Foundations of success: Psychology student receives award for excellence

“Nothing in life worth having comes easy.”

This was the philosophy Kara Duraccio had growing up on a small farm in Idaho. Though neither of her parents had finished college, they supported and loved their children by teaching them the importance of earning what they wanted in life.

Today, Duraccio is a new mother and the recipient of the Deseret Book Award for Excellence. This prestigious award is only given to one BYU graduate student every five years. Deseret Book requires that the recipient “incorporate into their lives… traits of excellence that will allow them to make a worthy contribution to the communities in which they live.”

Respected as both a teacher and student of clinical psychology at BYU, Duraccio is driven by a passion for childhood development and adolescent behavior. Her compassionate desire to help others is seen in her excellence in leadership and academia.

Throughout her life, her foundation has been the principle of compassion and care. “As cliché as it sounds,” says Duraccio, “I have always known that I wanted to go into a profession that emphasized helping others.”

Duraccio began higher education with the intention of studying nursing, but quickly ended up dropping the major. She remained undeclared until she took Introduction to Psychology, saying, “I knew psychology was the field for me when I ended up reading the entire textbook only a few weeks into the class.”

With her newfound passion, she became involved in research labs and saw the impact this research could have in application. “While I loved psychological research, I felt that a career path that was solely focused on research lacked the depth that could be obtained by entering into clinical psychology,” she says.

Believing in the power of action, Duraccio began working with Dr. Chad Jensen in his pediatric obesity lab. “I love the career that I have chosen,” she says, “because not only do I get to research childhood behaviors, but I then get to put the things that I learn from my research directly into my practice!”

According to Duraccio, the principles of psychology expand beyond the academic discipline: “I feel that it is so useful to teach future and current parents about normal child development, where development can go wrong, and, most importantly, what to do if it does go wrong.”

Recently, Duraccio has been able to see this reflected in her own life as a new mother with both the perspective of a clinical psychologist and a parent. “It is so easy to become consumed with all of the things that we need to do as parents,” she says. “Limit screen time, make sure your child is eating enough fruits and vegetables…foster self-esteem and self-efficacy…and the list goes on and on.”

However, motherhood has taught her what can’t be learned in a research lab. “I truly believe that successful parenting boils down to one simple practice,” she says, “love your child…and everything else should fall into place.”

100 years later: Find out who in your family was a World War I veteran

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Moroni Seth McConkie

Joshua Seth Hunt grew up knowing he carried the namesake of his great granduncle, Moroni Seth McConkie, who was killed in a French train accident while serving in World War I.

“My middle name to me not only serves as a reminder about my great granduncle’s service to preserve peace, it also serves as a reminder to me of all those that came before me and their hard work and service,” said Hunt, a BYU computer science major.

Hunt is part of a BYU team who — in time for the 100th anniversary of Armistice Day — just released Vet Finder, a Web application that will tell people who in their family tree are veterans of World War I. For the project, computer science professor Mark Clement, economics professor Joseph Price and four other computer science students spent the past five months creating a machine-learning feature to scan more than 32 million 1930 census records (for nearly 137 million people).

The census had been previously indexed, but much of the data had been left out, including individuals’ veteran status and the war they were veterans of. So the team created handwriting-recognition programs (a challenge, with such a range of handwriting styles) that would ultimately link veteran status to a person’s name and other already indexed info (birth date, birth place, death date, death place and relationship).

“This does something to give more visibility to the sacrifice of veterans,” said Clement, who has three people in his family line who served in World War I. “One of the purposes of our lab is to get people interested in family history, so this is another thing that hopefully helps them to learn more about their ancestors.”

Students on the team — Hunt, Maxwell Clemens, Jesse Williams, Iain Lee and Adam Warnick — were supported by mentoring funds from the College of Physical and Mathematical Sciences.

“It’s so easy to generically think and study about the past,” said Hunt. “But this project helps us understand how we connect to it. The fact you can figure out that you have an ancestor who gave service like this helps you more deeply understand the importance and significance of their service and the war as a whole.”

Because the team to this point has focused on census records, people who were killed in the war aren’t yet linked with this application, but within the next few months, team members will have those records included as well.

This project offers a glimpse into one specific element of an individual’s family history, Clemens said, but handwriting recognition will increasingly help computers more quickly and efficiently provide significantly more family history data.

-Andrea Christensen, University Communications

Debate of the Dead: History Department to highlight World War I soldiers

People debate history all the time, but the best arguments come from historical figures themselves. On Monday, November 12 at 4 p.m. the History Department is holding the fourth Debate of the Dead at the Varsity Theater.

Past debates have included dead queens, religious reformers, and presidents (not to mention an incident in which Freddie Mercury was rejected from the event by Empress Dowager Cixi).

This year, to honor the 100th anniversary of the Armistice of 11 November 1918—the armistice that ended fighting on land, sea and air in World War I between the Allies and their opponents—history professors are taking on the personas of soldiers in the trenches.

“History still lives with us,” says History professor and debate moderator Ed Stratford. “The idea is to increase historical consciousness on campus.”

