REXBURG, Idaho Recently at a pizza place here, Devin Shaum, director of the Activities Program at BYU-Idaho, stood in line by a young man who ordered six pizzas to go.
"Boy, you're feeding a lot tonight," Brother Shaum told the young man.
"Oh, I'm involved in that activities program. I was a hockey coach. I'm buying pizza for my team," the BYU-Idaho student replied.
"Did you ever imagine that you would play hockey here at BYU-Idaho?" Brother Shaum asked, not revealing his identity.
"Not in my wildest dreams," the student said
That statement, "not in my wildest dreams," is echoed throughout this Church-owned university these days since the transition of Ricks College to Brigham Young University-Idaho nearly three years ago. It's echoed by students involved in and even running the new Activities Program at BYU-Idaho that replaced the intercollegiate athletic program here.
In fact, Brother Shaum has a saying hanging in his office "Experience, you might as well get it here."
"And that's what we want our students to do at Brigham Young University-Idaho get experience here, not just the classroom learning. An integration of academic and activities provide a great, almost a campus internship where they can actually do some things as they are learning."
Those who think of the new activities program at BYU-Idaho as a glorified intramural program are misinformed. It goes far beyond hockey and basketball. It's service, physical activity, entertainment, arts and academics wrapped into a program that is for the students, by the students and with the students. And it has the capacity to reach and impact every student who steps foot on campus.
"We're involving 10 times, 15 times the number of students in the Activities Program (than before the program was implemented)," Brother Shaum emphasized during a recent Church News meeting with the Activities Executive Council on campus.
For example, the last year of Ricks College athletics there were some 264 varsity athletes. Today, some 1,400 students are involved in the competitive sports program at BYU-Idaho, with 3,500 more a semester involved in the intramural program. In addition, where before there were eight elected student body officers who served for an entire school year, now there are some 23 officers a handful elected and several appointed who serve every semester.
Beyond them, there are the students who teach the art workshops, run the service organizations, coach the teams, referee and coordinate the academic quiz bowls. And they are all volunteers.
Talk about taking the current motto at the Church-owned university "Rethinking Education" to new levels. Thus far, the BYU-Idaho Activities Program focuses on four areas:
- Arts: which includes art, dance, music and theater. These activities may include painting and sculpting workshops, recitals and theatrical performances.
- Enrichment, which includes leadership, service, married students and women's organizations, and academics.This area includes such organizations as Serving with Smiles, which provide service projects within the community, and Associated Women Students, which provides workshops on self-defense and women's issues.
- Physical, which includes fitness, intramurals, athletics and outdoors.This area includes a competitive sports component where students try out for and hope to be "drafted" by competitive teams in various sports. Some 50 percent were cut last year, many of whom then played intramural sports. The teams are student coached and student officiated.
There are also a variety of other activities, including several outdoor activities.
- Social, which includes talent, entertainment and dances. This area includes such events as Grand Pianos Live, Acoustic Cafe and Guitars Unplugged, for which students audition. These are paid entertainment activities.
Student Body President Elijah Watkins, who is also activities council president, said the effects on students in the past three years is "huge. It allows students the opportunity to learn things that aren't necessarily learned in a biology lab or a math lab. It's important to have a holistic form of learning, and the Activities Program allows students to have hands-on experience and get their hands (immersed) in real-life situations."
Such students as Sara Nygren, a sophomore in organizational communications from Farmington, N.M., who is director of Associated Women Students. "It's been life-changing for her," said Kris Fillmore, who sits on the executive council in charge of the enrichment arm. "She said she was ready to go home after her first semester. Then she got into the women's program. Now she's decided to run for student body office. It's all stemmed from being on that one council."
In turn, Sara has reached out to other homesick students. In an interview on campus, she spoke of one young woman who felt she didn't belong. The women's board extended an invitation to join the association. "She just blossomed, just changed. She's become more confident in who she is," Sara related.
That seems to be the point of the BYU-Idaho Activities Program to focus on individual development, both spiritually and temporally. Whether you're coaching a women's competitive team like senior Jenny Oris, who wants to someday coach high school girls teams, or Seth and Andrea Grover, who married seven months ago in the Idaho Falls Idaho Temple and who auditioned for Acoustic Cafe together, with Seth on the guitar and his wife playing the accordion.
Lori Woodland, who manages the fitness arm for the executive council and who coached women's basketball at Ricks College for years, has seen the success of the program. And it convinced her of the program's good after watching intercollegiate sports end at Ricks College
Jess Brown, who manages the arts arm of the executive council, has seen what he calls "an important paradigm shift" in the program. "I have been involved in student activities here for about 18 years. I used to be very focused on the program. As a by-product, the students involved in planning and producing the event would have a good learning/leadership experience.
"Now I focus on leadership development for our students and, as a by-product, we have great activities. It is interesting that since I changed my focus to leadership development instead of the event, our events have actually been better. But the event is just a tool we use to provide opportunities for leadership development."
And, it is hoped by the members of the executive council that this leadership development this "Rethinking Education" will make for better prepared future Relief Society presidents, fathers, mothers, priesthood leaders, employees and members of the Church.
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