FHSS Valedictorians: Setting the Curve

BYU is famous for many things: Cosmo the Cougar, being ranked the number 1 “Stone Cold Sober” school 20 years running, and our awesome chocolate milk. Our amazing graduates however, trump all. The graduating class this year is one of the school’s biggest, which the majority of the females being returned missionaries.  From undergraduate research in Thailand to managing a neuroscience lab, FHSS boasts some of the most accomplished graduates. Check out our incredible valedictorians:

Boone Robins Christianson, of Provo, had no idea what anthropology was when he declared it as a major his freshman year. He wants to thank his parents Marlin and LaDonn for supporting him even though they were equally confused about what he could do with the degree. Throughout his time at BYU, Boone has spent the majority of his studies researching African agricultural development, including conducting research in Malawi and Namibia. In addition, he speaks Otjiherero, a rare language spoken by small groups of people from those countries. Despite his successes in anthropology, Boone has decided to pursue a master’s degree in Marriage and Family Therapy, and will begin his pursuit of this degree at Auburn University in Alabama this upcoming fall. Boone has enjoyed being involved in intermural sports, the Diction Club, and being an active participant in his LDS campus wards. He loves spending long hours playing Boggle and eating cereal.

boone baby

John Frederick Bonney, an economics major, is the son of Philip and Georgia Bonney. He grew up in the US, Senegal, and Italy, and served a mission in the Netherlands. John has thoroughly enjoyed working with faculty at BYU, performing research in areas including behavioral, educational, and familial economics and teaching other students about applied econometric research. He is grateful to the economics faculty for their stellar instruction and would specifically like to thank Drs. Lars Lefgren, Joe Price, and James Cardon for allowing him to enhance his learning through research and teaching assistantships. While attending BYU, John has also completed four internships during which he designed market research and forecasted models currently in use by multiple Fortune 500 companies. Within the community, John has enjoyed serving through educational organizations like Alpha and Project Read. John is happily married to Amanda Bonney, who is graduating with a Master of Accountancy. After graduating, John will continue his passion for economic research as a pre-doctoral fellow at the University of Chicago.


Grayson Morgan, a geography major with a geospatial science and technology emphasis, is the second child born to Daniel and Michelle Morgan and grew up in Beaufort, South Carolina. Geography has surrounded him his whole life, but it wasn’t until his freshman year that he realized that it was exactly what he wanted to do. During his short time at BYU, Grayson has come to thoroughly enjoy his encounters with the various Geography Department Professors, secretaries, TAs, and fellow students. Certainly, much of his learning could not have taken place without their generous help and overwhelming kindness. His family means the world to him and he would like to thank his wife, parents, siblings, and extended family for their support. Grayson loves serving others, BYU sports, playing with his two-month-old daughter, and learning new things. He is excited to continue learning this fall as he begins a master’s degree and eventual PhD program in Global Information Systems/Remote Sensing at the University of South Carolina.


Kaytlin Fay Anne Nalder, a history teaching major, grew up in Alberta, Canada. She is the sixth of seven children born to Byron and Deanne Nalder. Her love for history began in high school, but it wasn’t until she came to BYU that she considered majoring in it. While at BYU, Kaytlin was able to work as both a teaching and research assistant for Dr. Underwood, a job which was one of the highlights of her undergraduate experience. She was also the recipient of two history paper awards including the De Lamar and Mary Jensen Student Paper Award in European History and the Carol Cornwall Madsen Student Paper Award in Women’s History. Kaytlin enjoys skiing, reading, cooking, crocheting, and spending time with family and friends. She would like to thank all of the wonderful mentors and professors she was privileged to work with during her time at BYU, as well as her family and friends for their support and encouragement.

Nalder Picture

Marissa Skinner, a family life major with an emphasis in Human Development, is the daughter of Terry and Lottie Anderson. Although she grew up in Salt Lake City, she is a Cougar fan through and through. She discovered her passion for human development simply by taking a general class and has been hooked ever since. During her time at BYU, she served as a council member for Y-Serve, served a mission in the Philippines, and worked closely with many professors to conduct research projects regarding the topics of gender-socialization and moral development. Marissa also conducted two research projects that she presented at conferences on campus. She is so excited to implement what she has learned in her program and hopes she can make a difference because of it. She would like to thank her husband, family, and faculty members for pushing her out of her comfort zone and helping her reach her goals.

