2019 De Lamar Jensen Lecture: The Reformation in Religious Context

Merry Wiesner-Hanks, Distinguished Professor of History, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee

The 2019 De Lamar Jensen lecture will be presented by Merry Wiesner-Hanks, Distinguished Professor of History at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee on Thursday, October 10, 2019 at 11:00 AM in 2107, Jesse Knight Building. This lecture is free and open to the public.

Wiesner-Hanks’ lecture will discuss how the voyages of Columbus and the religious changes of the Reformation that are often seen as ushering in the modern world, but they are usually examined separately. Her lecture will bring them together, discussing religious changes around the world in the sixteenth century, some of which occurred because of the interactions between cultures that resulted from the voyages of discovery, but many of which grew out of movements of reform within various religious traditions as highly-educated thinkers and ordinary people changed religious beliefs and practices and sought to redefine the relationship between the divine and human. These will include the creation of Sikhism by Guru Nanak, reforms in Confucianism, the spread of Kaballah, Shi’ite Islam in the Safavid Empire, among others. Seeing the Reformation with the context of religious transformations across the globe does not diminish its importance, but allows us to understand it in a new way.

The annual De Lamar Jensen lecture is presented by the Department of History in the College of Family, Home, and Social Sciences, and was established to honor Jensen, who joined the BYU history faculty in 1957.

On Strengthening the Stepfamily – The 2019 Virginia F. Cutler Lecture

Gordon Limb, Director of the BYU School of Social Work

The School of Family Life is holding the 56th Annual Virginia F. Cutler 2019 Lecture on Tuesday, October 15th, at 7:00 pm in 250 KMBL. Gordon Limb, PhD, Director of the BYU School of Social Work, will be leading an interactive discussion on the following topic: “Strengthening the Stepfamily: Research Evidence from the General Population and American Indians.”

This interactive discussion focuses on the risk and protective factors of growing up in a stepfamily, including what we know about American Indian stepfamilies. Data will be presented from the Stepfamily Experiences Project (STEP), a BYU research study of 1,593 emerging adults, including 340 American Indians, who grew up in stepfamilies. Implications from practice, policy and future research will be given relating to both the general population and American Indians.

2019 Civic Engagement Research Conference Will Examine How Millennials are Impacting Today’s Political Landscape

The Office of Civic Engagement Leadership is hosting a conference on “Millennial Political Engagement” on Thursday, October 24, 2019 from 9:00am-4:30pm in the Hinckley Alumni Center East Conference Room. All students are invited to attend. The purpose of the conference is to help students across disciplines to understand the value of research on civic engagement.

The presentations will be:
9:30-10:45 am
Lynn Clark, University of Denver
“Growing Up Tracked: How Millennials are Changing Politics by Harnessing Attention in a Society of Surveillance”

11 am – 12:15 pm
Stella Rouse, University of Maryland
“Latino Millennials and Attitudes about Climate Change”

12:30-1:15
Peter Levine, Jonathan M. Tisch College of Citizenship and Public Service
“Why We Need SPUD (Scale, Pluralism, Unity and Depth)”

1:45-3 pm
Leticia Bode, Georgetown University
“Feeling the Pressure: Attitudes about Volunteering and Their Effect on Civic and Political Behaviors”

Writing Westward Podcast: Exciting Stories from the North American West

Brenden Rensink, Producer and Host of the Charles Redd Center’s Writing Westward Podcast

With topics ranging from Native Studies to rural America to race and ethnicity, the Redd Center’s Writing Westward Podcast features conversations with writers who focus on the American West. With a new episode released each month, the podcast has recently passed its one-year anniversary mark. Brenden Rensink, the Associate Director of the Charles Redd Center for Western Studies, producer and host of the podcast, began the podcast “as a way for the Redd Center to engage with more scholars and give more authors a platform to share their work.” The Redd Center invites scholars to give lectures on campus, but Rensink found that there are more people to spotlight than there is time in the semester. The Writing Westward Podcast allows the Redd Center to feature more scholars in a unique way that reaches additional audiences. Rensink also adds: “It would be dishonest if I claimed it wasn’t also an excuse for me, personally, to sit and read interesting books.”

