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News about Mormons, Mormonism,
and the LDS Church
Sent on Mormon-News: 08Jan02
By Kent Larsen
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BYU's Kennedy Center Facing Major Overhaul

PROVO, UTAH -- BYU's David M. Kennedy Center for International Studies is facing major changes after a review questioned the academic rigor of some of its programs. The review suggests that two of the center's undergraduate programs be terminated, along with a master's degree and a program on developing nations. The center's director, Don Holsinger, a tenured professor, has also been told that his contract will not be renewed. But some faculty criticize the review, claiming that it is a biased and detrimental to the University, and the center is leading a petition to urge the University to ignore its recommendations.

The center serves thousands of students through its management of BYU's study abroad program and serves as the home for six undergraduate degree programs and several graduate programs. It is also the home of the International Society, a professional society for LDS Church members who work in internationally-oriented positions, which works to support the Church's programs around the world. The center's study abroad programs are known as the largest in the U.S.

The David M. Kennedy Center was established in 1983 through private donations, and named after LDS Church member David M. Kennedy, former U.S. Secretary of the Treasury under President Richard M. Nixon and ambassador at large for the U.S. After leaving government service, Kennedy served as the LDS Church's ambassador at large until his death in 1996. The center was envisioned as a interdisciplinary hub that would bring the expertise of faculty from across BYU to give students an international education.

The review bases its suggestions on a several-month-long study of the center, requested by Academic Vice President Alan L. Wilkins and chaired by by BYU Associated Academic Vice President Noel Reynolds. In an interview with the Salt Lake Tribune, Reynolds downplayed the importance of the overhaul, "We terminate somewhere between 10 and 20 programs a year," he said. The review blames the center's difficulties on its drain on other departments in the University and on its failure to raise adequate funds.

But faculty dispute many of the review's conclusions, especially the funding claim. Political Science professor Valarie Hudson, among the most vocal opponents of the review, claims that the center has actually been prohibited from raising its own funds, because its efforts competed with BYU's own efforts. She also claims, in comments posted with her objection on the center's petition, that the center was promised $5 million in funding as part of BYU's 1990s "Lighting the Way" campaign, but that the University never delivered the promise funding.

Hudson worries that the changes effectively gut the center, leaving BYU without the ability to take advantage of one of its strongest resources, "BYU boasts one of the most internationally minded and multilingual student bodies in the nation, perhaps the world, a resource the center's founders wanted to tap. Killing this program is a very retrograde step to take," she says.

Other professors worried about the fallout from weakening the center, with geography professor Chad Emmett wondering what international students will do if their major is dismantled. Another professor, sociologist Lynn England, claims that the Reynold's panel was stacked with academics who opposed the center's interdisciplinary approach.

But regardless of the review, Reynolds emphasizes that any decision on the center is weeks or months away, "International programs are still a high priority of university. But what we're finding now is that departments are developing their own international emphases."


Ax Poised at BYU International Studies Center
Salt Lake Tribune 3Jan02 D3
By Kirsten Stewart: Salt Lake Tribune


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