FHSS student wins BYU’s 3MT Competition!

In 2008, Queensland University started hosting a competition titled 3MT (Three Minute Thesis). “An 80,000-word PhD thesis would take nine hours to present. Their time limit…three minutes,” reads the inaugural university’s website for the event.  The program has since spread to several universities worldwide and last year was BYU’s inaugural event for graduate students.

This year, a student from FHSS won BYU’s campus-wide competition!

Psychology PhD student Elizabeth Passey took 1st place for her research on why teenagers binge drink and was awarded $5,000. Passey also took 1st place in the college-level competition.

why do teenagers binge drink

Jessica Simpson, an Anthropology Master’s student, took second place at the college level. She studied how wear patterns can determine the function of ceramic vessels.

ceramic vessel function

Social Work student Candi Child-Illum took third place at the college level with her research on human trafficking.

human traffikingCongratulations to Candi, Jessica, and Elizabeth! Visit BYU’s Three Minute Thesis website for more information on the competition.

Elevator Eavesdropping: Share your funny stories

In our hyperconnected world, it’s tough to go anywhere without hearing snippets of conversation. These can be about anything: from class to friends to the downright weird.

Because whatever you’re hearing is typically out of context, you can hear some pretty hilarious things. Some fun examples that have been overheard on BYU campus include:

campus police

car accident.PNG

jl 2


harry potter

We want to know what crazy things you’ve heard in the Spencer W. Kimball Tower! Email amber_johnson@byu.edu with the hilarious things you’ve heard and you might be included in the Elevator Eavesdropping section in our upcoming issue of Connections

Selfies on the SWKT for Choose 2 Give!

Hiking the Y? Selfie time! At a BYU game? Selfie! At a concert? Selfie! Those are all great places to take selfies, but wouldn’t you rather take a selfie somewhere unique while also giving back?

Well, here’s your chance! In conjunction with the upcoming Choose 2 Give student giving campaign, you can take selfies on the SWKT roof! On Wednesday, March 21st from 10 a.m.-1 p.m., students will have rare access to take pictures from atop the highest building on campus. Those who donate will also receive cookies and swag. Remember to use the hashtag #SWKTSelfies.

Choose 2 Give (C2G) is a student-run and -funded scholarship campaign which helps students in need receive a BYU education. One hundred percent of the money raised is used to benefit BYU students.

The campaign will run March 19-30, 2018.


How did an Ex-Slave and a White Mormon Become Famous Indians?

real native genius Picture this: A white Mormon and an ex-slave marry and then travel around the country pretending to be Native Americans. That sounds like something out of a dime novel or a Hollywood film, right? In truth, it actually happened! During the 1840’s Lucy Stanton and Warner McCary earned a living by masquerading as Native Americans. On February 27, Dr. Angela Pulley Hudson will be coming to BYU to discuss the fascinating tale of this couple. The event will be held at 7 p.m. in the Harold B. Lee Library Auditorium.

“It is an important glance into the fluidity of racial identity at the time, how people ‘passed’ for one race or another, and early moments of monetized appropriation of Native culture and religion by non-Natives,” said Dr. Brenden Rensink, director of the Charles Redd Center for Western Studies.

Dr. Hudson will be discussing her book Real Native Genius: How an Ex-Slave and a White Mormon Became Famous Indians. In it, not only does she explore the lives of McCary and Stanton, she also examines Americans’ perceptions of Indians and how that impacted antebellum culture.

Stanton and McCary

Who were Stanton and McCary? The latter was an ex-slave who provided for himself by performing music—whistling and playing the flute and fife. Stanton was a divorced Mormon who was captivated by the LDS doctrine regarding the Lamanites or Indians. Eventually, the two met, married, and began calling themselves Okah Tubbee (McCary) and Laah Ceil (Stanton.)

“Before and during their marriage they shared a particular history of performing as Indians in a variety of contexts: from Mormon meeting houses to packed concert halls, temperance rallies to doctors’ offices. Their story ranges across the nineteenth century from the deep South through the Great Lakes region, to the Midwestern frontier, across the northern border with Canada, and into the Mountain West. Along the way, they entertained Americans from many backgrounds, penetrated the inner circle of the nascent Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and fled all sorts of legal jeopardy” said Dr. Hudson.


