On September 22, 2022, Jennifer Ortiz, director for the Utah Division of State History, visited BYU for the annual Fernando R. Gomez lecture. Jennifer’s vision and intention for State History includes diversifying the narratives we collectively share as a state and ensuring those who practice history better reflect our demographics in Utah.
History is the way people want to express themselves. Jennifer Ortiz, the first woman to run the 125-year-old organization and the first person to identify as a minority, shared with students and faculty about The Peoples of Utah Revisited program. The multi-year initiative is designed to celebrate Utah’s diverse past and is a follow-up to the original Peoples of Utah project published over 50 years ago.
The initiative is comprised of a variety of events to teach families and communities how to record, scan, and treasure their history. “The goal for the project,” says Ortiz, “ is working with community groups to tell their stories in ways they want to tell them; to gather those untold stories, amplify misrepresented voices, and share with communities across the state that their stories are important.”
Along with this major project, Ortiz spotlighted an assortment of projects focused on the last 50 years of Utah’s history created to document history for the misunderstood and growing populations in the state. Amongst these are the Utah Historical Quarterly, which presents updated research in the field of Utah History; the Women’s history initiative, which examines the contributions Utah women have made over the years; and the collections and library program, which houses a host of Utah artifacts, photographs, and manuscripts.
Ortiz emphasized how the original Peoples of Utah project changed the trajectory of public history in the state saying, “It really laid the foundation for diversity in teaching scholarship on Utah history.” She encouraged all to get involved in recording their personal history.
“The most common response I receive when I tell someone that I am studying sociocultural anthropology is, ‘What is that?’” says Elisabeth Morris, a senior in anthropology from Virginia. “For me, personally, anthropology is a means to learn how to respect and understand differences between cultures while holding true to my own beliefs.”
It’s been more than 75 years since the first anthropology course — a class on archaeology — was taught on campus. The Anthropology Department in the College of Family, Home, and Social Sciences now offers two majors, a secondary major, a master’s degree, and a certificate. The department hosts archaeological and anthropological field schools each year, as well as a variety of opportunities for students to participate in mentored research on topics and regions they’re interested in.
Morris believes anthropology is an important area of study that helps people gain understanding, which leads to compassion and a desire to serve. This idea was reinforced as she spent the summer in Brazil as an intern at the Institute of Brazilian Studies at the University of São Paulo in São Paulo. In addition to studying Brazilian culture in the archives, she interacted with the people that lived there and visited numerous museums, parks, and cultural centers.
“I learned that while there are distinct factors that separate my culture from Brazilian culture, people remain people,” says Morris. “The issues we believe are unique to our lives and societies are not — we have much more in common than we think. Anthropology is necessary in the world today and can be used to heal the wounds of the past.”
Anthropology Through the Eyes of an Educator
Michael Searcy, BYU anthropology professor and department chair, says, “The Anthropology Department has the goal of teaching our students how to explore the human experience and seek solutions to real-world problems.”
One of the best aspects of the program is the field school program where students get to travel to international countries to study various cultures or participate in an actual archaeological excavation. According to Searcy, “There is nothing like discovering artifacts buried beneath the earth and touching them for the first time in hundreds or thousands of years!”
As students immerse themselves in the study of human behavior, they come to understand how humans get along, how to combat prejudice, and how to contribute to the well-being of society. They anticipate a variety of career paths and job security in law, user experience, media, government, community leadership, and more (see a list of Anthropologists In Action below).
“For anyone interested in studying some of the most fascinating societies in the world, past and present, our degree programs in anthropology are ideal for students looking to broaden their career opportunities in the future,” says Searcy.
To commemorate its 75th anniversary, the Anthropology Department is hosting an open house at the BYU Museum of Peoples and Cultures on Friday, September 16, from 6-8 p.m. The event is open to the public and includes a backroom tour. The museum is located at 2201 North Canyon Rd. in Provo.
