5 Keys to Winning the Game of Life

Setema Gali Delivers Convocation Address

BYU Alumnus Setema Gali Speaks at 2021 Convocation

BYU alumnus Setema Gali (BS Sociology ‘01, MPA ‘14) told students that 20 years ago when he graduated, he never could have imagined coming back to his alma mater and speaking to over 1,500 graduates. Gali was the speaker for the 2021 convocation for the College of Family, Home, and Social Sciences.

The former NFL player and best-selling author shared five things he wishes he had known when graduating from college.

Key #1 Get Clear (Crystal Clear) About the Life You Want to Live 

Setema explained that clarity is power and if you lack clarity you might end up in a destination that you had no desire to be at. He said, “No one leaves Brigham Young University and says I can’t wait to be miserable, unhappy, emotionally bankrupt and spiritually out of alignment. But if we’re not careful and we don’t get clear, we end up there.” He asked students to consider how clear they are about the life they want to live, “Does your heart and your soul call to you today? If it does, I invite you to listen.”  

Setema encouraged students to gain a clear understanding of who they want to be, how they want to interact with others, and what type of contributions they want to make.  

Key #2 Be Prepared for Adversity 

Setema shared a difficult experience of becoming bankrupt and being evicted from his home. During this challenging time, he found himself looking to the heavens and asking, “God, where are you?” Setema decided to sell his Super Bowl ring in order to provide for his family. He faced emotional, spiritual and financial trials but he learned to use his struggles to propel him forward. He encouraged students, “Don’t let these trials crush you but use them as stepping stones to help you get to the next level.” He shared with students the teachings he learned from his professors, teammates and coaches at BYU that God can consecrate trials for our good.  

Key #3 Go All In 

As Setema reached his mid thirties he was still struggling to make ends meet and provide for his wife and two sons. He took three summers and knocked doors despite feeling embarrassed and humiliated. He went all in to help his family. Setema reminded students of the blessings from working hard, “Whatever you do, whatever responsibility you have, God will bless you for going all in.” 

Key #4 Have Fun 

While Setema was knocking doors during the summers, he learned how to have fun. He shared the scripture, “Men are that they might have joy.” Setema emphasized that it’s important to enjoy life and that everything isn’t as serious as a Super Bowl game.  

Key #5 Exercise Faith in God 

As Setema reflected back on his life he saw God’s hand in the intimate details of his life. He shared, “We can do so much more with our life when God is a part of it than when he’s not.” He promised students that has they put God first everything else happens the way it’s supposed to.

Setema concluded his message by emphasizing the purpose of a BYU education. He shared, “We came here to learn, grow, and become so we can enter into the world and make a lasting impact.” 

Watch the full address and department programs here and then check out the profiles of our impressive graduates.

Senior Spotlight: Savannah Melvin

International experiences are driving this anthropology grad to right injustices around the world

Anthropology Senior – Savannah Melvin

Savannah Melvin was raised in Sri Lanka, Thailand and Zimbabwe. Having experienced different cultures and seeing lots of injustice, she feels it’s her moral responsibility to do something that will contribute back and make a difference for people.

For her senior thesis project, Savannah traveled to Ecuador to study its medical culture. Savannah spent two months in midwife clinics and hospitals around the country. As she compared healing practices in Ecuador and America, she recognized important differences. “I realized that Ecuadorians used what we would think of as non-traditional medicine but what they consider traditional,” she says.

Savannah also traveled to Rwanda as part of a study abroad. She worked with genocide-affected women and children. The experience developed even more compassion in her. She explains, “It drove me to want to make a difference because I was surrounded by people who were doing amazing things to help this population who went through so much.”

Savannah’s undergraduate experiences in the Anthropology program and at BYU have shaped her passion to defend human rights and refugees. She says that she chose to study anthropology because she wants to do something multiculturally based to lay a foundation to practice law in a multicultural setting.

Savannah plans to apply to Harvard Law School next year with the hopes of becoming an international lawyer to right some of the injustice she’s witnessed around the world.

