Episode 134: Dean Brigitte C. Madrian of the Marriott School of Business on the positive influence of BYU

Today’s students have a strong interest in ‘doing things that will have a positive impact on society,’ says Dean Brigitte C. Madrian on the Church News podcast

After spending years researching and teaching behavioral economics and household finance at Harvard University, the University of Pennsylvania Wharton School and the University of Chicago, Brigitte C. Madrian accepted a position as the ninth dean of the Marriott School of Business at Brigham Young University.

She brings a wealth of knowledge and expertise to this episode of the Church News podcast, discussing the importance of faith-based education, ethics and empathy in economics and business, and the positive influence of BYU.

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Dean Brigitte C. Madrian: But I have experienced, at the same time, the blessings that come from that service. You know, making the decision to leave Harvard and come to BYU. That was a very intentional decision to say, “I am going to go use my talents and my capabilities that I’ve been working on for the past few decades and I am going to go do something different with them. And I am going to use them to serve the Lord and build His kingdom at BYU.” And it has been the richest blessing of my life for the last four years to turn my life to Jesus Christ in a very intentional way and to put that type of service first.


Sarah Jane Weaver: I’m Sarah Jane Weaver, editor of the Church News. Welcome to the Church News podcast. We are taking you on a journey of connection as we discuss news and events of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

After spending years researching and teaching behavioral economics and household finance at Harvard University, the University of Pennsylvania Wharton School, and the University of Chicago, Brigitte C. Madrian took a post as the ninth dean of the Marriott School of Business at Brigham Young University. She brings a wealth of knowledge and expertise to this episode of the Church News podcast, where we will talk about education, household finances, the economy, business and the influence of BYU. Dean Madrian, welcome to the podcast.

Dean Brigitte C. Madrian: Thank you. I am happy to be here.


Sarah Jane Weaver: Well, it’s so nice of you to join us. You have been dean of the Marriott school for four years now. You’ve also been on numerous other campuses and worked with young adults. Have you seen a change, or shift, in students in the way they approach academics in the time that you have been doing this job?


Dean Brigitte C. Madrian: That’s a really interesting question. As you know, I’ve been teaching for 30 years, so I’ve seen some changes in students across college campuses over that time. On the positive side, one of the things that I’ve noticed, and it’s been commented on by others as well, is that today’s generation of students seems to have a really strong interest in doing things that will have a positive impact on society, more so than just getting a job that’s going to deliver a good paycheck. I actually think that’s a really encouraging trend. I’ve seen that at Harvard before I came to BYU and I’ve also seen that at BYU.

The other thing that I’ve observed firsthand, as an educator, also as a parent of two young adults, is that we are in a world that is creating a lot more anxiety for students than I was seeing when I first started my career. They are worried about career prospects. They are worried about their lives. They are worried about balancing work and family. They are worried about whether they are good enough. They just seem to be worried about a lot of things. There is a lot of anxiety and this is true at BYU. It is true at other campuses, as well.

The use of behavioral and mental health resources has gone up a lot on all college campuses. And the good thing about that is that students are seeking help. It is hard to know ... to what extent [that upward trend] is driven by students feeling more pressure and anxiety and to what extent it is being driven by a greater willingness for people to be open about the challenges that they are facing and to go out and seek help. But it is certainly a change that many of us in higher education have seen and experienced.


Sarah Jane Weaver: And we also live in very trying times. I think a lot of us are worried about the economy. And I can imagine that the worry would probably be amplified for young people who are graduating and seeking their first job. What about the economy worries you?


Dean Brigitte C. Madrian: Well, as the dean of a business school, I am worried about my students getting good jobs. Somehow, things usually seem to work out. A couple of years, when COVID first hit, we had a number of employers who rescinded offers. We had a lot of employers who were planning to come to campus. You know, they didn’t end up coming. And it was a challenge getting jobs for our students. But, I think, at the end of the day, the students who wanted jobs ended up finding something.

And, I think, as a middle-aged leader, sometimes it is hard to remember what it was like being that age. I have lived through a number of recessions and things get worse, and then they get better. But when you are first graduating, you have not experienced that. So, I do worry about that. For me personally, one of the things that worries me most about the economy is the increasing economic inequality. So we have had a long-term trend going back over several decades now, where we are having increases in inequality. And the rich are getting much, much richer and the poor are getting poorer. And the gap between the rich and the poor is just growing and increasing.

