“Black Marriages Matter”: School of Family Life Professors Study Qualities of Successful Black Marriages

Past research on Black families has focused on topics like the causes of single-family households or the impacts of divorce, rather than the skills and support needed to thrive. Antonius Skipper, assistant professor at Georgia State University, is working to include more in academia that focuses on attaining and nurturing successful Black families, as well as providing a more positive outlook on the Black family in general.

In collaboration with Loren Marks and David Dollahite, both professors in our School of Family Life, Skipper published the study “Black Marriages Matter: Wisdom and Advice From Happily Married Black Couples.” The study was published in the journal Family Relations

Marks shares the following about his experience with the research, “We hope that our efforts and the remarkable families we interviewed will influence research and broader culture by providing something beautiful to consider: long-term, loving marriages. There is so much division and contention and animosity in the world today. What a refreshing contrast to take a deep look at unity, harmony, and love in lasting marriages — and how these relational qualities are developed, nourished, and maintained.”

The gap between the number of Black Americans who want to marry (80% according to research cited in the study) and those who do get married (29% as reported by the U.S. Census) shows how important it is to switch the focus from deficit-based research to “strength-focused discussions.” Much of the previous academic rhetoric has made a successful Black marriage look unattainable.

In-depth interviews were held with 35 couples from several different states and the findings have powerful implications for couples of all backgrounds. However, they are especially important for the Black community, which fights against the long-perpetuated idea of the broken Black family along with other systemic barriers. The study outlines the following three principles and skills:

Cultivating Open Communication 

The interviewees shared that the ability to have conversations about potentially uncomfortable topics is crucial to a successful relationship. In order to avoid things from becoming barriers, it’s important to take care of them when they’re just a small issue. Like a snowball rolling down a hill and picking up mass and speed, a tiny conflict that isn’t resolved can turn into a much bigger problem later. One interviewee shared, “Whatever problem[s] arise in the young couple’s life, they should nip it in the bud. Don’t hold it in because [you] don’t want to hurt their feelings or they don’t want to hurt your feelings. … We must bring it out, sit down, and talk.” Many respondents shared that open and frequent communication and the sharing of feelings can contribute to conflict resolution, personal growth, or simply be a means of expressing love and appreciation. 

Flexible Roles and Responsibilities 

Whether because of personal preferences or a change in employment or lifestyle, interviewees shared that a willingness to “play any role on [the marriage’s] team” was vital. Using a biblical reference, one woman shared, “You need to be the Eve for your Adam. Every Eve has her Adam, and you need to be the Eve your Adam needs. I’m the Eve my Adam needs right now. If he needed another Eve to support him where he’s at, then I’d be that Eve.” This flexibility allowed couples to conquer many difficult situations, especially ones that come disproportionately to Black families. 

Money and Marriage 

Interviewees wanted people to recognize that “the crux of almost every issue” is finances. If you can manage your money from the beginning and facilitate conversations about it (there’s that open communication popping up again), then a load of stress will be taken off your marriage. When it came to money, many participants shared how important it was to play to the other’s strengths. “I feel that [each spouse is] supposed to stay with [their] strong things. … I think that’s why we’ve stayed together so long. … The things that she do well, I don’t even tread on that part. The things that I do well, she just lets me do that part of it … Let me tell you right now, no two people can handle the money … if you have two people [and] both [are] paying certain bills and stuff like that, it never works out. … You have to get one person that [will] handle the money” (quote). Existing research suggests that African Americans experience a disproportionate amount of financial strain, which makes the principles shared in the study especially powerful. 

The study contributes to a larger trend that is trying to flip the script on Black families. Rather than seeing them through the lens of shortcomings, many of which have been created and perpetuated by barriers that lie beyond their control, we can view the relationships Black families have as another example of enduring and happy marriages. This research can help Black couples and singles have more power over things within their control to obtain marital stability.

Inside Washington Seminar

The most important experiences of your college career may not be in a traditional classroom. Internships provide the opportunity for you to make valuable connections as you apply what you are learning on campus to real-world situations. BYU’s Washington Seminar program is an excellent way about 40 students experience internships each semester.

