A record number of students participated in this year’s annual Mary Lou Fulton Mentored Learning Conference. Six-hundred and sixty-six students, including both graduate and undergraduate students, participated with 299 posters.Their efforts were led by 75 FHSS faculty members.
Mentored learning is significant hands-on research that engages BYU faculty or qualified adjunct faculty with students. It may be one-on-one or in small groups. The Mentored Learning Conference provides an avenue for undergraduate and graduate students from all departments in the The College of Family, Home, and Social Sciences to showcase their mentored research in the form of a concise poster. The conference is a full day event sponsored by the Mary Lou Fulton Chair.
For Dr. Joe Price, a professor of Economics who spoke to the conference participants
during a special luncheon in their honor, mentored learning proved to be his most impactful experience at BYU. He said it changed his life as an undergrad student. He became a mentor when he joined the faculty, and that has allowed him to return the favor. Since 2007, he has employed over 300 students as research assistants. He shared some words of advice for students doing mentored research:
President Worthen also offered his congratulations to conference participants. He recognized that a lot of time and effort goes into these projects – probably more than the student initially anticipates. He encouraged them to take time to express gratitude to everyone who helped make their work possible. He acknowledged the meaning in the work they are doing. “What goes on here is important to God. You are not here by accident,” he said.
Faculty representatives from the college selected first place winners from each department. Some departments also awarded second, third place winners, as well as honorable mentions. Evaluation of the posters was based on quality of research, overall poster clarity and visual appeal.
If You’re not Doing Research, You’re Only Getting Half a Degree”
“If you’re not doing research, you’re only getting 50% of a degree,” said Clarissa Gregory, a senior Political Science major, who won 3rd place in her department. Her poster was titled, The Senator Who Cried Filibuster: Using Game Theory to Explain the Dynamics of Filibuster Threats. Gregory is extremely grateful for the University’s emphasis on undergraduate research. She could not say enough good about her mentor, Dr. Magleby, who has assisted in her research, and helped her make plans for post graduation.
First time participant Laura Hovey says she plans on doing the conference again next year. Her Winter 2016 sociology class required participation in the conference, but she said that her experience with the conference was better than she ever expected. The students picked a research question at the beginning of the semester and their professor, Carter Rees, was there to help them along the research process. Hovey chose to study how parents pass down religious commitment to their children. “I am grateful that we were pushed to do this conference somewhat early [in our education],” Hovey said.
Congratulations to all who participated, and especially to our winners!
|Dept.||Place||Student||Mentor(s)||Title of Poster|
|Anthropology||1st||Taralea Forster||John Clark||Loose Threads: Reconstructing the Cultural Contexts of Five Looted Pre-Columbian Peruvian Textiles|
|2nd||Garret Nash||Greg Thompson||Two Sides to Every Story: Using Ethnography to Study Conflict Among Refugees|
|Economics||1st||Nicholas Hales, Ryan Allen, John Cannon||Arden Pope||A Quasi-experimental Analysis of Elementary School Absences and Air Pollution|
|Geography||1st||Alan Barth||Matt Bekker||Landscape Ecology of Fire Recovery|
|History||1st||David Ellison,||Jeffrey Nokes||Historical Films: An Essential Resource for Nurturing Historical Literacy|
|2nd||Jeffrey Jensen, Josh Smith, Daniel Merrill||Aaron Skabelund||Shiba Kokan|
|Neuroscience||1st||Marcel Hall||Sterling Sudweeks||PAMs: A growing Field in Pharmacological Drug Development|
|2nd||Athena Howell, Daniel Bjornn||Brock Kirwan||Long term Memory Consolidation and Pattern Separation|
|2nd||Amanda Ellegn, Nathan Muncy, Seth Spencer||Brock Kirwan||Effects of Testing Encoding on Pattern Separation|
|Political Science||1st||James Martherus||Chris Karpowitz||Taking the Pulse: What Can We Learn About Primary Candidates From Social Media|