And I think the way our economy is structured it is becoming much, much easier for those who have financial means to be completely segregated from individuals who have not been as fortunate. And when you have that type of segregation in your economy, you do not have the same level of empathy that you would get. And I think, looking back at the experience with COVID, we saw some of the fallout that happens when you have a lot of economic inequality. So the pandemic — in terms of who died and who was hospitalized — had a much greater impact on people with lower incomes. They were living in smaller homes that are closer together, more dense, things like that. And we saw the problems that created in terms of worse health outcomes and higher mortality rates and things like that. So, that is a problem that worries me. Not so much because I feel like it impacts me directly, but because I feel like it speaks more broadly to the welfare of society as a whole.

Dean Brigitte C. Madrian of the Marriott School of Business joins the Church News podcast to talk about the positive influence of BYU. | Jaren Wilkey, BYU


Sarah Jane Weaver: Well, and on a recent podcast, we had Judge Thomas Griffith, who is former general counsel for Brigham Young University. And he said something that is really interesting and sort of speaks to the problem that you were just describing. But he said as Latter-day Saints, because of our organization into wards, where we do not get to pick who we worship with and we worship with people of different economic levels, often of different race or cultural backgrounds, that we are in a unique position to be a unifier. That the Church can actually play an important role in unifying a nation that feels a little divided right now. And if you take that principle, is that something that gives BYU students a little bit of an edge? Many of them will have served missions. They will have had some different experiences that maybe give them empathy that other young people coming out of business school might not have.


Dean Brigitte C. Madrian: I think that is absolutely the case. Certainly, we hear some times of employers who worry that if they come to the BYU campus to recruit our students, they are not going to get as much demographic diversity as they might get at some other colleges and universities. But, I think, something they recognize they do get is they get students who have really diverse lived experiences, because many of them have served missions and lived all around the world.

And, you know, for all of the parents out there, or all of the returned missionaries, we are not putting the missionaries up in five star hotels. They are living out with the people. And typically, not the people who have the highest financial means. They are living in, you know, lower income apartments and they are experiencing, working with and serving people from all walks of life in different countries, who speak different languages, different career choices, different family structures. And I do think that that gives our students a valuable perspective that college students on other campuses do not necessarily bring to the table to the same degree.


Sarah Jane Weaver: Well, and I love that you also mentioned that another thing that defines this generation of young people is their willingness to be involved in a cause. You know, the BYU Marriott School houses the Ballard Center, which is the world’s largest university program focused on social impact. So during your time at BYU, what have you learned about service and students and this hope that they all want to be involved in something that could change the world?


Dean Brigitte C. Madrian: I am so glad you asked about the Ballard Center, because I think it is one of the crowned jewels at BYU Marriott and the university as a whole. As you mentioned, it is the largest social impact center at a university and we have thousands of students every year who are participating in Ballard Center programs and activities. And the Ballard Center is focused on helping students understand how they can make a difference in the world and learn the skills to be able to do that.

And I think something that we, perhaps, do not appreciate is that if you want to actually have an impact on the world, there are strategies and tactics that can help you better accomplish that goal. Just having good intentions is not always enough. So, learning the tools that will help you affect the change that you want to see happen is an important part of what the Ballard Center is doing. And at BYU, it is being done in the context of faith and our belief in God and our Savior, Jesus Christ.

We got a letter from a student who had participated in the Ballard Center activities a few years ago and then went on to attend graduate school at another major university. And she sent this letter and she said, “I now have an even stronger appreciation for the quality of education at the Ballard Center than I already did. My project-based courses in the Ballard Center were miles ahead of what I’ve experienced here,” speaking of the university she was attending. “I always knew that people at the Ballard Center cared about others and me. I haven’t really found the Ballard Center ethic of communal mentoring, care and investment in students anywhere else. I also think that the Ballard Center’s unique exploration of the different moral, spiritual and values-based motivations behind social and business impact work adds an important element to the social impact education that other schools do not include in their curriculum, out of a discomfort with spiritual discussion. Many people are really uncomfortable with nonsecular motivations for social impact, despite having their own transparent moral and spiritual value systems that they believe are secular.”