>>The deadline to apply for Winter 2022 semester is September 24, 2021. Visit 945 KMBL or http://washingtonseminar.byu.edu. BYU has a database of 1,500 internships in the Washington area.

Through the program, well-qualified students have an applied learning experience in Washington, D.C. BYU houses interns on its own property, the Barlow Center, which is conveniently situated in the Foggy Bottom neighborhood. Engaging in a quality internship, briefings on current issues, tours, excursions, and weekly guest speakers supplements students’ academic training and better prepares them for a variety of careers.

“Washington Seminar is one of the crown jewels of BYU,” 2020-21 program director Dr. Jay Goodliffe said. “BYU has invested heavily in resources in D.C. because they realize the opportunities our students have there will then help them influence the world.”

The Washington Seminar program accepts students from all colleges and majors. We talked to four outstanding students from the College of Family, Home, and Social Sciences about what it’s like to participate in the program and how living in Washington has enhanced their vision of future possibilities.

Olivia DeMordaunt

Q: Where were you an intern?

A: National Defense University. It functions like a military academy for people who want to get a master’s degree in national security. I work in the International Student Management Office (ISMO). The “students” are mid-career military professionals. One-fourth of the cohort are generals from around the world—there are 130 generals from 65 countries. They are chosen by their respective countries to come.

These are men and women who have commanded whole armies and navies. I try to honor and respect them in asking about their lives and their careers.

Olivia DeMordaunt, Senior Studying Political Science

Q: It must have been interesting to be with seasoned generals from all over the world. Tell me about it.

A: These are men and women who have commanded whole armies and navies. It’s a weird experience for them to come to the United States and be under somebody’s responsibility again. We are a support office to help them adjust to the United States, find housing, schools for their kids, etc. while they are here for a year, so they can focus on their experience and not have to worry about the difficult things that come with adjusting to a new place. I try my best to honor and respect them in asking them about their lives and their careers and why they chose what they do.

Q: What was a favorite experience you’ve had on your internship?

A: Eight students in joint armed war services came up to D.C. for five days and do a tour. They were going to Arlington National Cemetery and I got to go with them as an escort. During the changing of the guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, I was talking to a man from England and he had been a member of the Queen’s Guard. He had served with Prince William and Prince Harry in Afghanistan and had done tours with them. He has all this intense training that he has to do to guard the queen, and he has to learn to talk without moving his lips. It was so fascinating to learn about that part of the culture in the United Kingdom and to be walking around with this incredible man, learning about his life and his culture and why he decided to do what he did.

Austin Brady

Q: Where were you an intern?

A: I’m with a group called International Business-Government Counsellors (IBC). They are an international consulting and lobbying firm. The big mission is to provide research and information to their clients. They serve a lot of big companies that you would recognize.

An example of what they do is give information on sanctions. Say company X has business in China. There might be some laws coming down about trade with China. What are those laws, how will it affect the company, what should they do to be prepared? An IBC counselor would tell them.

Q: What is your day-to-day?

A: I did a mix of attending various hearings, like congressional hearings, and taking notes for the counsellors, and other small events—attending panels and doing write-ups on those. Occasionally I’d do other projects, like digging into a specific tariff bill or digging into congressional members and seeing if they’ve said anything scandalous that might get the company into some trouble if they donate to them. I do a weekly update about China and trade news, and human rights news.

Q: It sounds like you are probably in the know about a lot of things dealing with international relations that the average person isn’t.

A: It’s more niche China stuff, or I was keeping track of the civil war in Ethiopia. If people want to know about certain products from China being detained, then cool, but it’s not a thing you pull out at parties.

I’m even more curious. I want to keep learning more and see what else is out there.

Austin Brady, Senior Studying Political Science

Q: How has this internship impacted you as a person so far?

A: It’s been really interesting going to the various meetings between policymakers and their various clients. We always hear about the interplay between businesses and government–interplay is maybe a soft word—and it’s interesting seeing how some of this unfolds in real time. It’s a different perspective. It’s looking top-down.

Personally, it’s been really interesting learning about all these weird specific niche things. Like tracking China trade closely. No one cares about customs and border protection seizing goods. Or how prevalent forced labor is within China and maybe the rest of our supply chain. I’m even more curious. I want to keep learning more and see what else is out there.

