Rootstech: What is it and Why Should BYU Students Care?

Family history is not exclusively a Latter-day Saint phenomenon–in fact, it’s a common interest among the world’s population, as we noted in Connections a few months ago. And nowhere on earth is genealogy a bigger deal than Rootstech, the biggest family history conference on the planet. That being said, the LDS Church is a heavy proponent of connecting to our ancestors, so it’s no surprise that students and faculty at BYU are getting involved in Rootstech like never before.


This isn’t the first year BYU has been involved in the conference, nor is BYU’s involvement consigned to only one department. The school’s History department, Center for Family History and Genealogy, Family History Library, Computer Science, Bachelor of General Studies program, Independent Study, and Economics will all be represented in a large booth in the expo hall, “so they can talk to people about the various family history resources here on campus,” according to Lenore Carrier of the Center for Family History and Genealogy.

“Any students that are interested in family history would benefit from attending the conference,” Carrier continues. “There are lectures for beginner to advanced researchers, as well as fantastic general sessions with high-profile celebrities like LeVar Burton, the Scott Brothers, and Buddy ‘Cake Boss’ Valastro.” Last year, nearly 30,000 people attended the conference.

Discounts for Rootstech are available for students who are registered at an accredited high school, college, university, or online program, and who have some form of valid credentials proving their status as a student (student ID, registration letter, valid class schedule, etc.).  You can receive the discount by emailing your documentation to Although faculty and staff unfortunately do not qualify for the student discount, they are still encouraged to come!

In the April 2010 LDS general conference, Elder Russell M. Nelson said, “When our hearts turn to our ancestors, something changes inside us. We feel part of something greater than ourselves. Our inborn yearnings for family connections are fulfilled when we are linked to our ancestors.”


Family photo courtesy of Flickr.


52 Stories and FHSS: How Will You Be Remembered?

How will you be remembered? In answering that question, think not about your accomplishments or the people by whom you’ll be admired, but of the ways in which your descendants will learn about you. They won’t be able to follow you on social media, and even if they could, what you like and follow today may not reflect what you like and follow tomorrow, or who you are as an actual person. If you don’t keep a journal, once you and those who know you pass, your only lingering mark in this world might be a small rock on a plot of land in the local cemetery. FamilySearch is looking to change that. With their new social media campaign, #52Stories, the LDS-owned genealogy site provides users with a series of writing prompts, in the form of questions, for their personal journals or family history projects–one for every week of the year. The idea is to help people not only write in their journals, but write meaningfully–thus providing their life stories with more enriching and fulfilling details.



The questions so far have been simple. This week’s question is: what is something you taught yourself without any help from someone else? In answering that particular question, it might be useful to read the example of alumni Christopher Wilms, who taught himself how to start a successful soda and sweets shop called Pop ‘n Sweets. In other weeks, you might be invited to write about your most important and valued friendships, or your childhood home. The whole list of questions is available here. But don’t feel restricted to only these questions if you want to take part. As college students, you could tailor the experience more specifically to your needs and life circumstances. For instance, you could write a post about your academic goals for this semester. (For help on this, check out this blog post.) Or maybe you could write an entry about your favorite professor or a faculty member who’s been particularly meaningful in your life. If you’re more determined, check out the resources available to you through

Dennis B. Neuenschwander, in a 1999 LDS general conference address, said: “A life that is not documented is a life that within a generation or two will largely be lost to memory. What a tragedy this can be in the history of a family. Knowledge of our ancestors shapes us and instills within us values that give direction and meaning to our lives.” Whatever rules and goals you set for yourself, be sure to make #52Stories a meaningful experience for you so that you can be remembered accurately and fully by your descendants. Make the time–it’s well worth it!



Upcoming Event on Religious Freedom

If you’ve been listening to leaders of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints recently, chances are high you’ve heard them talk about religious freedom. This issue is a growing concern to a church trying to find their way in an increasingly secular world. As the primary school owned and operated by the LDS Church, BYU is also heavily involved in the fight for religious freedom, not only for its own sake, but for the sake of practitioners of other religions as well. At 4:00 p.m. on January 17th, Dr. Daniel Mark will deliver an address on BYU’s campus regarding on this issue, one that has been recognized as universal but which has also proven to be, over the course of human history, one of the most difficult to define and uphold.

This forum, hosted by BYU’s Wheatley Institution, will be particularly useful to individuals interested in issues of religious freedom, contemporary politics, philosophy, family and marriage, and family law. As a political scientist, Dr. Mark researches heavily the role of religious freedom in America, and his forum address will contextualize and deepen our understanding of the realities of current religious freedoms and trends. Attendees will be able to educate themselves on what religious freedom means and does not mean for them.

