and approved by the Board of
Trustees, will be announced at appropriate times in the future.
The announcement concluded. The individual response was varied. Some describe it
as exciting, others as surreal—“Not knowing, ok what does these mean in terms of the
announcement. What does this really mean in terms of what we were doing?” (D. Lyons,
personal communication, June 8, 2007). Some who happened to be away because summer
employment was not included in their contracts were told by family members and responded
with disbelief: “Are you kidding?” (V. Lovell, personal communication, June 15, 2007).
Others who received the information second hand thought it might be a joke (T. McRae,
personal communication, June 1, 2007). Many pondered on what it would mean for their
individual responsibilities while others were impressed with the great impact for good that
the changes would have on the students who attended what was now going to become
Brigham Young University–Idaho.
Communication quickly became a key component of the transitions. The Media
Relations Coordinator for Ricks College, Don Sparhawk, said,
“I knew immediately this was going to be a huge story that everyone was going to be
asking information about. I had no idea. I mean we were speculating, but this was not
among the things we were speculating. We had no idea it was going to be such a big
story. It is a little unusual that the person in charge of the media would not have any
idea…. Fortunately, Church Public Affairs did have a news release and they had a
news conference in Salt Lake, so actually it went quite well.” (D. Sparhawk, personal
communication, May 2, 2007)
The Chairman of the Board and Commissioner of the Church Educational System
fielded questions from the media in Salt Lake City immediately following the announcement.
By that noon, Sparhawk had arranged for a press conference with local media in Idaho.
Question-and-answer sessions were held for employees, students, and concerned community
members throughout the day. Kinghorn (2000) describes the open sessions:
[They were] conducted by President Bednar. He fielded every question,
answering most himself and occasionally asking one of the vice presidents to
respond. He was a master. We all answered the best we could with the limited
information that we had. Most people seemed to still be excited and supportive, but
some really had difficult feelings to work through regarding the name change and the
discontinuance of athletics. We listened, we responded, and we listened some more.
President Bednar became expert in responding, “I don’t know” (pp. 62-63)
There were more questions than answers, and the rumor mill started to fill the void.
To establish a line of communication and to assure a consistent message, Kinghorn was
designated as the spokesman for the school. He was faced with the challenge of “fielding
phone calls from universities and organizations and radio and television stations from
literally across the country” (B. Kinghorn, personal communication, May 2, 2007). Talking
to the media had never been an enjoyable task for Kinghorn. He said,
I remember thinking, “I can’t do that.” And then I remember thinking, “Bring it on!”
And it turned out to be a wonderful opportunity to grow. As I magnify my personal
experience among the thousand employees and the potential we all have to grow and
do things that stretch us beyond what we have ever been stretched before, I think that
is one of the wonderful things; many of them not only succeed but succeed amazingly
well. We can do a lot better than we otherwise think we can. I think we also learned
that at this institution the Board of Trustees is led by a living prophet, and it gave us a
chance to truly sustain him as such. (ibid)
Perhaps Kinghorn’s response to the challenges as he viewed an opportunity to sustain
a prophet is ultimately proof of a trusting relationship between leadership and those who
choose to follow. Other participants in this research expressed similar sentiments as they
explain the culture of the school, its history, and the processes they went through in the
transition. Charles Frost, Director of Physical Plant, wrote in his journal the evening
following the announcement:
As I sit on my deck writing tonight, the breeze is gentle, temperature about 73.
Neighborhood noises are normal. Everything seems normal when in fact the future of
Ricks College was dramatically changed yesterday when President Hinckley
announced the change in status to BYU–Idaho with a four-year curriculum and no
athletic program. For the 2,000 plus students, faculty, and administrators in the Hart
[auditorium], the news was first greeted with applause and then stunned realization of
what this news meant. It was like throwing a large rock into a small pond. The waves
and ripples extended outward creating new surprises as realizations set in…. Since
the transition has barely started, many answers are unknown. The athletes and
coaches are resentful and stunned, the faculty unsure of future curriculum changes,
and students wanting to have the four-year bachelor’s of science degrees available
right now. Creating BYU–Idaho is a monumental task.
Interrelated Key Components
After the announcement was made, President Bednar talked more in depth with his
President’s Council and worked on details. Their communication had to be multifaceted as
the administration worked with the external publics and the internal audiences of employees,
students, and the Board of Trustees. Two key metaphors helped the communication process:
a cube and cheese.
Similar in size to a Rubik’s cube, the transition cube was frequently held up as a
visual aid in meetings. Christensen explained how the cube facilitated discussion:
The Executive Committee and the Board wanted to be kept apprised of all of the
different steps as they moved forward. In my opinion one of the key things that
happened was the President’s Council created a metaphor that worked very well to
see how all of the pieces fit together, and that was this infamous cube. (R.
Christensen, personal communication, May 3, 2007)
Christensen still had a diagram of the cube in his desk drawer. Pulling it from a file
folder, he showed me the six-sided diagram which included key components of the transition
to become BYU–Idaho:
Side 4:
Degree Programs
70 Credit Majors (11)
45 Credit Majors (23)
Teaching Majors & Minors
Specialized Associate Deg
Support Services
Side 1:
Faculty Load
& Annual Contract
37.5 Annual Load with
opportunity to apply for
3 -hour load release for
45 Weeks
Student Enrollment
8,600 74.1%
900 7.8%
2,100 18.1%
11,600 TOTAL
Side 2:
Year- Round School
Upper Division Courses
FIGURE 1. Transition Cube
He continued his commentary:
Side 3:
Change or New
There were six-sided elements that all interacted with one another. You couldn’t start
making changes with one of those facets without impacting all of the other five. So
every time there was a discussion or presentation, they would do it in the context that
if you start talking about this, remember it is going to impact these other elements of
the transition. Once that was well established, they started putting together the
estimate and phasing it in over a period of time, then [the cube] identified all of those
pieces. Every year as we reviewed the budgets, it would be this was the next layer of
what we had talked about before, and the plan rolled out almost exactly as it had been
formulated that first year 2000. (R. Christensen, personal communication, May 3,
As the shockwaves began to settle from the Board of Trustees’ announcement that
Ricks College would become Brigham Young University–Idaho, President David A. Bednar
arranged for each employee to receive a personal copy of Spencer Johnson’s (1999) #1
National Bestseller: Who Moved My Cheese? A memo from the President had a simple oneword subject: change. The President’s invitation to begin learning about the impending
season ahead created a common dialogue for those involved:
Enclosed with this memorandum is your personal copy of Who Moved My
Cheese?, a simple parable that focuses on the nature of change.
Given the changes taking place at Ricks College, I thought it would be
beneficial if all campus employees took the time to read this book. I invite and
encourage you to read it in preparation for the all-employee meeting scheduled for
next Wednesday…and believe you will find it to be a good preface to what will be
discussed at that meeting.
I look forward to being with you Wednesday and extend my best wishes to
you for personal success and happiness during the upcoming academic semester. (D.
A. Bednar, personal communication, August 10, 2000)
Many employees appreciated the administration’s acknowledgement that their world
had changed. The attempt to introduce a metaphor created a common dialogue and shared
point of reference. In Johnson’s (1999) book, cheese represents one’s primary source of
personal happiness and satisfaction, but sometimes life’s events bring a need to seek out
“new cheese” in altered circumstances. For those at Ricks College, the brief announcement
by the Chairman of the Board of Trustees had redefined the school. Those familiar with the
school knew a lot about legacies and Ricks College—but not a lot about transitions or about
becoming Brigham Young University–Idaho. Gone were many of their key identifying
characteristics that brought satisfaction to their work and existence—the status of being the
largest privately-owned junior college in the nation, the sponsorship of nationally-ranked
intercollegiate teams, the academic structure, even the name of the school. Their “cheese”
had been moved; the analogy fit.
There were similarities in the actions of Johnson’s characters and in the way
individuals responded to change. Some eagerly set into finding the “new cheese” of upper
level course work and an expanded student activities program. The analogy continued to be
used to explain observations of individuals who “hemmed or hawed” in delay, “scurried” into
action, or “sniffed” out solutions to the unfolding progress. As an organization in the season
of transition, no one was immune from change. Administrators, faculty, staff, and students all
began to learn together how to reshape a university. Cheese became an ongoing dialogue, and
there were still references to Johnson’s classic ways of response as the participants told me
their stories nearly seven years after the book was shared with employees.
Any effort to be able to gain a common ground of communication was appreciated.
As an administrator explained, “We really were rethinking how we were doing a lot of
things. We came up with this glossary of new terms and new meanings for old ones” (J. Gee,
personal communication, May 16, 2007). The glossary also helped establish consistency in
messaging. Included in the glossary were basic assumptions that were the base for all the
changes that would transpire:
Assumptions – Institutional. It is assumed that the institution to be known as
Brigham Young University–Idaho will maintain its present character with respect to
types of students served and faculty employed. Additionally, the institution will
require students and employees to live by an honor code, and it will continue to foster
a nurturing, spiritual environment—often referred to as the “Spirit of Ricks.” BYU–
Idaho will be a two-tiered institution offering both specialized associate degrees and
bachelor’s degrees that will use 120 credit hours as the standard requirement for
bachelor’s degrees. The institution will not offer graduate programs. It will provide a
flexible year-round schedule; utilize technological innovations; and maintain contact
and relationships with students when they are not on campus.
Assumptions – Student/Faculty. It is assumed that the institution to be
known as Brigham Young University–Idaho will maintain an enrollment of 8,600
freshman and sophomore students while adding junior and senior students. BYU–
Idaho will emphasize the scholarship of learning and teaching, maintain a 25:1
student/faculty ratio, and continue the tradition of no faculty rank. BYU–Idaho will
provide faculty with sufficient opportunities and resources for professional
development and will retain present faculty by relocating and/or retraining as needed.
(The Transition Glossary, n.d.)
Establishing assumptions, finding common points of communication, and developing
a visual aid such as a cube helped individuals become grounded on what was known rather
than becoming lost in the unknown aspects of the transition. It was a visual representation
that transformation “touches on almost every aspect of organizational life” (Watkins &
Marsick, 1993, p. 152). Using the pattern of the cube for my research, I set out to look at
each side of the transition. Although interrelated and often overlapping, the six aspects have
been reported individually rather than trying to spread all six across the chronology. This
strategy was different than I had originally proposed for my logic model (Yin, 2003). I was
learning as others have that “the sources of inspiration are everywhere” (Samuelson, 2001).
Participants were then chosen who could tell their specific story as it related to the following:
Side 1: Faculty
Side 2: Budget
Side 3: Space (facilities)
Side 4: Degree programs (accreditation)
Top: Support Services
Bottom or base: Students
Before looking at specific learning opportunities for faculty, it was important to better
understand two key concepts from the announcement:
First, “faculty rank will not be a part of the academic structure of the new four-year
institution” (Hinckley, 2000). This concept was not new to those who worked at Ricks
College. Faculty rank had never been a part of their contracts. Rather than seeking a tenure
track, faculty members are offered continuing faculty status (CFS) after successfully
demonstrating progressive professional abilities “Faculty members are on probation for at
least the first four years of their hiring at BYU–Idaho” (BYU–Idaho, 2004, p. 189).
Second, “BYU–Idaho will continue to be teaching oriented” (Hinckley, 2000).
Effective teaching and advising will be the primary responsibilities of its faculty, who are
committed to academic excellence.” The focus for faculty was to be on teaching and learning
rather than research or publishing. “Most research or creative activity is typically designed to
benefit students or to enhance a program’s curriculum” (BYU–Idaho, 2004, p. 192).
According to the 2004 Self Study, the full-time faculty workload was 37 annual
credits with typical distribution of 15 credit-hours in fall and winter, and 7 credit-hours in
one of the summer terms. For some in higher education, 37 credits may seem a higher load
than other campuses, but one of my faculty participants reminded me to “stop and really
think about what President Hinckley said in that announcement: primarily teaching. That is
what our focus is going to be” (D. Lyons, June 8, 2007).
Christensen, the Secretary for the Board of Trustees, recalled a similar concern for
teaching load being raised during the accreditation process:
As I recall, the woman who chaired that accreditation committee had an open
discussion with the faculty and that point was raised with her. “By the way do you
realize what our teaching load is?” And her response was basically, “I do understand
that. And you recognize that that is your primary responsibility. You are not a
research university where you are required to research and publish as well as teach,
and so a heavier work load would be expected of you than at other research
universities.” (R. Christensen, personal communication, May 3, 2007)
In 2000, Ricks College had 8,950 students and 370 members of the faculty. With the
addition of upper level courses, plans were made for a gradual increase in enrollment and
proportional, incremental additions to the faculty to maintain a 25:1 student to faculty ratio.
While 100 new faculty hires within five years was significant, the overall impact of new hires
was even greater. Roy Huff, Assistant Academic Vice President for Curriculum, explained:
Knowing that our enrollments were going to increase, we were given 100 new
faculty to hire. So you think 100 new positions, but that was 100 new net positions.
We also in those four years had a lot of people retire whom we had to replace. So I
think we hired at least 175 people in that 4-5 year period. Here are two things we had
to worry about that: (1) Will the new faculty have a sense of the “Spirit of Ricks” that
we had as Ricks College? (2) If they are coming now to help us migrate towards this
BYU–Idaho, it was so important that we get the right people in each of these
positions. (R. Huff, personal communication, May 8, 2007)
The concern about new faculty understanding the culture of the institution and the
nurturing, selflessness affectionately referred to as the “Spirit of Ricks” seemed to be
mitigated. Many felt that working at BYU–Idaho was not only a matter of contract but also
of covenant. A faculty member wrote the following:
Since arriving at BYU–Idaho, I have given much thought to my covenant and
contract relationship with the Church and the University. This topic was also
discussed in a recent new faculty training session. I believe, for many of us new to
BYU–Idaho, the opportunity to come here feels as much like a calling as it does a
profession. I have spent much time in kneeling reflection, praying for spiritual gifts in
areas of concern and weakness. I have prayed that I might measure up. (Kusch, 2003,
p. 47)
Steve Wheelwright (personal communication, May 9, 2007) observed, “Clearly the
faculty have their hearts are in the right place. They are working hard. They are here because
they feel they should be personally, and they do a great job of relating to the students and
helping students when students need help.”
The process of finding the right new hires was more complicated. Candidates for
positions were expected to have solid professional and academic credential. They also had to
be willing to support the university’s Honor Code of ethics and to live in accordance to moral
conduct standards of the Church. Consider that “a professor with high standards and a caring
personality can teach students more about ethical behavior than years of required courses”
(Rosovsky, 1990, p. 129). For those involved in the selection process, the choice was not
easy. Creativity opened up opportunities to try hiring in a new way:
Because we didn’t always know and many times we were not able to get the
right person, we opened up this idea of having a fulltime, temporary one-year hire. If
we couldn’t fill it with the right slot, we are going to miss all the students that person
could teach if they were hired. We thought what if we grabbed a graduate who had
just finished a master’s degree and doesn’t have the work experience yet—someone
who is not quite ready to start a career but could do some wonderful things for one
year and then go off and use this as almost a resumé builder. This type of experience
would meet our needs and the needs of that individual, and we are not making a 25or 30-year commitment to one person. That really helped. We had the same number
of adjunct that we had in the past, it was that one-year temporary hire that really
allowed us to get 30 new faculty members every year that were not long term but one
to two years out…. It [was] a one-year renewable [contract]. (R. Huff, personal
communication, May 8, 2007)
Having the new one-year temporary slots plus the placements of the new full-time
permanent hires brought a fresh awareness for those who were already teaching at BYU–
Idaho. An observation from one of the faculty was shared as we talked about changed
perspectives as follows:
As faculty at a junior college with no expectations to publish or do research,
we were sometimes a little unaware of when we were obsolete…. We just didn’t
know. Suddenly when we became a university, we were hiring lots of new, fresh-outof-the-trenches, doctoral program students. You know they graduated last year, and
they have all these cutting edge ideas… Suddenly I think those of us who have been
here a while say, “Ok, we don’t know our own profession as well as we thought.
Maybe we should crack a book.” I think we [were] becoming aware of our needs and
the need for continued scholarship even though we don’t publish or do research. (E.
Landon, personal communication, July 11, 2007)
Many faculty members, whether new or longstanding, seemed to grasp the
understanding of the need for continued scholarship. Kathy Cook, one of the new faculty
members hired in the early stages of the transition, stated the following:
I studied a lot to bring myself up academically for a four-year program on my
own. I did take some classes. I took whatever opportunity I could to improve. What
do I need to do in my teaching to redefine my teaching philosophy for teaching fouryear programs, to become a better teacher, to set the objectives? How do I assess this,
and how do I work with it? (K. Cook, personal communication, May 31, 2007)
While the addition of one-year hires was seen as a viable option to supplement the
teaching pool by those in the administrative offices, the concept did work equally well across
the campus spectrum—nor did the prospect of using adjunct or part-time instructors, even
though there are 100 such individuals adding their expertise to the University’s teaching
pool. T. L. McRae, Chair of the Department of Interior Design, explains their situation:
Hiring another faculty would be a great help for us, at least one faculty, or if
we were able to have more adjunct faculty which is very difficult here. We tried. We
don’t have a pool to choose from here in this area because almost all of our students
leave here. They go someplace else. This is not an interior design haven. The
consideration of a one-year hire opens up another interesting problem because the
one-year hire would need to be versed in all of these different areas…. One of our
faculty teaches kitchen/bath design, historical/contemporary, some introductory class
in space planning and so on. Then somebody else teaches all the art oriented classes,
the rendering perspective drawing, color, and three-dimensional design. And we have
another that specializes in contract design. I suppose my specialty is design basics,
residential aspects, business, and lighting. When you bring someone in for a one-year
hire, is it for one person’s place, or can they do everything? The Music Department
has the same problem when considering a one-year hire. Can they play the violin, the
trumpet, and the drums and do it all well? We are very, very protective of the
program and of the students. I guess more than the program, the students. We do not
want them to have an inferior education or an inferior experience because we are tired
and about ready to burn out. (T. McRae, personal communication, June 1, 2007)
New faculty members added energy to the programs, but some sensed apprehensions
within the department as programs were being redeveloped. They learned individually
through changes in behavior, knowledge, and attitudes, but they also learned through
working as teams (Watkins & Marsick, 1993). In becoming part of the collaborative process,
they were able to better define their objectives, their shared vision. As explained by Senge et
al., this vision was “not lofty sentiments or inspiring phrases, but practical tools... an image
of what [they] were seeking to create” (Senge et al., 2004b, p. 140). The faculty groups set
out to do the following:
Find a new vision, new expectations. What is it that we want our students to
be able to do when they finish because we are not transferring to another place where
they can get their upper division? As we were developing the upper division, there
was a lot of retooling and learning—starting from scratch, unpacking the bags and
then trying to put it together into something better. I think of being able to catch the
vision of what was happening, time and a softening of hearts, and personal
experiences that they have gone through with the students, with themselves, with
health, with life issues. It was a moment to stop and to consider the past was good.
We had good programs then, but it [was] time to retool for better programs. (K. Cook,
personal communication, May 31, 2007)
Wheelwright gave suggestions to help what he witnessed as challenges and
uncertainty in the faculty. To improve as a teacher and have better content ask the following:
How will I be a better teacher two or three years from now—dramatically
better than I am now?” Think about it in terms of: “I am supposed to become a really
top-notch teacher and that means________.”
“How do my courses evolve and improve over time?” That is the content, the
structure, the delivery.… “Am I teaching the same things that I taught ten years ago
in the same way and if so, why? Do I really believe it is the only way, the best way,
or is it just out of habit?” (S. Wheelwright, personal communication, May 9, 2007)
While their efforts to becoming better teachers and delivering better content were
noteworthy ventures, there was also an aspect of selflessness that came into the balance for
BYU–Idaho faculty. There was talk about raising the bar of expectations for faculty. With the
school now operating as a university, there was a desire to increase the number of doctorate
degrees among the faculty. Since the “learning organization grows organically out of the
drive in the people themselves to learn and grow,” (Watkins & Marsick, 1993, p. 279) it is
significant that many individuals voluntarily stepped back into the role of student in pursuit
of doctoral degrees. Their motivation may be seen as not only for professional advancement
but also for the social welfare (Merriam & Caffarella, 1999) of their community of higher
education. Daniel Lyons, an officer in the Faculty Association shared the following scenario:
I had a friend, another faculty member, who left to complete a PhD and took a
sabbatical for a year. Part way through that time, he sent me an e-mail. He seemed
somewhat caught up in his PhD thing, and you know, “well, I am going to be a
doctor.” He sent me an e-mail with just kind of an inquiry and said, “Do you think
that BYU–Idaho will progress because of the wonderful faculty they have?”