I thought that was a really interesting perspective that she brought. She had this experience at BYU. She went to another university and was involved in the closest thing that they had and it was night and day different, because her experience at BYU was grounded in the principles of the gospel of Jesus Christ. And at this other institution, they were trying to approach everything from a purely secular standpoint and it left a little bit of a vacuum.

Brigham Young University campus in Provo on Wednesday Sept 21, 2022. | Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News


Sarah Jane Weaver: And you also would have had that same experience, as you compare and contrast the experience that you have had at BYU, to what you may have had at Harvard or Wharton. The vision of the BYU Marriott school is to change the world through Christ-like leadership. What is your experience with first being on secular campuses entirely, and then being affiliated with a Church-owned, or a faith-based university?


Dean Brigitte C. Madrian: So let me just say, I feel like I have led a charmed life, having been able to work at some of the country’s, even the world’s, premier higher education institutions and I just feel so lucky and fortunate to have had those experiences. Something happened really early on after I came to BYU that, for me, illustrated one of the fundamental differences between being at BYU and being at some of these other schools that I’ve been at.

So right after I moved from Boston to Utah, and I was in the midst of a transition between being on the faculty at Harvard and assuming my responsibilities as the dean at BYU, I was on campus and there was a student who died by suicide in the building. And it was, during the daytime during classes. There were lots of people who witnessed it and it impacted the entire campus community in, you know, a really, really strong way as an event like that would. And so there was a meeting a few hours after it happened for senior leaders on campus and in the college and for individuals from the counseling services on campus to talk about the next steps to try and help start the process of healing for the many, many people who we knew were going to have a tough time over the weeks and months ahead.

And we sat down in the Tanner building conference room for that meeting and the difference between that meeting and a meeting at the other universities I’ve been at, is that meeting started with a prayer. And it was a room full of people who have made covenants in the temple to love and serve each other. And we started with a prayer, calling on the powers of Heaven to help us understand what we needed to do. And if we had been having that meeting anywhere else, we would have been relying only on our own resources and capabilities. And I felt immediately the difference and the spiritual power that comes from being part of a community of imperfect people, but people who have made covenants to love and serve one another. And that’s the difference between BYU and other universities.


Sarah Jane Weaver: I do remember that incident. And I also had the opportunity to have children on campus who felt comforted by the university’s response to that. And so I want to talk to you about another thing that I learned just as we were preparing for this podcast, which is BYU leads the nation in the number of business students that go on to earn PhDs. Certainly, the Church emphasizes education, but this is not just a little bit. This is a big number. Why do you think so many of our students value education?


Dean Brigitte C. Madrian: Oh, you’ve asked a question that I love talking about. So, just to paint a sharper picture for your readers, the U.S. Department of Education collects data on the undergraduate institution attended by every student who goes on to get a PhD in the [United States]. And over the most recent 10-year period of data, BYU sent about 240 students on to get PhDs at other universities in business. We know they are all at other universities, because at BYU, we do not have a PhD program in business. The next highest school sent about 95 students on to get PhDs. So it’s a ratio of 240 to 95, between the first and the second. So I think there are a couple of things that explain that finding.

The first is that BYU is primarily an undergraduate institution. It has some graduate programs, but the biggest graduate programs are master’s programs, not PhD programs. And so, if faculty are doing research, they have to learn how to use undergraduates to help them in their research, rather than using graduate students, because many faculty do not have access to graduate students at all, certainly not to PhD students in many programs. And so we have undergraduates, and I was one of these back in the day, who start learning how to do research in ways that at other universities, only students who are in a PhD program would get to do. And some of them get a taste of it and they decide, “Oh, this is actually interesting and fun. I think I want to go on and get a PhD.” So I think that that’s one important reason why we see numbers like that.

A second [reason], as you pointed to, is we have got a strong culture and ethic around education in the Church and our students pick up on that. I think the really interesting thing about that factoid, however, is it tells us something about the influence of a BYU education in a way that the influence can be manifest. So, over a 10-year period, we have had 240 BYU students who have gone on to get PhDs in business. The entire size of my faculty is 145 and they do not all turn over in a 10-year period. So we can only hire a tiny fraction of those students back. So we now have BYU alumni teaching at business schools around the country, and even around the world. And when I go out and visit and talk to other business school deans, more often than not, they have got a former BYU undergraduate who went on to get a PhD in business on their faculty. And they are now in a position to influence students on college and university campuses around the country and around the world.


