Academic Vice President Justin Collings welcomed faculty to the new school year in the General Faculty Session of University Conference on Aug. 28. He shared five “gifts of light” available to them.
Collings opened the meeting by presenting a variety of awards to dozens of university faculty.
The most prestigious faculty award, the Karl G. Maeser Distinguished Lecturer Award, was awarded to Eric N. Jellen, associate dean of the College of Life Sciences.
Following a musical number by Randolph Lee and Don Cook from the School of Music, Collings introduced his talk by establishing his and President Reese’s policy toward the school.
“It is to advance the inspired mission and to achieve the prophetic destiny of Brigham Young University. It is to do everything that lies within our power — and many things possible only with heaven’s help — to keep the BYU banner flying high,” Collings said.
Collings affirmed the goal of the BYU administration, which he said is to combine academic pursuits with faith in Jesus Christ and act as one of the “great lights of the world.”
Collings then presented five gifts the Lord offers to BYU faculty as they strive to achieve BYU’s mission. The first is the gift of the restored Gospel of Jesus Christ.
“Because we are a restoration university, we can order and unite all truth under the grand, unifying head of the restored gospel of Jesus Christ. This inspired perspective empowers us to shine a unique light into every one of our disciplines,” Collings said.
According to Collings, the knowledge provided by the restored gospel allows the school to sometimes break from the conventions of the world and bring a unique light to its disciplines. Collings invited faculty to study scriptures daily and petition the Lord for guidance in their BYU stewardship.
The second gift available to faculty is the temple. Collings invited faculty to make regular temple appointments and promised that the Lord will provide miracles in their lives and their teaching.
The third gift, according to Collings, is living prophets who provide inspired direction for the school.
The fourth gift is students. Collings encouraged faculty to foster the spiritual identity and potential within the student body.
“Help our students identify and cultivate the unique spiritual gifts with which the Lord has endowed them,” Collings said. “I hope that this year we can search diligently in the light of Christ to discern what good things have been given to our students.”
The final gift Collings reinforced was the gift of the Son of God and His Atonement.
“The fervent prayer of my heart is that this sacred campus will become the beautiful place where all of our students, without exception, come to the knowledge of their Redeemer,” Collings said.
Collings invited faculty to bear witness of the Savior more frequently in the coming year and to guide students with His example.
“Any education is inadequate which does not emphasize that His is the only name given under heaven whereby mankind can be saved,” Collings said, quoting BYU’s mission statement.
Collings concluded by welcoming faculty to the new school year and charged them to work together to fulfill BYU’s sacred mission.
“With gratitude for the unsung heroes and heroines of our past … may we here highly resolve to do our part, each according to our station, in our time and season, to help this school become what prophets of God have said it must become. Friends, colleagues, will you help?” Collings said.
Physics professor Gus Hart said he was “blown away” by the session and reflected on BYU’s spirit compared to the previous institution he taught.
“I can’t believe I work here. Every year after a University Conference I think, ‘Wow, this is such a cool place.’ I taught at a state university for a while and the contrast is indescribable,” Hart said.
Jaren Hinckley, professor in the School of Music, received the Randall L. Morgan Teaching and Learning Faculty Fellowship. Hinckley said he was flattered and valued by the award and recognition. He likewise appreciated Collings’ emphasis on supporting students.
“I was pleased with the focus on our students and making them apart of our lives. I want to figure out ways to bring my students … a sense of comfort and welcomeness,” Hinckley said.
University Conference will continue weekdays until Friday, Sept. 1.