Brigham Young University
October 1973

“Brigham Young University,” New Era, Oct. 1973, 13

Brigham Young University

The year was 1876. Warren N. Dunsenberry, first principal of Brigham Young Academy, had just resigned after the first preliminary term of the academy’s existence. Karl G. Maeser, an experienced educator who was also the first convert to the Church in Germany, had been called to take his place. He dropped by President Young’s office before leaving for Provo and asked if there were any instructions.

“Only this,” the president replied. “I want you to remember that you ought not to teach even the alphabet or the multiplication tables without the spirit of God. That is all. God bless you. Goodbye.”

Karl G. Maeser went to Provo and became an unforgettable force in the lives of the 29 students awaiting him there and in the lives of the many students who were to come under his influence during the 16 years of his administration. The faculty that first year consisted of Dr. Maeser and two assistants. Classes were held in a vacant store, and the students were mostly from Utah Valley.

Ninety-six years later a tall, well-built, rather handsome, youngish but balding man walked into a cafeteria on the BYU campus and sat down at a table where two freshmen boys were discussing the vicissitudes of college life over their roast beef dinner and green punch. He began asking them questions about their feelings, their likes, their dislikes, and their hang-ups regarding their university experience.

Finally one of the young men asked him, “Do you teach around here or something?”

“Yes, I work here,” the man replied.

“What do you do?”

“I’m president.”

“President of what?”

And so Dallin H. Oaks, president of Brigham Young University, introduced himself to these students. “I’m glad to meet you,” the young man with the questions responded. “I come to assemblies, but you’re so far away I can’t see your face.”

This experience illustrates the obvious: Brigham Young University is a big place. President Maeser’s 29 students have exploded into 25,000. The full-time faculty numbers more than 1,000. The campus covers approximately 600 acres of carefully manicured grounds, and there are students from all 50 states and nearly 70 foreign countries. And even though many students don’t get to know President Oaks personally they do develop close personal relationships with their branch presidents, and individual faculty and staff members.

Brigham Young University has never forgotten the simple charge given to Brother Maeser, and it never will. In his inaugural address, President Oaks said, “Our reason for being is to be a university. But our reason for being a university is to encourage and prepare young men and women to rise to their full potential as sons and daughters of God. We seek to prepare them to live and serve in the world, but we encourage them not to be of the world. The enormous resources devoted to this institution could not be justified if we did not provide a unique educational experience. What makes us unique is the spiritual dimension we provide. By spiritual dimension I mean our faith in God the Eternal Father and his Son Jesus Christ, our devotion to the principles of the restored gospel, our concern with personal behavior, and our commitment to the essential harmony of secular learning and the spiritual values that embody all truth.”

This belief is reflected in the ten student stakes and over 115 student branches on campus, in the devotional assemblies where General Authorities and other religious leaders speak to the students, in the religion classes that are a required part of every student’s work load, but most importantly in the influence of dedicated Latter-day Saint faculty members who strive to teach with the Spirit, and in the response of devoted Latter-day Saint students who strive to learn with it.

BYU offers a full university curriculum in some 200 subject areas in 12 colleges. It has two graduate schools, including a law school. It awards the bachelor of science and bachelor of arts in many majors, and the bachelor of music and bachelor of fine arts degrees. It offers the master’s degree in 51 departments and the doctoral degree in 21. Two-year associate degrees are awarded in ten areas.

BYU offers a breadth of total learning experiences. That is to say, it offers development of the whole person, intellectually, socially, physically, and spiritually, approaching the study of man from the viewpoint of the only church in the world that really knows what and who man is.

President Oaks emphasizes the importance of breadth and balance in a student’s life:

“A university like BYU is like a smorgasbord of delicious foods, and the student passes along that smorgasbord with his plate. His plate represents the amount of time he has. And if he’s foolish he takes the first item that he finds that he likes—maybe it’s black olives—and he loads his entire plate with it, and then doesn’t have room for anything else. That’s like the student who spends an entire semester skiing. That’s a mistake, but the student is free to do it. There’s nobody standing there to prevent him from doing that. But what’s the purpose of going to a smorgasbord if you’re just going to eat black olives, or anchovies or meat balls, or whatever? The glory of the diverse group of educational possibilities we call a university is its variety and the opportunity to educate the whole man and to give breadth, to cultivate a taste, and to give the kind of nourishment that comes from a wide variety of foods. But the student has got to take the initiative and use the good judgment to sample and get a variety of foods on his plate—a variety of courses under his belt.”

