Mike Searcy Named Anthropology Department Chair

The College of Family, Home, and Social Sciences announced Michael Searcy as the new department chair of the BYU Anthropology Department, effective June 15, 2022. Searcy replaced James Allison, who served as department chair since 2016.

“Professor Searcy is an excellent scholar across anthropological disciplines and also brings administrative skills gained as director of the New World Archaeological Foundation for the past five years,” said Laura Padilla-Walker, dean of the College of Family, Home, and Social Sciences. “I’m grateful for his willingness to accept this responsibility and lend his time and expertise to leading the department.”

In 2020, Searcy received the Martin B. Hickman Excellence in teaching award from the college, and from 2015-2018, he was a Butler Young Scholar in Western Studies, awarded by the Charles Redd Center. Much of Searcy’s research focuses on the Casas Grandes cultural tradition of northwest Mexico.

“As department chair, my primary goal is to create unity and equity across subfields and for all our students,” said Searcy. “I’m a huge anthropology advocate with interest in both archaeology and socio-cultural anthropology. We offer a lot of wonderful experiences to help all our students gain a foundational and valuable education in understanding the human experience.”

The Anthropology Department is celebrating its 75th anniversary. The program is unique in that it has offered students experiential learning and mentoring opportunities for more than 50 years with field schools and through participation in projects run by BYU’s Office of Public Archaeology. As a discipline, anthropology trains students to interpret human behavior in the context of modern and past civilizations.

“Professor Allison greatly contributed to a legacy of experiential learning that is an important appeal for students who choose to study anthropology at BYU,” says Padilla-Walker. “We appreciate his contribution as department chair over the past six years.”

Learn more about studying anthropology at BYU.

Diversity Committee Helps Campus Celebrate Juneteenth

“Juneteenth is a holiday for everyone,” says Lita Little Giddins, assistant dean for Diversity, Collaboration, and Inclusion in the College of Family, Home, & Social Sciences. “As long as it is a fight that involves humanity, we are all included.” 

Taking that sentiment to heart, students on the college’s Diversity, Collaboration, and Inclusion (DCI) committee set up an opportunity for the campus community to celebrate the holiday on the afternoon June 21. The group aimed to educate others on the meaning of Juneteenth and the symbols on the Juneteenth flag, and shared red velvet cookies.

“The majority of [passerbys] had a basic understanding of what Juneteenth is,” says Kame’e Parker, a junior from Honolulu majoring in family life and a member of the DCI committee. But she was happy to share more details. “Our history textbooks don’t teach us about marginalized groups, or if they do they skim over it. If textbooks aren’t putting a focus on these events, we need to put a focus on educating ourselves and others about these events.” In addition to details about the holiday, students shared information about rooting out more subtle forms of racism or exclusion, such as microaggressive behavior.

As for how the holiday is traditionally celebrated, Giddins explains that in the South, many people wore their Sunday best. In other states, people began to wear clothing that is significant to their cultural heritage if they know which African tribe they originate from. Many people eat red-colored food because red symbolizes loyalty, power, and the blood that was shed during enslavement. The symbolism highlights the triumph of African Americans as they were officially liberated from slavery.

 Finally, Juneteenth brings to light the ongoing struggle of inclusion that African Americans feel and how we all need to be more inclusive in our communities. 

“Right now, we will inform people about Juneteenth. But I hope to one day reach a point when people already know the significance so we can simply celebrate together. After all, Juneteenth is a celebration at its core of inclusion and community,” says Giddins.

Find more resources on race from the Diversity, Collaboration, and Inclusion committee.

Kame’e Parker at the “Celebrate Juneteenth!” booth sponsored by the DCI committee of the College of Family, Home, and Social Sciences.

Resource Spotlight: Find External Research Funding with Brittany Freeze

Managing research projects, student assistants, teaching loads, citizenship assignments, and more can leave faculty wondering when they have a moment to do one more thing — evening if it’s as important as finding funding for their next project.

This past year the College of Family, Home, and Social Sciences hired Brittany Freeze as a research development specialist. Her specific mission is to work with professors and students in the college to make finding and securing external funds a breeze.

