Two years ago this week President Worthen shared with the university community his vision for inspiring learning.1 This afternoon I hope to further describe some of the contours of that effort, particularly as it relates to experiential learning and student-centered research. I will also share my sense of why the whole inspiring learning project depends on “having [our] hearts knit together in unity and in love one towards another”2—the theme of this university conference.
As I considered my own inspiring learning efforts, my mind went back fifteen years. It may still be the case, but at that time, local junior high students were encouraged to spend one day shadowing a parent at work on what was called Groundhog Shadow Day. My son Danny and his friend decided to come shadow me. Frankly, watching me sit at a computer, answer emails, and write didn’t seem like a particularly thrilling day, save for the promise of a trip to the Wilk’s gaming center, but they would at least be able to see me teach a class.
My son and his friend came and sat in the back of my torts class, which was held in an old computer lab. The computers had been removed, but they weren’t necessary anyway because all the law students had laptops and brought them to class. The lab did, however, retain its comfortable leather chairs. I taught my class, and I felt like it went quite well—perhaps it was even inspiring.
After class, my son Danny bounded to the front of the room with a joyful look on his face and said, “Dad, I want to go to law school.”
For just a brief moment, I thought: “Wow. This is great. My son has seen me in action and is impressed. He thinks I am a fantastic teacher, and, even better, I have lit some spark for learning.”
As these happy thoughts filled my head, he continued, “I want to go to law school because the students get to sit in comfy swivel chairs, and they can play solitaire on their laptops if they want.”
Take pin and insert it into my balloon. Let’s start from the proposition that I have plenty of my own work to do on inspiring learning.
One reason I chose to spend some time today on inspiring learning is that I sense there is some confusion about its content, particularly that inspiring learning is being conflated with experiential learning. I believe some of the confusion may come from the fact that President Worthen is working with donors to build a $120 million Inspiring Learning Endowment and that thus far the funding from that endowment has supported our efforts to expand experiential learning opportunities for our students. It is important to recognize, however, that the two are not the same. Experiential learning is a subset of inspiring learning. Inspiring learning is a much broader concept, encompassing all our efforts to achieve the mission and aims of the university.
In his 2016 address on inspiring learning, the president, as he has often done, first spent several minutes focusing us on the mission of the university. Forgive me for quoting him at some length:
I hope that what occupies a good portion of our hearts and minds is the role we are to play in assisting our students “in their quest for perfection and eternal life.” The mission statement makes it clear that our primary role in that process is to help our students learn. . . .
In terms I hope are now familiar to all of you, the mission statement indicates that, above all else, our students should learn “the truths of the gospel of Jesus Christ.” In addition, they should experience learning that is “broad”—learning that enables them to “think clearly, communicate effectively, understand important ideas in their own cultural tradition as well as that of others, and establish clear standards of intellectual integrity.”
Our students should also experience learning “in the special fields of their choice”—learning that will enable them to compete “with the best in their fields.” In addition, they should experience learning that renders them “not only . . . capable of meeting personal challenge and change but . . . also [of bringing] strength to others in the tasks of home and family life, social relationships, civic duty, and service to mankind.”
