BYU Alum Returning: School of Family Life Professor Shayne Anderson

Photo by Savanna Sorensen/BYU
Photo by Savanna Sorensen/BYU

Initially, the idea of pursuing a career in marriage and family therapy was non-existent in the mind of our newest professor, Dr. Shayne Anderson. He had never heard of the field of study before his college days, which he began by pursuing a degree in wildlife conservation biology. After returning home from his mission, Anderson switched to accounting with the idea that if he was going to support a family, he needed a more financially stable career.

But fate led Anderson down another path. For him, this was literally down a different BYU hallway where Anderson came across a map labelled pre-MFTSA. “I thought, I wonder what that is. I like maps, maybe it’s a map club,” said Anderson. “So, I went and it was a pre-marriage and family therapy meeting.” It was the idea of viewing people in their contexts and illuminating how they are all interconnected with each other that hooked Anderson. “I realised I actually like helping people, much more than I like numbers.” Anderson graduated with his bachelor’s in Family Science, and his master’s in Marriage and Family Therapy, both from BYU. He then went on to receive his doctorate in Child and Family Development from the University of Georgia in 2007.

Since then Anderson has worked as assistant professor for the department of human development and family studies at the University of Connecticut, before moving on to become the acting program director of their Marriage and Family Therapy Program. During the extent of his career Anderson has received numerous awards, including the AAMFT Dissertation Award and the Reviewer of the Year Award from the Journal of Marital and Family Therapy.

As a licensed marriage and family therapist, Anderson’s research focuses primarily on the change process in couples. While it may be evident that therapy works in most cases, Anderson endeavours to discover exactly how. His time is also spent running a program that works with high-conflict co-parents, i.e. divorced couples that are still figuring out child custody. As a result, Anderson has numerous publications on family therapy. Excited to be back at BYU, Anderson is a highly active professor in student mentoring. “There’s resources [here] that I don’t think are available anywhere else for the study of the family,” said Anderson.

After completing the majority of his education here at BYU, Shayne Anderson told himself that he would never return to work here. “I thought I could be more useful and valuable being the LDS professor…somewhere else,” said Anderson. “But as the way things aligned I came out here for an interview and just fell in love.”

Anderson and his wife, Sarah, whom he met while at BYU, are kept busy with their five children, but all are excited to be back in Utah.

Twitter Party How-To’s

Emerging Twitter
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A BYU College of Family, Home, and Social Sciences Twitter party is your chance to chat online with an expert author about current issues having to do with politics, the family, psychology, mental illness, anthropology, economics, geography, history, neuroscience, and family history.Participating is not difficult. It’s similar to a real-life party, with various discussions going on simultaneously.From anywhere in the world, just sign in to Twitter at the specified time. You don’t have to be a BYU faculty member or student. If you’re new to Twitter, check out this pre-party tutorial. A Twitter veteran? Come and meet new friends. Feel like you don’t have time for Twitter? Stay for 5 minutes or an hour. Join us on your lunch break!

How Do I Participate?

  • If you have not signed up yet, go to Twitter and get an account.
  • RSVP for the party by commenting at the bottom of the party post, or ttcap1weeting @byu_fhss RSVP (name of party). Include your Twitter URLso that you can follow other participants, and they can follow tcap2.PNGyou! It’s a great way to get like-minded followers. RSVPing also gets you entered in any giveaways that will be going on during the party.
  • Log on to Twitter just before the party, and search for tweets with the hashtag #AskAnFHSSExpert.


How Do the FHSS Twitter Book Clubs Relate to Your Mission?

Our mission is to study patterns of human behavior from diverse disciplinary approaches. As the name implies, our college is particularly concerned with studying the family as the basic unit of society. The many institutes and centers within the college provide opportunities for faculty and students to further research and disseminate scholarship. Students in the college gain a broad education that helps them develop an appreciation of the values of modern civilization and prepares them to contribute effectively as citizens. Many of the departments and programs housed within the college provide opportunities for student learning outside the classroom through internships and faculty-mentored teaching and research experiences.
These Twitter book clubs are generally focused on books published by faculty members for a lay audience. They are an opportunity to discuss in real time the relevance of the subject matter to everyday life.

Do These Book Club Parties Have Sponsors?

They are not sponsored by brands or commercial parties, so the opinions offered therein by the author and the college are unbiased. BYU’s College of Family, Home, and Social Sciences does not accept responsibility for the opinions of general participants.
And our refreshments are “virtual,” so participation is healthy not only for your mind, but for your body!