|2nd||Jenah House||Chris Karpowitz||The Divorce Experiment: Do Children Matter?|
|3rd||Clarissa Gregory||Jay Goodliffe||The Senator Who Cried Filibuster: Using Game Theory to Explain the Dynamics of Filibuster Threats|
|Psychology||1st||AnnaLisaWard, Max Maisel, Kevin Stephenson,||Mikle South||Anxiety in Autism and Autism in Anxiety: Symptom Overlap on Adult Self-Report Measures|
|2nd||Alex Nielson, Kaitlynn Wright, Jordan Sgro, Adiane Cavallini||Wendy Birmingham||I feel fat: Spousal Support and Body Image|
|3rd||Amanda Koci||Patrick Steffan||Alexithymia, Empathy, Avoidance, and Physiological Reactivity to Stress|
|Hon. Ment.||William Hagee, Tiffany Migdat, Adam You, Sam Baker, Chelsea Romney||Julianne Holt Lundstad||Where is the Love? Intransal Oxytocin is Associated with Increases in Hostility|
|School of Family Life||1st||Savanah Keenan, Logan Dicus, Ty Gregson, Karli Engebretsen||Sarah Coyne||Daddy or Dumbies|
|2nd||Nathan Leonhardt||Brian Willoughby||Pornography and sexual media: Differentiation between pornography and sexual media and their association with multiple aspects of sexual satisfaction|
|3rd||Ashley Lebaron, Christina Rosa, Carly Schmutz, Travis Spencer, Josh Powell, Nick Jones||Jeff Hill||Effective Parental Practices for Teaching Children Sound Financial Principles: Retrospective Perceptions of Millennials and Their Parents and Grandparents|
|Hon.Ment.||Leanna Stevenson,Courtney Stevenson, Lyndsey Gunnerson,Haley Furstenau, McKayla Chambers, Melanie Anthony||Sarah Coyne||Teens and Screens: A Content Analysis of Media Use of Teens in Popular TV Shows|
|Sociology||1st||Margo Taylor||Renata Forste||Family Planning and Women’s Empowerment in Nepal|
|2nd||Lindsey Elmont||Carol Ward||Native American Vietnam-era Veterans: Access to Healthcare in Rural Montana|
|3rd||Vanessa Wilson||Carter Rees||How Deos Race Affect Perceived Risk of Contracting a Sexually Transmitted Disease?|
|Hon Ment||Florencia Silveria||Kristie Phillips||Educational Inequality in the US and International Achievement Outcomes: Are the Poor Really to Blame for the US Underperformance?|
|Dept||Place||Student (s)||Mentor(s)||Title of Poster|
|Anthro||1st||Daniel King||Michael Searcy||Plant Microfossils Recovered from Dental Calculus at Casas Grandes, Mexico|
|Neuro||1st||Doris Jackson, Marcel Hall, Brady Vance, Romaine Drecketts, Jeff Kolb, Bradley Kleinstuber, David Pugh, Bud Todd||Ramona Hopkins||Novel Pharmacological Target: Characterization of alpha-3 beta-2 nAChRs expressed in Xenophus Laevis Oocytes|
|Psych||1st||Brooke Dresden, Erika Lee, Kristen Grant, Jordann Parks, Alexander Dresden||Robert Ridge||Men exhibit more bias toward profeessional women and women experience more gender harassment in male dominated university majors|
|SFL||1st||Sarah Eliason||Erin Holmes||How relationship self-regulation influences relational aggression in different attachment groups|
|Social Work||1st||Emily Steele||David Wood||Warrior Camp: An Equine-Assisted Psychotherapy Program for Combat Trauma in Military Veterans|
|2nd||Rachel Thornton||Gordon Limb||Does growing up in stepfamily negatively impact views on relationships & marriage?|
|Social Work||3rd||Kobie Chapman||Renata Forste||Support for Paid Maternity Leave: What Matters?|
|Hon Ment||Shalisha Jessup||DavidWood||Military Self Mastery and Self-Esteem among military service members: an analysis of symptoms across time.|
|Sociology||1st||Michelle Lucier||Curtis Child||More than constraints: How low socio-economic parents go about making decisions concerning their children’s schooling|
|REDD CENTER WINNERS|
|Dept||Place||Student (s)||Mentor(s)||Title of Poster|
|Economics||1st||Nicholas Hales, Ryan Allen, John Cannon||Arden Pope||A Quasi-experimental Analysis of Elementary School Absences and Air Pollution|
|Geography||2nd||Shawn Wortham, Dallan Wortham||Matt Bekker||Understanding Utah’s Water Resources: The Bristlecone Pine|
|Anthropology||3rd||Spencer Lambert, Joseph Bryce, Amanda Crandall||James Allison||Hearth and Home: Faunal Use at Two Sites in Utah Valley|
Weight gain and metabolic syndrome are not a rite of passage, though some people seem to think they just come with the territory of getting older. Dr. Laura C. Bridgewater, professor of microbiology and molecular biology at BYU, asks: “How did we come to think that’s a normal way to age? Because it’s really not.”