“In contemplating the Indian character, there is an interest thrown around it, which cannot fail to impress the mind of every inquiring person, although the Indian race is fading away…there is a charm thrown around their past history, and the most lively emotions are created in the mind of the Patriot and Philanthropist in contemplating their past and present history, and are led to look upon the high and lofty bearing of the red man, with the most intense admiration,” said Rev. L. L. Allen in his book about Okah Tubbee.

During the time of McCary and Stanton, the concept of Indianness was constantly in flux, and the two played a role in it. “They were not simply impersonating Native people—they were helping to shape the popular cultural phenomenon of Indianness,” said Dr. Hudson.

Dr. Hudson

Texas A&M University provided the following biography of Dr. Hudson: Angela Pulley Hudson joined the history faculty in 2007 after receiving her PhD in American Studies from Yale University. She specializes in American Indian history, the 19th-century U.S. South, the representation of American Indians in popular culture, and the intersection of American Indian and African American lives. She has held fellowships from the Newberry Library, the American Philosophical Society, and the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, among others.



Does Reducing Tuition Boost College Enrollment?

It seems intuitive that a tuition reduction in colleges would increase enrollment; however, BYU Economics professor Dr. Jeffrey Denning recently published a study showing that decreasing the cost of attendance boosted enrollment at community colleges but not necessarily at four-year universities. “Community colleges are a large part of the higher education system in the United States but have received relatively little research attention,” said Dr. Denning, “Voters interested in whether they should support proposals to reduce tuition may…find the study useful.”

Free Tuition Considerations

In 2015, former president Barack Obama decreed that he intended to make community college free, making it easier for people to get a college education. A Washington Post article that cited a previous study of Denning’s—published when he was a PhD student at University of Texas, Austin—as it applied to Obama’s plan said: “If Obama’s proposal is rolled out, Denning’s data [from a case study in Texas] suggest that there will be more people who choose community college over a four-year college, but perhaps not that many, and probably not to their detriment.” He found, however, that tuition cuts at community colleges slightly increased the number of people transferring to four-year colleges, and that the four-year college graduation rate rose slightly: “About a quarter of people helped by the discounted tuition ended up transferring and getting a four-year degree. This is evidence that there are talented students who would use community college as a springboard to a bachelor’s degree, if only they could afford to start down that path.”

Denning’s 2017 study is an expansion of his previous paper, studying data from Texas, but examines it from a slightly different angle and with slightly different findings, showing that lower community college tuition still increased transfer from community colleges to universities, but that there were a variety of mitigating, complicating factors that made it difficult to gauge the exact extent.

Why Does This Matter?

Many states are considering legislation that would enable this transition. According to the National Conference of State Legislators, eleven states are debating laws that would implement free community college tuition, and five either already have legislation passed or programs in place to implement it:

comm college

According to Dr. Denning, it is imperative that people understand the impact tuition reduction in community colleges can have: “Understanding the effects of community college tuition is important because policymakers must decide how to price community colleges…. Reductions in community college tuition [have] very different implications if [they]…increase overall college attendance or shuffle students from the four-year sector to the two-year sector.” Public policy and school attendance can be affected by the price of community college.


Despite Obama’s support and Dr. Denning’s study, free community college tuition has been decried by critics. He says: “A common criticism of ‘free tuition’ programs is that they are just subsidizing students who would attend higher education without the subsidy. My study suggests that these sorts of subsidies are likely to target new students and students who would already be in the community college sector.” Instead of denigrating the higher education system, tuition reduction will boost enrollment.

Do you think community college tuition should be reduced?

Map courtesy of the National Conference of State Legislators

How to Celebrate Christmas if You’re Away from Home

Family, festivities, fun—Christmas is one of the most widely celebrated holidays. It is is traditionally a time when families reunite to celebrate the birth of Christ and give each other presents. However, many of us are college students living far from home. How can we celebrate Christmas away from our families?

1. Connect with Friends

Just because you’re not with your family doesn’t mean you have to spend Christmas alone. Find some friends and do something fun! Make hot chocolate and watch a Christmas movie, have a snowball fight, or compete to see who can make the best snow fort. In a 2015 study, Psychology professor Dr. Julianne Holt-Lunstad found that loneliness is a precursor for early death. “The risk associated with social isolation and loneliness is comparable with well-established risk factors for mortality, including those identified by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (physical activity, obesity, substance abuse, responsible sexual behavior, mental health, injury and violence, environmental quality, immunization, and access to health care),” she and her co-authors said. Loneliness can lead to death just as much as obesity and substance abuse can.

