College Invites Collaboration with Three New Assistant Deans

The College of Family, Home, and Social Sciences has three new assistant deans: Danny Damron (BA ’92) for experiential education and professional development, Jordan Karpowitz (BA ’92) for communications and external relations and Lita Little Giddins (BA ’92, MSW ’95) for diversity, collaboration and inclusion.

Outgoing Dean Ben Ogles says he wants to establish a solid team for incoming Dean Laura Padilla-Walker to support her in moving the work of the college forward.

The appointments change the landscape of the dean’s office. The assistant dean position formerly held by Scott Dunaway, director of Washington Seminar who retired, has been expanded from overseeing internships to improving experiential learning in the college generally. Communications and diversity and inclusion were elevated to assistant dean positions.

Padilla-Walker says the reconfiguration of college leadership will invite more collaboration.

“For example, under this new system, all of the college leadership will be informed to some degree regarding experiential education, communications, and diversity and inclusion, where in the past we have been a bit more siloed,” she says. “This will take two things we care about deeply — experiential education and diversity and inclusion — and allow the vision of these efforts to be incorporated and communicated in a way that will influence everything we do at the college level.”

Damron, the new assistant dean for experiential education and professional development, says he wants to improve the way students view internships.

Danny Damron recently joined the Dean’s Office as assistant dean for experiential education and professional development.

“Primarily, my focus is on repurposing and recalibrating the internship experience in ways that make it more valuable, so what a student gets out of the internship adds value to their growing professional direction,” he says.

Damron formerly was responsible for internships in the BYU College of Humanities. He has a doctorate degree in political science from Purdue University and taught in the political science department at BYU for four years, during which time he established the Scottish Parliament internship program. His professional background also includes directing the international centers at Utah Valley University and Oregon State University.

Damron says he wants to help students be proactive in developing transferrable skills and be able to articulate the relevance of those skills to future employers, rather than just checking an internship off on a resume. He believes students in the college have unique knowledge from social sciences they can use to add value to their internship experiences, beyond making copies and calls.

Damron sees experiential learning as a collaborative effort incorporating faculty and curriculum in the college.

Karpowitz’s role of communications and external relations was created to increase the college’s visibility, according to Ogles. Karpowitz has a degree in communications with an emphasis in public relations and brings 25 years of public relations and marketing communications experience to the role. She hopes to be effective in sharing the stories of human connection that emerge from faculty research and student learning.

Jordan Karpowitz is the assistant dean for communications and external relations.

“Across the many departments and schools in the college, there is a common thread of studying how humans interact with each other and with institutions — how we care for each other and learn from each other— that unites the disciplines,” says Karpowitz. “Focusing on these similarities will help create a stronger purpose across the college that will better unite students, faculty, and alumni in accomplishing the mission of the university and the aims of a BYU education.”

Karpowitz’s role will focus on building the college brand across student, faculty, and alumni audiences. She is eager to develop more ways to help people engage with social sciences and understand how the disciplines can benefit them in their careers and their lives.

Karpowitz’s professional background includes working for technology, pharmaceutical, and consumer products corporations. She also has several years of agency experience and has retained her own clients including Northwestern Mutual and Coursera.

Ogles said elevating Giddins’ role of diversity and inclusion to assistant dean was an important strategic move.

“Promoting Giddins to an assistant dean is a sign that our executive team wants to communicate that this is an important part of our college,” Ogles says. “Diversity, collaboration, and inclusion needs to be a central focus of everything we do.”

Lita Little Giddins is the assistant dean for diversity, collaboration, and inclusion.

Giddins joined The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints at age eighteen and served in the England Leeds Mission between 1986-1987. She has a bachelor’s degree in socio-cultural anthropology and a master’s degree in social work from Brigham Young University and is a licensed clinical social worker. She says coming to BYU was an answer to heartfelt prayer.

“I did pray that Father in Heaven would use all the bits of me, all the parts of me: my race, my culture, my ethnicity, my gender, my education, my life experiences, my conversion to the gospel, mission experiences — every single thing — for His use,” she says. “I wanted to continue as we do in the mission field, which the world is, to help in the gathering and to invite people to come closer to Jesus.”

Giddins says pain she has experienced in the past prepared her for her role.

