Behind the scenes: Preparing for Education Week

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Education Week attendees walk across the BYU campus to classes. (Ty Mullen)

BYU hosts thousands of people from across the country and world for Education Week every August following the campus takeover by summer camps and EFY. Hundreds of speakers are selected to prepare classes for attendees to be enlightened. The BYU campus has been busy preparing for the 97th Education Week, which begins Monday, August 19 and runs through Friday, August 23, and is based on the theme, “Building our foundation upon Christ.” 

Bruce Payne, the program administrator for Education Week, said themes each year are inspired by the most recent University Conference or teachings from Church leaders or scriptures.

According to the website, this year’s Education Week will offer over 1,000 classes on a variety of topics, including education, religion, marriage and family, the arts, genealogy and communication, history and two additional evening performances. 

People of all ages attend the BYU Education Week, according to these 2018 demographics. (Allie Jones)

Of the 242 speakers this year, 34% are BYU faculty, 11% are seminary and institute faculty and 53% are experts from other professions, according to Payne. He said speakers have either taught at Education Week in the past or are selected months before the program begins.

“New applicants submit an online application, their proposed titles and outlines, a resume and a video of them giving a presentation. It takes a couple of months to go through all the material and then invitations are extended in January,” Payne explained of the process for choosing new speakers.

Payne joked that some people ask him what he does during the rest of the year, but really, it’s a year-round job. 

“Preparations for the next program begin as we are cleaning up from the current program,” he said. “All aspects of the program need to be immediately evaluated as we look to the future, and the application period for new presenters begins just weeks after the current year’s program.” 

Education Week attendees participate in classes throughout the week. (Maddi Dayton)

Payne said people from all fifty states and eight other countries are currently registered for the conference starting Monday.

Though the program is designed primarily for adults, youth who turn 14 by Dec. 31 of the program year may now attend Education Week and participate in youth classes and activities. 

Payne said this year they teamed up with EFY to add youth elements to Education Week including two dances, a talent show and a showcase to review the teachings and events of the week. Payne noted there are also hundreds of new classes for youth, and former EFY counselors will be running these youth activities.

Unlike previous years, updates to the program throughout the week will now be posted online rather than printed on flyers and hung throughout the campus. 

Sharylann Smith, the contract coordinator for BYU Campus Accommodations, said they start receiving housing participants’ information on August 1 and then begin making room assignments for Education Week.

“Approximately 2,700 guests will stay in On-Campus Housing during Education Week in 16 buildings at Helaman Halls and Heritage Halls,” she said.

BYU Dining Services director Dean Wright and his department have also been hard at work making preparations for Education Week, not only for meals but also finishing campus construction projects.

According to Wright, the new CougarExpress and Choices, which replaced L&T in the Cougareat and offers allergy-friendly options, will open by the start of Education Week.

The new “Choices” restaurant, located to the right of Chick-fil-A in the Cougareat, is scheduled to be open by Monday for Education Week. (Addie Blacker)

The Skyroom will also be open during Education Week from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Executive Chef John McDonald said he starts preparing menus months in advance for Education Week. Dining Services estimated they serve 23,000 meals per day during Education Week, which adds up to 115,000 throughout the whole week.

Instead of Cougar Cash, this year Education Week attendees can purchase a BYU Dining Gift Card which is valid to use at all BYU Dining locations except concessions, non-BYU vendors and off-campus locations. The gift card can be loaded in increments of $25 and never expires.

Wright said summertime is their largest population basis with summer camps, EFY and Education Week. Wright noted the challenge of not being fully staffed during Education Week, since many student employees go home for a break following the conclusion of EFY and many high school employees who work for Wright during the summer go back to public school around the start of Education Week.

“We’ve been working to make sure all of our operations are staffed and to make sure that we can serve the needs of Education Week,” he said.

Wallis Rothlisberger, the staff assistant for Dining Services, said they use Education Week as a trial run for fall semester. Rothlisberger said her first week working at the Creamery on 9th as a student was Education Week; she learned those flavors quickly. 

“It does provide a good training opportunity for our student employees for sure,” she said. 

Rothlisberger said it’s fun to see that many memories Education Week attendees have of BYU surround food. 

“They have to come to the Creamery while they’re here for Education Week, or they have to eat a mint brownie because those are things that they remember from their time here,” she said.

Rothlisberger said many Education Week participants have also expressed excitement to try the new Mint Brownie Chocolate Milk, which became available on campus January 28.

“We’re just really proud to be part of the BYU experience and proud to be the place where people want to return to enjoy the things that they’ve missed,” said Rothlisberger.

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