BY JOE DANA
In the year 1900, BYU Academy faced the 20th century as a tiny 50 student institution struggling to crawl out of debt and just survive.
What a century will do.
One hundred years later, President Merrill J. Bateman spoke of equally formidable challenges ahead for a university that now has over 30,000 students and 12 colleges.
They range from getting greater national respect, adapting to changing technology and keeping a strong religious base.
Recent reports by The U.S. News and World Report placed BYU at 80 in overall ranking among 250 universities in the U.S. Despite an impressive jump from last year’s 109 slot, President Bateman believes BYU is still underrated.
“My guess is that we’re at least in the top 50 if people really understand the quality of education we have here,” Bateman said.
The report rated colleges based on such categories as academic reputation, faculty resources and student selectivity.
BYU scored exceptionally high in the areas of test scores and grades for incoming freshmen.
Class size was something BYU didn’t compete as well in, however. The university reported only 33 percent of classes with 20 students or under.
President Bateman said he believes BYU’s class size, which has dropped in the last few years, is at a “very manageable proportion.”
In the effort to teach students how to handle the changes of technology in the 21st century, President Bateman said it will be important for students to be given the tools to learn how to learn.
“Most of what students learn in their fields will be out of date in the future,” Bateman said. “Unless students really know how to learn, they will be lost within a decade.”
An issue that has risen in campus classrooms is that students are too passive in their experience at BYU.
“I think there are a number of students who have not learned how to study and have not acquired a passion for learning,” Bateman said.
He said he wants BYU to continue improving on turning students into life long learners.
President Bateman said something that won’t change in the next century is the spiritual dimension of a BYU education.
“I’m very pleased that we are one of the few academic institutions in this country that started with a rich academic and spiritual tradition in the 1900s and we’ll leave this century with that relationship in tact,” Bateman said.
Students seemed to agree that there is an element on BYU campus not counted on paper.
“There are a lot of things I want to do to change the world,” 21 year-old Spanish major Camie Jensen said. “The mix of religious and secular learning will help me to do that.”
Dave Honey, professor of Chinese has lectured in colleges around the country. He said he believes that while comparing BYU with other colleges, the religious element shouldn’t go unnoticed.
“Any era is full of changes and if you have a foundation of personal integrity, confidence with yourself, and morals, you can adapt to any change,” Honey said.