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College: More than Papers, Tests and Grades

by Carolyn S. Brown.

LDS Business College Devotional
Vice President for Academic Affairs, Development & Accreditation
January 22, 2008
 

Thank you, Brother Richards, for that introduction. Now students, did you notice, that the most important part was at the end? The recognition of my David, my husband, my eternal companion.
Twenty years ago this month, my chief earthly counselor, my mentor, my mother died.  During my grief work at that time, I read about a young man who died in an army hospital.  Nine minutes later, he returned to life.  What happened to him during those nine minutes was so compelling, it changed his life forever.  In his book, Return from Tomorrow, Dr. Ritchie describes his experience of dying and having a brief encounter with the Savior before he was allowed to return to earth.   During that encounter, he was given the chance to review every detail of his life:  “The good, the bad, the high points, the run-of-the-mill.  And with this all-inclusive view came a question.  It was implicit in every scene . . .  and seemed to proceed from the living Light of Jesus beside [him].”  The question? What did you do with your life?
How would you answer that question?  What kind of an accounting would you give of your earthly life?  The Danish philosopher Kierkegaard said:  “Life must be lived forwards but can only be understood backward.” Preparing this talk has given me yet another opportunity to ponder that question—this time in terms of our cultural belief “Be Accountable,” or more specifically in terms of you as students, “I take responsibility for my obligations as a student.” I’d like to share some of those ponderings and insights, looking backwards on my experiences as a college student and as a college teacher. 
College is more than papers, tests, and grades. From an eternal perspective, college is that slice of time in your mortality which is about determining first, what you’re going to do with your life and second, what kind of person you’re going to be.
Let’s look at the first aspect:  what you’re going to do with your life. The scriptures remind us that part of our mortal responsibility is to prepare ourselves and to increase in learning.  For example, in the Doctrine and Covenants 1:12, the Lord admonishes us:  “Prepare ye, prepare ye for that which is to come,” and again in section 88, verse 118: “Seek ye diligently and teach one another words of wisdom; yea, seek ye out of the best books words of wisdom; seek learning, even by study and also by faith.”
The Brethren have echoed this counsel many times.  As a member of the Quorum of the Twelve, Elder Howard W. Hunter in 1975 pointed out more specifically the “why” of this counsel when he said:  “There are impelling reasons for our sisters to plan toward employment also.  We want them to obtain all the education and vocational training possible before marriage.  If they become widowed or divorced and need to work, we want them to have dignified and rewarding employment.  If a sister does not marry, she has every right to engage in a profession that allows her to magnify her talents and gifts.”  (Ensign, November 1975, p. 124) 
In 1998, Sister Aileen Clyde, a member of the State Board of Regents and a former member of the General Relief Society Presidency, said “Sixty-five percent of all women under 65 will be their own source of support at some point in their lifetime.” (Deseret News, April 10, 1998) And President Thomas S. Monson in 2004 said to the sisters:  “Often the future is unknown; therefore, it behooves us to prepare for uncertainties.  Statistics reveal that at some time, for a variety of reasons, you may find yourself in the role of financial provider. I urge you to pursue your education and learn marketable skills so that, should such a situation arise, you are prepared to provide.” (Ensign, November 2004, p. 116)
Let me demonstrate visually just how important this counsel is today. I need 10 sisters to come to the podium. You won’t have to speak, I promise; just in case you’re hesitating for that reason.  Let’s have five of you on this side and five on that side. Thank you.
Let’s start with the five of you right here. You five represent the five out of ten women who will need to find employment at some point in their life because they are widowed or divorced.  Thank you; you may sit down. Now, this is not a prediction—it’s just a visual aid.
You two who are closest to me represent those who will need to find employment because they have financial problems with a husband being disabled or unemployed, or for some other reason.  Thank you.
The next closest to me, you represent those who will need to find employment because they won’t have the opportunity to marry.  Thank you.  Remember that’s not a prediction.
You represent those who will need to find employment because they married later in life and did not have the blessing of children. Thank you.
And you, the last one, you represent the 1 out of 10 who will never be in the role of financial provider. Thank you, sisters, for helping with this visual demonstration.
Statistically then, 9 out of 10 women for one reason or another will need to be the financial provider. If you look through your own circle of family, friends, and fellow students you’ll discover the accuracy of these statistics and you may even be identifying with one of these individuals right now.