The Aims document effectively boils all these down to four main points: we are to provide learning that is “(1) spiritually strengthening, (2) intellectually enlarging, and (3) character building, leading to (4) lifelong learning and service.”3
It was after this discussion of the mission statement—our core direction since the board approved our mission statement in 1981—that the president said:
In an effort to succinctly explain what we are about in a way that allows people to easily remember, I have tried to simplify the core learning goals even more while still emphasizing that a full understanding requires a return to the mission statement. After discussions with many of you in many settings, I have concluded that one two-word description that achieves that end is “inspiring learning.” Note again that one cannot understand the full meaning of the term “inspiring learning” without a full understanding of the mission statement. Just as the Aims document is a summary and not a replacement for the mission statement, the two-word description “inspiring learning” is a summary and not a replacement.4
President Worthen then emphasized that “inspiring learning occurs in many of our classrooms for many of our students on a regular basis.” Indeed, he observed that “classrooms are the central places in which that kind of learning occurs.”5
It was only after establishing that classroom baseline that President Worthen turned to experiential learning, noting that while it is essential that our classrooms be places of inspiring learning, “that by itself will not completely fulfill our mission.”6 He then made a point that I think is critical to understanding our entire inspiring learning effort. He observed that in addition to the injunction to “seek learning, even by study and also by faith,7 another crucial lesson of the restored gospel is that “experience is a key part of our mortal learning process.”8
Inspiring learning is our entire university project. It is a shorthand description of the mission and aims. It is about educating our students by study, by faith, and by experience. Classroom teaching is the largest subset of our efforts. It is, as President Worthen said, the central place where inspiring learning must happen.
Experiential learning efforts are likewise a subset of inspiring learning. They overlap our classroom efforts, which in many cases include—indeed, have long included—experiential learning components. Experiential learning encompasses a wide range of activities: mentoring in labs, internships, study abroad experiences, working with research assistants and teaching assistants, field studies, conference presentations, performances, competitions, and coauthoring papers.
It is this subset of activities to which the Inspiring Learning Endowment funds have primarily been directed. Colleges and departments have also dedicated significant funds within their control to experiential learning opportunities for our students. The data we collected from the colleges during our recent resource planning process showed that in 2017 we provided financial support for 4,685 experiential learning activities. The numbers are greater this year and are actually much higher in both years if we include opportunities funded from other internal and external sources. (I was going to excitedly tell you that I drew this data from a new Form E that is part of resource planning, but I realized that expressing excitement about designing a Form E to gather data on Experiential learning expenditures would be too much of an indication that my administrative “sell by” date has come and gone.)
As many of you are aware, as part of our experiential learning efforts, we converted the MEG and ORCA grant program into a college block grant program. Our judgment was that experiential learning opportunities vary so widely by college that colleges would be better at allocating those funds to promote the best student-learning opportunities. I hope that flexibility will help the colleges, departments, and faculty in your efforts to provide more students with impactful experiential learning opportunities. As a footnote, I am also hopeful that, as this internal funding for experiential learning grows, we will find ways to allocate the funds that are consistent with the incentive to seek external funding, which itself provides so many wonderful opportunities for our students, along with being a powerful form of peer review for our research efforts.
In addition to teaching and research assistants, which appear on my list of experiential learning activities, I might have referred more broadly to on-campus employment. Given our model, which depends so heavily on student employees to do the staff work of the university and which tries to help students cover the cost of their education through work opportunities, we have a lot of students employed on campus.
I was interested to learn this year that many of our students cite their experiences with on-campus employment as among their most significant mentoring experiences at the university. As evidenced in a survey of 1,101 student employees, our relationship with student employees is a real part of our inspiring learning efforts. The results are quite impressive: 93 percent of students feel like their jobs reinforce integrity; 92 percent say that their on-campus jobs instill in them an appreciation for learning new things; 94 percent report that their supervisor is a positive role model for them; and 91 percent say that their supervisor helps them to grow as a person. Truly we are teaching at all times and in all places. And this is true not only of the academic units at the university but also for the auxiliary and support units. Nonacademic campus employment also has a significant impact on our students. Just as our mission statement aspires, “all instruction, programs, and services at BYU . . . should make their own contribution toward the balanced development of the total person.”9
These data about the effect of on-campus employment illustrate an important principle about our inspiring learning efforts. Inspiring learning is most powerfully a function of our examples and our relationships with our students. I am convinced that student learning is less about the information we transmit to them and much more about our attitude toward that information and toward them. From my perspective, the core questions we might ask ourselves about whether we are producing inspiring learning—in the classroom or outside it—are the following: Are we enthusiastic about the material we teach? Are we excited by what we do not know and eager to learn more? Do we confront uncertainties and ambiguities in the material with humility? Are we patient with those who do not know as much as we do? Are we forgiving of mistakes and kind in our necessary critiques? Do we use knowledge to coerce assent or to invite consideration? Is our faith strengthened by our learning?
