Managing research projects, student assistants, teaching loads, citizenship assignments, and more can leave faculty wondering when they have a moment to do one more thing — evening if it’s as important as finding funding for their next project.
This past year the College of Family, Home, and Social Sciences hired Brittany Freeze as a research development specialist. Her specific mission is to work with professors and students in the college to make finding and securing external funds a breeze.
Because of her experience receiving a PhD in Human and Social Services, Freeze is well suited to meet the needs of faculty in our college. She understands the grant process and can mentor faculty and students alike in their efforts to gain external funding.
For faculty, Brittany not only helps start the grant process, but also helps manage every detail all the way until the grant is submitted. She helps determine deadlines, appropriate formatting, eligibility requirements, and identify all necessary documents and elements for submission. She also edits grant proposals and ensures they are submitted in a timely manner.
“As I was going through all of my schooling, I didn’t know that grants were so attainable, and so I think it’s nice to know that you can use outside funds as you progress,” explains Freeze. “Students can get paid, or they can have financial support when they do research.”
With Brittany’s help, faculty and students in the college can find more funding sources to support research on social science topics they are interested in.
Between her college education, experience teaching at a preschool for children with Autism Spectrum Disorder, and inspiration to help others after spending time as a missionary, Jamie Easler was well positioned to pursue a master’s degree in Marriage, Family, and Human Development at BYU. She studied the effects of disabled children on family processes and researched interventions to help families navigate life with disabilities. “I definitely saw the need and the effect that having a child with a disability can have on families,” recalls Easler.
The peer-reviewed journal Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities recently published Easler’s master’s thesis that compared uplifts, respite care, stressors, and marriage quality in the parents of children with autism and Down syndrome. Easler collaborated with many faculty mentors in the School of Family Life and the McKay School of Education, who are co-authors on the article.
The most outstanding discovery had to do with uplifts. “Uplifts is a fancy term for the different positive experiences that you have in your day-to-day life and how you perceive those things…so it could be your relationship with your spouse or your relationship with your child,” explains Easler. The study found that parents who reported experiencing more uplifts had higher marital quality, even if they still had high levels of stress. Uplifts appeared to be even more beneficial to a parent’s well-being and marital quality than respite care. “It’s important how you perceive those things, and when parents (especially those of children with autism) could experience more uplifts they did report lower levels of stress and higher personal marital quality.”
Down Syndrome and Paternal Advantages
Comparing the two disabilities researched in this study, parents of children with Down Syndrome reported experiencing more frequent uplifts, while parents of children with ASD reported higher stressors and lower marital quality. These findings reaffirmed what other studies have discovered to be the ‘Down syndrome advantage.’ “We definitely didn’t want to lump all parents of children with these disabilities together because each family will have a different experience with their child, but these are the results that we’re seeing — that on average there is an advantage for families of children with Down syndrome,” says Easler.
The study also analyzed responses from both parents, allowing Easler and her co-authors to compare reported uplifts, respite care, stressors, and marital quality between mothers and fathers. Notably, Easler and her co-authors found what the paper calls, a ‘husband advantage,’ where 20% of the fathers of children diagnosed with autism consider their marriage distressed, compared with 25% of mothers. Likewise, while 10% of mothers with children who have Down syndrome reported having a distressed marriage, only 2% of fathers reported marital distress.
A New Perspective on Disability
While the study compared many variables, Easler and co-author Jeremy Yorgason agree that discovering the importance of uplifts for families with disabled children is the most impactful takeaway of the paper. “A lot of studies in the past have just focused on the stress of caring for a child with a disability and this paper comes in and says, ‘Hey the uplifts are important as well.’ And the uplifts were related to marital quality and levels of stress in both cases,” says Yorgason, who is a professor in the School of Family Life. Ideally, using this paper as a foundation, research would continue to discover how professionals can help parents of children with disabilities recognize uplifts more often.
“I think that it is important to understand that there are differences within the disabilities themselves and how that affects stress in marriage and the family, and also what professionals can do to help these parents and families. I hope to see a shift in research perspectives from always studying the negative to finding the positives that can help parents experience lower stress and hopefully improve their relationships,” adds Easler.