I learned the reality of this statistic from my own childhood. My father died of a cerebral hemorrhage at the age of 46 and my mother at 45 was left with four children. Because she had prepared herself professionally prior to her marriage, she renewed her teaching certificate, returned to the classroom, and provided for us. Clearly, as members of the Church, we have been counseled and should strive for the ideal family, where the wife can stay at home with the children and the husband can provide financially for them. But it is crucial, as we have been counseled, that we prepare ourselves for the exigencies of life.
And so the question becomes: What field of study should you pursue to prepare yourself? I remember that when I entered the University of Utah, I wanted to be a teacher but I didn’t know what to major in.  English, History, Business? There were so many opportunities. I counseled with my mother and with my professors.
You likewise may find it is your first semester and you don’t know what to major in, or you may feel you thought you knew and now that it’s your second semester, you’re not so sure.  You have at this unique college a collective community of interested faculty and staff who have a wealth of experience and understanding and are here not only to teach you their subject matter but also to help you determine a course of study and to help you build on your strengths.  Ask for their counsel and be sure to counsel with the Lord.
You will find as I did that you won’t be told what to do but your academic advisors will help you reason through different kinds of questions such as:
Are you majoring in something marketable?
What talents has the Lord given you that enable you to do certain things really well?
And what kinds of things do you feel that you and the Lord can do with your life that will make a difference for good in the lives of others?
I still vividly remember doing my student teaching at my old high school. I taught an English class to 10th graders. After the first week, I realized I had made a terrible mistake. The students were more interested in goofing off. Once again I found myself counseling with my mother and my professors. One of my professors, Dr. Nelson said:  “Well, Carolyn, I always thought you were going to go on for your doctorate.” The thought had never entered my mind. After all, I really wanted to get married. I wondered, “How can I afford more schooling?” and “Am I even smart enough?”  I fervently prayed to the Lord for guidance and was prompted to apply for a graduate fellowship even though the English Department had awarded none to women before. Upon receiving the fellowship, I realized I was pursuing the right direction the Lord wanted me to, and then I prayed even more fervently that I would have the intellectual capacity to complete the degree. Little did I know how and where the Lord would use me with this educational preparation in His kingdom. Well, I began teaching at the College fresh out of grad school. I finally found David in my mid 30’s, only for us to be disappointed in not being blessed with children; and here I am where the Lord planted me and where I have had wonderful experiences with my colleagues and with my students, whom over the years on many occasions I have affectionately called my children.
College is more than papers, tests, and grades.  From an eternal perspective, college is that slice of time in your mortality which is about determining first, what you’re going to do with your life, and second, what kind of person you’re going to be.
Well, what kind of person are you going to be?
In the Book of Mormon, Alma tells about Lehi and the Liahona and their curriculum in the wilderness:  “They were slothful, and forgot to exercise their faith and diligence and then those marvelous works ceased, and they did not progress in their journey.” (Alma 37: 41)   President Gordon B. Hinckley has said: “The Lord has mandated that this people get all the education they can. And so I say to you . . . rise up and discipline yourself to take advantage of educational opportunities.”  (Ensign, November 2006)
How are you progressing in your journey at LDS Business College? Are you slothful or are you exercising your faith and diligence—being “disciplined” as President Hinckley counsels?
It’s been said that discipline requires sacrificing what we would like to do or want at the moment for what we want most.
I remember my first load of classes at the “U,” especially English Composition 101 from Dr. Jones.  She was tall, slender, and austere looking—no, she didn’t have a bun at the back of her head.  She was precise, articulate, and had an unbelievable vocabulary. I was sure it rivaled Shakespeare’s. I was intimidated to the point that I didn’t participate verbally in class but feverishly took notes in shorthand. Do any of you know what shorthand is? It’s truly a lost art to your generation—but I digress. At any rate, it seemed like every other word she used was new to me. Now, I could have dropped the class or switched to an easier teacher of another section. But I decided to persevere.
Before I could begin my writing assignment, I’d have to check the dictionary for the meaning of all those new words. But that wasn’t the most frustrating part of the course. I did not like to do my homework at the last minute and yet try as I might, the ideas simply wouldn’t connect until the eleventh hour of every Sunday night. To add to my frustration, my older sister liked to watch the Perry Mason rerun at 11:00. Now, television was a new novelty in our home and I really liked Perry Mason, too. But more than that, I really wanted to do the assignment right and, of course, get an A out of the class so I’d put in my earplugs, pray for inspiration and concentration, and begin the arduous task of creating my paper.  The result? I was rewarded with an A in the class. But more than the grade, I was rewarded with a much larger vocabulary and a better ability to compose my thoughts under the most trying of circumstances. Little did I know that such discipline would help me throughout college and through many tough assignments at LDS Business College.
