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March 2021 Q&A Session with President Kusch

President Kusch: Any quick reports on community service or activities that people have been involved with?

Lavinia Anderl: My Business 125 class did a service project of collecting socks for the homeless. We haven't delivered them yet, but we just finished it up this week. We have four students and collected 46 pairs of socks.

President Kusch: That's terrific! Thank you. Any other reports?

Sarah Hintze: I don't have a report, but I have a couple of service projects that we are going to be organizing for the students. Everyone here can participate as well. One of them is we're going to be collecting water for the Hopi tribe down in Arizona.

Their water has become poisoned, so they're looking for donations of water bottles or any type of water. There's an organization that we're working with. Once we get the bottles collected, they'll take them down to them. So, we'll have some different places throughout the campus where people can drop off water bottles or whatever you want to bring.

The second one is called Bags to Beds, and it's a group that takes plastic shopping bags and turns them into sleeping mats for refugee camps. We'll be collecting plastic bags, and we’ll have places where people can drop them off. Then, up to the ninth floor, we'll have a place where we’ll teach you how to crochet them into these mats. These are just a few things coming up. There will be ads for them, so keep an eye out for those.

President Kusch: That's great, Sarah. Thank you. I hope everybody is continuing to look for opportunities. For those that may not be aware, for our employees, we have instituted a policy where we are allowing them to take up to four hours a month to look for opportunities to serve in the community. It's not a mandate, but it's an invitation and an open opportunity for employees to do that if they choose. So, we hope that there will be good things happening for both employees and students.

Now, let's get into the questions this morning.

Question: What have you observed to be the most important skills, habits and/or characteristics all employees need and all students need to help them through their time at Ensign College?

President Kusch: I want to take the student part first, and then I’ll touch on the employee part. Here's what I think is most important for a student concerning this question, and this applies to us as employees as well. There are a few principles I think are key to a student’s success at Ensign College, or anywhere, but I can only speak for Ensign College. I can reflect on my experience at BYU-Idaho, and what I would tell my students when I had the opportunity of being in the classroom every day. Several words come to mind.

The first is desire. I hope that every student has a desire to learn, and that you are learning how to learn, and that you are loving learning how to learn, and loving to learn, no matter what the subject. You can learn to love every subject – even the most difficult ones – and even maybe the ones that you don't find all that compelling and thrilling. It all has to do with desire and the attitude that you approach your learning opportunity with.

The other is diligence. I believe that in most learning settings diligence may be more important than intelligence. If we're diligent, if we work hard, there will be rewards. There was a quote that I was reminded of recently and I wish I would have thought of it beforehand. Some of you may have it memorized. It’s where President Nelson taught about the thought that the Lord loves effort, it was something that he said in the October General Conference. In essence, he said, the Lord loves effort and when we put forth our effort, that's when the blessings come. So, diligent effort will bring blessings.

The third component to this would be living worthy. If we're living worthy then we're entitled to the Holy Ghost to guide us, to give us inspiration and to remind us of things that we studied. There were some verses in the scriptures that I was reading early this morning, in D&C 50: 28-29.

It says, "But no man is the possessor of all things except he be purified and cleansed from all sin. And if ye are purified and cleansed from all sin, ye shall ask whatsoever you will in the name of Jesus and it shall be done.”

I think that that's a principle that applies in any setting. So, diligence, desire and living worthy for a student to be successful.

For us as employees, D&C 4 reminds us that faith, hope, charity and love, with an eye single to the glory of God, qualify us for the work. If we came to work every day with hearts knit together in unity and love with faith, hope, charity and love, with an eye single to the glory of God, I think those would be the skills and the characteristics, the habits, that would help us all in our work and would magnify our time.

I was thinking about D&C 64 and what the Lord teaches about the heart and a willing mind, and then in Section 27, where the Lord warns us to beware of pride. Those are some things that I think are vital in our work. Truly, if we will practice those as virtues and characteristics, we will develop as capable and trusted disciples of the Savior.

Question: Could we hear a brief summary of our five-year plans, priorities and strategic initiatives?

President Kusch: I’m going to go through a few of the slides that I went through yesterday with the Executive Committee, and just in the interest of time, we won't go through everything. I started out by telling the Executive Committee that the February 2020 announcement answered important strategic questions regarding our future. You've heard me talk about this before. We don't have to worry about a name change anymore, we don't have to worry about bachelor's degrees anymore and we have clarity with regards to our relationship with BYU-Pathway Worldwide.

2020, in particular, was a remarkable year. It was a preparatory year and brought on effective implementation of the things that were approved. Thirteen months ago, today, was the announcement, to the day. Effective implementation of these things is going to be a multi-year effort. It's not as just as simple as, okay, now we've got all these things in place. We're done. We're really at the beginning of the implementation, not so much with our name, but certainly with the bachelor's degrees and with our work with BYU-Pathway Worldwide.

We've identified four strategic priorities. The first is to strengthen the student experience to attract retain and graduate more students who attend Ensign College here.

The second is to provide the unique Ensign College applied learning experience, independent of location or modality.