At a recent gerontology conference on campus, she said that at least 25% of the adult population in most of the United States is obese, according to reports from Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Quite a bit of research has been done on obesity and its causes.
While there is some evidence that obesity is genetic, it’s not enough to explain it entirely, says Bridgewater. “You look at families and think ‘okay, it runs in the family.’ There is a genetic component, but on the other hand, people who live together often share dietary habits and exercise habits.”
Lack of willpower can’t be the sole culprit either. “We all know people who seem to live on junk food and never gain weight,” she said. There is one aspect, however, that seems to play a crucial role in obesity and overall health: gut microbiota.
Gut microbiota is made up of all the microbes that live in the gut, with bacteria being the most abundant, explains Bridgwater. Healthy gut microbiota can do wonders for our bodies: they make vitamins, protect us from infection, regulate our metabolism, and harvest calories and nutrients from foods that are otherwise indigestible. Diversity in the gut microbiota makes the whole system more resilient. The more diverse the microbiota, the more good it can do.
“The evidence [that] gut microbiota [are related]…to obesity is very strong,” said Bridgewater. Researchers who transferred gut microbiota from obese mice to lean mice found that, over time, the mice who had received the gut microbiota from the obese donors ended up obese. Lean mice who received gut microbiota from lean donors stayed lean.
Researchers in Malawi found that the same process works with human microbiota. They took gut microbiota from severely malnourished children and from healthy children and transferred them into germ free mice. All of the mice were then fed a typical Malawian diet of roots and grains. The mice with the gut microbiota from the malnourished children stayed malnourished and the mice with the gut microbiota from the healthy children stayed healthy. Although they were eating the same thing, the gut microbiota from the malnourished children couldn’t harvest all the nutrients from the diet.
Bridgewater has been involved in an ongoing study with colleagues from the University of Utah and BYU. The study, which is being funded by the BYU Gerontology Program, looks at how diet affects the gut microbiota and, by extension, overall health. The researchers started with two groups of mice. Each group was composed of both mutant mice with a high metabolic rate and wild mice. They fed each group a specific diet for six months.
Group one was fed a western style diet. It was composed of 40% fat, 43% simple carbohydrates, and 17% protein. Group two was fed normal mouse chow, which was plant-based and consisted mostly of corn, grains, soybeans, etc. The researchers tested the mice monthly to collect gut bacteria samples and check for diabetes.
After six months, Bridgewater and her fellow researchers observed that all the mice on the western-style diet had gained weight, whether or not they had a high metabolic rate, while the majority of the mice on the normal chow diet had stayed at a healthy weight. They also found a striking trend: all of the mice on the western-style diet had less diversity in their gut microbiota. Some had also developed diabetes.
Eating a western style diet is risky, says Bridgewater. While not all the mice on the western- style diet in the study developed diabetes, some did. It just depended on how their gut microbiota changed. All the mice on the western style diet lost diversity in their gut microbiota, making them more vulnerable to other illnesses and diseases.