Dean Brigitte C. Madrian of the Marriott School of Business joins the Church News podcast to talk about the positive influence of BYU. | Provided by Dean Brigitte C. Madrian

Sarah Jane Weaver: Well, that is impressive. Now I am going to ask you a question that I actually do not like to ask. It’s because you are the first woman to serve as the dean of the BYU Marriott school. The reason I do not like this question, is because you are not the dean because you are a woman. You know, you receive these positions because of qualifications and so many other things in preparation. But as someone who is in a position that no other woman has been in before, do you have advice for other young women who are looking forward in their career or trying to make some important decisions?


Dean Brigitte C. Madrian: I get asked that question often. And let me just start out by saying that it’s been an interesting experience to be the first female dean at the business school. And I have witnessed, firsthand, how impactful it is for young women to have someone in a position like the position that I am in. And I’ve lost count of the number of times I have given a talk and had someone come up to me afterwards, literally in tears, and say something like, you know, ‘This is so inspiring. I never thought — I could never see myself doing something like that, but now I have a different vision of what I could be and what I could accomplish in my life.” And I realize that it is not about me, personally. For them, it is about seeing someone, a role model. It could be any one of hundreds or thousands of people. It happens to be me. So it’s not, it is not about me. But there is a huge value in being able to see someone else, and to see yourself in what someone else is doing, what your future could look like.

And I guess the message that I would give for our young women is, you are a daughter of God. You have divine potential. And I do not even fully understand what that means. I think none of us fully understand what that means. But there are lots of ways that you can learn and grow and progress and contribute to society. Do not be kept back by other people’s expectations of what you can do and do not hold yourself back in terms of your expectations of what you could do. My career certainly did not turn out in any way like I thought it was going to turn out. And it has been challenging. But I feel like I have had a lot of wonderful opportunities, as well. I would just say, do not sell yourself short. Dream big, but be open to all sorts of different things and you will have a wonderful life, a wonderful journey. Your whole life will be a journey, and you will learn, and grow, and progress, and you will have an impact and you will do wonderful things.


Sarah Jane Weaver: Well, I’m hoping that you can tell us about your journey. How did you determine to pursue the career you did and what experiences along the way validated that choice?


Dean Brigitte C. Madrian: So, I am a little bit of an oddball. My father [Elder Spencer J. Condie, an emeritus General Authority] was a sociology professor at BYU when I was growing up and he used to take me up to campus with him. At the time, I thought it was a great honor as a child to go up with my dad and, you know, alphabetize his files and steal the change out of his pencil drawer and go visit the candy machines and things like that. Only as a parent, many years later, do I realize it was probably my mother saying to my dad, “Spence, Brigitte is driving me crazy. I need you to take her to work today and get her out of the house.” But as a child, I just thought he loved to have me up on campus with him. And so I had exposure to what I am doing from a very, very young age.

And I can remember when I was 13 years old and I was sitting in my eighth grade algebra class, deciding, “I am going to go get a PhD.” And I didn’t know what it was going to be in, but I made the decision that I wanted to get a PhD and then be a college professor, like my dad. I had no understanding of what that actually meant, but I do not think very many kids at that age are making that decision. So, I certainly do not want to hold myself up as a good role model or say if you haven’t figured it out by age 13, do not go that route.

But what that did for me it was once I got to college — I already made that decision to get a PhD. And so then I just had to figure out what [to study] and I took an economics class my first semester as a freshman and I fell in love with it. Absolutely loved it. And so I knew from my first semester, “I am going to go get a PhD in economics and I am going to become a university professor.” So it may sound like I had it all figured out and that life went according to plan. I graduated, went to MIT to get my PhD, which was an amazing experience. But the first semester there was really, really hard. And I think a lot of graduate students find that — you are taking required classes, they are not necessarily what you’re interested in, the level of academic rigor is a lot higher. And it was hard. And my husband was getting an MBA at the time and we were in a ward where lots of other students were getting MBAs. And at the end of my first semester, we had the entire month of January off, no classes.