Q: What advice do you have for students considering an internship through the Washington Seminar program?

A: Do it. If you’re thinking about it, just apply. It’s a really neat experience. The internship you’ll end up doing in itself will be an experience, and the weekly briefings are really interesting. It’s often experienced professionals in their field talking about what they do or what they know in a pretty direct way. It’s neat to have a Q&A with a senator, for example, and get to ask them about issues off the books, because they’re a little more free. You get an insight into how some of these people think.

Kesley Powell

Q: Where did you intern?

A: TargetPoint Consulting. They are a public opinion and market research firm. They work on political campaigns. We run a lot of surveys to find out how the public feels about a piece of legislation or a candidate, and try to help our clients win whatever their issue is. We also do a lot of market research, working for corporations or companies or nonprofits. We are really just focused on gauging public perception on issues our clients care about.

Say someone wanted to pass a bill in 2022. They would come to us now to figure out what public opinion is, and we’d do what’s called message testing. They’ll give us their top four messages they use to help people change their minds, and in our survey we can figure out which message is the most influential. We are involved in every stage of the campaigning process.

Q: What do you like best about your job?

A: I’ve always really liked politics, and as a political science major I discovered data and became really passionate about data. In my internship I get to see how we can use data in the real world. We get results, we actually act upon them, and can have an influence on the country or in a certain state. I like the real-world application.

Q: When did you decide to do the Washington Seminar?

A: When I was in high school I was trying to decide where to go to school for my bachelor’s degree. I was really attracted to a lot of east coast schools because I wanted to live in D.C, but I had also always wanted to go to BYU. As I was trying to decide what school to go to, I found out about the Washington Seminar program and I thought ‘Perfect, I’m going to go to BYU and do this program, and that will be my little taste of the East Coast.’ So I’ve known for four years that I was going to do this program.

I’ve become a lot more certain of what I want to do and who I want to be because of this experience.

Kesley Powell, Senior Studying Political Science

Q: What do you like about living in D.C.?

A: I really love history and this is where it happened. I also love the city feel. The east coast is cobblestone walks along the ocean and that is my vibe.

My husband and I walk to the Lincoln Memorial every Sunday night once it cools down. Everyone knows what the Lincoln Memorial is from movies. It’s cool to actually be there. It’s so fun to sit on the steps and look out at the Mall, and see all the people touring.

I have loved being outside of Utah and being in D.C. and seeing the diversity of people and diversity of opinion. I love the ward that we’re in. It’s so welcoming.

Q: How will your last year of school be different now that you’ve done this internship? What will you take away from the experience?

A: I’ve become a lot more certain of what I want to do and who I want to be because of this experience. I’ve recognized what I can contribute to politics, and that I want to be a positive part of politics. I have gotten to interact with a lot of really kind and wonderful people here and it’s helped me want to be one of those people, so I can help create a more positive view of government.

I’ve always known I would go to grad school so I wasn’t sure if I wanted to take a gap year between my undergrad and other degrees (to work in consulting or on a campaign). This internship has made me more comfortable with that idea and strengthened my desire to be in both worlds at the same time. It has been very reassuring to know I’m on the right path.

Q: What would you tell students considering the Washington Seminar?

A: A lot of people want to come to D.C. but don’t know how, and the Washington Seminar program gives you a really good structure of helping you apply for internships and helping you know which internships are out there. Once you’re here, you have not only a place to live but also support throughout your entire internship. You’re surrounded by people who have the same interests as you, and they’re all trying to figure out the whole D.C. thing at the same time. We were mentored by Dr. Goodliffe, and he’s a really great resource in helping you navigate your internship. Living in the Barlow Center is amazing and super inexpensive.

It’s totally a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

Erin Oliver

Erin Oliver poses at a women’s suffrage exhibit at the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia during the 2021 Washington Seminar (Erin Oliver)

Q: Where did you intern?

A: I interned at a nonprofit called Atlas Corps. They do international development and have a fellowship program where they bring fellows to the United states and host them in different organizations here. They do a leadership program with them and prepare them to go back to their countries and fix social issues that are happening there.

