Despite its March 12 temporary closure due to the global COVID-19 pandemic and ongoing precautionary adjustments since, Brigham Young University is continuing with its three-pronged, five-year strategic plan, which includes increasing enrollment by 3,000.
So said BYU President Kevin J Worthen in his annual University Conference message Monday, Aug. 24 — streamed online from the Marriott Center, because of those ongoing precautions, rather than an in-person gathering at the 19,000-seat facility. Elder Quentin L. Cook of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles provided the keynote address.
Read more: Efforts at BYU should be driven by ‘a laser-like focus’ to help build faith, said Elder Cook
President Worthen’s remarks included mention of the pandemic and its impacts at BYU as well as highlighting university and student accomplishments in the two periods he referred to as BC and AC — “Before” and “After” COVID-19.
However, he cautioned against over-emphasizing the before/after divide, which might cause some to wrongfully ignore the present, hoping it goes away quickly, or to ignore the past, hoping it never returns.
“I believe that if we fully engage, process and remember the experiences of this present pandemic world, we can bring together the past and the present to make a better future. I hope we don’t just survive this unusual experience, but that we lean into it in a way that both reconfirms the essential components of our prior core goals and also accelerates our progress toward them,” he said.
“That is admittedly a very ambitious, audacious – and, some would say, unrealistic – aspiration. But I believe that we are better positioned than any other university to do this – that we were built for this.”
The enrollment increase at the 33,511-student university is one aspect of ongoing elements from the strategic plan developed by the President’s Council, he said, adding it will be a continued focus coming years, “notwithstanding the pandemic.”
The plan includes three main objectives, aligned with the university’s mission statement and “Aims of a BYU Education.” The mission statement is “… to assist individuals in their quest for perfection and eternal life. 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.”
The plan’s three objectives are to ensure alignment with the university mission, to enhance the educational experience of the students, and to expand enrollment, making BYU’s mission-aligned, enhanced education available to more students.
President Worthen said BYU has already started the admissions increase at a higher rate beyond initial projections — in part due to the early entry of a number of full-time missionaries whose service tenure was interrupted or altered by the pandemic.
The university is set to start its fall semester by offering hybrid classes — partially in the classroom and partially online, he said, adding a commitment to adjust when necessary.
“I should acknowledge that no matter how hard we have worked, things will NOT all go according to plan. We will have to adjust. It is possible that we will have to abruptly return to remote delivery, and maybe early in the semester,” the BYU president said.
“But, we will continue to focus on the essentials outlined in our mission statement, confident that we are laying the foundation of a great work and that as we act righteously even as we are acted upon, we will, with God’s help, succeed because this is part of His work which will not fail.”