On Friday evening, 17 September 2021, world renowned singer-songwriter, David James Archuleta, headlined a “BYU Belong Concert,” which was hosted by the Brigham Young University (BYU) Dean of Students Office. The event took place at Helaman Fields and featured student and faculty voices, as well as performances from BYU’s Noteworthy, Vocal Point, Cougarette groups, and David Archuleta.
According to the BYU Belong Website, Ben Schilaty, Honor Code Administrator, helped organize the event, which also featured video vignette stories by six students, a faculty member, and a staff member. The participants for the stories were selected from different racial backgrounds, nationalities, religions, native languages, sexual orientations, and mental health challenges. The stories, which were shown in between performances, focused on the participants’ perspectives of what belonging looks like to them, when they felt seen and heard, when they felt like they contributed, and what they did to find their place at BYU.
The overarching goal was to help all students who attended the event realize that they have a place at BYU. Nathan Ward, the Associate Dean of Students, commented, “We really want to have a situation where people realize they have a lot more in common with their fellow students than they have that’s different.” Marissa Gilson, inclusion advisor at the Office of Student Success and Inclusion, said, “Our main hope is that students will see themselves in the students that are sharing, but also hear different perspectives. We have a diverse group of students across campus, and we are trying to get as many perspectives as possible of ways that we can do better at creating belonging on campus.”
According to the official website for the Office of Student Success and Inclusion, their mission is as follows: “We work with underrepresented students on campus—specifically students who are not members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and students who identify as LGBTQ/SSA.”
Schilaty further commented that the real power behind the event rested in the stories that were shared. He said, “Really getting to know our community is what knits our hearts together and creates a sense of belonging.” He also stated that it was the hopes of the event organizers that members of the BYU community would be encouraged to have a real “Christlike curiosity” about those around them.