The Wheatley Institution: Academic Research on Important Issues

Hot-button social issues such as marriage and family, religious issues such as faith and science, and political issues such as education and international affairs have all long been examined by  Brigham Young University. As a religious institution operating in an increasingly secular world, BYU provides education and academic research on those topics. The aims behind all of these endeavors is that they be spiritually strengthening, intellectually enlarging, character building, and leading to lifelong learning and service. The Wheatley Institution, an on-campus think tank, seeks to forward those aims by contributing recognized scholarship that preserves and strengthens the core institutions of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints and BYU.  Doing so, it claims, will both enhance the academic climate and scholarly reputation of BYU and enrich the experiences of students and faculty alike.

Many faculty members from BYU’s College of Family, Home, and Social Sciences are fellows of the Wheatley Institution or have otherwise been involved in some way. Perhaps most prominent among them is Jason S. Carroll, a popular professor in the School of Family Life. Professor Carroll is an internationally-recognized researcher and educator on various aspects of marriage, and has spoken at the Wheatley Institution, most recently on key lessons for young adults can prepare for marriage.

Ed Gantt, a faculty researcher in the Psychology Department, has also contributed scholarship to the Wheatley Institution in the form of theologically-centered essays on “faith, reason, and critical thinking,” “happiness or joy?,” and “scientism and the temptations of orthodoxy,” and ”

The Wheatley Institution holds numerous events throughout the course of the year in an effort to promote scholarship in line with BYU’s core values. The next one will be a presentation by United States Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom David Saperstein on November 17th.

Alumni Spotlight: Christopher Wilms, Founder of Pop ‘n Sweets

Who can start a business, take it from the ground up, and turn it into one of the best sweet shops in the entire state of Utah? The candy man, in the person of Christopher Wilms, can! A recent attendee of Brigham Young University’s Economics department, Wilms and his wife went on to found Pop ‘N Sweets, a candy and soda parlor whose purpose is to “make the world a better place one candy bar at a time.”

Of his experience at school, he says: “BYU was great for networking and making friendships that I hope to never lose.” He also praised the low cost of such a high-quality education. However, Wilms felt restricted by the academic environment. One day, while driving with his wife, they came up with the idea of opening a sweets shop–and they actually decided to try it out. That’s how Pop’nSweets came to be, in September of 2013.

Pop’nSweets sells exactly what it says: pop and sweets. With five locations already open throughout Utah, business is booming and the sky appears to be the limit. “So far, it’s been crazy fun,” Wilms said. “It’s something that is easy to duplicate, so opening more stores hasn’t been hard. It’s fun because of how different it is and how awesome it is to see people reflect on the stuff they can find there.”

“My favorite aspect [of the business] is watching people enjoy the experience of all the different products we offer,” he continued, referencing the 300+ different flavors of soda that can be found in his stores. “Honestly, this is a concept that can go anywhere–even internationally, especially because we import products from other countries. I think the most important thing for the future of Pop’nSweets is . . . setting up the store in the most customer friendly way possible.”

In 2015, he was honored by the Utah Student 25, a non-profit corporation that honors the top student-founded companies in the state. One of the other awardees, Ryan Caldwell, founder and CEO of MX, compared the Utah community of entrepreneurs to a forest of redwood trees:

“Utah finds itself in this very unique situation where it’s in this magical stage of a startup ecosystem. If you look at Utah about a decade ago, you had two massive redwoods – WordPerfect and Novell. These powerhouses, these great redwoods started to shed branches. And those branches being shed were people who had developed very big skills – they learn business lessons and how to run big companies. And that resource, that wealth of nutrients, falls to the ground as the branches shed and it creates this dense cover that allows other trees to grow.”

When he’s not busy making the world taste good, Wilms is spending time with his family. He has a wife and two children, a two-year-old daughter and a two-month-old son.