Senior Spotlight: Breeze Parker

Studying Tongan culture helps anthropology grad identify family glue

Anthropology Senior – Breeze Parker

As part of her senior thesis project, Breeze studied three huge kinship groups totaling 100 individuals (some online and some in-person) last summer. All of the families practiced honoring the fahu, which in Tongan culture is your father’s oldest sister. The fahu is an important kinship role and considered the matriarch of the family. Fahus historically dictated many things in the family including who her kinship could marry.  

Breeze noticed how the practice of fahus is dying out. During her research, she discovered the  importance of fahus in present day Tongan families. “Fahus are the glue for the intergenerational idea of family,” says Breeze. She analyzed how Tongan families include all extended family where as an American family is mostly comprised of the nuclear family.  

Breeze chose to study anthropology because she loves diverse groups of people. After graduating in April, Breeze will attend BYU Law School to become an immigration lawyer. She feels her studies have prepared her for her future career in many ways and says “Anthropology is all about getting to know people on their terms. It’s nice because as a lawyer, I will have an anthropologic perspective and desire to understand what my clients are going through.” 

Breeze grew up in Hawaii and felt it was difficult to find her place when she first came to BYU in Provo. She reflects, “I found out what it was like to be a minority on campus and sometimes it was hard to relate to people.”  

Breeze was able to find her place participating in the BYU Polynesian Club. She also felt a sense of acceptance when she started the anthropology program. “My peers and professors made me feel like I was at home.” 

Senior Spotlight: Brayton Bate

Anthropology grad uncovers moral divide Arab-Americans see between themselves and other Americans 

Anthropology Senior – Brayton Bate

Graduating senior Brayton Bate sat in the living rooms of many Arab-American families in Utah, studying how they viewed Americans and American culture. In dinner conversations he learned that the way Arabs distinguish between themselves and Americans is moral in nature. He reports, “It’s about ethics. It’s not about skin color or even religion.”  

Brayton observed how Arab-Americans in Utah understand the ethnic divide between themselves and Americans to be a moral divide. As Brayton discussed the differences between the two cultures with one Arab woman, she said that from her perspective Americans value their career and productive schedules more than relationships. She felt Arabs, on the other hand, prioritize community over autonomy.  

One thing that surprised Brayton during his research was the affinity that Arab-Americans had for members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. He says that the families he talked to respected and loved members of the church in Utah because of how closely related their conduct is to Islam. Brayton shares, “They do not feel that way about other churches and they’re very clear about it.”  

Brayton choose to study anthropology because he wanted to perform his own ethnographic research, “I thought it was a unique opportunity to be able to spend time on the ground in the trenches of people — recording, taking pictures and videos. It’s very similar to work you would do on a graduate level.”  

Brayton loved his time in the anthropology program and how he was able to learn to interact with people in a candid way in order to collect data. Brayton shares the importance of removing personal bias, “You can’t impose your personal beliefs on data, but rather, you collect and publish data based on what the data is saying instead of what you want to say.”  

Reflecting upon his senior research project, Brayton said he gained humility. “Spending time with people and performing research doesn’t necessarily make you an expert.” 

Brayton’s father is a Palestinian immigrant who came to the United States. After Brayton graduates, he plans to apply for foreign policy internships in the Middle East and eventually live and work there. 

Senior Spotlight: Samantha Snow

Anthropology grad studies impact of Zoom turning Provo apartments into college classrooms

Anthropology Senior – Samantha Snow

While Zoom has worked well in lessening the spread of COVID-19 on college campuses, it has had detrimental effects on students’ ability to engage with their classes and connect with classmates and professors.  

For Samantha’s senior thesis project in the anthropology program, she studied the experiences of BYU students in the summer of 2020, during the largest influx of remote learning that has ever occurred. The students she observed were participating in all their classes via Zoom. Samantha noticed how the pandemic didn’t just ruin things by adding distractions with learning from home, but students were having to control two parts of their lives at once: being a student and whatever they tried to do simultaneously.  