Q: What are your responsibilities?

I get to work with the CEO and the communications team and I do a lot of writing reports, I do a lot of research, I work with the database and input donations from fundraising campaigns, and I do a lot of external outreach — a lot of communications stuff where I’m drafting messages or newsletters or reports that then gets sent to our list of contacts.

Q: What is your favorite part of your internship?

A: I get to go to a lot of events which is pretty fun. I got to attend this gala a week ago and the keynote speaker was Malala Yousafzai. She spoke and I got to be in a breakout room with her. It was really fun.

Q: Were you nervous when you started your internship?

A: I was a little nervous at the beginning of my internship. New environment. I definitely wanted to make a good impression on my team. But everyone is super nice and very welcoming, so that went away pretty fast.

Q: What do you love about living in D.C.?

A: There’s always things to do. Museums, and monuments. Truly if you want to go do something, just walk outside. The city’s just beautiful: architecture, monuments, nature/greenery…it’s just a pristine city.

Q: How did you know you wanted to do this program?

A: I had always heard about the Washington Seminar program because I’m a poli sci student. I knew I wanted to save it until the very end because I wanted to end up in D.C. I decided to try and plan an internship around my last semester in college; that way I could come out here and hopefully stay out here. I got a one-way ticket. Bold moves. Really, I just went for it and it’s paid off. I got a job so I’m staying out here.

Q: How did you get a job?

A: Networking is huge here. You do a lot of talking to people and I found some job postings and I applied to them and luckily one of my friends knew someone who was working at the organization I got a job at. I talked with him before I got interviewed.

Q: What is your new job?

A: I will be working at the American Foreign Service Association as a membership specialist.

Q: What did you learn from this experience of finding a job in D.C.?

A: It’s important to be confident in yourself. A lot of people our age tend to doubt their abilities. We’re an anxious group I think. Be confident in what you’ve learned. I know the political science program at BYU really prepared me well for everything I’ve done out here.

It’s important to be confident in yourself. A lot of people our age tend to doubt their abilities. Be confident in what you’ve learned.

Erin Oliver, Senior Studying Political Science

For more information on the Washington Seminar, visit https://washingtonseminar.byu.edu/.

Let’s Talk: Suicide Prevention and Loss

We all have a part to play in understanding and preventing suicide. Whether or not suicide has impacted your life, each of us can ease one another’s burdens and send an undeniable message that everyone is valued and worthy of love. It’s worth improving our awareness of how to support both those who may be considering suicide and the family members or loved ones of those who have died by suicide. 

To strengthen prevention efforts, we can look at mental health problems as seriously as we consider physical issues. Michael Staley, a psychological autopsy examiner and suicide prevention coordinator for the State of Utah believes that mental health screenings should be just as common as getting our blood pressure checked. And similar to the way CPR training is widespread and required for many jobs to respond to life-or-death situations, so too should suicide prevention training be just as common. Such training would provide valuable skills in many settings, including at work and in schools.

Help prevent suicide by talking about it

Among college students, suicide is the second leading cause of death. It impacts our lives, but it can still be difficult to talk about. However, both Staley and Quintin Hunt, assistant professor of marriage and family therapy at BYU, share that the most important thing we can do to prevent suicide and help people heal from suicide loss is to talk about it. If we feel that something is wrong, we should ask the person we’re worried about if they are considering suicide. 

“If you know somebody who’s going through a hard time or had someone tell you something that sounds suicidal, you can be the difference between life and death for that person. If you leave with a pit in your stomach that tells you ‘Maybe I should do something more’ or ‘Maybe I should ask that one question,’ do it,” says Staley. 

You may be worried about saying the wrong thing, but often doing nothing is worse. Staley recommends practicing asking the difficult question of “Are you considering suicide?” with those around us. If we’ve prepared ourselves, we’ll be empowered if the time ever comes to ask the question in a real-life scenario.

If someone shares that they are considering suicide, let them know that you offer a safe space by reassuring them that they are loved and that you will listen without judgment. Staley explains, “A lot of people feel that they’re going to be abandoned or be stigmatized if they share suicidal thoughts. If you share things like ‘I still care about you, I love you, and I want you to live’ that’s going to create a safe space and help them to recognize their value.” You should then refer them to a suicide hotline, mental health professional, or the emergency room. Follow through and assist them in getting the help they need. 