And the books featured on the podcast are interesting. Rensink reports that he tries to “choose topics that will appeal to academics and the general public.” Many of these topics fall under the umbrella category of history, literature, and poetry. Because the podcast is multidisciplinary, the series as a whole features a wide variety of subfields: Native Studies, the environment, rural America, immigration, race and ethnicity, memoir, and more. The authors of these works are renowned in their particular fields. As Rensink explains, “Guests have included many prominent scholars whose books have won many awards.” One of these authors is John Branch, Pulitzer Prize-winning New York Times Journalist, who wrote The Last Cowboys: A Pioneer Family in the American West. Another one of these authors is Tacey M. Atsitty, writer of Rain Scald: Poems, and recipient of multiple creative writing and poetry awards.

In addition to compelling topics and authors, a casual conversational style is a distinguishing characteristic of the podcast. Rensink says, “One of my guiding principles is to host a loose conversation that is flexible and goes where it will. Rather than stock Q&A, I like to allow us to wander. I think this makes for a more engaging listen.” Rensink reports that listeners’ response to the podcast has been “very positive,” and the Redd Center is continuing to work on attracting more and more listeners.

In the introduction to each episode, Rensink states that the episodes are meant to “inspire you to learn more about the North American West as a region as well as its peoples and environments, histories, and literature, and so forth” and to “provoke as many questions as they provide answers.” Join in on the conversations about the North American West and gain valuable insights and discoveries at http://www.writingwestward.org.

Not All Bad: A Look into Dr. Sarah Coyne’s Social Media Research

Photo by ROBIN WORRALL on Unsplash

It’s said that every generation comes with habits that are loathed by the adults of that generation. The youth of the ‘70s had too much synth-heavy rock. Those too-loud-too-punk kids in the ‘80s played too many video games. Young adults today are relentlessly judged for their use of a seemingly far worse source of entertainment: social media.

Dr. Sarah M. Coyne, professor in the School of Family Life, conducted a six-year study examining the patterns of time spent on social media to see how adolescent lives are affected by the quantity of use. The 457 Participants in the study were from various upbringings, ethnicity, income, and family structure. All were aged 10-14 to begin in order to observe them throughout adolescence. To be true to the purpose of the study, examining differential patterns of social media time use throughout adolescence into early adulthood, the research team focused specifically on time, disregarding content, spent on Social Networking Sites (SNS), such as Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.

Yearly, each participant would answer a series of questions offering information about their habits and behaviors. At the end of the study, depression, aggression, and delinquency were assessed. Coyne found that the participants naturally sorted, as predicted, into three groups: Increasers, Peak Users, and Stable Users. The Increasers had the worst mental health outcomes than any of the other groups. To be considered an Increaser, the participants had a moderate amount of social media usage at the beginning of the study that stayed moderate through the halfway point then skyrocketed towards the end of the six-year period. Sadly, these people experienced aggressive behavior, both physically and in relationships, leading to cyberbullying, delinquency, and an increased likelihood for addictive and problematic behavior.

The majority of participants, however, categorized as Stable. Stable use participants had a fixed, moderate usage of SNSs over the years of the study. When used moderately, the study found that social media is a normative part of growing up in the digital world (Coyne, Walker, Holmgren, & Stockdale, 2018). Much like the music and hangout spots of the ‘70s and ‘80s, SNSs provide new ways for youth to interact with their peers, make new friends, participate in adolescent culture, and exert age appropriate independence (Coyne, et al., 2018).

Social media has been getting a bad rap, but studies like these show that the addictiveness of SNS depends on everyone’s own ability to self-regulate time spent online. Though at its worst it can lead to forlorn situations, social media is hardly as bad as rock music was in the eyes of moms and dads of the ‘70s. While it may be wrapped in different packaging, youth of any generation are simply looking to connect to the time and to each other.

Exciting Archaeological Discoveries Made by Joint BYU-Jordanian Team

In a June, 2019 press release, the Ad-Deir Monument & Plateau Project (AMPP) revealed that a joint Brigham Young University-Jordanian team recently made groundbreaking archeological discoveries in Petra, Jordan.

These findings are important contributions to the overall mission of AMPP, which is to identify, map, excavate, study and restore the major ancient Nabataean water control and containment systems that were originally built to protect the Ad-Deir Monument (the Monastery)–the largest rock-cut façade in Petra from seasonal erosion.  AMPP’s archeological efforts in Petra began in 2013 with drone linked GPS photography and mapping of the entire Ad-Deir complex.

The press release reports that one of the most important discoveries of the 2019 Field Season was the uncovering of a huge deposit of whole and partially whole Nabataean pottery dating to circa 40 BCE to CE 350. This discovery was particularly monumental because as Dr. Cynthia Finlayson of BYU’s Anthropology Department and Director of the AMPP project explained, it is “one of the largest deposits of complete Nabataean pottery assemblages ever discovered in its original contexts in Petra.”