Samantha argues that Zoom shouldn’t be viewed as an equal replacement to in-person courses but as a secondary method of instruction. She explains, “You can’t mute yourself in an in-person interaction, so classroom exchanges are much more genuine. It’s easier to tell the mood of a classroom than a Zoom room, for reasons such as feedback, technological delays, and overall, the simple lack of togetherness-feeling over Zoom.” 

Despite feelings of disconnection, Zoom offers advantages like allowing students to take classes from literally anywhere in the world. It also helps with accessibility issues. Zoom’s closed captioning feature can be added to a recorded meeting and help those who would otherwise need an interpreter.  

After looking at the advantages and disadvantages of Zoom, Samantha notes that many of the successes and failures are at the control of both the student and the professor. 

Tips For Students  

Samantha’s research shows that students need to feel present in their live-streamed classes, even if they’re not physically with their classmates and professor. She saw how difficult it can be to balance two frames of life at once. To combat this, Samantha suggests that students become aware of these contrasting frames and be willing to change, “If students are taking classes at home, there’s nothing they can do about the maintenance workers showing up, but they can try to place themselves in a location that removes them from the most distractions possible.”  

Tips For Professors 

Samantha encourages professors to understand the features of Zoom and use them for the student’s benefit. “The professor, or anyone facilitating a Zoom call, has the chance to make the meeting as engaging as they’d like, but this also requires premeditated effort and training on their behalf,” she says. Professors can also request feedback from students to learn how they can improve and increase engagement. 

Samantha plans to continue pursuing her interest in education and attend Boston College this fall for a master’s program in international higher education. Samantha’s dream is to work in an administrative position at a college or university.  

Samantha is grateful for the anthropology program and how it prepared her for graduate studies. “Anthropology is really broad and some people see that as a downside but it’s really a benefit because you can apply its main focus of understanding people to anything.” 

Senior Spotlight: Jordan Etherington

Family life grad organizes first Springville food pantry for civic engagement capstone

Jordan Etherington cuts ribbon for the grand opening of Springville’s first food pantry

On Saturday, April 10, the Springville community cut the ribbon and opened the door to its first food pantry sponsored by the Kiwanis Club. 

Jordan Etherington, a senior graduating in family life with an emphasis in human development, organized the Springville Food Pantry as part of his civic engagement leadership capstone project. Jordan coordinated efforts between several organizations to make this dream a reality. Jordan worked as a representative of Mountainland Head Start, which provided space for the food pantry at the former Grant School located at 400 East and 100 South in Springville.  

Jordan says Mountainland Head Start plans to turn the school into a community center with the food pantry being its first program. The Kiwanis Club of Springville will operate the pantry as a satellite of the Community Action Services and Food Bank in Provo. Community Action will be providing foodstuffs and other support. The mission of the Springville Food Pantry is to distribute donated food directly to low-income families in the area.  

“I hope this local resource will help individuals and families get through difficult times by providing food and reassurance about where their next meal is coming from,” says Jordan of his efforts.

Jordan chose to participate in the civic engagement leadership minor at BYU because he wanted to be involved in the community. “At first I was a little nervous that the minor was going to be all about political involvement but the program taught me the importance of making connections with community leaders and organizations,” he says. 

Jordan encourages all students to consider participating in the minor as a good way to serve the community and make an impact for good.  

Jordan highlighted the ample opportunities available for BYU students who want to make a difference. “If there is a cause you want to be involved in, just reach out to the organization and see what opportunities they have. They won’t turn you away.” 

Jordan’s plans after graduation are to attend the University of Southern Mississippi in the fall and pursue a Ph.D. in school psychology with an end goal of becoming a therapist for autistic individuals. 

To volunteer at the Springville Kiwanis Club Food Pantry, contact them at springvillekiwanisclub@gmail.com or to find other volunteer opportunities in your area visit https://www.justserve.org/.

Find out more about the Office of Civic Engagement at https://civicengagement.byu.edu/.

Women of FHSS: Your Education Is Not Your Backup Plan — It’s Your Life!

Photo by Madeline Mortensen/BYU Brigham Young University/BYU Photo

Madeleine Wallis, a senior studying economics, came to BYU thinking that her education was her backup plan in case she didn’t have the opportunity to be a stay-at-home mom. However, along the way she realized that “my education isn’t my backup plan, it is my life!”