Brittany Freeze works exclusively with FHSS faculty and students to secure outside funding for research

Because of her experience receiving a PhD in Human and Social Services, Freeze is well suited to meet the needs of faculty in our college. She understands the grant process and can mentor faculty and students alike in their efforts to gain external funding.

For faculty, Brittany not only helps start the grant process, but also helps manage every detail all the way until the grant is submitted. She helps determine deadlines, appropriate formatting, eligibility requirements, and identify all necessary documents and elements for submission. She also edits grant proposals and ensures they are submitted in a timely manner.

“As I was going through all of my schooling, I didn’t know that grants were so attainable, and so I think it’s nice to know that you can use outside funds as you progress,” explains Freeze. “Students can get paid, or they can have financial support when they do research.”

With Brittany’s help, faculty and students in the college can find more funding sources to support research on social science topics they are interested in.

Email Brittany Freeze or visit fhss.byu.edu/external-grant-support to learn more about the research development process.

Peer-Reviewed Journal Publishes Student’s Thesis on the Value of “Uplifts” in Families with Special-Needs Children

Between her college education, experience teaching at a preschool for children with Autism Spectrum Disorder, and inspiration to help others after spending time as a missionary, Jamie Easler was well positioned to pursue a master’s degree in Marriage, Family, and Human Development at BYU. She studied the effects of disabled children on family processes and researched interventions to help families navigate life with disabilities. “I definitely saw the need and the effect that having a child with a disability can have on families,” recalls Easler.

The peer-reviewed journal Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities recently published Easler’s master’s thesis that compared uplifts, respite care, stressors, and marriage quality in the parents of children with autism and Down syndrome. Easler collaborated with many faculty mentors in the School of Family Life and the McKay School of Education, who are co-authors on the article.

Uplifts Matter

The most outstanding discovery had to do with uplifts. “Uplifts is a fancy term for the different positive experiences that you have in your day-to-day life and how you perceive those things…so it could be your relationship with your spouse or your relationship with your child,” explains Easler. The study found that parents who reported experiencing more uplifts had higher marital quality, even if they still had high levels of stress. Uplifts appeared to be even more beneficial to a parent’s well-being and marital quality than respite care. “It’s important how you perceive those things, and when parents (especially those of children with autism) could experience more uplifts they did report lower levels of stress and higher personal marital quality.”

Down Syndrome and Paternal Advantages

Comparing the two disabilities researched in this study, parents of children with Down Syndrome reported experiencing more frequent uplifts, while parents of children with ASD reported higher stressors and lower marital quality. These findings reaffirmed what other studies have discovered to be the ‘Down syndrome advantage.’ “We definitely didn’t want to lump all parents of children with these disabilities together because each family will have a different experience with their child, but these are the results that we’re seeing — that on average there is an advantage for families of children with Down syndrome,” says Easler.

The study also analyzed responses from both parents, allowing Easler and her co-authors to compare reported uplifts, respite care, stressors, and marital quality between mothers and fathers. Notably, Easler and her co-authors found what the paper calls, a ‘husband advantage,’ where 20% of the fathers of children diagnosed with autism consider their marriage distressed, compared with 25% of mothers. Likewise, while 10% of mothers with children who have Down syndrome reported having a distressed marriage, only 2% of fathers reported marital distress. 

A New Perspective on Disability

While the study compared many variables, Easler and co-author Jeremy Yorgason agree that discovering the importance of uplifts for families with disabled children is the most impactful takeaway of the paper. “A lot of studies in the past have just focused on the stress of caring for a child with a disability and this paper comes in and says, ‘Hey the uplifts are important as well.’ And the uplifts were related to marital quality and levels of stress in both cases,” says Yorgason, who is a professor in the School of Family Life. Ideally, using this paper as a foundation, research would continue to discover how professionals can help parents of children with disabilities recognize uplifts more often.

“I think that it is important to understand that there are differences within the disabilities themselves and how that affects stress in marriage and the family, and also what professionals can do to help these parents and families. I hope to see a shift in research perspectives from always studying the negative to finding the positives that can help parents experience lower stress and hopefully improve their relationships,” adds Easler.