When I began teaching here, I would remind students the first day of class that they could be either an active learner or a passive learner.  The responsibility was theirs. And so I ask of you—you don’t have to raise your hands on this, but answer it to yourself—are you a passive learner? Do you consistently saunter into class late? Do you attend class unprepared? Do you sit there in a semi-conscious state dimly aware of what is being discussed or explained? Do you take mental excursions like thinking about what you did yesterday, deciding what you’re going to do after class, or text messaging a friend? And as a result, do you ever leave class saying, “Oh, what a waste of time that was”?
Or, are you an active learner? Do you go to class on time? Do you read the assigned chapters or complete the homework before class? Do you participate by asking questions and exchanging ideas in order to learn how to think critically? And as a result, do you leave class saying, “Wow, I learned a lot today”?
I remember one time when a student came to my office and said dejectedly, “I’d like to withdraw from my classes. How do I go about doing that?” It’s typical for a handful of students to do this during a semester. And typically, I always inquire why. The student responded: “Well, I’ve never been a good student and college is even harder than I expected.”
“In what ways is it harder?” I inquired.
He gave me two main reasons: first, getting behind in his assignments because of not balancing his social life with his studies, and second, feeling guilty about not working more hours to help pay for his education because his parents had already sacrificed to send him on a mission and now to LDS Business College (he was the oldest of several siblings). Well, we talked some more. And finally, I shared two examples I thought might resonate to these reasons and help him reconsider.
The first example came from a paper written by one of my students in the Communications 122 course. The assignment was to read a book, select a concept being taught, and site a personal experience applying that concept. The student had read As a Man Thinketh by James Allen and had selected Allen’s concept about “Knowing and understanding yourself brings you the ability to let others lean on you. One who knows how to control his actions and govern himself has the ability to adapt to others and their needs.” The student then cited this personal experience: “School has always been more or less a social activity and during high school I socialized more than I did homework. I didn’t have much discipline or self-control. I decided, now that I am in college I have to really settle down and work hard which has taken quite a bit of effort on my part in developing self-control. In the process, I had to give up a portion”—notice, a portion. Not all, but a portion—“of what had been the number one thing in my life, socializing. As a result of having time to myself, I have had the chance to find out who I am. I have control over how I want to govern myself instead of following the way of the crowd. Now I find more people leaning on me and learning from my influence.”
The second example came from Elder Robert D. Hales who told about the 1968 marathon runner by the name of John Stephen Akhwari who represented Tanzania in an international competition. “A little over an hour after [the winner] had crossed the finish line, John Stephen Akhwari . . . approached the stadium, the last man to complete the journey. [Though suffering from fatigue, leg cramps, dehydration, and disorientation,] a voice called from within to go on, and so he went on. Afterwards, it was written, ‘Today we have seen a young African runner who symbolized the finest in human spirit, a performance that gives meaning to the word courage.’ When asked why he would complete a race he could never win, Akhwari replied, ‘My country did not send me 5,000 miles to start the race; my country sent me to finish the race’.” (Ensign, April 1998, p. 37)
The student had sat there listening intently and when I finished, he said: “I’ve decided to reconsider; would you help me?” We looked at how he was performing in each class, decided what he could rescue, and redirected his efforts. And with discipline, he graduated, the first in his family—thus setting the example for the remaining siblings. As he walked across the stage after receiving his diploma, this husky guy gave me a bear hug and whispered in my ear: “My family did not send me to LDS Business College to start a degree; my family sent me to finish a degree.”
College is more than papers, tests, and grades. From an eternal perspective, college is that slice of time in your mortality which is about determining first, what you’re going to do with your life and second, what kind of person you’re going to be. 
Your ability to prepare yourself and to be disciplined is determined by what kind of self-image you are shaping and molding. The story is told about a little boy who watched Michelangelo for days working on a huge mass of carrara marble. Michelangelo would chisel here and there; and then stand back and look at the marble; chisel some more here and there, stand back and look at the marble; and chisel some more. When the Statue of David was finally finished, the little boy tapped Michelangelo on the shoulder and asked, “How did you know he was in there?” 