A Long Publishing Process
Easler presented her thesis and graduated in 2016, but that was only the starting line of having the research published in a peer-reviewed journal. “This paper went through so many edits. It took years!” jokes Easler. While the process was long and often tedious, she consistently turned to her faculty mentors for assistance and new perspectives. “All of my mentors were very helpful in every regard, and I’m still in contact with all of them. I’m so grateful to every single one of them, and it was such a collaborative and multidisciplinary effort.”
By studying different variables that affect family processes, family life scholars hope to discover solutions to family challenges. Yorgason describes it like this: “Every family faces some challenges, and sometimes those challenges involve the health of their child. For me, it’s important to try to understand what helps families to function the best that they can, given those challenging situations.”
Visit mfhd.byu.edu to learn more about the Marriage, Family, and Human Development graduate program.
The College of Family, Home, and Social Sciences convocation ceremonies last Friday honored 1,321 graduates. Many BYU grads in the sea of blue caps and gowns are already making an important impact on and off campus.
Lieutenant Governor Deidre Henderson
Lt. Gov. Deidre Henderson received her bachelor’s degree in history nearly three decades after first enrolling at BYU. Henderson paused her education at BYU at 18 years old after she met and married her husband, Gabe Henderson. By 28, the pair had five children together. She served in the Utah State Senate for eight years before she was elected to serve as Lieutenant Governor. In 2019, she returned to school full time with a dedication to lifelong learning. Utah Governor Spencer Cox and his wife Abby attended the ceremony in support of Lt. Gov. Henderson.
“There are a lot of women just like me in Utah,” said Lt. Gov. Henderson. “While I set aside college to raise my kids, the fire in me that wanted to finish school never died out. It was humbling, exciting, fulfilling — and frankly really, really hard — to return to BYU. But I hope other Utahns can see that it’s never too late to fulfill your ambitions.”
BYU distance runner Anna Camp-Bennett is no stranger to awards and her latest is a degree in family life. As an established member of the BYU women’s cross country and track teams, Camp-Bennett helped the cougars win the 2021 NCAA Cross Country Championship. Just months later she snagged another national title, triumphing in the NCAA women’s 1,500m race with a school record-breaking time.
US National Soccer Team member Ashley Hatch completed her degree in family life this year, capping off her outstanding contributions to the campus community. Hatch played on the BYU Women’s Soccer team from 2013-2016, where she set a school record for shots taken in a match and started in nearly every game she played. She now plays professional soccer for the Washington Spirit, assisting in the team’s 2021 National Women’s Soccer League championship victory, and as a member of the US National Soccer Team.
We’re proud of all our graduates! Spend a minute taking a look at some of their accomplishments on our graduation website.
“Verily I say, men should be anxiously engaged in a good cause, and do many things of their own free will, and bring to pass much righteousness.”
– Doctrine and Covenants 58:27
Anna Monson loves life science. She loves bugs, beetles, and all the diversity of plant life, which led her to major in biology. As she progressed in her major, Monson recognized a pattern among biologists. They would often recognize problems, discuss the problems with each other, and even find answers to those problems, but they didn’t know how to actually solve those problems in their community. With this in mind, Anna chose to diversify her education and add a minor in civic engagement.
The Civic Engagement Leadership minor is designed to help BYU students learn meaningful skills and have opportunities to become engaged in their community. The minor provides students with experiential learning and mentorship to make a real difference in their local area.
“It’s an exciting way to access talents that don’t get addressed by my major directly — the biology major doesn’t care if I’m good on the phone or if I know how to talk to authorities or if I know how to write succinctly, but the civic engagement minor does, so I get to develop those talents.”
In one of her civic engagement classes, Monson worked with Community Action Services to create materials for landlords explaining the benefits and processes connected to housing choice vouchers. She was able to develop a pamphlet with her team that made Section 8 housing requirements and advantages easy to understand. “It was extremely fun and extremely cool to do the research and learn from the talents of my team members,” added Monson.
The minor requires a variety of elective courses with civic engagement connections, as well as two required courses where students are paired with community partners to complete a social action project. Through these projects, students are able to see firsthand the challenges of making a difference, as well as experience the satisfaction of engaging in their community.
Nathan Benavidez, a history major, stepped out of his comfort zone by participating in a social action project. Through the minor, Nathan had the opportunity to work with Utah County Elections to prepare a voting toolkit for city governments explaining ranked choice voting. Ranked choice voting gives citizens the opportunity to rank candidates by preference on their ballot, as opposed to voting for a single candidate. “It’s really great and allows for a bit more diversity in voting,” explained Benavidez.
