“Failure of Leadership or Intelligence?” Geography Professor to Discuss War Tactics at Annual Hickman Lecture

In 1973, Egyptian and Syrian forces launched a surprise attack on Israel. The attack took place on the holiest day in the Jewish calendar, Yom Kippur. They successfully caught Israel off guard and inflicted heavy casualties. Israel, with assistance, was eventually able to fight off the advances and secure a cease-fire, but only after great loss and destruction.

The Wilson Quarterly commented on this historical event.

Since its victory in the Six-Day War in 1967, Israel had been waiting for such an attack, and military and political leaders, including Prime Minister Golda Meir, were sure they could anticipate such a strike at least 48 hours ahead of time. After the war, citizens and politicians alike were left wondering, what happened?

BYU Geography Professor Perry Hardin may have an idea. He will deliver this year’s Martin B. Hickman Outstanding Scholar lecture on March 10th. The title of his address is “Failure of Leadership or Intelligence?  The Yom Kippur Surprise Attack of 1973.”

Hardin, PerryHardin was hired by the BYU Department of Geography in 1989 to begin a geographic information systems curriculum. He has taught at BYU for twenty-seven years minus a small detour in the private sector. During his time at BYU he has published articles in several peer-reviewed journals, authored several book chapters, and given many conference presentations. Hardin attended BYU as an undergraduate, stayed for a M.S. degree, and graduated from the University of Utah with a PhD in 1989. Currently he is finishing a Master’s degree in Intelligence Analysis from American Military University.

The Martin B. Hickman Outstanding Scholar lecture is held annually in honor of Martin B. Hickman, a former dean of the College of Family, Home, and Social Sciences. During his time as dean he played an instrumental role in the creation of significant research opportunities by establishing the Women’s Research Institute, the David M. Kennedy Center for International Studies and the Family Studies Center. The Martin B. Hickman Scholar Award was established to recognize a distinguished member of the college faculty who emulates Hickman’s example.

Event Details:

March 10th

7 pm

250 SWKT

Is Anxiety Worse in Autistic People? Dr. South’s Study Says Yes.

Anxiety is defined as a feeling of worry, nervousness, or unease, typically about an imminent event or something with an uncertain outcome. Feeling anxious from time-to-time is a normal part of life, but many people feel excessive and persistent anxiety stemming from a variety of different things. Anxiety is a symptom particularly seen in people with autism. “Not all people with autism suffer from anxiety, but it is probably the highest occurring associated psychiatric problem,” said Dr. Mikle South, associate professor of psychology and neuroscience at Brigham Young University.

South was one of several presenters at the second Autism Translational Research Workshop held on BYU campus in January. The purpose of the workshop was to give researchers an opportunity to present their new findings in autism practices and interventions.  The findings at this year’s conference were devoted to “things you can do every day to help your patients, students, and children be more successful.” South has conducted extensive research on the frequent correlation of anxiety and autism. Whether you or someone you know has autism, anxiety, or both, there is much to be learned from his research.

Lets Talk About the Brain


The amygdala is an almond-shaped structure in the frontal portion of the temporal lobe. It is the central fear recognition system in the brain. South explained that its job to ask “is this safe or not?” It then sends information to other key brain areas. The frontal cortex helps us dissolve fear. Seeing a scary shadow may cause a quick onslaught of fear, but once you realize that it is just coming from a coat rack, the fear should naturally subside. South explained that if this system is not in balance, as is often seen in people with autism, an immediate threat is not comforted or rationalized and the fear continues.

Sensory Processing Difficulties

Another reason for excessive anxiety may be linked to sensory processing difficulties. South explained that when the brain has to focus on dealing with overwhelming surroundings and is not paying attention to social cues, it can lead to a continuous state of uncertainty. With that comes anxiety. “None of us like not knowing what’s going to happen next, but for some people this is really really problematic,” said South. “So we wonder why people with autism like things the same over and over again – and it might just be that it decreases the level of uncertainty, which might decrease anxiety.” 