A Long Publishing Process

Easler presented her thesis and graduated in 2016, but that was only the starting line of having the research published in a peer-reviewed journal. “This paper went through so many edits. It took years!” jokes Easler. While the process was long and often tedious, she consistently turned to her faculty mentors for assistance and new perspectives. “All of my mentors were very helpful in every regard, and I’m still in contact with all of them. I’m so grateful to every single one of them, and it was such a collaborative and multidisciplinary effort.”

Helping Families

By studying different variables that affect family processes, family life scholars hope to discover solutions to family challenges. Yorgason describes it like this: “Every family faces some challenges, and sometimes those challenges involve the health of their child. For me, it’s important to try to understand what helps families to function the best that they can, given those challenging situations.”

Visit mfhd.byu.edu to learn more about the Marriage, Family, and Human Development graduate program.

Utah Lieutenant Governor and Top Athletes Graduate from College of Family, Home, and Social Sciences

The College of Family, Home, and Social Sciences convocation ceremonies last Friday honored 1,321 graduates. Many BYU grads in the sea of blue caps and gowns are already making an important impact on and off campus.

Lieutenant Governor Deidre Henderson

Lt. Gov. Deidre Henderson received her bachelor’s degree in history nearly three decades after first enrolling at BYU. Henderson paused her education at BYU at 18 years old after she met and married her husband, Gabe Henderson. By 28, the pair had five children together. She served in the Utah State Senate for eight years before she was elected to serve as Lieutenant Governor. In 2019, she returned to school full time with a dedication to lifelong learning. Utah Governor Spencer Cox and his wife Abby attended the ceremony in support of Lt. Gov. Henderson.

“There are a lot of women just like me in Utah,” said Lt. Gov. Henderson. “While I set aside college to raise my kids, the fire in me that wanted to finish school never died out. It was humbling, exciting, fulfilling — and frankly really, really hard — to return to BYU. But I hope other Utahns can see that it’s never too late to fulfill your ambitions.”

 Utah Governor Spencer Cox (left) stands with Gabe and Deidre Henderson and Abby Cox at FHSS convocation ceremony

Anna Camp-Bennett

BYU distance runner Anna Camp-Bennett is no stranger to awards and her latest is a degree in family life. As an established member of the BYU women’s cross country and track teams, Camp-Bennett helped the cougars win the 2021 NCAA Cross Country Championship. Just months later she snagged another national title, triumphing in the NCAA women’s 1,500m race with a school record-breaking time.

Anna Camp-Bennett celebrates winning the NCAA 1,500m in 2021 (BYU Photo)

Ashley Hatch

US National Soccer Team member Ashley Hatch completed her degree in family life this year, capping off her outstanding contributions to the campus community. Hatch played on the BYU Women’s Soccer team from 2013-2016, where she set a school record for shots taken in a match and started in nearly every game she played. She now plays professional soccer for the Washington Spirit, assisting in the team’s 2021 National Women’s Soccer League championship victory, and as a member of the US National Soccer Team. 

Ashley Hatch playing for BYU in 2016 (BYU Photo)

We’re proud of all our graduates! Spend a minute taking a look at some of their accomplishments on our graduation website.

Top Posters Selected at the Mentored Student Research Conference

Thursday, April 7 marked BYU’s Eighteenth Annual Mary Lou Fulton Mentored Student Research Conference. With a total of 261 posters from 276 students in the nine departments in the College of Family Home and Social Sciences, the event was a major hit. Students from each department worked with faculty mentors to create engaging and informative research posters, then gained experience presenting to fellow students and other visitors.

After two years of hosting this event virtually, we were thrilled to see all our student presenters in person again. This year’s conference featured a new prize drawing for attendees who spoke to presenters about their posters, as well as students’ choice awards. All awards were presented at the luncheon after the conference.

Congratulations to this year’s winners!

