Annual Constitution Day Lecture Focuses on President Trump’s Immigration Policies

The 2020 Constitution Day Event hosted by the College of Family, Home, and Social Sciences will examine the immigration policies of the Trump Administration during the lecture “President Trump’s Immigration Policies: Are They Constitutional?” on Thursday, September 17, 2020 at 11 AM (MST). This virtual lecture will take via Zoom by following this link:

The lecture will be presented by Dr. Anna O. Law, the Herbert Kurz Chair in Constitutional Rights in the Department of Political Science at CUNY Brooklyn College. Dr. Law’s publications appear in both social science and law journals and investigate the interaction between law, legal institutions and politics. Her first book, The Immigration Battle in American Courts (Cambridge University Press 2010), examined the role of the federal judiciary in U.S. immigration policy, and the institutional evolution of the Supreme Court and U.S. Courts of Appeals. Law is a former program analyst at the bipartisan, blue-ribbon United States Commission on Immigration Reform. She has shared her expertise with the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee, Department of Homeland Security and National Science Foundation. In 2007, she appeared as a recurring narrator with other academic experts and two Supreme Court justices in the PBS award winning documentary. Her current projects include a second book on immigration federalism and slavery, and National Science Foundation funded research on gender & asylum.

ECON is Coming Home

Students walking around campus this fall may notice a new addition to the campus layout, namely the West View Building, which has been under construction since 2019. This new building is located just west of the Joseph F. Smith Building and enjoys a great view of the city of Provo below. This is particularly exciting news for the College of Family, Home, and Social Sciences, as our very own Department of Economics will be calling this new building home.

After two years waiting, the Department of Economics is preparing to transition to the new West View Building. The department had previously been housed in the long-standing Faculty Office Building (FOB), which was demolished in winter 2019. The FOB was constructed in 1955 and originally served as a bathroom and ticket facility for the old football stadium. Following the completion of the LaVell Edwards Stadium, the building was repurposed to become the Faculty Office Building.

While construction on the West View Building was underway, the department worked from the Crabtree Building, home of the technology departments.

The move into the new building has already begun and will take place in multiple stages. Computers, furniture, and other office materials are being transitioned quickly into the new offices in an attempt to be prepared for fall semester. According to Mark Showalter, Department Chair of Economics, “the new building will have lots of great new space for students.”  He further explains the new features of the building that will improve the academic experience, saying, “The computer lab will be about double the size of our old lab in the FOB. There is more room available for Teaching Assistants, a new space for Professor Joe Price’s Record Linking Lab, and multiple rooms available for Research Assistants who are working on a variety of projects.” 

The West View Building will house not only the Department of Economics but will also be the new home of the Department of Statistics and the Neal A. Maxwell Institute for Religious Scholarship. As the move comes closer to completion, Professor Showalter says, “We miss the unique structure of the old FOB with its natural light and community space, but it will be nice to have heating that works in the winter and cooling that works in the summer.”

School of Family Life Faculty Peter Reschke Receives Honors from the International Congress of Infant Studies

Peter Reschke, Assistant Professor of Human Development in the School of Family Life, was recently awarded the International Congress of Infant Studies (ICIS) 2020 Outstanding Dissertation Honorable Mention. 

Reschke’s work focuses on interpersonal development in infancy, and, as Reschke explains, “creates a theoretical framework to merge two large areas of study: emotion understanding­—the ability to understand others’ emotions—and social cognition—the ability to understand others’ mental states.” He was recognized for three of his dissertation chapters that have been published in well-respected peer-reviewed academic journals. 

Reschke is a BYU alumnus, graduating with a double major in Psychology and Music, and a minor in Spanish in December 2011. Reschke went on to study Psychological Science at University of California, Merced, where he earned his PhD in May 2018. Reschke then went on to teach at BYU, where he currently works as Assistant Professor at the College of Family, Home, and Social Sciences. 