I hope this wasn’t just because it corresponded with my own intuition, but I was grateful for what our recently retired colleague Alan L. Wilkins shared with deans and chairs last year about his Faculty Center research on what produces a spiritually strengthening relationship with students. The three most important reasons cited by students were: first, faculty showing they believe in students’ potential; second, faculty being authentic and genuine; and, third, faculty being a role model of living the gospel.
Two years ago I had the opportunity to spend a couple of months doing research at the National Archives in London. My wife and I lived at the London Centre in a studio flat and overlapped a study abroad program taught by our colleagues Renata Forste and Miranda Wilcox. I did not attend many of their classes or any of the field trips, but I believe I saw
the most powerful part of the learning experience. Renata and Miranda knew the students; they knew their hopes and aspirations. There were hours of conversation with students
in stairwells and at the dinner table. There were unscheduled invitations to students to join them for evensongs and cultural events. There was faithful service in two wards in south London that needed additional leadership. There was passion for their research disciplines—Miranda’s passion to spend a little more time with an Old English inscription or poem and Renata’s to pause over London’s many sociological puzzles. I surely hope the students learned much about the history, culture, politics, and art of the United Kingdom, but I know they learned something about the joy of lifelong learning, service, kindness, hard work, patience, and faith.
This is, of course, only one example among what I know to be so many across this university, but it illustrates that the core of inspiring learning is faithful example and belief in our students’ potential, facilitated by formal teaching opportunities. I share this not to diminish the value of formal teaching that conveys knowledge, theories, or even information but to recognize that truly inspiring learning requires more.
The truth is that what President Gordon B. Hinckley once described as the great “experiment” of BYU10 is based on the idea that who faculty and students are and are trying to become is just as important as how much they know. I find it instructive that the conference theme that our hearts be knit together in unity and in love comes from the very same chapter—Mosiah 18—that describes our baptismal covenants “to bear one another’s burdens, that they may be light; . . . to mourn with those that mourn; . . . [to] comfort those that stand in need of comfort,” and to serve the Lord and “keep his commandments.”11 It suggests that living these key covenants is a precondition to the unity we seek. BYU would not go to so much trouble to find faculty who will be faithful role models and to find students who truly desire the blessings of a BYU education if our primary concern were simply the transmission of information. Instead, the goal is to create a community of faith and learning where all are in relation to each other—the sort of Zion community about which the president spoke this morning.12
To bring this together, inspiring learning is grounded in relationships. Some of those relationships are in the classroom, some are in experiential learning settings, some are a function of informal office and hallway conversations, and many are between the students themselves, where we hope the learning we provide continues and multiplies. It is this web of relationships that forms the foundation and predicate for creating the sort of Zion university the president described earlier today.
I hope that these thoughts on inspiring learning have clarified the depth and breadth of the inspiring learning project, which is so much more than experiential learning. Indeed, inspiring learning is the lodestar by which our faculty have long set their course. As collectively we expand experiential learning, we should see it as a supplement to this faculty’s longstanding consecrated effort to produce inspiring learning. As I suggested last year, I recognize that in a world of finite time, energy, and money, we surely need to make hard choices to balance the various ways in which we strive to accomplish inspiring learning.13 But the sinews that hold together our entire effort are our relationships to our students, our example, our attitude, our faith, and our hope in them and their eternal capacity.