And I spent most of that month of January, debating whether I wanted to stick in my PhD program, or whether I wanted to drop out and go get an MBA. And at the end of the month, I decided, “You know what, MBAs go on to lead organizations and manage people and I just really do not want to do either one of those things. I just want to — I think — I just want to get my PhD, get my own office, do my own research, do my own thing. I will not have to be bothered with leading and managing.” So I stuck it out. And four years later, I graduated. And I was on the market to get a job and I interviewed with a whole bunch of schools.

And two of those schools were business schools and I had been trained to be polite. So when they reached out and wanted to interview me, I felt like I couldn’t say no. So I interviewed with these two business schools, but I wasn’t really interested in it. And I was in one of those interviews, and one of the five or six people on the other side who was interviewing me said, “Well, why don’t you tell us why you’re interested in coming to work at a business school.” Well, I had also been trained not to lie. So I looked at him and I said, “Well, I am not.” And it was a very awkward rest of the interview and needless to say, they did not make me an offer. So there is a little bit of irony in the fact that I neither wanted to go to business school, nor wanted to lead people or manage organizations, and here I am, 30 years later finding myself as the leader of a business school. So, life does not always turn out the way we plan.

Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah. | Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News


Sarah Jane Weaver: Well, and I am interested in your research, as you have studied economics, and especially household finances, is there something that you’ve learned, or some tips that you can give our listeners?


Dean Brigitte C. Madrian: So my background is as a behavioral economist, which means that I look at things through the lens of both economics and psychology. And I have spent a lot of time analyzing household financial decision-making. And I tell people that in my research, I study all the ways that people mess up in managing their finances and how institutions, like employers and the government, can help facilitate better outcomes. So what I have learned is that even when the financial stakes are large, many people really do not know how to make good financial decisions. And it is not that they do not want to make good financial decisions. Either they have not been trained, they have not, you know, had the appropriate schooling, they have not had the life experience. Sometimes they are just distracted by other things. It is not the thing that is top of mind. Sometimes, it is because they do not enjoy making financial decisions. They would rather be doing something else. And we make it really easy for people to make poor decisions, because making good decisions can often be time-consuming and complicated. And making poor decisions, like racking up lots of expenditures on your credit card becomes very, very easy.

So a lot of my research is focused on retirement savings. And one of the really important findings that came out of that research, was that employers can have a huge impact in helping employees be financially prepared for retirement by simply automatically enrolling employees in a retirement savings plan. So, instead of setting the plan up and saying, “Oh, if you want to save for retirement, you know, fill out these five pages of paperwork and make a bunch of difficult decisions, like what kind of asset allocation you want when you do not know anything about investments. Why do not you do all of that, and you can save for retirement?” And then discovering that less than half the employees sign up, you could instead say, “Here’s the savings plan. I am going to put you all into the savings plan at you know, some fraction of your pay. We are going to put it all in a sensible investment allocation. And if you do nothing, you will be saving for retirement. If you would like to save more or less, you can go in and change it. If you want a different asset allocation, you can go in and change that too. But if you do not know what you are doing, or you can not be bothered, we are going to set you up for success, even without you doing anything.” And in that type of approach, you get 90 to 95% of your employees saving for retirement.

So that really simple change in how a company sets up a retirement savings plan can more than double the fraction of employees who are saving for retirement. And that research ended up impacting legislation at the city, state and national level in the U.S. and in several countries around the world. So that has been a really fun and rewarding thing to work on.


Sarah Jane Weaver: Wow, that’s really interesting. In addition to your position as the dean of the Marriott school, you also sit on the Deseret Management Corporation Board, which would also include the First Presidency and a couple of Apostles. And so you have had the opportunity to witness prophets, seers and revelators in a little different setting than the rest of us get. What have you learned from that experience?


Dean Brigitte C. Madrian: This has been an amazing blessing and an experience for me to sit in quarterly board meetings with those individuals and watch their approach to making decisions and thinking strategically about what they are going to do with the assets in this case under the control of the Deseret Management Corporation. So one of the things I have learned is: they take these responsibilities very seriously. So you do not show up for a board meeting unprepared. Everyone reads the materials in advance. I have learned that even if individuals do not agree with something, the people in that room know how to express an opinion with respect and with love for everyone in the room. So an observer who did not know what the content of the conversation was, might not even know that people were expressing a disagreement.