Benavidez worked in a group on this project, and learned a lot about community collaboration and the value of differing opinions. “I learned that when you’re working in the community, you may be working with someone who has the same goals and aspirations as you, but you may have different visions of how you’re going to approach and accomplish your goals… working in the community means you have to work together.”
The project allowed Benavidez to learn new skills and embrace experiences he wouldn’t have had otherwise. “We got to talk to a lot of government officials, we got to present to people, and that pushed me out of my comfort zone which was really valuable to me.”
The Civic Engagement Leadership minor gives students like Monson and Benavidez the skills and experiences not only to participate in community action, but also to lead the community in issues that they really care about.
The College of Family, Home, and Social Sciences has many outstanding students graduating this April. We are grateful for the hard work and scholarship of each graduating senior and the example of excellence set by the valedictorians in the college. Meet each department’s 2022 valedictorian!
Political Science: Kesley Townsend
Kesley Brooke Townsend, a political science major with a political strategy emphasis and minors in history and sociology, is the oldest child of John and Cindy Powell. She was raised in Richland, Washington, and developed a passion for U.S. political history at a young age. During her time at BYU, she conducted original research as a research fellow with the Center for the Study of Elections and Democracy and worked as a research assistant for Professors Goodliffe, Preece, Pope, and Argyle. Kesley interned at TargetPoint Consulting while participating in the Washington Seminar program and worked as a political strategy advisor on a U.S. senate campaign. She was president of the BYU Women in Politics organization and a writer for the Political Review. Kesley will begin a research fellowship at TargetPoint Consulting this summer and looks forward to pursuing a Ph.D. in political science in 2023. She is incredibly grateful for the mentorship provided by BYU faculty and the continued support of her family and friends.
Geography: Kellie Haddon
Kellie Haddon is a geography major with an emphasis in global studies and minors in international development and sociology. While at BYU, Kellie had the opportunity to work as a research assistant for Brandon Plewe on the Mormon Places project during her freshman year and worked as a teaching assistant for Chad Emmett’s Political Geography class for the past two semesters. She is excited to end her time at BYU on the Multicultural Europe study abroad with Jill Knapp during spring term. This year Kellie was also heavily involved in the club Students for International Development as one of its presidents. She will begin graduate school in the fall in American University’s MA International Development program in Washington, D.C. Kellie served as a missionary in Cebu, Philippines and enjoys painting, hiking, and exploring new places. She has lived in six states but mainly grew up in the suburbs of Chicago, Illinois. Kellie is grateful for her incredible family, friends, professors, and mentors for their continual support throughout her time at BYU.
Psychology: Reilly O’Coyle Reid
Reilly O’Coyle Reid, a psychology major with a minor in business, is from Henderson, Nevada. The oldest of four girls, Reilly is grateful for her loving parents and the special relationship she has with her sisters. During her time at BYU, Reilly came to appreciate the vast educational opportunities available at this university, and is always searching for the chance to research and teach. She began her undergraduate education as a business major and enjoyed learning about finance, economics, and accounting. Reilly later discovered that studying psychology would fulfill her passion of helping individuals, families, and couples heal. Her research emphasis is in clinical psychology and mental health services. She is inspired by studying psychology and is thrilled to continue her education in BYU’s Marriage and Family Therapy master’s program in August. Reilly is grateful for her professors, classmates, friends and family who have supported her as she completed her bachelor’s degree.
History: Pamela Peterson
Pamela Peterson attended BYU as a non-traditional student for the last 13 years while raising a family of six children — her greatest accomplishment. As a developing family historian, she finds the detective work of family history fulfilling and invigorating. Pam plans to pursue a career in family history with an emphasis in British research while she prepares for her Accredited Genealogist credential exams. She has loved her years at BYU and the wonderful professors she’s been privileged to learn from and associate with. Her professors and fellow students opened her eyes to new ideas, perspectives, and perceptions of peoples, cultures, and the world we live in. Her previously limited paradigm has been broadened and enhanced by her experiences and education at BYU. She is grateful for divine help and extends a sincere thank you to the BYU faculty who give their lives to teach others.