For every 1 person that dies from suicide, there are 25 people who have made a suicide attempt. If someone shares that they have attempted suicide, reassure them that you are glad they’re here and ask them if they’re still considering taking their life. Let them share their experience with you and get them help if they need it.

Process grief from suicide by talking to other loss survivors 

Hunt shared that an understudied field of research is how suicide loss affects family members and friends. This is important because those who are exposed to suicide are at greater risk of suicide themselves. Hunt shared the following from past research, “One-hundred percent of suicide loss survivors have said that the most useful thing for them in healing has been talking to other suicide loss survivors.” Whether we’ve been impacted by suicide or not, a powerful thing we can do is simply ask suicide loss survivors about the experience in a sensitive and caring way. 

We can all equip ourselves with the emotional and mental capability to talk about suicide. Our care for others will show through our words should we be faced with that situation, but just as importantly, our actions will demonstrate whether we are a safe space for someone to share their struggles. Hunt says, “Regardless of your depth of belief, sexual orientation or gender identity, your political affiliation or marital status, we’re all just people trying to help others recognize their value right here and right now.” 

Learn more about suicide prevention training at https://www.qprinstitute.com.

If you have been personally affected by suicide loss, Hunt, Erin Holmes, professor of family life at BYU, and Rebecca Sanford, associate teaching professor at Thompson Rivers University School of Social Work and Human Services, are studying suicide bereavement. Follow their social media for more information: 

Family eats dinner

6:15 is the Dinner Time Sweet Spot

Summer relaxation ended with Labor Day and the back-to-school season is signaling a return to routine. In parallel, family dinners signal an important transition in our day. Recently published research demonstrates how the placement of our dinner can help us to improve our family life and get more out of our day. 

“The act of dinner actually helps us shift into different activities than we were focused on before dinner. It signals a transition from the day-time schedule of work, school, and activities to evening leisure and togetherness,” says Jocelyn Wikle, assistant professor of family life at BYU, who published the research in Review of Economics of the Household along with Joseph Price, professor of economics at BYU, and Luke Rodgers, assistant professor of economics at Florida State University. 

The research is the first to study whether the timing of family dinners has an impact. Using data from over 41,000 families in the American Time Use Survey (2003-2019), the team determined that the optimal time to eat dinner is 6:15 p.m. Parents who served dinner by 6:15 spent 27% more time reading to their children in the evening, 18% more time playing with their children, 11% more quality time with their children, and 14% more overall time with their children. This effect occurred across all family types.

By having dinner earlier in the evening, you can ensure more time for enjoyable and important evening activities. And if you have a family, that time is important because it “institutes more serious family time and more quality time together. It’s a time when parents aren’t being spread thin and can give more attention to their children,” says Wikle.

“What an earlier dinner is doing for families in the evenings is giving parents time with children both at the table and also after the meal,” says Wikle. This is important because when we invest time in children, we’re investing in their learning and social capacities. To sum up decades of research, positive quality interactions between parents and children are good. Family dinners, in particular, are associated with fewer behavioral problems (Musick & Meier, 2012; Sen, 2010), and increased academic achievement (Eisenberg et al., 2004), for example.

“Parents are a child’s best teacher and parents are really supporting their kids in so many ways. This is just one more way parents can give time and attention to their children,” says Wikle. 

Dinner also can be a struggle. There are going to be times that your children are eating fast food at 8 p.m. on a Wednesday. However, Wikle encourages parents simply to do their best. “Just an awareness of how the time after dinner can impact your family is powerful,” she says.

Wikle’s tips to have dinner ready by 6:15 include prepping food beforehand, doubling-up on food prep, involving your children — dinner prep itself is an opportunity for quality time, and keeping it simple. Her family’s go-to meal is waffles: “It’s a family favorite that can be whipped up quickly.” 

We’d love to hear about your best tips to get dinner done on Instagram @byufhss.

