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A Citizen’s Responsibility

Jon Ostenson gave the first annual Britsch Citizenship Lecture.

Associate Professor Jon Ostenson (English Teaching) was chosen to give the first annual Britsch Citizenship Lecture on November 10, 2022, because he exemplifies the same qualities of citizenship that Britsch was known for.

The College of Humanities established the Britsch Citizenship Lecture to honor Todd A. Britsch, a humanities professor who passed away earlier this year. Scott Miller, Dean of the College, described Britsch as “someone who personified the ideal of ‘university thinker,’ always considering how nearly any prospective decision or proposal might be tweaked to rebound to the benefit of the broader university community.”

Ostenson opened his lecture by asking, “What does it mean to be a citizen?” Citizens agree to be loyal to their country in exchange for freedom and certain rights. BYU faculty share this same relationship with their school. Faculty provide the university with teaching abilities as well as committing to help the individual students they serve, and the College provides a safe, spiritual space to study and teach, along with a salary.

Ostenson warned that citizenship can create conflict and tension. Being a good citizen takes time and effort, and each citizen has other pressures on their time. But the reward for being a good citizen is creating a symbiotic community that will help you in return. Teachers have the unique opportunity to help their students on a personal level and receive a feeling of fulfillment in return. While this isn’t a flashy or visible form of citizenship, this type of help provides a lifelong impact for the students affected.

Most professors are already active citizens who regularly show up to help others. Ostenson suggests that these professors should find ways to show up for individual students who may need their help. Those who do so will continue Britsch’s legacy of showing up and doing what is right. Though Ostenson’s was the first Britsch Citizenship Lecture, it set a high standard for the event and honored the man behind it.