So don’t celebrate the holiday alone! Find some friends and make this the best Christmas ever!

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2. Help a Teen Bake and Deliver Christmas Cookies

 This is a fun way to get involved with the holiday, learn a new skill, and spread Christmas cheer. Christmas isn’t just about presents and Santa, it’s a celebration of Christ. You can easily honor him by serving others. In a 2017 study, School of Family Life professor Dr. Laura Padilla-Walker found that teens’ self esteem was boosted by helping strangers. “There is something unique about helping those that teens do not know that helps them to feel better about themselves, but helping family and friends does not facilitate this same outcome,” said the researcher. Not all of us are teenagers, but serving others can still give us those positive vibes.


giphy (16)

3. Play a Good Video Game

There are good video games out there, ones that encourage prosocial behavior (like these, suggested by our 2014 Hinckley lecturer Dr. Brad Bushman), and good ways to play them, as shown by research done by Dr. Sarah Coyne and others.

4. Have a Christmas Dance Party!

Moving around—dancing—makes you happier! “Pushing yourself to go out and be with other people will automatically increase your mood because your body will be producing serotonin and endorphins, which naturally increase your happiness level,” said a Relate Institute article. If you’re feeling sad that you’re not at home, just dance! Grab some friends, hit the dance floor, and jam!

giphy (14).gif

It’s not easy to spend Christmas away from your family, but these four tips can make this a Christmas to remember!



Is it Okay to Abstain from Voting?

Is abstaining from voting simply giving up? Although people may believe that abstaining from voting is wasting a chance to tell politicians what you think, BYU economist Dr. Joseph McMurray found the opposite to be true. In a recent study, he found that people can express themselves with parity through both voting and abstaining.


People use votes not as a tool for change, but as a “microphone for broadcasting their opinions,” said Dr. McMurray. For example, in last year’s presidential election, third party candidate Evan McMullin won 21.5% of Utah’s vote, according to the state’s Office of the Lieutenant Governor. Despite McMullin not winning the election, he served as an outlet for people to voice their disapproval of the major party candidates.

Even though votes for McMullin did not change the election results, Dr. McMurray illustrated their effect: “The biggest takeaway might be to push back on the assertion that votes have no impact when they fail to change the identity of the election winner: if office holders look at vote totals (which they clearly do) and adjust accordingly (which they plausibly might), every vote will have an impact.” 


But what about abstention? How do people express themselves by not voting? According to Dr. McMurray, there are two reasons a person abstains:

  • People with hunches feel like they don’t have enough information to accurately vote.
  • People believe that the correct thing to do is stay in the political middle; their abstention communicates that they don’t like/support either character.

Abstention sends a different message than voting does. Dr. McMurray provided the following graph to show that the likelihood of a person voting depends on their confidence level.

voting as communicating

The x axis represents a person’s opinion about candidates while the y axis is their knowledge about them; Negative one on either axis represents an extremely liberal perspective, 0 represents political neutrality, and positive one represents extreme conservatism. The more a person knows about a candidate, and the more liberal they are, the more likely they would be to vote for extremely liberal candidate A, but if that person had a low opinion of candidate A, they might vote for candidate B in the hopes that such a vote will influence candidate A to modify their stance. By the same token, the more a person knows about a conservative candidate, and the more conservative they are, the more likely they would be to vote for candidate D, but if they had a low opinion of that candidate, they might vote for candidate C in hopes of influencing candidate D. But, when a person abstains, they may be saying that they think the correct political stance is somewhere between the two opposites, and that, even though they might have strong beliefs, they may still abstain. Dr. McMurray shows with this graph that abstention can be utilized to communicate political beliefs.

Other Forms of Involvement

The study also showed that there are other ways for people to be involved besides voting and abstention.  These “microphones,” as he referred to them, can include trying to persuade others to vote certain ways, writing letters, endorsing candidates, donating money, attending political rallies, and working campaigns. They are more likely to be utilized by those with extreme political ideologies on either side of the liberal/conservative spectrum, as this graph shows:

voting graph


Regarding the hoped-for outcomes of his study, Dr. McMurray says: “I  hope that [it] will convince them to also consider which electoral systems foster the most useful communication from voters to office holders.” He also hopes that looking at voter communication will provide a window into voter and candidate motivations, which in general are difficult to know, but which are hugely important for productive political analyses.