The Questions We Ask
I now want to consider further the theme of this annual university conference, from Mosiah 18:21, that we might have our “hearts knit together in unity and in love one towards another.” I embark from what may seem an odd vantage point: namely, a famous experiment in social psychology. I suppose it is particularly odd because it is an academic discipline in which I have no expertise. I admit to some trepidation, but it won’t be the first time I have ventured with little predicate; lawyers tend to do that. So forgive me if I am not familiar with all the literature surrounding this particular social psychology experiment, but I believe it provides a valuable illustration of a point worth considering.
Let me now just ask you to follow the instructions in this brief clip.14 Many of you will have seen this before, but don’t give away the answer. [A video was shown in which three people in white shirts pass a basketball among themselves and three people in black shirts pass a basketball among themselves. Viewers are asked to count the number of passes made by those wearing white shirts. Halfway through the video, a person in a black gorilla suit walks through the video.]
I am sure that many of you have seen this clip, which went viral on YouTube and which comes from a 1999 experiment by American psychologists Daniel Simons and Christopher Chabris.15 I do not know if you saw the gorilla, but apparently more than half of those who watch the video do not see the gorilla because they are focused on the rather difficult task of counting the passes thrown by the team in white shirts.
The common conclusion drawn from this experiment, an idea advanced most prominently perhaps by Nobel laureate Daniel Kahneman, a psychologist and one of the leading lights of behavioral economics, is that “we can be blind to the obvious, and we are also blind to our blindness.”16 While I have found the insights of Kahneman and behavioral economics helpful to my thinking on many issues, a few weeks ago I was persuaded that human blindness may be only part of the lesson to take from the Simons and Chabris gorilla experiment. In July, Teppo Felin, a former BYU faculty member who is now on the faculty at the University of Oxford’s Saïd Business School, published an article in Aeon titled “The Fallacy of Obviousness.” Felin wrote that the gorilla experiment “might suggest something different, and more positive, about human nature.”17
Imagine you were asked to watch the clip again, but this time without receiving any instructions. After watching the clip, imagine you were then asked to report what you observed. You might report that you saw two teams passing a basketball. You are very likely to have observed the gorilla. But having noticed these things, you are unlikely to have simultaneously recorded any number of other things. The clip features a large number of other obvious things that one could potentially pay attention to and report: the total number of basketball passes, the overall gender or racial composition of the individuals passing the ball, the number of steps taken by the participants. If you are looking for them, many other things are also obvious in the clip: the hair colour of the participants, their attire, their emotions, the colour of the carpet (beige), the “S” letters spray-painted in the background, and so forth.
In short, the list of obvious things in the gorilla clip is extremely long. And that’s the problem: we might call it the fallacy of obviousness. There’s a fallacy of obviousness because all kinds of things are readily evident in the clip. But missing any one of these things isn’t a basis for saying that humans are blind. The experiment is set up in such a way that people miss the gorilla because they are distracted by counting basketball passes. Preoccupied with the task of counting, missing the gorilla is hardly surprising.18
Felin then offered his alternative explanation that is more positive about human nature but still a cautionary tale. Felin suggested:
The alternative interpretation says that what people are looking for—rather than what people are merely looking at—determines what is obvious. . . . What we see depends on our expectations and questions—what we are looking for, what question we are trying to answer.19
Felin’s argument is more detailed20 and is an interesting read, but I am most interested in this core insight—that the questions we pose impact what we see. Or, as Albert Einstein once put it, “Whether you can observe a thing or not depends on the theory which you use. It is the theory which decides what can be observed.”21
What then are the theories—the doctrines and principles—by which we see our work at this university? Surely the importance of our starting theory is one reason why President Worthen consistently prompts us with questions about how we might better implement the mission and aims. If that is our question, then that will be our focus.
