On September 22, 2022, Jennifer Ortiz, director for the Utah Division of State History, visited BYU for the annual Fernando R. Gomez lecture. Jennifer’s vision and intention for State History includes diversifying the narratives we collectively share as a state and ensuring those who practice history better reflect our demographics in Utah.
History is the way people want to express themselves. Jennifer Ortiz, the first woman to run the 125-year-old organization and the first person to identify as a minority, shared with students and faculty about The Peoples of Utah Revisited program. The multi-year initiative is designed to celebrate Utah’s diverse past and is a follow-up to the original Peoples of Utah project published over 50 years ago.
The initiative is comprised of a variety of events to teach families and communities how to record, scan, and treasure their history. “The goal for the project,” says Ortiz, “ is working with community groups to tell their stories in ways they want to tell them; to gather those untold stories, amplify misrepresented voices, and share with communities across the state that their stories are important.”
Along with this major project, Ortiz spotlighted an assortment of projects focused on the last 50 years of Utah’s history created to document history for the misunderstood and growing populations in the state. Amongst these are the Utah Historical Quarterly, which presents updated research in the field of Utah History; the Women’s history initiative, which examines the contributions Utah women have made over the years; and the collections and library program, which houses a host of Utah artifacts, photographs, and manuscripts.
Ortiz emphasized how the original Peoples of Utah project changed the trajectory of public history in the state saying, “It really laid the foundation for diversity in teaching scholarship on Utah history.” She encouraged all to get involved in recording their personal history.
“The most common response I receive when I tell someone that I am studying sociocultural anthropology is, ‘What is that?’” says Elisabeth Morris, a senior in anthropology from Virginia. “For me, personally, anthropology is a means to learn how to respect and understand differences between cultures while holding true to my own beliefs.”
It’s been more than 75 years since the first anthropology course — a class on archaeology — was taught on campus. The Anthropology Department in the College of Family, Home, and Social Sciences now offers two majors, a secondary major, a master’s degree, and a certificate. The department hosts archaeological and anthropological field schools each year, as well as a variety of opportunities for students to participate in mentored research on topics and regions they’re interested in.
Morris believes anthropology is an important area of study that helps people gain understanding, which leads to compassion and a desire to serve. This idea was reinforced as she spent the summer in Brazil as an intern at the Institute of Brazilian Studies at the University of São Paulo in São Paulo. In addition to studying Brazilian culture in the archives, she interacted with the people that lived there and visited numerous museums, parks, and cultural centers.
“I learned that while there are distinct factors that separate my culture from Brazilian culture, people remain people,” says Morris. “The issues we believe are unique to our lives and societies are not — we have much more in common than we think. Anthropology is necessary in the world today and can be used to heal the wounds of the past.”
Anthropology Through the Eyes of an Educator
Michael Searcy, BYU anthropology professor and department chair, says, “The Anthropology Department has the goal of teaching our students how to explore the human experience and seek solutions to real-world problems.”
One of the best aspects of the program is the field school program where students get to travel to international countries to study various cultures or participate in an actual archaeological excavation. According to Searcy, “There is nothing like discovering artifacts buried beneath the earth and touching them for the first time in hundreds or thousands of years!”
As students immerse themselves in the study of human behavior, they come to understand how humans get along, how to combat prejudice, and how to contribute to the well-being of society. They anticipate a variety of career paths and job security in law, user experience, media, government, community leadership, and more (see a list of Anthropologists In Action below).
“For anyone interested in studying some of the most fascinating societies in the world, past and present, our degree programs in anthropology are ideal for students looking to broaden their career opportunities in the future,” says Searcy.
To commemorate its 75th anniversary, the Anthropology Department is hosting an open house at the BYU Museum of Peoples and Cultures on Friday, September 16, from 6-8 p.m. The event is open to the public and includes a backroom tour. The museum is located at 2201 North Canyon Rd. in Provo.