A Fall Welcome Message to Students

From Dean Laura Padilla-Walker

Dear Students,

Welcome to Fall semester! We have a new leadership team in the College of Family, Home, and Social Sciences and we are eager to meet you and get your perspective as we work toward shared goals. Please look for emails and social media posts announcing ways for you to get to know the many opportunities that await you in our college.

I acknowledge that it has been a challenging year for many of you and I applaud your efforts to remain engaged despite the varied and unique trials of the past year. Please let us know how we can help empower you to reach your goals. We’re on the 9th floor of KMBL and our doors are open to you.

I am grateful for the opportunity the college and our faculty have to be part of your BYU experience. I’m reminded of a talk President Gordon B. Hinckley gave in 1997 — before most of you were born but still relevant today. He pointed out that one of the elements of a singular BYU education is the faculty who teach you. He said:

“You have a unique and dedicated faculty to teach you. They bring to this great responsibility the learning of all the ages…in a vast variety of fields of knowledge. When all is said and done, it is not this elaborate campus that really counts. It is the faculty who teach you, who lead you, who encourage you, who help you find your way as you go forward with your studies” (The BYU Experience, 1997).

As someone who works closely with the faculty in our college, I am confident that you are being taught by many of the best in their fields. I support these highly trained individuals as they teach their disciplines and prepare curriculum that promotes deep critical thinking so you can thoughtfully engage in essential conversations. These foundational skills will prepare you not only for this life and the diverse world in which we live, but also to become lifelong learners.

This rigorous coursework is aligned with the BYU mission statement that says your time here should be a “period of intensive learning in a stimulating setting where a commitment to excellence is expected and the full realization of human potential is pursued.”

Intensive learning is not always comfortable, but with “an environment enlightened by living prophets and sustained by those moral virtues which characterize the life and teachings of the Son of God” (BYU Mission Statement) we can and should safely and critically engage with the universe of ideas that are part of a broad university education.

BYU is unique not because we shelter students from learning aspects of a broad education, but because we explore topics with the light and truth of the gospel as our guide — especially when secular and spiritual knowledge don’t seem to be aligned. This exploration of ideas should always be done by engaging in respectful dialogue “by persuasion, by long-suffering, by gentleness and meekness, and by love unfeigned” (D&C 121: 41). Interacting in this way should be something we uniquely excel in at BYU.   

It is my hope that all interactions within our college community will “reflect devout love of God and a loving, genuine concern for the welfare of our neighbor” (BYU Mission Statement). President Hinckley reminds us that “The true gospel of Jesus Christ never led to bigotry. It never led to self-righteousness. It never led to arrogance. The true gospel of Jesus Christ leads to [sisterhood and] brotherhood, to friendship, to appreciation of others, to respect and kindness and love.” (The BYU Experience, 1997)

We encourage all of you to reach out to those around you and help us build a Zion community within our college. If you are struggling, please ask for help. If you are doing well, please look around you and notice fellow students who need your support. Please “succor the weak, lift up the hands which hang down, strengthen the feeble knees (D&C 81: 5).”

You are wonderful individuals with strong spirits and excellent minds. The social science training you receive from our qualified faculty will help make you leaders as you engage in and solve our world’s most significant problems. As a college, we are blessed to be a part of your journey.

Dean Padilla-Walker

College of Family, Home, and Social Sciences

New Faculty Members Join the College

This fall, we welcome fresh faces to the College of Family, Home, and Social Sciences. Be sure to say hello to our new faculty members and spend a minute to get to know more about them and the expertise they bring. We’re glad they’re here!

Melissa Alcaraz, Assistant Professor of Sociology

Melissa Alcaraz specializes in the intersection between migration and family formation, with a focus on Mexico. She earned her PhD in sociology from The Ohio State University in 2021.

Ruth Kerry, Associate Professor of Geography 

Ruth Kerry grew up in the United Kingdom and did all her studies there, including a PhD in precision agriculture from the University of Reading in 2004. She specializes in soil spatial analysis and land evaluation, and precision agriculture. She was previously an affiliate assistant professor at Auburn University. 

David Simpson, Visiting Teaching Professor of Geography

David Simpson has a passion for making communities better. He has a doctorate degree from the University of California, Berkeley in city and regional planning and has filled many professional roles over his career, much of which was spent with the University of Louisville. Prior to moving to Utah and accepting this position with BYU, he was the chair of the University of Louisville Sustainability Council. 