While gut microbiota, genes, and diet all have an impact on obesity, some of those contributors also impact each other. There is evidence that gut microbiota influence diet by causing cravings, says Bridgewater. Certain bacteria want a certain type of nutrients. For example, if your gut microbiota is made up of a kind of bacteria that can thrive on dietary fats, they can make you crave foods that are high in fat. Eating that food will keep the bacteria happy, but according to Bridgewater, “these might not be the kind of bacteria you want growing.”
According to Bridgewater, the best thing you can do to support a healthy gut microbiota is to feed it good food. Eating plant foods that provide a lot of plant fiber, like vegetables and grains, is really important. This fiber is indigestible to us, but our gut microbiota can digest it. The healthy microbiota use this fiber to produce metabolites that help us. A lot of things, including genes, impact our gut microbiota, says Bridgewater, but research shows that “we do have some control over what grows in our gut.”
Dr. Bridgewater is a professor of Microbiology and Molecular Biology in BYU’s College of Life Sciences. She served as chair of the Department of Microbiology and Molecular Biology from 2011 to 2014. She holds a PhD in Genetics from George Washington University and a BS in Microbiology from BYU
“When we talk about cognitive aging, we focus on the decline part but late life is a time of gains and losses,” Marsiske said at the 26th annual Russell B. Clark Gerontology Conference. “We have areas of functioning that decline and we have areas that function and stay strong. There are losses but benefits of experience. For example, vocabulary skills grow.”
As an individual ages, their cognitive functions deteriorate. Symptoms of this deterioration include memory loss, trouble planning or problem solving, and social withdrawal. Brain diseases like Alzheimers have similar patterns of dementia. Dr. Marsiske spoke about “an arsenal” to combat the consequences of the aging process, specific solutions to keep cognition strong later in life:
1. Continue your education: learn to play the piano, or take an independent study class.
2. Play video games: His research demonstrates that older adults experience “flow,” an optimal psychological state said to occur when people are able to meet the challenges of a given task or activity with appropriate skills and accordingly feel a sense of well-being, mastery, and heightened self-esteem, by playing video games. Higher levels of engagement are experienced with games that provide clear goals and immediate feedback to players.
3. Spot train your brain: seek to understand your daily medication dosing patterns or use a bus schedule to plan a trip.
4. Combat negative moods: be familiar with the symptoms of depression or anxiety, identify when you are experiencing them, and keep handy those things that make you happy.
5. Engage: participate in life, as opposed to just “being on a rocking chair.” See what opportunities your local senior, recreation, or community center offer.
Dementia is a fear for many people all over the world. Research shows that there is an increase in dementia internationally with advancing age. Marsiske says that even though the majority of people will not experience dementia, rates continue to grow. One of the things that causes cognitive aging, he says, is disuse.
Dr. Michael Marsiske is Associate Professor in the Department of Clinical and Health Psychology at the University of Florida. He received his PhD from the Pennsylvania State University in 1992 in Human Development and Family Studies. He followed this with a postdoctoral felllowship in Psychology and Human Development at the Max Planck Institute for Human Development and Education in Berlin from 1992 to 1995. Prior to joining the University of Florida in 2000, Dr. Marsiske was an Assistant Professor of Gerontology and Psychology at Wayne State University.
Though Easter has just passed, the thoughts of many still turn to the significance of Jesus of Nazareth’s triumphant rise from the grave and the consequences of His resurrection. On the minds of several students who just returned from a college-sponsored seminar to the American southeast, also, is the state of civil rights in America, and a hope for justice.
The development of character is so important that BYU “has no justification for its existence unless it builds character, creates and develops faith, and makes men and women of strength and courage, fortitude and service–men and women who will become stalwarts in the Kingdom and bear witness of the…divinity of the gospel of Jesus Christ. It is not justified on an academic basis only.” Rather, it fulfills its promise when “the morality of the graduates of this University provide[s] the music of hope for the inhabitants of this planet.”