I sent him an e-mail back—I don’t know if I burst his bubble—but anyway, I
sent him an e-mail back and said, “No, I think we will progress fastest when the
faculty become invisible in the process.” I really believe that. It is not about me. It is
not about us. It is not “Look at me. Look at what I am doing.” I think that is part of
this. The faculty in this transition need to just become invisible. It will not become
great because of us; it will be because of the students. We need to do everything we
can behind the scenes to help the students to get out there, and that is how we are
going to be moved forward. It has never been about me. It has never been about what
I can do. I will contribute what I can. I will contribute what I am asked. (D. Lyons,
personal communication, June 8, 2007)
BYU–Idaho inherited a legacy of Ricks College’s frugality and trustworthiness. One
of the reasons given by the Chairman of the Board when announcing the transition was that it
would cost less on the Idaho campus to educate a student than it would at the Provo, Utah,
campus of BYU. Initial projections of what the transition would cost during the feasibility
study became guidelines for developing the school into university status. Therefore, for the
purpose of this study, rather than delve into general ledger budget aspects of the transition, I
looked at affordability issues for students. I did so from the viewpoint that expenses of any
institution are ultimately passed onto the students.
The U.S. Secretary of Education, Margaret Spellings, (2007) said, “For most families,
this is one of the most expensive and important investments ever made.” In a competitive
world, rising tuition rates and relative costs of enrollment often have an inverse relationship
to enrollments as some felt may be the case in the fall of 2006 for enrollment numbers in
Idaho. As enrollment figures took an anticipated jump at BYU–Idaho, Roy Huff, the
Associate Academic Vice President for Curriculum, explained:
It is very affordable. We have increased at 3-4 percent with inflation as far as
our relative cost, where the other schools around us are 8 or 9 percent. They are
double what we are. I thought it was interesting. Last fall we had an increase of 1,300
headcount of students from what we had the previous fall. ISU had a decrease of
exactly the same amount. They had a 1,300 decrease headcount. They said, “Hey, did
you take 1,300 of our students?
We said, “No, well, not on purpose.” But if they keep seeing those costs rising
and ours not going up as high, affordability and accessibility may be a factor. (R.
Huff, personal communication, May 8, 2007)
While that comment implies that the same 1,300 students would have enrolled at the
two neighboring institutions, BYU–Idaho students came from all 50 states and some 60
countries while ISU’s were primarily Idaho residents (Statistical Reports, 2007). ISU’s
decline in enrollment included figures from its satellite locations in Boise, Twin Falls, Idaho
Falls, and other off-campus delivery points. The number of BYU–Idaho students listing
Idaho as their home state increased less than 500 students (Official Enrollment, n.d.) for the
semester of concern. Huff also pointed to different recruiting strategies that help potential
students see BYU–Idaho as a viable option.
However, it was not the purpose of this research to investigate the relationship
between enrollments at the two neighboring institutions. Suffice it to say, the concern for the
rising costs of higher education is real and has caught national attention. Reducing the
relative cost for students became one of the key imperatives when Kim B. Clark took over
the helm of BYU–Idaho in 2005:
The first thing he told one of the councils was, “You know that higher
education nation wide is on an unsustainable course. They are increasing the cost of
education much higher than the rate of inflation. It used to be that the bio-medical,
pharmaceutical companies—the medical field—was actually leading the industries as
far as being the increase in comparison with the inflation rate. Education has now
surpassed that. We are the number one. It is almost like a train that is running off its
track now days, and it is going to end up in a wreck.” He said, “Because they are
going on an unsustainable course, we can’t follow them. We have to go to a new area
that nobody else has gone because as they continue to go down that course, that train
wreck is assured.” …When he said his three new imperatives were reduce relative
cost, improve the quality, and serve more students, you think, “Well, if you serve
more students, would that increase the cost? If you reduce the relative cost, how does
that relate to quality?” You think to raise one, you have to lower the other. He said,
“No we are going to do all three. (R. Huff, personal communication, May 8, 2007)
U.S. Department of Education (2006) brought national attention to the issues in
higher education including that of affordability. Their fact sheet states the following:
Tuition continues to outpace inflation, health care costs and family income
levels. While funding for Pell Grants has increased nearly 50 percent over the past
five years, the financial aid system remains in urgent need of reform. We must
streamline the process to help students and families prepare, plan and pay for college.
BYU–Idaho has taken several innovative steps to lower the relative costs for students
including three-track admission, throughput enhancement through 120-credit limit minimum
and maximum on majors and encouraging eight-semester graduates, and textbook options.
The 120 credits include University requirements of “(1) completion of one course delivered
in online format and (2) completion of a specified amount of coursework in Religion”
(BYU–Idaho, 2004, p. 46).
Three-track admission had been a Ricks College pilot program that became a key
element to the transition to BYU–Idaho. Steps were taken to minimize expense for students
by maximizing use of resources. While many campuses in higher education sit basically idle
during the summer, BYU–Idaho adopted a three-track/three semester system. Each student is
admitted to a track consisting of two semesters: Winter/Summer, Summer/Fall, or
Fall/Winter and stays on that track through to graduation. By utilizing the campus resources
year round, the relative cost for students has been lowered while the number of students
being served has increased. While approximately 12,000 students are on campus at any one
time, a fully instigated three-track program can serve 18,000 students per year.
Implementing three tracks of admission has had its struggles. It “impacted everybody,”
observed Gee, the Associate Academic Vice President. Research participants revealed
implications not only in academics but also in maintaining physical facilities and grounds,
scheduling of the entertainment series, and providing support services for students. According to
Gee, “some of the academic departments up front said, ‘We can only operate on one track.’ The
administration’s pushback was always, ‘then maybe we won’t have your program because we
feel it is important to have the different tracks.’” He continued “Gradually over time, most of the
programs have come around and can do it at least on two tracks; we have asked the ideal would
be three” (J. Gee, personal communication, May 16, 2007).
The acceptance of the three-track system was varied. The interplay of relationships and
leaders who saw a problem as an opportunity to explore new options came into the picture as
Gee and Huff explained the focus of the initiative to lower cost and serve more students:
When President Clark came in, he had a problem because he wanted to
increase enrollments in the summer. Well, over the years because I was the summer
school director, it had been easy for me to say, “You’ll never be as big in the summer
as you are in the fall and the winter because you only have half the faculty teaching at
any given time in the summer. And we don’t want them teaching more than that.
They have got to have a vacation.” I was pretty much resigned to just let it stay that
way. Well, President Clark wasn’t.” (J. Gee, personal communication, May 16, 2007)
President Clark was not the first administrator to foster a spirit of focused innovation
and change. One of the key institutional messages that came up time and time again in
interviews with employees was the inaugural address of President David A. Bednar (1998,
February) when he shared a scriptural account of a family and their travels in the wilderness:
As they reached the place called Bountiful, which was located near the sea,
Nephi was commanded by the Lord to “… construct a ship, after the manner which I
shall show thee, that I may carry thy people across the waters” (1 Nephi 17:8)….
Nephi was not a sailor. He had been reared in Jerusalem, an inland city, rather than
along the borders of the Mediterranean Sea. It seems unlikely that he knew much
about or had experience with the tools and skills necessary to build a ship. He may
not have ever previously seen an ocean-going vessel. In essence, then, Nephi was
commanded and instructed to build something he had never built before in order to go
someplace he had never been before. 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 someplace we have never been before.
Nephi further describes the process of constructing the ship: …and we did
work timbers of curious workmanship. And the Lord did show me from time to time
after what manner I should work the timbers of the ship. (1 Nephi 18: 1-2; emphasis
Two points stand out in my mind about these verses. First, the manner of
workmanship was curious…. The word curious in these contexts does not mean
strange or weird or odd. Rather, it connotes careful, skilled, expert, and deliberate.
Clearly the concept of “curious workmanship” sets a standard for us at Ricks College
as we move forward to meet the challenges before us.
Second, the phrase “time to time” suggests to me that Nephi perhaps did not
receive everything he needed to know about shipbuilding as he began his task.
Apparently he received the necessary knowledge line upon line, precept upon precept,
here a little and there a little as it was needed. (Bednar, 1998, February)
In 2005 as Roy Huff was given the opportunity to guide the development of a new
year-round academic calendar to better accommodate students on the three-track system, the
concepts of the Bednar inauguration still echoed in his mind. The three-track system was still
seen as a means to reduce the relative cost while serving more students, but had run into
some snags with the perceived level of quality of education. Huff explained the challenge:
Improve the quality and change the calendar system. We thought we were
running at pretty high efficiencies before, but now we [were] saying, “No, we are
going to run at even a higher efficiency in the use of our campus buildings, in the
ability of our students to go year round, and improve the quality of our summer
semester from two blocks to now a full semester.” It took fresh eyes to see, “You
were doing pretty well, but that ship of curious workmanship is an ocean liner. It is
not just a little timid tug boat. Be open to what new changes are we going to
experience now.” Being along for the ride has been quite interesting, because once
again, President [Clark] said, “We need this to happen, how will you do it?” He
actually came into our office and said, “The academics should decide about the
academic calendar. Now how do you make it work?”… This was the fall of 2005.
Later, President Clark met with the faculty and set the expectation of raising the
quality every aspect of the students’ experience. One of ways to improve was to make the
three semesters more equivalent. Students whose track included a summer semester felt
disadvantaged. They sensed a discrepancy between the summer courses and those in the
other half of their track (either fall or winter semesters). “So President Clark immediately
said, ‘Ok, that is the area we need to improve the most’” (R. Huff, personal communication,
May 8, 2007). They started to explore options as explained by Huff:
If you have 16 week semesters, three 16 week semesters is 48 weeks. That would
only allow 4 weeks off if you increased the semesters, with everything else there is
not enough time off for faculty…. So we thought, “All right, how do we have the
faculty? At what point can we have the faculty work full-time and still get enough
time to have a breather, the natural breaks that we have?” So we revamped the
calendar to have it three equal semesters, and they ended up being 14-week
semesters, approximately. We had to increase the amount of time per class session, so
that impacted the number of classes we could teach a day because they are 60 minutes
with a 15-minute break instead of 50 minutes with a 10-minute break.
With all those kind of changes, we had to have the faculty buy in. So we said,
“All right here is an idea; how would you improve it?” We ended up having 14
variations. We attached names to the calendars. We started out with Abigail, Boaz,
and Claudia. We went through the alphabet from A to N with 14 different letters.
Then we said, “Ok, now you vote and you rank them. Give us your top three.” We
narrowed it down; because the variations were small enough, we could group some of
them. But we let the faculty do all that. The faculty members would get online and
talk about the strengths of the specific calendar they liked, what they liked and didn’t
like, what was wrong with this. So we had this kind of blog where the faculty
members were all weighing in on the issues. Then we said, “Ok, we’ll eliminate the
ones that didn’t get a whole lot of votes. Now we are looking at these.”
It is interesting that the one they selected was very close to the one we
proposed in the first place…. It did shift slightly; it was like Boaz on steroids. Since
that decision was made and the faculty all bought into it, not one of them has
complained much. There have been a few, but we allowed them to go on a reduced
contract if they wanted. So once again, the faculty chose which contract. We said,
“This will be a 100 percent contract if you teach all three semesters.” But we reduced
the number of credits they would teach each semester. Instead of having 15 and 15
and 7 – that was 37; now it is 36 but it is 12 - 12 - 12. But the faculty could choose
what we called the 91 percent contract, 83, or 75 as three other reduced contracts.
They could choose which one they wanted.
It is interesting that 95 percent of the faculty chose the full contract because
they bought in. Many of them said, “This is great for our students. The students’ lives
get blessed. Yeah, we have to work a little bit more, but in the end.” That is the kind
of faculty and employees and really what you have on this campus. We have a motto:
“How will it affect the students?” If it will improve the student experience, we ought
to be doing it. It is not faculty centered, it is student centered. That is nice because
most institutions are backwards. (R. Huff, personal communication, May 8, 2007)
In the spring of 2007, the Board of Trustees approved the proposal to change the
academic calendar with its implementation set for Winter Semester 2007 (New Academic
Calendar, 2007). The process of developing and adopting the new academic schedule fell
within the delimitations of this research; however its implementation did not. Following its
success would make an interesting future study. For now it is sufficient to understand that
implementation of a solid three-semester/three-track system was key to the three imperatives
of lowering the relative cost while serving more students and raising the quality of education.
One of the apparent problems with the cost of education is the length of time a
student is enrolled. Looking back at trends in higher education, the National Center for
Education Statistics states, “Among bachelor’s degree seekers beginning at a 4-year
institution in 1995-96, just over half graduated from that institution within 6 years.” BYU–
Idaho looked at the problem as an opportunity to learn how to become better. A shorter
length of enrollment would not only reduce the relative cost for students, but it would also
open space to admit more students. BYU–Idaho administration promoted two concepts for
expediting throughput for their students: 120-credit limit minimum and maximum on majors
and eight-semester graduates. The 120-credit limit is discussed in detail later when looking at
how the faculty structured the programs. The eight-semester graduate was explained by Huff:
Normally when an institution gets a student, they consider that student as a
revenue stream. It is going to bring money into the institution. The longer they can
hold onto that revenue stream, the better because that is just money in their pockets.
We look at it totally differently. We don’t look at them as a revenue stream. We look
at them as the customer that we have to please, and the customers would be happier if
they didn’t spend a lot more money. So show the customer, “If you can get done in
eight semesters, not only will you start being a producer in society and be able to do
some wonderful great things, but you won’t take a slot from another student who
would like to come here, and we’ll pay you—we’ll pay you $500.”
I mean that is unheard of. Registrars from other universities heard that about
that incentive when Kevin Miyasaki went down to a regional meeting. He said, “You
know we have a totally different idea than what you would consider.” Other people
thought, “You take your revenue stream, you cut it off as soon as possible, and then
you pay them when they leave.” It’s like: “that is weird.” (R. Huff, personal
communication, May 8, 2007)
Whether seen as weird or innovative, the efforts to improve throughput made a
difference. “Each year the percentage of graduates receiving this award increases – 8% in
2003, 12% in 2004, and 16% in 2005” (BYU–Idaho, 2006). Now that the pace of throughput
has improved significantly, this incentive is being phased out.
Seeking options for the expense of textbooks has become an ongoing process for the
BYU–Idaho faculty. No one seemed to refute the concept of reducing the cost for textbooks,
but the application is still being developed. Fenton Broadhead, Dean of the College of
Business and Communication, explained how seeking the right motivation is vital to the
successful reduction of relative cost for students:
We want to be a model of efficiency, a model of supply chain management for the
education world. And so when President Clark brings in his three imperatives, we are
somewhat already moving along that line. It just gives us a better focus of saying,
“What do we need to clear out? What do we need to do better so we produce more at
a higher quality at lower cost?” We have experimented with a number of things. We
went through a project with [a national education publisher] and kind of backed away
now because [the publisher] cannot supply it for the cost that we want it supplied.
They are not even sure how to develop their own model.
So we have recently developed a model that we will use for online teaching
and developing courses, and it will filter and impact the way content is delivered in
the other regular courses. But as you look back on that, trying to create that quality is
where you will stumble at times. We have said, “Well, let’s get rid of textbooks” with
the idea of keeping costs down for students. But you see if you develop a goal just to
get rid of textbooks for the sake of getting rid of textbooks, that is the wrong goal. If
you are trying to move away from textbooks because it will improve your teaching
and improve your learning and cut costs, then it is a good goal. (F. Broadhead,
personal communication, July 5, 2007)
Space (Facilities)
Facility space was critical to the transition. There was history of a recent enrollment
cap for Ricks College of 7,600 students due to limitations of space. Part of the campus was
restricted by a previously established policy of zero-net-square-footage gain for building
projects (if any construction was added, something of equivalent space had to be removed).
With a student body that was projected to grow to 11,600, the largest gathering space was the
Hart Auditorium which doubles as a gymnasium with its capacity of just over 4,000 when the
floor was used for seating. “You just see a major impact as the student population grows, and
as the faculty population grows. You have to find space for all these people” (C. Andersen,
personal communication, June 8, 2007).
As Gee pointed out, “We did not have space even to house new faculty at the time.
We knew we had to build some offices” (personal communication, May 16, 2007). There
were other space needs. For academic departments, the availability of space became one of
the deciding factors on establishing a timeline as exemplified in the following anecdote:
People once again were clamoring to be one of the first to go. One of the
department chairs was just adamant that their department be one of the first ones to
go. And we said, “You have to have offices. You have to have classroom space. And
you have to have faculty. We will provide the faculty, if you can provide the others.”
And so the chair rolled up the shirtsleeves and went to work and came back in
with numbers and proposals that showed they could do it. So we moved them in to be
one of the very first ones that we started. However, once we had made that decision,
then we started trying to do the actual programming to make it happen.
The chair said, “You have got to help me find some classroom space.”
I said, “You promised you could do this.”
And the truth was they didn’t really have the space, and we had to struggle for
a couple of years helping them along to get the classes they needed. (J. Gee, personal
communication, May 16, 2007)
The University tried to maximize the use of its facilities through careful scheduling of
on-campus facilities. Additional space was rented off-campus to meet the needs. Before
upper level courses could be added, in many cases adaptations to existing laboratories and
classrooms was required. In other instances, new programs necessitated new construction.
Enrollment could not expand as projected unless there was adequate space for them to attend
classes, study, and reside.
Buildings on the campus at BYU–Idaho are multi-purpose facilities. During the week,
they serve the academic needs of the students; on weekends they are used as gathering places
for Sunday worship services. Having appropriate space for ecclesiastical needs was another
concern for the Board of Trustees and the university administrators:
In addition to the academic space, we started looking at the need for additional
ecclesiastical space, because when you start looking at changing from a campus of
about 8,600 FTE students to 11,600 FTE students, we would need to have additional
facilities for student wards. (R. Christensen, personal communication, May 3, 2007)
And yet the announcement had stated clearly:
With some additions and modifications, the physical facilities now in place in
Rexburg are adequate to handle the new program. Undoubtedly, some changes to the
campus will be necessary. However, they will be modest in nature and scope.
(Hinckley, 2000)
Administrators at Ricks College have high esteem for their Board of Trustees, and yet
they began to sense needs that were greater than what had been anticipated when they had
quickly compiled the feasibility study under the restrictions of confidentiality. Jim Gee
explained the ambiguous conditions that arose:
Even though we had come up with all these plans on space, it is one thing to
say this is what we need and another to have somebody say, “Ok, we can accept that.”
Then we still had the zero-net-space rules that we had to follow. We have a little
dispensation to add some extra space, but that always made it more difficult. We
could not just open things up and do it the way we felt we ought to. We were always
just edging as close to the line as we could to be frugal and not ask for too much. I
know President Bednar did not want to ask [the Board of Trustees] for a lot. When
you think of what we did—we were told to just make some estimates, but those
estimates became rules that were set in concrete, and we had to live by them after we
had made them. It was really hard to get changes. (J. Gee, personal communication,
May 16, 2007)
As other pieces of the transition came together basically as planned, the Secretary to
the Board of Trustees in retrospect reported:
The one piece that was probably underestimated both by President Bednar and myself
was the change in physical space on the campus. But there are some very interesting
things about it. All of the buildings have been impacted—almost all of the buildings
on campus. When we originally discussed it, the Chairman of the Board said, “We
will allow you to have the equivalent of one new building.”
And so there was a lot of discussion between President Bednar, the
Commissioner, and myself on what that really was and whether that included gross
square feet or net square feet and a lot of discussion like that. But it just happened that
at the time we were going through this transition, that they had just received the bids
for the new Joseph F. Smith Building down at the [BYU] Provo campus. So we had a
pretty good idea about what a new building would cost.
There really was quite a remarkable experience because on one day Elder
Eyring was holding very firmly that it was going to be gross square feet and no more
than a certain size, and we had a budget review up on campus with the president and
vice presidents. That was part of the discussion. The Commissioner was very firm
that it would be no bigger than this particular size building. Either that night or the
next morning as he was praying and preparing for the rest of the Executive
Committee to come up on campus, he had a rather remarkable experience that he was
being a little bit too firm with the President. I met with the Commissioner the next
morning before the rest of the Executive Committee arrived. He was on the phone
with the people in Provo to understand how big that building was and what the cost of
that building was going to be. When I arrived, he said, “I think we need to change.”
So when we met with the Executive Committee, it went from a certain size
gross square feet to a bigger size net square feet, which transfers into a much bigger
impact. What we then decided to do was instead of having just one building, we
actually need that much space, but across several buildings. So that necessitated the
expansion of the Benson Building, of the Austin Building, of the construction of the
Thomas E. Ricks Building, and several others. (R. Christensen, personal
communication, May 3, 2007)
“The academic departments were asked for input as construction proposals were
formulated. How big should this be? How many labs do we need? How many classrooms do
we need? What size do they need to be?” (D. Lyons, personal communication, June 8, 2007).