The Question of Student-Centered Research
An example from this last year of how a new question has changed my perspective comes from the president’s 2017 university conference challenge that we be engaged in “student-centered research.”22 This formulation drew from President (then Elder) Dallin H. Oaks’s challenge issued to university leadership in the spring of 2017.23 For some in the university, particularly those in our lab and performance disciplines, the president’s direction to engage in student-centered research was not particularly hard to envision. Metaphorically, they had already seen the gorilla. For others of us—and I certainly include myself in this category—it was like being asked to notice the gorilla when, in the past, we had been asked to focus on counting passes. Our metrics—our questions—were about whether we were producing high-quality teaching and, usually quite separately, high-quality scholarship. The call to student-centered research asks a different question, and now the scene we survey isn’t the same.
I am still puzzling through the implications of this question, but now I can’t unsee the students as part of the research endeavor. Disrupting our research vision to set forth a student-centered aspiration is, in some sense, the key move. If there is no aspect of our faculty work walled off from students, we think differently about our role. I believe the shift in our vision is the most important product of President Worthen’s student-centered research aspiration.
However, recall that President Worthen also said:
As Elder Oaks noted, there is in these matters a challenge for the administration. We need to properly recognize and incentivize both faith-based teaching and student-centered research—something that is quite difficult. It is easy to count the number of publications that research produces; it is much more difficult but more important to evaluate how much impact the research endeavor has on the students.24
The fact that I am still puzzling through what student-centered research means across the university is surely a bit of a failing on my part because I was front-and-center challenged to think more specifically about administrative implementation. At the same time, and I hope not too defensively, some of the puzzling is a recognition that, if we are too quick administratively to assume we have found the right metric or incentive, we might again inappropriately narrow our sight.
As I have thought about incorporating student-centered research into our university rank and status document, my sense has been that we should take a narrative approach that allows faculty colleagues across varied disciplines to grapple with how they have answered the call to student-centered research. For some of our colleagues in the performance and lab disciplines, the call may be to increase the quality of the mentoring relationships with students who have long played such an integral role in their creative and scholarly efforts. For other disciplines, perhaps it includes an effort to involve more student research assistants or to spend more time building relationships with our research assistants; perhaps it includes more coauthoring; perhaps it includes an effort to consider a research agenda that can more profitably include students; perhaps it includes an effort to share our research passion and projects as part of our classroom teaching. I do not know precisely how this will play out in every discipline—and some disciplines will surely be able to articulate more precise metrics—but I do know that asking the question makes us see our faculty task differently.
As the president reaffirmed this morning, student-centered research is not meant to subtly reject our research mission.25 Our board-approved mission statement also makes this clear:
Scholarly research and creative endeavor among both faculty and students, including those in selected graduate programs of real consequence, are essential and will be encouraged.26
The idea of student-centered research is to ensure that our research stays anchored within our mission and aims and is part of our inspiring learning effort.
As we contemplate college and department efforts to recognize and incentivize student-centered research, the gorilla experiment teaches us another lesson: the metrics we choose tend to capture our focus to the exclusion of other possibilities. In many ways, this is a prosaic insight about metrics: we produce more of what we measure. But it is a principle of which we should all be mindful, particularly when many of the most important parts of what we are about as a university are not susceptible to counting. The parts of our mission and aims that are not easily counted need to remain the core questions we ask of ourselves, or else we will miss them just like so many miss the gorilla in favor of carefully counting the number of passes.
Bathed in the Light of the Restored Gospel
We have all heard many times Brigham Young’s admonition to Karl G. Maeser: “Brother Maeser, I want you to remember that you ought not to teach even the alphabet or the multiplication tables without the Spirit of God.”27
President Spencer W. Kimball, in his “Education for Eternity” address fifty-one years ago, similarly urged:
It would not be expected that all of the faculty should be categorically teaching religion constantly in their classes, but it is proper that every professor and teacher in this institution would keep his subject matter bathed in the light and color of the restored gospel.28
Both of these statements were later incorporated into our Aims document. I love the way the Psalms make a similar point: “For with thee is the fountain of life: in thy light shall we see light.”29 And “Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path.”30
If we want to create the sort of Zion university President Worthen described this morning, and if our questions and premises change what we see, then surely our view of our faculty vocation should be “bathed in the light . . . of the restored gospel.” And if the doctrines and principles of the restored gospel suffuse our vision, our hearts will be “knit together in unity and in love one towards another.”
