By Jennifer Browning
At one o’clock on a hot summer afternoon, Ryan Redmond, a junior enrolled in BYU’s new Summer Visiting Student Program, walked home from class with a quickened pace and rhythmic step as he passed the Bell Tower. Every hour it chimes the hymn “Come, Come Ye Saints,” reminding Redmond that this is no ordinary place.
“I walk under it and it just feels so good. It’s awesome to hear,” he said.
This was the first year students like Redmond, a visiting student from Western Washington University, were able to attend BYU through open enrollment provided by the Summer Visiting Student Program. While at BYU visiting students enjoy all the benefits of regular students, ranging from on-campus employment to advisement in their majors. At the end of the summer, they return to their own institutions for their regular studies, having received a portion of the BYU experience.
“BYU’s priority is to try to reach more students, address more lives. We have a strong desire to extend our influence at BYU as broadly as we can,” says John S. Tanner, English Department chair and former assistant academic vice president of undergraduate education, who helped develop the visiting student program. This year the new program allowed more than 1,100 students to feel BYU’s influence.
Aside from enjoying the way bells ring out the hour with the popular LDS anthem, visiting students recognize other unique characteristics of BYU–particularly the spirit on campus. “These are dedicated buildings, and anything that happens or that you say affects the spirit of the building,” Redmond said. “In every classroom you are just tuned in and the Spirit testifies better. It’s clearer.”
“In my biology class my professor related the first law of thermodynamics to something in the Doctrine and Covenants, and one student announced that he got his mission call,” said Deborah Fox, a visiting student from the University of the Ozarks in Arkansas. She was startled at some of the things that occur in BYU classrooms. “It’s different, but I like it.”
Visiting students also recognize the challenges of BYU’s rigorous curriculum. “I figured the classes would be challenging but not really hard. Now I have kind of woken up,” said Allison Zundel, a freshman visiting from North Carolina. “They require a lot of study and prayer.”
Redmond said the classes are similar to those he takes at Western Washington but added, “I’ve found myself relating better with the professors at BYU. It seems like they really care. If you need to talk with them, they’ll be there for you.”
Some visiting students come to BYU hoping to receive spiritual rejuvenation. “This summer was a time when I could retreat,” said Redmond, who felt that the struggles of life were beginning to pull him down. “When I came here, my testimony needed to be backed up and solidified again.”
“I just wanted to be around LDS people and get a good, solid start in a gospel setting. I am really pleased with the whole environment. I feel like we’re in the world but not of the world here,” Zundel said.
One of the program’s main goals is to fully integrate the visiting students so they can experience all that BYU has to offer. “Our recommendation is that they become part of the wards, that they interact with the regular student population. That part of campus life is critical,” says Tanner.
For Fox, integration into her student ward was a unique experience. It was the first young single adult ward she had attended. “It’s different–I feel more a part of the group in Relief Society.”
Although the program is not designed as a back door to admission at BYU, some students enjoyed it enough to alter plans and apply for regular admission in the future. Zundel is attending Ricks College this fall and hopes to transfer to BYU in two years. Fox has considered changing her major and finishing her education at BYU, and Redmond said, “I am definitely doing my graduate study here.”