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Emotional Awareness

“One of the causes for anxiety is that we’re not able to figure out our feelings – we’re confused and uncertain – so we are anxious,” said South. He incorporated this thought into some of his research. He wondered: how aware are people with autism of what’s going on inside their bodies? Do they know how they are feeling? 

I saw a child [with autism] a couple of weeks ago, a 10 year old boy, and I said, ‘What makes you feel sad?’ He replied, ‘When my brother is mean to me.’ A few minutes later I asked him, ‘What makes you feel mad?’ and he said, ‘I already told you. When my brother is mean to me.’ And so I said to him, ‘well what do you think is the difference between sad and mad?’ And he said, ‘I don’t know, could you tell me?

South was involved in conducting a study that involved both people with and without autism. The participants were asked a variety of questions regarding autism symptoms and their inner emotions. From this study South determined, “There is a really strong correlation that says, the more autism you have, the more anxiety you have.”

Fear of Failure

fearThough it makes us feel weak and vulnerable, we often learn great lessons from our failures. This understanding can be hard for people with autism to grasp and performance anxiety is common. “A lot of our more verbal kids don’t like to fail. So much so that they don’t try stuff if they don’t know that they’re going to get it exactly right,” South said. “Going to school can be very stressful for kids with autism.” 

Fear Conditioning

South and his team actually conducted the first study of its kind that looked at how people with autism learn to feel safe and learn to feel afraid. They included both people with and without autism in their study.

Participants sat in front of a computer. They would periodically see a blue square or a yellow square flash onto the screen. Sometimes a certain colored square would be accompanied by a painless, but startling, puff of air on their neck. South and his team were able to analyze the participant’s brain functions while this was occurring using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) scans that measured brain activity by detecting changes associated with blood flow. “We have the brain in a strong magnet where we can sort out different tissues in the brain. One thing we can do is watch oxygen flow in their brain sort of indirectly. So we can see what parts of the brain are working at certain times.”

emotionsThe exercise was meant to produce anxiety and condition the participants to be on their guard. “After a while, when you see the same color of square as the last time you got a puff of air on your neck, you start to think, ‘Oh I might get a puff of air,'” said South.

The puffs would eventually stop coming. This was meant to condition participants to not be afraid anymore. The sequence didn’t work well in people with autism. “They took too long to learn to not be afraid,” South said.

When they analyzed the results of the study, they found that the amygdala was more active in the control group (people without autism) than people in the autism group. Showing amygdala activation is a proper thing to do when there is a threat – the control group should be showing it – but why did they show more activation than the autism group? South believes that this is because people with autism have a hard time understanding when to feel safe and when to feel afraid. 

The control group showed ‘afraid then’ and ‘not afraid then’. The people with autism seem to not be differentiating properly. If you are not sure what to do, what do you feel is the safest bet? Be afraid … They may already be afraid, so a puff of air on their neck isn’t really heightening that fear.


Based on his findings, South introduced several interventions that can help ease anxiety for people with autism. These interventions may also be beneficial for people who do not have autism, but have anxiety.

  • Reduce sensory exposure
  • Increase structure 
  • Simplify expectations
  • Facilitate emotional awareness 

For more information on this workshop please visit http://autism.ce.byu.edu/

What causes you to be afraid or have anxiety? Have you been conditioned to feel this way?

Feature image courtesy of unsplash.com


Rootstech and BYU: Enthusiastic About Family History


Connecting with your ancestors has never been easier and BYU is right there in the action. Students and faculty showcased the good work being done on campus for Family History this weekend through their interactive booth at RootsTech, the largest family history conference in the world.