In spite of the universality of BYU’s objectives, the principal emphasis is clearly on academics. President Oaks feels that the greatest danger of imbalance is that students will overemphasize social life or some other peripheral concern at the expense of education. “There’s no justification for a university,” he says, “if it does not promote the growth of the intellect. You can have spiritual growth on a mission or in Church activities at home; you can have cultural growth by a lot of extracurricular activities that a well-motivated, well-informed person can do on his own; you can have physical growth by a regular exercise program at home. All of these are part of college life. They’re what we encourage all our students to have. But the reason for our existence as an institution, the reason the Church expends enormous resources at BYU is to promote the growth of the intellect—the conferring of an education. Students who are thinking of coming to Brigham Young University primarily for anything other than to secure a rigorous, complete, searching, and effective education should not come.”

The whole program at BYU is set up to give the student the most academic benefit for his tuition money and to encourage academic excellence. For example, the Y has a fine honors program that allows students of exceptional ability to learn at an accelerated rate from outstanding teachers while fulfilling the requirements of their various departments. The honors student can tailor his general education courses to his own objectives and interests.

Through the advanced placement examination and the College Level Examination Program, BYU grants college credit to entering freshmen of outstanding abilities.

BYU and its departments have developed many programs designed to make each major challenging and relevant to the professional goals of the student. For example, the University Studies program allows students whose needs aren’t met by existing majors to design their own programs. One girl wanted to be woman’s page editor for a newspaper. Instead of majoring in communications, which would be the usual procedure, she outlined a unique program that fit her particular needs. After completing her general education requirements, she spent 15 hours in foods and nutrition, 15 hours in clothing and textiles, 15 hours in home economics, and 15 hours in photography and journalism. She graduated with exactly the training she needed for the job she wanted.

Juniors and seniors in the College of Business can go out and work one semester, thus earning money and credit at the same time and gaining experience that will make them more employable after graduation. In fact, internship programs are a part of many fields of study at the Y. By working out in the real world the student gets an idea of what he will really need to know, as well as making himself a more desirable employee.

In addition to the apprenticeship programs, BYU itself offers professional-quality experience in some areas. For example, journalism students help publish The Daily Universe, the campus newspaper. Broadcasting students help operate KBYUTV, an educational TV station, and KBYU-FM radio station. For music majors there are several excellent orchestras and choral groups, and drama students present many plays each year.

In many courses, Physics 100 for example, students contract with the teacher for the grade they want and then are expected to meet the requirements of proficiency that they themselves have agreed to in advance.

In short, BYU offers an ideal environment for the gifted student who is willing to work hard and creatively to acquire the skills he needs to meet his own goals for the future.

To help students avoid the frustration of committing themselves to a major, getting a lot of specialized training, and then finding out too late that they are in the wrong field, BYU has set up a system whereby students not absolutely sure what career goal they wish to pursue will register in the College of General Studies. They can then sample a number of general education courses before declaring a major, and they can receive counseling from all departments instead of from just one. Under this program, the majority of freshmen students may be registering in the College of General Studies. Students who know that they are interested in science but are unsure which scientific discipline they wish to pursue will be encouraged to enroll in the most closely related college, without declaring a major within that college until they have sampled all the departments. This will help students avoid changing majors and spending five or six years in school or ending up in a job they dislike.

The Personal Development Center can offer real help to a student who is trying to choose a major. It offers tests, literature, and counseling to help him make a valid choice. The center’s role goes beyond this, however; it exists to help students with all personal problems, whatever their nature.

In order to offer the greatest educational opportunity to the greatest number of students, BYU operates under a unique three semester calendar. Each semester, fall, winter, and spring-summer, is 16 weeks long. The spring-summer semester is divided into two eight-week terms. By attending the fall and winter semesters and the spring term, a student can graduate with his bachelor’s degree in just three years and still have a two-month vacation each summer. This means he could begin earning graduate wages a year earlier and also leave an opening for another student wishing to attend BYU.