Undergraduate Awards

Place/ DepartmentWinner(s)Faculty Mentor(s)Title 
1st AnthropologyAlyssa Terrill PittsScott UreTan Great Salt Lake Gray Ceramic Variant at Snow Farm, Payson, Utah
1st EconomicsMena VillanuevaRiley WilsonHow Does Legal Status Affect Immigrants’ Geographic Mobility? Evidence from DACA
1st GeographyLilli Jewell, Jakob Rogers, Samantha BotswickMatt BekkerTree Ring Analysis of James Strang’s Michigan Kingdom
1st HistoryKaitlyn HillamAmy HarrisYouth on the Move: Internal Migration in Early Modern England
2nd HistoryLindsey MezaDavid-James GonzalesUnofficial Segregation: The Citrus Industry and Hispanic Segregation in Orange County, CA 1900-1940
3rd HistoryDallin Webb, Brayden Lane, Kathryn BlauAaron SkabelundMovies and Memories: Post-War Generational Rifts and Grave of the Fireflies
1st NeuroscienceHannah Brundage, Serin Lee, Jared McFarlaneJordan Yorgason, David ThomsonP39 Effects on Accumbal DA in Young vs. Old Mice
1st Political ScienceKesley Townsend, Jordan Gygi, Kelsey EyreChris Karpowitz, Quin MonsonHeretics and Hypocrites: Seeing Religious Guidance Through a Partisan Lens
2nd Political SciencePatricia MacCabeCeleste BeesleyBombs, Busts, and Babies: How National and Economic Insecurity Influence Attitudes Towards Childbearing in Taiwan
3rd Political ScienceIsaac OversonCeleste BeesleyThe Effect of Oil Wealth on Repression in Venezuela
Political Science Honorable MentionGrant Baldwin, Chris VazquezAdam DynesOh No! I’ve Accidentally Elected a Republican! The Effects of Nonpartisan Local Elections on City Council Partisan Composition
1st PsychologyAngie Bledsoe, Audrey ParkerMelissa Jones, Davey EreksonNavigating Conflict: What Helps LGBQ Students at a Religiously Conservative University Reconcile Their Faith and Sexuality
2nd PsychologyAna McCarl, Keeley Russel, Matt Dickinson, Christina Holt, Adam Orton, Joshua Christensen, Mason PillingBlake JonesHey Kids, What are You Cooking for Dinner?! Pilot Study of an Online Family Meal-Planning Calendar
3rd PsychologyJulia Cole, Anna Jorgenson, Jason M. Hoskin, Leini Jenkins, Spencer Jamison Wendy BirminghamTo Work or Not to Work: Perceived Stress in Working vs. Stay-at-Home Mothers
Psychology Honorable MentionMaya Criser, Marinne Hammond, Madison TurnerPatrick SteffenMeasuring Maladaptive Perfectionism in Emerging Adults at BYU Using the Religiosity and Maladaptive Perfectionism Scale (R-MPS)
1st School of Family LifeCorinne Archibald-Sato, Maihcen WareAdam Rogers, Ashley FraserKnowing Your Roots: The Effects of Ethnic Identity on Adolescent Mental Health and Discrimination
2nd School of Family LifeSarah Austin, Meiling Jiang, Madeline Meldrum, Sierra Livermore, Holly Harris, J. Andan SheppardSarah CoyneBorn Queer in the Covenant: The Impact of Latter-day Saint Culture on LGBTQIA+ Members
3rd School of Family LifeClare M. Gibeault, Julie Button, Priscilla DavisAdam RogersJust Calm Down: Parents’ Mental Health Shapes How They Respond to Their Child’s Anxiety
School of Family Life Honorable MentionTrey M. AguirreAdam RogersParental Intervention: Do Parent Relationships Mitigate the Effects of Bullying on Adolescent Children?
1st SociologyCamilla Cevallos Jalil, Margot RamfjordJane LopezThe Isolation of Immigrants Due to Low English Language Skills
2nd SociologyNatalie Herbst Durtschi, Rae HarbCurtis Child“Who am I? What do I believe? Where do I fit in?”: BYU Students’ Experiences with Faith Challenges
3rd SociologyHolly HarrisKevin Shafer, Mikaela DufurA Gendered Comparison of “Early COVID” Changes in Parental Childcare Activities on Parenting Stress
Sociology Honorable MentionAnya NowickiLance EricksonSpirituality as a Path Towards a More Meaningful Life