“Once I realized this is my life and I am just as deserving of a quality education and a successful career as any man, my eyes were opened,” says Wallis. “I want every woman at BYU to know that she not only belongs here but is valued. We need your perspectives and bright minds. This is not your backup plan — this is your life, and you deserve every bit of it.”

Like Wallis, women often face particular gendered obstacles as they navigate the academic landscape, consider opportunities, and make important education and career decisions. Female students at BYU face additional challenges because of perceived religious and cultural ideas, and many report feeling underprepared when life after graduation is different than imagined.

“Utah’s female college and university students are more likely to end up in the ‘some college, no degree’ category of educational statistics, and to self-select into lower-paying fields,” according to a Salt Lake Tribune article on female college students in Utah.

Lindsey Blau, academic and professional development manager in Liberal Arts Advisement and Careers at BYU, and professors Scott Sanders (Sociology) and Sarah Reed (History), are launching the Women of FHSS initiative to foster an environment where all women in family, home, and social science majors thrive and are encouraged to identify and pursue educational and career opportunities.

“Women face the challenge of understanding during college and even after graduation how their education and their life roles work together,” says Blau. “Our goal is to help our female students understand how they can integrate their education into their lives in ways that uniquely distinguish them for a wide range of possibilities.”

A website of resources now available

The Women of FHSS website went live on Feb. 25 and is designed to help students learn from the experiences of other women and use those stories to broaden their perspective.

“Many of our female students have amazing ideas of where their life will go but data shows that many of these ideas of are not realized by the time they graduate,” says Blau. “We want to help our students develop a deeper understanding of future possibilities and explore multiple applications of a BYU education.”

On the site, students can read or watch interviews of educated women in many different life circumstances — single or married with a career, pursuing graduate studies, as a non-traditional (returning) student, at home with children, and more. Students will also find guidance on resources available both on BYU campus and in the state, as well as data trends about women in Utah.

For example, 51% of Latter-day Saint women over the age of 18 are single and 48% are employed and working outside the home. “Yet, we see women continue to struggle as they pursue opportunities that are not directly related to marriage and family because of perceived religious and cultural stigmas,” says Blau.

Join us for a launch event

Students can register for the Women of FHSS kick-off event scheduled for Thursday, March 25 at 11 a.m. MST.

The kick-off will include four college alumna who will share the decisions they have made while juggling life, career, family and fulfillment. Learn how they view their education and its importance as a foundation in their life.

Blau hopes the program will help women remember their worth, explore multiple opportunities after graduation, and develop the skills and confidence for whatever life has in store for them. Blau wants women to develop the attitude of designing their lives and not letting life happen without intentional reflection, intervention and inspiration.

“Learn where your strengths are and how you can integrate your interests and passions to fit your life,” says Blau.

In the future, the Women of FHSS subcommittee plans to expand this initiative to include how men can become allies to the women in their lives. Blau says the only way this organization will achieve its mission is if men and women work together.

Learn more about Women of FHSS and register for the kick-off event.

Family Characteristics are More Important Than School Characteristics for Child Wellbeing

Associate dean, Dr. Mikaela Dufur introduces Dr. Toby Parcel as the 17th Annual Marjorie Pay Hinckley lecturer

The first-ever virtual Marjorie Pay Hinckley lecture took place with guest lecturer Toby L. Parcel, professor emerita of sociology at North Carolina State University, sharing her research on the effects of families and schools on child wellbeing. Her Feb. 4 lecture drew in over 200 participants.

View the lecture here.

Dr. Parcel shares that the best way to support schools is to support families. She says, “In each generation, we ask too much of schools, we place heavy burdens on schools and teachers. Let’s support families in doing their job well and in turn that will be the most beneficial for schools.”

Dr. Parcel finds that family social capital (connection to children) has a larger impact on child wellbeing than schools. Her research shows that social capital at home deters alcohol and drug use, but social capital at school does not.