Family Life: Megan (Van Alfen) Brown
Megan (Van Alfen) Brown is a Family Studies major passionate about helping, educating, and healing individuals and families. She is a Wheatley Scholar and received multiple awards for her educational achievements. She worked as a teaching assistant and a research assistant with professors in the School of Family Life at BYU for several years. She is passionate about researching gender, body image, mental health, and sexuality and hopes to center her career in those fields. She will be attending graduate school in the fall at Brigham Young University for a master’s degree in Marriage, Family, and Human Development. She has plans to pursue a PhD to become a professor to educate students and families about complex topics that deserve increased attention. In her free time, she loves spending time with her husband, being outdoors, catching up with friends and building her floral design business.
Anthropology: Leeann Whiffen
Leeann Whiffen, an anthropology major, was born and raised on a cattle ranch in rural Idaho. She spent much of her youth helping her dad tend to the cows, swath hay, and irrigate fields. She is grateful for those experiences that have helped shape who she is today. Leeann and her husband Sean have been married for 25 years, and they have three sons. She has the special opportunity to be graduating from BYU with her son, Clay. Her husband and sons have always supported her educational goals. On one especially challenging day, she noticed a note in her chemistry notebook that said, “Good luck, Mom!” Leeann completed research under the supervision of Dr. Greg Thompson, and they co-authored an article examining physician-patient interactions that was published in the health care journal Qualitative Health Research. Leeann is deeply appreciative for her professors who have given her invaluable tools that she will carry forward. Leeann completed pre-medical coursework and plans to attend medical school.
Sociology: Hannah Dixon
Hannah Dixon grew up in American Fork, Utah. She served a full-time mission in Poland, then returned to BYU, where she majored in sociology with a minor in English. Hannah is graduating with University Honors. During her time here, she relished research opportunities. She participated in a Ballard Center Social Impact Project, a research assistantship in the Sociology department, worked with the BYU Antiracism Project, completed class projects, and more. Other highlights of her BYU experience include involvement in the Honors program, volunteer and mentorship opportunities with first-year students, long hours in the library, and hiking to the Y more than 100 times. Hannah is grateful for the mentors, family, colleagues, and friends who have made her time here fulfilling and she credits their examples of grit, optimism, and encouragement for getting her to this point. She looks forward to continuing her studies at BYU this fall as a student in the sociology master’s program.
Economics: Alexander Johnson
Alex Johnson is a senior graduating in economics and mathematics, with minors in Spanish and Portuguese. During his time at BYU, Alex realized that he possesses a love for learning and solving problems. Alex initially became interested in economics through Dr. Kearl’s Econ 110 class, learning to use a mathematical and logical framework to better understand the world. Through his experience in economics, Alex developed a passion for statistics and mathematical modeling, using and analyzing data to learn about the world in an economics framework. Seeing the strength of mathematics in such an applied context, Alex decided to supplement this growing passion for applied modeling by deciding to also study mathematics as one of his majors. This preparation allowed Alex to continue his education into the future with plans to study Applied Mathematics in a master’s program. Alex would like to express his sincere gratitude for all his professors, family, friends, and classmates, all of whom have been integral in his learning so far.
This Friday night’s activity, “Night at the Museums” gives students the opportunity to visit all five BYU museums (The Monte L. Bean Life Science Museum, Education in Zion Museum, The Museum of Art, The Museum of Paleontology, and The Museum of Peoples and Cultures) on one evening for refreshments, music, activities, and the chance to solve clues for a prize. Each museum will dazzle participants with interesting facts and thought-provoking displays, but a brand new exhibit at The Museum of Peoples and Cultures is sure to be an eye-catcher.
Greenstone Forgeries on Display
“Mayan Greenstone” displays artifacts from the museum’s vast collection of Mesoamerican greenstone artifacts. What makes these particular artifacts so intriguing? Many are forgeries.
The exhibit highlights the research done last year by former BYU student Chloe Burkey and anthropology postdoctoral fellow Marion Forest. Burkey and Forest worked to systematically authenticate the collection, using an innovative collection of techniques to spot each forgery.
The new exhibition gives visitors the opportunity to try their hand at spotting the fakes while also appreciating the ancient craftsmanship of the genuine artifacts. Museum visitors will be impressed, not only by the relics, but also by the experiential learning opportunities available to students through the Museum of Peoples and Cultures.