Dr. Mark, an assistant professor of political science and a faculty associate of the Matthew J. Ryan Center for the Study of Free Institutions and the Public Good at Villanova University in Pennsylvania, holds the rank of Battalion Professor and serves as the university representative to the performance review board for Villanova’s Navy Reserve Officers’ Training Corps unit and is a mentor in the university’s Faith and Learning Scholars Program. Dr. Mark holds a BA, MA, and Ph.D. from the Department of Politics at Princeton University.

BYU’s Wheatley Institution’s mission is to “enhance the academic climate and scholarly reputation of BYU, and to enrich faculty and student experiences, by contributing recognized scholarship that lifts society by preserving and strengthening its core institutions.


Note: featured image provided by Flickr Creative Commons.

BYU Helps: Cell Phones in Tanzania

It can be difficult to even imagine modern life without a cell phone, and it’s even harder to believe that just fifteen years ago, having the world at your fingertips wasn’t a common experience. Of course, in some parts of the globe, it still isn’t. To citizens of many underdeveloped countries, the prospect of owning a cell phone is the last thing on their minds. However, even the harshest of conditions can be vastly improved by access to this modern technology–and that’s why a BYU professor and his students are trying to help. Professor Daniel Nelson of BYU’s Department of Political Science recently accompanied seven students to the African nation of Tanzania, where they conducted mentored research on the effects of cell phone usage in poor Tanzanian communities. Specifically, the study focused on how access to cell phones might make a meaningful difference in the Tanzanian women’s lives.


Similar to the type of study in which certain subjects are given a medicine and compared with a control group that does not receive the medicine, this study analyzed the effects of cell phone usage on these women’s lives the same way. In Professor Nelson’s study, the researchers randomly assigned a bequest of free cell phones, smart phones, and other technological devices to Tanzanian women in order to gauge their effects on their welfare and the welfare of the communities generally. Some positive benefits were expected, but even Professor Nelson was encouraged by the level of difference the cell phones made to the women. “We thought the cell phones might be transformative,” he said, “but we were surprised at the magnitude of the effects. Compared to the wait-list control group, women with phones had much better pricing information for their small businesses, were able to recruit more customers, and made significantly greater use of mobile money.”

nielson-daniel“Critically, women in the phone group reported roughly double the incomes of women in the wait-list control,” Professor Nelson continued. He hopes to replicate those dramatic effects in a larger, third phase of the study, to drive home the importance of the findings and their big implications for international business, policymaking, and scholarship. Though the main project was funded by grants from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the money for mentored student research came from donors to Brigham Young University.

New Faculty Spotlight: Kat Green

Many people look at a crying child and see a nuisance. Kat Green sees a chance to make a difference.

A new professional track faculty member of the Psychology Department in BYU’s College of Family, Home, and Social Sciences, Dr. Green is excited for the opportunities that her position will afford her to influence the lives of children. “While my focus is on teaching, mentoring, and training,” she said, “I am also committed to supporting ongoing research, particularly in my areas of specialization and more broadly in anything related to improving outcomes for children and families.”

child-538029_1280Dr. Green’s areas of specialization include childhood anxiety disorders, preschool disruptive behavior concerns, and clinical supervision–disciplines which can have a tremendous impact on the life of a child. “I am interested in collaborating with students and faculty across departments to find ways to improve assessment for young children,” she said, adding that the disseminating of research into community settings will be crucial for her work.

For Dr. Green, it’s all about the children. “I’ve always been interested in working with children and families and finding ways to disseminate information about evidence-based interventions to [them] . . . I find that working with kids allows me to be a part of a broader team, including parents, other caregivers, teachers, pediatricians, speech and language therapists, and many others to help promote children’s success,” she said. Dr. Green graduated from the Department of Psychology here at BYU, with a bachelor’s in 2009 and a PhD in 2014. From there, she spent time at the Texas Children’s hospital before making the transition to a faculty position at BYU over the summer.

“BYU has an excellent psychology department and graduate training program,” she said, citing the school’s excellence as a main factor in her decision to return to Provo. “I was excited to have an opportunity to teach and mentor alongside great faculty and help prepare students to pursue ongoing training in the field. Speaking of her students, she says: “I . . . work with a great group of students. [They’re] the best part about teaching at BYU. I am always open to visiting with any students about questions related to clinical child psychology,” she said, “whether it be questions about graduate school, training, research or career options.”

