Three Ways to Have a Happy Family Life, as Shown by our Alumni

As the name implies, the College of Family, Home, and Social Sciences at BYU is particularly concerned with studying the family as the basic unit of society, as part of our broad mission to study patterns of human behavior from diverse disciplinary approaches. Our current students and faculty spend a lot of time looking at families through the lenses of anthropology, economics, geography, history, neuroscience, political science, psychology, social work, and sociology. Some of our 71,000 alumni, even after they leave our campus, are devoted to the cause of studying and supporting families, and provide examples of ways in which we can do the same:

1. Do your research

sheffieldrachel-webAlumnae Rachel Sheffield puts her degrees bachelors and masters degrees in marriage, family, and human development into action by influencing family policy in Washington, DC.  She’s spent the last eight years with the Heritage Foundation, a nationally recognized conservative public policy research institute, promoting family-friendly policies through solid research on policy issues and marketing the findings to members of Congress, policymakers, and the media.

As an undergraduate, she worked for Family Life faculty member Alan Hawkins, who said of her, in a 2013 interview: “Rachel was one of the quietest students I’ve ever interacted with. Her peers working on the project were boisterous extroverts and I worried a little about her in our meetings. But she always delivered first-class work to me.” She says that much of the research done in her classes, as well as her experience working for Dr. Hawkins in the Research Hub of the National Healthy Marriage Resource Center, helped her.

Of her work now, she says: “Talking to a student group that will come in, and telling them about why marriage is important, why a married mother and father make such a big difference in a child’s life and seeing the light go on, and realizing that’s not something that they hear every day—those experiences have been really rewarding.”

We too can take time to research successful family practices, regardless of whether we work to apply it in our own homes or the White House.

2. Seek to Understand and Engage

Some people might think economics grads are destined for Wall Street, but what about comedy skits?  Jared Shores is the producer and director of Studio C,  a popular comedy troupe made up of BYU alumni. “I was sort of a fish out of water in economics,” he told BYU Magazine. “My advisors did not know what to say to me. I always knew I wanted to be involved in the entertainment industry, but I found the modeling and projection in my major fascinating. Through economics I could study human behavior with a framework that tells me who people are and what they value by how they use their resources and how they behave.

Matthew R. Meese (a.k.a., Scott Sterling)  says: “We often remind ourselves we are guessing. We don’t know how well we are doing until the audience tells us. But Jared is an excellent, discerning guesser with a good sense of what is going to work.” And that understanding has helped them garner over a million YouTube subscribers.

 

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Photo by Jaren Wilkey/BYU

And it makes him a good boss to work for. Meese adds: Shores “allows creative leeway, which we value. There’s no feeling that this comes from the top down. Jared wants to know how he can help and does a lot of extra-mile work for the show.” Shores knows how to make work fun.  Even though he is “the boss,” he is a team player. Like Jared, parents can lead their kids in engaging ways.

3. Create Safety

sandberg-jonathanAlum Jonathan G. Sandberg got his masters degree in Marriage and Family Therapy from BYU, went to get a PhD in the same subject from Kansas State University, and since returned to BYU as a faculty member in the School of Family Life. He is a Certified Emotionally Focused Supervisor with the Ottawa Couple and Family Institute, and a licensed marriage and family therapist in Utah. He said: when a child feels a parent is accessible (“I can find you”) and responsive (“you reach out to me and comfort me when I call”), a secure attachment can develop. The same kinds of feelings with regards to accessibility and responsiveness can increase engagement with our spouses. These steps can make a difference in [any] marriage. He suggests these “do’s and don’ts” for creating relationship safety.

 

Alumni Spotlight: Margaret Busse, Volunteer Extraordinaire

Photo from LinkedIn.com
Photo from LinkedIn.com

Margaret Busse is an engaged member of her community.  As a Chair of the Acton Massachusetts Finance Committee, Busse advises the town on its proposed initiatives. She is an Associate Director of Harvard Business School’s Social Enterprise Initiative.  She has organized conferences on family issues.   Of the benefits of getting involved, she says: “getting to know so many various people is the best part. There are so many opportunities to do that, you basically just have to stand up and say ‘I’m here, I want to help.’ I think having people that are willing to do that is one of the most important things for a community to have.”