The soldiers will answer questions posed by the moderator and reflect on their memories in the trenches, as well as share their opinions on how we think of war today. This debate is a unique opportunity for students to learn more about the past as well as gain food for thought about today.

Knowing ourselves in the context of God’s plan means knowing who came before us. “I firmly believe that the restored gospel implicitly demands attention to the history of the human family,” says Stratford. “We understand the nature of the Atonement better by coming to understand the breadth of its beneficiaries… This event is just another opportunity to do just that.”

For additional information about the Debate of the Dead, call the History Department at 801-422-4636.

2018 Cutler Lecture recap: Addressing the universal need for love and security

BYU Marriage and Family Therapy professor Jonathan Sandberg’s thought-provoking Cutler Lecture can be encapsulated in a simple scene from Winnie the Pooh:

Piglet sidled up to Pooh from behind. 
“Pooh!” he whispered.
“Yes, Piglet?”
“Nothing,” said Piglet, taking Pooh’s paw. “I just wanted to be sure of you.”

The need to feel connected and loved is a universal need.

Safe and secure relationships form when individuals in the relationship are responsive to and accessible by the other individual. The isolation created by taking away this accessibility and responsiveness is traumatizing.

In a disconnected world, it is vital that we form and foster relationships where we truly see people and their needs and truly love them. Feeling loved and recognized gives us a secure base from which we can launch and explore other aspects of life.

Be vulnerable and seek out deep, meaningful and loving connections and relationships. Repair conflict in your relationships. Be hopeful in developing secure attachments and relationships with others–even if you have not experienced those relationships in the past. And find ways to be emotionally accessible, responsive and engaged with others on a daily basis.

People are in need of love and security and we are the ones who can help them.

For the full 2018 Cutler Lecture, watch the video below.

12 takeaways from FHSS Alumni Achievement lecturer Jack Zenger

Like most students on campus, College of Family, Home, and Social Sciences 2018 Alumni Achievement lecturer Jack Zenger also struggled with deciding what to major in and what to pursue after graduation.

Now a successful CEO and world-renown thought leader in leadership development, Zenger shared several pieces of advice on how to utilize psychology in the business world, how to succeed in life and business and how to become a powerful leader in your future organization in his recent lecture.

See his full lecture below.

Here are some takeaways from his impactful lecture:

1. Always ask (and accept) questions

This first takeaway comes from Zenger’s presentation itself. Zenger asked for and responded to questions at the beginning, in the middle and at the end of his lecture.  Moral of the story: if you want to preach curiosity and learning, create an environment to do so.

2. Appreciate your entire college experience

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Zenger continues to get the most out of his BYU experience at the 2018 Homecoming parade.

There is so much more to the BYU experience than classes. Get involved in clubs and activities, find ways to continue your education once you leave BYU and develop lifelong friendships and relationships–they’ll truly become some of your greatest assets later on.

3. Reshape the balance of things

It’s hard to balance work and family. Zenger’s simple advice is to reshape what you’re doing so that you always have time for your family. For Zenger, this meant changing the nature of consulting so that he was selling scalable products instead of his time.

4. Take risks

Don’t be opposed to risk–any success in life requires at least a little. Transitioning from one thing to another can be risky, but if you have the will and determination, you’ll take the risky opportunities and find the success that’s waiting for you in the end.

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Passion for life, passion for others: 2018 Hickman lecture to teach the place for passion

Life is a constant search for balance.

Especially in religious living, it can be difficult to find a place for passion. But passion for what we love improves our minds and makes relationships beautiful.

At the 2018 Martin B. Hickman Lecture on Thursday, November 1 at 11 a.m. in 250 KMBL, BYU School of Family Life Professor Dean Busby will speak on how we can appropriately use passion to foster appreciation for life and loved ones in his lecture “The Place of Passion in Our Lives and Our Relationships.” The lecture is a free event and is open to the public.

Professor Busby has a Ph. D. in Family Therapy from Brigham Young University and taught Syracuse University and Texas Tech University before returning to BYU. Since his return, he has played a prominent role in the School of Family Life as the Graduate Coordinator of the Marriage, Family, and Human Development M.S. and Ph. D. programs, as well as the Director of the School of Family Life.

The lecture is in honor of Martin Berkeley Hickman, a BYU political science professor who served as the dean of the College of Family, Home, and Social Sciences from 1970-1986. He helped make possible the Women’s Research Institute, the David M. Kennedy Center for International Studies and the Family Studies Center. As for teaching, Hickman is recognized as the father of BYU’s American Heritage program. Hickman was renowned for his loyalty and dedication to his family, the Church, the college and BYU.

The Martin B. Hickman Scholar Award is given annually to recognize a notable college faculty who follows Hickman’s example of service and dedication.

Hope and healing: Social work to hold conference on fighting substance abuse

In recent years, illicit drug use and alcoholism have grown in relevance and affect a vast amount of people. However, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, only 11 percent of people struggling with substance abuse receive the help they need.

