FHSS Valedictorians: Victoria Beecroft, Economics

Victoria Beecroft

Graduate Victoria Beecroft was awarded valedictorian honors for the Department of Economics. She is the daughter of Collin and Melinda Beecroft and the oldest of three children.

She grew up in Belmont, Massachusetts, and served a mission in Ribeirão Preto, Brazil. As an undergraduate, Victoria worked as a teaching assistant and research assistant for various professors in the Economics Department, Marriott School and Kennedy Center. She enjoyed the opportunity that the Economics Department and the Honors Program gave her to explore various disciplines and make the most of her academic experience. Victoria also worked as an intern for finance, technology, and management consulting companies.

Through her classes and work experience, she developed a passion for economic development and education, which she hopes to incorporate into her career as a consultant.

After graduation, Victoria plans to work for McKinsey & Company and apply to graduate school. She is very grateful to the professors who took time to work with her one-on-one. She is also grateful for her friends and family for their support.

Mikaela Dufur to Serve as Associate Dean

The College of Family, Home, and Social Sciences has selected Mikaela Dufur to serve as an associate dean starting on July 1st of this year. Dr. Dufur has been teaching at BYU in the Department of Sociology for almost twenty years.

As associate dean, she will organize many important events within the college including the Fulton Mentored Research Conference and the Marjorie Pay Hinckley Lecture. She will also help with faculty grants and professional development leaves.

Dufur expressed her excitement for the new position saying, “I’m excited to get to know people who are outside my department and outside the college.”

Dufur’s day-to-day schedule will shift from teaching to working within a committee of two other associate deans that includes Dr. Samuel Otterstrom from the Department of Geography and Dr. Laura Walker from the School of Family Life. Dr. Dufur will take over for Dr. David Nelson from the School of Family Life.

Although Dufur will be taking on several new administrative tasks, she will still be teaching one class per semester. She is glad to stay connected to students, saying, “I am really grateful to still be able to teach because I love teaching.”

The College of Family, Home, and Social Sciences is grateful for Dr. David Nelson for his years of service and congratulates Dr. Dufur on her new position.

College of Family, Home, and Social Sciences To Create Virtual 2020 Convocation

Spring Commencement April 25, 2019 Photography by Nate Edwards/BYU © BYU PHOTO 2019 All Rights Reserved photo@byu.edu

For the students scheduled to graduate in April 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic has interfered with their opportunity to celebrate formally.  The College of Family, Home, and Social Sciences has developed a virtual graduation website to recognize graduates given the current circumstances.  While the college’s efforts to provide a replacement will not be the same as an in-person convocation, Dean Benjamin Ogles from the College of Family, Home, and Social Sciences still wants to commemorate each graduate’s accomplishment.

  • The college has developed a website where it will individually honor each graduate in the college.  Students should follow this link (Virtual Convocation Website) to enter their personalized information and a photo, or to opt-out of the website if they do not want to be featured.
  • Graduates are also welcome to join a future in-person college convocation where they will have the opportunity to participate in a formal graduation ceremony.  The college anticipates, and is hopeful, that the next opportunity would be April 2021, but students will be welcome in any future year.
  • The college will also send each graduate a graduation package that will include a convocation program, a diploma cover, a cap and tassel, and a small gift. Students are asked to double-check their mailing address when entering their information in the graduation website. Students must opt-in and verify their address to receive the package.

“We hope these efforts will, in part, make up for the missed opportunity to participate in-person in our college convocation,” said Dean Ogles.

The college congratulates all students on the completion of their degrees. Dean Ogles tells students that “So very few achieve this honor, and the college is pleased to include this class of students among the graduates of Brigham Young University and the College of Family, Home, and Social Sciences.”

Three FHSS Seniors Honored with Outstanding Student Awards

Victoria Beecroft, Sean Chapman and Miranda Jessop

Three senior students from the College of Family, Home and Social Sciences were awarded Outstanding Student Awards from the Phi Kappa Phi Society this year.   

  • Victoria Beecroft – Economics 
  • Sean Chapman – Neuroscience 
  • Miranda Jessop – History  

These students were recognized for their service and leadership experience as well as scholarly achievements including academic awards, research experiences, published papers, and presentations at scholarly meetings. 

Chapman currently has a 4.00 GPA, significant volunteer experiences in the community (over 150 hours) and 8 published papers in peer-reviewed journals in the field of analytical chemistry. Chapman commented on his achievements “I have been lucky enough to have eight publications as a high author or as a co-first author.” 

