Recently, after a tight vote by the faculty of the BYU History Department, it was decided to furlough the graduate program in history. Apparently, the struggle for the survival of the program has raged for years. One of the reasons voiced for the suspension of the program is that the resources devoted to the graduate program can be better utilized on undergraduate education.
As one who is in the process of applying to graduate school, I was first not only surprised, but saddened. I thought about the important influence that solid grad students, friends, had had (and continue to have) on my education and what I would have done without that influence. I also wondered about what this would do for Mormon studies. Understandably, with a preponderance of well respected scholars in Western American, American, and Mormon History, many of the thesis topics have focused on Mormon-related themes. BYU grad students under this capable tutelage have participate in national conferences such as the Western History Association and gained admittance to prestigious doctoral programs at universities such as Notre Dame. Because of it’s stellar faculty and having the third best (and probably most under-appreciated) university library in the nation, even with Mormon Studies programs being set up at great schools such as Claremont, USU, The University of Wyoming, and even UVSC, I can’t think of a more fitting place to do Mormon studies than BYU. I find it surprising that after discontinuing the Joseph Fielding Smith Institute of Latter-day Saint History, the next step has been to furlough the grad program in history. One non-student friend declared, “Mormon Studies is dead at BYU.”
Has BYU’s decision crippled Mormon studies? Or could this be a boon by forcing interested students out to a wider variety of schools and perspectives? Or, thirdly, will this loss have no effect on Mormon studies?