However, understanding voting is more complicated than those results would suggest. Dr. McMurray understands this and is exploring it in future papers by studying how “logical connections between issues may explain why dozens of multi-faceted issues [are] so frequently reduce[d] simply to a left-versus-right contest” and “political polarization.”

What do you think has a bigger impact: voting or abstention?

Which Historical Figure are You?

Have you ever wondered which historical figure you are? Take our quiz and find out!

What is your favorite class?

  1. Religion
  2. Clothing design
  3. Electrical engineering
  4. Business
  5. Military science

What would you do if someone disrespected you?

  1. Turn the other cheek
  2. Tell them to eat cake
  3. Think: “I’ve been called a ‘tyrant’ and an ‘uninhibited egoist,’ so I guess it’s no big deal
  4. Tweet about it
  5. Repeatedly get revenge

What is your favorite book?

  1. The Bible
  2. How to be Parisian Wherever You Are by Anne Derest and Audrey Dewan
  3. Experiments and Observations on Electricity by Benjamin Franklin and Leonardo da Vinci: The Complete Works by Leonardo da Vinci
  4. Anything I tweet
  5. The Art of War by Sun Tzu

What do you like to do most?

  1. Following God’s will
  2. Partying
  3. Inventing things
  4. Taking charge
  5. Conquering my enemies

What is your favorite film/TV show?

  1. The Prince of Egypt
  2. Project Runway
  3. Anything but The Prestige
  4. Anything on Fox and Friends
  5. The Count of Monte Cristo

What is your relationship status?

  1. Single
  2. Married, but it’s not great
  3. Married, widowed, and remarried
  4. Married with children
  5. Widowed, and I’m not getting remarried


If you got mostly 1’s

Congratulations! You are Joan of Arc, fearless French leader in the Hundred Years’ War. Under her command, the nation successfully repulsed the English at Orleans. Eventually, she was captured and executed for heresy. Joan claimed that she was sent by God to help put Charles VII on the throne of France; her faith in God led her to do great things.


You are a deeply religious person who is not afraid to do what’s right, even when it seems impossible. People look up to you as someone who is strong and courageous. Don’t ever change!

Joan of Arc recently participated in the History Department’s Dead Queens Debate, where she debated current women’s issues. She also appeared on Between Two Ferns.

If you got mostly 2’s

Congratulations! You are Marie Antoinette, doomed queen during the French Revolution. Known for her extravagant clothing and love of parties, this monarch was eventually executed. However, her legacy as one of the most fashionable women of her time has lasted centuries.

marie a

You are a style-savvy individual who knows how to command a room and is the life of the party. People look to you for social approval and you are always on the guest list for the most posh events.

You can learn more about Marie Antoinette by taking HIST 294 The Age of the French Revolution and/or HIST 324 France.

If you got mostly 3’s

Congratulations! You are Thomas Edison, inventor of the “commercial electric light and power system,” the phonograph, and the microphone. The scientist owned 1,093 patents. Edison took advantage of the total solar eclipse of 1878 to test his new invention, the tasimeter, to detect changes of heat during the eclipse. He viewed the eclipse as his chance to prove that he was not only an inventor but a serious scientist as well.


Like him, you are an extremely intelligent person who sees things differently than others and knows how innovate. People admire your ingenuity and rely on you to make their lives better.

If you got mostly 4’s

Congratulations, you are President Donald Trump! (He’s not a historical figure yet, but he will be.) You have a passion for leading and aren’t afraid to defend your beliefs. You fight for what you want and always bounce back from adversity. Furthermore, your Twitter skills are legendary.

giphy (7)

If you got mostly 5’s

Congratulations! You are Olga, princess of Kievan Rus. After her husband was murdered by a nearby tribe, she took revenge multiple times, eventually subjugating the people of that tribe. Later in her life, Olga converted to Christianity and, after her death, was canonized.


You feel things deeply and are fiercely loyal to those you care about. When somebody hurts them, you are personally offended. Cunning and resilient, you are someone that everyone wants on their side.

giphy (12)

You can learn more about Princess Olga by taking History 300: The Early Middle Ages.

Gifs courtesy of Giphy

Photo credits: Marie Antoinette, Joan of Arc, Thomas Edison, and Princess Olga.