BYU has participated in RootsTech every year since it began in 2011. This was the first year that most of the BYU departments that participated in the conference came together to form one large booth. This interactive booth encouraged conference attendees to explore BYU’s many resources for family history. It highlighted BYU’s 4-year family history bachelor’s degree, library resources, innovative computer applications, and opportunities to publish family history. Seven departments from BYU participated in the booth:

  • The Center for Family History and Genealogy,
  • Family History Program/Degree,
  • Family History Library,
  • HBLL Special Collections,
  • Computer Science,
  • Print & Mail,
  • Bachelor of General Studies/Independent Studies.

Steve Rockwood, managing director for the Family History Department of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and President/CEO of FamilySearch International, as well as a BYU alum, was a keynote speaker during the conference. He spoke about the ever expanding definition of family history. “The millennials and the teenagers of today, they are a journaling generation like the world has never seen before. They just happen to do it in small little tweets and posts and snapchats,” said Rockwood. He encouraged participants of the innovator summit to think about the potential enhancements of everyday life if family history was used and thought about as frequently as math. He asked if anyone had used an alarm clock to wake up or determined what time to be out the door in order to make it to the conference on time. “You actually did math this morning and you didn’t even know it!” he said. Watch his full speech here.

Family History Portal page.JPG

One focus of the conference was looking to the future. Our own lives will one day be the family history for our posterity. Taysom Hill, a BYU football player, participated in the conference and spoke during the Family Discovery Day Youth and Family Session. In September 2015, Hill suffered his third season-ending injury, this time as the senior quarterback. Many stories have been told of his leadership, determination and influence on and off the field. Hill was asked what stories he thinks will live on with his children and grandchildren. Hill chose to focus on the future, not the past. He said, “As I look back, I’m 25-years-old, you know, I hope that I haven’t hit the pinnacle of my life. I hope that I can still accomplish a lot of really great things that will make my kids proud.”

Check out BYU’s new Family History Portal, where all of the resources we had available at Rootstech, plus many others, are available in one convenient place online. And find out more about our college’s involvement in RootsTech and in the nationwide surge of interest in family history in our upcoming 2016 Connections issue!


Did you attend Rootstech? What was your favorite part?

Meet with Reps from The National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency

Are you interested in geospatial intelligence? Whether you are pursuing a career in this area or simply want to learn more about it, mark your calendars for an amazing opportunity coming up next week!

Representatives from The National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency will be on campus to meet with students and discuss potential research collaborations and employment, as well as internship and scholarship opportunities. These representatives will include Dr. Ernest Reith, NGA Directorate of Technology/OCIO and others from his office. This is a great opportunity to meet one-on-one with the director of a federal agency. Sign up to be in attendance by clicking this link:  National Geospacial-Intelligence Agency information meeting.


The National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA) delivers world-class geospatial intelligence that provides a decisive advantage to policymakers, warfighters, intelligence professionals and first responders. Anyone who sails a U.S. ship, flies a U.S. aircraft, makes national policy decisions, fights wars, locates targets, responds to natural disasters, or even navigates with a cellphone relies on NGA. NGA enables all of these critical actions and shapes decisions that impact our world through the indispensable discipline of geospatial intelligence (GEOINT)… GEOINT is the exploitation and analysis of imagery and geospatial information that describes, assesses and visually depicts physical features and geographically referenced activities on the Earth.”


February 9, 2016

4:00 PM

Room 270 McDonald Building

There will be refreshments!

Have You Thought About Divorce? Read This.


Why do people start thinking about divorce? Do thoughts of divorce always lead to divorce? Findings from The National Divorce Decision-Making Project give insight to these questions and others regarding the threshold of what the researchers labeled “divorce ideations” and the patterns that emerge. Their goal is “to increase awareness of the negative impact of divorce, and encourage discussion and debate about the effect of divorce on our culture, as well as the cost to taxpayers.” The project is a collaboration among researchers at six universities including Brigham Young University. Alan J. Hawkins (director) and Sage E. Allen are the researchers from BYU’s College of Family, Home, and Social Sciences.

