When Southern Utah University was named Branch Agricultural College 80 years ago, students strove to be all-inclusive and promote leadership values. Now in 2020, current students in the Student Involvement and Leadership Office are trying to emulate that once more.
“How we practice [leadership] is our ability to understand what the basics of leadership are, and some of those fundamental principles that helped guide [BAC] can help guide us,” director of STIL, Eric Kirby, said.
Students this semester at the STIL office are trying to bring that light back to campus by way of opening doors both physically and metaphorically, implementing a “three-a-day” program. It encourages those in STIL to meet three students each day, and to be what Kirby calls “Bac-ian.”
“I think, to me, the term ‘Bac-ian’ is the ability to think about the foundation upon which we stand, to look back in time and recognize what it took to build this great institution, back when we were the BAC,” Kirby said.
Since it was founded in 1897, SUU has been a normal school, an agricultural college, a state college, and finally a university in 1991, almost 100 years later. For a long time, however, SUU was named Branch Agricultural College.
To some, these may seem like two vastly different institutions, but to SUU faculty who have done research into past names, the similarities between the current and past institutions in terms of leadership values are unchanging.
Assistant Director of STIL Heather Garcia compared the two schools in a few ways.
“The BAC was all about making sure that students found their place, their home, the community here at SUU,” said Garcia. “Our history, the BAC, definitely runs true, and influences our decisions as an institution today.”
Branch Agricultural College was a branch of Utah State Agricultural College, now Utah State University. Traditions that started at USU made their way down to Cedar City.
This includes clubs that were formed to help build quality young men and women during their collegiate tenures: the Benos and the Gi-Gis.
The Benos club took its name from the French word “benoit” and the Latin “benedictus,” both meaning “the one who says the good.” The Gi-Gis club was the female counterpart, conducting similar activities.
These clubs were filled with student leaders and served as a guiding light for the rest of the student body.
With that light set forth by those students of the Branch Agricultural College, current SUU students are striving to go back to basics, emulate that same light and improve upon it.
One of the students leading that charge is student body president Nouman Kante. Kante believes that students don’t need to be student leaders to make a difference.
“Well, ‘leadership’ doesn’t necessarily mean that you have to be in a leadership position,” said Kante. “My leadership does not depend on whether I have a position or not. It’s about the service, and we can serve one another in many ways.”
Story and Photos by: Ryan Sunderman