New FHSS Faculty: Dr. Chad Nelson

Dr. Chad Nelson, a new Political Science faculty member, is an expert on international affairs, particularly political revolutions and the interaction between domestic instability and international politics. “I suppose what got me hooked was a curiosity about different people and places,” he said. This curiosity prompted him to travel, which, as he puts it, “led me to read more and more about the history of different places, and somehow, I got particularly interested in war and revolution.”

Dr. Nelson enjoyed his four years studying philosophy here at BYU as an undergraduate, and he eventually received his PhD from the University of California at Los Angeles. “I’m thrilled to be back among a great set of colleagues,” he said, “and I love the view from my window. We are lucky to live in such a beautiful area!”

Much of Dr. Nelson’s work is focused on the international effects of revolutions. For instance, leaders of nations often see a revolution elsewhere and fear that it could spread to their own state—this can have a major impact on a nation’s foreign policy. Dr. Nelson also studies the question of how states respond to the rise of potential rivals.

Of his teaching, he says: “It is a pleasure to teach such smart and dedicated students. They don’t seem to complain about their grades as much as the students at UCLA!” When he’s not teaching, he is an outdoorsman who enjoys running. His wife currently works as a physicians’ assistant in an emergency room in Long Beach, California, and they have four children—three boys and a girl.

Welcome Dr. Nelson!

Overweight Adolescents More Prone to Sleep Disorders and Poorer Performance, Study Says

Snoring. It’s everyone’s pet peeve, yet about a third of the population does it, and hardly anyone understands the science behind it. In technical terms, snoring is caused by the vibration of respiratory structures due to obstructed air movement during breathing. Snoring is one of many manifestations of sleep-disordered breathing (SDB), a medical condition that affects millions of people each year.

Scientists have long been interested in the connection between obesity and SDB, and the connection between SDB and executive functioning, or the ability to get things done. In a study recently released in the Journal of Pediatric Neuropsychology, two faculty members in BYU’s Department of Psychology, studied the connection in obese adolescents and found that they were much more likely to snore and thus have impaired executive function skills.

Shawn Gale  All Rights Reserved

Doctors Shawn Gale and Chad Jensen state that even though obesity is itself one of the most common medical conditions people suffer from, it is unique in its potential to lead to other even more serious illnesses. It has often been associated with sleep apnea and other SDBs, particularly in the young. Also, SDB in children has been associated with behavioral difficulties and impairment in cognitive and academic function.

Gale, Jensen, and BYU graduate student Jonathan Mietchen sampled 37 adolescents enrolled in a weight loss program. Findings from their study suggest that these adolescents, whose obesity made them at risk for SDB, were rated by a caregivers as having “significantly poorer executive functioning compared to adolescents at minimal risk for SDB.”

Chad Jensen    All Rights Reserved

Given the fact that the adolescents sampled in this study were enrolled in a weight-loss program, Gale and Jensen suggest that the existence of sleep problems be taken into account by caretakers and clinicians when determining the effectiveness of such programs. It may also be useful for parents and caregivers of obese adolescents to note that there is thus hope for the improvement of not only physical health but mental health and cognitive functioning–life functioning–when that adolescent loses weight.

New Faculty: Dr. Ryan Gabriel, Traversing the Geography of Race

gabriel-ryanGrowing up in Utah and California as a mixed-race individual, Dr. Ryan Gabriel was exposed to the subject of race frequently during his childhood. “The majority of my friends in Utah were white,” he said, “but I had non-white friends in California where my father lived. The juxtaposition of cultural environments set race at a sharp relief in my early consciousness.” As such, he was interested in racial dynamics from an early age. However, it wasn’t until college that he was exposed to them from a sociological perspective. “I was gripped,” he said. “Since then, all of my work, in one way or another, has traversed the geography of race and its enduring power to influence our lives.” And the Department of Sociology at Brigham Young University is the most recent to benefit from his expertise as he joins its faculty.