A Student-Led Exhibit
Nearly every aspect of each exhibit at the museum is produced by BYU students. “All of the research is done by students, the displays are designed by students, even the labels for the artifacts are made by students,” explained museum director Paul Stavast.
One student gaining valuable experience at the museum is Hannah Smith, a history major with minors in art history and anthropology. Hannah plans to work in museums in the future, and her experience as an exhibit designer at the Museum of Peoples and Cultures has given her invaluable skills for her future career.
“Along with the researchers and the director I’ve gotten to pick objects, write text, choose graphics, play with the layout of the exhibit… paint, build some walls!” joked Hannah as she described her role in the new exhibit in an interview. “I’ve learned more through this opportunity than I have in a lot of classes. It’s helped me build skills for any job and helped me really figure out what I want to do.”
Learning Through Stories
Hannah started at the museum last April as an intern, unsure of what direction she wanted her future career to take. She gained confidence by helping with the “Utah Valley” exhibit and by talking to the director of the museum. She enjoyed the opportunity and has been working at the museum ever since.
Smith began studying history and anthropology because she wants to tell human stories. “I feel like the social sciences are so special because it’s all about people. That’s what interests me the most is the story behind things, and the social sciences are all very story driven fields,” said Smith, explaining how stories tie together all of her passions of history, anthropology and art history.
Immerse yourself in the stories of the past at the Museum of Peoples and Cultures and other BYU museums at “Night at the Museums” on March 25.
To learn more about the Museum of Peoples and Cultures visit mpc.byu.edu.
We all know what things can kill us: smoking, drinking alcohol, not exercising, having an unhealthy diet, not getting enough sleep, the list goes on and on. But did you know that being lonely is just as risky?
In February of 2020, the National Academy of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine (NASEM) declared, “Social isolation is a major public health concern.” Just one month later, the coronavirus pandemic forced people worldwide to deliberately isolate and distance themselves socially.
Dr. Julianne Holt-Lunstad, professor of psychology at BYU, studies the power of social connection on mental and physical health. Her research has built a body of evidence proving exactly what NASEM stated: that society should be very concerned about the risks of isolation and loneliness.
“Loneliness is associated with increased death by 26%. Conversely, another meta-analysis that included 148 studies, examined the protective effects of being socially connected and we found that social connection increases our odds of survival by 50%,” said Holt-Lunstad as she presented the 29th annual Martin B. Hickman Outstanding Scholar Lecture.
Her research also reveals that social isolation and loneliness are associated with greater incidents of major psychological, cognitive, and physical morbidities. Holt-Lunstad’s research is now focused on the relationship between the physical symptoms of loneliness and harmful inflammation.
The global pandemic exacerbated this already urgent health concern. Holt-Lunstad described it like this: “Loneliness was prevalent prior to the pandemic, but increased in prevalence and severity over the pandemic.” Individuals living alone and older adults seemed to be most isolated, but longitudinal studies showed that the pandemic increased feelings of loneliness among most people.
We take certain aspects of physical health seriously because there are national health guidelines. Recommendations from experts for how to eat, how often to exercise, how much sleep we need, etc. are taught in schools and by doctors when we get check-ups.
So if loneliness and isolation present serious mortality risks, why don’t we hear about it more often? Why aren’t there school programs like D.A.R.E. (Drug Abuse Resistance Education) teaching kids about the risks of isolation?
C.S. Lewis stated, “Friendship is unnecessary, like philosophy, like art… It has no survival value; rather it is one of those things which gives value to survival.” Lewis’ point of view describes how many people, including public policy makers, perceive loneliness. Social connection can seem more like a bonus than a necessity, but meaningful connection with others can be just as important for mental and physical well being as drinking enough water.
Loneliness is our body giving a biological signal that we need to socially reconnect. Just like hunger and thirst remind us to eat and drink, loneliness reminds us how vital meaningful relationships are for our health.
Holt-Lunstad and her colleagues are working to find widespread solutions to the loneliness and isolation epidemic through public policy and regulation, but she emphasizes the importance of small actions that can improve social connection.
She and her colleagues ran a study during the pandemic in which nearly 4,500 participants were randomly assigned challenges to connect socially. Participants were told to perform one act of kindness for a neighbor once a week for four weeks. The study found that when individuals actively chose to reach out to neighbors in a positive way, they became significantly less lonely, social anxiety was reduced, neighborhood quality improved, and conflict reduced.