The BYU School of Social Work is hosting the 13th Annual Social Work Conference on Friday, November 2 at the Hinckley Alumni Center. The free conference will highlight issues, concerns and approaches relevant to every day relief for those who struggle with substance abuse. Professionals, students and members of the community are invited to learn more about this prevalent social problem and obtain strategies to help individuals and families affected by this issue.

In the past 15 years, deaths due to prescription drug abuse have quadrupled in the state of Utah. While the harmful effects of substance abuse are widespread, timely public information is not as far-reaching. According to Assistant Professor of Social Work Cory Dennis, “it’s important to understand that people don’t choose addiction.”

The purpose of this conference is to narrow that knowledge gap as well as inform professionals and work to make an impact in the fight against substance abuse. If people could learn only one thing at the conference, it would be “that behind the addiction is a human being,” says Dennis, noting the importance of “making compassionate and informed approaches to treatment.”

For more information, go to the conference website and be sure to register.

New MPC exhibit: Returning to Bethlehem

The Middle East is more than a conflict zone—it’s a region of cultural beauty.

The BYU Museum of Peoples and Cultures‘ newest exhibit “Returning to Bethlehem: A Cultural Pilgrimage” highlights the unique religious and cultural aspects of life in Palestine, and Bethlehem in particular, that color the region’s history and guide local traditions and identity. The exhibit has visitors explore modern-day Bethlehem, as well as the historic cultural heritage sites shaped by Hebrew, Christian and Islamic traditions.

From olive wood and mother of pearl carvings, to intricately embroidered wedding costumes, the exhibit presents artistic pieces that illustrate the similarities and differences of the people from different regions and religions in Palestine including Bethlehem, Gaza and Jerusalem, among others.

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One of the central foci of the exhibit are traditional Palestinian wedding costumes. While wedding costumes share a similar design throughout Palestine, specific characteristics such as colors, embroidery stiles and ornaments are unique to each region. Certain aspects of Bethlehem’s culture are being lost due to regional conflict, but textiles help keep cultural traditions and identity alive.

The exhibit is a joint project between the Museum of Peoples and Cultures and the Holy Land Christian Ecumenical Foundation. Mother of pearl collections were loaned from Enrique Yidi Daccarett, olive wood carvings were loaned from the Holy Land Christian Ecumenical Foundation and costumes and textiles were loaned from Hanan and Farah Munayyer, co-founders of the Palestine Heritage Foundation.

People often go on pilgrimages to Jerusalem and Bethlehem to see and visit the holy sites, but Bethlehem is more than a place to visit—it’s a home for thousands of individuals and a beautiful culture.

Explore and better understand the culture, traditions and people of Bethlehem and Palestine at the MPC exhibit “Returning to Bethlehem: A Cultural Pilgrimage.” Learn about the rich ancient history that forms current arts and traditions today. As we inform ourselves on the diverse religious and cultural influences in Bethlehem, we’ll have a better understanding and respect for the people who live there, helping us make more informed decisions and opinions concerning the region.

The exhibit opens October 17, 2018 and will run through April 2018. Admission is free, and the exhibit is open to the public. The Museum of Peoples and Cultures is open Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Tuesday from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. For more information on the exhibit and other events and exhibits at the Museum of Peoples and Cultures, visit their website.

Life-saving training: BYU tsunami education in Indonesia

With recent hurricanes and specifically the tsunami in Palu, Indonesia, we’re reminded yet again of the devastating impact that natural disasters have on individuals and families across the world.

BYU Geography professor Chad Emmett is taking action to make sure that no matter how devastating earthquakes and tsunamis can be, lives do not have to be lost in the process.

Evaluate (and recognize) regional risk

Indonesia is at a high risk of earthquakes and tsunamis because of its location on the Ring of Fire where several tectonic plates collide. Add this risk to limited infrastructure and a lack of uniform tsunami education and evacuation plans, and the potential damage is astronomical.

Since the 2004 Aceh tsunami, national and local disaster mitigation agencies across the Southeast Asia country have worked to better prepare Indonesians against tsunami risk by putting up evacuation signs, designating gathering places, building tsunami evacuation buildings, offering training and holding evacuation drills. What hasn’t been done, however, is emphasizing the need for individuals to know the signs of tsunamis and the need for individuals to act on their own to save their lives.

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Evacuation signs point the way to landmarks that are high enough in elevation to be safe from tsunamis.

“The tsunami monitors and sirens did not work in Palu,” notes Emmett in regards to the catastrophic aftermath of the recent tsunami. “At the first shaking of the earth, people should have instinctively headed to higher ground.”

Emmett has been involved in research in Indonesia over the past 18 years. While the majority of his studies focus on Christian-Muslim relations and the history of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Indonesia, more recently Emmett has worked with BYU Geology professor Ron Harris to collaborate on an interdisciplinary study looking at tsunami mitigation and training efforts in the country.

Educating for a better-prepared future

During the summers of 2016 and 2017, Emmett and a group of BYU and UVU students and faculty (funded by Geoscientists without Borders) traveled the more than 9,000 miles to Indonesia to perform critical research and carry out essential education in regards to tsunamis.

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