Gabriel, a recent graduate of the University of Washington, completed his PhD dissertation on the residential stratification of mixed-race couples.  His decision to come to the Y was about the school and its research. “I came to BYU to be a part of a great department,” he said. “We have faculty in sociology who are doing excellent work on important subjects. That was a strong attraction [for] me deciding to accept an appointment in the department.”

And while he’s only taught here a short time, Dr. Gabriel has already been heavily influenced by the students in his classes. “I have noticed [their] sincerity,” he said. “Many of them are truly interested in engaging in challenging questions and do so with alacrity. I find them inspiring.”

Currently, Dr. Gabriel is working on a few projects. Continuing the work of his dissertation, he is investigating residential mobility patterns in mixed-race couples. He is also working to understand how the most recent economic crisis changed the racial composition of neighborhoods. And, he is investigating the lynchings that occurred in the South between 1882 and 1930, and attempting to explain how they still have influence on contemporary white-on-black homicide in those same areas.

But as important as work is to Dr. Gabriel, family always comes first. “I have a beautiful wife, Erin,” he said. “She has taught me what it means to give and love. In his spare time, Dr. Gabriel enjoys watching and reading about basketball, cooking, baking, eating new and interesting foods, and spending quality time with his family.

And to any students wondering if sociology is right for them? Dr. Gabriel has one simple piece of advice: “Please, come, take my classes.”


How Can Young People Change the World? Ask Expert Rebecca de Schweinitz in FHSS Twitter Party

It may be argued that, in some ways, the racial climate of American society has shifted enough that it’s easy, especially for millennials, to forget about the atrocities of the Civil Rights movement of only a few decades ago. BYU associate professor of history Rebecca de Schweinitz, in her 2009 book If We Could Change the World, explores the relationship between youth and the civil rights movement, answering questions about how young people contributed to the movement and how conceptions about them helped to shape the black freedom struggle. These answers are especially relevant to the youth of today, as they can inform their reaction as a group and individually to ongoing racial struggles in our society. Anyone interested in discussing these subjects is invited to participate in a real-time Twitter Q & A with Professor de Schweinitz, coming up in October.

deschweinitz_ifOf her book, the Arkansas Review said: “few studies of the civil rights movement present the movement in such a dynamic…manner.” Of the Q & A, Jamie Moesser, Outreach Coordinator for BYU’s College of Family, Home, and Social Sciences said: “this will be a great opportunity to interact with Professor de Schweinitz, ask her questions about youth and the Civil Rights movement, and understand more about the important role youth have played and can play in influencing societal change. Plus,” she adds, “it’s easy, and there’s a good chance that you could win a $50 Visa gift card.” Here are the details:

Book Club Details

What: Twitter chat about the book. Click here to learn how it works. No big deal.

When: Tuesday, October 4th from 12-1 p.m. MST (2 p.m. EST, 1 p.m. CT, 11 p.m. PT)

Where: On With the party hashtag #AskAnFHSSExpert.

Hashtag: #AskAnFHSSExpert

Topic: youth and social movements, particularly the civil rights movement

Moderators: @JamieMoesser, @byufhss

RSVP: Please RSVP in the comments section of this post at any time before the party to follow and be followed by like-minded individuals who’ll be participating in the party with you! The first three people who RSVP will be receive a free copy of Professor De Schweinitz’s book (if they don’t already have one).

In-Chat Giveaway

During the chat, a random participant will be chosen to win a $50 VISA gift card.

Constitution Day Lecture: Slavery, the Constitution, and James Madison

To the Founding Fathers, and James Madison in particular, slavery was never solely a moral issue, says David Waldstreicher, one of academia’s foremost scholars on the slave issue in early America. At a Constitution Day event on campus recently, he spoke on the connection between Madison, the American Constitution, and the practice of slavery, which has come to be a great blight on the country’s history.

James Madison, Courtesy of Flickr.

