Dr. Jay H. Buckley to wrangle western history as new Charles Redd Center director

BYU History professor Dr. Jay H. Buckley has been selected as the new director of the Charles Redd Center for Western Studies. Buckley will serve in this position for a three-year term that begins September 1, 2018.

Buckley will be replacing current director Dr. Brian Cannon who has served as the Charles Redd Center for Western Studies director for 15 years. Cannon has “fundamentally shaped (the center’s) direction” according to Assistant Director Dr. Brenden Rensink. In addition to overseeing countless initiatives and programs, Cannon helped grow the Redd Center’s influence across multiple academic fields and with the general public. The College of Family, Home, and Social Sciences is deeply appreciative of Cannon’s many years of dedicated service and is excited to have him continue teaching full-time in the history department.

Buckley is an associate professor in the history department and the director of the American Indian Studies academic minor. Buckley’s research and publication interests include the American West, exploration, fur trade, and American Indians. He is the author of the award-winning William Clark: Indian Diplomat, and co-author of six other books. Buckley has served on the Redd Center Board of Directors since 2011. He has received multiple Redd Center research grants, worked extensively with students on the Intermountain Histories public history project, and received the Mollie & Karl G. Butler Young Scholar Award in Western Studies. He is also the past President of the Lewis and Clark Trail Heritage Foundation.

Image result for byu redd centerThe Charles Redd Center for Western Studies was founded in 1972 by Charley and Annaley Naegle Redd. It promotes the study of the Intermountain West (defined as the states of Utah, Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico, and Arizona) through its sponsorship of research, publication, teaching and public programs. The Redd Center is an interdisciplinary center in the College of Family, Home, and Social Sciences and the College of Humanities.

For more information on the Redd Center and its events, visit reddcenter.byu.edu.

Want to stop corruption? Text voters

A new study shows texting information about political corruption can improve democratic election outcomes.

BYU political science professor Daniel Nielson teamed up with three other professors to look at elections in Uganda, which suffers a range of challenges due to economic, political and social corruption. This study was done as part of a broader project, Metaketa I, which funded six studies in five countries to investigate how disseminating information about corruption impacted voting patterns.

“I am always looking for ways to understand how corruption might be addressed,” said Nielson, whose study was recently published in top-ranked journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. “Helping voters to hold politicians more accountable seems a promising part of the answer to that puzzle.”

In Uganda, Nielson noted, citizens struggle to vote out corrupt politicians due to state control of media, low civic education, untrustworthy institutions and uncompetitive elections.

During the 2016 Ugandan district elections, Nielson and his co-authors worked with Twaweza, a Ugandan-based organization that promotes good governance, to send mobile phone text messages to inform 16,000 voters about suspected budget fraud by local government councils.

The team was able to contact 16,000 citizens, significantly more than is typical in such studies. They found that the impact of the text messages changed citizens’ votes between 2 and 6 percent. This data would have been difficult to detect had the team only surveyed a few thousand participants, but their wide reach provided them the statistical power to detect small changes in the population’s voting behavior.

Voters who learned that suspected fraud in the political candidates was greater than they expected were 6 percent less likely to vote for incumbents. Those that learned that fraud was less than expected were 5 percent more likely to vote for incumbents.

“We see this as a bright spot that might suggest some ways forward for other non-governmental organizations when they design public-information campaigns,” said Nielson. “Our job as researchers is to point in promising directions.”