Graduate Awards

Place/ DepartmentWinner(s)Faculty Mentor(s)Title
1st Neuroscience Joakim Ronstroem, Hillary Wadsworth, Summer ArthurJordan YorgasonEffects on Acute and Chronic Morphine on Lateral Paracapsular Amygdala Circuitry
1st PsychologyHannah Brown, Audrey ParkerDavey EreksonMe, Myself, and I: Therapy and Self-Concept Change in College Students
1st School of Family LifeAvalon WhiteJeremy YorgasonPsychological Distress of Spousal Caregivers of Older Adults: The Moderating Role of Marital Quality
2nd School of Family LifeNaomi McAllisterJocelyn Wikle, Jeremy YorgasonPornography Use in the Couple Relationship: Ties to Partner Attachment, Depressive Symptoms, and Sexual Satisfaction
1st Social WorkRebekah Lauren HillSherinah Saasa, Steven HoffmanMore Borders to Cross: The Financial and Psychological Impact of Immigrant Discrimination During COVID-19
2nd Social WorkRebecca AllenDavid WoodE-learning and Its Effects on Social Work Students’ Confidence in Delivering Evidence-Based Interventions
3rd Social WorkHeather BerryhillStacey Shaw, Steven HoffmanBack to School: The Impact of Parental Factors on Student Engagement Outcomes Among Resettled Refugee Children in the U.S.
Social Work Honorable MentionHannah BrownCory DennisThe Impact of Suicidality and Spirituality on Substance Use Treatment Discharge
1st SociologyCarlee Guenther DynesHayley PierceMothers Matter: How Mothers’ Experiences Impact Rates of Female Genital Cutting (FGC) in Their Daughters

Center Awards

Place/ DepartmentWinner(s)Faculty Mentor(s)Title 
1st Civic EngagementGrant Baldwin, Chris VasquezAdam DynesOh No! I’ve Accidentally Elected a Republican! The Effects of Nonpartisan Local Elections on City Council Partisan Composition
1st Diversity, Collaboration, and InclusionCatalina ValdezMikaela DufurLinguistic Bonding: Heritage Language Use and Parent-Child Closeness in Immigrant Families
2nd Diversity, Collaboration, and InclusionJ. Andan SheppardAshley Fraser, Jocelyn WikleTwo Peas in a White Pod: White Parents’ Values as a Predictor of Children’s Cross-Race Friends
1st GerontologySeth OttoRay MerrillProstate-Specific Antigen Screening According to Health Professional Counseling and Age in the United States
1st Redd Center for Western StudiesAutumn Welling, Sophia HarrisRuth KerryA City Set on a Mine: Negative Effects of Mining on Utah Communities
2nd Redd Center for Western StudiesSophia Harris, Autumn WellingRuth KerryInvestigating Characteristics of The Spanish Flu Pandemic (1918-1920) in Utah Mining Communities
3rd Redd Center for Western StudiesJordan Coburn, Taylor Topham, Morgan Duffy, Hannah DixonCarol WardSTEM Internships for Native American Students: Mentors’ Perspectives

Students’ Choice Awards

CategoryWinner(s)Faculty Mentor(s)Title 
Timeless TopicHillary Wadsworth, Elizabeth Anderson, Alyssa Stockard, Spencer Vogel, et alJordan Yorgason, Scott SteffensenLow-Dose Alcohol Enhances Dopamine Release in the Nucleus Accumbens
Best PresenterEmily CollierSteven HoffmanEnding the Stigma: How Diagnosis Impacts Mental Health Stigma in University Students
Most Interesting ResearchJoakim Ronstroem, Hillary Wadsworth, Summer ArthurJordan YorgasonEffects of Acute and Chronic Morphine on Lateral Paracapsular Amygdala Circuitry
Most Eye-Catching PosterGavin Jones, Christina Small, Dallin Otteson, Kyle BillsScott SteffensenWhole-Body Vibration Alleviates Symptoms of Morphine Withdrawal

Join us next semester for our first Fall semester conference on December 8, 2022. Next year’s Winter semester conference will be April 13, 2023.

Learn more about getting involved with a mentored research project.

College of Family, Home, and Social Sciences Valedictorians Announced

The College of Family, Home, and Social Sciences has many outstanding students graduating this April. We are grateful for the hard work and scholarship of each graduating senior and the example of excellence set by the valedictorians in the college. Meet each department’s 2022 valedictorian!