The third is to leverage online learning to improve course design and extend the reach of Ensign College programs.

And the fourth is to offer a very high-quality BAS degree experience.

You should recognize in those things the institutional adjustments that were announced a year ago and our continued desire to serve more students on our campus here. So, as we look at things, many things are going on to attract students. Again, time doesn't permit the detail. When we have our All-Hands Meeting at the beginning of the Spring Semester, we'll go into some of these things in greater detail.

We have a workgroup that's focused on bringing more students to campus. We're seeing a very positive trend in applications. So far, we have more than 200 BAS-specific applicants for the Fall. We're using scholarships. We do still have a concern about the lack of housing and how that might prohibit some students from coming.

We're doing some things with a retention focus on the first semester. Again, we have a workgroup that's focused on that. We think that BAS degrees will contribute to retention. The Ensign Center for Employer Connections, we think, will continue to be a powerful tool for getting students excited about the things that they can do here and other work that's going on.

We've gained a lot of expertise in the last five years in our immersive learning model for on-campus instruction. And as our online curriculum increases, we want to be sure that we can do it regardless of the modality. And that work is continuing and continuing in excellent ways under the direction of Tim Sloan in the Academic unit.

Leveraging online learning to improve course design extends the reach of Ensign College programs.

Question: Will there continue to be online options for students who think that's the best option, as well as offering more online courses and programs within Ensign College?

President Kusch: We are working to do that. We anticipate having nearly 100% of our curriculum ready for online delivery by Spring of 2023, and Alan Young and Andy Gibbons are working towards that goal, and we have every reason to believe that we’ll meet that goal.

Serving the students worldwide addresses our relationship with BYU-Pathway Worldwide as we successfully implement an agreement, which now has been approved by NWCCU between Ensign College and BYU-Pathway Worldwide. These are the offerings that we will be offering to Pathway students, really in earnest, beginning in the Fall. We've already been doing Social Media Marketing and Technical Support Engineer and Hospitality and Tourism.

If our predictions hold fast, in Fall of 2025, we anticipate that 16,000 students would be enrolled as Ensign College students. I think that's pretty neat.

Those were the primary things that were shared with the Executive Committee yesterday. I would mention one other thing. Please understand that the approval from the Executive Committee does not necessarily mean approval at the Board level, but in almost every case, it does. And I anticipate that this will be approved without any issues.

One of the things that we learned in our Year Seven Evaluation in October was that our Core Themes were lengthy. They were hard to understand. They were hard to remember, and people didn't talk about them very much at all. We agreed with that. We've evaluated that, and recognizing that the things that were mentioned in the core themes are integral to the work that Ensign College does, we proposed yesterday to the Executive Committee that the Core Themes will be retired as a part of the connected part of our mission statement. Not that we're moving away from them, but that they are just being addressed in other ways.

When Elder Holland asked for a vote, he just said, “Everyone in favor of retirement, please raise your hand." So, that action was taken yesterday in the Executive Committee. I anticipate that that will be approved on the second Wednesday in April by the Board. We've alerted Maren Lythgoe that those would be taken out of the catalog and Tracey Anderson will communicate that intent to the Northwest Commission. So, we think that our mission statement and the things that we're doing in other ways will address those things.

Question: How do you feel your presentation went overall?

President Kusch: You know, that's a good question. It's hard to read the room, sometimes in a virtual setting, but overall, I think it went well. To me, the most positive thing is that nobody said, “Bruce, what are you thinking?” So, I think it went well. You don't get a lot of feedback in these settings. The agenda yesterday was as long as I’ve ever seen an Executive Committee agenda. I was about a minute into my presentation when Elder Paul V. Johnson sent me a note in the chat that said I needed to speed it up. So, there just wasn't time for a lot of discussions. But, tomorrow morning, we are recording commencement. Elder Quentin L. Cook is our commencement speaker, and he is a member of the Executive Committee. He was in the meeting yesterday. So, I’m going to see if I can talk to Elder Cook for a minute and just ask what he thought.

Question: How we calculate our enrollment numbers projections, and what can we do as faculty and staff to help support those estimates?

President Kusch: The online numbers projections come from BYU-Pathway Worldwide. Those are forecasts based on the number of students they anticipate serving and the percentage of the curriculum that they anticipate we will offer. I think they're estimating that we will be serving 40% of all BYU-Pathway Worldwide students who matriculate, that are certificate and degree-seeking. Alan, is that an accurate statement of that?

Alan Young: Yes, that's correct. They're tied in with area presidencies who helped them with those forecasts for particular areas of the world.

President Kusch: So, what can we do? Just get ready. And you might say, well, what does that mean? And I guess my response is just to be ready and be flexible. We will learn as we go. We'll really start in earnest in the Fall. We think about 4,000 students for the Fall Semester will be enrolled in our programs, and we'll talk more about this again when we have our next All-Hands Meeting. Much of the support is provided by BYU-Pathway Worldwide. We'll be doing financial aid and those kinds of things, but much of the heavy lifting and supporting students will be done by Pathway.

Question: Of the percentage of those enrolled, how many would be U.S. students?

