BYU academic groups suit up for success

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Athletes and dancers represent BYU elsewhere in jerseys and tights, but other students do their alma mater proud in suit coats and pencil skirts.

Marriott School

BYU Accounting’s five-person team, Lotus Solutions, won first place at the National PwC Challenge in Washington, D.C., in January.

BYU accounting team members Corbin Stott, Ben Green, McKell Anderson, Adam Mahas and Hayden Holbrook took first at a national competition in Washington, D.C.
BYU accounting team members Corbin Stott, Ben Green, McKell Anderson, Adam Mahas and Hayden Holbrook took first at a national competition in Washington, D.C. (Facebook)

The team came into the competition from the fifth and final spot, but it returned home with the first-place prize. This is BYU’s fourth national award, making it the university with the most PwC victories.

Team members Corbin Stott, Ben Green, McKell Anderson, Adam Mahas and Hayden Holbrook competed against four other universities.

Mahas said the team learned a lot about teamwork and real-world issues and that the members worked hard to get to this point both individually and as a team.

“I think our strength in the competition was the Q&A session after our presentation,” Mahas said. “We really nailed that part. Us winning shows a lot about how good BYU’s accounting program really is.”

Mahas gave credit to the team’s faculty adviser, John Barrick, who helped the students prepare for all the technical aspects of the competition.

Kennedy Center

BYU took top honors for the second year in a row at the regional Model Arab League competition in Denver March 13–15.

“I was sweating it a little,” said the group’s faculty adviser, Islamic studies Professor James Toronto, of the awards ceremony. “We were about even with the University of Utah until the last council (awards were announced).”

Toronto attributed the final award for BYU — “outstanding delegation” representing Saudi Arabia — in part to two BYU students — Ryan Hughes and Ryan Newell — being willing to switch roles to council chair at the last minute.

“I just really like seeing the negotiating process of people who really have different ideas about things and then seeing how people’s ideas gradually come together,” said Hughes, who won the award for outstanding chair. “It gives you real-world experience that you don’t usually get at school.”

Lucy Walter, a Middle Eastern studies major who helped represent Saudi Arabia, said the new people — with new opinions — made the process that much more challenging. She said the diplomatic process pushed her limits, as she had to compromise her ideas to find solutions with students from around the Western United States.

“The other advisers always ask me what we do to make BYU so good,” Toronto said. “I think our students are just natural diplomats.”

Ben Smith, Scott McLellan and Joshua Balleck prepare points for discussion at the regional Model Arab League competition in Denver. (Lucy Schouten)
Ben Smith, Scott McLellan and Joshua Balleck prepare points for discussion at the regional Model Arab League competition in Denver. (Lucy Schouten)

Toronto said students get most of their preparation from BYU’s strong Middle Eastern studies program, their time living in the Middle East on study abroad and “their ingenuity and their intelligence.”

“There is a misconception that the classroom learning is what’s intrinsic to an educated person,” said Middle Eastern studies major Ted Ellsworth, who said much of his education has relied on the “practice, experimentation, debate, consideration for more intimate details” he has found through experiences like Model Arab League.

Humanities

Erik Summers, who studies Arabic, teaches English and citizenship classes to Bhutanese refugees with the International Rescue Committee in Salt Lake City. The Arabic skills he is learning at BYU, as well as the history, politics, religion, geography and culture he has studied, has made him a better and more useful volunteer as he teaches in an in-home setting.
“It is difficult going to school for so long and keeping this knowledge just in my head as theory and concepts,” Summer said. “It is refreshing and motivating to actually implement that theoretical knowledge into the laboratory of life and to see what I know, what I don’t know and what I like.”

BYU senior Madeleine Ary (left) presents at a conference in Princeton on the interaction of faith and reason in the public sphere.
BYU senior Madeleine Ary (left) presents at a conference in Princeton on the interaction of faith and reason in the public sphere. (Lucy Schouten)
Spencer Yamada attended a conference at Princeton University with almost other to discuss the research behind some of the traditional family ideals of the gospel. Yamada said he was impressed that BYU sponsored or provided several of the speakers.
“I felt that we had an inner conviction for why we were there and what we were doing, while (other students) were merely interested in the community around them and in forming a minority identity,” he said.
Yamada said some of his BYU classmates arrived unprepared to dialogue with those of different faiths but similar ideals without proselyting, but they left better equipped.
Yamada said BYU students “came back with a greater appreciation for the challenge that awaits us when we leave in terms of fulfilling the aims of a BYU education.”
Mayranush Gevorgyan and Lucy Walter stop to see Colorado sites on their way to the Model Arab League competition in Denver.

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