In the AMPP Press Release, BYU students also explained how retrieving and transporting the pottery to the AMPP lab for processing, along with their overall experience in Petra, had a lasting impact on their academic and professional growth.  MA Archaeology student Elizabeth Whisenhunt reported that it “has given me a whole new perspective on archaeology, its potential intensity, and processing levels.  I also really liked the dynamics of working with our local crew and learning about Jordanian culture.  Being immersed in this every day was very important to me.” Archeology undergraduate BA student Jake Hubbert added that it “gave me more professional experience as well as seeing the progression of a project long-term. Working with our local Jordanian crew is always exciting and fun.”

Among the other significant discoveries was discovery of “the ancient rock-cut entrance and exit ramp to the Great Circle itself,” which is “the world’s largest known rock-cut circular water containment pool,” and 400-500 pound stones that were a part of a “built dam wall” on its eastern side.  Also, south of the Great Circle’s Outer Ring Wall, MA Archeology student Josie Newbold found “an undisturbed burial” which “in Petra is always a rare event.” To learn more about the Field Schools offered in Archeology, visit the BYU Anthropology Department website.

Gerontology Students Get Hands-On Experience at Miami Jewish Health

An unexpected connection began between a Jewish care facility in Miami and the BYU Gerontology department when Dr. Marc Agronin, VP of Behavioral Health and Clinical Research at Miami Jewish Health (MJH), came to BYU to speak at the annual Russell B. Clark Gerontology Conference. The connection between the department and MJH led to a new internship program, which helps students earn a minor in gerontology, the study of old age and the process of aging. The BYU Gerontology department offers students the opportunity to earn the minor, which complements other majors. Four students minoring in gerontology recently returned from Miami, where they experienced a professionally and personally enriching internship at MJH.

The four interns had the opportunity to observe staff members at MJH and provide hands-on care. They lived on campus and alternated weekly between the various branches of the facility. One of the interns, Meagan Proffit, an exercise science major, reported that living on site was great, because she enjoyed “passing other guests and residents each day during meals, activities, and their ‘porchtalks’ near the front of the building which helped us build special connections with them and lifted our spirits as well as theirs each day.” Another intern, Grant Flindt, a biochemistry major, enjoyed learning about the different aspects of MJH, including entertaining and interacting with patients during the P.A.C.E. (new form of geriatric healthcare) week. Flindt found the P.A.C.E. week to be “one of my favorite weeks because the doctor we shadowed, was so willing to take us on and answer any question that popped in our heads. We got a good view at what a gerontologist/internist will deal with in the hospital, which was encouraging!”

Among the highlights of the internship for the students was their interactions with the staff and patients. Seth Smith, a neuroscience major, found that staff members “genuinely care about the geriatric population of Miami Jewish and about us…Dr. Agronin does everything he can to make our experience there specifically meaningful to each participant… he is dedicated to helping the interns.” Profitt added that they made many close connections with people, and that “many of them were asking if we could stay for longer, the whole summer if not a whole year. I felt deeply touched by the number of people who had that kind of response.”

Because of the connections they made and the practical knowledge of gerontology that they gained, the interns felt that their time at MJH impacted their future beyond what they had imagined. Mandy Gilmour, an exercise and wellness major, gratefully reported: “I can’t explain how much this [internship] was a blessing in my life to learn and grow from. I have gained knowledge that will help direct my future as well as continual service for the rest of my life. I have also made relationships with individuals that I will be able to take with me and carry through the rest of my life.”

Are robots stealing jobs? A BYU sociologist finds some answers

What do you think of when you hear the word “robot?” Do you think of inventions that will spur greater innovation and technological change, or of nearly-human machines that will use their combination of humanity and superiority to take over the world? Sociology professor Eric Dahlin understands that there are conflicting viewpoints on robots and the impact that they have on society today and in the future.

In his study on the effect of industrial robots on the job market in the US, Dahlin found that robots do not steal jobs from humans. Instead, using information about robots and jobs from 327 metropolitan cities in 2010 and 2015, he found that “a strong, positive relationship exists between robots and employment.” He discovered that an increase in these robots actually correlates with not only an increase in high-skill occupations, but an increase in middle-skill occupations that involve routine and manual tasks, which are the positions that people fear will become obsolete by the use of robotics. In reality, robots work alongside humans in these types of jobs, which actually increases the need for middle-skill laborers. Dahlin said his findings show “there is no statistical information that shows robotics have impacted middle-and low skill jobs.” While it is possible that low-skill jobs involving routine tasks could become the work of a robot, overall, the data shows that robots are not decreasing the need for humans in these positions.   

