The College of Family, Home, and Social Sciences convocation ceremonies last Friday honored 1,321 graduates. Many BYU grads in the sea of blue caps and gowns are already making an important impact on and off campus.
Lieutenant Governor Deidre Henderson
Lt. Gov. Deidre Henderson received her bachelor’s degree in history nearly three decades after first enrolling at BYU. Henderson paused her education at BYU at 18 years old after she met and married her husband, Gabe Henderson. By 28, the pair had five children together. She served in the Utah State Senate for eight years before she was elected to serve as Lieutenant Governor. In 2019, she returned to school full time with a dedication to lifelong learning. Utah Governor Spencer Cox and his wife Abby attended the ceremony in support of Lt. Gov. Henderson.
“There are a lot of women just like me in Utah,” said Lt. Gov. Henderson. “While I set aside college to raise my kids, the fire in me that wanted to finish school never died out. It was humbling, exciting, fulfilling — and frankly really, really hard — to return to BYU. But I hope other Utahns can see that it’s never too late to fulfill your ambitions.”
BYU distance runner Anna Camp-Bennett is no stranger to awards and her latest is a degree in family life. As an established member of the BYU women’s cross country and track teams, Camp-Bennett helped the cougars win the 2021 NCAA Cross Country Championship. Just months later she snagged another national title, triumphing in the NCAA women’s 1,500m race with a school record-breaking time.
US National Soccer Team member Ashley Hatch completed her degree in family life this year, capping off her outstanding contributions to the campus community. Hatch played on the BYU Women’s Soccer team from 2013-2016, where she set a school record for shots taken in a match and started in nearly every game she played. She now plays professional soccer for the Washington Spirit, assisting in the team’s 2021 National Women’s Soccer League championship victory, and as a member of the US National Soccer Team.
We’re proud of all our graduates! Spend a minute taking a look at some of their accomplishments on our graduation website.
Thursday, April 7 marked BYU’s Eighteenth Annual Mary Lou Fulton Mentored Student Research Conference. With a total of 261 posters from 276 students in the nine departments in the College of Family Home and Social Sciences, the event was a major hit. Students from each department worked with faculty mentors to create engaging and informative research posters, then gained experience presenting to fellow students and other visitors.
After two years of hosting this event virtually, we were thrilled to see all our student presenters in person again. This year’s conference featured a new prize drawing for attendees who spoke to presenters about their posters, as well as students’ choice awards. All awards were presented at the luncheon after the conference.
“Verily I say, men should be anxiously engaged in a good cause, and do many things of their own free will, and bring to pass much righteousness.”
– Doctrine and Covenants 58:27
Anna Monson loves life science. She loves bugs, beetles, and all the diversity of plant life, which led her to major in biology. As she progressed in her major, Monson recognized a pattern among biologists. They would often recognize problems, discuss the problems with each other, and even find answers to those problems, but they didn’t know how to actually solve those problems in their community. With this in mind, Anna chose to diversify her education and add a minor in civic engagement.
The Civic Engagement Leadership minor is designed to help BYU students learn meaningful skills and have opportunities to become engaged in their community. The minor provides students with experiential learning and mentorship to make a real difference in their local area.
“It’s an exciting way to access talents that don’t get addressed by my major directly — the biology major doesn’t care if I’m good on the phone or if I know how to talk to authorities or if I know how to write succinctly, but the civic engagement minor does, so I get to develop those talents.”
In one of her civic engagement classes, Monson worked with Community Action Services to create materials for landlords explaining the benefits and processes connected to housing choice vouchers. She was able to develop a pamphlet with her team that made Section 8 housing requirements and advantages easy to understand. “It was extremely fun and extremely cool to do the research and learn from the talents of my team members,” added Monson.
The minor requires a variety of elective courses with civic engagement connections, as well as two required courses where students are paired with community partners to complete a social action project. Through these projects, students are able to see firsthand the challenges of making a difference, as well as experience the satisfaction of engaging in their community.
Nathan Benavidez, a history major, stepped out of his comfort zone by participating in a social action project. Through the minor, Nathan had the opportunity to work with Utah County Elections to prepare a voting toolkit for city governments explaining ranked choice voting. Ranked choice voting gives citizens the opportunity to rank candidates by preference on their ballot, as opposed to voting for a single candidate. “It’s really great and allows for a bit more diversity in voting,” explained Benavidez.
Benavidez worked in a group on this project, and learned a lot about community collaboration and the value of differing opinions. “I learned that when you’re working in the community, you may be working with someone who has the same goals and aspirations as you, but you may have different visions of how you’re going to approach and accomplish your goals… working in the community means you have to work together.”
The project allowed Benavidez to learn new skills and embrace experiences he wouldn’t have had otherwise. “We got to talk to a lot of government officials, we got to present to people, and that pushed me out of my comfort zone which was really valuable to me.”
