Successful entrepreneur and founder of PowerSchool returns to graduate from BYU

Greg Porter’s story began during high school in the 1980s. Now, decades later, he will be speaking at this year’s College of Family, Home, and Social Sciences convocation, at which both he and his son will graduate. Since his beginnings as an ambitious teenager, Porter has experienced adventure, success, hardship and risk.

As the student body president of Fremont High School in Sunnyvale, California, Porter was aware of the inefficiencies and challenges facing education. When he and a classmate enrolled in a computer programming class, they created record-keeping software to help teachers and students keep track of grades. Upon hearing about the innovation, other schools paid the two teenagers about $300 to use it in their own programs.

“When I was a kid, I acquired confidence that told me I could pursue anything I wanted,” says Porter. “It wasn’t much, but I learned so much just by stepping out into the real world and starting something on my own.” In his heart, he knew he was meant to become a businessman and intended to find that future in higher education.

Upon coming to BYU, Porter changed his major three times before deciding on Psychology, saying, “If you are drawn to something, check it out. BYU offers the perfect testing ground to explore and learn what your interests and passions are. Don’t run yourself into the ground thinking some majors are better than others. Do what you love.”

Rather than graduating, Porter left school with one class left, deciding to make his fortune and become an entrepreneur. “That’s when I went out and started PowerSchool and started working with the software. I’m not a great programmer myself, but I couldn’t afford to pay someone else to do it so I just dove in and started working on it,” says Porter. “That required me to work without a salary for a year and a half to two years, and I just funded myself.”

Soon he found investors, and PowerSchool became widely popular among school administrators, teachers, students and parents. Gaining momentum across the country, the company was acquired by Apple, Inc. In making the transition, Porter met regularly with Steve Jobs to plan for the future. “I’m so grateful that we found a strategic partner… rather than just somebody that just helped us do what we’re already doing.”

After finding success as an entrepreneur, father, and business owner, Porter came back to BYU to enroll in one final class and earn his degree. On Friday, April 26th, he will not only be the Family, Home, and Social Sciences convocation speaker, but will also graduate alongside his son.

Creating Change: Women in Civic Engagement Spring Workshop

Often times we look at our world, our nation, our city, our neighborhood and see things that we want to change or improve. They can be as simple as a couple potholes or as wide-reaching as tax law. The problem that inhibits us from fixing these things is the lack of knowledge in how to make effective and lasting change.

On Thursday, March 28th, stop by the Spring Civic Engagement workshop to discover how you can make an impact on your environment. The conference is free for anybody to visit and learn from the various panels on women in civic engagement. Featured speakers include women such as the mayors of Provo and Draper, a member of the Utah Department of Commerce and a current and former Utah State Representative.

This event will show people that anyone, especially women, have the power to making lasting impacts and changes for the better. Attending the workshop is a valuable opportunity to learn how you can make your community a better place to live, no matter who you are.

The purpose of any political position is to represent the people in an honest and accurate way. When women run for office, they help better represent their constituents. Regardless of whether or not they become elected officials, running brings new issues and perspectives to light that may help provide ways to begin the enactment of change.

For a view of the full schedule, visit the Office of Civic Engagement website.

BYU marriage and family therapy program honored nationally for research

The BYU marriage and family therapy program was recently named the No. 1 program of its kind for research productivity.

That means the faculty does more research than any other group of marriage and family therapy professors in the United States.

The ranking, published in the leading Journal of Marital and Family Therapy, names four BYU faculty members in the top ten most prolific researchers: Jonathan Sandberg (#2), Russell Crane (#4), Jeff Larson (#5) and Rick Miller (#6). Larson, Crane and Miller were also ranked in the top ten for most-cited research. Professor Shayne Anderson was also listed as the most prolific author for faculty who have been in the field for less than 15 years.

Jonathan Sandberg, Russell Crane, Jeff Larson, Rick Miller and Shayne Anderson
Jonathan Sandberg, Russell Crane, Jeff Larson, Rick Miller and Shayne Anderson.

“We are delighted but not surprised by this recognition of the quality of research by our faculty,” said Alan Hawkins, BYU School of Family Life director. “I think our trajectory for the next 20 years looks even brighter.”

The research from BYU’s program helps develop both the academic and practical approaches to marriage and family therapy. Students in the program work with faculty on research as they go through school, preparing them to recognize and implement evidence-based best practices in their careers.