Beyond this, BYU aims not merely to teach students a code of ethics but to help them become partakers of the divine nature. It aspires to develop in its students character traits that flow from the long-term application of gospel teachings to their lives. This process begins with understanding humankind’s eternal nature and ends with the blessing of eternal life,w hen human character reflects in fully flowered form the attributes of godliness.
The four-day trip occurred during the second week of March 2016; it was the culmination of a semester-long class focused on black history in America. During the Civil Rights Movement, blacks faced concerted, illegal, and unprecedented measures to deny them basic human and civil rights. Old and young blacks had to mine fields wired with obstacles, some that would cost them their lives, in order to get justice. Blacks and whites were murdered for pushing for or supporting the struggle to end segregation and Jim Crow era laws that were rampant in the South and disguised in other parts of America.
BYU seminar students participated in the annual “Bloody Sunday” march in Selma, Alabama that honors the time when activists marched under threat from Selma to Montgomery to advocate for voting rights.
Says Professor Jonathan Sandberg, who led last year’s trip, of the seminar:
This immersion experience includes a three credit class and a six-day trip to Alabama and Georgia, where we visited major civil rights sites and even attended Sunday services at a traditional black Baptist church. During the trip, we learned about the deep spirituality and courage of the men, women, and children who peacefully strove to bring about equality and stability to our country. The trip is particularly impactful for our students of color at BYU who have often lived a life cut off from the beauty and spirituality of their own people.
Perhaps the best part of the experience is when the students come back to BYU and make public presentations where they share with others what they have learned. I have been touched over the years as students have taught the therapists in the counseling center, the academic counselors, religion department faculty, and other educators and students on campus. This trip is changing many lives.
Although U.S. Supreme Court decisions have been rendered to correct awful abuses and evil practices from America’s segregationist past, injustices still abound. At this time of year, and always, there is the comfort that an eternal perspective supplies. Elder D. Todd Christofferson, a member of the Twelve Apostles of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints and a lawyer by trade, said:
“To establish and preserve the law is a great good, but the greatest good we can do in helping others become what they can become will be to lead them to the Savior. Only His Atonement has the power to overcome all weakness and imperfection and to make right all injustice. Only He can convert offense and injury into blessings; only He can bring life again to a life unjustly cut short; only He can return a perfect body for one diseased or malformed; only He can reinstate beloved associations lost and make them permanent; only He can make right the suffering entailed upon the innocent by ignorance and oppression; only He can erase the impact of sin on one who is wronged; only He can remove the stain and effect of sin in the sinner; only He can eliminate sorrow and wipe away all tears; only He can provide immortality; only His grace can compensate for our inadequacy and justify us before that law that enables us to become joint heirs of eternal life life with Him. Of the glorious reality of the living Christ, I bear my witness.”
The anticipation of graduation can be fun and exciting. It can also be not fun and leave you an emotional train-wreck. If you are graduating, congratulations! You are amazing. And if you have been feeling a lot of feelings; we want you to know that what you’re going through is completely normal.
You have probably felt one or more of these feelings this semester:
You’ve worked too hard for too long, and you’re ready to move on to the next phase. Finals? You’re pretty much over them. Grades? Who cares. Wedding receptions? You’ve had enough. You’re ready to move on.
You’ve come to love BYU and now you are being forced to leave; and there is nothing in this world that can make you whole again. You’re feeling all the feels right now and it’s ruining you. Please stay calm. You will get through this.
Graduation is a big deal, and taking this necessary step in life is just downright emotionally taxing. We get you. Please just take a moment to relax. Treat yourself to a J-Dawg or a half-gallon of Graham Canyon. These emotions will pass.
The friendships you make in college are unlike any others. You and your squad have been through a lot together. Football games. Break-ups. Staying up until 3 am watching Netflix and pounding buckets of ice cream. The list goes on.
We can only imagine how you are feeling as you prepare to graduate. You and your girls/bros are splitting up and you can hardly stand it. You miss them every second. You text them constantly.
If you are experiencing these symptoms, you may be at risk for chronic best-friend withdrawal.