As stated in the project report, “Divorce is a scary thing to think about so we tend to assume there is a high personal tolerance of marital problems before people start having such thoughts. But maybe in a culture with high divorce rates and widespread concerns about the fragility of marriage, it is hard not to have some thoughts about divorce when problems and disappointments exist in the marriage.”

The report states that one in four spouses in the survey had had thoughts about divorce in the last six months. Divorce ideation was not found to be especially common in one demographic subgroup over another. For example, women reported having ideations only slightly more than men (27% vs. 22%), parents with minor children were a little higher than those without (27% vs. 21%), and there was almost no difference between those who said religion was an important part of their lives and those who said it was not (24% vs. 25%).

argument-238529_1920Research was conducted through a national survey of 3,000 individuals. Participants were married people ages 25-50 who had been married for at least one year. Survey participants who reported having recent divorce ideations were asked about the frequency of these thoughts. The majority (70%) reported that they were not frequent. They were also asked about the level of seriousness in their thoughts. Using both qualitative and quantitative responses, a statistical analysis suggested to the researchers that fifty-three percent of those thinking about divorce recently were soft thinkers, or not serious, and forty-seven percent were serious thinkers.

The researchers stated, “While thoughts about divorce are common, both recently and in the past, it is clear that most people are committed to their marriages, patient with their problems, and often able to work through their challenges.”

Survey participants were asked if they agreed or disagreed with the following statement: “I would feel like a failure if my marriage were to end.” Over half of the participants (55%) agreed. The percentage of disagreement was much lower (25%) and the remaining (20%) were caught between the two options.

Those who reported recent divorce ideations were asked to identify the marital problems they were experiencing from a list of sixteen potential problems. This list included more intense problems (infidelity, alcohol/drug abuse, physical or emotional abuse), moderately intense problems (mental health problems, arguing too much, sexual relationship problems, handling money), and less intense problems (personal habits, working too much, dividing domestic labor, unable to talk together, losing romantic feelings, not committed enough). As expected, the majority of those who reported experiencing the less intense problems also reported that they had only thought about divorce a few times. Interestingly, a less expected trend was also discovered. “Of those who were thinking a lot about divorce, most had at least one of the more intense problems. But even among those reporting at least one of the more intense problems, a majority said that they had only thought about divorce a few times recently.”

The researchers clarified some of their findings:

Does this mean that soft thinkers are not at risk for divorce? Probably not. Thoughts are different from actions but they clearly can influence them over time. Even soft, occasional thoughts about divorce can color perceptions of a relationship, shaping feelings in more negative ways that can make marriages less satisfying and more fragile … [but] we also know that many people go through tough times in their marriage and not only survive but thrive. In fact, our survey found that more than one in four respondents (28%) had thought their marriage was in serious trouble at some point in the past but not recently. And nearly 90% of them said they were glad they were still married; less than 1% were not glad to be together.

Survey participants were asked about what had helped their marriage improve from times of serious trouble. A high number of participants reported that they or their spouse had adjusted their attitude. They also reported highly that they or their spouse had worked at fixing problems and improving the relationship.


The researchers are optimistic about their findings: “Our study suggests that thoughts about divorce don’t have to be a sign of impending marital doom. And maybe thoughts about divorce can even be the motivation needed to take some action to try to strengthen or repair a relationship.”

The project was also sponsored by BYU’s Family Studies Center.

More information is provided in the full report. Read it here: https://familystudiescenter.byu.edu/Documents/Reports/What%20are%20they%20thinking%20FINAL%20digital.pdf

What tips would you provide to someone who is thinking about divorce?