Each day at the College, like the great sculptor, you are shaping and molding yourself in the exact image you want to be. It is this “self-image” that shapes your personality, that programs your dress, appearance, and mannerisms, that determines how you feel about yourself. And like the great sculptor, you need to stand back from time to time to look at what you’ve chiseled out so far. Whenever I asked my students to take five minutes to write down their strengths and weaknesses, they typically listed more weaknesses than strengths.
Studies have shown that people who have self-confidence and high self-esteem do so by building on their strengths.  Of course they have weaknesses; we all do. On the other hand, people with low self-esteem have a habit of rehearsing negative mind binders as we call them in Comm. 122. Often those mind binders are imposed on them by others, and those mind binders remind them of their weaknesses. This habit undermines and chokes off your talents and prevents you from achieving your goals. 
The destructiveness of rehearsing weaknesses was made clear to me when I was dancing with the Utah Civic Ballet Company. The founder of the company, Mr. Christensen, or “Mr. C” as we called him, decided to groom a few of us for solo roles to spell off current soloists.  He picked a different ballet for each one of us and mine was Coppelia. How many of you have seen a ballet? Oh, I’m so grateful. Those of you who haven’t—you must! You must see a ballet.
Now, Coppelia was a tough ballet because Mr. C had choreographed lots of balances and turns. In the world of ballet, you have to be good performing at least two out of the three – balances, jumps, or turns. I was really good at balances and jumps and my turns were so-so, but I felt fairly confident. However, the task of moving from demi-soloist to soloist is an arduous one because instead of a flashy five minutes on stage you have to be on stage for 30 minutes at a time and so the stamina factor is huge. In Coppelia, Mr. C choreographed all these unbelievable balances at the beginning of the ballet and left all the tough turns at the end. As a new-comer to soloism, that meant at the point I was already exhausted and my legs felt like jelly, I had to finish the ballerina’s solo by performing 24 fotes on the left leg, followed by chene turns down stage, and finally a double pirouette without falling into the orchestra pit. 
Mr. C changed the ending for Janice, for whom turns were a snap, because her back was giving her problems. But for me, who struggled with turns, he would not change the ending. When I appealed to the ballet mistress to intercede in my behalf, she retorted, “You’ve always wanted the role, now let’s see if you’re strong enough to do it.”  Ah, the negative input from others, right?
Have you ever done a “Yes, But” routine? This is what mine sounded like. “I want to do the lead in Coppelia, YES, BUT I don’t have enough stamina; YES, BUT I can’t do turns as well as Janice;  YES, BUT my legs feel like jelly at that point; YES, BUT if I fall I’ll never get another chance again.” Well, I whined all these YES BUTS to my mother. She was a wise teacher. She asked me if I had thought of an action plan, and I told her that after my prayers and just before falling asleep at night, I’d rehearse the entire ballet in my mind. She suggested I add to that visualization process the use of positive affirmations. 
She pointed out that the Lord and his prophets consistently used affirmations. And so I searched the scriptures, and I found that yes, the Lord had indeed given each one of us a most powerful affirmation when he said as recorded in Psalm 82:6, “You are children of the most High.” Or in other words, I am a child of God
Ammon said: “In God’s strength I can do all things.”  (Alma 26:2, emphasis added)
And Nephi said: “I will go and do the things which the Lord hath commanded.”  (1 Nephi 3:7, emphasis added)
And so when I rehearsed the ballet at night before falling asleep and when I got to the 24 fotes, I would mentally say to myself:  “With the Lord’s help . . . 
I am filled with an enormous amount of energy;
I can feel my left leg as strong as steel;
I will turn like spinning top.
And, of course, I practiced daily to increase my strength.  You know the homework your instructors assign?  Some of you would probably like to skip it, and in fact, you may do that on occasion. Well, homework is like practicing; it’s like a dress rehearsal before your performance on an exam. 
Finally, the big day arrived and I had given a stellar performance to the point of the 24 fotes. As I started those turns, I could feel an unmistakable surging from those in the wings encouraging me “1-and-a-2-and-a-3-and-a-You can do it-4” and all of a sudden, I was filled with an enormous amount of energy; I felt my left leg as strong as steel, and I  finished 24 fotes, chened down stage in a straight line, did three pirouettes turning like a spinning top, and landed on both feet—not in the orchestra pit. Well, those in the audience jumped to their feet and gave me a standing ovation they were so excited and I just beamed because I had achieved one of my goals—dancing the lead role in a ballet.  
