Diversity Committee Helps Campus Celebrate Juneteenth

“Juneteenth is a holiday for everyone,” says Lita Little Giddins, assistant dean for Diversity, Collaboration, and Inclusion in the College of Family, Home, & Social Sciences. “As long as it is a fight that involves humanity, we are all included.” 

Taking that sentiment to heart, students on the college’s Diversity, Collaboration, and Inclusion (DCI) committee set up an opportunity for the campus community to celebrate the holiday on the afternoon June 21. The group aimed to educate others on the meaning of Juneteenth and the symbols on the Juneteenth flag, and shared red velvet cookies.

“The majority of [passerbys] had a basic understanding of what Juneteenth is,” says Kame’e Parker, a junior from Honolulu majoring in family life and a member of the DCI committee. But she was happy to share more details. “Our history textbooks don’t teach us about marginalized groups, or if they do they skim over it. If textbooks aren’t putting a focus on these events, we need to put a focus on educating ourselves and others about these events.” In addition to details about the holiday, students shared information about rooting out more subtle forms of racism or exclusion, such as microaggressive behavior.

As for how the holiday is traditionally celebrated, Giddins explains that in the South, many people wore their Sunday best. In other states, people began to wear clothing that is significant to their cultural heritage if they know which African tribe they originate from. Many people eat red-colored food because red symbolizes loyalty, power, and the blood that was shed during enslavement. The symbolism highlights the triumph of African Americans as they were officially liberated from slavery.

 Finally, Juneteenth brings to light the ongoing struggle of inclusion that African Americans feel and how we all need to be more inclusive in our communities. 

“Right now, we will inform people about Juneteenth. But I hope to one day reach a point when people already know the significance so we can simply celebrate together. After all, Juneteenth is a celebration at its core of inclusion and community,” says Giddins.

Find more resources on race from the Diversity, Collaboration, and Inclusion committee.

Kame’e Parker at the “Celebrate Juneteenth!” booth sponsored by the DCI committee of the College of Family, Home, and Social Sciences.

College of Family, Home, and Social Sciences Valedictorians Announced

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 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

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

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

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

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

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

​​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

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.

A Fall Welcome Message to Students

From Dean Laura Padilla-Walker

Dear Students,

Welcome to Fall semester! We have a new leadership team in the College of Family, Home, and Social Sciences and we are eager to meet you and get your perspective as we work toward shared goals. Please look for emails and social media posts announcing ways for you to get to know the many opportunities that await you in our college.

I acknowledge that it has been a challenging year for many of you and I applaud your efforts to remain engaged despite the varied and unique trials of the past year. Please let us know how we can help empower you to reach your goals. We’re on the 9th floor of KMBL and our doors are open to you.

I am grateful for the opportunity the college and our faculty have to be part of your BYU experience. I’m reminded of a talk President Gordon B. Hinckley gave in 1997 — before most of you were born but still relevant today. He pointed out that one of the elements of a singular BYU education is the faculty who teach you. He said:

“You have a unique and dedicated faculty to teach you. They bring to this great responsibility the learning of all the ages…in a vast variety of fields of knowledge. When all is said and done, it is not this elaborate campus that really counts. It is the faculty who teach you, who lead you, who encourage you, who help you find your way as you go forward with your studies” (The BYU Experience, 1997).

As someone who works closely with the faculty in our college, I am confident that you are being taught by many of the best in their fields. I support these highly trained individuals as they teach their disciplines and prepare curriculum that promotes deep critical thinking so you can thoughtfully engage in essential conversations. These foundational skills will prepare you not only for this life and the diverse world in which we live, but also to become lifelong learners.

This rigorous coursework is aligned with the BYU mission statement that says your time here should be a “period of intensive learning in a stimulating setting where a commitment to excellence is expected and the full realization of human potential is pursued.”

Intensive learning is not always comfortable, but with “an environment enlightened by living prophets and sustained by those moral virtues which characterize the life and teachings of the Son of God” (BYU Mission Statement) we can and should safely and critically engage with the universe of ideas that are part of a broad university education.

