Brownies add balance to spiritual, practical classes at BYU's Education Week

Published: Saturday, Aug. 23 2014 8:05 a.m. MDT

Victoria Myers and Margaret Myers browse future classes to attend at Education Week at BYU in Provo on Thursday, Aug. 21, 2014.

Kristin Murphy, Deseret News

PROVO — Laughter erupted around a table outside the Cougareat food court Thursday when Terry and Toni Robinette learned the beloved BYU brownies they were finishing were two of 27,360 brownies prepared on campus for Education Week.

The 92nd year of one of America's largest continuing education programs drew about 19,500 people to campus this week. Terry quickly did some simple math.

"We've eaten way more than our fair share," he said with a broad smile, then promised to eat more before week's end.

This was the second year in a row the Robinettes were in Provo with the Struebings, their close friends of about 35 years. After the two couples retired last year from their jobs Apple Valley, California, they knew they wanted to do at least two things — finally visit Jerusalem and attend Education Week each year.

So last year, the four attended the Education Week classes by Matthew Grey, a BYU professor and expert on archaeology and ancient Judaism. "What we learned really enlightened our experience in the Holy Land," Toni Robinette said.

Some of the demographics could stereotype Education Week, like the 49 percent of classes devoted to religion, or the 48 percent of attendees who are 55 or older, like the Struebings and Robinettes.

There really is something for everybody. In fact, 10 percent of the crowd is teenagers.

"There are things for youth, for newlyweds, for young couples with kids, and classes about blending families, dealing with distressed marriages and coping with divorce," George Struebing said.

And the more than 1,000 classes, which last 55 minutes, range from ballroom dancing for teens to financial planning, and from gardening, parenting, leadership and literature to addiction recovery.

Marriage and family therapist Richard Miller, who is also a professor in BYU's school of family life, taught a class Tuesday through Friday at 9:50 a.m. called "Healing Distressed Marital Relationships."

On Tuesday, he focused on commitment — should the distressed marriage be repaired or totaled? Wednesday's class was about changing momentum with positive attitudes and attributions. On Thursday, Miller talked about forgiveness, first separating the hurts and injustices in marriages between two categories: major betrayals and pile-ups of relatively minor mistakes.

Forgiveness, he said, is not forgetting, or having to stay in a bad relationship, or never having flashback days. It is being able to let go of anger about what happened, putting it behind you, feeling empathy for and seeing positive and good qualities about your spouse.

Several dozen people attended the class, and many approached Miller afterward with thorny questions about their personal situations.

For campus staff and departments, Education Week is boon and, most admit, bother. The BYU Bookstore and Dining Services count on the revenue generated, but nobody enjoys the traffic and parking problems.

"Our five biggest weeks each year," bookstore sales manager Gordon Brown said, "are Education Week, back to school in the fall, Christmas, back to school in the winter and Women's Conference in the spring."

Brown has worked at the bookstore since 1981. He said Education Week buyers want BYU Cougars memorabilia and apparel, and books and art related to the beliefs and teachings of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

And candy. And fudge.

In the days before Education Week, a kitchen underneath the bookstore fills with trays of fudge. Brown didn't have Education Week-specific stats, but he said the bookstore sells more than a ton — 2,200 pounds, to be exact — of chocolate-covered cinnamon bears during the annual, two-day Women's Conference.

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