Do your dance, graduate. Do your dance.
You are correct. You are going to OWN grad school. If at times you feel uncertain, here are 9 Signs you’re ready to be a grad student.
If you’re still searching for a career, Check out BYU Alumni Career Services. They can give you the connections you need to be successful after graduation. Also, remember that we do not get degrees for the sole purpose of landing a job. We develop knowledge and skills needed in other areas of life. For example, a college degree can help you be a better mother.
If this is you, we’d like to congratulate you on your success and let you know that we’re totally jealous of you and we kinda hope we stay friends so you can buy us dinner sometime.
Be happy graduates. You’ve earned it. Stay in touch and good luck with the rest of your life!
images via GIPHY
Registration has opened for BYU’s 48th annual Conference on Family History and Genealogy, which will take place this summer (July 26th-29th). The conference will offer more than 100 classes with topics ranging from Youth and Genealogy to DNA Research. Conference attendees can expect to feel inspired, to learn a lot, and to have a lot of fun!
This year’s keynote speakers will be president and CEO of FamilySearch International, Steve Rockwood, and professional genealogist and author, Paul Milner. Rockwood spoke at RootsTech this year – the largest family history conference in the world. During his speech he encouraged the audience to think about the potential enhancements on daily life if family history was used and thought about more frequently.
Over the last several years, more and more people have become interested in family history work. The growth has shown in conference attendance numbers. Last year there were more attendees than ever before—over 900 people signed up to participate in one way or another. Conference organizer, Alisse Frandsen, expects this year to be just as big or bigger. She said,
“Our goal is that each participant walks away from the conference feeling more confident in their genealogy skills. Some participants come with a lot of experience and very specific questions. Others are just starting out with family history and come looking for direction—a jumping off point, maybe. This year we have 163 classes planned and each of them are different. Out of those 163, we’re sure that there is something for everyone who comes.”
Family history work isn’t limited to pedigree charts anymore. Many people come to the conference to discover new ways to connect with their past, present and future family. A 2012 Conference Participant said of her experience,
“I truly enjoyed myself and am so excited to try new things and solve some problems I have had. The presenters were very knowledgeable and helpful. I enjoyed the speakers. I will come again. Your staff was very helpful and courteous.”
Nearly everyone who attends the BYU Family History & Genealogy Conference has a story to tell. The organizers invited past conference participants to share their stories, either by email or in interviews. They received some amazing and inspiring results, which can be read here.
Registration is $185 with a $50 discount for Family History Consultants. Follow this link to register: http://familyhistoryconferences.byu.edu/registration
Youth who are interested in family history work should consider attending the myFamily History Youth Camp, which will also take place July 26th-29th. Conference organizers noticed a steady growth in the number of teenage participants at the Conference on Family History and Genealogy and decided it was time to give them a conference experience of their own. This is the second year the camp has been offered. It will include a trip to the Family History Library in Salt Lake City, a combined dance with Especially For Youth, and a chance to become an expert on family history research. For more information, visit http://myfamily.ce.byu.edu/.
Many Americans believe that in their lifetime they will live to see a female commander-in-chief. It’s possible that one will be elected in the 2016 presidential elections. The fact remains, however, that most populations around the world have not witnessed a powerful female head of state. Most citizens arguably want the same thing: a government that works for them. New research from the political science department shows that gender roles significantly matter. It also shows how gender-based treatment makes a difference.
An August 2015 study published in the American Political Science Review by Donna Lee Bowen and Perpetua Lynne Nielsen showed a distinct correlation between poor government and poor treatment of women. The professors explored the “micro-level processes that link clan predominance with dysfunctional syndromes of state behavior. Clans typically…are characterized by extreme subordination of women effected through marriage practices.” In addition, the researchers noted that “particular types of marriage practices give rise to particular types of political orders and may be fiercely guarded for just this reason.”
