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June 2021 Q&A Session with President Kusch and PEC

Question: Should we expect students to call staff and faculty by the title “brother or sister?”

President Kusch: In my opinion, it is appropriate for students to call faculty and staff brothers and sisters. I think it's a matter of teaching correct principles and of teaching some deference and respect to those that have a position.

I think that when we begin to use first names between students and faculty and staff, it creates a causal relationship, and I won't say that would be inappropriate, but I think it creates a casualness that I would just avoid. There are very few positions in a school like this, where something other than brother or sister would be appropriate for students to use with faculty and staff. So, I’ll just leave it at that. Again, not an edict, but just a suggestion and an opinion.

Q: Is there some sort of support for single parents? Maybe a breakout session for them at orientation for current students to mentor new students and help them have some support? Or a monthly support group in-person, or via Zoom? Or some way to point them to classes that would help them gain life skills such as negotiations or presentation skills?

Guy Hollingsworth: Well, it's a good question, and I appreciate the person who submitted it.

I would think most here on the call would know that we indeed have scholarship help for single parents, and we try to use that liberally with those who fit that category. There are generous donors. Several of them have gone out of their way to provide funding to help our single-parent students, and we're grateful for that. In our advising arena on the ninth-floor Student Success area, I know that efforts are made with the peer mentors when possible. And, in talking to Cody Branch, there's always room to try to do more, and they will continue to do that. There's an effort to, as much as possible, link up a non-traditional peer mentor with a non-traditional student who might understand some of the challenges fitting into that category – when it comes to a school class and the rigors of moving forward towards a degree.

I certainly think that we can look at a specific kind of breakout effort during orientation directed towards single parents. It's an important part of our campus, and frankly, we'd like to see more come. We think they have had a richness in class. I know that Vice President Sloan and the Academic folks, as well as Enrollment Management, are working towards a solution and have offered this Fall classes later on Friday, as well as on Saturday. These are geared for the non-traditional student and certainly single parents that often fit into that category. Could we do more in terms of the support group? Sure, and it's a good question and reminder to see what can be done to make sure folks know what the best route is. Student Success, again as a final statement, is making every effort to link our students up with the right program that will help them succeed in whatever they'd like to do based on their situation. But there is always more to be done.

Finally, when it comes to maybe some skills with negotiations and presentation, Rob Bagley and his folks in Career Services, behind our main building, have got folks there who can and will help with presentation skills and interviewing. Good question and worth looking into to try to get better. Thanks for asking.

Q: What could be done to promote lesser-known classes? Could big screens be used more to highlight programs and courses? I feel like some classes are real gems, but only those who have created or are teaching them know about them. I would love to see that change. I’d love to see something bigger than just the course catalog to market classes, such as business classes to non-business students.

President Kusch: Let me just say something before I turn it to Tim. I would just say, yeah, that's a concern. And I will say this from a personal standpoint. I’m teaching an International Business class in the Fall, and I’m feeling a little bad that there's only one student that is registered for my class. I think the last time Alynda checked, there were maybe only two students enrolled in her Culinary Arts class. I’m sure these are not the only two significantly under-enrolled classes for the Fall Semester, and I am hopeful that more students will enroll before the Fall Semester begins. But, these are both classes that don't necessarily have a lot of visibility with students at this point. So, with that said, Tim, all yours.

Tim Sloan: This is a great question, and I appreciate it. Last year, we kind of experimented with promoting one culinary course, and we ended up getting 22 enrolled and two dropouts, so I think there is room, especially for new courses. We ought to be able to somehow call them out and draw attention to them. One thing that comes to my mind with how this question was worded, is that this is a perfect example of what social media was created for; where you get the word out among your peers.

I follow on Instagram Ensign College, and admittedly, I’m a little disappointed because, at least by way of likes, I rarely see it go up above 200 – when I know there are so many more students here. I wonder if we couldn't use Instagram as a shout-out mechanism for some of these courses, as well as the faculty for the great job that they're doing. And so, one invitation would be to have everyone follow Ensign College on Instagram, and then secondly, maybe we could consider using that. I’d like to maybe sit down with Kirk and his team on how we can do some shout-outs and promote some of these courses. I think it's warranted some serious thought, so thank you for the question. I’ll look into this further.