The addition of facilities was critical to projections for adding faculty and upper level
courses, and gradually increasing enrollment from 8,950 to 11,600 through the year 2005
while striving to maintain a 25:1 student to faculty ratio as indicated in Figure 2:
Hire full-time
Timetable for Transition Activities
Phase in
new fouryear
Phase out
Increase space
Spori Building
Married Housing
Ecclesiastical Building
Manwaring Center
New Building
Supplement student
activities program
Develop new policies and
Phase In
FIGURE 2. Timetable for transition activities (Ricks College, Substantive Change Prospectus, 2000, p. 16).
Chuck Frost, the Physical Plant Director, had been at Ricks College for over 30 years.
He was well acquainted with the processes and time involved in campus construction and
explained how the academic departments’ input became part of the pre-construction process:
The President’s role was to determine the need academically including a guess
of about how big it would be. Then an academic committee would be chosen, and
they would meet under our direction and write down what they wanted in each room
in the building and then that would be reviewed by the Commissioner who has an
office in Salt Lake City. We would review it here to see if it looked reasonable. Once
that was approved, then an architect would be employed to do a sketch and help us to
refine the budget. After that was approved and funds appropriated, an architect would
work on the actual building design. But the old process took usually four or five years
from the time that they were thinking about a building until they would move in. (C.
Frost, personal communication, May 8, 2007)
There was no change in the process of space assessment and feasibility studies, plans
approved by the Board of Trustees, and funds appropriated before each individual project
was commenced. But the pace hastened. Specific needs for new equipment were projected to
be added over the time span as the construction was completed and the academic courses
were developed. Frost shared more of his personal journal entries that helped me sense the
growing momentum and the intensity that he felt:
September 17, 2000: I spent a lot of time this week working on the capital
budget 2001. Jim [Smyth, Administrative Services Vice President,] and I tried to
compile our request for 2001 without a clear idea of what the academic departments
will need.… Until the academic plan is completed, all we could do was suggest
possible space projects. President’s Council was busy with Elder Eyring on
Wednesday to try out some academic ideas, but nothing has been finalized.
October 1, 2000: While the Executive Committee was here, the President’s
Council discussed the conversion to a four-year status. While the academic plan is not
approved, several building projects were discussed. The Spori project was officially
given the Spori name for the replacement building. We will soon be able to start
design for larger building, probably at 40,000 square feet to handle expanded Art and
Communications Departments. Conceptual approval was given to convert dormitory
35 into married student housing. We signed a contract with Nielson Bodily architects
to do that feasibility study. A request for increased ecclesiastical space was approved
in concept…. For the summer of 2001, there could be five building projects under
way…. This is an exciting time at Ricks. There is a lot of work ahead.
October 9, 2000: My work week was filled with the usual meetings and
activities…. The library east wing is nearly done, many books are located in the east
wing, but our furniture is disappointingly delayed until the end of October. We can’t
move in until the furniture arrives. We cannot miss and the auditors are assuming a
hard role in project financial planning. Trying to satisfy their needs is one level of
complexity bermed on the already difficult job of actually getting the project done.
October 15, 2000: The ecclesiastical building is on a fast track for approval
using the standard plan which was prototyped at ISU. Plans for construction will be
negotiated through CES and the Church Building Department once a site is chosen.
We are almost ready to start design on the Spori Building again….
Frost chuckled to himself as he finished reading his entry, “…There is a lot going on
and I am tired at the end of every day.” (C. Frost, personal communication, May 8, 2007)
Dealing with space for the ecclesiastical needs of the students was handled as a
separate issue. The Secretary to the Board of Trustees was involved in seeking options to
expedite the construction of a multi-use building designed primarily to meet the needs for
worship space and with academic needs secondary. Christensen explained how the 54,000square-foot building was added to the campus by the fall 2002, rather than being prolonged
with architectural plans:
I contacted Church physical facilities people who do those kinds of things.
They had gone through three different scenarios… So I said, “Based on those three
options, if you were going to put a building on campus at BYU–Idaho, which one
would be best to accommodate both ecclesiastical and academic needs?” They said,
“Without a question, this combined institute building.” So that was approved as…a
shared use facility to accommodate both academic and ecclesiastical needs. (R.
Christensen, personal communication, May 3, 2007)
When submitted for consideration to the Northwest Council on Universities and
Colleges, the Substantive Change Prospectus (Ricks College, 2001) listed seven construction
projects related to the physical facilities as impacted by the transition:
Construction of the new Spori Building
Construction of a new classroom office building (later named the Thomas E. Ricks
Construction of a building used primarily for ecclesiastical use (later named the Gordon
B. Hinckley Building)
Provision for married housing (original plan was to reconfigure existing dormitory space;
later a 156-unit complex called University Village was constructed)
Remodeling/expansion of the Snow Building.
Remodeling/expansion of the Hart Building
Expansion of Manwaring Center
The construction of the new Spori Building intersected with the transition in a unique
way. A feasibility study completed in 1999 had determined that the original Spori Building,
constructed in 1903, was structurally unsound. Plans had been made to start construction in
the spring of 2001 (Ricks College, 1999). But the designs for the space had been originally
based on the needs of a junior college student body; with the impending transition, things
started anew. Chuck Frost shared one more of his journal entries:
October 22, 2000: The Spori Building Committee met this week to start the
design process again. The Academic Council and President’s Council have decided to
keep and enlarge the Art and Communication Departments, which will be housed in
the replacement Spori Building. We asked them to submit new program pages for the
rooms which they added to the Spori plus a list of spaces that need to be enlarged.
The net square footage will be allowed to grow by 7,000 square feet which will
increase the building to a total of 40,000 square feet. The architects will start weekly
meetings to develop new preliminary plans very soon. We want to start construction
in June 2001 and have classes in the building by the summer of 2003. The exterior
will stay three stories with a full basement, pitched roof, and vertical lines reflecting
the original building. (C. Frost, personal communication, May 8, 2007)
Like many of his colleagues, Frost’s retirement in 2003 opened the opportunity for
new people to bring fresh perspectives and energy to campus. Charles Andersen, a new hire
in 2002, became the new Director of Physical Plant. (His position later evolved to a newly
created position as Director of University Operations overseeing physical facilities, the
bookstore and food services, purchase and travel, the student identification card system, and
shipping and receiving.) Charles Andersen added his perspective: “We have added probably
about 450,000 square feet. I have been here not quite five years, so about 110,000 every year
if you look at it that way. But some years are more expensive than others. It has just been
major transition on the facilities” (C. Andersen, personal communication, June 8, 2007).
Creating space also leads to maintaining space. The adoption of the three-track
system has made this a unique challenge for watch care over the physical facilities at BYU–
Idaho. Andersen explains:
Before the three track, we really didn’t have very many students on campus in
the summer time, and it gave us a wide open window of time and space when we
could go in and do the things we need to do: the large maintenance items or the
repairs or the projects. We don’t have that anymore. No matter what we do, we
impact something. We try to schedule other things that we would have done during
the day sometimes at night now. We have a greater load capacity on our chillers than
we had, because we have people in the buildings so we have to chill the buildings
down more than we used to. (ibid)
It was obvious to me that learning to juggle construction schedules around the new
academic calendar had been a challenge. Andersen described a specific renovation project
they had completed during the summer of 2005 as follows:
It basically gave us from the day after graduation in April to the day before
school in August to gut and renovate the Clarke Building as well as gut and renovate
chemistry labs in the Romney Building. We literally took out the buildings down to
the concrete slab and up to the roof structure and rebuilt. We did it all in the span of
three months; basically it was over 100,000 square feet that we took off line, gutted,
totally rebuilt, and had ready for fall semester. We were working around the clock.
And it was a very intense summer—a very, very intense summer. (ibid)
As I listened to the stories of these two physical plant directors, there was much more
to their experiences than the brick and mortar of a university campus. They helped broaden
my understanding of group dynamics and the role of leadership. I also better understood how
the facilities plans were interwoven with academic development.
Degree Programs (Accreditation)
It was time to hear how the academic programs had evolved, and I next visited the
office of Roy Huff, the Associate Academic Vice President over Curriculum. I asked him an
open-ended query, “How would you describe the ‘dash’ between 2000-2005?”
His reply was quick and precise: “Have you ever heard of the phrase rethinking
As not only the researcher but also part of the University’s communication team, I
was well aware of the fact that this phrase had become the University’s slogan at the time of
the transition and continues to be used to encompass the ongoing processes of innovation and
change. “Rethinking” seemed to be a synonym for “reframing—that is reformulating one’s
fundamental understanding of the situation” (Watkins & Marsick, 1993, p. 185). But as a
researcher, I was gaining greater appreciation for the phrase and what it represents as I
listened to the story of how 138 associate degree programs were revised by retaining 16
specialized associate degrees and developing 49 bachelor’s degrees—significantly more than
the initial projection of “13 or more ‘specialized’ bachelor’s degrees” (Ricks College, 2001,
p. 7). Continuing his thought in response to my question, Huff said,
Rethinking education. That is it. The one thing that is constant is change. That is what
we are experiencing. It has been complicated by internal as well as external factors.
But internally, we get a message from the Prophet who says, “You will now do this.”
[He] gave us general guidelines with some perimeters and then said, “Now you figure
out all the details but with these principles.” President Bednar would teach the idea
that there are doctrines, principles, and applications. I think we got the doctrines and
principles, but then we were left with all the applications. That really kept us busy.
(R. Huff, personal communication, May 8, 2007)
The phrase “kept us busy” seemed to be a bit of an understatement for everyone
involved. Pulling snapshots from numerous participants’ stories and documentation, a more
complete picture was given of how the academic programs developed. The public
announcement that Ricks College would become BYU–Idaho was the catalyst for action:
That immediately opened up the door for endless meetings with our Academic
Council. We were happy to not have to keep everything quiet any longer and to jump
into the discussions. We met with Academic Council more than our weekly meetings
and presented to them some basic concepts that we had come up with. (J. Gee,
personal communication, May 16, 2007)
The basic concepts evolved into specific criteria compiled for departments to assess
the appropriateness of offering new bachelor’s degree. These 12 points ( Ricks College,
2001) reflect concern for the students, application to the world of academia, and aspirations
of the CES culture:
Student interest. Can the program attract and retain students?
Employability. Will the skills imparted by the program lead to employment upon
Graduate school. If applicable, how well will the program prepare students for
graduate study?
Innovations. What innovations in teaching and learning do the program offer?
Integration. To what extent does the program integrate with other disciplines?
Resources needed. To what extent does the program require new and/or costly
Accreditation. Will the program require a specialized accreditation (e.g. NCATE)?
Value to the Church and society. To what extent does the program address societal
needs? To what extent does it relate to the needs of a worldwide church?
Balance. To what extent will the program tend to attract a diverse student population?
Future. Is this program an emerging field?
CES bottlenecks. Does this program ease overcrowded majors at other Church
Personal/family enrichment. To what extent will this program enrich the lives of
students who may not necessarily be in college for career purposes?
College deans were then instructed “to start looking at what they would do with their
areas” (J. Gee, personal communication, May 16, 2007). The deans counseled with their
department heads and faculty. One of the department chairs who later became a college dean
shares the sentiment:
We looked at that situation: (1) This is going to be a lot of work. (2) We don’t
have a real vision or perception of where we are going. (3) What does it mean for our
jobs and where we are going in the future? There was some excitement from the
standpoint that we would be able to teach upper division classes,…. and a little bit of
uncertainty about what would happen with the department, whether that would be one
of the degrees. I think early on there were some questions. Some questions seemed
almost territorial. Would you survive? Who would survive? What is the most
important degree? I saw a little bit of what I would say, “Well, this is my turf.” (F.
Broadhead, personal communication, July 5, 2007)
For many of the faculty, this was a time of internal conflicts. Kathy Cook, a member
of the faculty, observed her colleagues. She said,:
Programs that people had put their whole heart and soul, their passion into developing
were in the process of transition. I saw that it was easy to become… I think offended
would be a good word. I remember going back to an article on pride and reading and
rereading it and realizing that pride is a lot easier to see in other people than in
yourself. I found myself having to stand on my own more, on what did I think about
that, what were my feelings on this because there were a lot of emotions involved.
People wanted to be very supportive, but the direction was not as clear on where to
go. There was a lot of introspection among the faculty members that I worked with
on: “Why are we here and why are we doing these things for students?” It was a
definite learning curve there. (K. Cook, personal communication, May 31, 2007)
Whether it was survival instinct, a drive to better serve students, or perhaps a
combination of both, the academic departments became engaged in the discussion perhaps
with more zeal than anticipated. Gee, the Associate Academic Vice President, and Huff, the
Assistant Academic Vice President for Curriculum, share similar viewpoints:
There was a suggestion made from the Commissioner’s office that we go
really slow and maybe implement just a few programs and run them for four or five
years and test it out and make sure things were good and then start phasing others in.
Nobody wanted to do that from here. We all wanted to move ahead, and so we
outlined this very ambitious program. (J. Gee, personal communication, May 16,
In 2000-2001, there was a lot of strategic planning. You know, what do we
need to do? How many do we need to hire? But here is what happened internally. The
Board said, “We think you can handle about four or five programs. So we have 138
associate degrees. Keep most of those, and change a few of them into bachelor’s
degrees.” They thought we could do four or five. President Bednar responded to them
without talking to the faculty, “I think we can do about 10 or 12.” But the faculty
wouldn’t hear it. The faculty said, “Well, our program should go forward as a major
degree.” Others faculty added, “Our program should go [to a bachelor’s level], too.”
And it ended up we did 49. And so the scope was our own doing, I think.
President Bednar even told the faculty, “If you do 49 degrees, the next thing we will
be hearing is that you are burned out.” And that did kind of happen for some, a small
minority maybe 5 percent of the faculty felt like, “I am overwhelmed. I am burning
out… or I have the potential to burn out at this pace.” Because when you begin to
ramp up a program where you have done mostly transfers (e.g. you get the
foundation, or you get the general education and then go somewhere else to get the
rest of it) you focus on entirely different things. With the first, you can have some
gaps in your programs that somebody else will need to fill. And since they have to fill
it, you don’t have to worry about it. We have good enough students; we are sending
out a product that people like. But now we have to make sure there are no gaps
because our students go right into the work force. If they have too big of gaps, it will
get back to us that “you aren’t producing;” “your program needs reworking;” or
“these employees we are getting from your school or these graduates that we have in
our program, are not meeting the criteria that you profess to have.” So there was quite
a lot of work that needed to be done. (R. Huff, personal communication, May 8, 2007)
We worked with the deans. The deans worked with the department chairs, and
they tried to outline what they saw as programs they could offer. We did put some
very heavy restrictions on conditions for the programs that made it difficult: 120
credits for a bachelor’s degree, maximum and minimum. Immediately the sciences
said, “There is no way we can do that.”
And we said, “We have made that projection too, and we are assuming that we
won’t have degrees in geology, physics, chemistry, and some of those programs.”
But then they did not want to lose out either, and so they started trying to
think outside the box and think of ways they could get a program. (J. Gee, personal
communication, May 16, 2007)
Having listened to the administrative academic office’s perspective of rethinking
education, it seemed expeditious at this point to delve further into the transition by looking at
how the process of developing a program played out in a specific department—to understand
“higher level vision, but concentrate on how it translates in day-to-day decisions on the
operating level” (C. Gilbert, private conversation, May 10, 2007). The name of the
participant in this scenario is not included in the report as a reminder that similar
circumstances could possibly be found in many of the other departments across campus.
I met with the faculty member in his office. The recorder was set, the open-ended
question was presented, and I listened. The faculty member leaned back in his chair as he
reflected on his feelings following the announcement of the forthcoming transition to become
a four-year university. He reminisced about professional peers who had forewarned him
when he was considering teaching at Ricks College that he would be committing academic
suicide and limiting his future career options. Now it seemed that his choice and his personal
career pathway were changing directions. As a junior college, his department had offered
students numerous options in associate degrees; the future was ambiguous.
Initially he had received an e-mail from the department chair essentially saying: “I
have looked over the courses that we offer, and here is a list of other courses that I think we
ought to consider.”
The faculty member said there was something like 35 courses—a long list of new
courses. There was speculation on the scope of the transition in terms of numbers and the
limitation of not expanding to graduate-degree programs. Continuing, he then said,
It was real interesting because the word coming down from administration was they
wanted to kind of condense our numbers of majors. We had a lot as a two-year
school. I think we offered 13 or 14 degrees. But they were really preparation; they
really weren’t degrees. They were all associates [degrees], but it was to prepare
[students to transfer] to finish a degree in [a professional field]. Now they were
saying, “Ok, you can have one degree.” That is what we started with. They said, “You
can have one degree.”
The faculty member leaned forward as he explained the controversy that developed
within “a very diverse department” with diverse bookends and a spectrum of foci in-between.
He continued:
You are telling us we can have one degree. The initial reaction was, “We can’t
do it.” “We can’t compete with any other schools.” “Our graduates won’t…” You
know, “Why try?” basically. But people sort of persisted and said, “Ok, let’s go. If we
offer these 30 some odd classes, it will be ok. We can do this.” And so we initially
listed all of those classes in our discussions.
And then [the Assistant Academic Vice President] came and said, “You can
have ten.”
So less than a third of what we had put on that list. And boy, that created some
real, “Huh!” “Whose ten?” “What do we choose?” “How do we do this?”
One of the advantages is that several of the classes that we taught realistically
were junior and senior level classes already being taught at a 200-level. All we had to
do was change the number, and we already had some of our classes. So that helped
really to relieve some of that pressure. But there was some real scrambling in the
department saying, “How do we condense these?”
So we did some combining and some other things. I think we ended up with
15 or 16 that we went back with. They accepted that and said, “Ok, you can do this.”
The next big challenge was 120 credits. It has never gone away. That has been
like the burr under the saddle for a lot of people for a long time. My own perspective
has always been, “We can do this in one degree. We don’t need specialized degrees.
We need a generalist degree.” I don’t see most of education as content education; I
see it as more general anyway. I see us training students to be good citizens and good
church members. Nobody else really offers a generalist degree, a good well-rounded
[professional]. So I always felt like we can do this. It is ok. I never had any heartburn
over one degree. I also never had any problem with 120 credits.
The challenge that we ran into was we kept looking at other schools and
saying, “They have this class, and they have this class and this class. And this is how
many credits it is.” So we wanted to replicate those because, if we were going to
transfer our credits down there, [the students] were going to have to have this class
and this class and this class. That created a lot of that concern over those 120 credits.
[Faculty] would say, “We can’t do it in 120 credits. How do we possibly compete
with school X when they have 128 and don’t have religion requirements?” And so
really it is more like 140 or something like that. It was really a challenging time in the
department—a lot of controversy. It created a lot of tension in the department. In fact,
I think probably…we became as close to recommending splitting the department
during this time as at any time that I have been here.
What really held us together…[was] a set of classes that didn’t logically fit in
either one. They sort of fit in both equally—and you know you are sitting here going,
ok, where do they go? Who teaches those classes? Do they go with one group or do
they go with the other? There really were two major poles and really wanting to have
two major degrees. And we ended up coming back together in sort of…I want to say
an uneasy truce that I think has remained. I don’t think it has gone away. We ended
up with two degrees because of education. We ended up with a degree [in our content
area] and a [content] education degree.
With all the fluctuation in courses, the faculty member described a “notorious 2001
catalog which was a disaster for much of the campus, because we were in such a hurry to put
something together.” Words of other participants echo a period of uncertainty: “hit the
deadlines,” “grumble,” “messy,” “fight the battle.” Gee said:
The faculty were really pushed, and I think they pushed so hard. I was doing the
catalog, and so I could see what was happening—but the departments would hit a
deadline and have to come up with a degree program with the courses and things like
that. Some of the courses wouldn’t even be taught for two years after they conceive
them. The departments had to work together to make sure all the support classes were
available for the different majors as well as their major courses. (J. Gee, personal
communication, May 16, 2007)
Gee was responsible for maintaining a master file of all the courses. He described an
ongoing transitional process when he said,
There is a course listed in this master file on the computer for every course that we
teach. If it changes, you have to track those changes so that if a student takes the class
one year, you know that it is equivalent with something different with a different
name and number the next year. You have to track all that, and we did thousands of
those things. We created classes. Sometimes we created them, deleted them, and
never taught them because the departments were changing so much. They would send
program requirements into me to go in the catalog knowing that it would be totally
different the following year. There were about three years or four years where every
year just about every department that had a four-year program totally rewrote it. (J.
