Spring/Summer Valedictorians: Changing the world a cap and gown at a time

With the end of the spring/summer terms comes another inspiring graduating class of Cougars.

The College of Family, Home, and Social Sciences boasts some of the best and brightest of the more than 30,000 students who walk across campus each year. This graduation, we celebrate the almost 400 FHSS graduates and their studies, efforts and experiences that are helping families, individuals and communities thrive. From Orem, Utah, to Tokyo, Japan, our graduates act as forces for good across the county and world.

Check out these adventurous, ambitious, and world-changing valedictorians:

Alexander Baxter PictureAlexander Baxter, a psychology major, loves studying monkeys. As a sophomore, Alexander started working in Dr. Dee Higley’s nonhuman primate research lab. In conjunction with Dr. Daniel Kay, he studied mother-infant attachment and infant sleep development. Alexander went on a summer internship to the California National Primate Research Center at the University of California, Davis. While there, he collected data for his own project of studying prenatal testosterone exposure. He loved the experience so much that he spent the rest of his time at BYU in Dr. Higley’s lab, and went on the internship two more times to collect data. Alexander presented his research with Dr. Higley at four professional conferences, six undergraduate research conferences, and published two first-authored research papers in peer-reviewed journals. In addition to studying attachment and social relationships in monkeys, Alexander also studied similar topics regarding humans, under the mentorship of Dr. Julianne Holt-Lunstad. Through the connections he made on his internship, Alexander was accepted into the biological psychology PhD program at UC Davis, and will continue doing research at the Primate Center. He is grateful for Elizabeth Wood, his lab manager and friend, and for Dr. Higley, his mentor. He will always remember Dr. Higley’s most important lesson: the people you work with are more important than the data they help you collect.

Berklee Baum PictureBerklee Annell Baum is a teaching social science major with minors in both history and teaching English as a second language. She grew up in Orem, Utah, and served a mission in Los Angeles, California. Berklee has always had a passion for learning about history and culture. During her education at BYU, she participated in a social work internship in Italy and was able to do historical research in Germany, Poland, and Austria. She was a member of Phi Alpha Theta History Honors Society, which gave her

opportunities to present her research at multiple historical conferences. She also worked for two years as a teaching assistant for several professors in the BYU history department. These professors inspired and encouraged her to continue her education in history. This past year, Berklee interned as a high school history and geography teacher in Lehi, Utah, where she will continue on as a full-time teacher this fall. She has plans to apply for a history master’s program in the UK, where she will focus on studying Cold War politics in Europe.

David Allsop PictureDavid B. Allsop is the lucky husband of Susan and the proud father of Elaine. He is the son of Douglas and Brenda Allsop and is from Mapleton, Utah. While at BYU, David studied as a family life major with an emphasis in family studies and a minor in nonprofit management. During his studies, he earned the accolades of Certified Family Life Educator and Certified Nonprofit Professional. He was fortunate to have an incredible research experience and received caring mentoring from Doctors Jeff Hill, Loren Marks, Jeff Dew, and Chelom Leavitt of the School of Family Life and Brad Harris of the Marriott School of Business. David cares deeply about strengthening the family and plans to follow that passion by becoming a professor of family life, focusing his research on healthy sexual relationships in marriage. He will begin the Brigham Young University master’s program in marriage, family, and human development this fall. He would like to thank his family, parents, siblings, friends, professors, coworkers, and most of all his dear wife Susan for all of their support during his academic pursuits at BYU.

Eliza Riley PictureEliza Riley, a political science major minoring in international strategy and diplomacy, is the daughter of Lyrad and Alicia Riley. Eliza grew up overseas moving every few years and served a mission in Belgium and the Netherlands. At BYU, Eliza was able to conduct original research for her honors thesis, present at various conferences including the American Political Science Association’s annual meeting, and complete internships through Washington Seminar and the Ballard Center for Social Innovation. Eliza worked as both a teaching and research assistant in the political science department, collaborated on projects with BYU’s Political Economy and Development Lab (PEDL), and served as president of BYUPAS Women in Politics and co-president of BYU Foreign Service Student Organization. When she’s not puzzling over political economy or post-conflict development questions, Eliza enjoys telling puns, cooking (and sampling) curry, exploring farmers markets, and adventuring outdoors. Eliza is grateful to her mentors, friends, and family for their kind and consistent encouragement. Before pursuing a PhD in political science, Eliza will work as a research associate at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) Political Methodology Lab.

