BYU family history students connect missing soldiers to their families

A group of BYU students has answered the Army’s call for genealogical reinforcements.

With more than 82,000 Americans still missing from conflicts dating back to World War II, students at the BYU Center for Family History and Genealogy have been working with the Army and the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency to return the remains of missing soldiers to their family members.

“Normally in our family history work, we are going as far back through as many generations as we can,” said Sydney Bjork, one of the students who worked on the project this past year. “But this sort of feels like reverse family history work. We start with a soldier and then look for the closest living relative they have.”

The Army sought help with this project from BYU, which has the only family history degree in the nation. Other partners in this project include historians who research where there might be remains of missing soldiers. Archaeology units take that information and get digging. And it’s BYU’s job to find the relatives.

Since starting on the project, the students have been assigned just more than 65 cases and have finished about 48 of them. After the cases are complete, students submit a report to the Army with the results of their research, the potential DNA donors and the contact information of the soldier’s relatives.

Professor Jill Crandell standing amid her two students in the JFSB courtyard
From left: Student Melanie Torres, Professor Jill Crandell, and student Kimberly Brown.

“Family history is something that’s really tender to all of us because it’s about family and we know how much our own families mean to us,” said Professor Jill Crandell, director of BYU’s Center. “We actually become attached to those families and there is a certain amount of inspiration involved when working on these cases.”

Not all cases are created equally. Some cases take three hours to solve. Some cases take three weeks to solve. However long it takes, the students on the project always feel an overwhelming sense of joy that they were able to help in the process of bringing families closer together.

For these students, this project is more than names and dates; it’s not just casework, each one is a meaningful story. Here’s a sample of the stories they’ve learned and worked on:

  • One mother continued for decades to set an extra place at the dinner table, just in case her son came home.
  • A still-living widow of a WWII soldier still longs to know at age 97 what happened to her husband.
  • One family of Italian immigrants has two brothers missing in action.

Melanie Torres and some of her fellow students who worked on these cases have close family members who have served in the military so this work really hits home for them.

“My grandfather was in the military, my great-grandfather was in World War II and my husband is in the Air Force. It is something that just really connects to my heart,” said Torres.

-Joe Hadfield, University Communications

Museum camp participants drop artifacts (to learn the importance of artifact care)

During the 2018 BYU Museum Camp, camp-goers dropped several artifacts…to learn the importance of artifact care!

The artifact drop (think of an egg drop but with festive ceramic holiday decorations from the Dollar Tree) was just one of the many activities that individuals were able to participate in during the camp. While not all artifacts survived the drop, campers learned preservation techniques and the importance of proper artifact storage.

As one camper shared, BYU Museum Camp allowed youth to do lots of “museum stuff”.

daily hearld2Camp participants got a special behind-the-scenes look at each of BYU’s four campus museums. They replicated fossil and worked with paleontologists in the lab at the Paleontology Museum, learned about building and planning exhibits at the Museum of Art and the L. Tom Perry Special Collections, and learned more about Monte L. Bean Life Science Museum collections behind closed doors.

Throughout the camp, youth were able to create and build their own exhibit displays at the Museum of Peoples and Cultures. The first session of campers titled their exhibit “Before Bach” and displayed a number of musical instrument artifacts from the museums.The second session of campers made their final exhibit on animals from around the world.

Museum Camp provided youth with an interest in the museums, art, paleontology, anthropology or biology with experience in the museum world as they learned new skills and challenged their creativity. For many campers, this experience motivated them to consider working in museums in the future.

“I think this would be a great college job!” shared one camper.

Another camper shared that her dream job is to work in a classical art museum.

IMG_1528BYU is passionate about providing experiential learning opportunities to all of its students. At Museum Camp, BYU staff extend experiential learning to youth in the community as well. Museum Camp provides an opportunity to share BYU knowledge and resources with potential students and even the chance to occasionally drop some artifacts.

The Museum of Peoples and Cultures hosts a variety of events and activities in addition to Museum Camps, including date nights, family home evening activities, as well as special summer programs and events. For more information on MPC events and activities, please contact mpc@byu.edu.

The Museum of People and Cultures is open Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. The museum is open to the public and general admission is free except for specified programs and events.