When she was at BYU, she double majored in Economics and Political Science in only four years, then completed her master’s degree in public policy.  Her influence blossomed while at the university, where she was involved as vice president of the Social Enterprise club, and sang in the women’s chorus.  After graduation, she interned in D.C., worked for the U.S. Treasury Department, and consulted with the nonprofit advising agency Bridgespan Group. Currently, she serves as a member of BYU’s National Advisory Council, which influences curriculum development, student career development, and alumni relations.  She is a full-time mother to her children.

She is wonder woman with kids and degrees.  She married Franz Busse after receiving her MBA from Harvard Business School. They live in Massachusetts with their five children. “It [was] an interesting twelve years [not] working,” she says. “It’s certainly not the profile for people who graduated from Harvard Business School, and it’s certainly not the profile for people to have four or five children either,” Busse says of motherhood, “So it’s been kind of an interesting path that I’ve taken, but I’ve been really happy that I’ve taken it.”

The College of Family, Home, and Social Sciences is honored to have given Margaret Busse her springboard. Like future wonder woman Rachel Stone, also a Political Science major, she is an inspiration!

Are you or someone you know a BYU Alumni? Submit your story and be featured on the website!

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.

 

Alumni Spotlight: Dee Allsop, Powerhouse Connector

deeDee Allsop is a powerhouse of a man, having been a strategist who worked at the highest level of American politics during the Ronald Reagan administration, and as a former president of the BYU Alumni Association. He graduated in political science, obtained both a masters and a doctorate from The Ohio State University, and achieved many great things in that arena, but then turned his professional attention to the science of  helping companies understand people, clients, and the decisions they make, at Heart+Mind Strategies. Through all of his endeavors is woven the power of connection, the desire to help politicians, companies, and people connect with each other.

As president of the Alumni Association, he said: “[The spirit of the Y] needs to be cultivated in the communities where people live—not just in their cities, but in their professional, global, and social communities as well.” As CEO of Wirthlin Worldwide from 2002 to 2004,  and then as president of Harris Interactions Groups, a company dedicated to administering surveys that measure public opinion in the U.S.  about the knowledge, opinions, behaviors and motivations of the general public on subjects such as politics, the economy, healthcare, foreign affairs, science and technology, sports and entertainment, and lifestyles. While employed at these companies, (2004-10) he also worked as the president of the BYU Board of Alumni. In addition, he was the BYU Alumni Association president from 2009-14. Currently, he serves on the Family, Home, and Social Sciences National Advisory Council. His passion for and ability to help businesses identify and leverage their connections has won him multiple awards, including the Advertising Research Foundation David Ogilvy Award for Beltway Campaign in 2008, the Advertising Research Foundation’s David Ogilvy Award for “The New Steel” in 2000, and the American Association of Political Consultants “Pollster of the Year” in 2000.      

He’s an example to all of the power of initiative and education. Of BYU, Allsop says, “BYU did many wonderful things in my life, and I have much gratitude to the university and the people there.” This is made evident through his far-reaching service to the university.

If you are an alumni of BYU’s School of Family Life, or any of the nine other departments in the College of Family, Home, and Social Sciences, we’d like to hear your story! Please share with us your accomplishments, your stories of service and inspiration. Share them at Rise.byu.edu. And don’t forget to join us on October 13th at 11 am in SWKT 250 to listen to Alumni Achievement Award Honoree Bridgitte Madrian speak on household financial decision making.

Where Will You Go With Your Major?

Alumni Brigitte Madrian to Speak on Household Financial Decision-Making

Keeping track of one’s monthly expenses can perhaps seem a fruitless task in light of the often meager incomes that college students receive. But it is during those college years when mastering one’s finances is so crucial, both because it enables them to spread those meager incomes farther and to learn and implement money management skills that will provide the basis for a happy family life after college. Whether you are an FHSS student, faculty, or alumni, financial awareness is crucial to your peace and security, now and in the future. On October 13th, alum Brigitte Madrian will be speaking on how to make smart financial decisions, and how to avoid common financial mistakes. All are invited.