It reminds me of [Elder] Dieter F. Uchtdorf, who said that conflict is inevitable, but contention is a choice. There is no contention in those meetings at all. I’ve learned how much love and respect they have. I am the only woman on the board and I am the only member of the board who is not a general officer of the Church. So I was really curious when I showed up for my first board meeting, how I was going to be treated and was I going to be sitting down to the kids end of the table? And no. They have me sit right there in the middle. They value my opinion. I have never felt like I could not say what was on my mind and I have always felt loved and respected and I feel really fortunate to have that opportunity.

BYU Education Week attendees walk through the Tanner Building in Provo, Utah, on Monday, Aug. 15, 2022.  | Brooklynn Jarvis Kelson, BYU


Sarah Jane Weaver: Now, also as a member of the Deseret Management Corporation board, which owns several media companies — including Deseret News and, of course, DMC publishes the Church News, but KSL and Deseret digital media, all companies that have been impacted in recent years by the internet and the availability of news and a general distrust in media. As you have served on that board, do you have any feelings about the media. Do you have any advice for the challenges we face? I hope you are optimistic about all of our futures.


Dean Brigitte C. Madrian: So it has been interesting to be in those board meetings. My background is not in media. So I have learned a lot about the media landscape by being in those board meetings. And you know, even in the short few years I’ve been on the board, the Deseret News made the decision to stop being printed as a daily newspaper, went down to one day a week and then jumped back up to two days a week. So I have been a part of those discussions impacting not only the Deseret News, but impacting newspapers around the country and around the world. So we are seeing the impact of the internet, that’s for sure.

I think, another really interesting impact of the internet on news, [is the media has] polarized the reporting on events. When you only have, you know, two or three newspapers or television stations that are reporting on the news, you have to be somewhat mainstream in your approach, if you’re going to get readership or viewership that’s going to, you know, help you be financially sustainable. And the internet’s made it, you know, much lower cost for anyone to publish their opinion. And it has resulted in a lot of fractured [audiences]. You can segment the audience into smaller and smaller chunks, and then you can cater to this very narrow slice. And it has made things much more polarized. So you are getting extreme views and people are consuming their media in an echo chamber, where the only voices they’re hearing from are people saying the things that they already agree with.

So I think it’s diminishing our skills as listeners or readers to understand differing points of view, and to then think about why someone might think about someone, an issue this way or that way or the other way, and then to try and, you know, reconcile those views. You know, I think one of the things the Deseret News is trying to do is be a little bit more of a middle ground voice, and try and find the consensus around issues, rather than trying to cater to the extremes on either end in an inflammatory way that creates more contention and more division.


Sarah Jane Weaver: Yeah, this is a unique time in history when it feels like everything is divided. It’s also a time when values and ethics seem to be in flux. Why do ethics matter in business and other places?


Dean Brigitte C. Madrian: So there was an interesting study done many, many years ago, probably two or three decades ago, looking at the correlation between economic growth across countries and the level of trust that people have with other people in society. And economic growth is higher in countries and economies where there is a high level of trust. So I think trust is the low-cost glue that allows you to conduct business in an efficient way. And if you do not have a high level of trust, then you have to have lawyers get involved, and you have lots of lawsuits. And we have a lot of those things in the [United States]. But in other countries, they have got even more of it, or economic activity just doesn’t happen, because you can not trust someone else.

So, I think ethics is important, because if you are behaving in an ethical way, if you’re doing what you have said you would do, following through on your word. If you’re trying to treat people fairly, trying to understand what is a fair outcome and then follow through on it, you get a reputation for being trustworthy and people then want to do business with you. And they will keep on coming back to you even if the outcomes are not always at the very top every single day of the week, every month of the year. I think people realize that over the long run, doing business with someone who behaves ethically and who values integrity and who is trustworthy, pays off in spades.


Sarah Jane Weaver: And we have certainly seen that not just in business in recent years, but in government. This is also a unique time in the history of the world for religious institutions. Elder Clark Gilbert just wrote an article in Deseret magazine, talking about how important it is to preserve “the distinct light” that is religious institutions and universities. Why do you, who has chosen to work for a religious institution, feel like we should preserve that light, as well?