Q: Is there a chance that the semester schedule will change in the future to allow for longer breaks in-between semesters? It feels like a mental marathon from September to July, which could lead to burnout for students and faculty. December break is negligible because of Christmas, and the break between Winter and Spring is just enough time to finish grades, but not enough to really put creative thought into what went well and what could be improved to the upcoming semester.

President Kusch: At this point in time, I would say that a change to the semester schedule is highly unlikely, and let me explain why and then maybe offer a suggestion or two. More than around three years ago, we changed our semester schedule to align with the BYU-Idaho and BYU-Pathway Worldwide semester schedule because of the collaborative work that we were doing with those two institutions. So, the only scenario that would cause our semester schedule to be changed would be if there is a decision amongst the three institutions to change the schedule, and then it would be a joint decision between Ensign College, BYU-Idaho and BYU-Pathway Worldwide. To my knowledge, I don't think there's any discussion about a change to the semester calendar.

Let me just comment about the pace of the schedule for faculty and the question about having just enough time to finish grades but not enough to really put creative thought into what went well and what could be improved for the upcoming semester. I will just reflect on my own experience as a faculty member – I wouldn't wait until the end of the semester to make improvements to your course. Improvement in a course should be continuous, and if you discover mid-semester that there's something that's not working, change it. Change it, then and there, and don't wait until the end of the semester. I did that more than once, where I had something planned and I thought it was going to work and it didn't work, or I sensed that there were some issues with my students that I needed to address. So, change in a course doesn't have to be something that's done once at the end of the semester. It could be that if you have more time, for example at the end of the Spring Semester before the Fall Semester begins, then you've obviously got more time to think through some things and maybe make some more dramatic changes.

I never taught the same course the same way, two semesters in a row. I never did. Part of the reason for that was because of things I learned from the student’s part – that there are so many things that you can incorporate into a course that I would tinker with all the time. So, I would just say that course improvement should be a continuous effort. And take advantage of the time. If you do a little bit along the way, then you don't have to do a lot at the end of the semester, unless you choose to. I found that that worked really well. Admittedly, there's not an awful lot of time between the Winter and the Spring to change the course and to make adjustments because there is so much going on and that's a bit challenging, but certainly, I wouldn’t just be looking at improving along the way.

Q: Have you noticed any blessings or miracles regarding the name change, the announcement of bachelor's degrees, and the extended BYU-Pathway Worldwide collaboration from the past year that you're willing to share?

President Kusch: There are many things that I could share, and if we had more time, I would invite everyone that's participating in this Q&A session to respond. I hope along the way, as we've gone through this process, that you’ve recognized miracles in your own work because when I reflect on the name change, bachelor's degrees, and integrating our work with Pathway, I believe that this institution has been magnified, and I believe that the individual talents and abilities of each one of you have been magnified. It would not have been possible to have achieved this and prepare so very well for the year-seven accreditation visit without you. If we stop to think about all that has been accomplished under the circumstances that they have been accomplished in, the only answer that I have is that the Savior was out in front making the way for us. You know, “I’ll be on your right hand and on your left. Angels round about you to bear you up.” It's the only way it could have happened. And I reflect on 2019, what happened, what we were able to do with the implementation of Workday with the finance part and with the part of human resources. And everybody has still had to do their day jobs and their regular jobs, and the work got done, and the work got done ahead of schedule and under budget. To me, those are miracles.

The speed with which are our three bachelor's degrees were approved by Northwest – it’s unheard of that they would be approved so quickly. When we sent the agreement between Ensign College and BYU-Pathway Worldwide to the Northwest Commission, they came back and said, this is a model for all of higher education to follow. Again, part of the miracle and part of the blessings.

We didn't know that the Church was going to change the name of the Ensign magazine to the Liahona. This morning before the devotional started, Alynda and I when we were in the Church Office Building, ran into Elder Randy D. Funk, who was a devotional speaker a couple of years ago and who is, I think, the managing director or the executive director for Church magazines. We were talking about the name change, and we had a little chuckle about the fact that as a part of our name change implementation, we got the Church to change the name of its premiere magazine, which of course we didn't. But he said that when they took their proposal for changing names of magazines into the First Presidency, and they were prepared with a variety of names, he said the First Presidency said, “It's the Liahona.” That's what it's going to be.