Beecroft was recognized for leading a large professional-development focused organization on campus and writing an Honors thesis on an student learning intervention created by Pratham–an NGO in India. 

The Outstanding Student Awards were given to current members of the Phi Kappa Phi Honor Society with a declared major in the Family Home and Social Sciences. 

Following guidance from national and state leaders regarding the COVID-19 situation, the Phi Kappa Phi Induction Banquet that was scheduled for March 18 was cancelled. The College of Family, Home and Social Sciences would still like to congratulate these outstanding students on their achievements. 

Sociologist John Hoffmann Shares Common Myths of Adolescent Drug Use

Dr. John Hoffmann, BYU professor of sociology, gave the 27th annual Martin B. Hickman Outstanding Scholarship Lecture, “Myths of [Adolescent] Drug Use,” on Thursday, March 12, 2020.

Hoffmann defined myths as “simplifications and beliefs which help people and cultures make sense of the world.” He described the negative effects of these myths/symbolic stories about drug use saying, “If we don’t think about them carefully or understand where they come from they can lead to bad policy and bad programs.” After 30 years of research on substance use and abuse Hoffmann discussed some common myths we believe about adolescent drug use.

“Substance users and problem users are different from us”

The first myth Hoffmann addressed was the idea that substance users and problem users are “different from us.” He described the practice of “othering” which places people into different groups based on perceived physical differences. “We tend to still think drug users or drug addicts are certain kinds of people” said Hoffmann. He cited a study that followed young people for 13 years into adulthood. The study found that African American males were twice as likely as Caucasian males to be arrested for drug possession regardless of their actual drug use. Hoffmann emphasized the fact that “We cannot judge people based on appearance” and that “drug users are not different from us.”

“Substance use disorder (SUD) is a voluntary disease”

Many people believe that drug addiction is a voluntary disease, a choice and reflects a lack of willpower. Although this can be true in some cases Hoffmann pointed out the effects of social environments on drug use. He provided a few examples of influential circumstances that encourage drug use which include family and friend behaviors, stressful experiences, heredity and genetics. “There is a strong correlation between setting or environment and the likelihood of drug use” said Hoffmann. He explained how stressful life experiences can increase the chances of people developing problems with substance abuse. Hoffmann cited an experiment where rats were given access to drug-laced water. Researchers found that when rats were isolated they relied heavily on the drugs, but when the cages offered additional contraptions like tunnels and wheels the rats avoided the drugs altogether. This experiment provided evidence that positive environments and activities actually discouraged drug use. In relation to humans Hoffmann said, “Individuals in poor, stressful and disadvantaged environments will often look for something to dull the pain in their lives.”

“Legal drugs are safer”

Another common myth today is that legal drugs are safer than illegal drugs. Hoffmann compared the effects of alcohol and heroin. He described how while the withdrawal effects of alcohol can be lethal, heroin withdrawals can be “agonizing but people rarely die.” He pointed out how heroin is one of the “most prohibited drug substances” while you can go into most grocery stores and buy alcohol off the shelf.

“Drug use leads to instant addictions”

Many people believe that drug users will become addicted after using one time. Research indicates that developing a substance use disorder usually takes much longer and can depend on a person’s genetic susceptibility. Some people try drugs for the first time and have a bad reaction and never want to try it again while others have a pleasurable reaction. Hoffmann explained that “Reactions vary person to person.”

“There is little we can do to reduce substance use”

Hoffmann combated the idea that there’s little we can do as parents, concerned citizens and as a society to reduce substance use or the harms associated with it. He explained that even though there’s no “magic bullet” that’s going to stop every kid from using drugs, there are things we can do to decrease the likelihood of our kids using. He provided several ways including developing a good relationship with teens, talking to them, spending quality time with them, getting to know their friends, and helping them engage in positive activities. Hoffmann also explained that the greatest risk to adolescents is “unstructured social time.” Teens who spend more than three hours without structure in their social activities raise their risk of using alcohol and marijuana by 60%.

Hoffmann concluded his lecture by encouraging us as a society to understand the influence of environments on drug use. He also encouraged us to not demonize people who use drugs but find ways to help, which starts with being informed. He also believes there is a lot of positive influence we can have on our children when we set positive examples and create strong relationships.

For more info on adolescent drug use visit the following links:

Adolescent Health

Drug Myths

Kolaches on the Kimball

Hruska’s peach kolache

What’s better than a free kolache? Taking a selfie with one on top of the KMBLL tower!