Ryan Hill, Assistant Professor of Economics 

Ryan Hill earned his PhD in Economics from MIT in 2020 and specializes in labor economics, public finance, economics of innovation, and development of scientific knowledge. He previously worked as a postdoctoral researcher for the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University. Fun fact about Ryan: he stood at the highest and lowest points of the continental U.S. on the same day — he climbed Mt. Whitney, slept on the summit, hiked down, and then visited Death Valley on the way home.

Richard Patterson, Assistant Professor of Economics 

Richard Patterson was an assistant professor in the U.S. Military Academy at West Point before coming to BYU. He specializes in applied microeconomics, behavioral economics, economics of education, and labor economics and has a PhD in policy analysis and management from Cornell University. In his free time he enjoys mountain biking, rock climbing, and skiing. 

Ashley Fraser, Assistant Professor of Family Life 

Ashley Fraser earned a PhD in family and human development from Arizona State University in 2021. Her research interests include childhood and adolescent development; empathy and prosocial behavior; hope, racism and equity, and media. 

Andrea Kinghorn Busby, Assistant Professor of Family Life

Andrea Kinghorn Busby specializes in developmental psychology and public policy; reducing inequality for young children, with emphasis on fathers and neighborhoods; and inequality in children’s home, school, and neighborhood contexts. Her research interests include the impact of violence on children, how children and families experience poverty in suburban communities, and how parents socialize their children about economic inequality. She earned her PhD in human development and social policy from Northwestern University in 2021.

Ashley LeBaron-Black, Assistant Professor of Family Life

Ashley LeBaron-Black specializes in family finance with a focus on family financial socialization and couple finance. She earned her PhD in family studies and human development from the University of Arizona in 2021. In her free time she enjoys studying art history, particularly French Gothic, Italian Renaissance, and French Impressionism. 

Daniel Frost, Director of the Integrative Writing Program and Assistant Teaching Professor, School of Family Life

Daniel Frost earned his PhD in politics from Princeton University, and his writing interests include marriage, family, sexual morality, personal identity, and moral reasoning, among others. He previously taught political science at Clemson University and BYU.

Liz McGuire, Assistant Professor of Political Science 

Liz McGuire earned her PhD in political science from Yale University in 2021. She uses experimental and quantitative methodologies to study gender politics, changes in gender norms, and comparative gender norms. She is also interested in international development and is currently focusing on East Africa. 

David Romney, Assistant Professor of Political Science 

David Romney has a PhD in government from Harvard University, and was a postdoctoral fellow at Harvard’s Weatherhead Center for International Affairs before coming to BYU. He specializes in comparative politics and methods, psychology of intergroup relations, role of social media, misinformation, and conspiracy theories in the Middle East. In his free time he enjoys watching cooking shows and trying out new recipes with his wife. 

Gentry Jenkins, Visiting Assistant Professor of Political Science

Gentry Jenkins earned his doctorate degree from the University of Chicago, where he was a teaching fellow in the Committee on International Relations. His research interests include the connections between revolution, state-building, civil war, and international conflict.

Sandra Sephton, Professor of Psychology 

Sandra Sephton specializes in developmental, cognitive, and health psychology; biobehavioral oncology; and mindfulness interventions. She earned her PhD in behavioral neuroscience from BYU in 1995 and previously was a professor at the University of Louisville and senior scientist at James Graham Brown Cancer Center. She is the happy owner of three horses.

Kara Duraccio, Assistant Professor of Psychology 

Kara Duraccio earned her PhD in clinical psychology from BYU in 2019. She previously worked held a General Pediatrics Research Fellowship at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center. Her areas of specialty include pediatric psychology with a focus on adolescent sleep and eating behaviors. 

Dawn-Marie Wood, Assistant Teaching Professor of Psychology

Dawn-Marie Wood earned her master’s degree in psychology and behavioral neuroscience at BYU in 1994, and was previously a visiting assistant teaching professor at BYU. She loves to fly fish and is an “honorary member” of the BYU Fly Fishing Club.