Speaker to Present on Utah’s Hidden Diversity

“Our ability to reach unity in diversity will be the beauty and the test of our civilisation,” said activist Mahatma Gandhi. On December 7th, Dr. Pamela Perlich, Director of Demographic Research Director at the the University of Utah’s Kem C. Gardner Policy Institute, will speak on the importance of recognizing and utilizing diversity in our communities at an event titled “Utah’s Hidden Diversity, Multicultural Demography.” “Good active citizens,” said Dr. Brenden Rensink, assistant director of the Redd Center, which is sponsoring the event, “need to be aware of who makes up their neighborhoods and communities, otherwise we can’t make progress towards serving and representing each other appropriately in civic life, politics, culture, etc.” The event will be held on December 7th at 11am in B192 JFSB.


Utah is not known for its diversity. However, the state is more diverse than people realize, said Dr. Rensink. The purpose of the event is for citizens to “learn about multiculturalism, diversity, and demographics in Utah, and to come away with an understanding that Utah’s 21st century population is much more diverse than we realize.” He continues: “Utah, along with the rest of the nation, is in the midst of a remarkable demographic transition, becoming older and more ethnically diverse.  Utah County, projected to add one million residents over the next fifty years, will be especially impacted.”


A 2016 Pew Research Center study found that 58% of Americans believe that diversity makes America “a better place to live.” However, in a different Pew study, the number of Americans viewing racism as a ”big problem” has increased 8 percentage points in the past two years to 58%, and roughly doubled since 2011. America seems to be a nation conflicted about the value of diversity versus the implementation of that value in daily actions.

Dr. Perlich

Dr. Perlich holds a doctorate in economics and has worked for the Utah Governor’s Office of Planning and Budget and the Bureau of Economic and Business Research.



Will you be attending the event?

Photo of man with American flag courtesy of Luke Braswell on Unsplash.

Student Spotlight: Ryan Shields, Geography Whiz

In the College of Family, Home, and Social Sciences, we have many remarkable students, young people who stand out in different ways. Jacob Fisher, one of our Econ students, recently won a Wheatley Institution award for his writing skills, for example. Ryan Shields, from our geography department, is student who embodies BYU’s motto to “enter to learn, go forth to serve” because of his passion for his major and his extra-curricular involvement in geographical activities. We recently had the opportunity to speak with him about his experiences at BYU:

ryan shields

FHSS: What’s your major?  

Ryan: Geography with an emphasis in Geospatial Intelligence/GIS.

FHSS: Why did you choose it?

Ryan: I have always had a natural aptitude for geography and passion for global affairs. Growing up in rural Nebraska, I did not have a lot of global exposure so maps were a big part of how I experienced the world. As I learned more, the dots on [the] maps eventually became more to me than just locations of cities. They represented people and that helped me to relate to my brothers and sisters across the globe. I started to better understand what life was like for them and how it was similar and differed from my own life. When I found out there were many geography career fields that would allow me to use that perspective and passion, I knew geography was the right choice for me.

FHSS: Was there a particular experience that led you to it?

Ryan: When I started at BYU, I declared as a Chemical Engineering major. I had worked in an oil field for a summer after I graduated high school and thought a career as a petroleum engineer might be a good fit for me. I took one class and realized that was not going to be [the case]. I started browsing the major catalogue and came across geography and was surprised at the diverse career paths in that field.

FHSS: What are you involved in (i.e. extracurricular activities)?

Ryan: I’m the Co-President of Praemon, a student organization at BYU that provides a platform for students pursuing careers in intelligence to be published on. I’m also one of the Directors for the Foreign Service Student Organization and a member of the Geography Student Association Council.

FHSS: Any tips for getting involved?

Ryan: Attend lectures on campus, search for groups that share common interests and career goals. Most groups will have a Facebook page or a website where you can contact them. Just ask for opportunities!

FHSS: What do you like to do outside of school?

Ryan: I enjoy spending time with family and friends, traveling, and working on cars and motorcycles. I also manage ThinkSpatial (the cartography service at BYU) and work for the BYU Police Department’s security division. I’ve worked crowd security for multiple special events and dignitary/VIP protection for religious leaders, ambassadors, and other foreign dignitaries from around the world.

FHSS: Random fact or story about yourself?

Ryan: I’ve skydived, visited 18 US States, and traveled outside the mainland US every year since I started attending BYU.