“More important than the number of articles read or cited is the number of students who were influenced by the process of participating in research and learned how to think critically, theorize about change, analyze data and draw conclusions,” said Sandberg, who also serves as the marriage and family therapy program’s director.

The BYU marriage and family therapy program was founded in 1967 and became fully accredited by the American Association of Marriage and Family Counselors in 1972. The program seeks to be a healing influence in a world struggling to create safe and meaningful relationships by combining ground-breaking research with faith-centered family values.

The No. 1 ranking for the program is based on findings from a study that examined scholarly works published between  1999–2008 and 2008–2015 by faculty in accredited doctoral programs through the U.S.

Mentored Student Research Conference 2019: A chance for experience, learning and prize money

Concerns on the minds of BYU students include (among others) spicing up the resume and filling the wallet. Fortunately for those in the College of Family, Home, and Social Sciences, the upcoming 15th Annual Mentored Student Research Conference and luncheon on Thursday, April 11th is a perfect opportunity to make it happen.

What is the Mentored Student Research Conference?

This mentored research conference, funded by the Mary Lou Fulton Chair, is a chance for any student (graduate or undergraduate) in the college to submit a research project, gain valuable career experience and perhaps even win prize money.

Student posters don’t have to be done for a class, but they can be. However, the research must be mentored by a member of the faculty, and students can submit as many posters as they’d like.

Not only is the annual conference a great way to enhance presentation skills and gain vital experience, it’s an opportunity to practice professionalism and enjoy a free luncheon. The conference will be held in the WSC Ballroom on April 11th from 8:30 – 11:30 a.m. with a lunch to follow in the Garden Court.

The winning posters from each department are awarded 300 dollars, and runners up have a chance at prize money as well, from 50 to 200 dollars.

Winners from previous submissions include “A Peculiar People: Split Ticket Voters among Latter-day Saint Millennials” and “Happy Wife, Happy Life: Spousal Support as a Predictor of Life Satisfaction.”

Students can learn more and submit their posters at fultonchair.byu.edu. The deadline for poster submissions is Tuesday, March 26th at noon.

Talking commitment: Upcoming Hinckley Lecture on cohabitation, commitment and marriage

Cohabitation is not an issue at BYU.

In fact, as well-educated, religious and generally economically-sound individuals, students at BYU are among the least likely to cohabitate before marriage.

But BYU students and couples are just as susceptible as anyone to experience the negative trends and effects of cohabitation on familial outcomes by avoiding commitment and relationship decisions.

At the 15th Annual Marjorie Pay Hinckley Lecture, Dr. Scott Stanley, research professor and co-director of the University of Denver Center for Marital and Family Studies, will expound on how relationships form, how commitment develops and the dangers couples face by “sliding” through potentially life-altering relationship transitions and decision making as opposed to discussing and deciding on a future.

Dr. Stanley’s lecture “Sliding vs. Deciding: Cohabitation, Commitment, and the Future of Marriage” will be held on Thursday, February 7 at 7:30 p.m. at the Hinckley Center Assembly Hall.

Sliding: The non-decision

Talking about your relationship—especially the future of it—can be hard. But the repercussions of not having critical conversations and making relationship decisions are much harder.

“Sliding,” or moving to the next stage in a relationship without discussing the consequences and making a definitive decision and commitment to the future of the relationship, can be seen in relationships at every stage.

 “The people we’ve identified that are at greatest risk [of marital stress] are people who have decided to live together [or move forward in their relationship] before they’ve decided as a couple that they want a future together,” says Dr. Stanley.

Individuals who are not cohabitating face similar risk when they likewise forego crucial clarifying conversations and decision making. In the process of creating relationship ambiguity, couples, in Dr. Stanley’s words, “increase the inertia for their relationship to continue before talking clearly about whether they’re on the same page and where they’re going.”

Following trends and giving up choices

The combination of relationship inertia developing before a couple’s commitment has matured and the cultural trend of individuals preferring ambiguity results in individuals bypassing relationship steps and stages, and in the process, giving up future options.

“People don’t want to be clear,” says Dr. Stanley. “They don’t want clear [relationship] steps and stages because they don’t want to give up any options too soon. Ironically, that’s exactly what happens when they’re sliding through these stages. They’re giving up options before they make a choice.”