Anthropologists in Action
Here is a list of current job titles for which anthropologists are well prepared, courtesy of the American Anthropological Association:
Lead Experience Researcher and Social Impact Researcher, Airbnb
Social Scientist, CDC
User Experience Researcher and Staff Research Scientist, Facebook
Health Scientist, FDA
Computational Anthropologist, IBM
Principal Engineer, Health Researcher, and Research Scientist, Intel
Historian and Cultural Anthropologist, National Park Service
User Experience Researcher, Netflix
Principal Researcher in Human-Centered Systems, Nissan
Community Manager, Reddit
Digital Curator, Program Curator, Research Scientist, Museum Educator, and Archivist, The Smithsonian Institution
Health Scientist, Department of Veteran Affairs
Research Forester and Research Social Scientist, US Department of Agriculture
How A Minor in Civic Engagement Leadership Can Help You Use Your Passion for Good
I bet you’ve never heard that question before!
“So, what are you going to do with that when you graduate?”
Whether majoring in sociology, performing arts, or environmental science, adding a minor in Civic Engagement Leadership can help you answer this question with confidence.
“The mission of Civic Engagement Leadership is to provide students with the appropriate skills and meaningful opportunities to become engaged in their respective communities,” says Quin Monson, political science professor and director of Civic Engagement Leadership.
Simply stated, this minor will help students take the skills they want to master and find ways to practice and apply those skills in a setting that benefits their communities. Students will graduate with more experience and the confidence of knowing how to make a difference as they are paired with mentors and work on group projects that they get academic credit for!
Finding a Need for Your Passion
Madi Schlesinger, a senior in political science from Arkansas, was initially attracted to the Civic Engagement Leadership minor because she was able to double count many of the requirements with her major. But the projects she engaged in gave her great experience.
“Choosing the Civic Engagement Leadership minor has been one of the most engaging and eye-opening decisions I have ever made,” says Schlesinger. “I learned that I was going to be able to design my own project for the community tailored to whatever I wanted to study most! I had the amazing opportunity to work with both the Utah County Elections Office as well as a local political campaign and learned a lot about how to communicate more effectively and lead in a professional setting.”
Schlesinger says that her classmates in the minor were from all different majors and they all chose different projects and courses, so no one had the same experience — it was very tailored to personal interests.
“The one thing that united us all was that we saw a need in our community and we went to work to address it,” says Schlesinger. “Some classmates did toy drives and designed play spaces for physical therapy offices, some orchestrated social media campaigns for anti-bullying, and some laid out PR plans for local nonprofits. No matter what your passion is, there is always a niche to fill using your particular talents. And we need more people who can step up and lead those efforts.”
The Civic Engagement Minor is open to all BYU majors and has a requirement of 18 credits total. Many elective requirements can be filled by major and general education courses. The course list is available here and is regularly under review to allow the minor to work with a wide variety of majors.
To get started, students can enroll in FHSS 200, a one-credit intro course full of guest lectures and other content that will get you started. It is recommended that students declare the minor before their junior or senior year.
While satisfying requirements for the Civic Engagement Leadership minor, students enroll in courses that will help them get a head start on their experiential learning. These classes and their instructors encourage students not to wait until graduation to start building up their reservoir of skills and experience that will be valuable when searching for full-time employment.
In FHSS 300, the first required course of the minor, students will learn critical skills of analysis, evaluation, leadership, innovation, and teamwork. Students will design and plan a project related to civic improvement. By working in groups to accomplish a semester-long project, students gain exposure to project management in a professional setting as the class is partnered with an external community partner.
FHSS 400, the second required course, focuses on leadership in civic engagement and teaches skills on how to lead discussions of community involvement and public service. Guest lecturers are a large element of this course. Similar to FHSS 300, students complete a semester-long project centered around community work. Additionally, students will be paired with mentors to guide them through their projects. Due to the number of guest speakers coming in to speak, students will be able to hear about a variety of careers and network with professionals.
Welcome to a new school year — we are so pleased to have you back on campus and to share together in the joy of education and discipleship. As we begin anew, I would like to take this opportunity to remind you of the beloved community of Zion that we seek to build in the College of Family, Home, and Social Sciences, and at BYU. We need each and every one of you in order to build this community.