Again, that was just part of these things where you think, these couldn't be coincidental, these couldn't be by accident. I would invite all of you to take a little bit of time, if you haven't already, to think about the things that you personally have been involved with and that you personally have witnessed along the way.

Q: I’d love to hear what the various workgroups are focused on; their challenges and their accomplishments. Is that something that could be discussed once or twice a year in an All-Hands Meeting or another similar setting?  

President Kusch: I’m going to read the next question because they are related.

Q: With the latest accreditation cycle behind us, I’m not sure it's thought about often. However, I know that it's a continued priority. Is there anything, in particular, we should be focusing on or working on right now for the next go-around?

President Kusch: One of the primary reasons that we made the adjustments to workgroups at the beginning of this year, was in response to the year-seven accreditation visit and the report that was provided by the evaluators. So, while it may not be the same in terms of the day-to-day work, we've got to continue in this for the accreditors. The work that groups are doing and the way that the workgroups have been structured – and there will be an adjustment that will be announced probably in the next week or so – with some fine-tuning with a council and a workgroup.

As we have learned, the workgroups are organized to be completely focused on mission fulfillment and student achievement, which is the focus of what the Northwest Commission really focuses on. So, what we do to satisfy the accreditors is in our everyday work. And if we're doing our everyday work to fulfill our mission, we will, by definition, be satisfying the things that the accreditors need, and then we just have to put the work together in a report.

I’m going to invite any member of the PEC that would like to respond to this next question to do so, and I will hold my response until after Guy, Tim, Mar, and Alan, if they want to make a comment, have made their comment.

Q: Are there any supplemental books and resources that you've read recently that you would suggest for use during gospel study time? Always looking for recommendations.

Guy Hollingsworth: I thought about that, and I would like to mention one book, which is kind of an obscure book and is no longer in print. It's not so much tied to our gospel regimen of studying every week, but this time of year, I think it's really applicable with Memorial Day just passing and the Fourth of July coming up. It's called “The Great Prologue” by Mark E. Peterson. It came out in 1975. You can buy one from a lot of thrift sources on the Internet.

I’ll read you one little quote here. “This great American nation, the Almighty raised up by the power of His omnipotent the hand that that might be possible in the latter days to the Kingdom of God we established. If the Lord had not prepared the way by laying the foundations of this glorious nation, it would have been impossible to have laid the foundation for the coming in His great Kingdom.”

it's a really easy read. It's about 135 pages long and it's such a great book on our country, this nation, how important it is and was and continues to be especially with everything that's going on today. I think it's every bit as applicable today as well as about 45 years ago. “The Great Prologue,” by Mark Peterson. Great read.

Alan Young: I’ll add to the list. So, one I recently read is called, “Accomplishing the Impossible,” by President Nelson, and it has a subtitle of “What God Does and What We Can Do,” and I found that that was very inspiring; harkening back to the previous question about miracles that we’ve seen with this excellent College transition.

Tim Sloan: I endorse that book that Alan just talked about. That's a great book by President Nelson. I assume supplemental books mean to the scriptures. So, a good book that I have enjoyed and will refer to is a book by John Welch, whom I like a lot. You may know him. He's a prolific writer, and he wrote a book called, “Opening the Heavens, Accounts of Divine Manifestations.” And it takes accounts of all the spiritual manifestations from the First Vision, all the way through the Kirtland temple. And then through the building of the Nauvoo temple and how they are the evidence behind these accounts.

The testimonies that come with them and the book itself are very well documented and it's a great supplemental. If you're interested in the Restoration and going deeper into the doctrine covenants, it's a faith builder. You read that book and you have no doubt that the manifestations that the Prophet Joseph, other apostles and sisters at the time claimed, happened. That this truly is a restoration that really did unfold under the hands and direction of God. So, it's a faith promoter book and it's very well done.

So that’s one book. The other and best supplemental for me is conference talks. I love going through conference talks. Going back to the 80s and 90s, and then when I'm gardening, I love listening to the Neil A. Maxwell Institute podcast. There's some good work there in those podcasts.