Fairy Great-Great-Great-Godmother: The Genealogy Fairy


Indexing parties, family history committee callings, and a family history major all make BYU the prime place to get involved with genealogy work. But while these opportunities may bait and hook you, sometimes your dream project is too big a fish for them to hold up. The dream of a fairy godmother to wave her magic wand and fill your empty wallet becomes a prominent one. Family history is about seeking out your roots and putting a name and a face to your lineage. Ultimately, family history is just another form of storytelling, it’s about making your ancestors more than a name on a piece of paper, it’s about making them human again. Don’t let an empty pocket prevent you from doing that.

The College of Family, Home, and Social Sciences does provide a family history major and minor for students who are interested in genealogy but for individual projects a full major may seem too large, and a ward indexing activity too small. However, BYU’s Family History program heavily promotes the Genealogy Fairy as a means to go beyond those limitations.

What is the Genealogy Fairy?

The Genealogy Fairy was created by High-Definition Genealogy’s Thomas MacEntree with the idea to give back to the genealogy community that prospers here in Utah. The grant is sponsored by Genealogy Bargains who, each month, put aside five percent of all revenue to help provide the monetary means for either organizations or individual historians pursuing a substantial project.

This stack of cash that has been set aside is just sitting there waiting to be put into an indexing project, a genealogy conference, or even a publishing project. Any individual can receive up to five hundred dollars in grant money per project, or if desired, can receive an equal amount in consulting advice for genealogy organizations.

How do I Take Advantage of This?

Apply here if you’re interested.


What kind of family history projects do you like to do?

Raiders of the Prehistoric: BYU Grad Students to Present at the Utah State History Conference

“Archaeology is the search for fact … not truth. If it’s truth you’re interested in, Dr. Tyree’s philosophy class is right down the hall. So forget any ideas you’ve got about lost cities, exotic travel, and digging up the world. We do not follow maps to buried treasure, and “X” never, ever, marks the spot. Seventy percent of all archaeology is done in the library.”

―Indiana Jones

As children of a great film period, many of us dreamed of one day growing up to become Indiana Jones. But as kids, we also missed this famous quote shared by all archaeology professors at the beginning of a semester. For most of us, the dream eventually simmered down to a simple Halloween costume, or a vague wish to explore. But, this dream never died for BYU FHSS graduate students Daniel King, Joseph Bryce, and Madison Pearce, who made presentations at the recent Utah State History Conference.

Daniel King’s presentation on the use of fossils suggests that a collection of fossils may have just been a prehistoric form of pop culture. “My findings suggest that fossils were viewed as talismans, by some,” he says, “to offer physical protection and healing.” His presentation focused on the use and interpretation of fossils by various peoples living in the prehistoric Utah region. “Others are known to have curated fossils, keeping them…within their homes.”

In King’s own personal time as an undergraduate here at BYU, he had the opportunity to work at the Museum of Peoples and Cultures with fellow conference presenter, Joseph Bryce. Part of their work at the museum was organizing the museum collections. “We stumbled upon a prehistoric Fremont collection that contained fossils and our curiosity got the best of us,” said King. And the rest is history.


Grad student Joseph Bryce’s curiosity led him down a different path. Determined to dip his toes in the waters of the scholarly community, Bryce is a Utah State History Conference veteran. While attending the conference a few years ago, Bryce was intrigued by a presentation discussing basketry impressions that had been found on the backs of Fremont figurines.

A week later, Bryce was back at BYU analyzing pottery from a Fremont site here in Utah Valley when he spotted a basketry impression on the bottom of a bowl. His team has now identified over a dozen examples of basketry impressions from that site alone.

“Finding the basketry impressions started me thinking about how to find out more about the artifacts that don’t survive in the archaeological record,” said Bryce. Artifacts, particularly those made out of plant materials, decay long before archaeologists get digging, leaving behind lots of literal holes in the cultural makeup of a prehistoric society. “[These] impressions that are found in clay are one way that [to] get information about artifacts that we would otherwise have no information about,” said Bryce.

From a grain of salt, Bryce was able to take this concept of basket impressions on clay figurines a step further. “Right now I am researching the basketry impressions as well as the impressions left by the beams of their houses when the houses collapsed,” said Bryce. “I am also interested in fingerprints that can be found on some of the artifacts.” The information that small historical fingerprints like this can give us provides those missing pieces of the puzzle, helping us to put together a fuller picture of the past.