Gee, personal communication, May 16, 2007)
During these formative, uncertain years, a new Faculty Association president was
selected. As he worked with the faculty, he became aware of feelings of “I don’t know what I
am doing. I don’t know where I am going.” But being personally involved at a new level
broadened his understanding on the interaction between administration, faculty, and the
developing academic programs. He said,
I had that different perspective because I got to hear from a lot more of the faculty.
The perspective that I got from them was administration—and I know that they did
this on purpose, I really do—they were fairly silent about giving us specific
directions. They gave us some real general parameters, and then they let us just sort
of fight it out, if you will, and battle through. What do we think?
I can’t say whether that was the best option or not, but that created some real
interesting dynamics across campus because the Business [Department] obviously
came up with one particular model [of how to construct a bachelor’s degree program]
and somebody else came up with a completely different model. And well, which one
is right? You start seeing, “Can I do this?” “Well, what about this?” I think it was
good because it helped the faculty to have an outlet. “I can do something.” And then
obviously we had to come in within some parameters.
It was my observation as the researcher that there became two key driving forces in
the transition: first, better serve the needs of students; and second, gaining accreditation at a
higher level. The two were intertwined. Until accreditation was achieved, students would
potentially be hampered in their quest for admission to graduate programs and in seeking
federal financial aid. It was appropriate that the quest for accreditation became the
framework for much of the ensuing early transition process. These sentiments were shared by
Roy Huff as he said,
The administration had to make a lot of tough decisions from the top down; and some
of the faculty felt like, “We didn’t have any say because it is all coming from above.”
But to expedite things, we had to get that done because as long as it took us to get
accredited, our student[s]… were graduating under the auspices that we would have
accreditation. But the sooner we received accreditation, the sooner we could kind of
get that stamp to those students that were graduating, “You get a degree from a bona
fide university” (R. Huff, personal communication, May 8, 2007)
So along with building programs, came the need to gain accreditation as a bachelor’sdegree-granting university through the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities
(NWCCU). Even though Ricks College had been accredited to grant associate degrees since
1936 (Ricks College, 1999), it was necessary to seek accreditation at a higher lever.
Within six months of the announcement, a comprehensive 36-page request was
compiled entitled “Substantive Change Prospectus for the Addition of Degree Programs at a
Higher Level.” Included with the prospectus was an attachment of nearly 200 pages outlining
“New Program Descriptions” for 36 specific areas. After gaining Board approval, the
documentation was submitted to NWCCU on January 22, 2001. A review of the timetable
included in the prospectus gives a better concept of the campus-wide impact of the transition
and the involvement of the Board of Trustees required to get to this point in the transitional
process. (See Figure 3.)
BYU–Idaho Transition Timetable
Planning Activity
People Involved
Time Frame
Initial deliberations, feasibility analysis
Board of Trustees, President,
Vice Presidents
May-June 2000
Board of Trustees
June 21, 2000
Development of planning framework (e.g.,
goals, guidelines, concepts, processes,
roles) and initial list of programs
Vice Presidents, Assistant
Vice Presidents, Deans
June 22, 2000 to
August 9, 2000
Initial concepts for new programs, changes
in throughput, and infrastructure needs
Deans, Department Chairs,
June 22, 2000 to
August 9, 2000
Presentation of initial concepts to the
Executive Committee of the Board of
Board of Trustees Executive
Committee, President, Vice
September 27, 2000
Planning for changes to students services,
campus infrastructure, local community
Student Life personnel,
Administrative personnel,
Community Affairs
June 22, 2000 to
October 13, 2000
New programs, programs to be
August 15, 2000 to
October 23, 2000
Initial plans for transition to BYU–Idaho
presented to Board of Trustees
Board of Trustees, President,
Vice Presidents
November 8, 2000
Continued development of transition
planning and finalization of prospectus
Faculty, Administrative Staff
October 13, 2000 to
December 8, 2000
Presentation of final plan for transition
Board of Trustees
December 13, 2000
Final prospectus generated and reviewed
Board of Trustees
December 13, 2000 to
January15, 2001
Prospectus sent to Commission
January 22, 2001
FIGURE 3. BYU–Idaho Transition Timetable (Ricks College, Substantive Change Prospectus, 2000, pp 3-4).
The prospectus was seeking conditional approval to move towards candidacy, a
necessary first step in the time-consuming, energy-draining process towards gaining
accreditation. Gee said,
We were pushing early on to get the proposal for program change to the accrediting
agency. Everybody pushed to get that done. We produced a book about two inches
thick showing all the new programs and what they would do, and we were given
approval on that basis to go ahead. The accrediting agency said, “We don’t believe
you can do it, but you have shown the numbers, and so we will allow you to go ahead
and do it.”(J. Gee, personal communication, May 16, 2007)
Once the candidacy status was granted, the process of collecting data began anew. An
overview prepared to help those seeking accreditation through the Northwest Commission of
Colleges and Universities explains:
Each accredited and candidate institution is expected to engage in ongoing
planning to achieve its mission and goals, evaluate how well, and in what ways, it is
accomplishing its mission and goals, and demonstrate that it uses the results for
broad-based continuous planning and evaluation. (Baker, n.d.)
In an interview in 2004, Scott Bergstrom, director of institutional research at BYU–
Idaho, explained the accreditation process. Bergstrom has become very familiar with the
accreditation process and the need to get many people involved, and he often participates in
evaluation and training for other campuses. He described the process as follows:
When accreditation comes to town, people get pretty serious about it. The
work involved to do a good self study is really tough to marshal the resources. There
are two parts. One is just getting everybody to do what you need to have done to have
the institution properly scrutinized. The second thing is to have them show evidence
that the study they do of their organizations leads to some action.” (S. Bergstrom,
personal interview, December 20, 2004)
My interview with Bergstrom was conducted as a work assignment shortly after
BYU–Idaho’s successful accreditation evaluation in 2004. As we sat in his office, we
discussed the formation of the 300-page self-study, but I could not help but notice the
stacked, vast collection of file folders and boxes that had been deposited into his space
waiting for appropriate final storage or disposal. Bergstrom explained the obvious:
The self study is just one document. A lot of people do not realize that the
commission asks for a whole other set of paperwork, reports, and documentation. So
you submit a self-study and that is 300 pages, but there are many more times than that
in documentation that they may want to look at. They are looking at all the individual
departments’ self studies, assessment plans. They are looking at syllabi. They are
looking at exams and self-study for administrative units, so they like to see all.” (ibid)
The accumulation of files had been gathered as evidence to be available to the
accreditation team if they chose to seek more details than had been compiled into the self
study. Bergstrom said he found the following to be true from his vantage point:
The heart of all of this though is really assessment. And they have been
driving people to do it right for so many years now. They are just now getting
colleges and universities to use it. Businesses have been doing total quality
management for twenty years, and as a result they have really done some good things.
Colleges and universities just kind of go along and do the same old thing every year
and pretty much assume that their students are getting a good education. But nobody
has really stepped up to prove it, and so that is why a lot of this—the heart of this—is
assessment. Try to do it right. Do it in the first place, and do it right. (ibid)
With this looming responsibility to have assessment collateral as part of the
accreditation process, the administration at BYU–Idaho was restructured to include a
Learning Outcomes Assessment Coordinator. Esther Landon (name has been changed at
participant’s request) shares her experience:
I was specifically being put over the learning outcomes assessment
coordination for the Northwest visit. I would be working in institutional research with
Scott [Bergstrom] on that. So I set about figuring out what a learning outcomes
assessment coordinator really does. I mean I was doing a job that was being created.
No one had been doing that kind of thing. Scott would hand me some textbook and
say, “Well, read this. See if that clarifies it.” Or “Read this manual.”
Within a short time I kind of had a sense of what we needed to do to get ready
for accreditation. The first step was to assess whether the program being delivered
met the objectives of the program had set. I immediately commenced to meet with a
few department heads. I contacted a few friends who were department chairs and
said, “Hey, can I come over and look at your stuff?” I quickly discovered that, in spite
of the fact that we were now a year into the transition truly, most programs had not
solidified. We were shooting at a moving target. “I don’t know if it meets its goals.
What is it?” They had not even landed, you might say.
The President had said all programs would be 120 hours and no more, and yet
what I discovered was that many programs were 120 not counting all the
prerequisites. So you start throwing in all the prerequisites, and you had 136 or more;
they were well over the limit. So we had to back up a bit. (E. Landon, personal
communication, June 11, 2007)
Landon went back to Jim Gee and Roy Huff and explained the situation. From the
viewpoint of Gee, the lack of quality control of developing programs had been a matter of
their volume of work as they tried “to learn as an administration how to be a four-year
school” and feeling like they were “always under staffed” (J. Gee, personal communication,
May 16, 2007). He explained as follows:
We really were working together like a team, and nobody was sitting
anywhere calling all the shots. It was just too big of a project to do. People had to
have a lot of input, and we gave them a lot of freedom.… There were so many areas
where departments had violated the basic rules, and we had gone ahead and given
them approval for them not really understanding everything they were doing.… It
was just because we had this avalanche of things coming at us. We never had time to
fully examine things. The truth was it was a difficult thing to keep a handle on. There
were a lot of places where it slid by. (J. Gee, personal communication, May 16, 2007)
Landon gave the executives an example, “If we have to cut five programs, we have to
cut the programs first and see if what remains meets the goals.” As difficult as it may have
been to acknowledge personal flaws, the academic leaders recognized the need for a more
structured approach. Before there could be appropriate evaluation of the outcomes of the
academic programs, the programs needed to be reined in to match the standards set by the
University which included the 120 credit limit—minimum and maximum.
Stretched to their maximum while dealing with other aspects of the transition, the
executives gave Landon the assignment to “go out and make sure all the programs get down
to the 120 before you can start doing the goals thing.” Gee said Landon as the Learning
Outcomes Assessment Coordinator “did a great service by just pulling it all together, but it
took her over a year to do it. Only after she had gone through all that could the programs
settle down and became a lot more stable” (J. Gee, personal communication, May 16, 2007).
Landon began the process of analyzing the emerging programs within the
University’s parameters and coinciding objectives with assessment. She was able to take the
“big picture, see what has to happen, and then break it down into bite-sized chunks.” She
said, “I discovered to my surprise that a lot of people do not have that skill.” She describes
her arduous process:
I made a big matrix showing all the different steps that would need to happen
as programs were audited and then goals were outlined. And then I had this little
chart. [The Academic Vice President] sent word out, through the Academic Council I
suppose, that I would be contacting each department and that each department would
need to do these steps. A lot of people balked, “Who is [she] to be telling us if we can
have that class number?” (E. Landon, personal communication, June 11, 2007)
Faculty involved in the process of developing courses had their own perspective of
the stricter enforcement of curriculum standards. They felt they were being told, “OK, you
have all had your say, now we have to meet these certain parameters.” For some the stress
became compounded as explained below:
That was hard for us. She came in and said, “This is what you have got to do.”
We had to revise our program, and it was like ah… We can’t do this. You know there
was more of that challenge of pulling things together again—the feeling across
campus of being overwhelmed. I described it as sort of like a tidal wave that you
know is coming. You can’t see it. You are not sure when it is going to hit. But you
sort of know it is out there moving in your direction. That is sort of the feeling that I
sensed. That uneasiness of “Ok, what are they going to throw at us next?” (D. Lyons,
personal communication, June 8, 2007)
With a slight laugh that hides her personal frustration, Landon continued her story:
Whenever anyone had an issue, I would just take it back to [the Academic
Vice President] and say, “Here is their program. This is the reason I feel they need an
exception. Will you grant it?” We held pretty firm to the 120 limit. But what I did
find is they would sometimes say, “Well, let that count as a GE class.” So we did a
double-dipping kind of thing…. I think we got most of the programs in compliance
during that first year, but it took a full year. It was about March when the last
program finally cleared, and we could say everyone is at 120. It was just horrendous.
When people say, “Oh, it must have been a lot of work.” How can you respond?
“You really have no idea.” (E. Landon, personal communication, June 11, 2007)
Landon said she determined not to become the adversary but to play a liaison role
instead. Not only did Landon feel the pressure, she was quick to recognize how difficult the
situation was for those faced with restructuring their fledgling programs. These changes were
to be deep and real, and “often, like life, a bumpy ride” (Watkins & Marsick, 1993, p. 137).
When you go into people who have done their very best thinking—and these
are professional people who honestly truly had. “Here is the best thing we can come
up with.” And you go, “Well, it just won’t do. You are going to have to cut this.” It
was just awful. So I very early on decided that I am going to work with the
departments. I am not in an adversary role. If they tell me this is absolutely essential
that we have this class in there, then I am going to find a way to help them make it fit.
We will start coming up with creative strategy, and we will see what we can do. It
was quite a remarkable thing to go through. It was really fun afterwards to see how
many department chairs came up to thank me, because at the time it was like kicking
and screaming. They would haul me into department meetings to try to explain to the
whole department what I had told them privately. And you know… shooting
arrows…yelling… It was just horrible, and yet it had to be done. Somebody had to go
in and just chop, chop. “You are eight credits over; you have got to take them out.”
Ultimately, a lot of department chairs said it was a blessing because they had
been too ambitious, and they had been putting in everything that had been desirable.
But when I would force them to trim back and force them to cut, they said it made it
much more manageable in the long run. These were sacrifices—but they found ways
to take the really, really critical stuff and embed it someplace else. And they didn’t
over extend. There was a blessing to it, but it was sure hard to tell them that.
In some cases, honestly truly, I agree with them: “Your program would be
stronger if you had that class, but you have to get it down to 120. And so what else
can we trim? If that one has to be there, what else can we do?”
So that took about the first full year. But the departments that got right on it
and got it finished quickly, I went ahead that first year and let them start into the next
set of tasks on the big matrix which would be getting goals written for every class and
getting assessment procedures in place. (E. Landon, personal communication, June
11, 2007)
Even the perspective of the faculty member who initially felt a tidal wave was about
to hit had a change of heart. He said she “did a marvelous job of getting everyone on the
same page as far as degrees and programs and making sure you met certain standards.” He
shared his observations on conflicts that arose:
It is interesting as we went through that transition time with the meetings, the
general background meetings and the other meetings. I would go and listen, and I
would get the handouts and things. I had a stack of that stuff. I remember one, in fact,
I think it was when [Esther Landon] was coming to meet with us. I was for some
reason going through a stack of papers and pulled out a paper that sort of outlined
what the parameters were for the degrees. I made a copy of it and gave it to the
department. It created a lot of controversy. It was like, “Where did you get this
document? We have never seen it before. Why weren’t we told about this?” Well, it
was handed out at one of those general faculty meetings. The thought that came to me
then and at other times, it is interesting how we selectively hear what we want to hear.
(D. Lyons, personal communication, June 8, 2007).
Over time, the faculty and department heads restructured their programs to align with
the standards set by the university and began the process of collecting evidence of outcomes
assessment that would be required for accreditation. Landon outlines the step-by-step process
as she coordinated and helped guide others in preparing for the accreditation team’s visit:
Every department had to write goals and so did every college. Then the
faculty had to report on every single class and list their goals and methods by which it
would be achieved and then the assessment of how to see if it had been achieved.
Every class had goals, methods, and assessment procedures established. I had to meet
with the departments. I had to go through a series of three in-service workshops, and
every department had to receive all three…. Some departments were so intrigued by
the whole process. They had known nothing about pedagogy. They did not
understand that there were different methods and each method had its own assessment
strategy. This was like, wow. They are content area experts. They said to me over and
over again, “We have never had training in pedagogy. This is fascinating.” A number
of departments as well as colleges requested full in-service lessons. Can we train
them on the different methodologies and how they are done? How do you assess
them? And when do you use this one or that one? When do you use an eclectic
approach and combine? So we did the training, and everybody wrote goals.
Again it was very difficult for some departments to step back and say, “Ok,
that may be the long-range vision of what we are trying to do here, but during the
confines of this semester, how are we going to assess what we are doing?” And there
was a lot of that trying to help the departments see. “Yes, you have to have the big
picture vision, and probably ten years out you can do an alumni survey and maybe get
some evidence of that. But you also have to have an immediate plan, and that is what
we are talking about.” We also talked about some of the longer range elements
because departments had to set up assessment protocol things:
“We want to start doing elements.”
“We want to do exit interviews with our seniors” and
“We want to do …” whatever.
So we outlined all that. (E. Landon, personal communication, June 11, 2007)
While positive in its objective and final outcome, the continuous restructuring of
programs and coursework had negative repercussions during the process. Gee explained:
We could have avoided some of that if we had been a little more deliberate
and not so kind of giddy in wanting to get in there and get going. But we did it and
over a period of time, we finally got the thing settled down…. I kept telling the
[Academic Vice President], “We have got to put a moratorium on changing these
programs. These poor students don’t know if they are coming or going.” Because we
were making such massive changes every year, it was kind of a messy process. (J.
Gee, personal communication, May 16, 2007)
Even though things have settled down and the goal of accreditation has been
achieved, the evaluation of the academic programs is ongoing. Roy Huff described his role:
We are accountable to our programs and accountable to our departments by
saying you better have the right classes. That is where accreditation helps us. “You
better have the right programs to lead to a career or a job for a student. You keep it at
120 credits.” I am responsible to do a curriculum audit on every single one of those
majors to make sure that what we say we are going to do is what we are doing, and
we are staying within the parameters that our accrediting body and also the mission
our institutional has given us. (R. Huff, personal communication, May 8, 2007)
In addition to the overall accreditation as a university, many of the departments had
their own program accreditation hurdles. “Nursing had to have the national nursing
foundation. It was the same thing with mechanical engineering, computer science, all of these
programs that had to have their own” (ibid). One of the specialized program accreditation
bodies explains as follows:
Professional level programs…voluntarily place themselves before the scrutiny
of the profession to ensure that students receive an education that will serve them not
only during their time at school, but also prepare them for future professional growth.
Students enrolled in an accredited…program can be confident that the program meets
the quality standards recognized by the profession. (Council for Interior Design, n.d.)
It was my observation as a researcher that departments viewed program accreditation
in one of three ways: (1) proceed because accreditation will help secure the auspices of a
professional program and result in a more marketable graduate, (2) comply with government
agency requirements, or (3) do not seek national recognition or accreditation but rather build
an independent program to best meet the students’ needs. An example of each follows.
First, a look at the Interior Design Department where the process of securing a
professional program aimed at a more marketable graduate was a matter of raising the bar on
what they accomplished years before. To satisfy the number of hours required for national
accreditation, the interior design program at Ricks College had previously developed into a
three-year program. Even though the interior design program had been accredited for years,
just the mention of the process seemed to make the department chair shudder at the memory,
but he then acknowledged the comparative ease of their transition into a four-year program
which was accredited on 2001 (Council for Interior Design Accreditation, n.d.). Somewhat
accustomed now to the scrutiny of the program’s accreditation review every six years, T. L.
McRae, the Chair of the Interior Design Department, remembers the process of initially
gaining program accreditation at a national level as follows:
[It was] a horror story.… When I came here 21 years ago, the program wasn’t
accredited. One of the reasons they hired me was to help with accreditation and so on.
It was such a nightmare to get our accreditation…. The accreditation organization
was FIDER [Foundation for Interior Design Education Research] then and is now
CIDA, Council for Interior Design Accreditation. They require a certain number of
hours; they have certain requirements that must be met and so on and so forth. We
had to develop our classes so they incorporated all of these sorts of standards that
they required in order to be accredited. By doing that, some of our classes were really
upper level classes. Being at a junior college, we could do anything, but we had to use
lower division numbers [for courses]. So when they said we are going to a four-year
university, it was really easy for us to just transfer our classes to upper division
credits because we had really been teaching at that level already. It was not difficult
for us…. In essence we already had upper division courses. (T. McRae, personal
communication, June 1, 2007)
The interior design accreditation comes around for review on a six-year cycle. The
Department Chair described the process of gathering evidence as an extension of the
students’ learning experience, and he explained his high expectations:
When we go through accreditation, we could probably do it with less effort
than what we actually do, but we want to be the best. I don’t mean that in an arrogant
or prideful way. I mean we want our students, when they walk out that door, to feel
competent enough to go and interview and have all the tools they need to interview
with like cover letters and resumes that are beautifully done. We want them to be so
confident that they don’t feel nervous when they go for a job interview. When I
graduated interior design, I felt extremely cheated because that was not how I was
tooled…. I knew nothing about resumés, how to interview, how to go get a job, or
anything. I was bitter for quite a long time. I thought if I ever went into teaching, my
objective would be to prepare the student to be competent to interview, go out and get
a job, and be the best. (ibid)
Similar concepts of marketability of graduates played a role in teacher education, the
second example regarding program accreditation. But for teacher education there was also a
matter of compliance with government agency requirements. State certification is required
for education programs if the graduates are to be considered as candidates for teaching
positions. In addition to the existing elementary education program that needed modest
modifications, the initial prospectus for change (Ricks College, 2001) identified 12 new
degrees for secondary education teaching majors. (This number gradually increased to nearly
25 content areas with varying options for bachelor’s of science and/or bachelor’s of arts
degrees.) The process of seeking accreditation through the Idaho State Department of
Education was conducted simultaneously with the accreditation process for the University.