This system opens many new possibilities. For example, a student could take his work break in the fall or winter when jobs are plentiful and then attend school during the remaining two semesters. Or, a high school graduate who is not accepted for the fall semester but is accepted for the winter semester when enrollment is lower could get a job in June when he graduates, work seven straight months through Christmas, and enroll in January for the winter semester. He could then attend the summer semester as well, and the following fall he would be a sophomore, the same as his classmates from high school.

Since the winter semester ends in mid-April, the student who elects to attend school four years and not take advantage of the summer semester, can cash in on the four-month working summer, and he’ll be out job hunting before students from other universities are out of school.

Attendance at the spring-summer semester runs only about one-third to one-half the enrollment limit of 25,000 students. If more students attended that semester, the school could accommodate more total students during the year without exceeding the limit.

Along with the academic emphasis at BYU, gospel study and gospel living are important aspects of a student’s life. The student branch meetings are held in campus buildings, almost all of which are used for this purpose. Many branch offices, including the branch presidencies, are held by students and faculty members. Thus a student may discuss priesthood government on Sunday in the same room where the previous week his political science class studied governmental checks and balances, or give a talk on the Light of Christ to a congregation that includes the physics instructor who taught him about the light of the visible spectrum. Secular and spiritual learning and experiences are inseparably woven into the fabric of university life at BYU.

It is the student branches that largely overcome the danger present in any large university that some students will simply become lost in the crowd, knowing no one, known by no one. In the branch a student can begin to meet others. He worships and learns with them in sacrament meeting; he enjoys activities with them at Melchizedek Priesthood MIA, and the friendships thus formed tend to be deep ones because they are born in the satisfaction of spiritual as well as social needs.

The family home evening groups formed in each branch are probably the most important units on campus in fulfilling the need to belong to a group. Here even the shyest student can learn to know a few people very well.

Although the emphasis at the Y is on academics, there are few if any schools that offer greater opportunity for the social, physical, and cultural experiences needed for the development of a truly educated individual.

The drama and music departments regularly present plays, musicals, concerts, and recitals, all of which are free of charge to the students. There are also frequent performances by well-known, professional artists that students can attend for a small admission fee. There are frequent art displays.

BYU has an excellent athletic program. It belongs to the Western Athletic Conference (WAC) and participates in all major and many minor sports.

BYU teams have been nationally ranked in several sports, including basketball, wrestling, tennis, and golf. Its teams have won numerous tournaments and WAC championships. It has won a national NCAA track championship. Its stadium seats 30,000; its Marriott Center seats 22,800. BYU students are enthusiastic fans; attending a home basketball game is an unforgettable and deafening experience. When the whole student section comes to its feet and sings, “Rise and shout, the cougars are out!” they aren’t just saying words; they’re foretelling exactly what they’re going to be doing all night long.

Athletics at BYU aren’t just for the gifted handful. An extensive intramural program, offers competition in almost every conceivable sport from checkers to football, bringing the program to everyone. Intramural play may not attract many pro scouts, but it’s championship caliber in terms of enjoyment for some 2,800 participants in 68 different sports.

The students have access to excellent athletic facilities including swimming pools; tennis, badminton, handball, paddleball, squash, volleyball, and basketball courts; dance studios; softball fields; horseshoe pits; golf practice area; tracks; and others. There is also a very strong P.E. program.

The center of social life on campus is the Wilkinson Center, which contains a cafeteria, a snack bar, a games room, a bowling alley, stereo rooms, reading areas, lounges, television rooms, a photo studio, a barbershop, a skyroom dining area, a theater, music practice rooms, a ballroom, and a bookstore.

The student government sponsors dances, concerts, assemblies, forums, lectures, and many other activities. Famous entertainers often perform on campus and BYU’s own internationally known performing groups, such as the International Folk Dancers, Ballroom Dance Team, and Program Bureau, often perform. There are also nearly 120 clubs, service groups, and other organizations on campus.

