REXBURG, Idaho - He is the head of an university with 15,584 students on campus and another 11,987 off campus and online. He and his wife are the parents of seven children and 18 grandchildren. When he's not doing all that he has church duties, overseeing 18 stakes or areas throughout our region. Elder Kim Clark is president of Brigham Young University-Idaho and Eyewitness News anchor Todd Kunz asked him about the ups and downs of education.
"I think the biggest challenge at BYU-Idaho is to do two things that are kind of almost, I wouldn't say at war, but they're kind of in conflict with one another. One is two serve many more students, to grow and to get a lot bigger as an organization. And the second is to keep it small, so that it feels intimate, personable, that people care about you and so forth. And usually those two things don't work together," said Clark.
Kunz asked him what is the secret that BYU-Idaho seems to be using in today's crazy education landscape that makes it work.
"Here again, there are a number of things that are really, really important. First, is the people that work here," said Clark.
The second, he said, is some restructuring to keep class sizes smaller.
"So even though you are part of a really large university, you have faculty who know your name and talk to you and who greet you and who care about you," said Clark.
The third is the activities program led by the students themselves, which he said gives the students a feeling of impact and engagement. And the fourth?
"When you walk on this campus, there is a spirit here that you can feel. And we feel it every day and that makes a big, big difference to the students," said Clark.
This comes at a crucial time for students. Many are away from home, they are just out on their own, looking for that connection. If they don't find the right one, sometimes they tend to connect with things that aren't the best, said Clark.
"Or they feel alone or isolated or unsure of what's happening or if anybody really cares about them," said Clark.
"Where do you see the future of education going in the U.S.?" asked Kunz.
"Well, this is a great time in education. The reason is, we are learning more and more about learning. For an educator, this is an amazing time to open up for students, the world, in a way you could not do ever before," said Clark.
One of the challenges that always comes up is funding. President Clark said the issue has two sides and you must work on both in order for it to work.
"One side is the money. Where does it come from and how do we get it? How much of it is there? OK, that's one. The other side is, what do we get for it? What are we doing with it? How do we use it? How do we spend it and our we spending it effectively and why do things cost what they cost?" said Clark.
Often, he said, only the source of money is addressed. The key, he added, is being efficient and effective in what we do with funding. In relation to BYU-Idaho, he said there are the Three Imperatives:
- Improve the quality of education.
- Serve more students with more access.
- Lower the cost of the educational experience.
He said nobody is doing No. 3.
"I think people say you can do two, but not three. And we said no. It is possible to do all three, but you can't do all three and do things the way we've always done them. You've got to change," said Clark.
He said that same concept holds true for K-12 education. When asked about his greatest success at BYU-Idaho, he said there are a few, but they are not successess because they are always ongoing. One is the online Pathways program for those wishing to go back to school and earn a degree.
Finally, Kunz asked about how he juggles church duties with being president of the univesity, all while being a family man. His secret? Compartmentalize, compartmentalize.