Spearheading the process was Esther Landon, the newly appointed Dean of the College of
Education. Despite an internal search, no one else was willing to accept her previous position
as the Learning Outcomes Assessment Coordinator with the University’s evaluation by the
NWCCU just one year away. With the support and encouragement of her secretary, the
Executive Office agreed to her fulfilling dual obligations. She described her role:
They consented to release me from teaching at that point so I could do those
two administrative assignments and just focus on them until we got through
accreditation. And so until the accreditation visits were done, I was simultaneously
trying to get the whole campus ready for the Northwest visit plus the education
By this time we had already received conditional approval [to offer bachelor’s
degree programs in education] from the State, and we were working towards the twoyear focus visit. When they had come to give us conditional approval, they said,
“Within two years you have got to have evidence.” We needed to get our faculty to
address the State’s standards, which are very rigorous, and they had to provide
So I stepped into that a year into the task and it was like, “Ok. Where is the
evidence?” And nobody had collected anything. And it is like “Ok! Go chop chop,
boys and girls.” So I got the representatives from each one of the education programs
together in a big room, and I just explained, “Here is what you need to have happen
for each one of your programs.” I assembled binders again. We were binder queens
by this point. The dividers had things. “These are the sections; here is what needs to
go into each one. We will be around to help you.”
We had a lot of training meetings where we would bring in the program
directors for each (for the math program, then English, and history, and everything).
We would sit around a big table, and we would talk about what needed to be
We will never have that kind of headache again because now that everybody
has done it once, it will never be that much work again. It never will. They have the
binders. They know what the standards are. They already have evidence in the
binders. It will just be a matter of updating it, finding a new copy of this, and another
sample of that. (E. Landon, personal communication, June 11, 2007)
Seeking program accreditation can also be voluntary. The third scenario was
interesting for me as the researcher as I learned that BYU–Idaho’s College of Business and
Communication opted to not seek the national recognition for the business program but to
gage the viability of their program by the success of the students themselves. The Dean
described a process not based on incremental review by an accreditation team, but rather
ongoing evaluation of the end product: an employable-quality graduate. Broadhead said,
The idea is that there is some human capital to be developed, knowledge, skills,
values, and experiences. When you look at a product to be developed, then that
impacts what you are doing in the process. You institute what we call employablequality graduate (or the product that we would like) and put into place a career map,
which tries to polish from freshman through the senior year. You put into place a
template for teaching, and we give them challenges in teaching. When you see what
the end result you want—including values and experience—then it starts to impact
what the process are and what the things you need to change in order to produce that
In fact we have chosen to not even be concerned about accreditation in the
College of Business. We have accreditation as a university as a whole, but [program
accreditation] is a cumbersome effort. It requires some time and a little bit of a shift
and refocus; we just are not going to go there. We do not have time. Our students are
getting placed both in grad school and workplace, so why should we invest our time
there to get a little more world attention and recognition on accreditation when we do
not need to? (F. Broadhead, personal communication, July 5, 2007)
The process of evaluation and assessment of academics should be ongoing not merely
because of any accreditation process but because it becomes part of the natural process of
learning and teaching. Wheelwright (personal communication, May 9, 2007) suggested selfexamination: “part of that has to do with the faculty, their skill, and their expertise as they get
better and better; but part of it also has to do with paying attention” to progressively
Likewise, the transitions in academics for higher education will be ongoing. For
BYU–Idaho, the initial growing pains, mess, and turmoil of total reconstruction were not in
vain. Their prospectus was approved and candidacy was granted allowing Ricks College to
continue the process of officially becoming Brigham Young University–Idaho on August 10,
2001. The objective of achieving accreditation as a bachelor’s-degree-granting university
was reached in 2004, a year after the first graduates which signified that the university would
be able to successfully achieve the delivery of upper level coursework. Huff reflected on the
What we were trying to do was really superhuman when you think of it. The
fact is that most people take seven to eight years to get a program from conception to
where you have an output, because you really have to have graduates before you can
actually say you have a viable program. You can do concept approval, but you have
to have a finished product to say, “Did it work?” And they have to take praxis
examinations if they were doing education; there are other national norming tests that
you have to look at to see if you have a viable product. Then there become these
[regional and specialized] accrediting bodies…. For us to be able to do 49 degrees
and 48 of them received full accreditation in four years instead of one or two degrees
taking seven to eight years, it really was remarkable.
People began to use us as the poster child for accreditation. We suddenly had
four members of our staff asked by the regional accrediting body to be on their
accreditation teams that would go out to other universities. I mean we really received
not just high marks, but it was like, “How were you ever able to do this in so short of
time?” It really was different than what the world would have expected, but then we
never shied away from doing things different. (R. Huff, personal communication,
May 8, 2007)
Support Services
When reviewing the transitions in higher education, it would be easy to merely focus
in on academics and faculty and overlook the contributions of the support services. I felt
including their perspectives would give balance to this research. Roy Huff describes his own
changed perception when switching roles from faculty to become the Assistant Academic
Vice President for Curriculum:
I lived in a faculty world before and never knew all the people that made it
work. I mean the students showed up in my class; I taught them, gave them a grade,
and they left. There were a lot of wonderful experiences that happened there in
learning and teaching together, but I didn’t know what the Registrar did. I didn’t
know what Admissions did. I didn’t know Public Relations. I didn’t know what all
these other entities on campus did and how they made it possible for me to teach
classes because I only had the faculty perspective. Some of my greatest friends now
are the people I work with from day to day. I mean, I couldn’t do my job without the
Registrar. I also didn’t know all the things that happened on the curriculum level; one
of the things I am responsible for is the curriculum and the catalog. I have a great
appreciation for secretaries. I always knew that the secretaries ran the show, but I
didn’t know how well they ran it and how without them, we really would be lost. I
mean I wouldn’t know; I wouldn’t be ready for half the meetings I have to get ready
for. My secretary makes sure that I am prepared. Where as a faculty member, if I
wasn’t prepared for my class, it was my fault. So I have a great appreciation for all
the support that happens on campus you don’t normally see. Because they do their job
so well and so quietly, you don’t know. The greatest thing I learned is that for me to
do my job in the classroom, it takes 100 people who make it possible. (ibid)
The transition from Ricks College to BYU–Idaho had direct impact on the work of
the support services. The Career and Academic Advising Center was decentralized with
satellite centers located within each of the colleges giving students better access to
counselors and more precise and accurate coordination with faculty and academic
administrators. The Public Relations Office oversaw both internal and external
communication and the development of a new visual identity and creation of a style guide for
publications and marketing (BYU–Idaho Identity Guidelines, n.d.). The Bookstore was
remodeled to accommodate the increased volume of textbooks and school supplies. A new
Student Health Center was built to serve the year-round needs of an increased student body –
and for married students, their dependent spouses and children. University Police, Parking
Services, and the Safety Office saw their workload increase as more students enrolled and as
the events and activities calendars expanded. Custodial and ground crews, information
technology, food services, cashiers, the press, the library, purchase and travel, the identity
card system administration, shipping and receiving, and the list goes on. Some might
gratefully conclude that in “most of those areas they don’t have a problem—a little more
stressed because there were more students, but that was about all. They just have adapted to
the four-year school and done a great job of it” (J. Gee, personal communication, May 16,
Nevertheless, through the progressive focusing of this research on organizational
learning, I was led to specific support services: registrar’s, admissions, and advancement. As
the participants shared their stories, I sensed that similar experiences could be gleaned from
other areas across the campus. And as it was brought to my attention,
…different departments are at different stages of both their own development and
being in a position to deliver whatever it is we are all working to deliver. Some
people, some departments are much closer. They’ve got the people in place, the
training, and so on that they need. In other departments they are still getting started.
(S. Wheelwright, personal communication, May 9, 2007)
When I visited with the Registrar, I was reminded that adults are working and
learning in the midst of everything else that is going on in their lives. To me the Registrar
came to exemplify the capacity of being teachable, metamotives, humility, and the capacity
to facilitate change. Because of his willingness to learn, the organization made great strides
in overcoming limitations. Kevin Miyasaki was invited to change positions from the Dean of
Students Office to work in the Registrar’s Office. He explained:
My background and training has all been in social work and social sciences.
When they asked me to serve as the Assistant Registrar, [the Registrar] was suffering
from cancer. It was in November of 2000. They asked me one week saying they did
not know how well he was, but they knew he was not well and probably would not be
able to come back. I went and visited him on a Friday; he was at home and he was
ill—so ill that I didn’t really want to push him for information other than I looked
forward to working with him and such. And then on Monday, he passed away.
So when taking this position, I had no idea what a registrar was, what they
did, nor any of all the policies and procedures and so forth and so on that happened
with Ricks College let alone becoming a four-year university. I can remember sitting
in that office on the very first day after he died. They said, “Ok. Well, you know you
are the Registrar now….” I remember getting several calls, and having no idea what
they were even talking about let alone how to answer the question, and looking at the
wall and just saying, “I can’t do this by myself. There is no way I can do this.”
Particularly being the Registrar’s Office and the curriculum and all the changes that
we would have to make to become a four-year university with the same amount of
resources and not expand, but yet become more efficient. So much like President
Bednar taught many, many times about the ship of curious workmanship, I indeed
was a strange timber that had to fit into that piece and did not know how to fit.
I can tell you that there were many, many occasions of tender mercies that I
witnessed throughout that whole process of our whole Registrar’s Office team
receiving thoughts and feelings and inspirations and guidance between us and IT
[information technology] of how to develop things in a whole different manner.
I can remember one time when we were working on the whole concept of
having a graduation plan and thinking how we can move students through on a more
efficient basis and increase our throughput so we can bless more students. We were
talking about that, and we came up with the concept of having a grad plan. We met
with IT, and they said, “Well, give us a description of what it should look like.”
I said, “I have no idea what it will look like, but this is what I want it to do.”
They said, “Well, usually we get some rules, and we get some descriptions.”
I said, “I know this is unusual.” I wrote about five pages of things that I want
it to do, and then they just started playing and working and came up with the model
that now has been modified a little bit but was really the foundation to get us going in
the right direction on that.
We previously handled maybe 300 or 500 transfer evaluations a semester; we
increased to anywhere from 1,500 to 2,000 a semester.… We still only had one
person doing it.... We developed a database with all of the colleges, with all of the
transfer credits and what they were accepted as, and then we developed a matrix
system to where the computer did the evaluation based on electronic feed from CES.
All of that was just a combined effort.
I remember going to BYU the very first time and saying, “You need to send
your document EDI [electronic data interchange] to us” and I didn’t even know what
EDI hardly even meant. As I went to a conference to learn about it, and I met with
BYU afterwards and I said, “This is what we need to do.” I remember them asking
me questions, and they were like speaking a foreign language to me.
What I am saying is all of it was not anything I had as far as innate knowledge
or skills or training, but all of it was divine inspiration through collective bodies, just
feeling and getting inspiration of how we could transform things to a new system.
The way we did things changed in business operations. Piece by piece, line
upon line, each program and each service in that area, we learned to adapt. Everybody
knew we had to do it differently. Everybody knew we weren’t going to hire on more
staff. And everybody knew we were going to do it. We all had that faith that we could
do it. And it came to pass. (K. Miyasaki, personal communication, June 8, 2007)
In the process of helping their new leader become familiar with his new
responsibilities, his staff clarified their own thinking and reasoning as they critically
reviewed their processes (Watkins and Marsick, 1993). Under Miysaki’s leadership not only
did these processes become streamlined, the influence of the Registrar’s Office evolved. He
said there seemed to have been a time when the Registrar “kind of sat over here and was told
what to do. But because we were changing so fast, the Registrar’s Office became part of the
Curriculum Committee just to maintain that integrity. That was a huge step in helping us
keep order” (K. Miyasaki, personal communication, June 8, 2007). I could see how the
Registrar’s job meshes with the academic program development, as Miyasaki continued:
For the first three or four years, all of the programs were changing just about
every year with program requirements. There was confusion with the students and
expectations of the departments of what the requirements would be. So we had to
develop a system to where students could get credit and continue on with their
program and complete it even though the programs were developing and maturing
along the way. We had to develop a system of substitutions, waivers, and so forth.
Because people can go back and use a catalog for five years, a lot of our early degrees
have a lot of handwritten, manual changes. It is something we had to learn to track
and automate and do some other things to make it more efficient.
For example, within the first few years, we would take up to eight or nine
weeks to evaluate all the graduation applications at the end of the semester. We
would have to do all of them manually because there were so many changes
happening within the university. Last semester within three weeks, they were
completed with the evaluations. That is just again a manifestation of how that piece
worked in. As we have gone through time, majors have become more stable; we have
become more automated in the way that we can evaluate things now. There is a
combination of both that has increased the efficiency.
The other thing is we have had to do just a lot of education of departments
through this whole process. They would develop a course on paper before it was ever
created thinking that was what would be needed for the department. Then by the time
they arrived at the year—because you are always thinking a year in advance—by the
time they came into the year they would discover “no, that is not really what we want.
What we want is this course.” So they would want to create a new course. Well, you
just can’t do it that way. Part of the Registrar’s Office [responsibilities] was always to
help guide academics and keep them in line so we had integrity within the academic
system. (K. Miyasaki, personal communication, June 8, 2007)
There was a common thread in the discussion with the Registrar and the next
participant who worked as an admissions administrator. Tyler Williams had also found
himself in a learn-on-the job situation when he transferred from a position in the Financial
Aid Office and then had a second assignment shift within the Admissions Office:
You learn the word adaptability very quickly. At our school, you realize that it
isn’t our work. You realize that there is a higher Deity that is running this, and
therefore, you just put your trust and say, “I am doing my best work.” And you take it
to the Lord. If He says it is right, then you move on; and if it is not, then you go back
and you do your best thinking again. Faith based.
Another thing is that I rely tremendously upon the skills and talents of those
with whom I work. Their talents can overcome some of my shortcomings, and my
talents can overcome some of their shortcomings. We can have some synergy. (T.
Williams, personal communication, May 10, 2007)
Williams seemed to be enjoying the energy and openness of the Admission’s Office. I
asked him to compare it with his experience in Financial Aid. Having just recently completed
his master’s degree, both offices had given him an opportunity to learn, but which was the
better match for his learning and leadership style?
When I was in Financial Aid, the environment was good; they encouraged me
to develop my skills, but it was a much more subdued office from the standpoint that
it was a Federal entity we were dealing with. So rules and regulations resulted in
more of a management feel. You are going to manage some thing.
When I came over to Admissions, we are now on the frontline of every
change that could possibly happen; we are a year ahead of everybody else on the
campus because we have to implement it with the prospective students and people
coming in. So this culture here is all about the counseling with councils, if you will.
We are given an assignment, and we throw it around. We come up with a proposals,
bring them in, people rip them to shreds, and you go “great” because you know
because of their input the product will be better. They are thinking of things that you
did not consider. You come back and rethink it, and take it back in, and by the time
we are done, we feel we have come up with what is needed. I have seen it over and
over and over again where: “How are we going to deal with this thing?” You throw it
out and throw it out, and you finally come back and there is a solution just right there.
And you go, “Oh well, that is great!”
I think the culture of our office in Admissions was established a long time ago
to be thinking outside the box. Bring your ideas, and don’t get so wrapped around
it—meaning thinking that it is all you. This isn’t about you. What you are doing
should have the intent of blessing the lives of everybody else. If it is a selfish reason,
you are going to be offended. But if you are truly in it for everybody else, you are fine
with the critiques. (ibid)
The openness of the Admissions culture was noticeable not only in their attitudes but
in the physical layout of the office. From one end to the other, the space was open and
conducive to interaction. Administrators each had an office where they could consult with
potential students and their parents as needed, but the walls were glass panels that retained
the ambiance of no barriers to communication. I felt Williams spoke figuratively and literally
when he said the following:
We lived in an environment where there were four functioning areas in our
office but there were no walls. They called it four silos without walls. We all had our
areas we were responsible for, but each one of us depended upon everyone else to
help us in our jobs. So that was huge. Many offices are segregated saying, “This is
my responsibility, leave me alone.” And that was their culture. Our culture was
always, “You need help with scholarships. Come, I am here to help you.” “You need
to help with going out on the road. That is part of my job too.” And the expectation of
everybody in the office was you help each other out. If you feel like you are an island
unto yourself, then everyone will pounce on you. (ibid)
The third support services participant in this research also had an on-the-job learning
experience. His job had become obsolete with the phasing out of Ricks College’s
intercollegiate athletics; Garth Hall had been the Athletic Director. That had changed when
the Chairman of the Board of Trustees had announced:
BYU–Idaho will phase out its involvement in intercollegiate athletics and shift its
emphasis to a year-round activity program designed to involve and meet the needs of
a diverse student body. (Hinckley, 2000)
Hall talks about his paradigm shift:
To understand my comments, you have to understand that I spent my whole life in
intercollegiate athletics. That is what I did. That is what I loved, and I never really
considered junior college athletics. I just won’t go into how I got [to Ricks College],
but when I got here, I frankly said, “Really, this is what I had been searching for.”
I wanted a situation where it was competitive sports, but you also had some
value in it. It was about the student athlete; it wasn’t all about just winning at any
cost. That had been in the world I had been in, and it was kind of deteriorating where
it was so money-driven. So I kind of fell in love with it.
That was one part of the announcement that was really hard. You talk about
June of 2000; I bet it was a month later that it ever really occurred to me: I didn’t
have a job. Now about that time I agreed to go into the Activities Program. So I knew
I wouldn’t have a job in Athletics because it was going away, but I would have a job.
Then what was kind of cool about the Activities Program was that as we got
in and kind of formulated what that was about, nobody really directed us. Nobody.
Working for President Bednar, one of the things that was interesting was he never
once told me what I needed to do. We would talk about things, but he just let me
figure it out on my own. We knew we were going to have an expanded Activities
Program. We put a committee together to put down what principles were going to
guide and direct that program. But nobody every said, “This is what is has got to be.”
It always just evolved.
Things have happened. People have come and added and left. And it has just
become.… I guess I never questioned that there would be anything else. I just said
that is what I am going to get to do. By then I had learned to love this place and what
it stood for and recognize that it was more than just an institution of higher learning.
It was really something where people had such faith and such devotion and such
humility about what they did. It was about the students. It was about the Lord, what
His programs are, and how He wants it done. That element of consecration is so
important here. I just said, “I don’t have a lot of years left, but I think I can get a lot of
enjoyment out of doing this.” So I just stepped forward, and it just seemed quite
natural. (G. Hall, personal communication, May 29, 2007)
The changes for Hall were not over yet. Less than a year later, “President’s Council
was realigned including refocusing the Community Service area to that of Advancement”
(Changes, 2001). Hall was invited to serve as the Vice President of Advancement, an area of
administration that included communication and events. He also simultaneously oversaw
both the final phase out of intercollegiate athletics and the continued evolution of the
Activities Program. Of his experience on the President’s Council, Hall said,
I never saw it coming, never imagined it, never thought about it. Administration in
higher education is something I had never, never even entertained. So it was kind of a
shock when President Bednar came to my home and invited me…. I just said, “If that
is what you want me to do, I will be happy to do it.”
I didn’t know anything about it. I mean I had been in higher education for
most of my life. I had some sense. But you can’t understand how it works here by
observing other places, just because there is no other place like it.
It has been a remarkable experience to serve at this level because you know
you get the updates of the Board meetings with the Prophet and how he sees this and
his counsel and direction. You see things happening in different places around the
university. So you have a much more global perspective. You are not just into a
narrow focus. With that, I think, it just seems to be a more powerful witness of what
is taking place here and why. You think you have it figured, but it is always much
deeper, much richer, much bigger, much more important than you give it credit. You
get into it and you see the evidence of those experiences and you go, “Wow!” It has
been a remarkable experience. (G. Hall, personal communication, May 29, 2007)
As a researcher, I was curious to learn more about Vice President Hall’s leadership
style and how others were empowered under his direction. I sensed his methods had become
so ingrained in who he was as it took a minute of reflection for him to be able to articulate
them. I found nuggets of wisdom in his reply:
I am goal oriented or vision oriented. Once I get that, I am not afraid to make
changes. I don’t mind change…. When I see what has to be done, let’s just roll up our
sleeves and get into it. I think I use a lot of participation in that. I don’t think it is
totally mandated, but it is pretty much like, “Well, it might look and feel a little
different, but I know we are going in this direction. We are not going back, and we
are not just going to sit where we are at.”