Also searching for lost puzzle pieces, grad student Madison Pearce focuses her studies on the ethnographic records of prehistoric peoples. Her goal is to discover if, how, and why prehistoric peoples in today’s Utah Valley were using plants. To do this, Pearce was required to get down and dirty, quite literally, by analyzing the preserved seeds found in prehistoric coprolites, or old feces. In making this sacrifice, Pearce was able to determine which plants were being consumed by the inhabitants of the Spotten Cave near Goshen, Utah.

Her findings combined with the historic cultures’ application of plants were able to develop an understanding of plants as a source for food and medicine. “While I cannot make the claim that how prehistoric peoples used plants was the same as historic peoples, I can at least provide possibilities for if, how, and why plants were being used in the past,” said Pearce. The use of plant life obviously changes according to time, season, and place. But with an understanding of historic cultures applied to the basic information they had discovered in prehistoric remains, Pearce was able to piece together another crucial part of the puzzle.

“The notion that prehistoric peoples were able to walk outside of their homes and find plants that they could eat or use to help cure colds and fevers is really attractive to me,” said Pearce. “I often find myself looking out my window wondering, ‘Could I eat that? Or would that cure a disease? And if so, which one?’”

As a stay-at-home mom, Pearce doesn’t get as many chances as she’d like to be out in the field but her interest in ethnobotany isn’t going away anytime soon. “[It’s an interest] that I hope to continue to cultivate throughout my life,” said Pearce, glad of the conference as an opportunity to test her knowledge and her ability to share that knowledge.

While these three are not collecting golden idols and racing to discover the ark of the covenant, their research brings us a few steps closer to discovering the past. The Utah State History Conference was held Oct. 2 and featured a variety of professors, scholars, and students presenting their research on the history and archaeology of Utah.

What do you think will be the fossils we leave behind for future generations?

Becoming a Whole Book Through Study Abroad: Dr. Christine Isom-Verhaaren

Saint Augustine once said: “the world is a book and those who do not travel read only one page.” By that standard, Dr. Christine Isom-Verhaaren–one of FHSS’s newest faculty members–is a tome. Her life’s book would read something like this:

  • Study abroad in Paris. Christine Isom-Verhaaren
    • Learn French while you’re at it.
  • Graduate from BYU in history.
  • Meet a man in a Dead Sea Scrolls institute class.
  • Fall in love with and marry that man.
  • Go with that man, who is an archaeologist, to Turkey.
  • Develop a rich understanding and appreciation for the country and the Ottoman empire. 
    • Learn Turkish while you’re at it.
  • Get a Master’s and a PhD from the University of Chicago studying the Ottoman empire.
  • When in Istanbul, while he studies what’s underground; you study what’s above ground.
  • Give such a good scholarly presentation that a publisher asks you to write a book for them.
    • Write said book.
  • Become a professor at the Jerusalem Center.
  • Go to Jerusalem.

While these steps may not be feasible for you to do at this point in your life, you can still take the advice of Dr. Isom-Verhaaren: study abroad. And remember: you can study abroad without doing a formal “study abroad”. “Visiting other areas of the world – particularly those you study – gives you a much richer understanding and appreciation of them.” Said Isom-Verhaaren. “My study abroad in Paris was the highlight of my education at BYU. I’d encourage anyone to do a study abroad.”

1203-57 0092.CR2 BYU Jerusalem Center exterior and Old Jerusalem March 12-23, 2012 Photography by Mark A. Philbrick Copyright BYU Photo 2012 All Rights Reserved (801)422-7322
BYU Jerusalem Center

Now an expert in the study of the Ottoman Empire, Dr. Isom-Verhaaren will be teaching BYU’s first specialized class on the subject. “When I was an undergraduate here at BYU, my professor David Montgomery introduced me to a whole world of interest for me,” says Isom-Verhaaren. “As a professor, you never know if you’ll do the same for a student.“ And she hopes to influence her students in a similar way.

“The students here at BYU are, in many ways, the future of the church – and the future of society,” said Dr. Christine-Isom-Verhaaren. “I’m excited and I feel privileged to help students develop the skills they need to be successful.”

Dr. Isom-Verhaaren has three children, two of which attended BYU. Her youngest recently returned from a mission. Her and her husband live in Provo, Utah.

Where have you traveled and how valuable was it for you?