The Civic Engagement Leadership minor gives students like Monson and Benavidez the skills and experiences not only to participate in community action, but also to lead the community in issues that they really care about.
The College of Family, Home, and Social Sciences has many outstanding students graduating this April. We are grateful for the hard work and scholarship of each graduating senior and the example of excellence set by the valedictorians in the college. Meet each department’s 2022 valedictorian!
Political Science: Kesley Townsend
Kesley Brooke Townsend, a political science major with a political strategy emphasis and minors in history and sociology, is the oldest child of John and Cindy Powell. She was raised in Richland, Washington, and developed a passion for U.S. political history at a young age. During her time at BYU, she conducted original research as a research fellow with the Center for the Study of Elections and Democracy and worked as a research assistant for Professors Goodliffe, Preece, Pope, and Argyle. Kesley interned at TargetPoint Consulting while participating in the Washington Seminar program and worked as a political strategy advisor on a U.S. senate campaign. She was president of the BYU Women in Politics organization and a writer for the Political Review. Kesley will begin a research fellowship at TargetPoint Consulting this summer and looks forward to pursuing a Ph.D. in political science in 2023. She is incredibly grateful for the mentorship provided by BYU faculty and the continued support of her family and friends.
Geography: Kellie Haddon
Kellie Haddon is a geography major with an emphasis in global studies and minors in international development and sociology. While at BYU, Kellie had the opportunity to work as a research assistant for Brandon Plewe on the Mormon Places project during her freshman year and worked as a teaching assistant for Chad Emmett’s Political Geography class for the past two semesters. She is excited to end her time at BYU on the Multicultural Europe study abroad with Jill Knapp during spring term. This year Kellie was also heavily involved in the club Students for International Development as one of its presidents. She will begin graduate school in the fall in American University’s MA International Development program in Washington, D.C. Kellie served as a missionary in Cebu, Philippines and enjoys painting, hiking, and exploring new places. She has lived in six states but mainly grew up in the suburbs of Chicago, Illinois. Kellie is grateful for her incredible family, friends, professors, and mentors for their continual support throughout her time at BYU.
Psychology: Reilly O’Coyle Reid
Reilly O’Coyle Reid, a psychology major with a minor in business, is from Henderson, Nevada. The oldest of four girls, Reilly is grateful for her loving parents and the special relationship she has with her sisters. During her time at BYU, Reilly came to appreciate the vast educational opportunities available at this university, and is always searching for the chance to research and teach. She began her undergraduate education as a business major and enjoyed learning about finance, economics, and accounting. Reilly later discovered that studying psychology would fulfill her passion of helping individuals, families, and couples heal. Her research emphasis is in clinical psychology and mental health services. She is inspired by studying psychology and is thrilled to continue her education in BYU’s Marriage and Family Therapy master’s program in August. Reilly is grateful for her professors, classmates, friends and family who have supported her as she completed her bachelor’s degree.
History: Pamela Peterson
Pamela Peterson attended BYU as a non-traditional student for the last 13 years while raising a family of six children — her greatest accomplishment. As a developing family historian, she finds the detective work of family history fulfilling and invigorating. Pam plans to pursue a career in family history with an emphasis in British research while she prepares for her Accredited Genealogist credential exams. She has loved her years at BYU and the wonderful professors she’s been privileged to learn from and associate with. Her professors and fellow students opened her eyes to new ideas, perspectives, and perceptions of peoples, cultures, and the world we live in. Her previously limited paradigm has been broadened and enhanced by her experiences and education at BYU. She is grateful for divine help and extends a sincere thank you to the BYU faculty who give their lives to teach others.
Family Life: Megan (Van Alfen) Brown
Megan (Van Alfen) Brown is a Family Studies major passionate about helping, educating, and healing individuals and families. She is a Wheatley Scholar and received multiple awards for her educational achievements. She worked as a teaching assistant and a research assistant with professors in the School of Family Life at BYU for several years. She is passionate about researching gender, body image, mental health, and sexuality and hopes to center her career in those fields. She will be attending graduate school in the fall at Brigham Young University for a master’s degree in Marriage, Family, and Human Development. She has plans to pursue a PhD to become a professor to educate students and families about complex topics that deserve increased attention. In her free time, she loves spending time with her husband, being outdoors, catching up with friends and building her floral design business.
Anthropology: Leeann Whiffen
Leeann Whiffen, an anthropology major, was born and raised on a cattle ranch in rural Idaho. She spent much of her youth helping her dad tend to the cows, swath hay, and irrigate fields. She is grateful for those experiences that have helped shape who she is today. Leeann and her husband Sean have been married for 25 years, and they have three sons. She has the special opportunity to be graduating from BYU with her son, Clay. Her husband and sons have always supported her educational goals. On one especially challenging day, she noticed a note in her chemistry notebook that said, “Good luck, Mom!” Leeann completed research under the supervision of Dr. Greg Thompson, and they co-authored an article examining physician-patient interactions that was published in the health care journal Qualitative Health Research. Leeann is deeply appreciative for her professors who have given her invaluable tools that she will carry forward. Leeann completed pre-medical coursework and plans to attend medical school.