Family Time: the Family Enrichment Program

What is the value of spending one night a week with one’s family in concerted, collaborative learning? That is a subject that Dr. Wendy Sheffield has spent the last eighteen years studying, with widespread results. Like our professors Dollahite, Carroll, and Willoughby, she is passionate about providing families of all sizes and races the tools that they need to succeed. At the 2015 World Congress of Families. In particular, she talked about a family enrichment curriculum she helped develop that has been applied around the world.
Sheffield, WendyThe Family Enrichment Program is a curriculum developed in 1998 by faculty members of BYU’s School of Social Work, part of the College of Family, Home, and Social Sciences. Because students of that school were and are required to serve families as part of their professional training process,
a search began for a simple tool to help families across a wide variety of cultural and family backgrounds implement an organized system for weekly family interaction. Dr. Sheffield and her colleague Dr. Shirley Cox, as well as many of the students they taught, had grown up having weekly family meetings, and out of the many positive experiences they’d had grew a curriculum that could be used by those students in their field internship program. The curriculum consists of lessons on:

• The Benefits of Holding Weekly Family Night

• How to Organize an Effective Family Night

• How to Hold an Effective Family Night

• Family Togetherness

• Individual Talents Strengthen Our Families

• Playing Together as a Family

• Family Communication

• Problem-Solving and Decision-Making in Families

• Anger Management and Non-Violent Behavior

• Family Work and Responsibilities

• Family Service

• Family Traditions


Since its inception, the Family Enrichment Program has been taught in 47 countries, including Vietnam and Zimbabwe, and translated into 14 languages. Regarding her experience talking about the program at the World Congress, Dr. Sheffield said this: “Participating in the World Congress of Families is a truly wonderful and rewarding experience!  This was the fourth international conference on the family in which I have been invited and privileged to participate.  I am continually uplifted and inspired by the many good people, from all countries and all religious faiths, who work to strengthen families.  I have come to truly love, admire, respect, and appreciate those who work so tirelessly within their own spheres of influence to assist and fortify families.”

Family Enrichment ProgramDr. Sheffield spoke in two separate sessions: the first to an “Emerging Leaders” group — young adults ages 18 to 28— and the second on Wednesday afternoon in a general breakout session about establishing an advocacy program. Its purpose was to encourage and inspire Congress participants to develop and utilize their individual skills and abilities and work to strengthen families within their individual circles of influence. She spoke not only of the Family Enrichment Program, but also about the Staying Alive program, a culturally sensitive, structured, abstinence and family-based HIV/AIDS prevention and life skills education program taught to children and youth ages 9-14, in 14 African countries to over 2 million African children and their families.

The full video of her presentation can be viewed here

Intern in Thailand

Supplement your formal education by interning in Thailand this summer!

The Thailand Internship Program is open to all majors. Students in the program will be given research and internship opportunities while gaining international experience. Internship work is customized to fit the goals and aspirations of each individual student. Past students have worked in diverse areas ranging from orphanages to  courthouses in Chiang Mai. There are opportunities for students to intern with NGOs, schools, shelters, hospitals, courts and other organizations.

Political Science professor Dr. Joel Selway is the program director.

Students live with Thai host families during the course of the program, which runs Spring/Summer 2016. Students will also earn at least 9 hours of BYU credit.

Application deadline is February 1st. Read more about the program at http://kennedy.byu.edu/thailand-development/

Complete the online application at kennedy.byu.edu/apply

Thailand via Flickr M M 3998447398_cb07556b3f_b


Picture courtesy of Flickr.

Have you ever been to Thailand? What was it like?

Political Science Student Named MFP Fellow

The students in the college of FHSS continue to amaze us! Alejandra Gimenez, a senior political science student from Connecticut, has been named as one of the 2016-2017 American Political Science Association (APSA) Minority Fellowship Program (MFP) Fellows.

Alejandra GimenezThe Minority Fellows Program, as described by the APSA, is a competition for individuals from under-represented backgrounds applying to doctoral programs in political science. Gimenez herself plans to pursue a PhD in American Politics after graduation.