Jorden Elizabeth Jackson PicturesJorden Elizabeth Jackson, a sociology major with minors in women’s studies and international development, grew up in Vancouver, Washington with her six siblings. From a young age, Jorden wanted to make the world a better place, especially for women. During her undergraduate studies at BYU, Jorden was president of the Women’s Studies Honor Society, completed internships at the Center for Women and Children in Crisis and the Elizabeth Smart Foundation, and worked on research with Dr. Michael Cope and Dr. Scott Sanders on rural communities and gender script maintenance. She was accepted to the masters of sociology program at BYU for Fall 2018 and will focus the research for her master’s and eventual PhD degrees on gender studies in Southeast Asia. This interest comes from her missionary service in the Philippines where she witnessed heartbreaking inequality. Jorden plans to use her research to advocate for social change in a region she loves, for a people she loves.

KoujiUchida PictureKouji Uchida, a geography major with a tourism studies emphasis, is the fifth son of Toshikazu and Chidori Uchida. He was born and raised in Tokyo, Japan. Growing up, Kouji always dreamed of studying in the United States. With his family’s support, his dream came true when he was able to study at an American high school. Even though geography was his favorite subject in high school, he didn’t know if it would be the right career choice until he realized the possibility of having a major in tourism geography at BYU. Kouji loves to travel and visit foreign countries. His BYU geography and tourism classes helped him deepen his interest in the tourism field. Kouji would like to acknowledge and thank his parents, as well as his siblings Junko, Yuka, Hirofumi, and Yuko for being supportive the last several years. In addition, he is grateful for all of his professors and friends during his time at BYU. This fall Kouji will move back to Japan and pursue his career in tourism.

Kurtis Scott Gilliat PictureKurtis Scott Gilliat, from McMinnville, Oregon, is the son of world-class parents David and Heather Gilliat. At BYU, he spent too many semesters informally changing majors every couple of weeks before realizing he was bad at making decisions. As a result, he decided to study economics—the science of decision-making. He would like to thank the fantastic professors in the economics department for their continual support and mentorship. He would especially like to thank Professors Arden Pope, James Cardon, Joe Price, and Jim Kearl for employing him and training him in the arts of teaching and research. Kurtis is also grateful to Bates White and the Y-Serve program for giving him the chance to expand his education beyond the classroom. Outside of school, Kurtis enjoys climbing on fake rocks, sliding down snowy mountains, playing obnoxiously loud instruments, and helping to keep Don Joaquin’s street tacos in business.

Brady Anderson PictureBrady James Anderson, a native of North Ogden, couldn’t decide between majoring in neuroscience or Arabic, so he chose both. During his Spanish-speaking mission in Chicago, Brady met refugees and immigrants from the Middle East, and began studying what he saw as a critical language. His interest in studying neuroscience stemmed from his interactions with those suffering from mental illnesses and his own experiences with OCD. He studied neuroscience in preparation for a career in psychiatry. While at BYU, Brady worked as a first-year mentor, an organic chemistry TA, and a research assistant in Scott Steffensen’s addiction lab. He has also worked at two behavioral treatment centers and, while studying abroad in Jordan, interviewed psychiatrists about the importance of cultural competence in mental health treatment. Brady is grateful for his parents, Brooke (his wife), her parents, and his awesome friends. He enjoys running and skiing, and is beginning his first year at McGovern Medical School in Houston.

Stephanie Parsons PictureStephanie Elizabeth Parsons, an anthropology major, has a passion for people and a love for adventure. Though she was born and raised in Montreal, Canada, she has found home in places and with friends from all around the globe and communicates with them in French, English, Slovak, and (sometimes) Hmong. During her undergraduate at BYU, she worked with Jacob Hickman and other members of the anthropology department, conducting research in Thailand. She is grateful to her parents for their constant support and dedication to her education, and to her friends and colleagues for becoming her “Utah family.” Stephanie dedicates herself to service wherever she is, and whoever she is with. Because of this, she will be attending the University of Chicago in the fall to pursue her master’s degree in Social Work. She looks forward to the opportunities open to her there.

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