Anthropologists in Action
Here is a list of current job titles for which anthropologists are well prepared, courtesy of the American Anthropological Association:
Lead Experience Researcher and Social Impact Researcher, Airbnb
Social Scientist, CDC
User Experience Researcher and Staff Research Scientist, Facebook
Health Scientist, FDA
Computational Anthropologist, IBM
Principal Engineer, Health Researcher, and Research Scientist, Intel
Historian and Cultural Anthropologist, National Park Service
User Experience Researcher, Netflix
Principal Researcher in Human-Centered Systems, Nissan
Community Manager, Reddit
Digital Curator, Program Curator, Research Scientist, Museum Educator, and Archivist, The Smithsonian Institution
Health Scientist, Department of Veteran Affairs
Research Forester and Research Social Scientist, US Department of Agriculture
How A Minor in Civic Engagement Leadership Can Help You Use Your Passion for Good
I bet you’ve never heard that question before!
“So, what are you going to do with that when you graduate?”
Whether majoring in sociology, performing arts, or environmental science, adding a minor in Civic Engagement Leadership can help you answer this question with confidence.
“The mission of Civic Engagement Leadership is to provide students with the appropriate skills and meaningful opportunities to become engaged in their respective communities,” says Quin Monson, political science professor and director of Civic Engagement Leadership.
Simply stated, this minor will help students take the skills they want to master and find ways to practice and apply those skills in a setting that benefits their communities. Students will graduate with more experience and the confidence of knowing how to make a difference as they are paired with mentors and work on group projects that they get academic credit for!
Finding a Need for Your Passion
Madi Schlesinger, a senior in political science from Arkansas, was initially attracted to the Civic Engagement Leadership minor because she was able to double count many of the requirements with her major. But the projects she engaged in gave her great experience.
“Choosing the Civic Engagement Leadership minor has been one of the most engaging and eye-opening decisions I have ever made,” says Schlesinger. “I learned that I was going to be able to design my own project for the community tailored to whatever I wanted to study most! I had the amazing opportunity to work with both the Utah County Elections Office as well as a local political campaign and learned a lot about how to communicate more effectively and lead in a professional setting.”
Schlesinger says that her classmates in the minor were from all different majors and they all chose different projects and courses, so no one had the same experience — it was very tailored to personal interests.
“The one thing that united us all was that we saw a need in our community and we went to work to address it,” says Schlesinger. “Some classmates did toy drives and designed play spaces for physical therapy offices, some orchestrated social media campaigns for anti-bullying, and some laid out PR plans for local nonprofits. No matter what your passion is, there is always a niche to fill using your particular talents. And we need more people who can step up and lead those efforts.”
The Civic Engagement Minor is open to all BYU majors and has a requirement of 18 credits total. Many elective requirements can be filled by major and general education courses. The course list is available here and is regularly under review to allow the minor to work with a wide variety of majors.
To get started, students can enroll in FHSS 200, a one-credit intro course full of guest lectures and other content that will get you started. It is recommended that students declare the minor before their junior or senior year.
While satisfying requirements for the Civic Engagement Leadership minor, students enroll in courses that will help them get a head start on their experiential learning. These classes and their instructors encourage students not to wait until graduation to start building up their reservoir of skills and experience that will be valuable when searching for full-time employment.
In FHSS 300, the first required course of the minor, students will learn critical skills of analysis, evaluation, leadership, innovation, and teamwork. Students will design and plan a project related to civic improvement. By working in groups to accomplish a semester-long project, students gain exposure to project management in a professional setting as the class is partnered with an external community partner.
FHSS 400, the second required course, focuses on leadership in civic engagement and teaches skills on how to lead discussions of community involvement and public service. Guest lecturers are a large element of this course. Similar to FHSS 300, students complete a semester-long project centered around community work. Additionally, students will be paired with mentors to guide them through their projects. Due to the number of guest speakers coming in to speak, students will be able to hear about a variety of careers and network with professionals.