BYU's mission: excellence

BYU is looking to the future with sights set firmly on continued excellence.

University Pres. Rex E. Lee recently said: "The first sentence of our mission statement proclaims that our mission is "to assist individuals in their quest for perfection and eternal life." The second sentence further clarifies that "that assistance should provide a period of intensive learning in a stimulating setting where a commitment to excellence is expected and the full realization of human potential is pursued." I am convinced that our ability to accomplish these objectives and more generally to contribute to the building of the kingdom in ways that we are uniquely qualified to offer is directly proportionate to our establishing ourselves as an excellent university, measured by the same rigorous standards applicable to all good universities."That search for excellence is ongoing, Pres. Lee said in a Church News interview on Nov. 28.

"BYU has had an exciting history," he noted. "Take any single decade in BYU's history and it will be very different from any other. Each has its challenges and achievements.

"But I think the most exciting decade in BYU history is the 1990s. That is because of the quality of our faculty and students, and the programs we are engaging in such as our long-term planning initiative in which we-- with the Board of Trustees-- determine the kind of university we want to be in the coming decades, our capital campaign and graduation initiative."

Pres. Lee spoke about the excellence of BYU's students, faculty, academic programs, other programs and physical facilities.

The quality of BYU students is the best it's ever been, according to Pres. Lee, and "indeed that is a blessing and a challenge. It's a blessing because the students are so well prepared and easier to teach.

"It's a challenge because of the enrollment cap, which I support, but which makes it painful not to admit everyone who is qualified to come to BYU."

The enrollment cap is 27,000 students; currently about 25,000 undergraduates and 2,000 graduate students. There are also more than 3,000 part-time and evening students.

"In one respect, we don't reject as many applicants as some people think," Pres. Lee said. "Eighty-four percent of those who apply are admitted and the graduation initiative (a program to accelerate the pace of students toward graduation) will make it possible to accomodate even more."

He said he is concerned that there is too much "self-selection" among those who would like to attend BYU. They don't even apply because they assume the rejection reate is higher than it really is.

As for the faculty of approximately 1,358 full-time members, it is the strongest it has been in his 40-year association with BYU, Pres. Lee said, and he expects it to continue to get better.

"Part of the reason for that," he explained," is the ever-increasing quality of the preparation that our entering students bring. Many of those students go on to obtain advanced degrees, usually at other institutions, then return here as members of our faculty. In short, as the Church grows larger, the pool of potential faculty members who are interested in BYu and understand its mission-- many of them our own undergraduates --will continue to increase in number and quality."

Outstanding students and faculty lead to excellent academic programs with bachelor's degrees offered in 130 areas, master's degrees in 115 and doctorates in 56.

"Among private universities in this country, we rank number four in the number of our undergraduates who go on to get doctor of philosophy degrees," Pres. Lee said.

Facilitating academic excellence are quality physical facilities --128 academic buildings on the 638-acre campus.

"The buildings are not only attractive physically," Pres. Lee noted, "but are also well maintained and suited for their purpose."

Complementing academics at BYU are an assortment of other outstanding programs. They include such things as drama, dance, music, many forms of art, and athletics.

"Many of them are an essential part of our academic program," Pres. Lee said, noting particularly the new BYU Museum of Art-- the finest facility of its kind in the Intermountain West. "Having those attractive kinds of events makes the university a more interesting place to work, live and study," he said. "I'm convinced that there are many students and faculty members whose decision to come here was influenced at least in part by the fact we have high quality cultural events and attractions and winning athletic teams. Also, they create pride that helps link our alumni on a continuing basis with the university."

Ultimately, Pres. Lee emphasized, BYU is striving to fulfill its mission to provide its students with excellence in more than academics.

He said: "We seek excellence in the development of the spirit, in progress in the quest for eternal life for our students, in the inseparable development of minds side-by-side with spirits. We believe what the Doctrine and Covenants says about learning through study and through faith." (See D&C 88:118.)

Additional Information

BYU photographer is among the best

When BYU photographer Mark Philbrick was named 1994 Photographer of the Year by the University Photographers Association of America (UPAA), he became the only three-time winner of the award. He has also won several awards for individual photographs.

The photos on these pages are representative of the work of the award-winning photographer.

Brother Philbrick, Young Men president in the Suncrest 5th Ward, Orem Utah Suncrest Stake, has been capturing campus excellence on film as BYU's photogrpaher since 1976. He earned his bachelor's and master's degrees from BYU and has served as the UPAA president for the past four years.

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