For students who need financial help, BYU has several programs. It grants scholarships to students demonstrating academic achievements, and grants-in-aid to students with commendable academic records and need. Scholarships are also given to students gifted in leadership, music, speech, dance, drama, or art. Some outstanding athletes are also given grants-in-aid.

BYU also provides many long- and short-term loans.

About 6,000 students are employed part-time on campus each semester through the student employment office. The office also places about 4,500 students in off-campus jobs.

There are on-campus housing facilities for 2,249 single men, 2,778 single women, and 612 couples. There are about 16,000 approved off-campus spaces and new units under construction.

The Y has an excellent physical plant, including 36 permanent academic buildings, 48 temporary academic buildings, 38 service buildings, and 41 residence halls.

Every department is equipped with the most modern and complete equipment available to help teach the student.

BYU is big, but each individual is still the most important person there. That’s why President Oaks visits the cafeterias regularly. That’s why everyone is given individual counseling. That’s why there’s something people in Provo like to call “The Spirit of the Y.”

All students at BYU are expected to maintain the very highest moral standards, observe the Word of Wisdom, obey the laws of the land, and maintain high standards of dress and personal appearance.

At the Y each person is expected to work toward the goal set by President J. Reuben Clark, Jr., at the inauguration of Howard S. McDonald, the sixth president of BYU:

“In all his promises and commandments about gaining knowledge, the Lord has never withheld from our quest any field of truth. Our knowledge is to be conterminous with the universe and is to reach out and to comprehend the laws and the workings of the vast deeps of the eternities. All domains of knowledge belong to us. In no other way could the great law of eternal progression be satisfied.”


Students of any race, religion, color, or national origin are welcome at BYU, provided they meet the university’s academic requirements and adhere to standards of the LDS Church.

Admission of new freshmen is determined primarily by high school performance, ACT scores, and bishop’s recommendations. Letters of recommendation from high school counselors may also be considered.

In order to be admitted to the university as a regular student, students must have graduated from an approved high school and must have completed ten academic units. Three of these must be in English, one in algebra or geometry, and the remaining six in English, mathematics, science, and a foreign language.

Students wishing to be admitted prior to graduation should check with the Admissions Office.

Students planning to transfer from another college or university to BYU must obtain a 2.5 grade point average on all college work and should plan their general college course work to meet BYU general education requirements.


Deseret Towers and Helaman Halls

Modern residence halls offering board and room. There are both men’s halls and women’s halls. Each hall contains student rooms, study rooms, recreation areas, central shower areas, laundry and storage facilities, and a head resident apartment. The central buildings have spacious cafeterias, dining rooms, snack bars, reception areas, offices, and vending facilities. Total yearly cost: $890.

Heritage Halls

Apartments for women. Each hall has apartments. Apartments consist of a kitchen-study-dining room arrangement, three bedrooms, and a bath. Each building also has large living rooms, a recreation room, a head resident apartment, a laundry, and storage facilities. Six girls live in each apartment and share cooking responsibilities. Total yearly cost: $340. You should apply for on-campus housing a year in advance. Write to the Office of Student Housing, C-141 ASB. Enclose a ten dollar application fee.

For Further Information

Write to:

Mail Answering Service

270 UPB

Brigham Young University

Provo, Utah 84602

The BYU catalog can be purchased for $1.50

Photos courtesy of the Banyan, Daily Universe, College of Fine Arts and Communications, BYU News Bureau

The Cougarettes march on—even in the rain

Cougar fans whoop it up

A. Harold Goodman, Music Department chairman, wields the baton

Drama students swing their partners in a BYU production of The Order Is Love

BYU offers excellent instruction in all the fine arts

President and Sister Oaks in the homecoming parade

President Oaks visits with a student

Family home evening groups provide a family away from home

International Folk Dancers’ float in the homecoming parade

They made it

BYU musical groups perform at the Marriott Center dedication. (Photo by Rick Nye.)

Cellists in Student Chamber Orchestra. (Photo by George Brown.)

A modern dance performance

Art exhibits are a regular feature in the Harris Fine Arts Center. (Photo by William Owens.)

Ambrozich rips off a rebound in conference basketball action (Photo by Gerald W. Silver.)

Along the way there’s some hard research