FHSS Writing Lab: One visit, one letter grade higher

Writing college papers is hard.

As an Introductory Psychology professor, Dr. J. Dee Higley sees this struggle all too often as his students write numerous papers throughout the semester.

Writing a study on writing

This past semester, Higley and several of his students conducted a study to determine how effective visiting the FHSS Writing Lab is in writing a high-quality paper. Individuals in Higley’s Introductory Psychology course were randomly assigned to either visit the FHSS Writing Lab for help on their writing  assignment, or to visit the BYU Museum of Art to receive inspiration for their writing assignments.

And the verdict is…

At the end of the study, Higley and his students found that students who visited the FHSS Writing Lab received an average score of 94 percent on their writing assignment, compared to those who visited the BYU Museum of Art for inspiration on their assignment who received an average score of 86 percent. Besides boasting an entire letter grade higher than those who did not attend the lab, the variance among grades earned by students who visited the FHSS Writing Lab was significantly lower than for grades earned by students who did not visit the FHSS Writing Lab. This suggests that students who visit the FHSS Writing Lab have little deviation in their high writing performance.

Experimentally-confirming effectiveness

This study was the first to experimentally confirm the effectiveness of the FHSS Writing Lab in enhancing student writing performance.

While writing labs across campus provide similar support, unlike other BYU writing labs and resources, the FHSS Writing Lab specializes in helping students’ writing within the social sciences. And when you think about all the writing styles utilized across fields of study, the FHSS Writing Lab should be a tool students utilize throughout their social sciences college career.

The FHSS Writing Lab is a free writing service located in 1175 JFSB. Students can sign up for a 30-minute session with writing advisers online at fhsswriting.byu.edu, or simply walk in the office. The lab focuses on aspects of writing such as thesis construction, organization, transitions, idea development, logical coherence, style, and argument clarity and is open in the Spring/ Summer from 9 a.m.-3 p.m.

FHSS Alumnus to Serve as Dean of the Marriott School of Business

FHSS alumni have the potential to lead the world in many positions—including as the dean of the Marriott School of Business.

BYU Economics alumnus Brigitte C. Madrian was recently named as the ninth (and first female) dean of the Marriott School of Business. On January 1, 2019 she will begin her five-year term as dean over the Marriott School’s four graduate programs, ten undergraduate programs and approximately 3,300 students. Madrian is currently the Aetna Professor of Public Policy and Corporate Management and chair of the Markets, Business and Government Area in the Harvard Kennedy School.

Brigitte at big tableMadrian comes to this position with a myriad of experience and expertise. Through her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in economics from BYU and her PhD from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Madrian is an expert on behavioral economics and household finance. She has a specific focus on household saving and investment behavior, of which she spoke on in her 2016 FHSS Alumni Achievement Lecture. The work she has done in this field has changed the design of employer-sponsored savings plans in the U.S. and has influenced pension reform legislation around the world. Madrian is also engaged in research on health and uses behavioral economics as a way to understand health behaviors and to improve health outcomes.

Because of her work and service, Madrian received the Retirement Income Industry Association Achievement in Applied Retirement Research Award (2015) and is a three-time recipient of the TIAA-CREF Paul A. Samuelson Award for Scholarly Research on Lifelong Financial Security (2002, 2011 and 2017). In addition to this, she serves as the co-director of the Household Finance working group at the National Bureau of Economic Research. Madrian is also a member of the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority Board of Governors, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau Academic Research Council, as well as other advisory boards.

BYU Academic Vice President James R. Rasband remarks in an article that current Marriot School of Business Dean Lee T. Perry has left a “long record of setting aside his own passion for teaching and research to instead focus on providing opportunities for his colleagues and for our students.” Madrian will no doubt add to this legacy of service and learning with her own unique perspective and experience.

New Psychology chair Dr. Burlingame: Seeing the department as a small-group setting

Psychology professor Dr. Gary Burlingame is known for a few things.

First, Burlingame enjoys going on three-mile mid-day runs around campus.

Second, he has taught at BYU and served in a variety of positions and roles since 1983; that’s 35 years of service!

And third, he is the newly appointed Department of Psychology chair.