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Who is Brigitte Madrian?

Doctor Madrian is respected as an authority on the matter of household finances. She graduated from BYU with bachelor’s and master’s degrees in economics, and went on to obtain a PhD in the same subject from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. She has since been on the faculty of several universities and authored a book, as well as a plethora of studies in peer-reviewed academic journals. Madrian co-directs the Household Finance working group of the National Bureau of Economic Research.  Today, she is the Aetna Professor of Public Policy and Corporate Management at Harvard’s Kennedy School.

Legislation regarding employer-sponsored 401(k) plans been impacted because of Madrian’s research, according to Ideas42, a nonprofit working to apply cutting-edge behavioral insights to some of the world’s toughest social problems. Since her days as a cougar, Madrian used skills gained from her education and research to help many people make smarter financial decisions. Whether you are an E-con major, or just trying to be the master of your money, there is something in her lecture for you.

Are you in control of your money, or is your money in control of you?

 

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Brigitte Madrian at a Cougar football game with her family

 

Alumni Spotlight: Randall Lewis and Big Data

randall_3cropped_headshot_blur-941x1024If you’ve ever googled or binge-watched  something, or read news online, then you’ve more than likely used Google, Netflix, or Yahoo. Other than being some of the most frequently-used apps and sites in the “interverse,” they have another thing in common: Randall Lewis. The BYU graduate has worked at each of these tech companies. Currently employed at Netflix, he statistically analyzes data he has gathered from sales both offline and online, searches, clicks, page views, and survey outcomes. big-data-1667212__180In his own words: “As an applied econometrician, I use causal statistics to extract valuable insights from large data sets. In today’s digital economy, this requires inventing new types of measurement systems and cleverly adapting econometric algorithms to efficiently perform advanced analyses at scale (i.e., causal machine learning).”

With a job description like that, it is no surprise that Lewis has a doctorate in Economics, with a focus on econometrics and industrial organization, from MIT. It’s also no surprise that he has won several related award, which include:

  • BYU Hinckley Presidential Scholar and Valedictorian, with a double major in mathematics and economics
  • MIT Presidential Fellow
  • Yahoo! Superstar Runner­Up, Nominee

While attending BYU, he was an economics programmer/researcher for a year and a half. This was followed by a similar post at MIT and a pre-doctoral job at Yahoo as a research assistant. After two years, Lewis was promoted to Economic Research Scientist at Yahoo upon completing his PhD. write-593333__180After four years at Yahoo, he moved to Google to work as an Economics Research Scientist. Three and a half years later, Lewis was hired by Netflix for a similar role.

Randall Lewis is one of a growing number of economists who are breaking the mold of the job type economists are usually hired to do, which is to research exchange rates and recessions. Today, according to the New York Times: “businesses are studying the data trails of consumer behavior to help digital companies make smart decisions that strengthen their online marketplaces in areas like advertising, movies, music, travel and lodging.” Lewis is part of this new wave of corporate economic research that is revolutionizing the way tech companies market their products.

If you are an alumni of BYU’s School of Family Life, or any of the nine other departments in the College of Family, Home, and Social Sciences, we’d like to hear your story! Please share with us your accomplishments, your stories of service and inspiration. Share them at Rise.byu.edu.

Alumni Spotlight: Stephanie Ashcraft

Stephanie Ashcraft’s career as a successful cookbook author and TV personality began as a mere class assignment for her Family and Consumer Science major almost twenty years ago. She turned in a list of 101 things to do with a cake mix, and then started teaching a cooking class on the subject at the local Macey’s. Because her students wanted the recipes, she decided have them bound in a book. Eventually, demand for book grew so large that Stephanie made the decision to pass it onto Gibbs-Smith, Publisher. Within two months of its release, 101 Things to do with a Cake Mix hit #9 on the New York Times Bestseller List for Paperback Advice. From there, her success only grew.