Does this mean that we will see all things precisely the same way? No. It should not be surprising that, even when we collectively focus on the right principles, we are left to learn by hard experience what is the wisest and best application of those principles. This sort of learning process, where we grapple with principles in tension and consider challenging questions of application, is just what we ought to relish at a university. Nevertheless, getting the core principles—the core questions—right matters.
I like the way our Aims document expresses this:
The students, faculty, and staff in this community possess a remarkable diversity of gifts, but they all think of themselves as brothers and sisters seeking together to master the academic disciplines while remaining mastered by the higher claims of discipleship to the Savior.31
There is extraordinary value in diverse perspectives. Thinking back to the gorilla experiment: For those of us who did not see the gorilla because we were so focused on counting passes, wouldn’t we be grateful to those who did see the gorilla because they had surveyed the scene from a different perspective? Then consider that insight with respect to the much more complex scene of the university project. Where would we be if everyone counted only one thing? How grateful we should be that others enhance, and sometimes correct, our vision.
When I see what seems to be increasing political polarization in our country, I find myself profoundly grateful to be at BYU—not because we do not differ politically (because we surely do) but because we strive to be “mastered by the higher claims of discipleship to the Savior.” But if our country’s politics are becoming more polarized, we need to continue to be vigilant in seeing all our colleagues and students as beloved children of our Heavenly Father.
To illustrate with a rough and imperfect sketch articulated by economist Arnold Kling, politically we tend to divide into “three tribal coalitions”: Progressives tend to see and understand issues along an “oppressor-oppressed axis”; their heroes are those “who have stood up for the underprivileged.” Conservatives tend to view events along a “civilization-barbarism axis”; their heroes tend to be those “who have stood up for Western values.” And libertarians typically apply a “liberty-coercion” lens to events; their heroes tend to be those “who have stood up for individual rights.”32
Each of these narratives has value. Indeed, each perspective draws guidance from doctrines and illustrations in the scriptures and the words of prophets. The doctrines of the restored Church of Jesus Christ do not fall neatly into one political coalition. The challenge comes when we are mastered by our political commitments rather than by the higher claims of discipleship to the Savior.
Kling’s own prescription for not being blinded by our political axis returns to Daniel Kahneman’s suggestion in Thinking, Fast and Slow that “thinking slow” reduces our blindness. Thinking slow requires that we see an issue from a variety of angles rather than along a single axis.33 Surely thinking slow is part of the solution. And, fortunately, one of the great privileges of being a faculty member at a university is that we are able to think slow and, as it were, to rewind the gorilla experiment and look for the various details and nuances.
But thinking slow is not the whole solution. Harking back to Teppo Felin’s idea, vision is not just a function of surveying the scene slowly but of the questions we ask and the mind-set we have when we take up the task.
All of us, of course, apply some lens to the scene we survey. And, again, collectively we are benefited by that diversity. But unity depends on our not letting our other lenses and frames obscure our gospel lens. Nor should we try to bend the gospel to fit those other lenses and frames. Although, in Paul’s words, “for now we see through a glass, darkly,” our lens must be “faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity.34 This is the lens that will represent our being mastered by our discipleship to the Savior. This is the lens by which we see that the Samaritan, regardless of tribal antipathy, is our neighbor.35 This is the lens that allows our hearts to be “knit together in unity and in love.”
Some Gratitude in Closing
May I say what a remarkable university this is: the willingness of our faculty community to gather together in this meeting to consider our shared responsibility for our students and for this sacred institution, and the peace-giving space to be able to make references to Paul, the good Samaritan, and the baptismal covenants in Mosiah—albeit mixed with an extended gorilla metaphor. I am grateful to be a part of this faculty and to labor alongside you.