Zion means that we are “of one heart and one mind” and that there are “no poor among us” (Moses 7:18). Being of one heart and one mind means that we “mourn with those that mourn” (Mosiah 18: 9), so what happens to one of us, happens to all of us. In order to have no poor among us, each member of our community should be treated with respect and feel safe on campus. Without feelings of safety, there cannot be true belonging.
President Nelson called upon church members everywhere to “lead out in abandoning attitudes and actions of prejudice” and pleaded with us to “promote respect for all of God’s children.” As a college community, we strive to foster an educational environment that promotes the personal dignity of every individual, and where we each take responsibility to “eliminate prejudice, including racism, sexism, and nationalism” and treat one another compassionately “regardless of age, personal circumstances, gender, sexual orientation” or other unique circumstances (FHSS Diversity and Inclusion Syllabus Statement). We are deeply saddened when members of our community are wounded by the hurtful words and behavior of others within the college and across campus.
I urge each of you to prayerfully consider what this might look like in your life, and how you can help to build safety and belonging in our community. I would suggest that abandoning attitudes and actions of prejudice includes our willingness to stand up for what is right and address racist language and behavior, or any other kind of discriminatory language and behavior, swiftly when it occurs.
Elder Soares urges us to “Have the moral courage to stand firm in obeying God’s will, even if you have to stand alone.” Our BYU statement on belonging purports that we strive to create a community “whose hearts are knit together in love” (Mosiah 18:21), where “our interactions create and support an environment of belonging” and where “all relationships reflect devout love of God and a loving, genuine concern for the welfare of our neighbor.” This certainly includes listening, educating, and being aware, but must also include action, as we seek to know how to fulfill our duty to uplift, empower, and serve. While always striving to act in a manner consistent of a disciple of Christ, we must be firm and steadfast in “rooting out racism” and other similar evils.
We love each of you and feel blessed to embark on this journey with you as we strive to build a community where the Savior would desire to dwell. We are here for you when you need us, and we continue to offer prayers on your behalf.
Have a wonderful semester!
Dean, BYU College of Family, Home, and Social Sciences
The College of Family, Home, and Social Sciences welcomes seven new full-time faculty members to the Political Science Department, Psychology Department, and School of Family Life this fall.
Darin Self is a new assistant professor of the Political Science Department. Self earned a masters in public policy (MPP) from BYU in 2013 and then a doctoral degree in Government at Cornell University in May 2022. Self is a comparativist studying Latin America and Southeast Asia. He is particularly interested in authoritarianism, comparative democracy, parties and elections, and civilian-military relations.
Alejandra Aldridge is also a new assistant professor in the Political Science Department. Aldridge studied political science at Stanford University, earning a PhD in June 2022. She researches the intersection of democracy, partisanship, and the presidency, and gender and politics.
Stefania Ashby is a new assistant professor in the Psychology Department. She studied psychology at the University of Oregon with an emphasis in cognitive neuroscience. Ashby completed her PhD in 2021 and studies memory and misinformation processing.
Chelsea Romney joins the Psychology Department as an assistant teaching professor. She completed a PhD in health psychology from UCLA in 2021 and focuses on intervention programs for underrepresented students and research mentoring.
School of Family Life
Nathan Leonhardt is a new assistant professor in the School of Family Life. Leonhardt studied at the University of Toronto to earn a PhD in psychology in July 2022. His research interests include social psychology and how relationships are influenced by sexual quality, virtues, prosociality, and religion.
Dana Hunter is a new associate teacher professor in the School of Family Life. She received a BS in Home Economics Education in 1988 and an MS in Family Science in 1992. Her focus is on emphasizing feelings of belonging constructed by food and family.
Cortney Evans Stout is a professional-track associate professor at the School of Family Life. Having studied at BYU during her entire tertiary education career, Evans Stout earned an MS in marriage, family, and human development in 2004 and went on to graduate in 2008 with a PhD in the same field. She brings expertise in child and human development and a background of public scholarship.
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.”
“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.
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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.”
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.
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.
We’re proud of all our graduates! Spend a minute taking a look at some of their accomplishments on our graduation website.