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101 Things to do with a Cookbook

Just one year out of college, she formed her own company, Stephanie Ashcraft Inc., and has gone on to publish twenty more successful cookbooks, like 101 Things to do with a Slow Cooker, 101 Things to do with a Tortilla, etc.) She has taught hundreds of classes and appeared on hundreds of television and news programs all over the country sharing ways that families can save time and money in the kitchen. While living in Arizona, Stephanie worked as a media contributor doing money saving stories for various local stations. She also assisted in creating, running, writing, and promoting the Arizona Mormon News. Aside from these and spots on the New York Times Bestseller List, she has been honored with an induction into the Self Publishing Hall of Fame.

101-things-to-do-with-a-cake-mix-coverThe food industry, however, is not the only area in which Stephanie has succeeded. She also volunteers for the Marana Middle School PTO, the Marana Police Citizen Advisory Commission, the Media for Southern Arizona, and the District Continuous Improvement Committee in Marana, Arizona, according to her LinkedIn profile.

Two years ago, Stephanie and her family moved back to Utah to live closer to family. Currently she serves on her local elementary school’s community council and on the PTAs for both the junior high and high school in her area. She’s the mother of five children, and lives with her husband Ivan, who has a PhD in Electrical Engineering from BYU, in Salem, Utah. She is an alumni who is truly exemplifies the mission of the school from which she graduated, the School of Family Life,which is to enhance the quality of life of individuals and families within the home and communities worldwide. You can read more about her and her books on her Amazon page.

If you are an alumni of BYU’s School of Family Life, or any of the nine other departments in the College of Family, Home, and Social Sciences, we’d like to hear your story! Please share with us your accomplishments, your stories of service and inspiration. Share them at Rise.byu.edu.

 

Have you read any of Stephanie’s books?

 

Alumni Spotlight: Neil Flinders

joseph-smith-art-lds-37715-galleryEducation is one of the most instrumental facets of society, and nobody knows that better than Neil Flinders. An alumnus and former faculty member of Brigham Young University, Flinders’ expertise involves education’s role in the lives of individuals, families, and communities. He has spent much of his retirement continuing to develop new ideas in the field, but one has become his principal focus. “After eight decades on this earth, you have a different perspective,” he says. “I think we need to pay more attention to Joseph Smith [as an educator].”

Flinders, in fact, published a book, entitled: Joseph Smith: America’s Greatest Educator, and delivered four lectures on the subject at BYU’s recent Education Week. “I am convinced,” he says, “that people living today can learn more about true education by studying the life and teachings of Joseph Smith than they can by studying all the books on education they might find in any library available to them.”

Joseph Smith Educator - Flyer

Joseph Smith, though not the recipient of much formal schooling, displayed an immense passion for education throughout his life. Apostle George Q. Cannon once remarked that the prophet “loved learning.” Shortly after his founding of the LDS Church, Smith began educating himself in many different languages, and even presided over a school of select Church leaders. “In knowledge there is power,” he taught. “God has more power than all other beings, because He has greater knowledge.”

This love for learning also manifested itself through Joseph’s revelations. Section 130 of the Doctrine and Covenants, a compilation of revelations he received for the Church, states: “whatever principle of intelligence we attain in this life, it will rise with us in the resurrection.”  It also instructs us to “seek not for riches but for wisdom” and warns that “it is impossible for a man to be saved in ignorance.”

Virtually all of the doctrine of the early LDS Church, Flinders points out, followed a pattern: Joseph would learn a principle from God, and then teach that principle to his people. Flinders adds that the foundation of the Church “presumes an educational process based on inspired revelation.” Additionally, Joseph taught that part of that educational process was not only hearing and receiving intelligence, but gathering together to sustain and defend it.

Flinders received his undergraduate degree at Brigham Young University in sociology. He later received a Masters in religious education and philosophy, and in 1960 earned an inter-disciplinary doctorate degree. He spent nineteen years with the Church Educational System, including a decade in the Commissioner’s Office of that system, and worked for another nineteen years on the faculty of the BYU School of Education. He also served as president of the Far Western Philosophy of Education Society and published a second book on teaching children using an agency approach to education.

Flinders and his wife served a full-time mission in Nauvoo, spending time on the faculty of the Joseph Smith Academy. While there, Flinders taught a Courtship and Marriage class based on the Family Proclamation. It was there that he began his study of Joseph Smith as an educator.