The results of the study showed that a social connection intervention can be performed with no resources or training; anyone can take action and improve the social connection in their life.
Holt-Lunstad concluded with an invitation: “All I ask is that you take a moment to do something kind for someone else, because our evidence shows that one of the best ways to help yourself is to help others.”
The Hickman Lecture is presented annually by a faculty member who received the Martin B. Hickman Scholar Award for being a distinguished faculty member whose professional contributions to the college emulate excellence.Learn from previous outstanding faculty members here.
Haylie June is a first-generation student, which means she will be the first in her family to obtain a bachelor’s degree. A sociology senior from Racine, Wisconsin, June feels she’s had amazing experiences at BYU. Still, she’s recognized the disadvantages and unique struggles that first-generation students face as they navigate college life without guidance from parents or grandparents.
Hundreds of students like June arrive at BYU every year blazing a new trail and setting an example for the next generation, for siblings, and even for parents.
Here are some simple tips for first-generation students looking to find their place at BYU.
1. Join the First-Generation Club
According to The Pell Institute, first-generation students are four times more likely to leave higher education after the first year than their peers. To combat this risk factor, BYU first-gen students have created the First-Generation Student Organization, a BYUSA club dedicated to providing sustained support to first-gen students at BYU. Supervised by Ben Gibbs, assistant professor of sociology, the club hosts weekly events designed to help first-gen students learn to network and find mentors.
June discovered the First Generation club early last semester, and believes the greatest value in the club is sharing knowledge with people in a similar situation and relating to other students. She says, “Being part of this club and meeting students that have similar, but also different experiences than me, has really helped me develop new skills and look outside of myself. It gives me an opportunity to serve and get to know people that I wouldn’t have gotten to know otherwise.”
2. Seek Out Mentors
The club emphasizes the importance of seeking mentors. June’s college experience completely changed when she shifted her perspective, realizing that “there’s people here to help me and [who] want to help [me] succeed, and they’re offering me skills and mentorship that are making these experiences more meaningful.”
June found the mentoring she was seeking in the College of Family, Home, and Social Sciences as she pursues a degree in sociology. “At first, sociology felt like the fastest way to get a degree and apply for law school,” says June. “But I got a job as a TA for a research class and started doing research with that professor, and now I want to be a professor myself.”
June’s mentor, Michael R. Cope, associate professor of sociology, is a first-gen student himself. “Seeing him as a first-generation student in an academic setting, as someone who I would consider very successful, that has been a great example to me that you can do it — that there are people like you in these academic settings,” says June. She’s even had the opportunity to co-author a peer-reviewed journal article with Cope.
3. Don’t Be Afraid to Talk to Professors
While every student experiences the fear that they’re irritating professors by reaching out, it can be hard for first-gen students to ask for help since they’ve been so independent in getting to college. This can be intimidating, but June says, “All my experiences with mentors in this college… have made me feel very valued and important, and I’ve never felt like a burden when I’m asking questions or needing guidance.”
Professors and teaching assistants are put in place to help students. First-generation students shouldn’t hesitate to take advantage of office hours and email communication.
June plans to continue sociology research, focusing on first-gen students and motherhood during college. Her experiences navigating college as a first-generation student have helped her build empathy and other attributes that serve her in her family and academic roles.
“If there’s anything I’ve learned, don’t hesitate to invite students — whether they’re first-gen or not — to share the knowledge you have,” say’s June. “Don’t be afraid to reach out to your friends or your classmates to offer help and support when you can.”
To learn more about the First-Generation Student Organization, visit their website.
Have you ever felt stuck in a personal rut? Maybe not a full-blown crisis, but you’ve definitely been better? Psychologist Adam Grant terms this feeling “languishing,” and a large portion of the population finds themselves trapped in this mental-health twilight zone.
Jared Warren, associate professor of clinical and developmental psychology, has a solution.
Warren studies positive psychology, or the applied science of well-being. His research objective is to connect people with evidence-based resources for living their best life possible.
“Positive psychology is about being a whole person,” Warren says. “A misconception about positive psychology is that it’s just a ‘focus on the positive, look on the bright side’ kind of naive approach to life, and that’s not at all what it is. It’s recognizing that there’s value in every experience, including the challenging ones.”