Speaking of his passion for this work, Reschke says, “I chose the field of Human Development because there is so much we don’t know about the developing minds of children, especially infants. When do babies start to reason about and predict others’ behaviors? How do babies learn to understand and interpret others’ emotions? Does what we learn about babies and these abilities matter in the long run? How can parents and caregivers use this knowledge to improve their interactions with children and infants? All these questions and more fascinate me!” 

The College of Family, Home, and Social Sciences is proud of Reschke and all the outstanding academic research and literature being produced by our faculty and students. 

You can read his three award-winning articles by following the links below:

Filling in the Tree: BYU’s Record Linking Lab

Family history has been a staple of BYU’s academic focus since the establishment of the Family History Program in 1962. Since then, the department has developed into one of the most robust and premier genealogical programs in the nation—and the only Family History major in the US—hosting numerous conferences, working in conjunction with top genealogical institutions, and providing outstanding research support to both academics and the general public. Over the years, numerous faculty members and campus organizations have participated in or supported family history on campus, including economics professor Joe Price. 

            Price runs the Records Linking Lab, a research team that works to combine machine learning and family history to “help gather every one of God’s children onto the Family Tree at,” says Price. He further explains that “the three main things we do in the lab are auto indexing, record linking, and tree building.”

            Price discovered family history as a personal hobby and wanted to integrate that interest with his research at BYU, saying “I discovered that many economists and other social scientists have been using machine learning to link records. I realized that we could create a lab at BYU to combine machine and traditional family history tools to hasten the work.”

            The lab allows the team to address current events in the context of family history. As COVID-19 continues to shake the world, Price and his team have been working on an auto-indexing death certificate tool. One of the functions of this tool allows users to see who died of influenza or pneumonia during the 1918 Pandemic. Price furthers explains how “we’re now using this data to learn what we can from that pandemic that might provide insights about the current pandemic.” The Linking Lab is using the tools that have been utilized and improved over time to help the community better understand COVID and its effect on society. 

            Beyond the pandemic, the lab has been successful in discovering powerful ways to extract text from historical images. They have also crafted what Price calls a “wide set of tools to link people across multiple records,” and “created ways that humans and computers can work together to dramatically increase the cover of the Family Tree.” These accomplishments carry over into research, where the team has been examining “the relationship between education and lifespan, the inter-generational correlation of lifespan, the long-run impact of prejudice, and the long-run impact of your college roommates,” Price explains. 

            All this work, however, could not be accomplished without a dedicated team of students and volunteers. The lab enjoys the help of over fifty undergraduate assistants, who comb through an enormous amount of information to create databases that the public can use to build their personal family trees. The lab is working to increase the accessibility of these tools to as many people as possible. “We are building tools that match the difficulty of the task to the ability of the user and then help them have ways to practice and increase their ability to take on new tasks,” says Price.

The Record Linking Lab team

            All of this is done in an effort to “help change the way people talk about family history research. We sometimes talk about the people on the Family Tree at FamilySearch as ‘my tree’ or ‘our tree’ but it really is God’s tree and we are all part of it…All of our volunteer experiences are built around helping grow the Family Tree for others.”

            Price looks forward to the future of the lab with optimism. Though the team has already accomplished a great deal, Price has additional goals for the project going forward, including: 

(1) Link together the 217 million people that lived in the US between 1850-1940 into a single Census Tree that will interact with the Family Tree to provide hints and other discovery experiences

(2) Increase the coverage of Black families on the Family Tree

(3) Create a pipeline that will allow the lab to auto index historical records that have handwriting on top of a pre-printed form

(4) Create a discovery experience for museums

(5) Make it possible for every new convert in the US to find 100 family names to take to the temple 

These five goals lead to the ultimate aim of the Record Linking Lab, which Price says is to “help ensure that each of the 107 billion people that have lived on earth have a profile on the Family Tree and are linked to as many records and family members as possible.”

         The Record Linking Lab is going strong and provides great opportunities to volunteer with family history research. To learn more about their work and how you can support the lab, visit their website at . 

Photos courtesy of BYU Economics