Lifelong service: A fundamental element of a BYU education

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Many students report that being involved in service during their college experience improves their closeness in relationships and improves their school productivity.

Ninety-two percent of students who are involved in post-graduation service were also involved in it at BYU, according to Casey Peterson from the Center for Service and Learning.

One of the four aims of a BYU education is lifelong learning and service. Education in Zion opened its new exhibit “Y-Serve: Come Serve with Me” earlier this fall semester with discussion about service by a panel of BYU faculty and a service project.

The panel consisted of Peterson, previously mentioned, Eva Witesman from the Marriott School of Management and David Nelson from the School of Family Life. Each member of the panel had the opportunity to answer questions based on their experience with service by Education in Zion curator Heather Seferovich.

Panel members strongly encouraged students to be involved in service during their time at BYU.

“Service and volunteerism can affect as big a scope as you will lend yourself to,” Peterson said. “In Provo we have opportunities to serve in many different ways. Students don’t have to travel far to do them.”

David Nelson speaks to students at the opening of the Education in Zion exhibit. Nelson challenged students to do things outside of your comfort zone to serve others.
David Nelson speaks to students at the opening of the Education in Zion exhibit. Nelson challenged students to do things outside of their comfort zone to serve others. Photo by Natalie Stoker

BYU students have packed schedules. Between homework, papers, exams, group projects, dating or family responsibilities work and church callings, finding time to serve may be a challenge.

“Anybody that feels like (they) don’t have time for it (service) is basically way too self-focused,” Nelson said.

Nelson, who works with the BYU Romania study abroad, suggested that if not having time for service is an issue students are concerned about, they should go serve others in another country outside of going on a mission.

The panel addressed several reasons why it is important to serve others.

“Interacting in a service environment breaks down barriers that in other capacities are not broken down,” Peterson said. “They’re not worried about how they’re dressed or what they look like. … They’re worried about someone else.”

One reason that influences many BYU students to serve is their religious beliefs; the panel agreed this is an important reason to serve.

“One of the main reasons that we need to serve and practice serving is so that we can become not only like our Savior but like Father in Heaven,” Witesman said. “I personally believe that we can’t just become perfect by ourselves. I believe that we need to become perfect as whole societies. Zion is part of what perfection looks like.”

Outside of the responsibility BYU students have to serve, there are benefits to providing service to others.

“I think that one of the best things to do when you are having a hard time and you’re kind of stuck in this mire of how difficult your life is, it’s to go out and do something,” Witesman said.

After a study of service in the lives of kids in Washington, D.C., Peterson learned that the quality of their relationships grew in meaning.

“The students said they felt like they had more time,” Peterson said. “For an incoming student, I don’t think they can afford not to serve. They’re missing out on the campus experience.”

Morgan May sews felt hand puppets at the opening exhibit for the Education in Zion.
Morgan May sews felt hand puppets at the opening exhibit for Education in Zion. Photo by Natalie Stoker

Many students on BYU campus are involved in weekly and monthly service opportunities.

Brittany Feuz, a senior from Plymouth, Mich., studying human development, serves weekly at the State Hospital in Provo and monthly at the Food and Care Coalition.

“It’s really not a burden at all to go and serve,” Feuz said. “It’s an integral part of my week that I really look forward to.”

Betty Evans, a sophomore from Orem studying nursing, serves weekly doing Adaptive Aquatics through Y-Serve.

“One reason (to serve) is just to get rid of your pride, to humble yourself and just focus on other people,” Evans said.

Evans also highlighted some of the blessings of service in her life such as time to not think about anything else, her time being edified and seeing how service blesses the lives of those she serves.

BYU provides countless opportunities to prepare its students to be lifelong servers all over the world. Just like with anything else learned, it takes time and practice to master skills like service.

“After the class requirements, after the accolades on résumés, after those things stop, those habits of service are instilled in their hearts and continue on,” Peterson said.

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