As President Worthen noted last year, you are asked to live in a “messy middle” with heavy responsibilities for teaching, citizenship, scholarship, and creative works.36 To return to the metaphor of the gorilla experiment, it can feel like you are asked not only to see the gorilla but also to count the passes of both teams, notice the writing on the wall, and see everything else in the video. I know it is a daunting task. I am grateful that you are willing to engage the challenge.
Speaking of more items on which we have been asked to focus our attention, I am grateful to colleagues who have adjusted their vision to consider President Oaks’s question of what more we can do “to offer public, unassigned support of Church policies.”37 I understand this admonition to be one directed at the university collectively, not necessarily individually. This idea that some encouragement is meant collectively rather than individually is a subject on which we could all profitably ponder more, including with respect to experiential learning, but I will leave that for another day. In this particular case, I understand President Oaks’s encouragement to be collectively addressed to the university but to be individually focused on those disciplines with relevant expertise, which is why President Oaks asked for help “especially on the subject of our fundamental doctrine and policies on the family.”38
In that regard, I am grateful to the School of Family Life faculty for their collective effort to do the hard thinking—to look anew with President Oaks’s question in mind—about how to produce more public scholarship in support of the family. I am humbled by their faithful response, because the implications are significant, including for peer review, for rank and status, for balance between standard peer-reviewed scholarship and public scholarship, and for potential individual adjustments to research agendas.
As a final word of gratitude, I will say that if, as I advocated earlier, it is true that the most important learning we will impart to our students is taught by who we are, our attitude toward learning, and our attitude toward them, I am confident that the students will be inspired by this extraordinary faculty. May the Lord bless you this year in your faithful service.
1. See Kevin J Worthen, “Inspiring Learning,” BYU university conference address, 22 August 2016.
2. Mosiah 18:21.
3. Worthen, “Inspiring Learning”; quoting The Mission of Brigham Young University (4 November 1981) and The Aims of a BYU Education (1 March 1995).
4. Worthen, “Inspiring Learning.”
5. Worthen, “Inspiring Learning”; emphasis added.
6. Worthen, “Inspiring Learning.”
7. D&C 88:118.
10. President Gordon B. Hinkley said: “It is a continuing experiment on a great premise that a large and complex university can be first class academically while nurturing an environment of faith in God and the practice of Christian principles” (“Trust and Accountability,” BYU devotional address, 13 October 1992).
11. Mosiah 18:8–10.
12. See Kevin J Worthen, “Fulfilling the Destiny of Zion,” BYU university conference address, 27 August 2018. President Worthen emphasized the importance of relationships in his 2016 “Inspiring Learning” address:
We can increase the number of inspiring learning moments for our students if we recognize that both experiential learning and classroom learning are enhanced by the quality of the relationships we develop with our students. . . . The 2014 Gallup-Purdue survey . . . found that one of the key factors that correlated with success in both work engagement and overall well-being was a high-quality relationship with a faculty member. According to that data, a graduate’s chances of thriving at work and in life doubled if the student “had a professor who cared about them as a person, made them excited about learning, and encouraged them to pursue their dreams.” . . .
Inspiring learning will be greatly enhanced if those with whom we interact feel Christ’s love for them through us. [Emphasis in original; quoting Gallup and Purdue University, Executive Summary, in Great Jobs, Great Lives: The 2014 Gallup-Purdue Index Report, 6, luminafoundation.org/files/resources
13. See James R. Rasband, “Paired Aspirations,” BYU university conference address, 28 August 2017.
14. See Daniel J. Simons, “Selective Attention Test,” YouTube, 10 March 2010, youtube.com
15. See Daniel J. Simons and Christopher F. Chabris, “Gorillas in Our Midst: Sustained Inattentional Blindness for Dynamic Events,” Perception 28, no. 9 (1 September 1999): 1059–74.
