By Joseph Andreason
Marie C. Ricks, an expert on organizational skills and a seasoned public speaker, said “there is no thrill” like teaching at the annual BYU Education Week. Like it has for nearly 100 years, Education Week is expected to draw thousands to campus for a week of learning Aug. 16-20.
“Thousands of people come, they congregate, they learn together, and life changes forever for them when they return home,” Ricks said.
Ricks said the key to Education Week is the motivation to initiate change in one’s life. “It’s not learning, it’s doing. It’s seeing how things can be done and then carrying that motivation home to try it out.”
She describes the scene of people running around and trying to find a seat while vigorously taking notes as what she calls “a unique learning environment.”
Ricks will join about 240 other presenters, 500 volunteers and thousands of attendees as they swarm BYU campus for the more than 1,000 classes offered at Education Week, a BYU tradition that began in 1922. According to program administrator Bruce Payne, registration for this year is at 70% of what it was in 2019, the last time the event took place on campus. Education Week talks were streamed online only in 2020.
This year’s theme is “Looking Forward with Faith: Having Our Hearts Knit Together in Unity and Love.” It comes from Mosiah 18 in the Book of Mormon. That theme of optimism is something program administrators and presenters alike share with attendees.
Payne said the pandemic has taken its toll on preparations. “It has impacted us, as we anticipated. We’ve had people cancelling more than normal, but we still have so many who are coming,” Payne said. Attendees may wear masks, but they will not be required, the Education Week website says.
In the past, the event has drawn an audience composed mainly of those above the age of 40 or 50. “Looking at the statistics in Utah, those age groups have a very high percentage of vaccination rates,” Payne said. “That bodes well.”
Hosting Education Week is a task of great significance, dubbed by those involved as “a year-long process.” Program leaders accept applications beginning in September of the year before the program.
“Every year we bring in new presenters who are well-qualified, love teaching and love what they research,” Payne said. “We also look at previous presenters to see whether the topic was sought after by our audience.”
BYU graduate Rita Tanner from Fillmore, Utah, said she has been attending Education Week on and off for more than 40 years. “The spiritual, emotional uplift is what keeps me coming back.”
Tanner said some of her favorite topics over the decades have ranged from insights into Isaiah to themed birthday parties, parables, music and Armageddon. “There are so many wonderful speakers who inspire you.”
Payne said they are glad to continue the event this year.
“With just a short period of time, people will never be the same again,” Ricks said.