FHSS Valedictorians: Braydon Madson, Political Science

Braydon Madson

Graduate Braydon Wade Madson was named valedictorian for the Department of Political Science. He is the son of Heidi and Greg Madson.

He was born and raised in Payson, Utah and served a mission in Brisbane, Australia. During his time at BYU, he participated in a variety of programs, including internships in Washington, D.C. and Melbourne, Australia; a study abroad in the Holy Land; and a fellowship in the Global Politics Lab. He is also majoring in ancient Near Eastern studies. He participated in research that looked at minority group relations, the effects of Brexit, and the impact of the global refugee crisis.

The highlight of his undergraduate experience was working as a teaching assistant for POLI 328, Statistical Analysis. He will attend Duke University in the fall to begin work on a Ph.D. in public policy studying refugee and immigration issues, as well as expanding his quantitative skills and teaching abilities. He is extremely grateful for all the support provided by BYU faculty, his family, friends, and his fiancé and fellow political scientist, Brynne Townley. 

FHSS Valedictorians: Maci Jacobson, Neuroscience

Maci Jacobson

Graduate Maci Jacobson was named valedictorian for the Neuroscience Center.

She was born and raised in Riverton, Utah. She is a passionate BYU sports fan and is an artist, often called the “Gumwrapper Girl” for her ability to make art out of gum wrappers. In high school, Maci played and lettered in basketball, tennis, golf, and track. When injuries cut her sports career short, she focused more on school and was led to study neuroscience. She has fallen in love with the field as it has taught her more about empathy, healthy lifestyle, and the gospel. 

At BYU she found her passion for research and received two grants for undergraduate research studying the effects of nutrition and exercise on cognition. Maci hopes to eventually return to BYU as a neuroscience professor and contribute to unlocking the brain through research. Maci has been married for almost a year to Trace, the man of her dreams, and they currently live in Draper, Utah. After graduation, Maci will start her PhD in Neuroscience at the University of Utah. 

FHSS Valedictorian: Miranda Jessop, History

Miranda Jessop

Graduate Miranda Jessop was named valedictorian for the Department of History.

She is an honors student double majoring in history and Spanish Studies with a minor in German, and is scholar at heart. Her parents Christopher and Tiffany Jessop often tease her about her first word, “book,” because it proved to be indicative of her future. She will graduate with four published works to her name (including one in Spanish) and has won multiple awards for her writing.

Miranda interned in Vienna, transcribing audio recordings of interviews with concentration camp survivors for the Mauthausen Survivors Project, and studied European History at the University of Cambridge. She belongs to numerous honors societies and has enjoyed serving as the president of Phi Alpha Theta and editing The Thetean.

When she isn’t researching and writing about women’s history, Miranda is likely to be found doing a jigsaw puzzle, lifting weights, practicing jiu jitsu, playing guitar, or hanging out with her four younger brothers. She would like to thank the outstanding faculty members and wonderful friends and family who have encouraged her to follow her dreams. 

FHSS Valedictorians: Aspen Neville, Geography

Aspen Neville

Graduate Aspen Emily Neville was named valedictorian for the Department of Geography. She is the daughter of Ron and Lara Neville.

Aspen grew up in Vail, Colorado. While deciding a major, she participated in the Kilimanjaro: Global Adventure Travel in Tanzania study abroad with the Geography Department. That eye-opening experience helped her find a love of geography and a desire to learn about the world around her. With the Geography Department, she has been a teaching assistant and has been involved with the BYU weather station. Additionally, Aspen has worked as a GIS (geographic information system) intern with a water conservancy district. She joined both Phi Kappa Phi and Golden Key International Honor Society at BYU.

Outside of school, she enjoys long-distance running, including having run the Boston Marathon two times while attending BYU, skiing, hiking, and just being in nature. She would like to thank her parents for their constant support and love as well as the Geography Department for making her experience at BYU a memorable one.

FHSS Valedictorians: Savannah Hurley, Anthropology

Savannah Hurley

Graduate Savannah Hurley was named valedictorian for the Department of Anthropology. She is the daughter of Charlotte and Bryan Hurley. She grew up in Moab, Utah, and fell in love with studying people during her freshman year at BYU. She discovers a passion for new subjects each semester.

Last year she participated in an anthropological field school in Southeastern Utah and subsequently wrote a research thesis on the archaeology of trade in southern Utah and surrounding areas. She has enjoyed rubbing shoulders with brilliant and inspiring peers at this university.

Apart from learning, Savannah enjoys spending time with her family, collecting snakes, reading, traveling the world, and trying new foods. She would like to thank her family for their support, as well as all of her professors at BYU. In particular, she would like to thank Joseph Moody, Alexandra Brattos, James Allison, and Zach Chase for their skill in teaching and their considerate stewardship over, and even love for their students. Their inspiring words distinguished them and assured her she was worth teaching. 

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