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A Smile and a “Hello”

August 2011

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While walking across the Brigham Young University–Idaho campus recently and passing several people who smiled and said "hello," I reflected on my time here as a student 23 years ago.

I remembered studying for hours on the third floor of the library. I recalled the wonder and shock I felt when teachers gave us their home phone numbers in case we needed anything. I thought of the invaluable free tutoring sessions, five nights each week—for Math 100. I remembered the study group Brother Mel Griffeth organized for those of us who got, uh, a "C" or below on his first test.

After enjoying this flash flood of memories, I realized students and teachers were still smiling at me as they walked by (sometimes even after slipping on ice), and saying "hello."

This level of expressed friendliness would be easy to disregard if I hadn't been to other campuses and other cities. That little difference—people actually greeting one another—sums up the uniqueness of BYU-Idaho for me.

From the time of its inception, through all its growth and names, there is something especially different about this place. It affects those who are drawn here and those who leave forever changed.

My overall experience at Ricks College became the foundation for the rest of my college career. I played a lot, but I studied more. Frankly, the grades I worked hard to establish at Ricks carried my GPA through those couple of not-so-good semesters down the road.

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Amidst all the fun and hard work, I experienced nurtured growth. Away from home for essentially the first extended period of time, I found a little more of myself. I discovered new things and learned to enjoy the challenge of doing so. I saw glimpses of my future.

I left this marvelously unique place and went on to serve a full-time mission, pursue more school, get married, begin a career, and have children. Years later, I returned to Ricks College right before it transitioned to BYU-Idaho. In addition to managing communications for philanthropic opportunities at the university, I teach an advertising class at night. The experiential table has turned. Now I'm a teacher here.

I am the one sitting at my desk worried about the young woman from another country who is struggling with the concepts. It's me talking with a couple of students after class about their fears and struggles with an upcoming assignment. I am the one calling a young man’s apartment because I am concerned that he missed two classes in a row. And I am the one that a student thanked God for in his opening prayer before our class last week.

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Over the years, I’ve talked to, interviewed, and surveyed a lot of alumni. The conclusion came easily: my experiences here were wonderfully typical. Each alumnus has a log of memories. These shape his or her life and add to the influence they have on their coworkers, community, church, and family.

Among current students, I see an overwhelming understanding of the privilege it is to be here. As alumni, that understanding—woven together with gratitude and a desire to build the kingdom through the youth of the Church—is often manifested in philanthropic support.

Back when I was a student (there, I finally said it), I didn't know of available scholarships. As with every alumnus, however, I benefitted from the supplemented tuition and the fine, Church-provided facilities that helped shape the experiences I had.

Thanks to the generosity of alumni and friends, even more scholarships are available today than when I was here. Currently, almost 70 percent of all students receive some degree of financial assistance at BYU-Idaho, much of it made possible through privately donated funds. In keeping with the ideals of this place, though, you won't find "superstar" scholarships; instead, partial-tuition scholarships are awarded to as many students as funds will allow, thereby sharing the blessings as widely as possible.

It is interesting and reassuring to hear alumni—young and not as young—along with parents, grandparents, and others, express desires to financially support the university and what it provides young people.

The "BYU-Idaho experience" is real and even eternally significant in the lives of current students and all those associated with the university.

Whether or not you were blessed with the opportunity to attend BYU-Idaho, I hope I've painted enough of a picture for you to appreciate the good taking place in a college town called Rexburg. It's a place of life-changing growth, and it's a place where people still smile and say "hello" when you pass by.