It has been funny but almost every area I have been in has been, “We have to
change things. It has got to be better, and it has got to be ready to handle a lot more.”
Then to kind of gain the insight, a lot of my education had to do with organizational
change. Well, to change an organization you have to change people. To change
people you have to do it within a collective; you cannot just force people to go.
The Activities model was built upon [the concept of] counseling in councils
(Ballard, 1997)…. If I look back in the training I have had [in ecclesiastical
positions], frankly, that is all I have ever known. Coaching staffs work that way; you
can’t be independent because it is so team related, so interconnected with all the
different areas. I guess it is just the way I have always been brought up and what I
have been taught. (G. Hall, personal communication, May 29, 2007)
I watched Hall’s hands as he continued to explain. He held one hand high and steady
indicating guidance coming from above, while the other one became animated with a
constantly bubbling, stirring action below as he said,
This institution is mission driven. That is what we are and how we do it. It has been
pretty well outlined. You see everything just kind of fitting, particularly when you
hear something from the Board or from someone on the Board or the First
Presidency. Usually there are already some things happening at the university that
you know about. You kind of say, “Oh, that is exactly what that is going to do.” You
see to connect with that. It does not always come from the top down. It does in terms
of vision and direction, but the Lord has got his hand in it way before that.
You may see two or three people for instance in a council. One of the things I
always smile at is coming into a council situation or even one-on-one and you go,
“You know I have been thinking…” and the person or persons in council will go “that
is interesting. I have been thinking the same thing.” And then your discussion allows
you to galvanize that thought and just kind of go “ah...” It is just the Spirit working;
they didn’t come up with it by themselves.
The counseling process is not where you have to move everybody really
painfully in this work. I think the goodness of the people and their obedience is their
privilege to revelation in that way. And so the evidence of that it is already kind of
happening, and then the Prophet goes, “We should be doing something like this.” Or
“This feels good.” Or “I’ve been thinking.” You kind of go, “It is already happening.”
Hall’s position as Advancement Vice President was relatively short-lived. The
Advancement area was absorbed into the other executive alignments in 2006. A revision of
the institution’s organizational structure streamlined “all university operations and group[ed]
campus departments with similar functions and purposes together” (Revision, 2006). At that
time Jim Gee retired after a short term as Student Life Vice President, and Garth Hall was
asked to serve in yet another new position as Vice President of Student Services and
Activities. This revision falls just outside the bookend of this research (but would make an
interesting follow up study); it is mentioned to better understand Hall as he summarizes:
In the early days it was about students. It was the focus on students. That is
what Ricks College was all about, but now we make a university out of it and still
keep that focus and that nurturing environment for students. We are learning how to
organize education, deliver education, to impact more people on less resources. That
is pretty dynamic. We have entered into a world that a lot of people talk about, think
they know, and understand. The model was there as a junior college. We refined it,
but it was still about that one-on-one. It was about getting kids to grow, about giving
kids a second chance, about being more concerned about them than you, about
changing their lives.
I feel that part of my calling is to change things. When Jim Gee left here, he
sat down with me, and we talked about a few things. He said, “Garth, I want you to
remember you are taking over a well-oiled machine.” And that was true because
Student Life at that time was very well run. They were very efficient with what they
did. But I think what I brought to the plate was that I had come out of the world of a
student-led model. I could see the benefit of structuring things in a way to better focus
on the student—we are a student-focused university. My experience and what I have
great confidence in is the student leadership model. I don’t know if we discovered it
in Activities, but we enhanced a lot of it. We are still in a major reorganization and
refocus, but a lot of it is built around: How do we use students? How do we better
serve students? How do we get the right student? How do we best support students?
I think it has been that shift. It is not just employees [doing their job] but that
they will have the opportunity to work with students. And then there is the student
who is serving and the student who is being served through students that is all
watched over by an advisor or an employee who has that responsibility. So that is the
thing that has been changed. But that has been kind of the hallmark, I guess, from
Athletics to Activities to Advancement to Student Services. That has been kind of the
hallmark of it all. (G. Hall, personal communication, May 29, 2007)
I had heard the concept of a student-focused university from numerous participants.
The base of the cube, shown to me by the Secretary to the Board of Trustees, was the
students. This positioning was not merely a diagram. As the research progressed, I wondered
how well the students sensed that they were the focus or if the term had become empty
jargon that didn’t really interpret into action. Were the needs of the students served? How
was their learning experiences impacted by attending a school thrust into the midst of
transition and still learning how to become a university?
The viewpoints of seven students were gained. After a brief synopsis of the changed
demographics of the student population during the delimited time span of 2000-2006, the
stories of three of these participants have been incorporated into this report followed by more
general statements representing employee/student interactions The research explored:
Changing demographics
Listening to student participants
In the classroom: student/faculty interaction
Outside the classroom: students expanding the academic experience
Changing demographics. A look at quantitative data showed distinctive changes in
the student body as whole. First, the enrollment for the semester prior to the announcement.
Winter Semester Enrollment
FIGURE 4. Enrollment
Previously due to limited space, the school had operated for several years with an
enrollment cap of 7,600 students and had felt justified in reporting only the full-time
equivalent (FTE) numbers that were somewhat lower than actual headcount. The FTE is
calculated by taking the total number of credits delivered in a semester and dividing by 15.
This enrollment cap had been lifted slightly; so by the year 2000 enrollment at Ricks College
was 8,381 FTE. Within the time span of the announcement and the first five years as BYU–
Idaho, enrollment had grown nearly 50 percent even if we look strictly at a given semester.
However, the impact of the three-semester/three-track system was substantial. If we
assume that half of the students in the winter semester are on a fall/winter track and the other
half on a winter/summer track (which is a goal of the university not yet totally achieved), the
total number of students served by BYU–Idaho in an academic year would be closer to
18,000 students or a 115 percent increase over pre-announcement enrollments.
Not only were there more students, but three factors pointed to a more mature student
body: age of students, marital status, and the number who have returned to their academic
studies following service as full-time missionaries for the Church.
Age of Student Body
20 years old and over
Under 20 years old
FIGURE 5. Demographic shift in age of students
As a junior college, Ricks had served primarily students under the age of 20. After
completing their associate degrees, graduates would either enter into the workforce using
specialized skills or transfer into a bachelor’s degree program somewhere else. The
opportunity to stay at BYU–Idaho for completion of a bachelor’s degree had dramatic impact
on demographics of the students.
Many students returned after deferred enrollment for 18-24 months while serving as
missionaries. Before the transition, a high percentage of these students would have returned
from their missions and enrolled directly into a four-year university rather than return to
Ricks College with its limitation of only associate degree programs. The change had broad
ramifications. Not only did these students become less egocentric through their service, but
they had a broadened sense of cultures and societies and many gained foreign language
skills. About 40 percent of the BYU–Idaho student body was composed of returned
missionaries; it had been as high as 43 percent in the Winter Semester 2005.
As the student body became older, the number of married students also increased.
Looking at the year prior to the announcement of the transition for the school: “According to
the academic office, the number of students who were married at Ricks in fall 1999 was less
than 500” (Peterson, 2004) representing about 5 percent of the student body. By 2006, there
were over 3,000 married students (Official Enrollment, n.d.) comprising about 25 percent of
the student body.
Married Student Enrollment
FIGURE 6. Demographic shift in population of married students
The university had to learn how to deal with the needs of a changing demographic,
specifically that of newly married couples. “Many couples need to work more hours to pay
the bills so they take 12-13 credits instead of the usual 15-16.... Couples with children
sometimes have to carefully arrange their schedules to ensure that at least one of them will be
home to give care” (Rydalch, 2005). BYU–Idaho made numerous accommodations to better
meet the students’ new needs as explained in the fall 2004 alumni magazine:
In the past five years, the single student enrollment has grown 5 percent, while
the number of married students on campus has grown 651 percent. The university is
working to keep stride with growth and to provide for these students and their
families…. Just as married students make adjustments to a new lifestyle, so is the
university. Married students are organizing their schedules, studying, and working
year-round to provide for their families. Likewise, the campus is planning, building,
and implementing changes such as a year-round calendar and extended hours in the
library and Hart Building to help students achieve their goals. As married students
contemplate their new responsibilities such as health care, housing, and managing
finances, the university helps provide means whereby students can fulfill these needs
while balancing academics. Things like pediatric care in the Health Center, changing
tables in the rest rooms, and strollers canvassing campus are evidence of an everdeveloping and transitional environment. (Peterson, 2004)
The more mature student body impacted the classroom, but they also impacted the
work place. The Director of Physical Plant was quick to observe the differences in his staff:
One of the first things we noticed almost immediately that first semester was
the number of married students employees started to go up. The married students for
the most part were dedicated and focused and had a reason to work, and it reduced
our turnover. That got better and better with more married students who stayed on
campus. So that was really beneficial. They were mature and hard working and could
be promoted into lead student roles to supervise other students, and that was really a
good thing. (C. Frost, personal communication, May 8, 2007)
It was not just the fact that there were more married students that made a difference in
student employment. One of aspects of the increased enrollment was the general need for
more students to have jobs. Adding complexity to the work situation was the fact that most
academic majors included requirements for an internship and/or practicum experience.
Opportunities to work in the community were limited, but many students found work on
campus as administrators all over campus had discovered ways to relieve their growing
workload. Administrators found that bringing more students onto their staffs had benefits for
the students and for themselves. Don Sparhawk, an administrator in the Public Relations
Office, described the impact:
We have become more dependent on students in our office with Center Stage
[entertainment series], with performance tours, with media and all those areas where
the full-time administrators do not have the time to do all of this like we used to. We
are relying on students. We are providing them with a learning experience that
probably is some of the most valuable part of their education—what they are learning
in our office. Learning occurs everywhere, really. It occurs, of course, in the
classroom. It occurs if they have jobs on campus.
I have more opportunities to supervise. Instead of just doing it all myself, I am
helping younger people to do things. I guess it takes on more of a teaching role than
normally you would have in an office like this or what we had before as Ricks. I
spend more time working with students than ever. I firmly believe that everyone on
this campus is a teacher. We may not teach in the classroom, but we have one-on-one
opportunities to teach. They keep me young. I think if you are a good manager you
should always be learning from those who work for you.
Some organizations would just go ahead and hire more full-time people. But
we are fortunate enough to first be a university and have the students work for us, but
secondly to have the philosophy that we want students doing things. And they are
doing real, real work. It is not perfect, you know. Maybe a full-time administrator
would plan better …, but these students are learning so much and they are going out
and getting great jobs out there. I think part of it is because of the responsibilities they
have had here. (D. Sparhawk, personal communication, May 2, 2007)
Listening to student participants. As the researcher trying to progressively focus, I
searched out one of the students who had worked with Sparhawk in the Public Relations
Office during the early years of the transition. I tracked Ben Sweat down through e-mail and
found him in California where he had recently started a job in new product development for
Yahoo after completing his MBA at the University of Chicago, the number one business
school in the nation according to Business Week (MBA, 2006). In a telephone interview, I
listened to Sweat’s story.
“I knew that I wanted to go to a top-tier business school for an MBA, and I guess I
was thinking like, ‘No one is going to know BYU–Idaho. Hey, this school is not even
accredited yet’” (B. Sweat, personal communication, June 19, 2007). Ben Sweat described
his thought process. He had come to Ricks College in 2000 and completed the requirements
for an associate degree with plans similar to those of the Ricks College students for decades
who had transferred to complete a bachelor’s before pursing a graduate degree. He
I had already been accepted [to a couple of other places] and had a pretty
substantial scholarship. In fact, I was going to be a sports editor for their paper and
had a few other things that had lined up. I didn’t think it would change my plans. It
wasn’t until the actual day of graduation [with my associate degree] that I really
started thinking about staying [to pursue a bachelor’s]. Following graduation…I got
the internship with BYU–Idaho in the Public Relations Office with Don Sparhawk.
Working during that summer, I was still thinking that I was not going to stay. I had a
list of concerns. [The other school] is going to be better for me. That was kind of my
thinking. And then I didn’t know that I could finish in two years just because I did not
think the programs were going to be coming on line in time.
During that summer, I changed my perspective. It was a slow change. I had a
lot of opportunities to interact with then-President David A. Bednar. To make the
long story short, I was seeing the transition from the inside. I felt there was this great
big thing happening, and I had an opportunity to be a part of it. For whatever reason, I
felt that there was something I could contribute to this new school, this whole
transition process. I didn’t know necessarily what that was then—maybe down the
road as an alum, I could help out in some sort of way. But I felt, hey, I can go to
school and get a degree anywhere, but here I can do something that is just incredible
and gain an experience that I can’t get anywhere else.
The big concern I still had was that business school. I remember President
Bednar had these Q & A sessions, and I went to a number of them, primarily for the
PR job. I remember a specific time I went, and I asked him: “Hey, I want to go to the
top business school, and I think this is going to hurt me if I stay. What do you think?”
In that setting, he kind of said, “Hey, Ben, you of anybody are going to have
probably the best opportunity to get a lot of faculty attention. We want that first group
to be solid.” The thing hit home. I think he basically said, “Ben, I promise you that
you are not going to be hurt in any sort of way in your goal of going to a business
school.” I felt an internal confirmation that what he said was correct. I knew that I
could get into a top school, and this would actually help me. That was kind of the
final drive. I decided to stay. (ibid)
Sweat curtailed some of his normal extracurricular activities and pushed to “cram in a
lot of classes in the two years” so he could graduate. He continued to work in the Public
Relations Office as he balanced the dual roles of being a student and an employee. He said,
Public Relations was essentially being part of the internal advertising agency. I was
seeing these two different worlds. I thought there should be something like this for
the students. The school has this great style guide and all these standards, and student
government is so blah. It wasn’t looking good. There was this missed opportunity; so
I kind of started socializing the idea of some sort of student agency. (ibid)
Sweat’s idea grew and gained momentum. He obtained approval to create a
subcommittee of four students to develop a marketing strategy for student government. By
being involved, he started thinking, “Hey, this is pretty cool.” The groundwork was laid for a
student communication agency (SCA) to serve the expanded student Activities Program.
Sweat continued his story:
Then the summer happened, and there was essentially no progress. It was just
kind of hanging out there. I was expecting someone in the administration or someone
on the faculty to basically drive the direction of SCA, and I was doing a lousy
summer job selling pest control in Florida. I remember e-mailing Merv [Brown,
BYU–Idaho’s marketing specialist,] about it and saying, “Hey, what is going on?” He
said, “You know what. Frankly, nothing is going to happen until you are actually
here. You are actually going to have to do a lot of the ground work.” (ibid)
Sensing that he needed to get some summer school in anyway to graduate on time,
Ben worked with the administration and arrangements were made for him to come back to
school and thus to be able to work on the structure of the Student Communication Agency
during the summer through collaboration with an advisory board:
So during that summer it was just me for that two months and at that point, I
just said, “Here is what I think it should be. Yes or no?” And I would get advice from
[members of the advisory board]. The initial vision that was directed to me was 20
student volunteers. I wanted and thought it could be bigger. It should be bigger to
expand the involvement. I thought people wanted to do it. (ibid)
Sweat was familiar with the academic requirement in the Communications
Department for each student to have eight practicum experiences prior to graduation. By fall
the agency was ready to be launched, and a news release introduced the agency to the rest of
campus and the community. “He ‘bounced around some ideas’ to various people on campus,
and before long, he had proposed a student communication agency, a mission statement and
budget. A name was determined. Approval was granted. Office space was acquired.
Equipment was purchased” (Media Relations, 2002). The agency had an advisory board but
was essentially student run. In fall semester, a University press release describes the creation
of the Student Communication Agency as SCA became part of the school’s transition:
Brigham Young University–Idaho’s new Student Communications Agency is
holding true to the university’s motto of “Rethinking Education.” The agency, which
is designed after a professional public relations/ad agency, was introduced this fall. It
goes beyond classroom theory by allowing students to delve into tackling publicity
and advertising tactics for organizations and events….
“The same thing is happening throughout the campus,” says Garth Hall,
advancement vice president. “Students are learning in the academic setting and then
broadening their learning experience through practicums and at the same time
blessing other students with their knowledge and training.”
“There is no more powerful experience than to get the intellectual learning
and then go out to apply it,” Hall says. “It is enhancing the students’ university
experience. In almost every area, we’re giving students the chance to act for
themselves. People are stepping up and demonstrating their ability to learn and to
perform at a certain level. Students are taking a concept and making it a reality. It is
immensely satisfying to see young people act on their own and to grow from it.”
…Heading the agency as creative director is Ben Sweat, a senior from Iona,
Idaho, majoring in business management with a marketing emphasis….
“A powerful element in this is that of serving others,” Hall says. “As students
participate, they are learning to give to others, lead others and teach others. We can’t
know exactly where it will take us, but one absolute for BYU–Idaho is that it is
focused on making the student a better person, preparing a student to go out and make
a difference in the world, in their families, in their communities, in their church
service and in their careers.”
“We had been equated to building an airplane in the air,” Sweat says. “From a
business management perspective, this has been very much an entrepreneur effort.
We are shaping the identity of who we are going to become….” (ibid)
The passing of years since Sweat’s involvement in creating SCA as a student at
BYU–Idaho made it possible to see who he is becoming. He reflected back on his
Up until probably my job here at Yahoo, I had to say this has probably been
my proudest achievement. I had it on my resumé and my business school application
because I felt that it was something that would differentiate me. How many people
can say they started some agency and got budget and did all these crazy things? It was
satisfying. Through the whole experience, it wasn’t perfect. We had a lot of
frustrations with getting things done.… It was difficult, but I think overall people felt
like it was a concept that had validity. It was a good experience for students, but it is
good for the University, good for the Activities Program. I mean it was the right time
in the transition point that enabled this opportunity that we otherwise would not have
had. People were open to this idea of change. Nothing was off the table. Nothing was
too radical to think of.
I got a taste of being an entrepreneur, and now I want to do it again. I certainly
learned more in that experience than I ever did in any school work. You know, the
leadership experience, how not to lead sometimes, how to lead. I think again the
experience was so neat because it was student driven. People didn’t really have to do
what we asked them to do, but they did it.…Those kinds of things I think will
continue in the future and I hope it does. These students are getting the experiences
that I had of acting for themselves and leading and not having people dictate to them
what they should do. It is more empowered. I hope it is still that way. But it is one
piece of what I felt like I was supposed to contribute to…. I guess I felt it was one of
the reasons that I stayed at BYU–Idaho. I think that is what made it so worthy. (B.
Sweat, personal communication, June 19, 2007)
As the researcher listening to Sweat, I gained new appreciation for the empowering
aspects of the transition for student growth. Similar to how others have defined
empowerment, I do not “suggest that this is something leaders magically give or do for
others” (Kouzes & Posner, 2002, p. 288). But it is a sense of helping them reach their
potential, “setting them free, of expanding their opportunities to use themselves in service of
a common and meaningful purpose” (ibid). I sensed Sweat’s confidence; he was in control as
he expressed his “self-worth and an ability to make a difference in the world” (Watkins &
Marsick, 1993, p. 196). Yet about the same time another of my participants kept my thoughts
in balance. The Dean of the College of Business and Communications, cautioned me to keep
a perspective:
We are getting our students to rise up to that level. That is our top students. See
sometimes you have to be careful because we will pat ourselves on the back and say,
“Look how well we are doing. We have these students at PriceWaterhouseCoopers
and these at Ford” and that type of thing. But what about those in who are in the
middle or at the bottom? Are they any better now than they were before? (F.
Broadhead, personal communication, July 5, 2007).
The day I met with the Dean of the College of Business and Communication, his
statement brought to my mind words expressed to the BYU–Idaho students by the Chairman
of the Board of Trustees who said, “You are just simple kids. You are not geniuses. I know
that. But the work of the world isn't done by geniuses. It is done by ordinary people who
have learned to work in an extraordinary way.” (Hinckley, 2002). Just ordinary people,
ordinary students.
The middle of an interview was not a time for personal introspection, but it was a
time to listen. I narrowed the discussion with the Dean to a specific recent graduate familiar
to both of us, Eddy dos Santos. I had met Eddy in Brazil in 1999 while accompanying a
group of Ricks College dancers as their tour manager. At that time Fenton Broadhead was
serving in Brazil as a mission president for the Church and had helped arrange for Eddy to
travel with our Ricks College group as an interpreter and guide. During the lengthy bus rides
Eddy and the student performers became fast friends. He expressed the desire of becoming a
Ricks student too, someday.
Now sitting across the desk in the role of a researcher, I asked Broadhead about Eddy.
He said, “Eddy is not brilliant, but he is smart enough to realize what he wants to do and how
he has to do it” (F. Broadhead, personal communication, July 5, 2007).