So if robots are not stealing jobs, what will be the relationship between robots and human jobs in the future? Dahlin explains: “My research does not indicate that robots and humans can work collaboratively in the future. My findings described what happened in the years 2010 and 2015, so anything could happen…However, a hopeful interpretation of my findings is that as robotic technology continues to improve…robots and humans could work in new, collaborative ways together in the future.”

To find out more about Eric Dahlin’s study on the impact of industrial robots on the US job market, read his article published in SAGE Journals, “Are Robots Stealing Our Jobs?”

Former College of Family, Home, and Social Sciences Dean David Magleby Retires

The College of Family Home and Social Sciences would like to congratulate Dr. David Magelby, professor of Political Science and former Dean of the College on his retirement and outstanding academic and professional career. Professor Magleby taught political science at Brigham Young University from June 1981 to July 2019 and served as the dean of the College of Family, Home, and Social Sciences from 2001-2011. Although his last day was this week, on July 1, 2019, he gave his last lecture in December 2018. Department manager Carina Alleman recalled, “The students and teachers lined the hallway and applauded him as he left the classroom that day. It was pretty cool.”

On June 7th, 2019, the Center for the Study of Elections and Democracy (CSED) also showed appreciation for Magleby by holding a banquet in his honor. A scholarship has been created in his name, and those who will receive the award will be referred to as Magleby Fellows and will receive financial assistance based on academic merit. 

The political science department also honored Magleby in an article about him and his accomplishments in their summer 2019 edition of their newsletter, The Political Science Post. The article describes some of the many contributions that Magleby made to the field of political science during his time here at BYU:

“After coming to BYU as a professor, Magleby was named a Congressional Fellow of the American Political Science Association. This distinction meant he worked for a year with the U.S. Senate Majority Leader, Robert C. Byrd. During that year Magleby provided staff support for the leader, focusing primarily on legislation to reform campaign finance.”

“Magleby is the author of several books. His first, Direct Legislation, is considered the seminal work on initiatives and referenda. Along with the other works Magleby has written, he is the lead editor of a series on presidential election finance, including Financing the 2016 Election. He has also written several works on issues related to soft money in campaigns. In 1990, he served on a bipartisan Senate task force on campaign finance reform and his book on the subject, The Money Chase, was published by the Brookings Institution. In addition, Magleby authors a best-selling American government textbook, Government by the People, which, as of early 2019, was in its 28th edition.”

Prior to joining the faculty of BYU, Magleby was a professor at the University of California, Santa Cruz and the University of Virginia. Magleby received his bachelor’s degree from the University of Utah and his M.A. and Ph.D. from the University of California, Berkeley.

To learn more about Dr. Magleby and his achievements, read the article in The Political Science Post’s summer 2019 edition.

Celebrating the life of a hero: Brent and Jennie Taylor Family Endowed Scholarship Fund

National and local media alike covered the life and death of Major Brent Taylor, an alumni of the BYU political science department, who passed away last November while deployed in Afghanistan. He had been a successful community leader as the mayor of North Ogden and a loving husband and father of seven children. To help his example and legacy live on, his wife, Jennie Taylor, has decided to create the Brent and Jennie Taylor Family Endowed Scholarship Fund.

As explained on the Major Brent Taylor Legacy Foundation website, the plan with the new scholarship is “to establish a memorial scholarship in Brent’s name at each of his collegiate alma maters–namely, Brigham Young University and the University of Utah… [there will be] one full-tuition undergraduate scholarship each year, awarded in perpetuity [to BYU]; one master’s and one doctoral candidate scholarship each year, awarded in perpetuity.”

Jennie Taylor decided to create the scholarship, because she wishes to continue Brent’s commitment to service. As she explains on the scholarship fund’s website: “It is our desire, as a family, to carry on Brent’s legacy of service, sacrifice and statesmanship in a way that inspires future students to likewise focus on the same. Our cities, communities, state and nation need more of the kind of service-leadership that Brent exemplified. There are many things Brent might have gone on to do with his professional and public-service life, had he had more years of life on earth. Now that he is no longer here to fulfill any such future roles of leadership, that torch must be passed on to the next generation.”

To donate to the Brent and Jennie Taylor Family Endowed Scholarship Fund, go to http://www.majorbrenttaylor.com/. Also, read the article featuring his story in the Political Science Post, the quarterly newsletter published by BYU’s political science department.