Professors Bowen and Nielsen’s research demonstrates that the stability of governments is tied to the autonomy of women in marital unions. Their study, titled Clan Governance and State Stability: The Relationship Between Female Subordination and Political Order, concludes that the existence of powerful clans tend to undermine the possibility of a functional, capable state.
“Clan governance is a useful predictor of indicators of state stability and security, and we probe the value added by its inclusion with other conventional explanatory variables often linked to state stability and security,” according to the researchers’ abstract report.
The study also found that one can predict the effectiveness of government based on the extent of oppression women experienced in marriage. “These findings suggest it may be difficult to construct a more egalitarian—or more secure—society where households are profoundly inegalitarian between the sexes,” state the authors. “We [can] elicit much through the lens of gender, not just about women as such, but about attitudes towards civic tolerance and governance more broadly”
What does this suggest, then, for governments looking to improve their strength and cohesion? More than the dissolution of the power of agnatic, or male-only, lineages, or the promotion of literacy and education, the provision of free health care, an emphasis on industrial production or on a more equitable distribution of wealth, the improvement of the situation of women as a whole in marriage relationships is what is most likely to improve governmental quality.
“Neutrality helps the oppressor; never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor; never the tormented.”
– Elie Wiesel
Can one person truly make a difference? Taking a good hard look at the multitude of evils and injustices in our communities may tempt us to lose hope for the future – and second guess our capacity to be an influence for good. But the simple truth is that anyone with a desire to do good can make a difference. And we’ve got proof.
In response to a long-term pattern of sexual abuse from their father, who is now in prison, the Browns decided to speak up. They now act as advocates for legal change on statute of limitations legislation – contending for victims of abuse by pushing for legislation that allows them time to heal, and prepare to prosecute against their abusers when they are ready.
In a vigorous speech, Deondra Brown, co-founder of the foundation, shared her story; a story of growing from a broken victim to a strong advocate for positive change.
“I remember the first time I said the words, I was sexually abused,” recalled Deondra. “It felt both terrible and yet somehow freeing at the same time.”
“News of the abuse hit the media and I thought my world had literally ended…I wondered if I’d forever be branded as a victim and only be remembered by the vicious things that had been done to me, and not the person that I am.”
Abuse knows no cultural or socio-economic bounds, she says. It finds its place in the homes of children worldwide – regardless of race, class, demographic, or religion. Many of its victims are silenced by fear and confusion, with the perpetrators allowed to “play the odds” that the victim will not come forth until it is too late to prosecute.
In many states, there are laws that prohibit victims of abuse from prosecuting unless they do it in a specific time frame. Now Deondra and her sister Desirae fight to eliminate these laws. And they have found great success. They recently worked on a successful bill that became a law to eliminate the statute of limitations for civil cases of current sexual abuse in Utah. And they are currently working on further legislation in Washington DC. “Never before have I experienced such purpose as I do now,” declared Deondra.
Twenty percent of children have been sexually abused, she said. And their voices can be powerful voices for social change.”Our stories are the most important thing that we can share,” declared Deondra. “[They] help move our communities in a more positive direction.”
Speaking as one who was not abused, Gregory Brown encouraged students to be a voice for change. “I was kind of like you not so long ago,” said Gregory, “I was sitting in class, going about my daily life, all the while not knowing that people I knew were suffering like this.”
Gregory encouraged all, but particularly the 80% of people who have not been abused, to cease the silence, and speak out. “The other 80% of us are just at another school event and will probably leave here and go about our lives as we normally do,” admitted Gregory. But he believes that we are all capable of change.
“I have to wonder why it is that it always seems as though the people who are hit hardest by a given issue are the very ones left to shoulder the burden…of standing up for what is right.”
“Whether it is this issue [of abuse] or another issue that is leaving you conflicted or sitting on the fence, my plea to you today is to get up and do something about it. Don’t drown out the protest of your conscience by assuming that someone will else will pick up and do the dirty work that is needed to make things better.”
So how did two survivors of abuse become effective advocates for other victims? In answering this question, Desirae Brown stressed the importance of commitment to a cause – as well as having eyes that are open to seeing real issues. She also mentioned a potential hurdle that Mormons may have to get over in order to make a difference.