Dr. Green and her husband have one baby girl, eight months old, whom they describe as “fabulous.” The Green family enjoys doing anything together, especially if it’s outside–“until it gets too cold,” Dr. Green quipped. “[And] since we moved back from Houston, it feels too cold already.”


Check out more of our awesome new faculty here and here!

Students: What Kind of Learner Are You?

What runs through your mind when you’re assigned a group project? For some, it’s excitement at the opportunity to cooperate, collaborate and learn with peers. For others, it’s viewed as a chance to slack off and get a good grade while their fellows shoulder the load. And still some don’t even register the difference–group project or individual, they’re going to do all the work anyway. How we respond to group projects is one indicator of what kind of learner we are. As sociologists have noted for decades, different students learn in different ways, and because these different learners are lumped into the same classes, not all teaching is optimal for all students. Researchers have worked at solving this age-old educational quandary for some time, and one of the latest to make headway is Ryan Jensen, chair of BYU’s Department of Geography.

Using what he’s termed “the Q-method,” Jensen (along with two other researchers) distinguishes between three different kinds of learners:

The Lone Pragmatist: Lone pragmatists don’t like group projects; in fact, they “prefer not to be involved in cooperative or group learning” of any kind, according to Jensen’s findings. They’re neither outgoing nor social with other students in their class, and they’re proactive and realistic in their approach to classwork. The lone pragmatist thrives when information is provided in a clear rather than abstract manner, and do well in an “I teach, you listen” classroom atmosphere.

The Explorer: Group projects are a bit more tolerable to the explorers, who, according to Jensen, “learn better when talking about new material with other students.” However, they’re still somewhat ambivalent about immersive group study. Explorers are visual learners, and appreciate learning in terms of concepts and theories (as long as the theories aren’t too abstract). They value sensibility over imagination, and exploring multiple ways to learn new things.

The Synergist: If you’re a synergist, you prefer to have things written down, not in maps in pictures, but in words. Synergists tend toward verbal learning over visual, and see themselves as detail-oriented. They’re also the most likely to be enthusiastic about a group project, perhaps because they “enjoy brainstorming as part of the group learning process.” Synergists try to make connections between their learning and the bigger picture; in this way, they better understand the details of why they learn what they learn.

Of course, no student falls completely into one of the above categories–each learner is individual, and grouping students into three pre-labeled factions instead of one would do little to personalize education. But in a 2013 study, Jensen provided some suggestions for how teachers could optimize their education to assist as many different learning styles as possible.

Ryan Jensen, Copyright BYU PHOTO 2007 All Rights Reserved (801) 422-7322
Ryan Jensen, Copyright BYU PHOTO 2007
All Rights Reserved

“We propose adopting a balanced approach in which teachers create course plans to address the variety of learning styles present in their class,” Jensen says. One potential suggestion would be “moving from teacher regulation to student regulation in what [researchers] refer to as process learning,” or in other words, giving the students more leeway in deciding what projects would help them learn best. This and other optimizations allow greater chances for individualized learning; according to Jensen, this means that “instructors can think of using learning styles as a way of helping students gain satisfaction from learning and thus develop life-long skills by better understanding their own learning processes and preferences.”

Alumni News: For Those Who Are Graduating Soon

For students graduating at the end of this or next semester, there is perhaps a wide gamut of emotions they’ll experience. Excitement, to be sure, the beginnings of nostalgia, perhaps, and anticipation or invigoration at the prospect of being out in the world and giving back to humanity after years as a dependent. They may look forward to walking down the “Stairs of Death” on the south side of campus one final time, degree in hand, but for them to say goodbye to BYU forever would be crazy, to an extent. The College of Family, Home, and Social Sciences has an ever-growing alumni community 70,000 members strong, and that community is far too valuable a resource to not take advantage of. Here are three specific reasons you should stay connected after you graduate:

1: Networking


A college graduate with no reliable network is ill-equipped to handle the professional world, but by keeping in touch with the alums of the College of Family, Home, and Social Sciences, he or she can find opportunities to investigate careers, mentors, and job leads. Dee Allsop, a member of the College’s National Advisory Council and a former president of the BYU Alumni Association, said: “[The spirit of the Y] needs to be cultivated in the communities where people live—not just in their cities, but in their professional, global, and social communities as well.” Whether you check in with your department alumni groups online (see our list below); follow other alumni on our website or through the RISE alumni story index, subscribe to our alumni magazine, or connect on LinkedIn, there are so many easy ways to stay connected.



