Every Friday morning, the Logan Institute puts on an event where students are invited to come listen to speakers and enjoy time with their peers.
This event, called Religion in Life, allows both student members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and those of other faiths to gather together and listen to messages of inspiration and guidance given by a variety of speakers.
For the first Religion in Life devotional of the year, the Institute invited Utah State University President Noelle Cockett and student body president Michael Scott Peters to speak to students.
Kirt Rees, Associate Director for the Logan Institute, said that a student body president has not been invited to speak for many years. They selected Peters because he is respected greatly by the Institute staff who know him and they believed it would be beneficial for the students to hear from him. Peters suggested to have Cockett speak with him.
Students seemed to enjoy the messages that Peters and Cockett had to share.
“Michael’s message of inclusion was very well received. I have also heard very positive responses to Dr. Cockett’s message,” Rees said. “I believe that those in attendance were able to perceive her commitment to the students of USU and her understanding of the LDS student community. Her invitation to resist hate and intolerance was also timely and well received.”
Peters is a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints and has been attending these weekly devotionals throughout his years here at USU. Peters was told that a student has never been asked to speak before which made him excited for the opportunity.
“It was a huge honor. I have been to Religion in Life before so I know that it is like a thousand people that come,” he said. “I knew this would be a huge opportunity to share a message that Noelle and I believe in. We meet pretty often to talk about inclusion and how to spread that across campus. Religion in Life was the perfect opportunity.”
Peters ran for presidency on a platform to implement a theme for the university of ‘Everyone Belongs.’ On Friday, Peters implemented this into his time speaking to the Religion in Life audience.
“There are so many people that feel at home here at USU but I still believe there are minority groups who do not feel like they are a part of the Aggie family,” Peters said. “That is why this is important to me. I think we can always do more to be inclusive.”
President Cockett also felt honored to have the opportunity to be included in the Institute devotional. Friday was actually the first time she had ever been to the Institute.
“I love connecting with students. We have the largest LDS Institute in the world here at USU and I am very proud of that. I imagine it is going to be one of my biggest audiences ever,” Cockett said with a laugh.
Cockett is very supportive of Peters as they both share the same feelings about inclusiveness and wanting to make sure that students at USU feel comfortable. Cockett advises students to simply start off a conversation with someone different from themselves by asking a question.
“I think maybe what we need to do is ask. Ask if you can ask them a question about where they came from. Then they can give us more feedback on how comfortable they feel rather than just assuming. Be interested in others. That goes a long way,” she said.
Cockett said that how this generation of college students meets people can sometimes make it difficult for minorities to feel included.
“One of the big things that has changed since I was in college is cell phones,” she said. “In the past seven or eight years, when people walk out of their classes they are really intent on their phones. When we were there, we walked out talking to each other because that is how we met people.”
Cockett and Peters both discussed how Institute events are open to everyone on campus, yet it seems that the vast majority of students who attend are LDS. This is something that both presidents and the Institute would like to see change over this next year.
“We would hope that anyone at USU, regardless of their religious faith would see the institute as a safe space and a place of friendliness. Everyone is invited to participate in all of the institute events,” Rees said.
Throughout the year, Peters and Cockett are both hoping to make the theme of “Everyone Belongs” a reality for students all over campus.
“Both Noelle and I share this vision that we can create an inclusive campus,” Peters said. “When we take care of each other, when Aggies support Aggies we really can make a difference on campus. Let’s love our Aggie family.”