With societal trends questioning marriage as an essential life stage, individuals find themselves in situations that they never actually decide on because they bypass the stages and opportunities to make clear decisions for their futures.

Recognizing—and taking—proper steps

According to Dr. Stanley, commitment forms strongest when there are a set of steps and stages that couples move through.

Marriage not only acts as a signifier of higher commitment between two individuals, but it also acts as a major life-orienting step where individuals can make choices that influence their future lives and families.  

“People slide through potentially life-altering relationship transitions now without necessarily seeing what the consequences might be in terms of their future options, [relationship] stability, marriage and family,” says Dr. Stanley.

Recognizing—and taking—these steps and stages throughout a relationship are essential to establishing the commitment that creates the formation and foundation of sound, stable marriages, families and communities.

Regardless of a couple’s living situation, communication and commitment to a couple’s future need to be made before wedding invitations are sent or closets are merged.

Learn about commitment and the dangers couples face by “sliding” through relationship transitions at the 15th Annual Hinckley Lecture with Dr. Scott Stanley on Thursday, February 7 at 7:30 p.m. at the Hinckley Center Assembly Hall. Admission is free to the public.

Does political party trump ideology?

It’s the political scientist’s often-asked chicken and egg: does a person’s political party or policy attitudes come first?

With party and ideology so closely intertwined, the question has in the past been nearly impossible to pin down, but BYU political science professors Michael Barber and Jeremy C. Pope found a way. The duo published a study in top-ranked American Political Science Review showing that people’s policy positions are quite malleable when told that leaders of their political party support a different position.

The key to answering their question? The election of a president who has made statements both opposing and supporting a range of controversial issues.

“With President Trump as a bit of a weathervane on certain issues, it makes it easier to discern party loyalists from policy loyalists,” Pope said.

In their research, Pope and Barber studied two different groups: party loyalists and policy loyalists. Party loyalists are those who, when informed of the party leaders’ position, willingly and quickly change their policy position to align with the party leader. Policy loyalists are those who hold to their original policy preference, despite opinions or stances of party leaders that might contradict their beliefs.

“It’s odd to think about partisanship and ideology as being disconnected,” said Barber. “Why else does a political party exist rather than to advance a particular set of policies?”

Using a representative survey of 1,300 Americans, the researchers randomly assigned respondents into control, liberal and conservative groups and asked participants about their political positions on a variety of contemporary issues. The issues they explored were ones on which Donald Trump took different positions during his presidential campaign, including abortion, immigration, guns, health care, climate change and minimum wage.

Control-group participants were asked about their opinions on issues, with no mention of Trump’s position. But Barber and Pope presented participants in the liberal group with questions such as, “Donald Trump has said that he supports increasing the minimum wage over $10. How about you? Do you support or oppose increasing the minimum wage to over $10 an hour?”

In this way, the researchers could uncover the effect of a party leader’s endorsement of a policy in both a liberal and conservative direction. President Trump is unique in that most party leaders don’t endorse policies that run counter to the dominant ideology of the party, let alone advocate for both ideological sides of an issue.

Pope and Barber found that many people in each treatment group moved to support the policy when informed that President Trump likewise supported the policy. This was true of both liberal and conservative policies. “When informed of the president’s issue position, many people willingly followed that position in either a liberal or a conservative direction,” Pope said.

Respondents who knew less about politics, those who approved of President Trump, strong Republicans and self-identified conservatives were the groups most likely to be moved by seeing an endorsement of a policy by President Trump. Surprisingly, this was true of both a liberal and conservative endorsement. In other words, despite identifying as conservative Republicans, these individuals were more likely to endorse a liberal policy when told that President Trump supported that policy.

This kind of loyal partisanship should worry political observers, said Pope and Barber. They both maintain that politics are better when they revolve around more than just the party label.

“It should be about ideas and not about winning or beating the other side,” Barber said. “Politics should be about pushing ideas and policies that you think will better the country.”

-Jayne Edwards

 

Hickman lecture 2018: How passion can change your life and relationships

Relationships aren’t only meant to be enjoyed in the next life. They are conditions of salvation itself. This is why passion is so significant in our journey through life. In the 13th Annual Martin B. Hickman lecture, Professor of Family Life, Dean Busby highlights the ways in which passion is crucial and beautiful in our lives and relationships.

