Note: This is an installment in the Q&A series, reporting in the LDSBC Newsroom on informal meetings held with President and Sister Kusch and members of the College community. During the Q&A sessions, students, faculty and staff are invited to submit questions and engage in conversations with the Kusch’s about all that’s going on at LDSBC. Check out other Q&A articles here.
Students and faculty from the Paralegal Studies program were invited to lunch with President and Sister Kusch this month. They were given the opportunity to ask questions and have them answered by the Kusch’s.
Here’s a summary of what transpired in the Q&A luncheon this month:
Question: What do you feel the benefit of CAR 101 is for transfer students?
Answer: President Kusch: I’m going to give you an answer that might surprise you. Personally, I think that a transfer student could make a case to have CAR 101 waived. CAR 101 is really designed for the new, first-semester college student. If you are transferring in with existing credit, I think that you could make a case for having the class waived. That’s just an opinion though. We haven’t had that kind of discussion in any academic council meeting.
Q: What kind of trends do see in the job market, hence, in the education degrees LDSBC offers?
A: President Kusch: Here’s what I think is one of the most important trends: employers are saying more and more that they want to hire people with skills. The trend of hiring for skills is a really important trend. Some of you may have heard me talk about this in my TEDx talk: there was a survey where 96% of college administrators said they believed they were doing an adequate job of preparing their graduates. During that same survey, only 11% of business leaders thought so. So, there’s a huge gap between what schools are saying to prepare students and what employers are actually finding. That’s a trend that we have to pay attention to.
We can’t be responsible for what happens on any other campus other than our own. The reason that we’re doing things like Subject Matter Immersion and the case studies, particularly in the Paralegal Studies area, is because you need to have skills. You need to be able to think and problem solve.
I would think, having never been a lawyer, that someone who has the training of a paralegal would be an essential addition to any lawyer’s staff. I think that someone who has all of those skills would always be employed in the legal field. If someone in a different field has those types of skills, they’re going to very valuable in that field as well. We’re trying to educate our students so that they can do those things when they leave. The College-Wide Capabilities, deep and immersive learning – that’s what we’re trying to do here. And you get to do it all in a Gospel-centered environment.
Sister Kusch: Can I give you an example? On the first day of an accounting class, what the teacher will do is say, “Welcome to your life as an accountant for ________ Company.” Then, they take a box of receipts and other similar types of things sitting on a table, and say that your job is to create a balance sheet for this company from what you see here. We have video of students taking the box, opening it, spreading out the receipts to see what they are, and they begin to organize it. They learn about accounting because they are the accountants of this company. We received an email from a student who sent a picture of her desk on the very first day of her new job. She had been in one of these accounting classes here. There was a box waiting for her on her desk with a note saying that they had all of this stuff but didn’t know what to do with it. They needed her to organize it. She took exactly what had happened in her accounting class and used it in her very first day on the job.
Q: What led you to choose your career path/field?
A: President Kusch: Let me just talk about where I’m at today. I spent my pre-academic life in California in the high-tech industry in Silicon Valley. I kind of stumbled into that. It wasn’t necessarily by design. It was something that I got introduced to when I first went to work, and I liked it. I wasn’t one of those that said from the time I was little that I knew exactly what I wanted to grow up and be. I ended up in that field and really liked it. There were conscious decisions that I made along the way, in terms of jobs or industries that I wanted to try and work in, but, it wasn’t a planned career from that standpoint.
Academics, on the other hand, was something that I prepared for. We had a daughter that went to Rick’s College, and at her graduation, I had a very strong impression that I wanted to go there to teach. It became BYU-Idaho in the interim, and I wasn’t sure if that opportunity was going to present itself. I had to do some things in preparation for that – I didn’t have a Master’s degree and knew I would need one. I went back to school to get one and did everything I could to qualify. Then we had to wait and see if this is what the Lord wanted for us to do.
I had always loved teaching – that kind of environment. I had thought about teaching when I was much younger. It was much different then, in terms of being hired to teach in the seminaries and institute program. When I went to school in California, I had an institute director who was wanting to shepherd me towards full-time teaching of seminary and institute. I didn’t do it because they didn’t pay very well, frankly. I had also made some other decisions.
When I had my interview with the dean at the College of Business at BYU-Idaho, he asked me what my long-term plans were. My long-term plan was to go there and teach until I retired. Then, my wife and I would start going on missions. After that, I had absolutely no other long-term plans.
Being here, doing what I’m doing now, was never part of the plan. It’s a little bit different in the Church Educational System: you respond to invitations as opposed to seeking positions like others do outside of here. You come and do the best you can and respond to invitations, if they come. I would have been very happy to still be in Rexburg, Idaho, teaching business classes this semester, but the Lord had other plans for us.
Q: What’s the most important thing students can do to prepare for their careers while they’re here?
A: President Kusch: One thing is talking to as many people as you possibly can in the profession that you have an interest in. You should talk to people who are doing the work that you think you might be interested in.
I don’t know the various different types of law that can be practiced. Unless you’re 100% certain of the type of law that you’d like to practice, it’s probably a good idea to look around at the various options and meet as many people as you can in the different fields. You should ask them exactly what they do and how they got into the position that they’re in.
Secondly, make sure that you do an internship. You will meet so many professionals and learn how to do so many things that will be applicable to any job once you graduate. It’s really valuable.