Political Science: Kesley Townsend

Kesley Townsend

Kesley Brooke Townsend, a political science major with a political strategy emphasis and minors in history and sociology, is the oldest child of John and Cindy Powell. She was raised in Richland, Washington, and developed a passion for U.S. political history at a young age. During her time at BYU, she conducted original research as a research fellow with the Center for the Study of Elections and Democracy and worked as a research assistant for Professors Goodliffe, Preece, Pope, and Argyle. Kesley interned at TargetPoint Consulting while participating in the Washington Seminar program and worked as a political strategy advisor on a U.S. senate campaign. She was president of the BYU Women in Politics organization and a writer for the Political Review. Kesley will begin a research fellowship at TargetPoint Consulting this summer and looks forward to pursuing a Ph.D. in political science in 2023. She is incredibly grateful for the mentorship provided by BYU faculty and the continued support of her family and friends. 

Geography: Kellie Haddon

Kellie Haddon

Kellie Haddon is a geography major with an emphasis in global studies and minors in international development and sociology. While at BYU, Kellie had the opportunity to work as a research assistant for Brandon Plewe on the Mormon Places project during her freshman year and worked as a teaching assistant for Chad Emmett’s Political Geography class for the past two semesters. She is excited to end her time at BYU on the Multicultural Europe study abroad with Jill Knapp during spring term. This year Kellie was also heavily involved in the club Students for International Development as one of its presidents. She will begin graduate school in the fall in American University’s MA International Development program in Washington, D.C. Kellie served as a missionary in Cebu, Philippines and enjoys painting, hiking, and exploring new places. She has lived in six states but mainly grew up in the suburbs of Chicago, Illinois. Kellie is grateful for her incredible family, friends, professors, and mentors for their continual support throughout her time at BYU.

Psychology: Reilly O’Coyle Reid

Reilly O’Coyle Reid

Reilly O’Coyle Reid, a psychology major with a minor in business, is from Henderson, Nevada. The oldest of four girls, Reilly is grateful for her loving parents and the special relationship she has with her sisters. During her time at BYU, Reilly came to appreciate the vast educational opportunities available at this university, and is always searching for the chance to research and teach. She began her undergraduate education as a business major and enjoyed learning about finance, economics, and accounting. Reilly later discovered that studying psychology would fulfill her passion of helping individuals, families, and couples heal. Her research emphasis is in clinical psychology and mental health services. She is inspired by studying psychology and is thrilled to continue her education in BYU’s Marriage and Family Therapy master’s program in August. Reilly is grateful for her professors, classmates, friends and family who have supported her as she completed her bachelor’s degree.

History: Pamela Peterson

Pamela Peterson

Pamela Peterson attended BYU as a non-traditional student for the last 13 years while raising a family of six children — her greatest accomplishment. As a developing family historian, she finds the detective work of family history fulfilling and invigorating. Pam plans to pursue a career in family history with an emphasis in British research while she prepares for her Accredited Genealogist credential exams. She has loved her years at BYU and the wonderful professors she’s been privileged to learn from and associate with. Her professors and fellow students opened her eyes to new ideas, perspectives, and perceptions of peoples, cultures, and the world we live in. Her previously limited paradigm has been broadened and enhanced by her experiences and education at BYU. She is grateful for divine help and extends a sincere thank you to the BYU faculty who give their lives to teach others.

Family Life: Megan (Van Alfen) Brown

Megan Van Alfen Brown

Megan (Van Alfen) Brown is a Family Studies major passionate about helping, educating, and healing individuals and families. She is a Wheatley Scholar and received multiple awards for her educational achievements. She worked as a teaching assistant and a research assistant with professors in the School of Family Life at BYU for several years. She is passionate about researching gender, body image, mental health, and sexuality and hopes to center her career in those fields. She will be attending graduate school in the fall at Brigham Young University for a master’s degree in Marriage, Family, and Human Development. She has plans to pursue a PhD to become a professor to educate students and families about complex topics that deserve increased attention. In her free time, she loves spending time with her husband, being outdoors, catching up with friends and building her floral design business.