Every student who donates to the Choose 2 Give Scholarship, will get a free kolache and a trip to the top of the KMBLL tower. Students will get the rare opportunity to ascend to the highest point on campus, bypassing the tower’s normally restricted access.

The campaign will run on Tuesday, March 10th and Wednesday, March 11th from 12pm to 2pm outside the KMBLL tower. Students are encouraged to take selfies on the KMBLL and share them on social media encouraging all to donate.

Choose 2 Give (C2G) is a student-run and –funded scholarship campaign that helps student in need receive a BYU education. 100% of the money raised is used to benefit BYU Provo students.

Contributions of any amount are accepted and this year the goal is to reach 200 donations!

Learn more at: https://studentalumni.byu.edu/events/choose-2-give

Dr. Hoffmann to Uncover the Myths of Adolescent Drug Use at the Annual Hickman Lecture

Dr. John Hoffmann, BYU professor of sociology, will give the 27th annual Hickman Lecture, “Myths of (Adolescent) Drug Use,” on Thursday, March 12, 2020 at 11:00 AM in 250 KMBL.

Hoffmann will be presenting research that he has conducted over the course of thirty years.

Hoffmann explained that in today’s world, there are many common misconceptions about drug use and through research we can identify which of these beliefs are accurate. He defined the word “myth” not as fake or false, but rather as an “oversimplification of things.”

Hoffmann says that one of his goals for this lecture is “dispelling some of these myths so we can better understand people involved in drug use and find better ways to help them.”

Some of the common misconceptions he will uncover include:

  • Heroin, Cocaine and Methamphetamine are “so good don’t even try them once”
  • Drug dependency may be a disease, but it’s an involuntary disease
  • The war on drugs is winnable- we can fight battles by punishing people, so they won’t use drugs
  • There is little we can do as parents and concerned citizens or as a society to reduce substance use

Hoffmann hopes that students and faculty alike will understand that, “there are things we can do as families, communities and as a society to reduce drug use and the associated harms.”

The lecture is in honor of Martin Berkeley Hickman, a BYU political science professor who served as the dean of the College of Family, Home, and Social Sciences from 1970-1986. He founded the Women’s Research Institute, the David M. Kennedy Center for International Studies, and the Family Studies Center, and is recognized as the father of BYU’s American Heritage program.  Hickman was renowned for his loyalty and dedication to his family, the Church, the college, and BYU.

The Martin B. Hickman Scholar Award is given annually to recognize a notable college faculty who follows Hickman’s example of service and dedication.

Becoming a Zion University: How Can We Nurture Diversity and Inclusion?

Dr. Ignacio Garcia giving the first annual Hickman Diversity Lecture

Dr. Ignacio Garcia, the Lemuel Hardison Redd Jr. Professor of Western and Latino History spent the first twenty-two years of his career as the only scholar of color in his department.

As a minority, he shared his aspirations for the university to become “whole” during the first annual Hickman Diversity Lecture titled “A Vision to be Whole: Unlearning Ephraim and Re-engaging 2 Nephi 26:33”.  

Garcia acknowledged racially insensitive issues both in the Church and at BYU and challenged all students, faculty, staff and administrators to “engage in the effort to make this a Zion university.” He stated his goal was not to fix all of society’s racial issues but rather understand why we as Latter-day Saints have a diversity problem and how we can overcome it.

Garcia said our problem is rooted in the fact that we have a misunderstanding of what it means to “nurture diversity and inclusion.” He expressed that many students on campus feel they have no one to whom they can turn. Students are often told they must adjust and conform, sharing that “Students are told to stop speaking Spanish and go back to their country.”

Garcia compared BYU to a forest in which every element plays a part to make it a living ecosystem. In this human forest we are able to see the contribution of each Saint, “There’s a place for all the elements, and lacking one or two of them hampers the whole forest.”

So how can we create this balanced ecosystem in our Church and on campus? Garcia said that we need to move beyond shallow multi-cultural celebrations and artificial reconciliation, “We need to challenge ideas and structures that privilege one group over another.”

An example of this, is the idea of Ephraim’s teaching, a theological interpretation that members of the tribe of Ephraim are the “chosen people” and those of other genealogical heritages are perceived to be less obedient and worthy. Garcia declared that the Church has completely rejected these theories of color as a reflection of righteousness and denounced them as racist, “those who have seen President Russell M. Nelson’s ministry can see that all men and women are equal in the eyes of God.”