“Family characteristics are virtually always more powerful than school characteristics in affecting adolescents’ cognitive and social outcomes,” says Dr. Parcel. She also finds that bonds between parents and children predict college enrollment and completion and are longer lasting than bonds at school.

When schools and families conflict, parental jobs become more difficult, but Dr. Parcel shares that when capital at home and at school are mutually reinforcing it can have “positive effects on both academic and social outcomes for children and reduce behavior problems.”

Dr. Parcel addressed the worry that many parents have that their children’s education is being negatively affected by online schooling. She finds that these negative effects are most severe for at-risk children. She also discovers that mothers especially struggle to balance work and their children’s schoolwork, all while establishing limits on screen time. On a positive note, some parents are becoming more involved and report better engagement with their children’s learning.

Dr. Parcel encouraged parents to create a warm and supportive environment in their homes by reading to children, asking about school, and showing their children that school is important.

Dr. Parcel gave additional public lectures online designed specifically for students and faculty.

During the student lecture on Feb. 2, Dr. Parcel spoke on the idea of “having it all,” or more specifically, balancing career ambitions and family goals. She asked students to consider how the choices they make now can help them in the years ahead.

“One can have it all, but probably not all at once,” says Dr. Parcel. “Different paths work best for different people.”

Dr. Parcel discussed how the shifting values in society and more remote job options are making careers more flexible and accessible for people who have different needs. She says, “At the end of the day, the ability to adapt to shifting circumstances is critical to making the right decisions at the right time.”

She presented relevant scholarship as well as her own experiences as an academic and mother that indicate a hopeful change and more opportunities — especially for women — in crafting a healthy balance between a career and family.

View the recorded sessions at hinckleychair.byu.edu/parcel-lectures-2021

Hinckley Guest Lecturer Highlights Lifelong Intersections of Family and School

Additional Presentations Directed to Students and Faculty

Toby L. Parcel, professor emerita of sociology at North Carolina State University

Toby L. Parcel, professor emerita of sociology at North Carolina State University, is the guest speaker for the 17th Annual Lecture of The Marjorie Pay Hinckley Endowed Chair in Social Work and the Social Sciences.

Dr. Parcel is best known for her research on families and their impact on a child’s social adjustment, educational achievement, and eventual attainment of life goals. Because Dr. Parcel will not be traveling to the university — all presentations will be delivered online — she has agreed to spend additional time giving talks to faculty and students with insights from her personal career, family, and life path.

Her lived experience as a woman, wife, mother, researcher, university administrator, and program director for the National Science Foundation adds interesting insights to the family-school relationships she has studied professionally.

Visit hinckleychair.byu.edu for details on how to join each lecture. Registration is not required and attendees will be able to engage with Dr. Parcel by submitting questions via chat.

Main Lecture: Thursday, Feb. 4, 6 p.m. “Unpacking the Home-School Relationship: Effects on Children and Adolescents”

Dr. Parcel’s main lecture will highlight research on the importance of social capital at both home and school and how these two institutions can work together for the greatest benefit. 

“When schools and families are on the same page, that’s very powerful,” said Dr. Parcel during an interview. “However, family influence is stronger and longer lasting.”

Student Lecture: Wednesday, Feb. 3, 12 p.m. “Can You Have It All? Navigating Work and Family in the 21st Century”

Many BYU students think deeply about how they will navigate educational and professional opportunities while also prioritizing commitments to family relationships and caregiving. If that’s you, don’t miss this “pre-lecture” specifically for university students.

Dr. Parcel will share lessons she’s learned as well as what her research concludes about how your career impacts your family. Dr. Parcel has been married 40 years and with her husband they raised two children while also rising in their careers. Now, with five grandchildren, she believes that families must work together to support both adults and children in succeeding in the 21st century.

“There are many valued pathways to manage all the things you want to do — one size does not fit all,” said Dr. Parcel. “Have a long-term view and don’t feel like you have to do it all at once.”