Mark Richards: I would just echo all those that have been suggested. I work with a young single adult ward and many of them are students, so we're always trying to apply the Atonement in our discussions in Come, Follow Me and Sunday School, and then in our priesthood and Relief Society meetings discussing the talks of the brethren.

A supplemental book that I generally have everyone read and study and really become familiar with Stephen Robinson’s, “Believe in Christ.” To really understand the Atonement and understand that the Atonement is for each one of us, even though many times we've made these grave mistakes and we knew better. Many think “the Atonement is okay for everybody else, but I knew better,” and I see that attitude a lot. So, we discuss that a lot, and also in Preach My Gospel, chapter six of Christ-like attributes.

We try to study one of those every week as well so that we can become better and will have a better understanding of Him whom we are trying to be like. So, those are a couple of things that that we've been doing.

President Kusch: Thanks, Mark. Let me just add a comment or two. If you think about what Guy, Tim, Alan and Mark shared, the study of the gospel is a very personal thing and how you do it, and what you might supplement your studies with is a very personal thing. I will confess that, as far as my gospel study is concerned, I personally don't bring in a lot of external materials that aren't things that the Church has provided such as Come, Follow Me and the conference talks. I love the things that the Church has provided in revelations and context and in Saints, particularly this year.

So, I find for me, there is plenty enough to spare with the materials that the Church provides and in my own searching of topics and things like that. But that's my personal approach to this. I will tell you that, and this has nothing to do with the gospel, but I just finished a book. If I’m going to read a book, I tend to focus my gospel study with scriptures and the things that the Church has published and conference talks and my recreational reading, or my reading is more books that might be a book about education. Or, I just finished a fascinating spy story that was a real-life spy story. But that's just how I approach my study. So, everyone must do what they feel is best for them that enhances their own study and strengthens their testimony. I really like studying doctrine and that's just kind of what I like to do.

Q: is there a timeline on when we'll find out if our application for the remote work pilot will be approved or not?

Mark Richards: Great question. I think, if I were to ask for a show of hands on how many of us loved working from home, most of us would raise two hands. There were a lot of advantages to that. We recognize there are so many advantages of being back on campus together with the comradery and the culture that comes from it.

So, the answer to that question is that this week is the deadline for submitting the request to be a part of the remote work pilot. Once your requests have been received and, at the end of this week, those requests will be passed on to the unit leader who will review those requests and each request is going to be unique. Everyone has unique circumstances and there might even be some additional discussion with the manager, the unit leader, and the individual making the request. But the decisions will be made on an individual basis, and again, this week is the deadline for the submission of those requests. As soon as you get those requests in, we will start reviewing them and you'll receive word as soon as possible, probably within the next two to three weeks I would think.

Q: Have there been any recent discussions on dress code as employees begin to work in the office again? Specifically ties for men, when they don't have meetings and aren't student-facing. Is there a reason, we don't have a specifically defined dress code?

President Kusch: The answer to the first question is no. To the second question, specifically ties for men, when they don't have meetings and aren't student-facing, no. Is there a reason we don't have a specifically defined dress code? The answer is, I don't know. Those are the practices.

Q: As remote work has become the norm for over a year and, as we transition back to working in the office, will employees who take the train be able to count working on the train as part of their time in the office, if they aren't student-facing? Meaning, for example, working on a train from 8 to 9 or 4 to 5 unless there are meetings during those times. Many employees have long commutes and would be able to effectively get a lot done during those times, while better maintaining work-life balance.

President Kusch: I could spend a lot of time, brothers and sisters, answering this question. There are some things that I’d like to clarify. Remote work at Ensign College over the past year has been a practice in response to unforeseen conditions. It is not the norm. There is a difference. A norm would say, we have adopted this as an institutional policy, and so that’s what we do, but a practice in response to unforeseen conditions is what we have been doing, since March of last year.

Should work on the train, even if an employee is not student-facing be counted as work, and, in this case, there's a suggestion that it could be up to two hours? Meaning they'd work about six in the office. I lived in the San Francisco Bay area for 23 years and I never lived close to my office. I worked for several years for a company while living in South San Jose and worked for a company whose office was 55 miles from my house to the north, by the San Francisco airport.