Busby, Dean 28
Professor Dean Busby

To begin his discussion, Busby teaches the importance of passion from the perspective of its difficulties, asserting that passion is hard to hold onto. “You need people who can give you examples,” he says, “and inspire and show you that it takes courage.” One such example is Andrea Bocelli, a blind singer passionate about opera. He was told his dream to sing opera was impossible; he wouldn’t be able to see the conductor or engage with the audience. Originally, he was discouraged until he found a master who taught him to be guided by his passion in order to achieve excellence.

What is passion? According to Busby’s definition, passion is something you sacrifice and “exert substantial effort towards.” It “becomes part of who you are or what you identify with,” he says. A passion isn’t an interest you dabble in occasionally; it is a pursuit in which you wish to improve and enjoy further, and for which you will lay aside other aspects of your life. Passions are “central to identity” and “represent each person’s unique and fundamental way of being who they are.”

Busby says, “We are drawn to people who are passionate…Who we are has no meaning except in relationships with others.” This is why passions are very relational, and therefore, vital to our happiness in this life. We must cultivate them now to grow and expand our intellect and spirituality, as well as to become like God. Passion isn’t important just to bring us pleasant satisfaction, it’s essential to life on earth, says Busby. As President Hinckley said, “Life is to be enjoyed, not endured.”

Passion asserts itself in multiple styles. Low passion or lack thereof is known as over-regulated or inhibited, while excess passion is called under-regulated or obsessive. The ideal amount of passion is a harmonious balance between the two. According to Busby, there are many types of passion, including creative, physical, emotional, relational and spiritual/ intellectual. Sexual passion encompasses all of these and is a central factor in healthy relationships, and all passion types contribute in different ways to a fulfilling life. While following passions in areas of work, school and family can be difficult, the right amount of passion brings satisfaction not found any other way.

For the full 2018 Hickman lecture, click here or watch below.

More than a Manger: MPC combines culture and religion in holiday exhibit

See how different cultures celebrate Christmas at the Museum of Peoples and Cultures’ “More than a Manger” exhibit. Open now until February, the exhibit showcases 21 nativities from 10 unique regions in the American Southwest.

Other Christmas traditions and celebrations displayed in the exhibit include the Mexican nativity play Los Pastores, hanging ristras (bundles of red peppers), tamales and handmade nativity craft work.

46165965_975609215956828_2817372587670110208_n.jpgVisitors will also learn about the history of Christianity among the native communities of the region and find deeper meaning in the Christmas season.

Discover how Christmas not only unifies Christianity but also influences people and their cultures through the sharing and celebration of Christmas traditions.

A nativity set is more than a group of figurines and a manger; nativity details reflect the heritage and history of the hands that made them. Become immersed in cultural traditions while reflecting on the Christmas story by attending this exhibit.

Additional nativity celebrations across campus

Artist Brian Kershisnk will discuss his painting, “Nativity,” on Monday, December 10 at 7:15 p.m. at the BYU Museum of Art (MOA).

The BYU Bookstore will display a 1,000+ piece Fontanini, an Italian hand-crafted and world-renown nativity. The nativity will be located on the bottom floor of the bookstore from December 1 through 30.

BYU announces construction of new West View Building to replace the FOB

The Board of Trustees has approved a plan to demolish and replace the current Faculty Office Building on West Campus Drive, immediately west of the Joseph F. Smith Building.

The Faculty Office Building (FOB) will be replaced with a newly constructed building named the West View Building. Crews will demolish the FOB beginning in early 2019 and construction on the new West View Building will begin immediately following demolition. Construction is expected to be completed by Spring 2020.

The Faculty Office Building currently houses the Department of Economics. That department and accompanying offices will temporarily move to the Crabtree Building during construction of the West View Building.

backWV.jpg
The new West View Building from the northwest.

Along with the Department of Economics, the West View Building will also house the Department of Statistics and the Neal A. Maxwell Institute for Religious Scholarship. The Maxwell Institute is moving out of its building south of campus and will be housed temporarily in the Clyde Engineering Building. Risk Management will occupy the building vacated by the Maxwell Institute.

The FOB was originally built in 1955 as two buildings — one for restrooms and one for the ticket office — serving the university’s old football stadium, located where the Richard’s Building stands today. After LaVell Edwards Stadium was built in 1964, the restroom and ticket office buildings were connected and renovated into the Faculty Office Building.

-Todd Hollingshead