Alan Young: Overall, about half. It varies according to the program, but overall around half.

Question: Is there a concern about the cost of BYU-Pathway Worldwide tuition being so much lower than the Ensign College tuition so that it affects on-campus attendance?

President Kusch: If anything, I think our relationship with Pathway will increase and enhance on-campus attendance.

I think that there will be students who will complete Pathway and will want to come here. Pathway students who complete Pathway, and that are domestic students, complete Pathway in the United States, come to Ensign College and pay Pathway tuition. So, there's no disincentive for them to come to campus because they'd be paying higher tuition. And the way that budgets work from an operational standpoint, there are appropriations to address the gaps because there is not one Pathway price for students. It’s set by the Area Presidency. In the United States, it's all the same, but in international locations, it's all different, based on geography and what’s decided by the Area Presidency in consultation with the BYU-Pathway Worldwide organization.

Question: Are those new students from the forecast going to be BYU-Pathway Worldwide students or Ensign College students?

President Kusch: We need to make sure that we don't think of any student as Pathway students or Ensign College students. Every student we serve will be an Ensign College student. These are students that will be enrolled as Ensign College students. We will award the credit. We will award degrees. We will award certificates.

Those online students, if they can come to Salt Lake City for commencement, they will be welcome to come and participate in the commencement. I think it will be awesome when we have the first matriculated BYU-Pathway Worldwide student that walks across the stage of the Tabernacle. I’m hoping we will be back in the Tabernacle at some point in time. That, or maybe commencement will be so big that it has to be in the Conference Center as we begin to have these online students participating. That will be a great day.

Question: What are your biggest concerns for the future and the biggest hopes for the future?

President Kusch: As I look at the things that have gone on, and my hopes for the future, one would be that we would be immensely grateful for the privileges and the trust that the Board of Trustees has placed in us. It is no small thing to allow us to do all that we have been able to do. The name change was the easiest thing of all of this, but to allow us to move into new territory as far as bachelor's degrees are concerned and with the online curriculum and the impact that Ensign College will have. Our involvement with BYU-Pathway Worldwide and what we will be doing with the online curriculum is, at least in some measure, fulfillment of prophecy.

At President Richard's inauguration in 2009, President Eyring said that that it could very well be that then LDS Business College would play a key role in taking distance education to the Church. Usually, when prophets make statements like that, they're not immediately fulfilled. And you don't exactly know how and when they will be fulfilled, but I think that what's happening now is in at least partial fulfillment of that prophetic statement by President Eyring, now 12 years ago. I just hope that we come to work every day grateful.

And if I had a concern, I guess it would be that we weren't grateful. But I think the future of this institution is very bright. And I think that you know we don't exactly know how things unfold in the future. But we come to work every day and we do our best, and we let the Lord guide us in our efforts.

Question: When will the 2021-2022 catalog will be published?

Maren Lythgoe: I hope to have a final draft out by the end of this week for all of the stakeholders to review all of the changes that were submitted, and then send it to the printer in April. So, by May 1, we hope to have it solidified. We'll see how far we can keep on track.

Question: Will the Fall 2021 Semester be online or all in person?

President Kusch: This student had a particular reason for wanting to know because they’re a foreign student, and they may have to purchase a ticket to go home in between semesters.

Tim Sloan: Based on what we know and what is trending, we believe that the majority of our classes will be on campus. That's how we're going to structure them.

We're actually shooting for something like 80/20. 80% of our courses would be on campus, and the other 20% would be made up of Zoom, online and hybrid classes. So, we're pretty excited about this. We're optimistic about what we're hearing, and I think we all heard that Utah State announced a 75/25 split. So, we're very much in line with what they're doing as well.

Question: When should we expect or can we expect to have a Software Engineer or Computer Science bachelor's degree?

Tim Sloan: Right now, we have about eight courses that we are looking at in-depth that have made a first cut of meeting the criteria that we have, and one of those is Software Engineering. But we wanted to get the first degrees out first to see how well we do with those, but I'm anticipating and hoping for a Software Engineering area of emphasis to be in place for 2022. Computer Science remains to be seen yet, but definitely, the Software Engineering degree, we're very optimistic about.

Question: How many students transfer from BYU to Ensign College each year?

President Kusch: I put some information together based on all the transfer destinations. And actually, UVU is the top transfer destination. It varies by semester, but I looked at some averages over the last few years. UVU is number one, the University of Utah is a very close second to UVU. And then BYU-Idaho is third and BYU is fourth. Now, that's looking at history over the last few years. I actually used some of this data when I was making the presentation in January of last year to the First Presidency with regards to the bachelor's degrees, indicating that the majority of our transfer students, when they transfer to a four-year school, they're not transferring to Church schools. They're transferring to UVU and the University of Utah.

The idea that Ensign College would have a four-year degree program and keep more students here longer in a Church school environment was quite appealing to the First Presidency, but it's UVU, the University of Utah, BYU Idaho, and BYU; kind of in that order.

And BYU is a fairly distant fourth place. That doesn't mean that there's not a lot of students that go there, but that's just a general grouping of where our students are transferring.

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