In my mind, I paralleled the description with counsel of the Chairman of the Board of
Trustees, “You don’t have to be a genius. You don’t have to be a straight-A student. You just
have to do your very best with all the capability you have. You have to do your very best”
(Hinckley, 2002). Broadhead continued telling me about Eddy:
“The University has blessed his life, and it has helped him prepare. I was not sure
earlier on that he would make it through. But he is tough enough that he stays with it.
He knows the importance of it enough, and I think actually he is kind of amazing.
Where he has come from, from that background, and what he has had. He was student
body president for a semester, and he even has a degree. And it is kind of an
interesting story right there. (F. Broadhead, personal communication, July 5, 2007)
The words “an interesting” story stayed in my mind and led to me to seek out Eddy. I
knew that because of the track system, student body elections are held each semester giving
more students an opportunity for leadership. But was that enough time for a student to really
get a valid experience and learn anything? How could Eddy help me see the transition
through a student’s eyes? Eddy happened to be back in Rexburg for a few days after
successfully completing an academic internship in California. He accepted the invitation to
be a participant in my research and met me in my office. Another student joined us making it
a focus group of two: one Eddy, a recent graduate and student body president, and the other
Josh, a junior English major who seemed to become as intrigued by Eddy’s experience as did
I. Eddy began his story:
I started working at the Church Office in Sao Paulo when I was 16. Then at 18
I had a position with the Church with the construction that builds all the chapels all
over the place in Brazil. I always wanted to go to Ricks, but things didn’t work that
way so much. So I just let go and started going to another school in Brazil. Then I
went on my mission [a 24-month voluntary service fulfilled by many LDS young men
and women]. Almost all my mission companions were Ricks kids or alumni. They
had this ability to enthuse people with the “Spirit of Ricks” and the mentality of
Ricks. I always had the dream in mind, because of what Ricks did for the kids that I
worked with in the mission field. It was an amazing experience for them; and I said,
“I want to experience that too.” But it didn’t work that way, so I got a technical
degree in basic accounting.
I found out [that Ricks would become BYU–Idaho] while working in the
Church Office in Brazil. Someone called the Area President and let us know that had
happened that day. “Oh, darn it,” I thought. “No way.”
But I had the idea in mind. At the end of 2000, I wrote a letter to the Ricks
College Registrar…. I heard from him, and he said, “Well, there may be a chance.
Let’s see how it goes.”
Because I already had a degree, there was an iffy opportunity. I think I
probably got a call…saying, “For some reason your name came here, and we talked
in a meeting. If we give you a scholarship and a chance to come to Ricks, would you
be interested?”
And I said, “I definitely would be!”
So it happened. I made it to Ricks! It was still Ricks when I came here in
January of 2001. It was cold as heck here, but I did what I intended to do. So I am
still a Ricks guy! We became BYU–Idaho later that year. (E. dos Santos, personal
communication, July 13, 2007)
I asked Josh if he had anything to share, but by now he had become curious about
Eddy and the sentiment attached to being a Ricks College student. He said to Eddy, “To me
growing up in Pocatello, when I heard about the change to BYU–Idaho, it was just a name”
(J. Ormond, personal communication, July 13, 2007). Even though others in his family had
attended the school, Josh had not felt any personal connection. He asked “What was that like
for you? Ricks was such a big thing for you while you were in Sao Paulo. Then you came in
and it became BYU–Idaho. Was that a big change for you—the name?” (ibid) By listening
for Eddy’s response, as a researcher I gained verification for the depth and clarity of
understanding he had gained through the transition. He said,
Yes. But I think BYU–Idaho carries way more weight than Ricks College. Way more
responsibility you have. In fact when President Hinckley announced the transition, he
already said the name BYU–Idaho would be international recognition. It definitely
did. Sometimes people don’t have an idea of where BYU is and what BYU–Idaho is
and what BYU-Provo is. But they know it is a great institution. They definitely do
know. (E. dos Santos, personal communication, July 13, 2007)
Eddy became a business major with an emphasis in finance. Knowing of the time
span of several years Eddy spent on campus, I asked for his perception of what had changed.
He replied: “The spirit is the same. A lot of procedures have changed” (ibid). He listed off
aspects of the academic changes and physical facilities, and then he said,
Besides academics and building wise, I think after the transition, the attitude of the
people changed. I see it even in my teachers. I remember the teachers that I had in the
first semester. I see them now and talk to them now—the attitude—they stopped
thinking small. That is for sure. Teachers do not think small any more when you go to
a class today. Like my first semester, even though the announcement had already
taken place, we still had teachers who had the mentality of a two-year school, small
place. You go for bigger things in bigger places.
That doesn’t happen any more. We kind of seized the opportunity right now.
My last few years of class, the teachers no longer have the attitude of “this is a small
place; you can experience bigger things in bigger places.” It doesn’t happen any
more. You experience bigger things right here, right now. It is your moment, just
seize it. So attitude wise it changed completely. The same teachers by the way are
still here, but you know, they find a way to catch the vision and just move on with it.
I see it…all over the place. They really believe that it is bigger, and it is
getting better. We just move it to bigger and better things…. They believe that now.
It changed my vision, progressively. I think I already came here with the idea
that BYU–Idaho would be a big boom in Rexburg, because it was already taking
place. But I think I grew with the help of the teachers for sure. My attitude has
changed gradually. The effect was greater on the teachers because they were here for
way longer. They were used to this old style of teaching at Ricks College. But I think
the teachers’ ability to teach better and to believe in what they teach influenced me
and impacted my life. It definitely did. (ibid)
I asked Eddy to describe what the teachers were doing in the classroom that was seen
as better teaching through his eyes. He gave me an example of a specific teacher:
I was thinking about him just this morning as I was preparing for an interview
with a possible prospective employer. I was thinking about Brother Kusch. Brother
Kusch is only one of them. I can go through a lot of people who are really amazing.
Brother Kusch is an amazing business teacher, really good in strategy. He influenced
me with a desire to learn about corporate strategy because he came from an industry
background. But he also believes that the transition from Ricks College to BYU–
Idaho brought a momentum for growth and a lot of opportunities that you had to
embrace in order to become what you intend to become as a BYU–Idaho student. He
had this ability to make us believe that. So he influenced me. He really filled me with
that desire to become something better because he believed. I could see that in class.
He always believed that students could be the best strategists that you could ever have
outside. He believed that you could be the best financing guy that the world ever
knew…. He believes in you. I think the transition brought this kind of belief in what
the students can do. Just teach and let them do. Let them really work on things. He
was a very challenging teacher. He gives you challenging assignments that really
stretched you beyond your limits sometimes. Sometimes we would go crazy in class,
but he believed in you. He believed in me. (ibid)
Eddy learned to believe in himself and to embrace the opportunities. “For the Winter
Semester 2005, Brigham Young University–Idaho students elected Eddy dos Santos to be
student body president…. In the history of the school, he was the first Brazilian and third
foreign student to serve as a student body officer and by far the oldest at age 28” (Rydalch,
2004, Nov. 14). Eddy speaks of his experience in campus leadership:
I was the first South American to be ever elected. I got a letter from Mike
Simpson in behalf of the Congress, and then I got a letter from Representative Butch
Otter, who is now the governor, on behalf of the State of Idaho. It was a big thing,
especially in Brazil. I got a lot of letters from all over the place. I got a lot of calls
from Boston, New York, places where they have a concentration of international
Brazilians living. It was kind of an embarrassing situation.
Who is expecting that? It puts you too much in the spotlight. But I influenced
a lot of people. After I was student body president here, the flood of international
students who became officers or involved in the school is amazing. I am not taking
the credit for that, but I am glad that they were confident. I think before there was a
mentality that, “Well, let’s let the American students do the whole thing. It is their
school. They [have] already [been] doing that for years, so let the position go that
way.” But it changed. A lot of people said, “Thanks very much for showing that I can
find a way to get involved. I don’t need to be embarrassed for maybe not speaking the
language or for being from another country.” …People started believing more in
I got a sense of the involvement, a vision of involvement that I never got
before. My sense, my perspective of giving back is way bigger since I served as an
officer because you can see behind the scenes. I saw so many people. I think I got a
taste of how much goes into BYU–Idaho…. I gain a perspective of being involved to
spread the influence and gratitude for what this place has given for you. You can use
your influence to do a lot of good. Sometimes it is not about changing things. It is not
about changing rules. It is not about making policy, even though you can help here
and there. But it is about influencing people, catching the vision of what BYU–Idaho
is, and just spreading the vision to a lot of people.
What is the difference? I think Ricks College set a very strong foundation and
preparation for becoming BYU–Idaho—a foundation of obedience, a foundation of
faith, a foundation of preparedness, a foundation of excellence. BYU–Idaho is an
interesting community; I think mainly because the principles of caring are so
emphasized. People care about me here. Everyone—from the students, to the
teachers, to the staff, to people in the community—cares. Here and there you are
going to find someone who doesn’t, but I overlook that. I pretend that I never see it. I
try to be nice back to them, so they know that is not the way you do. But people care.
It is part of what we are at BYU–Idaho. I think it is emphasized, and people really do
it. It is automatic. (E. dos Santos, personal communication, July 13, 2007)
As the researcher, I sat back and observed as a dialogue emerged between the two
focus group participants. It became a session in peer-to-peer learning as Eddy shared his
experiences and the process of gaining an academic internship through networking. The
concept of caring in the individuals continued, but it was not idle talk. It was Eddy’s life:
People are always impressed when they know that you care about them for
whatever reason because they are not used to that. That is how the business world
works. They are not used to having people who care about them or who know about
them, or even care about their existence. So if you know about them, if you remember
their name, they will never forget you. If you do that sincerely because you want to
know more about them, they are really going to find the time to stop and talk to you.
They will see things in you that they do not see in other people. And that is amazing.
Out there a lot of people need that because people do not care very much about
others. If they know that you care, they will care about you. (ibid)
It was obvious that the expectations Eddy had dreamed of years before in Brazil for
an experience of greatness had been met. But what about the other student in the focus
group? Josh had never held great aspirations for being a student at BYU–Idaho, but now he
was in his senior year. What was the experience like for him? I listened to his reply:
My first semester here was terrible. I hated it here. I wanted to go. I was
accepted to ISU, BYU–Idaho, and Boise State. I really like Boise and have a lot of
friends there, so I was going to go to Boise after my first semester here. I hated it, but
I met my wife here and was dating her at the time. That is why I actually stayed. It
really did dawn on me that BYU–Idaho was the right place for me to be at the time.
But that is kind of how I went for a while. It was an “at-will” university. I would
evaluate my time every semester, and I would look back and see what had happened
and where I was going.
It wasn’t until recently… that I really looked back and reflected on my time
and knew that BYU–Idaho was the right place the whole time. The grounds that I was
basing my dislike for the place are really not grounded in anything solid; they are just
personal immaturity at the time. And you know BYU–Idaho has done great things for
me and my wife….
BYU–Idaho has been a great experience for me, especially now with my
teachers and at a senior level. I think there is a better fellowship between me and the
professors…. I have no regrets about staying at BYU–Idaho and doing the things that
I knew all along that I should be doing. It has been a great experience because of the
progression—the progression coming from just not liking it at all to being able to see
how it has been a great blessing in my life, to see the quality of education I have
gotten, the amazing people I have met (including my wife), and the great
opportunities and enthusiasm that the faculty provides the students…. All my teachers
and even the students I have talked to are always very encouraging…. That I can do
it. I will go. “Go find.” That is what makes it a great experience: the people, the
quality, and just the optimism that is BYU–Idaho. That is what the “Spirit of Ricks”
is to me: the optimism of a future. (J. Ormond, personal communication, July 13,
As the researcher, I sensed that for Josh being at an institution caught in the vision of
becoming something better had helped him gain that same optimism for his own future. I
listened to other student participants in focus groups share their stories of the transition years;
they also gave examples of meaningful learning experiences in and out of the classroom.
Much like Josh, several had initially felt less than enthusiastic about attending BYU–Idaho.
A student from California confessed, “I thought Idaho was just a weird state. I didn’t know
much about it. People made lots of jokes about ‘go pick potatoes when you go to Idaho.’”
Others from the East or big cities found “the whole culture is different.”
The students said as they become more involved at BYU–Idaho, their perspectives
changed. It became their “safe place.” “Heaven.” Being involved changed their self-image. “I
have become more confident because I have had responsibilities given to me…. When
responsibilities come, even bigger ones, it is more exciting to me where before it was a fear.”
They discovered an enhanced “education experience, not just learning book smarts, but
learning people smarts.”
If being involved is such a powerful factor in student success, then creating more
opportunities for students to do so would seem a natural step in the transitions in higher
education. This should not undermine the academic processes of the past. “Transition does
not require that you reject or deny the importance of your old life, just that you let go of it”
(Bridges, 2001, p. 16). President Kim B. Clark (2005) states the following:
The challenge before us is to create even more powerful and effective learning
experiences in which students learn by faith. This requires, but is more than, teaching
by the Spirit. To learn by faith, students need opportunities to take action. Some of
those opportunities will come in a stronger, even more effective Activities Program
where students lead and teach one another and participate broadly. Some of them will
come in the classroom, where prepared students, exercising faith, step out beyond the
light they already possess, to speak, to contribute, and to teach one another.
In the classroom: student/faculty interaction. Broadhead, the Dean of the College of
Business and Communication, beckons to students, “If you want to be involved, if you want
to grow and have opportunity, then this is the place to come. And you will be better, and you
will rise to a new level.” I watched the Dean’s hands one held low, circling and in motion—
the other high and steady as he continued, “We have got to help students who now are here
and in the middle, all of them rise to a new level and step to a higher step” (F. Broadhead,
personal communication, July 5, 2007).
I had seen that same hand motion several times. The concept of having a vision or
goal and then the momentum from below that incrementally rises to higher expectations. A
closer look at incidences revealed changed perspectives and methods in the classroom
experiences. Eddy and Josh both shared feelings of the powerful influence of teachers who
care enough to push them to raise the bar of their own expectations and to have faith and
believe in themselves. But how do members of the faculty articulate the action through their
As explained previously, members of the faculty at BYU–Idaho are not tenured, nor
are they required to do research. Their focus instead is on teaching and learning. This, in
many ways, makes change more feasible. Otherwise the situation would be similar to what
was explained in a recent article in The Chronicle for Higher Education:
While college leaders talk about the importance of better teaching at their institutions,
the academic departments controlling tenure decisions fear that an emphasis on
teaching will lead them to fall behind peers at other institutions in the race for
prestige, in which the winners are determined by their research productivity.
(Brainard, 2007)
I listened to what BYU–Idaho faculty had to say about their own changes and the
changes at BYU–Idaho. Their ability to focus on the students was evident. The Dean of the
College of Business and Communication stated,
Whose responsibility is it for change? The student or the teacher? Well, it is both. It is
very much both, and we are not there yet. We are not even close to being there yet to
where we will be when we develop this into a learning institution that will be, I
envision, as good as any thing there is upon the earth. But we are not close.” (F.
Broadhead, personal communication, July 5, 2007)
Using a metaphor of building construction, he continued “Foundation wise, I think we
are close, but there is a lot do upstairs” (ibid).
Developing the institution also means developing the individuals who work there. A
faculty member in the Department of Home and Family hired at the onset of the transition
explained her efforts to make changes in her own personal development as she states,
I am able to let go of the perfectionism in me and the needing to be in control and to
instead try to understand what is it that needs to be done. What would the Lord have
me do here? And on the one hand, you want to do very well. You want to be highly
competent in everything and to really do well, but it is not about me. I still maintain
trying to have that expertise and that quest and that trying to learn. That is a really
strong desire and passion that developed in my early years…, that love of learning.
But it is giving up some of, I guess perhaps you would classify it as pride, giving up
some of that “I have got to do, I have got to be the best, I have got to really do well to
justify being here,” and being a little bit more accepting of myself and letting the
students become. Moving from that very strong teacher-centered, to more focusing in
on the student and the developing of the students and that process. (Cook, personal
communication, May 31, 2007)
As the researcher striving to capture an accurate moment in time, I also listened as
student participants’ responses to the open-ended questions. Though the sentiments of some
of the faculty are great and noble aspirations personally, the students are finding varying
levels of faculty adaptation. The students’ responses indicate sensitivity to the attitude of the
instructors that is not always positive. One commented as follows:
There are a few that I have had for a course that I didn’t agree with, their teaching
style or something. I thought they might have been more interested in dealing with
content. Maybe even less than that, maybe just concerned with doing their job—kind
of like getting the course done. (Focus group, private conversation, June 21, 2007)
No. BYU–Idaho was “not there yet.” But if there was a problem, there was also an
opportunity to improve. As a researcher, I learned along with the participants as I first
listened and then later tried to better define some of the principles that arose. Cook, a
member of the faculty, shared the following:
I see the opportunity to be able to have an impact on students’ lives. It is not so much
a learning of the content to go out, but a becoming of somebody who can make an
influence throughout the world, the disciple leader. It took me a long time to
understand what a leader with a small “l” is. I heard people quote that quite a bit, and
I am going, that has never really been defined for me. What are you referring to on
this? (Cook, personal communication, May 31, 2007)
Even as the participant continued talking, my researcher mind did a quick connection
to the definition that “leadership is a relationship between those who aspire to lead and those
who choose to follow” (Kouzes & Posner, 2002, p. 20). Then later I followed up on the
participant’s lead to review President Clark’s explanation of the concept of leadership with a
small “l” given in his inaugural speech. He said,
When I use that word leader, I have in mind leadership with a small “l” [italics
added]. This is the kind of leadership we need in every part of every kind of
organization in our society. We want our students to provide the kind of leadership
that serves, and inspires—first and foremost in their families and in the Church, in
their communities, and in their work. (Clark, 2005)
To President Clark, leadership with the small “l” is an essential part of the mission of
BYU–Idaho. Later he expounded on the concept for the alumni magazine:
Our mission is to do two things. One is to prepare young people to be disciples of the
Savior. The other is to develop them as leaders—first and foremost in their families
so they will be great moms and dads, great husbands and wives. We want them to be
leaders in the Church—faithful, active and committed, but also capable of taking on
the responsibilities the Lord gives them. We also want them to be leaders in their
communities, the world they live in, and in their work—wherever they are.
The kind of leadership we have in mind is leadership with a small “l.” It’s
leadership that serves and inspires in every kind of organization at every level…. It’s
the kind of leadership someone running a company wants in their team leaders and
department heads…. It’s the combination of skill, ability, and training not only in the
classroom but in practical experiences where they really develop their skills in
leading and directing. And it happens in an environment where they become disciples
of the Savior. Many of our young people will go on to become a significant influence
because of what they learn here. (A conversation, 2006)
Statements such as those made by President Clark give the faculty a sense of their
product, the student. He defines them first as disciples. The concept and how that vision
affects the relationship between the faculty and the student was expressed by T. L. McRae,
Chair of the Department of Interior Design, who described counsel his faculty gives students:
They hear from us all the time, “You are not just here learning some facts.
You are here to learn how to be a disciple. There is much more expected from you
than facts. When you go out in the industry, we still expect of you. We still expect
you to give back to the university, not necessarily financially—although that would
be nice—but we expect you to tell us what we need to be doing. We expect you to be
representative of the Church, of the University, of the interior design industry, to raise
the level of the interior design industry.” They hear us telling them that all the time,
and I think when they leave they are just power packed to go out and do that. (T.
McRae, personal communication, June 1, 2007)
Helping prepare students to be successful employees was important. Realizing
students need to have a marketable skill set, faculty kept an ear to the needs of industry. The
Faculty Association President said he had been visiting with several faculty to get their
perspectives about what employers look for in their candidates for a new position. A specific
conversation with Rudy Puzey, Chair of the Construction Management Department, stood
out. The students in this department have been highly successful when competing on a
national level and are sought after as interns. The Faculty Association President related:
I had a conversation with Rudy Puzey in construction management. He met
with employers, these big companies, and asked them what they were looking for in
the students. He was trying to find a skill set that he wanted to teach his students; he
was looking for this skill. Employers would not take the bait. They said, “No, we will
teach them the skills. I want somebody who is a good at communicating. I want
someone who is good at getting along with people. I want somebody who is good at
problem solving.”
You know it is those general skills that they really look for. Yes, they need
some knowledge of business or biology, but not near as much as we like to believe.
(D. Lyons, personal communication, June 8, 2007)
The faculty at BYU–Idaho were discovering for themselves the same things that were
being observed by others. In January of 2007 the Association of American Colleges and
Universities sent out a warning:
College graduates are increasingly less prepared to compete in the global economy.
