Just when officials thought Campus Education Week attendance at BYU may have peaked, it jumped to a new high this year.
In 1993, the attendance of 34,936 was a slight decrease from the year before. But Education Week director Mack Palmer said the preliminary count for 1994 was already more than 35,700 and could easily top 36,000 in the final count. The theme for the event, held Aug. 16-19, was, "Education: Refined by Reason and Revelation."Despite the record numbers in attendance, Brother Palmer was pleased with how smoothly Education Week went.
"Even with the increase over last year, people are acquainted with how to move around campus," he pointed out. "About two-thirds or more of the students have been here before and others follow the signs, so there seems to be little congestion - until you look into the full classrooms."
After rain-dampened activities the evening of Thursday, Aug. 18, Friday was a pleasant summer day and everything seemed to be under control. Between classes, masses of students ages 14 and up flowed in sidewalk rivers of humanity from building to building. But during classes the campus was calm and peaceful, with only a relatively few people relaxing on the lawns, eating in and around the Wilkinson Center, or chatting in small groups.
Brother Palmer said word-of-mouth comments from students were generally positive with cooperation and patience tempering problems that included too many people trying to get into some classes.
Carol Farnsworth from Cedar City, Utah, returned to Education Week after missing several years while staying home with young children. "Education Week," she said, "is just such a boost to my year. I reprioritize my life. I wouldn't say it drastically changes me, but I always change something in my life. The week is just so positive."
Helping keep the experience positive for guests were approximately 600 volunteer hosts and hostesses who helped maintain order as students moved between the more than 1,000 classes offered during the week. Many of the volunteers have years of experience and were a valuable addition to the regular university staff.
"The whole university family makes the students' experience wonderful, including the volunteers," said Brother Palmer. "And we never have enough volunteers."
One new volunteer, Ray Banks, a recently retired educator from California who now lives in Orem, Utah, found the rewards of serving as a host well worth the time he donated.
In exchange for a four-hour shift each day, Brother Banks and other volunteers receive a full-event ticket.
"I was allowed to attend any course offered when I wasn't working. And I've been able to enjoy all the classes here in the Conference Center while I've been working and I always have a seat," he said after watching faculty members Duane and Sharon Hiatt present a musical program about Joseph Smith.
This year youth classes were consolidated in the Smith Fieldhouse and the Smith Family Living Center. Brother Palmer said evaluations and interviews have shown the youth, who come from throughout the country, enjoy each other's company. So with the renovated fieldhouse available to seat 5,000, most of the youth were brought together there for classes each hour.
In Vivian R. Cline's class Friday, "Diamonds or Zirconia? Don't Be Deceived," a huge crowd of teenagers in the fieldhouse listened as she shared with them experiences from her youth and thoughts about morality and the Word of Wisdom. Yet plenty of empty seats at the top of the bleachers indicate room for more growth in the future before other arrangements have to be made.
And for those youth who would rather be in a small-group setting, there were several classes in the Smith Family Living Center. Those classes were well attended as well, Brother Palmer said.
He added that the youth experienced one big disappointment during the week: "This is the first year the dance has been rained out."
The Youth Dance on a field west of the Smith Fieldhouse has been extremely popular over the years. But the rains came Thursday night, necessitating the cancellation. Brother Palmer said there were no available indoor facilities large enough or comfortable enough to hold the activity.
Another Education Week innovation this year was "block" classes where students attended an entire faculty lecture series in one morning rather than the traditional format of lectures spread over four days.
"The students who attended really enjoyed the blocks," said Brother Palmer who explained the idea came from comments on evaluation forms from previous years and the Monday format that is set up in blocks.
Enough people favor the blocks that they definitely will be offered in the future, Brother Palmer promised.
In addition to class instruction by teachers from BYU and the Church Educational System on a wide variety of subjects, students were able during the week to attend musical and dramatic shows and a craft and hobby idea fair. Many of the facilities of BYU such as the game room, bookstore, Museum of Art and Monte L. Bean Life Science Museum were open.
The Education Week staff is already looking ahead, according to Brother Palmer. Members are tallying numbers and reading evaluations.
But Brother Palmer noted that many suggestions can't be implemented. He cited examples such as the dates that Education Week is held (it is limited to the brief time in the summer that the BYU campus is available), limited parking near campus, and shortage of larger classrooms. He pointed out that BYU is first a university and must fill that role rather than cater to Education Week needs that arise one week a year.
The Marriott Center is currently the largest "classroom" available, and he said it may be utilized differently in the future. "We may make it the only place students can attend who register after a certain enrollment is reached," he said.
But for now, he and associate director Neil Carlisle, along with Sherie Rogde, Campus Education Week coordinator, are looking forward to making next year's Education Week go as smoothly as this year's did.