Anthropology: Leeann Whiffen

Leeann Whiffen

Leeann Whiffen, an anthropology major, was born and raised on a cattle ranch in rural Idaho. She spent much of her youth helping her dad tend to the cows, swath hay, and irrigate fields. She is grateful for those experiences that have helped shape who she is today. Leeann and her husband Sean have been married for 25 years, and they have three sons. She has the special opportunity to be graduating from BYU with her son, Clay. Her husband and sons have always supported her educational goals. On one especially challenging day, she noticed a note in her chemistry notebook that said, “Good luck, Mom!” Leeann completed research under the supervision of Dr. Greg Thompson, and they co-authored an article examining physician-patient interactions that was published in the health care journal Qualitative Health Research. Leeann is deeply appreciative for her professors who have given her invaluable tools that she will carry forward. Leeann completed pre-medical coursework and plans to attend medical school.

Sociology: Hannah Dixon

Hannah Dixon

​​Hannah Dixon grew up in American Fork, Utah. She served a full-time mission in Poland, then returned to BYU, where she majored in sociology with a minor in English. Hannah is graduating with University Honors. During her time here, she relished research opportunities. She participated in a Ballard Center Social Impact Project, a research assistantship in the Sociology department, worked with the BYU Antiracism Project, completed class projects, and more. Other highlights of her BYU experience include involvement in the Honors program, volunteer and mentorship opportunities with first-year students, long hours in the library, and hiking to the Y more than 100 times. Hannah is grateful for the mentors, family, colleagues, and friends who have made her time here fulfilling and she credits their examples of grit, optimism, and encouragement for getting her to this point. She looks forward to continuing her studies at BYU this fall as a student in the sociology master’s program.

Economics: Alexander Johnson

Alexander Johnson

Alex Johnson is a senior graduating in economics and mathematics, with minors in Spanish and Portuguese. During his time at BYU, Alex realized that he possesses a love for learning and solving problems. Alex initially became interested in economics through Dr. Kearl’s Econ 110 class, learning to use a mathematical and logical framework to better understand the world. Through his experience in economics, Alex developed a passion for statistics and mathematical modeling, using and analyzing data to learn about the world in an economics framework. Seeing the strength of mathematics in such an applied context, Alex decided to supplement this growing passion for applied modeling by deciding to also study mathematics as one of his majors. This preparation allowed Alex to continue his education into the future with plans to study Applied Mathematics in a master’s program. Alex would like to express his sincere gratitude for all his professors, family, friends, and classmates, all of whom have been integral in his learning so far.

You Can Have Anxiety and Be a Social Scientist- Three Professors Share How

As the school year nears its end, we’re all feeling it — the nervousness before finals, the stress and pressure to do well, the fear of what comes next. These anxious feelings aren’t exclusive to students; nearly 20% of American adults have an anxiety disorder and many others experience issues with anxiety each year, even if they don’t have an anxiety disorder.

This month’s “Picture a Social Scientist” activity focused on those who have mental health challenges, particularly anxiety. The “Picture an Anxious Social Scientist” event on March 31 began with a presentation on biofeedback from BYU’s Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS). Biofeedback helps us respond to our body’s stress signals before they become too intense and to take action to relieve stress throughout the day before it impacts our ability to complete our tasks or handle our emotions.

CAPS Biofeedback presentation

The biofeedback presentation was followed by a panel of professors with different types of anxiety. Alyssa Banford Witting in the School of Family Life, Sam Hardy in the Psychology Department, and Scott Sanders in the Sociology Department put themselves in an anxiety-inducing situation to help students see how someone with anxiety can be successful as a social scientist. They addressed questions such as, “What was your experience being diagnosed?” and “What do you recommend for students who may have these feelings but have not been diagnosed?” as well as “How has anxiety been a superpower in your career?”

The professors shared some of the tools they use to manage their anxiety. Sanders suggested, “Develop self-love now, develop self-care now… Do it now because it’s so much harder when you’re in those troughs.” Deep breathing is another helpful tool that was taught during the biofeedback presentation. Hardy’s tools include antidepressant medication, therapy, and support groups. His self-care includes Diet Dr. Pepper and hobbies like cooking, playing with dogs, and jamming out on drums in the basement. He also is mindful of nutrition and exercise, reads self-help books, and makes spiritual practices a priority.

