Kennedy Center celebrates 30 years

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BYU’s Kennedy Center celebrates its 30th anniversary this month. On Nov. 17, 1983, the center was dedicated. Today it’s home to lecture series from foreign dignitaries, study abroad programs and more. (Screenshot)

The David M. Kennedy Center celebrates its 30th anniversary this month. The center houses six international studies majors as well as more than 50 study abroad programs.

Majors include Ancient Near Eastern Studies, Asian Studies, European Studies, International Relations, Latin American Studies and Middle East Studies/Arabic. All six programs combined reach a total of 474 students.

The Clark Building was built in 1952. It was originally the bookstore and publications office and now houses The Kennedy Center. In 1985, the center officially accumulated multiple international programs that were previously dispersed around campus into one organized department.

David Matthew Kennedy (1905–1996) was the U.S. Secretary of the Treasury and a representative of the First Presidency of the LDS Church, which led him to travel the world to meet with governmental and ecclesiastical leaders. The building was named after him for his accomplishments as well as his generous donations.

BYU’s Kennedy Center homepage expands on his background: “From employment at the Federal Reserve board in Washington, D.C., he went to the Continental Illinois Bank and Trust Company in Chicago and rose to become chairman and chief executive officer.”

Elder Jeffrey R. Holland said the purpose of The Kennedy Center is to “strengthen and improve many contacts with governments, with The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and with our own varied academic programs in international affairs.”

International studies also include study abroad programs. The Kennedy Center is in charge of overseeing each of the programs as well as covering the financial logistics and safety concerns.

Study abroad programs date back to the 1950s. Program lengths used to last approximately six months; they now usually span the length of a normal semester at around three months.

The BYU London Centre was bought in 1978 and has had the most students attend in its time than any other program.

Only five programs out of 50 are based in general education. The locations for these five programs include Spain, Italy, London, Vienna and Sienna.

Director of International Study Programs Lynn Elliott said the BYU Jerusalem Center has the highest student attendance out of all of the programs per year. The center has 80 students enrolled each semester, with a total of 240 filtering through every year.

The BYU Jerusalem program is the only international study program that is not overseen by The Kennedy Center; these offices are located in the Harman Building. One thousand five hundred students participate in study abroad programs overseen by The Kennedy Center.

“Every year five or six programs are added; this year we have added a history program that looks at Mediterranean and European history,” Elliot said. “It will begin this spring.”

International programs continue growing to reach more regions and countries. Students have additional opportunities to learn about diverse cultures and people, establish new connections and spread the gospel of Jesus Christ by serving others.

Elder Holland reiterated BYU’s challenge to “enter to learn — go forth to serve” when he said, “As we consider the fundamental functions and goals of the David M. Kennedy Center, none should be more important than the commitment, not only to study, but also to serve.”

Students are challenged to dive into the culture, engage with the locals and consider a different perspective. Kylie Lewis attended the BYU London Centre in 2012 and said, “My professors would often send us out into the cities with historic sites to visit and museums to explore. They would also highly suggest that we would take time to get to know the people, talk to them and even share ideas and beliefs with them in a respectful way.”

The David M. Kennedy Center helps students accomplish BYU’s goal of learning and then applying knowledge to assist others to improve individual and regional conditions around the world.

In the Kennedy Center’s alumni magazine, national and global leaders are highlighted and celebrated.

Read about Kennedy Center Fast Facts here.

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