“I know that everyone has healing to do,” she says. “That’s how I approach this work, that’s how I approach individuals. Especially when it gets hard. There is healing that needs to happen in the lives of individuals, in the hearts and souls of individuals.”

Stepping outside her comfort zone to accept the position of assistant dean helps Giddins empathize with students, who are often asked to do hard things.

When asked what strengths she brings to her new position, Giddins laughed. “I bring Jesus,” she says with a smile. “He is my strength.”

New Director and Department Chairs Announced

The College of Family, Home, and Social Sciences announced a new director for the School of Family Life and four new department chairs last week.

Erin Holmes will serve as director of the School of Family Life, Curtis Child will serve as department chair of the sociology, Lars Lefgren as department chair of economics, Daniel Olsen as department chair of geography, and Jay Goodliffe as department chair of political science. Each has been appointed for a three-year term.

New chairs will be guided by the university’s five-year strategic objectives, which include pursuing the Inspiring Learning initiative, increasing enrollment, and promoting a sense of belonging among all members of the campus community. They will also focus on specific issues raised by members of their respective departments.

Erin Holmes will serve as Director of the School of Family Life beginning July 1. (Aislynn Edwards)

Holmes was formerly an associate director in the school and will begin her tenure as director on July 1. Dean Ben Ogles said Holmes is a good fit for the next phase of the school’s journey, which includes a commitment to diversity and inclusion and leading “out on studying and teaching about diverse families across national, ethnic, and racial groups from within a gospel perspective that emphasizes Proclamation principles,” according to an email from Ogles.

Holmes played a central role in the creation of the school’s diversity and inclusion statement and encouraged everyone in the School of Family Life to read it and approach her with ideas, concerns, and questions to help foster “unity amid diversity.” She also said she is committed to counsel from Jean B. Bingham, general president of the Relief Society, to “extend an open hand and heart” to create “a safe place for sharing, a safe place to grow, a safe place to become our best selves.”

Child, associate professor of sociology, teaches courses in economic sociology and qualitative research methods, and studies nonprofit organizations, businesses, fair trade, and the morals/markets branch of economic sociology. Under his leadership, the Sociology Department will seek to address several objectives, including becoming a source of information on current social issues. “We potentially have a big role to play and we need to figure out how to do so,” Ogles said, summarizing statements by faculty members.

Child said he is excited to work with talented faculty in his department. “I feel like part of my role, a big part of my role, is just to help them in doing the good things they are already intending to do,” he said.

Curtis Child, Sociology (left); Lars Lefgren, Economics (center); and Daniel Olsen, Geography (right) will begin serving as department chairs this summer.

Lefgren, Camilla Eyring Kimball professor of economics, specializes in applied microeconomics, including research on the American educational system. He is a research fellow with The Institute of Labor Economics and a research associate with the National Bureau of Economic Research. He will begin his tenure July 1.

Olsen, professor of geography, who began his tenure as chair of the geography department on May 1, said he wants to make geography more visible on campus.

“A lot of people think geography is just about memorizing place names and capital cities and that sort of thing,” he said. “Geography is much more encompassing than Trivial Pursuit.”

Olsen said another one of his priorities is engaging students in the classroom through the Inspiring Learning initiative and experiential learning.

“It takes a lot of training, it takes a lot of work, it takes a lot of working together to try to inspire each of us to be a little bit better with all the things we have to do as professors,” Olsen said. He said he is humbled by and excited about the opportunity.

Jay Goodliffe will chair the political science department beginning July 1.

Goodliffe, professor of political science, will begin his tenure remotely from Washington, D.C. where he is directing the Washington Seminar program through summer term. His research interests include congressional campaigns and elections, legislative discipline, interest groups, international human rights treaties, and political methodology.

“It is humbling to be chair because previous chairs have led the department so well. Our department has outstanding students, strong staff, and wonderful faculty that are recognized in the profession for their achievements,” Goodliffe said. “I want to help our students and faculty continue to succeed and achieve even more.”

Ogles thanked the new chairs and new director for their willingness to sacrifice time and professional aspirations in order to lead their respective departments.

Ogles also gave a heartfelt thanks to the previous department chairs for their service: Alan Hawkins, who served as director of the School of Family Life for three years; Rick Miller, department chair of sociology for six years; Mark Showalter, department chair of economics for five years; Ryan Jensen, department chair of geography for nine years; and Sven Wilson, department chair of political science for seven years.