Though Madison himself owned many slaves, he did not approve of the practice. “There was no point in his public life that he did not believe that slavery was wrong,” Waldstreicher said. “This was obvious early on and he never changed his mind. He was principled yet flexible; optimistic yet capable of a knowing realism.”  Madison always realized slavery was an important factor in local and national politics, and though it was “an embarrassment on the international stage,” he knew that “slavery would be factored into statecraft in some fashion.” Thus, as a result of the Constitutional Convention, Madison drafted the infamous 3/5ths compromise, and spoke highly of it as late as 1829.

The compromise reads: “Representatives and direct Taxes shall be apportioned among the several States which may be included within this Union, according to their respective Numbers, which shall be determined by adding to the whole Number of free Persons, including those bound to Service for a Term of Years, and excluding Indians not taxed, three fifths of all other Persons.” That said, Madison ensured in the language of the constitution that slavery would not be expressly written in. “The constitution’s virtues, were, not surprisingly, Madison’s virtues,” Waldstreicher said. Thus, throughout the course of the ratification process, people attacked him as being both pro- and anti-slavery.

David Waldstreicher, Courtesy of CUNY.

“In the end,” Waldstreicher asserted, “Madison was comfortable. The political ramifications of abolishment would have been severe, and for such a young nation, could have proved fatal. We must see Madison as having played a pivotal role in history not just because of his brilliance,” Waldstreicher said, “but because . . . he helped the nation have its slavery and its anti-slavery too.” At the present time, when many still perceive race relations to be a divisive issue, it is at least interesting to look at it from a constitutional perspective, to the extent that that leads to more informed discussions of where we’ve been as a country, and where we can go.



Christina Hibbert, Alum and Author

christi-pic-331x500Christina Grampp Hibbert always knew she wanted to be a mother—but she didn’t always plan on being a psychologist, speaker, and award-winning author. In fact, the BYU alumna (’95) changed her undergraduate major a couple of times before finally concluding that her calling was in the field of psychology.

“My first major in college at Brigham Young University was fashion design,” Hibbert recalled, “but after the first day of my first sewing class, I realized I can’t draw and I don’t love sewing!” This led her to tentatively land on Communications as a major, but tragedy struck at the beginning of her sophomore year when her youngest sister passed away. That, combined with the influence of a professor, prompted Hibbert to change majors one more time. She graduated three years later with a bachelor’s in psychology.

Now a clinical psychologist, public speaker, and radio show host, Hibbert recently launched her third book, “8 Keys to Mental Health Through Exercise,” a selection Publisher’s Weekly called “an enlightening and empowering instrument.” This book is meant for those struggling with mental illness or anyone hoping to gain the many mental and physical health benefits of frequent exercise. Her other publications are “Who Am I Without You? 52 Ways to Rebuild Self-Esteem After a Breakup” and her debut book, a best-selling and award-winning memoir entitled “This is How We Grow.”


“I honestly love what I do—all of it,” Hibbert said. “Connecting, learning, teaching, inspiring, helping, healing, offering hope, and loving greatly. It’s just a pleasant bonus that I somehow receive all of this back ten-fold in return. It’s my main motivation to overcome my challenges, to ‘choose to grow’ and become my best self, and to let my light shine and flourish!”

More important to Hibbert than any of her professional endeavors, though, is her family. She has been married to her husband, OJ, for over twenty years. Together, they have six children between the ages of eight and nineteen. This keeps her so busy that she’s come to call herself a “work-at-home mom”—writing, producing videos, and even seeing online clients from her home office while her kids are in school.

Hibbert’s road hasn’t always been easy. In 2007, as she was preparing to give birth to her fourth child, her sister and brother-in-law tragically passed away. Hibbert and her husband then adopted their two nephews.

“I’ve had my share of trials, especially when it comes to death, loss, and grief,” she said. “But I’ve learned that it’s exactly these hard times that have forced me to grow the most. They’ve led to who I am today, and to the opportunities I’ve been given to now help others through their trials and triumphs.”