This month in our McKay School of Education meeting, we reviewed and discussed President Worthen’s 2022 University Conference address, “This Is a Student.” I love this talk, not only because it highlights an example from the McKay School, but also because it reminds us of the primary focus of our mission as a university—our students. Quoting from his 2014 University Conference address, President Worthen reminds us, “At the end of the day, students are the product we produce. . . . How they turn out—what they do and, more important, who they are—is the ultimate metric by which our work will be measured.”
True success in our work at BYU and in the McKay School requires us to be relentlessly focused on our students and who they are becoming. In many ways this comes very naturally to us as educators, although it can sometimes be oppositional to what is typically rewarded in higher education. With students at the center of all we do, our guiding question becomes, “how will this—work, program, decision, etc.—bless the lives of our students?” Notably, this places a considerable burden on each of us to be productive in our particular work assignments, while also prioritizing students above all else.
As such, I challenge each of us to approach each day having prayerfully considered how we might more fully participate in the fulfillment of the prophetic mission of this institution and bless the lives of individual students in our daily work. Doing so will require, among other things, an increased focus on our Savior, Jesus Christ, and His restored Gospel. As noted in the BYU strategic plan, we are all enlisted in the effort to “advance faith-based, high-quality teaching and learning.” This requires us to “authentically incorporate gospel truths into all student interactions and teach [our] subject bathed in the light and color of the restored gospel” (BYU Strategic Plan). From my perspective, the McKay School is well-situated to engage in this work, and many are already doing so with tremendous success. That said, we all can and should do more to provide our students with an education that “prioritizes [their] eternal development,” builds their faith in Jesus Christ and His restored Gospel, and helps them more fully understand their divine nature and destiny as beloved sons and daughters of God.
As President Worthen beautifully explains, “We will succeed in this remarkable mission only to the extent that we focus on [Christ] in all we do. As the mission statement makes clear: ‘Any education is inadequate which does not emphasize that His is the only name given under heaven whereby mankind can be saved.’” As we seek guidance and direction from our Savior Jesus Christ, I am confident He will guide us and magnify our efforts. One by one, I believe these efforts will make the most significant difference and be the most important work we engage in—individually and collectively.
I am grateful for each of you and all of the remarkable work taking place in the McKay School. It is inspiring to see faculty, staff, and administrators who devote their minds and spirits to their work so they can nurture the full potential in others. I am thankful for your efforts to fulfill the mission of BYU and the McKay School. I look forward to our continued work together and feel it a tremendous privilege to be a part of the McKay School of Education.