Garcia went on to explain that as Latter-day Saints we should seek to be one as our prophet has counseled us to do. On our campus students are educated to find good jobs, to recognize the importance of the Restoration, trained to win sports titles and prepared to be influential political leaders. Garcia referred to all these worthy aspirations as “secondary to creating a place where all of God’s children have the same possibilities.” He shared his hope that BYU can become place where no one is limited by their race, economic situation or gender.

Garcia acknowledged that creating this balanced environment will take time, “I’m investing in change regardless of how long it takes.”

He addressed how faculty, administrators and students can nurture diversity and inclusion on a daily basis.

He began by placing a heavy responsibility on BYU faculty to lead the way in this effort, “As faculty members we must ask ourselves if our classes, assignments, lectures and presentations are preparing our students for the world to come.” He prompted faculty and administrators to also reflect how they are helping students of color to find their voices.

Garcia encouraged students who feel misunderstood to seek trusted mentors, “Many of these men and women who teach here, are willing to rise to the occasion and they will learn so much more for it and it will change their lives immensely.”

Garcia encouraged students of color to enter every BYU space with a firm belief that they have something to offer and that their experiences, ideas and words matter, “empower yourselves by learning and participating in activities that take you out of your comfort zone which includes pushing against what you see as wrong.”

Garcia shared that the best way we can nurture diversity and inclusion is to walk beside those who are feeling alone and share in their setbacks and in their triumphs. We can follow the Lord’s example recorded by Nephi, “he inviteth them all to come unto him and partake of his goodness; and he denieth none that come unto him, black and white, bond and free, male and female.” Garcia concluded that all things are possible when we rely on the Lord. We can follow the challenge given to us to become whole, “This can be accomplished but it is up to us to make it happen.”

For the full 2020 Diversity lecture, click here or watch below.

Political Science Alum Worked to Change National Suicide Prevention Lifeline Number

Ryan Leavitt, partner at Barker Leavitt, a Government Affairs and Political Consulting Law Firm

BYU College of Family, Home and Social Sciences alumnus, Ryan Leavitt, served as the lead staffer for the bill requiring The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to designate a new suicide prevention lifeline number. “Suicide across the nation has become an epidemic especially with young people” says Leavitt.

Utah has the fifth highest suicide rate in the nation and suicide is the tenth leading cause of death in the U.S. according to The Centers for Disease Control.

Leavitt worked under the direction of Senator Orrin Hatch and Congressman Chris Stewart who authored the bill requiring the FCC to change the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline from 1-800-273-TALK to 988 in the next eighteen months.

“Right now if someone experiencing a mental health emergency needs assistance, the lifeline number they call to get help is really long. People who are having a hard time are not going to know where to get help” says Leavitt.  

Leavitt worked to create legislation which was signed by President Donald Trump called the Hotline Improvement Act of 2018. This act required a study by the FCC to determine the best three-digit code for the lifeline. The code 988 was determined to be the most effective. The FCC voted unanimously in December of 2019 to approve the proposal. This proposal will require carriers to implement 988 for a suicide prevention and mental health crisis lifeline.

 “The idea is to have a simple three-digit number like you have for 911 that everyone knows. The challenge is people don’t know the suicide lifeline number and they call 911 instead and then we are directing resources inefficiently.”

After almost ten years of public service Leavitt says, “The suicide lifeline bill is the piece of legislation I am personally most proud of.”

Leavitt, is currently a partner at a Government Affairs and Political Consulting Law Firm in D.C. and he attributes his career success to his educational opportunities starting with his undergraduate education at Brigham Young University. Leavitt earned a degree in Political Science in 2011. He built strong relationships with his professors and admits “I have BYU professors that I still keep in close contact with now, years later”.  Leavitt took full advantage of internship opportunities throughout his undergraduate career, participating in the Washington Seminar and interning with the Utah State Legislature.

Within one week of his graduation, Leavitt accepted a job with Senator Mike Lee and moved to D.C. After graduating from law school at George Mason in 2014, he was hired by Senator Hatch as an attorney on the Senate Judiciary Committee Staff.

Serving as a legislative staffer, Leavitt was assigned to advise Senator Hatch on Telecommunications. Utah Senator David Thatcher and Congressman Steve Eliason had begun advocating in the Utah State Legislative Sessions to designate a three-digit number as the suicide prevention hotline number in Utah. The Utah senators then solicited the help of Senator Hatch and Congressman Stewart to expand their proposal nationally.

Leavitt describes the bill as a “great hope” for those struggling with mental health.

To get help, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255). There is also a crisis text line. 988 is not currently active and will be implemented in the next eighteen months.