Sociology: Hannah Dixon
Hannah Dixon grew up in American Fork, Utah. She served a full-time mission in Poland, then returned to BYU, where she majored in sociology with a minor in English. Hannah is graduating with University Honors. During her time here, she relished research opportunities. She participated in a Ballard Center Social Impact Project, a research assistantship in the Sociology department, worked with the BYU Antiracism Project, completed class projects, and more. Other highlights of her BYU experience include involvement in the Honors program, volunteer and mentorship opportunities with first-year students, long hours in the library, and hiking to the Y more than 100 times. Hannah is grateful for the mentors, family, colleagues, and friends who have made her time here fulfilling and she credits their examples of grit, optimism, and encouragement for getting her to this point. She looks forward to continuing her studies at BYU this fall as a student in the sociology master’s program.
Economics: Alexander Johnson
Alex Johnson is a senior graduating in economics and mathematics, with minors in Spanish and Portuguese. During his time at BYU, Alex realized that he possesses a love for learning and solving problems. Alex initially became interested in economics through Dr. Kearl’s Econ 110 class, learning to use a mathematical and logical framework to better understand the world. Through his experience in economics, Alex developed a passion for statistics and mathematical modeling, using and analyzing data to learn about the world in an economics framework. Seeing the strength of mathematics in such an applied context, Alex decided to supplement this growing passion for applied modeling by deciding to also study mathematics as one of his majors. This preparation allowed Alex to continue his education into the future with plans to study Applied Mathematics in a master’s program. Alex would like to express his sincere gratitude for all his professors, family, friends, and classmates, all of whom have been integral in his learning so far.
As the school year nears its end, we’re all feeling it — the nervousness before finals, the stress and pressure to do well, the fear of what comes next. These anxious feelings aren’t exclusive to students; nearly 20% of American adults have an anxiety disorder and many others experience issues with anxiety each year, even if they don’t have an anxiety disorder.
This month’s “Picture a Social Scientist” activity focused on those who have mental health challenges, particularly anxiety. The “Picture an Anxious Social Scientist” event on March 31 began with a presentation on biofeedback from BYU’s Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS). Biofeedback helps us respond to our body’s stress signals before they become too intense and to take action to relieve stress throughout the day before it impacts our ability to complete our tasks or handle our emotions.
The biofeedback presentation was followed by a panel of professors with different types of anxiety. Alyssa Banford Witting in the School of Family Life, Sam Hardy in the Psychology Department, and Scott Sanders in the Sociology Department put themselves in an anxiety-inducing situation to help students see how someone with anxiety can be successful as a social scientist. They addressed questions such as, “What was your experience being diagnosed?” and “What do you recommend for students who may have these feelings but have not been diagnosed?” as well as “How has anxiety been a superpower in your career?”
The professors shared some of the tools they use to manage their anxiety. Sanders suggested, “Develop self-love now, develop self-care now… Do it now because it’s so much harder when you’re in those troughs.” Deep breathing is another helpful tool that was taught during the biofeedback presentation. Hardy’s tools include antidepressant medication, therapy, and support groups. His self-care includes Diet Dr. Pepper and hobbies like cooking, playing with dogs, and jamming out on drums in the basement. He also is mindful of nutrition and exercise, reads self-help books, and makes spiritual practices a priority.
Banford Witting encouraged students not to go it alone if they are feeling anxious. “Seek help, there’s no reason to suffer.” When looking for help, remember that your professors are there for you and you are not alone in your struggle. “It’s common enough that it’s okay. You’ll have some friends in the mental illness business… Everybody has anxiety to some degree,” added Hardy.
Sanders said to manage anxiety step by step, day by day, or even moment by moment. Describing his process to overcome anxious feelings he said, “What can you do in that moment? Maybe it’s a breath, a class period, a day. What does it look like and what can I do to get through that moment?”
Whatever your experiences with anxiety may be, create boundaries for yourself, find your toolkit, and keep navigating the challenges that come your way. There will be many who can relate and help, as well as those who understand and support.
The College of Family, Home, and Social Sciences monthly “Picture a Social Scientist” events will return in the fall. With the goal of fostering belonging, each event will feature inspiring social science professionals to whom students can relate. Future events will explore themes such as neurodiversity, being a woman, managing a dual-career family, and other groups that are underrepresented in the social sciences. Students can expect to gain new perspectives and develop insights on how to press forward with their own ambitions.
Learn more about “Picture a Social Scientist” here.
Learn more or schedule an appointment with BYU CAPS.