As an undergraduate student at Brigham Young University, Gimenez has taken advantage of many opportunities outside of the classroom. She has pursued her research interests by working as an undergraduate research fellow with the Center for the Study of Elections and Democracy since January 2014. She and her co-author explored the effects of ‘positive and negative cues on support for an increase in the federal minimum wage’ using a survey experiment that was fielded on the 2014 Utah Colleges Exit Poll. This work was awarded first place in the 2015 Pacific Chapter of the American Association for Public Opinion Research (AAPOR) Student Paper Competition. Gimenez has presented her work at MPSA, and she has been selected to present at the University of Michigan’s Emerging Scholars Conference.

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To learn more about the APSA MFP program and recent fellows, visit  www.apsanet.org/mfp

Crayon photo via Flickr.

Breaking Down Traditions: LDS Women in India

Two of the most influential forces in one’s life are culture and religion. In some aspects they may intermix, but what happens when they are at odds? Taunalyn Rutherford joined us on campus last November as one of several speakers at the 2015 women’s studies conference, and addressed that question. Rutherford, an adjunct instructor in the religion department at Brigham Young University, took a semester off to spend time in India working on her dissertation. Her research focused on The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints in India. One of her chapters focuses on the women of the church specifically.

The Church in India

There are 12,257 members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints in India and 43 congregations, according to MormonNewsroom.org. The first stake was organized in Hyderabad in 2012, which is where Rutherford spent most of her time. Collectively, in her visits to India, she has interviewed over 150 people, mainly members of the the Church.   


Women in India

Rutherford asked the women she interviewed to tell her about the position and status of women in India in general. “I often [got] the word patriarchy,” said Rutherford. “And it is never used in a positive light.” One woman she interviewed said,

I think it’s very patriarchal here. Men dominate a lot… It differs from person to person. If the man is a good man, respectful man, then the woman who married him is a happy woman, a lucky woman. But if you’re in the wrong place, wrong person – I’ve seen my cousins and they all have been dominated, hit … They say Indian women get abused, but in other countries too it’s the same. Women are being abused everywhere.

India, which was ranked 108th in the world in terms of economic opportunities and education for women by the World Economic Forum in 2015, has struggled in its development of equal opportunity for women.

Members of the Church in India

Though the Church has faced some scrutiny over issues of gender equality, their stance on the issue is clear: “All human beings—male and female—are created in the image of God. Each is a beloved spirit son or daughter of heavenly parents, and, as such, each has a divine nature and destiny,” as stated in The Family, A Proclamation to the World

Rutherford saw a difference when the same women who spoke of women’s status in India spoke of women’s status in the Church. There were still some comments regarding male dominion, but the language was much more positive and hopeful. One woman said, “In the church, I think the brethren have slowly understood the priesthood holders – that all of us are equal.”

One male member of the church demonstrated this understanding in an interview with Rutherford. “I am grateful for this gospel because it tells that they are both the same. Not one is superior or inferior. Both are equal and men, ‘without her, you can’t get exalted!’ That is one of the greatest truths because you break all the traditions and cultures in India.”

india-787724_1920Through their membership in the Church, Rutherford has seen that some women have found more purpose in their role as a wife and mother. One woman said, “They have priesthood, so we have motherhood. And they have different roles and we have different roles.” Some women have discovered confidence. “Personally, for me, if it wasn’t for the church, I wouldn’t be sitting here like this, sitting here talking to you,” said another woman. “I would have just told you a few words and that’s it. But, it has changed me. It has changed my way of thinking about myself, about that I am not low, I am equal to men.”

Rutherford noted, “There is something in the message of the gospel, that is working counter to the patriarchy that they are naming.” 

Looking Forward

Rutherford will continue in her research and writing her dissertation. In the meantime, she said, “I have great hope for women and for the future of the church and in how we deal with issues of gender as I look and listen to women and men in the Church in India.” Watch the full lecture below. 

How has religion influenced your cultural identity?

Photo courtesy of Pixabay.