Curious beginnings

Bulingame came from a family of engineers where psychology seemed “a little squishy for a father who was working on NASA contracts.” But when he took an undergraduate psychology course, he was hooked. “We’d read in our textbook (about small group therapy) and we’d split the class, and half of us would go behind a one-way mirror and the other half would form a small group,” recalls Burlingame. “I was able to watch the group dynamic principles that I’d just read about. Then, when I was participating in the group, I was affected by the group and I realized that as human beings, we’re affected by each other.”

Seeing the field evolve

Focusing on both small group settings and measurement, Burlingame has seen how both have evolved over the years. “When I was an undergraduate, we wouldn’t have even dreamed [the measurement methods we are currently using] were possible,” shared Burlingame. During the ’90s, Burlingame recalls utilizing the same chaos theory that was used in “Jurassic Park” in small group behavior to see if you could explain patterns of therapeutic interactions in a group. Several years later, Burlingame would work with Michael Lambert to build a system of measurement that is now used worldwide to make dashboards to monitor mental health.

These same dashboards and ideas were implemented across BYU campus when Burlingame worked in the Strategic Planning and Assessment Office with former BYU president Merrill Bateman to measure mental health among campus communities.

Another major evolution in the field that Burlingame has been a part of is the push to recognize international psychological movements. When Burlingame was first asked to write a chapter in The Handbook of Psychotherapy Behavior Change, a book that he had studied as a graduate student, he wanted to include literature and ideas from outside the United States. He included literature from Canada and from Europe, and from there, he has continued performing research and collaborating with researchers across the world, primarily Bernhard Strauss of Germany.

“It was my vision to have our chapter in the handbook be international. And now that’s what has happened to (almost the entire) handbook. They bring a different kind of therapy and a different perspective.”

Seeing the department as a small group

With his past experience, Burlingame has a good idea of how the university and a department runs.

So, what is he most excited about with this new position? “The fun part [about being a chair] is that I’m a group guy. I get to think of the department as a group that I can make more effective.”

Burlingame’s goal as department chair is to make the psychology department as functional as possible to make it as successful as possible. In order to do this, Burlingame says that you have to make every voice count and make sure that every voice is heard.

“Conflict represents information, that people feel like their voice isn’t being heard,” shares Burlingame. “[When someone raises conflict], it’s an attempt to be heard.”

Burlingame has seen this conflict and need for resolution in his field work in Israel as he worked with Jews and Palestinians and again in Bosnia with Muslims and Serbs.

“We’re social creatures so it doesn’t matter if we’re in Israel, or the ASB, or the Kimball Tower. We want to be noticed because we all think we have something to contribute, otherwise we wouldn’t be here,” comments Burlingame. “So [I want to] make sure that everyone has the chance to contribute and flourish. That’s what we really want to do because everyone wants to flourish.”

New SFL director Dr. Hawkins: Strengthening families by strengthening students

Recently appointed School of Family Life Director Dr. Allen Hawkins will miss teaching and researching, but he is excited for the opportunity to serve and bless the lives of SFL students and faculty.

“For 30 years I’ve been focused on my own research and career, so I’m looking forward to helping others more than focusing on myself.”

A personal focus on the family

While Hawkins began his career studying organizational behavior, he soon found a love for the field of family life.

“At first, I was drawn to the study of children and fathers and the importance of fathers in children’s lives and the importance of children in fathers’ and men’s lives. That’s what drew me in. But the number of questions, problems and issues in this field are so big, so many, so important, and so dynamic, it wasn’t hard to get me hooked really fast.”

Since then, Hawkins has studied many aspects of families and the relationships and marriages that form them. His dedication and focus on the family is marked by his extensive research and service activity (he currently serves as the co-chair of the Utah Marriage Council).

A set vision

The appointment to school director comes with a lot of changes. As Hawkins takes on a more administrative role in the school, he’ll have the opportunity to focus more specifically on the school’s faculty and students.

“I feel a pretty keen responsibility,” shares Hawkins. “I think the School of Family Life plays such an important role in students’ lives, and I think we can be a unique contributor to BYU and its mission, as well as the church’s mission.”

Moving forward, Hawkins is grateful for the decisions and set vision that Dean Barley established during his time as director.