Banford Witting encouraged students not to go it alone if they are feeling anxious. “Seek help, there’s no reason to suffer.” When looking for help, remember that your professors are there for you and you are not alone in your struggle. “It’s common enough that it’s okay. You’ll have some friends in the mental illness business… Everybody has anxiety to some degree,” added Hardy.

Sanders said to manage anxiety step by step, day by day, or even moment by moment. Describing his process to overcome anxious feelings he said, “What can you do in that moment? Maybe it’s a breath, a class period, a day. What does it look like and what can I do to get through that moment?”

PICTURE AN ANXIOUS SOCIAL SCIENTIST: Natalie Herbst Durtschi interviews panelists Alyssa Banford Witting, Sam Hardy, and Scott Sanders.

Whatever your experiences with anxiety may be, create boundaries for yourself, find your toolkit, and keep navigating the challenges that come your way. There will be many who can relate and help, as well as those who understand and support.

The College of Family, Home, and Social Sciences monthly “Picture a Social Scientist” events will return in the fall. With the goal of fostering belonging, each event will feature inspiring social science professionals to whom students can relate. Future events will explore themes such as neurodiversity, being a woman, managing a dual-career family, and other groups that are underrepresented in the social sciences. Students can expect to gain new perspectives and develop insights on how to press forward with their own ambitions.

Learn more about “Picture a Social Scientist” here.

Learn more or schedule an appointment with BYU CAPS.

BYU’s Museum of Peoples and Cultures offers extraordinary experiences for students

This Friday night’s activity, “Night at the Museums” gives students the opportunity to visit all five BYU museums (The Monte L. Bean Life Science Museum, Education in Zion Museum, The Museum of Art, The Museum of Paleontology, and The Museum of Peoples and Cultures) on one evening for refreshments, music, activities, and the chance to solve clues for a prize. Each museum will dazzle participants with interesting facts and thought-provoking displays, but a brand new exhibit at The Museum of Peoples and Cultures is sure to be an eye-catcher.

Greenstone Forgeries on Display

“Mayan Greenstone” displays artifacts from the museum’s vast collection of Mesoamerican greenstone artifacts. What makes these particular artifacts so intriguing? Many are forgeries.

The exhibit highlights the research done last year by former BYU student Chloe Burkey and anthropology postdoctoral fellow Marion Forest. Burkey and Forest worked to systematically authenticate the collection, using an innovative collection of techniques to spot each forgery.

The new exhibition gives visitors the opportunity to try their hand at spotting the fakes while also appreciating the ancient craftsmanship of the genuine artifacts. Museum visitors will be impressed, not only by the relics, but also by the experiential learning opportunities available to students through the Museum of Peoples and Cultures.

A Student-Led Exhibit

Nearly every aspect of each exhibit at the museum is produced by BYU students. “All of the research is done by students, the displays are designed by students, even the labels for the artifacts are made by students,” explained museum director Paul Stavast.

One student gaining valuable experience at the museum is Hannah Smith, a history major with minors in art history and anthropology. Hannah plans to work in museums in the future, and her experience as an exhibit designer at the Museum of Peoples and Cultures has given her invaluable skills for her future career.

“Along with the researchers and the director I’ve gotten to pick objects, write text, choose graphics, play with the layout of the exhibit… paint, build some walls!” joked Hannah as she described her role in the new exhibit in an interview. “I’ve learned more through this opportunity than I have in a lot of classes. It’s helped me build skills for any job and helped me really figure out what I want to do.”

Hannah Smith with greenstone artifacts at the Museum of Peoples and Cultures

Learning Through Stories

Hannah started at the museum last April as an intern, unsure of what direction she wanted her future career to take. She gained confidence by helping with the “Utah Valley” exhibit and by talking to the director of the museum. She enjoyed the opportunity and has been working at the museum ever since. 

Smith began studying history and anthropology because she wants to tell human stories. “I feel like the social sciences are so special because it’s all about people. That’s what interests me the most is the story behind things, and the social sciences are all very story driven fields,” said Smith, explaining how stories tie together all of her passions of history, anthropology and art history.

Immerse yourself in the stories of the past at the Museum of Peoples and Cultures and other BYU museums at “Night at the Museums” on March 25.

To learn more about the Museum of Peoples and Cultures visit mpc.byu.edu.