I was expected to be at work every morning at eight o'clock, and I was working for a Japanese company at the time and there was a Japanese employee who was at the door taking role when we walked in the door. I was never late, and a bell didn't ring at a certain time at the end of the day to say work is over. So, we are expected to be here at Ensign College to do our work, and if we said, “Well, you live far away. You live in Utah County, therefore we’ll let you commute, and we’ll count that as work,” and I live 10 minutes away and you don't have to make any special arrangements to get to work on time.

So, the answer is work starts at eight o'clock. We can't control, nor would we ever think of controlling and telling someone where they should live and their arrangements. They need to be at work on time. Or, nor would we say, “Gee, you live far away, therefore we’ll let you leave work an hour or an hour and a half before someone who lives 10 minutes away because you have a commute."

Those are personal choices, brothers and sisters, and I don't mean to be offensive to anyone who may live at a distance. I get the convenience, but we don't control the choice of where people live, so the answer is a firm but loving and gentle no, that's not going to count as work time. If you do work during those times, that's wonderful, and thank you for being willing to do that.

Q: The partnership between Ensign College and BYU-Pathway Worldwide is adding a few employees. With offices running out in our current building, will there be any talks of permanently expanding the College into the northern half of the first floor of the Salt Lake Center, which the BYU Salt Lake Center currently owns but it's empty?

Mark Richards: It is BYU’s building, and unfortunately, it's not ours to utilize. We've had multiple discussions with Church Facilities and BYU presenters have had multiple discussions with them. We are right now temporarily using part of the first floor for our marketing team. They're using that temporarily until the 10th-floor cubicles get built out the way we want them, and then we'll have groups move up there.

Right now, there's no long-term plan to move over to that facility that we have in place right now.

Q: Will there be any new bachelor's degrees coming soon that are not listed and that are not the ones listed today?

Tim Sloan: Thank you for that question. Yes, we are in the process. We're still in the process of having four new degrees that will be embedded in our IT, Communications and Business Management umbrella of degrees, if you will. Finance, Software Engineering, Human Resources and Customer User Design.

Those still must go through the approval process with the Executive Committee and the Board, but we're optimistic. These went through quite a bit of vetting. We have a process on the new innovations team, and these four look very good on all the criteria’s that we evaluated it by. So, we're excited. Those are the four and we're looking at that. Hopefully, keep your fingers crossed, Fall of 2022.

Q: Will Ensign College have a Digital Content Creation bachelor's degree anytime soon?

Tim Sloan: Great question. We haven't looked at that to see what that would look like against the criteria’s that we have. We have a certificate now that's very popular, so I’m open to looking at that. Anytime soon? No, that wouldn't happen soon in the next year or two, but let's find out and see what we learn in our research to validate this request. So, thank you, and if you have any other questions or requests for any other programs, just go to the Quick Links on our website right at the bottom, and that's where you can submit your ideas for new programs. So, thank you.

President Kusch: Let me just clarify that the things that Tim talked about – our programs that fit under the three established degrees: Business Management, IT or Communications. With Digital Content Creation, there's a certificate that a student could earn and stack into a bachelor's degree. That would be an option that they would have.

Tim Sloan: Yeah, that Digital Content Creation certificate is already embedded in one of our dashboard’s degrees.

Q: Why are we not allowed to carry a firearm on campus with a concealed permit when almost every other college allows it?

Mark Richards: Great question. I have a concealed weapons carry permit that I personally carry in my wallet everywhere I go. The Church, though, absolutely prohibits any firearms from being brought on to any Church property. In fact, it's always been the policy. There was a letter from the Church that came out maybe two years ago that reiterated that. So, that's just a standing Church policy that no firearms are allowed on campus or in a Church building.

Q: Is there any information you can give our students or employees about our plans for devotionals in the Fall as far as gathering together?

President Kusch: Our plans for devotionals in the Fall are that we will have them face-to-face. We’ll have them in-person. We're still working on a venue, and we don't know whether or not it will be the Assembly Hall, or whether or not it would be the Conference Center Theater. I suppose where we met today is also an option. I don't know how the Church would feel about a weekly gathering in the Church Office Building, although depending upon the conditions of Temple Square and the availability, that's another venue that we could explore. But our intent is to be back in-person.

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