Dean Brigitte C. Madrian: The vast majority of people in our society and around the world are people of faith. They have a religious affiliation, and they worship and that is an important part of the lives of most people around the world. And in public educational institutions, because of laws around the separation of church and state, it’s hard to bring religion up front in those types of institutions. So if we only have institutions that are basically of the mindset, “We can not acknowledge religion, we kind of have to dismiss it,” then we’re educating people without recognizing the important role that this institution plays in the lives of most of the people in our country.

So religious universities fill that gap. You know, there are a number of religious universities in the country and around the world. At BYU we are sponsored by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, but there are other prominent religious universities that are tied to other faith traditions. And I think that they have an important role to play in the educational landscape by ... acknowledgement of the important role that religion plays in life in general for many, many people in society.


Sarah Jane Weaver: Well, and that leads me to my next question, which is, how was your membership in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints been a blessing in your life?


Brigitte Madrian, dean of the Brigham Young University Marriott School of Business, poses for a photo in the school’s Tanner Building in Provo on Tuesday, July 12, 2022. | Spenser Heaps, Deseret News

Dean Brigitte C. Madrian: I feel very fortunate to have grown up as a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and both of my parents are individuals with tremendous faith. My father received a calling first as a mission president when I was 17 years old and then five years later, he was called as a General Authority Seventy. And I saw him serve in that role for 21 years in several different countries around the world. And then he and my mother [Dorothea Condie] were called to serve as presidents of the Nauvoo [Illinois] Temple. And so I have witnessed and experienced firsthand the sacrifices that the leaders of this Church make to serve others and to help build Zion.

But I have experienced, at the same time, the blessings that come from that service. I have seen that in my own family with my husband, who is now in his third bishopric. And, you know, making the decision to leave Harvard and come to BYU, that was not a decision about a promotion to be

the dean or about getting a raise, because it came with a pay cut. You know, that was a very intentional decision to say, “I am going to go use my talents and my capabilities that I’ve been working on for the past few decades, and I am going to go do something different with them and I am going to use them to serve the Lord and build His kingdom at BYU.” And it has been the richest blessing of my life the last four years, to turn my life to Jesus Christ in a very intentional way. And to put that type of service first.

And I sometimes get asked about the sacrifice of leaving Harvard and coming to BYU and I always answer, “It has never felt to me like a sacrifice, because the blessings have been so tremendous, that they have far outweighed any cost, any professional or economic cost that came from making that decision.” And being in the role that I am now has forced me to become a better disciple of Jesus Christ and forced me to learn what it means to be a Christ-like leader. And the experiences that I have had in trying to do better and be better, as President [Russell M.] Nelson has encouraged us, have been, you know, some of the hardest things I have done in the last four years, but the blessings have been tremendous and my faith has grown. It is rock solid.


Sarah Jane Weaver: And that leads me right into a tradition we have at the Church News podcast, where we always end each episode with the same question and we always give our guests the last word. The question is, “What do you know now?” And so, Dean Madrian, what do you know now after serving as dean of the BYU Marriott school?


Dean Brigitte C. Madrian: I know that God is in the minutest details of our lives. He knows what we’ are doing. He is watching over us. He cares about us and He loves us and He showers us with blessings. And sometimes those blessings do not always look like blessings, but with the benefit of hindsight, we come to realize what we’ve learned and how we’ve grown. And I am so grateful for the opportunities that I’ve had and for the blessing it is in my life to be at BYU, to be a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and to have the opportunity to use the gifts that God has seen fit to give me to try and bless the students at BYU and build His kingdom.


Sarah Jane Weaver: You have been listening to the Church News podcast. I’m your host, Church News editor Sarah Jane Weaver. I hope you have learned something today about The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints by peering with me through The Church News window. Please remember to subscribe to this podcast. And if you enjoyed the messages we shared today, please make sure you share the podcast with others. Thanks to our guests, to my producer, KellieAnn Halvorsen, and others who make this podcast possible. Join us every week for a new episode. Find us on your favorite podcasting channel or with other news and updates about the Church on

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