“In a few short years, we had gone from being broken and scared, to initiating, drafting, and having legislation introduced on a federal level.”
“Sometimes the positivity and hope so intrinsic to the Mormon lens through which we as members view the world, can at times make us blind to what is actually happening around us.”
Desirae suggests that we, as members of the Church, lend our voices to those of victims of abuse. “We don’t have to lose our faith to be passionate about social causes…You can be a whistle-blower and still be a Mormon.”
To lift our vision for the future, and make a difference in the lives of the oppressed, we can remember the words of Gregory Brown. “I promise you that one person can make a difference,” he said. “And the only reason I can say that with 100% certainty is that I’ve seen it happen. I’ve seen it happen in the lives of my sisters.”
To donate to Desirae and Deondra’s foundation, click here.
Is there ever a time when civility isn’t necessary? According to panelists at a recent Civic Engagement workshop, there is never a time to not be civil. Civility is often defined as courtesy or politeness. It can be hard to maintain when so many people have strong opinions on matters they consider important, but it can be done.
All of the panel members had significant experience serving in public office, positions which often put them at the center of heated debates. They each explained how they have tried to demonstrate civility during their years of service and how it has proven to be beneficial. They also shared insight and advice on how to practice and encourage civility.
“Realize, that truly, two incredible, smart, educated, informed individuals who want the same thing, can differ passionately about how to get there.”
Derek Brown spoke about the importance of seeing political opponents as real people. He has made it his personal objective to leave any confrontation having made a new friend, even if they cannot agree on an issue at hand. As a Republican, he said that some of his best friends on Capitol Hill were Democrats.
Brown believes that the somewhat negative connotation of politics is largely due to the media focus on conflict. He said that this focus gives the public an inaccurate depiction of what actually occurs on a daily basis. He also cautioned the audience to avoid buying into stereotypes and generalizations about certain political parties and politicians.
He said: “Maybe 65 to 70 percent of all the bills we vote on in the Capital come out with a unanimous or near unanimous vote tally. That’s because there are a lot of things, far more than you ever realize, that we actually do agree on.”
When we approach politics from that winner takes all mentality, we end up dehumanizing the other people…”
Mayor JoAnn Seghini is a firm believer in the power of good, active listening. She has made it a habit, when listening to the concerns and desires of her citizens, to always repeat back to them what she thinks she has heard. Listening and clarifying opens the door to a good conversation, she believes.
Mayor Seghini also believes strongly that everyone should be given a chance to share their opinion and be heard.
She says: “Civility is listening. Civility is giving everyone a chance to speak; verbally or non-verbally.”
“Civility … is the glue that holds us together in society. By setting up a system where you give everyone a chance to be heard, you make it possible for civility to occur.”
She encouraged people to tell others good things, to take time to listen, to rephrase what they think they heard… and give people a chance to share their opinions in ways that recognize their personal identity and dignity. “That to me is civility in government and in life,” she said.
Mark Seastrand explained the importance of knowing the full story, as an elected official, and watching out for group think.
He spoke about what he called the pendulum of perception, meaning that everyone has a different perspective. He encouraged working with small groups and individuals to piece together the full story.
Citizens can help by recognizing that public officials are truly trying to make the community a better place for everyone.
He said that bad information tends to travel much faster than good and accurate information.
“Attack the issues, not the person.”
Mayor Jeff Acerson said that public officials must be an advocate for every citizen. Political positions or parties should not cloud that principle.
As Mayor, he oversaw a road project that would affect the land of many citizens. He met individually with each person that was to be affected and listened to their concerns. In this way, he gave each of them a voice and was their advocate. He found that this approach distilled a lot of frustrations that could have turned into major problems.
He also emphasized the importance of being constructive, not destructive in all communication and understanding our own responsibility and influence.
He cautioned everyone to ask themselves: “Are you a builder? Are you constructing or are you destructing?”
Feature photo courtesy of Flickr.