“I’m deeply appreciative that he was able to tackle and resolve difficult issues. And now we’re just moving forward. I think we’re going to maintain a lot of the good direction that Dean has set,” says Hawkins. “I’m also looking forward to others’ input on how we can keep moving forward and improving to meet the changing dynamics of (faculty and students) and public scholarship.”

As for Hawkins’ larger vision for the school, he shares that “the vision is already set—to bless students’ lives so that they can be a light on the hill in terms of their own family lives and so that they can…help to strengthen families wherever they go. That vision continues, but we’ve also got new challenges and new students to be aware of.”

“We do really good work here, and we’re doing work in an area where the need for quality research and scholarship is so needed yet is receiving much less attention. Particularly around marriage, I think we make a really great contribution to the field and to society as well.”

Good luck, Dr. Hawkins as you embark on the next journey in your career and service at BYU!

Appointments and reappointments of FHSS chairs and director

Dean Ben Ogles of the College of Family, Home, and Social Sciences announced the appointment of Gary Burlingame as the Department of Psychology chair, the appointment of Alan Hawkins as the director of the School of Family Life, the reappointment of Rick Miller as the chair of the Department of Sociology, and the reappointment of Ryan Jensen as the chair of the Department of Geography.  

Gary Burlingame

Burlingame will replace Dawson Hedges who served as the college’s psychology chair for six years, and Hawkins will replace Dean Busby who served as the director of the School of Family Life for six years. Miller and Jensen will continue serving in their positions for another term.  

“We are grateful that these faculty members are willing to serve in administrative positions and we look forward to their leadership in the coming years,” said Dean Ogles. “We are also appreciative of the tireless efforts and dedicated service of Dawson Hedges and Dean Busby.” 

The new department chairs will begin their positions on July 1.   

Alan Hawkins

Burlingame has taught at BYU since 1983. He is an award-winning scholar and teacher with a research focus on factors that lead to effective small group mental health treatment and mental illness and measurement. He is a fellow of both the American Group Psychotherapy Association and the American Psychological Association.  

Hawkins is the Camilla E. Kimball Endowed Professor of Family Life. His outreach and scholarship focus on educational and policy interventions to help couples form and sustain healthy relationships and marriages. Hawkins is currently the co-chair of the Utah Marriage Commission. 

Miller has served as the chair of the Department of Sociology for the last two years. He has taught at BYU since 1999, and he focuses his research efforts on families in China, marriage and health, and MFT processes.

Jensen has served as the chair of the Department of Geography for the last six years. He has taught at BYU for 11 years, teaching classes such as Cartographic Design, Geographic Information Systems (GIS) and Remote Sensing. 

 

BYU psychology professor looks to acupuncture for treating addiction

BYU psychology professor Scott Steffensen is showing that acupuncture can have a very real impact at the neurological level, better helping those recovering from addiction.

Steffensen, in collaboration with a lab in South Korea, has published studies addressing the neural underpinnings of acupuncture, with three over the past year in the journals Addiction Biology and Scientific Reports.

“The objective of our research, and that of our South Korean collaborators and other labs, is to characterize the neurobiology of acupuncture with evidence-based research,” Steffensen said. “In other words, does acupuncture work through established neural pathways in the periphery and central nervous system? However, of particular interest to us is that acupuncture has been shown to be effective in animal models to ameliorate drug cravings and self-administration.”

Acupuncture has ancient Greek, Egyptian, Arabic and Chinese origins. It’s been used for centuries to treat various medical conditions and diseases. However, the longevity of its use does not necessarily prove its effectiveness. The success of acupuncture in alleviating some medical conditions is not clear and there is no consensus regarding which mechanisms to use. Some claim there are unknown energies underlying acupuncture’s success in alleviating pain. Others claim sensory stimulation blocks pain transmission. Others claim it has a strong placebo effect.