School of Family Life

Family History Majors

FHSS Advisement Center

Political Science

solo-violinist-1625307_12802: Performing Arts Discounts

BYU’s award-winning fine arts programs generously give discounts to alumni for most of their performances! These events are perfect for date night or just a regular fun time.







3: Insurance

Adulthood is expensive, and insurance is one of the most relentless costs. But the BYU Alumni Insurance program is a convenient source for life insurance for alumni and their family members. Furthermore, the BYU Alumni Association offers three different health insurance plans for its alumni–for information on joining these programs, call toll-free at 1-800-922-1245. In addition, special group discount rates are available on Auto and Home insurance through Liberty Mutual–call toll-free at (800) 526-1547 for more details.







Dr. Crane: Making Marriage and Family Therapy More Cost-Effective

More than 90 million adults in the United States have low health literacy, as do one in five citizens of the United Kingdom and sixty percent of Canadian citizens, according to the World Health Organization. This means that they don’t know where or how to get medical information that they can understand, how to communicate effectively with their health care providers, or how their healthcare system works. This costs them a lot of money every year, and affects their health; they may go to the hospital more often, and have poorer health overall. Experts have consistently shown that the greater one’s health literacy, the easier it is to make cost-effective health care decisions. The concept applies to more than just decisions made about one’s physical health; it can also be said to apply to the health of one’s relationships as well: relationship literacy.


Such literacy is at the core of the College of Family, Home, and Social Science’s mission. Part of the development of that literacy involves educating the psychologists and family therapists of tomorrow. Those future therapists learn how to help marriages that have lost their strength become strong again. Countless practicing providers today health marriages and families worldwide, yet it remains murky territory for many. What happens in therapy? Will it help? Perhaps most pressing, how much will it cost? D. Russell Crane, a professor in the college’s School of Family Life, recognizes the urgency of these questions and strives to alleviate the concern they often cause.

He recently published a book chapter on the topic with Jacob D. Christenson of Mount Mercy University. The chapter explored the means by which researchers could increase the cost-effectiveness of different therapy methods and practices. This process is even more difficult than it sounds, he says, because researchers are often resistant to “monetizing” their interventions, can be unfamiliar with cost evaluation methods, or maybe feel uncomfortable with the complexity of some of the calculations. But Dr. Crane argues that, while these concerns are sometimes understandable, it’s in the best interest of all involved to make strides in analyzing cost-effectiveness, from the perspective of the individual affected, their therapist, their insurance providers, and the employers with whom they work to provide that insurance. An increased effort in this regard, he says, could allow therapists to provide more effective treatments, patients to afford them more easily, and insurance companies to expand coverage.

Dr. Crane’s publication comes at an opportune time. A recent survey conducted by the school found that one in four spouses had thought about divorce in the past six months. There is a strong need for marriage therapy, and for increased literacy regarding its benefits and costs. The college provides a number of research and practical resources to help married couples develop that literacy. They include:



How to Promote International Religious Freedom: an Event

For the faith community in the United States, religious freedom has become a growing concern. In an increasingly secular world, many fear that social trends and new policies will either infringe on their right to worship or force them to accommodate things that contradict their beliefs. These worries are not solely confined to America, though; they are worldwide. “About 74% of the world’s population are living in countries with serious restrictions on religious freedom, according to David Saperstein, U.S. Ambassador-at-Large for Religious Freedom. He will speak on this issue, and on the United States’ efforts to promote international religious freedom, at a lecture hosted by BYU’s Wheatley Institution, on November 17th.

780x400sapersteinThe lecture will be delivered on November 17th from 7:30-9:00 PM in the HBLL auditorium. at BYU. Ambassador Saperstein will speak on the importance of promoting religious freedom around the world, as well as combating religious persecution and discrimination in all of its forms–including genocide and other atrocities committed by groups like the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS). Religious freedom has recently been a central focus of Brigham Young University and the church which owns it, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Many devotionals, conference talks, and online articles have covered the issue in-depth and argued for an increase in the freedom of religious people to practice and live their beliefs.

These conversations have taken place outside of Mormonism as well. Many Christians have refused to serve homosexuals at their places of work, citing their religious beliefs as justification. This has resulted in several high-profile lawsuits, perhaps most notably the 2015 arrest of government employee Kim Davis, who refused to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples following the Supreme Court’s Obergefell v. Hodges ruling and a federal court order addressed to her.

In January 2015, President Barack Obama appointed David Saperstein to the post of Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom. Before that, Ambassador Saperstein served on the boards of numerous national organizations and was the first Chair of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom. He is a prolific writer and speaker, and holds degrees from Cornell, Hebrew Union College, and American University.