The final thing would be to take advantage of the learning opportunities that you’ve had here. Sometimes, I’ve jokingly said to some of my colleagues (and I don’t mean to be offensive in any way) that the irony of higher education is that students pay a lot of money to come to school, and they figure out every way not to do the work that’s expected of them to get their money’s worth. I’ve done that too. I think we all have. You’ll look back on this time and wonder if you could have applied yourself a bit more in certain areas. Do your best.
Those are the things that I’ve seen that have really helped students. I can think of one student, in particular, that I had at BYU-Idaho. She was a master networker. I would not have necessarily classified her as the most brilliant student I ever had. She was smart though, and she out-worked every other student I ever taught. She was fearless in talking to strangers and at being at conferences. She talked her way into an internship with Goldman Sachs in New York City when she probably wasn’t the most qualified. When she was given opportunities, she just thrived and did amazing things.
If you’re a little shy, there’s an area where you can improve. Just start with one person. Say to yourself that you’ll talk to one person that you don’t know in a particular setting. LinkedIn is another great tool for networking.
Sister Kusch: If you’re shy, introduce yourself to one or two new people in your student ward each week. It might even get you a date or two. It will allow you to practice being assertive.
President Kusch: Use the tools you have available to you. I think that the type of people you’re hopefully reaching out to—if you look at commonalities in backgrounds and education—would respond positively if you were to reach out to them. If you were to explain to them who you are and ask for 15 minutes of their time to learn about their career, I would think that they would be open to that.
Sister Kusch: Our daughter is an HR recruiter. They go to college campuses – she was at BYU a week ago. They are looking for students to come and work in an internship that will hopefully lead to full-time employment. That’s what they’re looking for.
Q: Where do you see LDS Business College in five years?
A: President Kusch: It depends. It’s a really valid and good question. I wasn’t here five years ago, so I can’t say that five years ago we were thinking that we’d be this. One of the things that I think about is how technology is changing us as a society. I think that we need to embrace these changes to enhance education.
I was talking with a group of folks this morning about something that I saw a couple of weeks ago from someone that works with Seminaries & Institutes. He had an app on his phone that was an augmented reality app. He was in my office and took a picture of a statue on a table to put us in the augmented reality environment. We experienced Lehi’s dream. We experienced 1 Nephi 8 in augmented reality. Lehi was walking down the straight and narrow path, holding onto the Iron Rod. We saw the great and spacious building and the Tree of Life. Elder Bednar popped in (that’s part of the experience) with a section of his conference talk about Lehi’s dream. It was an amazing way to experience the scriptures because you’re there, living it.
I would hope that five years from now, we would be using technology more to enhance the educational experience. I would assume that what we’re teaching today, in many cases, we’ll be teaching five years from now. What else and how we might be teaching five years from now? It’s hard to know. A lot of it depends on what employers ask and what opportunities we seek. I think that because of where we are, there are a lot of opportunities to collaborate with companies in the valley.
We’re going to be using the Carriage House to create what we call an Immersive Learning Center – where students and employers can come together and collaborate. I see us as a hub of innovation and of interaction between students and employers.
There are decisions that the Board authorizes us to make on a daily basis to run the school. Just last Wednesday, I was in a Board meeting and I heard President Nelson say, “We expect the administrators of each institution to run the operation efficiently.” That’s our mandate from the President of the Church.
Things like new programs, the programs we offer, the Immersive Learning Center – those are all things where we have to seek Board approval before moving ahead. The Board is composed of the First Presidency, Elder Holland, Elder Bednar, Elder Cook and Elder Renlund along with Bishop Caussé, Elder Ringwood, Elder Gay and the general presidents of the Young Men, Young Women and the Relief Society. These are people that oversee what’s happening with Church education.
Sister Kusch: It should be comforting to know that the First Presidency loves this place. They are aware of what is happening here and, with their approval, we move forward.
Q: What would you like to accomplish as President?
A: President Kusch: I will tell you one of the most gratifying things for me is when I meet a former student and see that they’re being successful in their family, their personal life and their work. If we could accomplish that in the life of every single student who comes to LDS Business College, that’s what I’d like to accomplish. Our mission statement is to develop capable and trusted disciples of Jesus Christ. That’s not just a slogan or a nice, little phrase. We mean it. I would hope that every single student who comes here leaves better than when they came, and that they have a foundation for being faithful members of the Church for all of their days. If we accomplish that, I don’t know what else there is to accomplish.
Think about all of the money that the Church spends on education – and they spend a lot. In the first Board meeting that I attended, which would have been two years ago, where the budget was presented for the next year – I was shocked. It really is a lot of money. But if you were to ask the question why the Church would be willing to spend so much of its precious resources on educating members of the Church, at the end of the day, it’s so that they become capable and trusted disciples of Jesus Christ.
What we teach – you could find comparable programs somewhere. Maybe not conveniently located geographically, but you could find similar programs. What’s unique about a Church education though? It’s the fact that you’re being educated in an environment where you would hope the Holy Ghost is present every single day in every single classroom. That creates an environment that you can’t duplicate. It happens in four schools around the world and in the Pathway gatherings on a weekly basis. That’s why the Brethren are so willing to spend so much – because of what you become from a spiritual standpoint. That the First Presidency would be willing to do that is a sign of their love for people around the world who are seeking education. It’s because of the benefits that don’t just happen in a classroom.
All students, faculty and staff are invited to submit questions for President and Sister Kusch here. Those who have provided questions may be asked to future Q&A sessions. If you have questions or feedback about Q&A sessions, please contact the College public affairs team.