Steffensen is going beyond the previous claims and is studying the neuroscience behind acupuncture. He has shown it to be an effective method of activating pathways from the peripheral nervous system to the central nervous system. Here’s how:

  • Those suffering from withdrawal have dysregulated dopamine levels in the midbrain reward/pleasure system
  • This causes dysregulation of GABA neurons in this system, and they become hyperactive, inhibiting dopamine neurons and lowering dopamine levels during withdrawl
  • Lowered dopamine levels is the driving force for relapse
  • Accupuncture stimulation inhibits GABA neurons
  • This restores dopamine levels and effectively lowers the driving force for relapse

In the US, more than 20 million people suffer from drug and alcohol abuse issues, with only 19 percent of them receiving treatment and only 50 percent of those ever recovering.

“We really, really hope that this research can provide an avenue to help people get their lives back,” said Kyle Bills, a neuroscience Ph.D. candidate and coauthor on the Steffensen lab’s most recent paper.

The Steffensen lab has published different papers looking specifically at acupuncture protocols for alcohol addiction, cocaine addiction and methamphetamine addiction and hopes to advance the acupuncture technology with state of the art neuroscience tools.

“We hope to develop a treatment system for ameliorating drug cravings,” Steffensen said, “as an effective supplement to addiction therapy.”

Jon McBride, University Communications

Opening Doors: Mikaela Dufer on receiving and sharing opportunities

During the Student Mentored Research Conference, students, faculty, and university staff listened to BYU sociology professor Mikaela Dufur speak on Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups, embracing opportunities with gratitude, and opening doors and opportunities for others along the way. As we share an excerpt from Dufur’s speech, we invite you to think about the next semester, job, or phase of your life and how you can appreciate opportunities  and open a door for someone else in the process.


It is so exciting to see the products of your imagination and your science [at the Student Mentored Research Conference]. Mentored research at BYU has opened new doors for you by giving you skills, practice demonstrating them, and evidence of your abilities. You are ready to meet every new challenge and to try, fail, try, fail, and try again until you conquer them, just as you have every time a model refused to converge or an experiment fell apart.

As we celebrate your present accomplishments, I invite you to think about your future. Now that you and your mentors have created science, what’s the next step?

To outline your future, let’s return to the past. An enduring memory from September 11, 2001, is sitting on the ratty couch I’d dragged from graduate school, glued to the news. I remember one family of adult children showing a flyer to the camera while looking for their father. The flyer read, “Please come home—we have peanut butter cups for you.” I always wondered what happened to the peanut butter cup dad and hoped he made it home to his family. Part of my annual observance of September 11 is to have and to share peanut butter cups, but Googling “9/11 Peanut Butter Cup Man” never brought up useful results.

On September 11, 2017, I watched the news while brushing my teeth. By some small miracle, my morning routine aligned with a recitation of names of those lost. I turned to the TV just as family members finished reading names and paused to share memories of their own father. They closed by sharing that a recently born grandchild was named Reese after their father’s favorite candy. Peanut butter cup dad had not made it home after all.

IMG_9396This was painful—I’d convinced myself a happy, chocolate reunion had taken place—but now I was armed with a name. Peanut butter cup dad was Ronald Fazio, and Google could find him. Mr. Fazio had nearly made it to safety, but stopped to hold the door for his coworkers. In those awful moments, he chose to hold the door for others to make sure they would reach safety. Mr. Fazio’s family started the Hold the Door Foundation in his memory, devoted to helping people move through tragedy.

What does this have to do with your future? Someone held the door for you, through mentoring, guiding, and teaching you. Now that you’ve moved through the door and are sprinting into your exciting lives, don’t forget to hold the door for someone else. I especially urge you to look around for people who tend to be left behind, such as women in STEM fields, people of color, and disabled people, and not only hold the door for them, but shout to let them know you’re there. Marry the technical skills you learned through mentored research to a determination to hold the door by reaching out, teaching, and mourning with those who mourn.

For more information on the 2018 Student Mentored Research Conference, read our recent blog post.

 

Dietary Decision Training

Do you struggle to lose weight? BYU Psychology professor Michael Larson is looking for overweight and obese individuals to participate in a study about dietary decisions. Compensation is $100.

Qualifications:

• Must be between the ages of 18 and 45
• Must be willing to complete a 10-minute practice four times per week for one month
• Must have no psychiatric or neurologic history

Participants will complete an intervention that may aid in managing dominant responses to eat high-calorie foods, have their brain activity measured and complete some diet recalls. If you’re interested in participating, email byuneuro@gmail.com.