The solution, the group said in a report, is for colleges to adopt a broader curriculum,
with less focus on specific technical training and more on skills like critical thinking
and problem solving…. In the survey, “How Should Colleges Prepare Students to
Succeed in Today’s Global Economy?” 305 executive companies that employ at least
25 people were asked what they looked for in a job candidate. The top three choices
were “teamwork skills,” “critical thinking and analytic reasoning skills,” and
“oral/written communication.” (Vance, 2007)
For faculty who catch that vision, their role becomes that of “helping the students
realize who they really are. It is not about the content of the classroom; it is developing
something broader for the students. Helping them become somebody rather than just
knowing something” (K. Cook, personal communication, May 31, 2007). The Dean of the
College of Business and Communication puts it this way:
BYU–Idaho becomes a facilitator in helping them step out. I think the idea of
leadership with a small “l” is very important in all of this…. Basically it is made up of
two parts: the inner person and the tools that they would use. When you talk about
leadership with the small “l,” you talk about leadership in the community, leadership
in your work, leadership within your family. On any of those, if you have a solid
person and some basic tools and skills, then they can make a good leader at any of
those levels. That is how we are trying to do it. That is what I mean by leadership
with the small “l.” The other thing that people do not realize, is that everybody thinks
they have to be the chief, when leadership can be demonstrated by a person just by
how he works, how he treats others around him, what type of a team player he is.
That is all part of leadership. (F. Broadhead, personal communication, July 5, 2007)
The concept of leadership with the small “l” was vital to the transition for the
University. It was essential for individuals—students and employees alike—to demonstrate
their willingness to lead out through their work and studies without relying on the “chief” for
every direction. In becoming, both the individual and the university had to extend beyond the
baseline to become dynamic—vibrant and ready to continue the processes of learning and
growing rather than just knowing how to pass the test (whether it be associated with a
specific course or accreditation) and then becoming stagnant and motionless.
Even though there have been significant strides, the Dean of the College of Business
and Communication is not content with status quo for his college. “There are a lot of
opportunities for us that we do not even perceive out there,” Broadhead said. He continued:
Students do have to be willing to change. We are a long ways from where we
need to be with students, but we are also a ways from where we need to be with
faculty. Students are responding. We have been using participatory-based learning in
the College of Business and Communication longer than others who are starting to
move into it, just because of the nature. We have got to move forward, we decided to
move ahead and try some things. We had some perception…. I think we are making
some progress.
Can students come prepared to class? Can a teacher set it up so they can see
the preparation? Can students come and participate and share their learning? Those
are the major three ways they will have to change. The days of coming to a class in
the College of Business and Communication where you just come in and sit there and
take notes and record and go take a test, I hope are totally gone. There is a fine
balance there. I say those three things: preparation, participation, and sharing and
teaching one another—a team concept where we are in this to make the product
better and I need to be better. That is what students will have to do. (ibid)
As faculty continually adjust their methods of delivery and raise the bar of
expectations, they express high aspirations for their students. The students are rising to the
occasion. One of the department chairs said,
I give credit to not just the faculty but to the students. They are amazing. When you
expect a lot of students—meet a certain standard or else you are out—it is amazing
how they will reach and move to that standard and compete for that standard. But you
know, the students we have are just choice…. They are here for a reason. You know
that you are helping prepare them for a reason. You just know that. (T. McRae,
personal communication, June 1, 2007)
Outside the classroom. When Steve Wheelwright came from Harvard to assist the
Executive Office as a service volunteer, he looked into the “corners” to gain insight into the
organization. I, as a novice researcher with a lengthy association to BYU–Idaho, was curious
to learn how an accomplished researcher with a new association to BYU–Idaho viewed the
University. One of the things he discovered was an abundance of students leading students.
Students were learning things—because of the position they were in—things they would not
have learned in the class. He explained as follows:
It is almost like you have two universities where teaching and learning are going on.
One is the regular classroom, the regular faculty and the other is—and I would
include the Activities group in this too—it is the other stuff that is not academic
classes. Some of it is related; obviously the learning centers are related to the
academics they are learning. But I think most of the academic side probably
underestimates what it contributes and what it can contribute. And yet it is one of the
real pockets of strength I would argue in the school. (S. Wheelwright, personal
communication, May 9, 2007)
As the researcher, I followed Wheelwright’s lead and looked into the other nonacademic university and why it would be considered a strength. Students are leading in
academic societies, cultural associations, the learning centers, Activities Program, and so on.
By progressively focusing, I zoomed in on the Activities Program in stages: first, an
explanation of the Activities Program development and guiding principles; second, a
perspective from the administrator who oversees the program, Clark Gilbert; third,
viewpoints from the secretary who had given administrative assistance for a number of years;
and concluding with the students who had been the participants in the Activities Program.
When the Chairman of the Board of Trustees announced the transition, he said there
would be an expanded activities program. This is “one of the most important changes that has
taken place with the transition” (BYU–Idaho, 2004). As previously explained, the Director of
the Athletic Department, Garth Hall, was invited to oversee the evolution of the new
programs. He met with a committee and began developing guiding principles which were:
A wide range of activities will meet the diverse interests and abilities of students.
Students choose their own level of participation.
Students are the participants rather than the spectators.
Participants have an opportunity to act rather than be acted upon.
Participants will develop personal and spiritual qualities that prepare them for life. (ibid)
The programs would “foster the personal, interpersonal, and leadership development”
(ibid). Hall said, “I started to see what a blessing it would be for more kids, and it wasn’t just
about participating. It was about developing them and having them be able to act and be able
to take programs of responsibilities themselves. I got pretty excited about that” (Hall,
personal communication, May 29, 2007).
The Activities Program still included competitive athletics but at a different level.
Rather than being intercollegiate, it became intracollegiate. This concept became a curious
attention getter. A reporter for The Chronicle for Higher Education came to Rexburg, visited
with students, and attended a game. She reported:
It looks like a real college football game. Fans, sipping hot chocolate, cheer on
the players, who make hard tackles under the glare of stadium lights. The university's
mascot, a white-bearded Viking, energizes the crowd while the band plays and the
spirit squad throws mini-footballs into the stands.
But a look across the field reveals a strange emptiness. No fans from another
university sit in the bleachers. Students from the same university, it turns out, are
actually playing each other.
When Brigham Young University–Idaho expanded from a two-year college to
a four-year university two years ago, officials gave up a successful junior-college
athletics program in favor of one where its own teams compete against each other.
The Knights and the Wildcats, two teams in the university's six-team football league,
are facing off in this Saturday-night game.
The program officials envisioned would give more students more
opportunities to play sports, and by all accounts, it has done so. According to
officials, what was then known as Ricks College had 268 varsity athletes in 2001-2.
Now the institution has 1,500 students, a little more than 10 percent of the student
body, participating. At a time when varsity sports have become increasingly
expensive and typically give only a few students the chance to learn teamwork, selfdiscipline, and competitiveness, Brigham Young's Idaho campus has created,
supporters say, a cheaper, more inclusive alternative. The university, unlike many
other institutions, has turned its back on the “arms race” that some critics say college
sports has become and freed itself from the competitive pressures facing most college
teams. (Jacobsen, 2005)
Impressive, but competitive athletics with some 94 teams was only one segment of
the Activities Program. The program was organized into four areas: Arts, Enrichment,
Physical, and Social (see Figure 7). “Each area has a wide range of activities in which
students participate as organizers, performers, or spectators” (BYU–Idaho, 2004).
Academic Challenge
FIGURE 7. Components of the Activities Program (BYU–Idaho, 2004, p.143).
“The reach of these activities has been exceptional, with nearly every student being
touched by some portion of the Activities Program” (BYU–Idaho, 2004, p. 142). BYU–
Idaho’s 2004 Self-Report stated that student leaders/advisor volunteers gave 50,000 hours
annually supporting the Activities Program. Commissioner Henry B. Eyring, called it
“leadership training of the broadest and most exciting kind” (Activities, 2002).
The Activities Program is student-led. Coincidentally, a student involved in the
Enrichment/Leadership area led me to Clark Gilbert as I sought to better understand how
concepts of organizational learning and accountability in higher education are exemplified in
the Activities Program. Gilbert is the Managing Director of the Activities Program and peerto-peer learning. As explained before, Gilbert came to BYU–Idaho in the fall of 2006 from
Harvard. I wondered what he saw in BYU–Idaho and the students. When I entered his
office—or more accurately his unpretentious cubicle located in the midst of a busy
interactive office setting—I became curious about a sketch on the whiteboard on his wall. It
showed an x-y axis with an intercepting line headed up into infinity; a slope intercept
formula was written above and to the side. The diagram caused me to do a paradigm shift; I
came expecting motivational phrases on leadership, organizational structures, or notes on any
of the numerous events within Activities. But the mathematical dominance was
unanticipated. I had “an inquiring mind” (Yin, 2003b, p. 59) and asked for an explanation.
Gilbert kindly handled my query as he explained the following:
What matters more, the slope or the intercept? If you take a snapshot or a point in
time, the intercept matters more. But if your set is ∞ (infinity), then actually the
intercept in all statistics wipes away as none significant. You don’t even report it in
some places, because it doesn’t matter if you have an infinite rise. All that actually
matters is your slope. Or are you improving? And so we should not become
comfortable. Our sense of progress should be around if we are improving. Are we
changing? Are we fixing things? Are we learning? Not how much have we done.
I think that is one of the problems with any kind of changes. We can look at
progress and think we are done or that we are good already. You know, I am a great
teacher as opposed to saying, “How can I be better?” “How can I teach more students,
how can I reach out?” And so the slope matters. People focus way too much on the
intercept, and people judge each other: “Well, he’s a great teacher.” I think God only
looks at the slope.
That quest for the upward slope is life in Activities. Even the areas reported in the
2004 Self Study are changing. Much of what Gilbert shared with me lies outside of the
delimitations of this study, but suffice it to say that the nature of innovation and change has
become part of the Activities Program and thus part of the University. The statements
included represent principles rather than specific programs. He said, “I don’t think anything
is stable—nothing is static. Everything is changing.” His sentiment echoed experts on
organizational learning who have said: “The creation of a continuous deliberate process for
change and innovations is a critical component of a learning organization” (Watkins &
Marsick, 1993, p. 185). Gilbert then referred to a statement made by the Commissioner of the
Church Educational System in 2001 as follows:
Change will not end. The phrase “rethinking education” is not to be only a
slogan for the transformation from a two- to four-year status, the school is to be a
place of educational innovation—permanently... I can with confidence make you a
promise. When you return in some distant future, you will find great innovation has
become commonplace, and yet, amidst all the changes, the school will have retained
and enriched the basic characteristics that blessed your life. (Eyring, 2001)
The pieces of the transition were fitting together in my mind as I listened to Gilbert.
Wheelwright (personal communication, May 9, 2007) had pointed out that leaders often state
what they hope “will be, not just what it is. This is very common for somebody in a
leadership position…. If we set the expectation, people will meet the expectation.” I was
beginning to see that the leader might be a commissioner of education, a university president,
an administrative advisor for Activities, or perhaps even the students leading students and
teaching each other as peers on an upward slope of dual self-improvement. To help the
students be prepared to teach their peers, they are given some guidance. Vickie Lovell, the
full-time administrative assistant for the Activities Program, shared the following
Clark [Gilbert] introduced the advisor role model of prepare, observe, and
reflect and taught how we do things in Activities so they can empower students more
whether it is Admissions or Registrar’s or Honor Code or all of the aspects of student
services. That was 32 people who were taught a little bit more …. Now they are going
to go out in their areas and teach their councils. (V. Lovell, personal communication,
June 15, 2007)
In the role of the researcher, I asked Gilbert how he felt students were adapting to
being in an environment where everything continues to change. He replied,
Better than the school. They are ahead of us in many ways. For example, in peer
instruction, we are just trying to figure it out. The students are ready. If we had
everything for them, they could take it all. I work with a biased set because every
student here is like our best. I know I am biased, and so I hear sometimes “students
aren’t mature enough to do this” or “they don’t have the expertise” or “they are not
reliable enough.” My experience is they are better than we are, and they are ready to
take on leadership. When they do, the learning goes through the roof. The temptation
is always to say, “I have got to explain it.”
I was with one of my lead students last fall, and it was a lesson on teach by
asking questions. I had been trained in one of the best institutions in the world on that
very skill. I thought, “Man this is going to be hard to let him explain it to other
people.” That is how I felt all the way leading up into the lesson, until the lesson
started. And he walked through First Nephi when the Angel Moroni teaches Nephi
about the Tree of Life – Lehi’s vision by asking questions. Then he goes to the Savior
and how the Savior taught the apostles by asking questions. Then he went through an
Ensign article entitled “Questioning Questions in Gospel Teaching” (Monson, 1979)
which I never even knew existed. He had found it because he was researching for the
lesson. It gave six types of questions you could ask and what the benefits are to
different learning outcomes. And then he had us all take the next lesson and write
discussion questions about each of those six questions. And I thought, “Boy what if I
thought I was the only one who knew about this. Not only would he not have learned
as much, but I wouldn’t have.” I find the students are absolutely ready for this. Sure
there are unprepared students, but I think we need to trust them and raise the bar. (C.
Gilbert, personal communication, May 10, 2007)
From a researcher standpoint, Gilbert and his small full-time staff seemed obviously
enamored by the students and the opportunity to facilitate the ongoing changes. “Leaders are
open to receiving ideas from anyone and anywhere; they’re porous people” (Kouzes &
Posner, 2002, p. 195). Gilbert’s administrative assistant, Vickie Lovell, said,
Every time some little change comes along, it is just like, “Ok, let’s just push
forward. Hang on and here we go.” Even changing from watching how it was when
[in the beginning] to get the student face, to allow the students to lead, all of these
things that have helped to get Activities ready for the next change with peer-to-peer
learning, and the student spirit events area. I think we are closer to connecting with
academics than we ever had. All of these little baby steps have just gotten us closer to
the transition. It will still be changing. Look where we are in seven years. I can only
imagine where we are going to be in another seven years. Because the things we are
working on right now will probably be in place and there will be whole new things. It
will be exciting….
I think how few students were involved at a junior college level in just the
Activities Program. They went to class, did things, and they were involved in sports.
[Look at] just that small group who were involved in sports compared to now the
thousands who are involved in those leadership roles of coaching and just
coordinating. It is phenomenal: the [level of] involvement and the students are better
prepared. You just see how much better leadership they have. (V. Lovell, personal
communication, June 15, 2007)
As a researcher, I wanted to check how well the students were developing in
leadership—leadership with the small “l”. Would I see the same qualities of leadership in the
students as those who interact closely with them on a day-to-day basis? A visit was set up
with Katherine Mitchell, a former student body officer. She shared her perspectives:
It has changed since then, but when I was a student body officer, we were
over the Activities Program. We would counsel with other student leaders on campus
and talk to them about how they could improve their committees, improve their
organizations. I also sat on the Advancement Council with [Vice President] Garth
Hall and helped with…events. It was so good. The [student body] president at the
time was so amazing. It may be why it was such a good experience, but I remember
[him] telling me that he had seen me grow a lot. He was surprised at how much I had
grown in those three or four months. And looking back at how I was when I first met
him when we started out the first few weeks and then at the end, I had seen a lot of
growth. That wasn’t something I planned, but just the way the program is set up. It
just naturally occurs. (K. Mitchell, personal communication, June 15, 2007).
Involvement in the Activities Program seemed to be such a learning opportunity for
the students. I asked Katherine how it compared for her with what she was learning in the
classroom. She responded:
I think it surpasses it. I think in the classroom I personally have not had as many
opportunities, as many responsibilities in the class. There is the equal responsibility
that everybody has to do homework, but not too much [personal] responsibility. If I
fail, I get a grade, but I don’t own it as much. Maybe that is just a personal thing.
I next asked her what made her feel more accountable or responsible when she was
involved in the Activities Program rather than in a classroom setting. Her reply sounded like
the Activities guiding principles, and yet I sensed they had become applications through lived
experiences for Katherine as she said,
The opportunity to act rather than be acted upon. How we have the opportunity to
participate rather than be a spectator. It is those principles that are not just talked
about, but they really happen. I guess things that I see happen, people who might not
feel comfortable growing in a competitive place. I think some of the negativity of
competition is taken out here where it really is ok to fail. If you fail you do not lose.
But if you fail, you grow. It is a loving place where you can fail and it is ok. It is
almost encouraged but not really. (ibid)
The idea of encouraging failure might be a bit disturbing for some in higher
education. It might seem more accurate if you consider first that the fear of failure can curtail
action. The need for constant success can cause some to avoid any situation that risks failure.
“It is ok to fail, as long as you learn from it” (T. Williams, personal communication, May 10,
2006). Katherine describes a situation where from her viewpoint she could have failed, but
by taking the opportunity to act, she pushed aside her self-concern to make a difference in the
life of one of her peers:
For instance there is this kid, who actually I met right out here [in the student
center commons area]. He was sitting by himself, and we had just had a meeting
about inviting people to participate. I went up to him. I invited him to come be part of
the Activities…. When I started to talk to him, I went, “I don’t know what to say to
him. I don’t even know him. This is tough.” But we had talked about opening your
mouth like the scriptures say and it will be filled. And I went up to him and went,
“Hey. Aaa”
And he went, “Hi.”
I said, “How is your apple?”
It was just kind of awkward. But anyway he came in, and he was one of the
best members. He was in the Student Alumni Association. He came to every meeting,
every activity. He invited his friends to it…. [Later] he was kind and thanked me—
but really this Activities Program—for the changes that brought about in his life. He
was able to become more open, more sociable. He met more people, grew, and had
opportunities. (K. Mitchell, personal communication, June 15, 2007)
As the researcher, I was impressed that Katherine could see herself as someone who
was overcoming her fears. First she had raised her own self expectation and perhaps esteem
with encouragement through interaction with her peers; she then in time reached out to lift
another student. It seemed to be similar to the faculty becoming invisible as the students
become better, only here it was a peer leader becoming invisible and finding satisfaction in
helping someone else gain leadership skills. There was a momentum, a movement on an
upward slope. In addition I found that it was not just students who were gaining leadership
skill through involvement in the Activities Program. It seemed everyone was a teacher and a
learner at BYU–Idaho. In addition to her duties as an administrative assistant and being able
to observe students interacting in their councils, Lovell was asked to chair the Employee
Advisory Council. She described her experience as follows:
It was so scary when President Bednar asked me to serve in that capacity. I
remember sitting in his office and I just cried. I said, “Oh, you don’t want me to do
And he said, “We feel strongly that you can serve in this capacity.”
It was very frightening for me to do that. I am much more a behind-the-scene
person, but I had a great council to work with, and it was amazing to be given
assignments from the President’s Council to meet as a council and review…. We
were asked to give insights,… to get feedback from employees, and then also share
that back which helped change some of the policy…. The things I learned in
Activities helped me be effective on that council. (V. Lovell, personal
communication, June 15, 2007)
My one-on-one interview was not the only place I heard similar statements. Others in
the student focus group could see they had learned to “think outside the box a little bit,” “to
innovate and change things,” “to not be satisfied with the way things are, just to have that
perspective that things can change, and things will change.” One of the students declared,
“This school has taught me…how to become a better leader. I think that will help us out
when we go out to work because there are a lot of jobs that are looking for leaders—people
who have learned and developed those skills.” Another student had come to realize an
ongoing responsibility: “This school wants us to go out there and be like ‘I am from BYU–
Idaho. You know they are changing things there, and this is what I am from this school.’”
Being a student in higher education during a time of transition had seemed to multiply
the opportunities for students rather than diminish the experience. Katherine Mitchell stated,
The transition period. I think it has been wonderful, because somewhere along the
way I have been blessed by a perspective that this is all for the better.… I don’t know
who taught me that, I can’t pinpoint it. But I know a lot of people have influenced me
in seeing that the transition process at this school has been for the big good. It hasn’t
been going downhill, but definitely uphill. (K. Mitchell, personal communication,
June 21, 2007)
Chapter V Summary
In Chapter V, the researcher listened to the participants’ stories and wove them
together to present a tapestry of the transition and changes as Ricks College became BYU–
Idaho. It began with the voice of the participants describing mixed response as the
announcement was received.
Participants openly shared their experience in response to the open-ended questions
of the research. Interrelated aspects of the transition were visually presented as a cube with
sides representing (1) faculty, (2) budget, (3) space, (4) degree programs, (5) support
services, and (6) students. This visual aid guided the development of the story as participants
helped explore each of these six aspects and their learning experiences in greater depth.
In Chapter V the researcher listened and described what was observed. Realizing that
in so doing she was “creating something that has never existed before. At best it can be
similar, never exactly the same as what [I] observed” (Wolcott, 1994, p. 151). To preserve
the story, researcher comments were intermingled only lightly leading up to the researcher’s
evaluation presented in Chapter VI.