Years later, I remember witnessing one of my students experience something similar.  Several weeks into the Interpersonal Communications class, I noticed that Susan had not given a one-minute, group leader report even when I inconspicuously arranged it so she would have to be a group leader. Now we all know that speaking before an audience is the number one fear most people have, next to drowning. 
After class one day, I said: “Susan, I noticed you haven’t given a group leader report and I’d like to help you with that; do you have some time we could talk?” She shook her head hesitantly. I asked her to give me a call so we could schedule some time and then assured her I wouldn’t put her on the spot and just call on her. She faithfully attended and participated in the group discussions but wouldn’t schedule a time to talk, even though I asked her numerous times. Because part of the class was getting to know everyone, the students sat in a different group each week. 
It was now two weeks before the end of the quarter. The students had finished the last project for the class hour. I asked for a volunteer group leader to stand and report. Susan stood up. I held my breath. It was as if everyone in the class knew that this group leader report was extra special. As Susan began her report, I felt a familiar surging; all the students looked at her with encouraging eyes. At the end, before I could lead with the customary “group clap,” all the students jumped up and clapped for her. Susan just beamed; it was amazing.
Later that day, she came to my office and said: “Thank you for being patient with me. I’ve been criticized all my life at the dinner table and at other times in public by my family with things like ‘That was a stupid idea!’ or ‘Can’t you think of anything better to say than that?’ And so, I was afraid. I was afraid I’d be criticized and that no one would clap for me.” She had been afraid to risk potential failure, ridicule and embarrassment. But in that special classroom environment that only an instructor and fellow students can provide each other at this unique institution, Susan trusted, risked, and was affirmed that day.
As Elder Neal A. Maxwell said: “We, more than others, should carry jumper and tow cables not only in our cars but also in our hearts, by which means we can send the needed boost or charge of encouragement” to help another grow in self-esteem, in self-confidence, in hope. (All These Things Shall Give Thee Experience, p. 56)
College is more than papers, tests, and grades. From an eternal perspective, college is that slice of time in your mortality which is about determining first, what you’re going to do with your life, and second, what kind of person you’re going to be. 
In preparing for our final exam before the Lord where we will all be asked to give an accountability report on our entire mortal life, how will you answer the question: “What did you do with that slice of time at LDS Business College?” 
I hope and pray you will be able to respond that you developed discipline, that you grew in self-esteem and helped others grow in theirs, that you discovered the talents the Lord has blessed you with, and that you prepared yourself to be financially self-reliant and a faithful parent and leader in His kingdom, in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.
Introduction:  Larry Richards
Brothers and sisters, it’s a pleasure to introduce to you today Dr. Carolyn S. Brown, who serves as the vice president for academic affairs here at the College. Dr. Brown joined the College in 1973, and has held numerous positions here, including Dean, Acting Vice President of Student Affairs, program director, committee chair, Accreditation Liaison Officer, and instructor. She has been instrumental and deeply involved in the development and supervision of many aspects of the College, particularly those relating to classroom instruction and the learning experience, the array of our academic programs, and the development of the library and the Learning Assistance Lab.
Sister Brown attended the University of Utah where she earned her bachelor’s degree in English, Business and Ballet, and continued on to get a master’s degree and a PhD in English. She received several honors during her educational pursuits, and graduated with the highest of honors through her doctoral program. She has published and presented several papers, been involved in professional organizations, and received numerous honors in the community, [as a] volunteer and a lecturer.
In her church service, Sister Brown has served in numerous callings, including ward Relief Society education counselor, gospel doctrine and Relief Society teacher. She most recently served as a temple ordinance worker with her husband David, and I know they also served as hosts at the Conference Center. During the music today, David leaned over and said their goal when retirement finally comes is to do as many temple missions as they possibly can.
Now, Sister Brown’s greatest contribution to this college is her commitment to the students and the faculty who have instructed them. This is her life’s work, and it is her passion. It is a passion that is reflected in all that she does. Any who work with her are blessed because of her influence and her enthusiasm for the mission of the College. I invite you to open your hearts and to listen by the Spirit, that you may be edified by her thoughts and her testimony.

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