Students see the banners every day around campus that share phrases like, “BYUSA, it’s you,” but many students aren’t quite sure how they fit into BYUSA, or even what it is.
BYUSA is the student service association on campus. It is BYU’s student government, but not in the traditional sense of the word. Rather than focusing on policy making like student governments at other universities, they focus more on redefined service, with a primary goal of building ‘Zion Communities.’
When Elder Jeffrey R. Holland served as president of BYU, the students wanted to restructure the organization to be more service oriented. Although policy making is still an element, the main goal is to address not only the temporal needs of the students at BYU, but also the spiritual, emotional and social needs as well.
“The real purpose of BYUSA is to train leaders so that they can be successful not only within their jobs and families, but also in the Church too,” Abraham Kim, BYUSA’s vice president of activities, said. “We call it a leadership laboratory; it really is like a training facility. It teaches you who you are, how you can lead in different situations. It teaches you a lot of strengths you have or maybe exposes some weaknesses that you can work on.”
Sean Rico Fisher, the executive director over public relations in BYUSA said that BYUSA has two functions: to develop students into divine-centered leaders and, to connect students with each other, and with the things in life that are the most important.
“When you have set leaders who are centered on divine principles, and you have this connection of one heart and one mind,” Fisher said. Those are the ingredients that you need to start establishing Zion communities … and BYUSA (is) a vehicle through which that happens.”
The five initiatives that President Hatch and Vice President Jessica Godfrey focused on as they ran for their current offices each fit into a certain area within BYUSA and the area vice presidents each have certain responsibilities to help to accomplish the goals, and are held accountable to make progress on each of them through weekly stewardship meetings.
One overarching initiative from Hatch and Godfrey’s campaign was open and active communication because they want to be accessible to students.
“That’s all about having an open-door policy within the office, so anyone can talk to Brandon or Jessica and get any questions resolved,” Mallory Brugger, BYUSA’s vice president of student honor said.
Along with their open door-policy, Hatch and Godfrey will be creating a monthly presidency message and newsletter to update the student population on what they’re doing.
The whole point of their open and active communication initiative was to connect with students on campus- not just volunteers and participants.
“In administration, one of our big focuses is volunteer appreciation,” Angela Lopez, executive director of volunteer appreciation in the administration area said, “You’re not just a number in a database somewhere, but that we care about you as a person. We want people to know that we have a place for them.”
Whether it is in one of the 80 plus clubs, or planning and volunteering at an event, or maybe even just attending, the focus is to get the students involved and better their lives.
“That’s what Zion communities are,” Lopez said. “It’s not an event, it’s the people at the event and the friendships that extend beyond that.”
Abraham Kim, vice president over activities, plans to re-vamp the coming year’s activities to give the familiar events a more original twist to match the things students value.
“There are some things that are outdated and so I want to be able to get more students opinions on trying to theme them more with the times,” Kim said.
For example, “Welcome Back Week” during the first week of fall semester will kickoff with “games for the masses,” led by a specialist Kim will be bringing in from California to engage a larger amount of students and help him fulfill his goal.
Another initiative of the current presidency to connect students, is the “Sweet Hour of Service.” Two Thursdays a month during the 11 a.m. hour, BYUSA will be partnering with Y-serve and the Student Alumni Association, as well as any other organizations or clubs that are interested, to bring a unique service opportunity for students to participate in.
Hatch said he wants this to be an opportunity for students to take advantage of the convenience of this activity to make a positive impact on other students and people in the area.
“When you think about our lives as students, we generally live for ourselves… there isn’t a lot of opportunities to serve with how busy we are, and so the idea is that we’re going to make service a little bit more convenient for students by bringing that one hour of service twice a month,” Hatch said.
Hatch’s presidency is also working hard to address the issue commonly known as the “homeless period.” Although the power to change the policies of off-campus housing is somewhat out of their jurisdiction, Hatch said he still wants to raise awareness about the issue.
“Whether or not we’re going to be able to see a change there, we’re not sure, but we want to address it with the administration,” Hatch said. “We want them to understand that this is a problem that does affect students and work with them to see if we can do anything about it.”
Hatch and Godfrey have already met with the office of off-campus housing, and are planning another meeting in the near future to discuss possible solutions.
A concept Hatch’s presidency has been working on is the concept of a “YOUniversity,” where students have more of a voice.
The Student Advisory Council is responsible for gathering the opinions of the students by doing more outreach and having advertised focus groups about the certain issues and activities that BYUSA is involved with, and give students a way to see the changes they are passionate about.
In the past, BYUSA has also done student choice events, where a student can come in and pitch an idea for an event, and the activities area will help them refine the idea and then put it on. Hatch said he wants to see more of these types of events in the coming year.
A recent focus group about the student perception of BYUSA revealed that BYUSA’s function and purpose are not common knowledge.
“People generally are not as informed about what is happening, like what BYUSA is, as well as like what events are going on, so that’s one thing that we would like to be a little bit better at,” Hatch said.