Marissa Skinner

Reed Lynn Rasband, a political science major, is the son of Kevin Rasband and Heather Watts and is the oldest of eight children. He grew up raising sheep in Brigham City, Utah and served a mission in Rancagua, Chile. As an undergraduate, he was able to carry out research for his Honors thesis in Thailand, additional research in the United Kingdom, and an internship with a refugee camp on the Thai-Burma border. He worked for four years as a teaching and research assistant in the Political Science department. He has also served as the President of the BYU Political Affairs Society, as Editor-in-Chief for the undergraduate journal Sigma, and as a volunteer with two organizations serving the Utah County Latino community. This fall, he will begin work on a Ph.D. in political science, focusing on ethnic and migration politics in the hopes of finding ways to improve intergroup relations around the globe. He is incredibly grateful for the continuing support his family provides him, as well as for the excellent mentorship he has received from BYU faculty.

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Charlotte Esplin, a psychology major with a clinical emphasis, grew up in Basildon, Essex, UK. After serving a mission in the Utah St. George Temple Visitors’ Center, Charlotte came to BYU. The first to attend a university in her family, Charlotte has embraced academics and all that a university life has had to offer.  While at BYU, Charlotte has worked as a teaching assistant for multiple psychology classes, and has performed quantitative research into how personality variables affect marital outcomes with Dr. Scott Braithwaite. This research has resulted in various articles, presentations, and posters, for which she has won the Staples’ Mentorship Award and the Wheatley Leadership Scholarship. Charlotte is a member of the Golden Key Honor Society. Outside of school, Charlotte has volunteered with Wasatch Mental Health, the Utah State Hospital, and has interned with the Division of Child and Family Services. In her spare time, she enjoys cycling, traveling, and reading. She would like to thank her husband, parents, and mentors for their continuous support, guidance, and confidence in her. Charlotte is looking forward to beginning a PhD in Clinical Psychology this fall.


Athena Lee Howell is a neuroscience major, a family life minor, and the daughter of wonderfully supportive parents, Jon and Kristine Howell. She grew up in Centerville, Utah with eight siblings. Athena hated science through high school and is still stunned by her love for it now. She has interest in every field from music and the humanities to the hard sciences. Neuroscience was the perfect way to integrate everything she loves; if something can be related to the human experience, it can be related to the brain. She has had multiple neuro-related opportunities at BYU, including working at BYU’s MRI facility, conducting research with Dr. Brock Kirwan and Dr. Julianne Holt-Lunstad, managing a lab for Dr. Kirwan, attending a neuroscience study abroad, serving as the neuroscience representative for the FHSS student council, and acting as the Chief Financial Officer for the Neuroscience Student Association for 2 years. She owes her success to mentors, donors, friends, family members, and a loving Heavenly Father who saw in her something she didn’t always see in herself. Athena will begin a neuroscience PhD program at Ohio State this fall.

Athena Howell

Mallory Funk, a sociology major, grew up in Greensboro, North Carolina. She is the daughter of Glen and Brenda Funk and is the oldest of four children. Mallory discovered her love for sociology and social work while serving a mission in Frankfurt, Germany. Her undergraduate education at BYU enriched her perspective concerning the social issues, injustices, and inequalities prevalent today. She is particularly passionate about the refugee crisis and child welfare. Volunteer and internship experiences with the Division of Child and Family Services, Scenicview Academy, and the Utah State Hospital instilled in her the desire to pursue case work.  As a student, Mallory had the opportunity to work as a research assistant for Dr. Lance Erickson and Dr. Vaughn Call on the Life and Family Legacies Study. She is currently writing a systematic review on refugee resettlement with Dr. Stacey Shaw and is involved in an additional research project with refugees in Salt Lake. Mallory looks forward to beginning her master’s in social work at BYU in the fall. She is extremely grateful for the close friends, classmates, coworkers, and professors who have played such an integral role in her undergraduate education.


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