16. Daniel Kahneman, Thinking, Fast and Slow (New York: Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, 2011), 24.
17. Teppo Felin, “The Fallacy of Obviousness,” Aeon, 5 July 2018, aeon.co
18. Felin, “The Fallacy of Obviousness”; emphasis in original.
19. Felin, “The Fallacy of Obviousness”; emphasis in original.
20. Felin wrote:
At first glance that might seem like a rather mundane interpretation, particularly when compared with the startling claim that humans are “blind to the obvious.” But it’s more radical than it might seem. This interpretation of the gorilla experiment puts humans centre-stage in perception, rather than relegating them to passively recording their surroundings and environments. It says that what we see is not so much a function of what is directly in front of us . . . but rather determined by what we have in our minds, for example, by the questions we have in mind. . . .
. . . Yes, humans do indeed miss many “obvious” things, appearing to be blind. . . . But not everything that is obvious is relevant and meaningful. Thus human blindness could be seen as a feature, not a bug.
21. Albert Einstein, in 1926, quoted by Werner Heisenberg, “Theory, Criticism, and a Philosophy,” lecture given at the International Centre for Theoretical Physics in Trieste, Italy, June 1968, in Abdus Salam, Unification of Fundamental Forces: The First of the 1988 Dirac Memorial Lectures, comp. Jonathan Evans and Gerard Watts (Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press, 1990), 99. Also quoted in Felin, “The Fallacy of Obviousness.”
22. Kevin J Worthen, “BYU: A Unique Kind of Education,” BYU university conference address, 28 August 2017.
23. See Dallin H. Oaks, “Challenges to the Mission of Brigham Young University,” BYU leadership conference address, 21 April 2017.
24. Worthen, “A Unique Kind of Education.”
25. See Worthen, “Fulfilling the Destiny.”
26. The Mission of BYU.
27. Brigham Young, quoted in Reinhard Maeser, Karl G. Maeser: A Biography by His Son (Provo: Brigham Young University, 1928), 79.
28. Spencer W. Kimball, “Education for Eternity,” pre-school address to BYU faculty and staff, 12 September 1967, 11.
29. Psalm 36:9.
30. Psalm 119:105.
31. The BYU Aims.
32. Arnold Kling, The Three Languages of Politics: Talking Across the Political Divides (Washington, DC: Cato Institute, 2017), 3–5.
33. See Kling, Three Languages, 10; see also Kahneman, Thinking, Fast and Slow.
35. See Luke 10:25–37. In response to the lawyer’s question “Who is my neighbour?” (Luke 10:29), the Savior offered the parable of the good Samaritan. As Elder M. Russell Ballard once observed:
Have you ever wondered why the Savior chose to make the hero of this story a Samaritan? There was considerable antipathy between the Jews and the Samaritans at the time of Christ. Under normal circumstances, these two groups avoided association with each other. It would still be a good, instructive parable if the man who fell among thieves had been rescued by a brother Jew.
His deliberate use of Jews and Samaritans clearly teaches that we are all neighbors and that we should love, esteem, respect, and serve one another despite our deepest differences—including religious, political, and cultural differences. [“Doctrine of Inclusion,” Ensign, November 2001]
The Savior made the same point when He said:
For if ye love them which love you, what reward have ye? do not even the publicans the same?
And if ye salute your brethren only, what do ye more than others? do not even the publicans so?
Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect. [Matthew 5:46–48]
36. Worthen, “A Unique Kind of Education.”
37. Oaks, “Challenges to the Mission”; referencing Dallin H. Oaks, “It Hasn’t Been Easy and It Won’t Get Easier,” BYU leadership conference address, 25 August 2014.
38. Oaks, “It Hasn’t Been Easy”; quoted in Oaks, “Challenges to the Mission.”
© Brigham Young University. All rights reserved.
James R. Rasband, BYU academic vice president, delivered this address in the faculty session of university conference on August 27, 2018.