Faculty Lecture: Friday, Feb. 5, 2 p.m.Navigating Work and Family in the 21st Century: Lessons from Research and Life”

As an academic who has studied families and as a woman who has experienced a full career and family, Dr. Parcel will draw insights from her own research and experience to discuss how academics can navigate their own paths to success. She will also identify important skills to develop for those who wish to pursue administrative opportunities.

When Dr. Parcel moved to The Ohio State University, she was promoted to full professor and began her tenure in academic administration as both a department chair and associate dean. She served as a college dean at Purdue and later at North Carolina State University.

More About Dr. Parcel

Toby L. Parcel received her bachelor’s degree in Sociology from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and her master’s degree and Ph.D. from the University of Washington. She received tenure in the department of sociology at the University of Iowa before moving to The Ohio State University, where she was promoted to full professor and served as both department chair and associate dean in the College of Social and Behavioral Science. She then became the dean of the College of Liberal Arts at Purdue University and the dean of the College of Humanities and Social Sciences at North Carolina State University. She recently completed a three-year rotation as Program Director for the Sociology Program at the National Science Foundation. 

Dr. Parcel’s research interests include the effects of social capital at home and school on child and young adult academic and social outcomes. Her work has been published in the American Sociological Review, American Journal of Sociology, Social Forces, Journal of Marriage and Family, Social Science Research and Research in Social Stratification and Mobility. Her most recent book, The End of Consensus: Diversity, Neighborhoods, and the Politics of Public School Assignments with Andrew Taylor, was published by the University of North Carolina Press in 2015.

Dr. Parcel and her husband, John Gerber, have been married for over 40 years and they have two children and five grandchildren.  

About the Marjorie Pay Hinckley Endowed Chair

The Marjorie Pay Hinckley Endowed Chair in Social Work and the Social Sciences is named for the wife of Gordon B. Hinckley, former president of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Brigham Young University established the chair in 2003 to honor Sister Hinckley’s commitment to strengthening home and family. The chair focuses on understanding and strengthening the family, the development of women, and strategies to help both parents and children in difficult circumstances. Each year, the chair sponsors a distinguished social sciences scholar to visit the university and deliver a lecture about how their research addresses a pertinent social issue.

Get more details at the Marjorie Pay Hinckley Endowed Chair website.

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Psychology Researchers Need Dirty Diapers to Further Autism Research

There is growing evidence in the medical field that a community of gut microbiota is associated with anxiety and depressive disorders. Psychology professor Dr. Rebecca Lundwall and her team of researchers are conducting a study to identify the influence of gut microbiota on the development of autism symptoms. The team is recruiting infants 8 to 12 months old to participate in the study to identify an earlier autism diagnosis for children. They especially need infants who have an older sibling with autism.

The team is hoping to help doctors identify autism in children as young as 12 months old. Currently, most autism diagnoses do not occur until age 4 or later. Diagnosis can be difficult especially for parents who do not have an older child to compare the infant’s development to because diagnosis requires identification of delayed developmental milestones. Early diagnosis is important even if a child succeeds academically because autistics struggle socially when life challenges increase dramatically around adolescence or young adulthood.

Dr. Lundwall explains that, “Early autism diagnosis is important because it starts intervention when it’s most effective, while the brain is still developing, and helps children gain social skills.”

The research gets a little dirty
There is increasing evidence that gut health and bacteria are highly correlated with brain activity and it is known that teenagers and adults with autism have different gut microbes from teenagers and adults without autism. Dr. Lundwall’s team is looking for certain gut microbes in babies by collecting dirty diapers and analyzing the microbial makeup of the stool. The team will compare the gut microbes of infants who have a sibling with autism to those who have no relatives with autism.

“We want to help doctors have a simple test to identify autism risk for children at 12 months or younger,” says Lundwall. “Something like this could really level the playing field and help all children, regardless of symptom severity, age and allow children access to resources.”

Lundwall and her team hope that a simple screening test would allow all children who need a referral for a full autism assessment to obtain one.

Join the study
Dr. Lundwall’s team is looking for 100 families with infants-age 8-12 months to join the study. For the control group, participants do not need to have siblings with autism. Compensation is provided and you can get more information by emailing Rebecca_Lundwall@byu.edu.