Warren’s research, among the research of others in the field, links principles of positivity like gratitude, mindfulness, self-compassion, and savoring to overall well-being. By learning these skills, anyone can take steps to flourish mentally. But, research also shows that simply understanding positive principles will not lead to personal progress.
Warren developed the course for and teaches Psych 349, “Introduction to Positive Psychology.” The curriculum gives students the opportunity to develop an attribute of well-being by practicing that attribute for three weeks. Known as “The 21-Day Personal Growth Experiment,” this assignment moves students from knowing about well-being to living what they know.
Dr. Warren also has a practice as a clinical psychologist at BYU’s Comprehensive Clinic. He says that his research has helped patients at the clinic “because some positive psychology practices are already baked into some of our best clinical approaches.”
Many tried and true psychological treatments line up naturally with positive psychology principles, such as having subjects actively plan pleasant activities, consider their personal core values, and set goals to become who they’ve always wanted to be.
But positive psychology isn’t just for those struggling with clinical disorders. Wherever people find themselves on the spectrum of well-being, positive psychology can help anyone live a rich, vibrant, and meaningful life. The skills developed by practicing positive psychology build the capacity to handle unexpected stressors and challenges that will inevitably come into our lives.
So, how can you break out of the languishing rut?
“To change the brain in healthy ways we have to practice,” says Warren. “My wish for the whole world is that everyone could spend 20 minutes a day practicing some of these skills for improving their well-being.”
To work through some positive psychology modules and improve your own well-being, visit the My Best Self 101 website developed by Warren.
The BYU Comprehensive Clinic offers counseling services for individuals, couples, and families in the Utah County area. Services are provided by graduate student interns in Clinical Psychology, Marriage and Family Therapy, and Social Work. These graduate student therapists aresupervised by experienced, licensed professionals, and faculty members. Call (801)422-7759 to schedule an intake.
Gail Miller, owner of the Larry H. Miller Group, visited the BYU campus on February 10 to deliver the annual G. Homer Durham lecture. Her talk, titled, “The Impact of Community Service and Philanthropy,” gave insights into her journey as a businesswoman and philanthropist.
Gail and her late husband Larry Miller began their foray into business when Larry purchased his first automobile dealership in 1979. Mrs. Miller described how the company continued to grow saying, “One thing after another we were guided through the business world, adding a piece here and a piece there, until we were very engaged in the automobile business.”
In 1986, the Millers purchased the Utah Jazz, which changed their lives forever. As their company grew and the team gained more notoriety, the Millers found themselves living in the public eye and bringing more attention to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and their values than they could have ever expected.
When Larry passed away in 2009, Gail became the face of the company and took an active role in managing the business. Describing the decision to run the business, Mrs. Miller says, “We had a reputation for being ethical, for being honest, for being fair, for treating our people right and providing good jobs. I knew that I could not let that die, so I gathered my courage and decided to step into a role that I was neither prepared for nor wanted.”
Mrs. Miller felt nervous about the enormous responsibility she faced. She said, “The courage came from knowing that my Heavenly Father expected me to use my talents and my ability as a woman to make a difference.”
While she acted in courage, the transition to leadership in the company wasn’t easy for Mrs. Miller. Working with lifelong businesspeople presented challenges and social discomfort. “I was not respected. I hate to say that, but I was a newbie!” exclaimed Mrs. Miller. “I had to learn to speak up to show that I knew what I was talking about.”
As she gained experience, Mrs. Miller did not forget the values that she and Larry committed to when they started their business, primarily the values of community service and philanthropy. She reflected on the economic crisis in 2008 and 2009 when Larry fell ill. “I told my son, ‘I know that we need to do everything that we can to keep the business alive, but we cannot stop giving.’ We couldn’t give at the level that we did before, but we did not stop giving.”
Mrs. Miller closed with her philosophy on philanthropy by saying, “We have opportunities beyond our capacities when we accept the role of sharing what we have with others. There is so much need all around us but there is so much opportunity to enrich lives and make a difference in this world.”
The BYU Political Science Department sponsors the G. Homer Durham lecture every year, inviting notable speakers to discuss social, political and historical topics. G. Homer Durham served as an educator, General Authority in the Church and as Church Historian during his exemplary life.