Alumni speak to BYU students during Homecoming Week

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By Marissa Lundeen, Lauren Woolley, Kaleigh Ma’ake, Andrew Nieves, Caroline Clark and Lindsey Bakes

Bonnie L. Oscarson, BYU graduate of American and British literature and former president of the Young Women’s general presidency of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, shared how her fond memories of reading books prepared her for a lifetime of learning. Her talk was part of several alumni lectures during BYU Homecoming Week. (Addie Blacker)

Several alumni from various departments on campus hosted lectures Thursday morning of Homecoming Week.

College of Fine Arts and CommunicationsNathan Pacheco

BYU School of Music alumnus Nathan Pacheco shared five lessons he learned throughout his career as a professional vocalist to a crowd of students. 

First, Pacheco acknowledged the need for consistency in accomplishing anything in life. He quoted the words of Helaman in the book of Alma: “by small and simple things are great things brought to pass.” He emphasized the importance of continually doing the small and simple things in order to accomplish your dreams.

He brought up what he considers to be one of the most pernicious falsehoods of today, which is perfectionism. 

“The main lesson that I wanted to share is that perfection is not good and it is not of God. It is one of the most dangerous philosophies out there that masks itself in God’s clothing,” Pacheco said.

Pacheco encouraged students to take risks as they go throughout their personal and professional lives. In his own life, he has noticed that as we take leaps of faith, the Lord honors that faith and blesses us with the miracles we need to accomplish our goals. 

Pacheco also shared a harsh truth with students: that there is no grass on the other side. “We have to plant it, just like everything else. And there is always a wilderness to cross through before we reach our promised land,” Pacheco said. 

Lastly, he advised students to have an “emotional first aid kit,” things they can reliably turn to in times of emotional distress. He concluded by asking the audience this question: What were you born to do?

Our dreams, Pacheco believes, play a large role in answering this profound question. 

College of Nursing – Mary Williams 

BYU College of Nursing honored Mary Williams, BYU alumna with the college’s Alumni Achievement Award during her campus lecture this morning. 

Williams has been in the nursing industry for 48 years. She is a past BYU interim dean and served for 41 years as an associate professor and 27 years as an associate dean. 

The college’s mission statement and vision “is to learn the Healer’s art and go forth to serve,” and to exemplify this by “leading with faith and integrity; advancing the science of nursing and healthcare; promoting health and wellness; alleviating suffering and serving individuals, families, and communities.” 

Williams’ message focused on the light of the Healer, Florence Nightingale and how nursing students can “become a light to the world through emulating the Healer’s art.” 

Williams’ shared various ways nurses can emulate the Savior: focusing on healing the entire individual and making each patient whole, attending to the unique needs of each individual, using various healing methods like touch, word, presence and comfort, creating an environment that is peaceful, using the knowledge and wisdom learned to govern healing and wholeness and using healing attributes of empathy, love, acceptance and compassion regardless of circumstances.

“What we uniquely bring as graduates of BYU College of Nursing in emulating the Healer’s art is inviting the Spirit into all we do,” Williams said. 

Kennedy Center – Nikki Eberhardt

Alumna Nikki Eberhardt focused her message on leveraging disruptive innovation to face global challenges. 

Eberhardt is an executive member of various organizations including Global Citizen and Global Talent Team member for Delta Airlines. Her presentation talked about three things: collaboration, innovation in crisis, and diversification. She said through following these guidelines, global issues such as education equity, food security and the subordination of women can be challenged.

Eberhardt’s work with Global Citizen focuses on ending poverty through raising billions of dollars in funds, distributing vaccines to disadvantaged countries and empowering individuals to make personal changes and contributions. Working with Delta’s Global Talent Team, Eberhardt’s responsibilities involve diversifying areas of their global supply chain to include more female-owned and minority-owned businesses. 

During the pandemic, Eberhardt and her team reevaluated the diversity within higher leadership positions within the company.

“When we looked at the higher leadership levels we didn’t see that diversity of race, of voice, of ethnicity,” Eberhardt said. Delta has since implemented new programs to eliminate glass ceilings and hire more minority populations. 

Eberhardt posed questions to evaluate current challenges: “How can you leverage this crisis at an inflection point to produce more good? How can you bring in more diverse voices, perspectives, races, ethnicities, to heighten your message and enlarge the scope of what you do?”

Eberhardt encouraged attendees to focus on actionable innovation within their obligations and responsibilities. 

College of Humanities – Bonnie L. Oscarson 

Bonnie L. Oscarson, BYU graduate of American and British literature and former president of the Young Women’s general presidency of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, shared how her fond memories of reading books under their family’s apricot trees as a kid had prepared her for a lifetime of learning experiences through literature.

Oscarson shared how literature is a way to “open portals of learning” by understanding different perspectives from around the world, experiencing emotions through other’s experiences and being a positive influence in our daily lives. 

“I’m grateful to know there are endless ways of approaching good literature and that each approach yields different understanding and insights. Now when I am immersed in a book or a story in my mind, it can take a hundred different paths of exploration,” Oscarson said. 

No matter what was happening in her life, she said it seemed as though literature and her love of reading played a key component in her journey. She found an escape in being able to read amidst learning a completely new language while her and her husband served as mission presidents in the Sweden Gothenburg Mission.

“Literature has made my life richer and more meaningful,” Oscarson said. 

College of Life Sciences – Dr. Candace McNaughton

Alumna Dr. Candace McNaughton compared the influenza pandemic of 1918 with the current COVID-19 pandemic and said how through science, we can strengthen our faith and serve our neighbors.

In her lecture, McNaughton gave a history of the influenza pandemic in Utah, which became one of the states with the worst death rates in the country in 1918. She explained that through the pandemic of 1918, then President of the Church Joseph F. Smith used D&C 138 to give solace to members. The section talks about the redemption of the dead and preaching of the gospel to those who have not received it. 

McNaughton said this related to the Church’s role in the pandemic today. She said the Church has been clear in their stance on masks and vaccines and their reliance on credible sources for the safety and health of their members. 

“How religious and how much service can you do for each other if you’re unhealthy?” McNaughton said. 

McNaughton contrasted the technology and information the world has now with the 1918 pandemic, where very little information was available to battle the influenza virus. She said members of the Church have the responsibility to rely on scientific information available today to stop the pandemic from worsening and help our fellow brothers and sisters.

“We need science in order to gain knowledge. So science and faith work together and when they’re used together, they can help us accomplish goals and serve each other,” she said.

Ira A. Fulton College of Engineering – Craig Paullin 

Craig Paullin, BYU alumnus and President of Pacific Sintered Metals, urged the College of Engineering students to consider entrepreneurship as a future career path.

Paullin began his lecture with a story of famous surfer Greg Noll who watched big waves crash in North Shore, Hawaii, for years before finally facing his fears and surfing them. Paullin related Noll’s story to his own rocky, yet rewarding experience owning a business and shared his 12 essential steps to becoming a successful entrepreneur.

“I really wanted to be an entrepreneur but when I went to look for that position, it just wasn’t available,” Paullin said. “So, I made a list of what I figured were the most important entrepreneurial skills that I needed to have in order to be a success.” 

Paullin closed his remarks with five surf-related tips for students considering being an entrepreneur: develop your skills, study the spot or company, wait for the big swell or opportunity, check it out from the channel and if it feels right, paddle in.

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