BYU is unique not because we shelter students from learning aspects of a broad education, but because we explore topics with the light and truth of the gospel as our guide — especially when secular and spiritual knowledge don’t seem to be aligned. This exploration of ideas should always be done by engaging in respectful dialogue “by persuasion, by long-suffering, by gentleness and meekness, and by love unfeigned” (D&C 121: 41). Interacting in this way should be something we uniquely excel in at BYU.   

It is my hope that all interactions within our college community will “reflect devout love of God and a loving, genuine concern for the welfare of our neighbor” (BYU Mission Statement). President Hinckley reminds us that “The true gospel of Jesus Christ never led to bigotry. It never led to self-righteousness. It never led to arrogance. The true gospel of Jesus Christ leads to [sisterhood and] brotherhood, to friendship, to appreciation of others, to respect and kindness and love.” (The BYU Experience, 1997)

We encourage all of you to reach out to those around you and help us build a Zion community within our college. If you are struggling, please ask for help. If you are doing well, please look around you and notice fellow students who need your support. Please “succor the weak, lift up the hands which hang down, strengthen the feeble knees (D&C 81: 5).”

You are wonderful individuals with strong spirits and excellent minds. The social science training you receive from our qualified faculty will help make you leaders as you engage in and solve our world’s most significant problems. As a college, we are blessed to be a part of your journey.

Dean Padilla-Walker

College of Family, Home, and Social Sciences

New Faculty Members Join the College

This fall, we welcome fresh faces to the College of Family, Home, and Social Sciences. Be sure to say hello to our new faculty members and spend a minute to get to know more about them and the expertise they bring. We’re glad they’re here!

Melissa Alcaraz, Assistant Professor of Sociology

Melissa Alcaraz specializes in the intersection between migration and family formation, with a focus on Mexico. She earned her PhD in sociology from The Ohio State University in 2021.

Ruth Kerry, Associate Professor of Geography 

Ruth Kerry grew up in the United Kingdom and did all her studies there, including a PhD in precision agriculture from the University of Reading in 2004. She specializes in soil spatial analysis and land evaluation, and precision agriculture. She was previously an affiliate assistant professor at Auburn University. 

David Simpson, Visiting Teaching Professor of Geography

David Simpson has a passion for making communities better. He has a doctorate degree from the University of California, Berkeley in city and regional planning and has filled many professional roles over his career, much of which was spent with the University of Louisville. Prior to moving to Utah and accepting this position with BYU, he was the chair of the University of Louisville Sustainability Council. 

Ryan Hill, Assistant Professor of Economics 

Ryan Hill earned his PhD in Economics from MIT in 2020 and specializes in labor economics, public finance, economics of innovation, and development of scientific knowledge. He previously worked as a postdoctoral researcher for the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University. Fun fact about Ryan: he stood at the highest and lowest points of the continental U.S. on the same day — he climbed Mt. Whitney, slept on the summit, hiked down, and then visited Death Valley on the way home.

Richard Patterson, Assistant Professor of Economics 

Richard Patterson was an assistant professor in the U.S. Military Academy at West Point before coming to BYU. He specializes in applied microeconomics, behavioral economics, economics of education, and labor economics and has a PhD in policy analysis and management from Cornell University. In his free time he enjoys mountain biking, rock climbing, and skiing. 

Ashley Fraser, Assistant Professor of Family Life 

Ashley Fraser earned a PhD in family and human development from Arizona State University in 2021. Her research interests include childhood and adolescent development; empathy and prosocial behavior; hope, racism and equity, and media. 

Andrea Kinghorn Busby, Assistant Professor of Family Life

Andrea Kinghorn Busby specializes in developmental psychology and public policy; reducing inequality for young children, with emphasis on fathers and neighborhoods; and inequality in children’s home, school, and neighborhood contexts. Her research interests include the impact of violence on children, how children and families experience poverty in suburban communities, and how parents socialize their children about economic inequality. She earned her PhD in human development and social policy from Northwestern University in 2021.

Ashley LeBaron-Black, Assistant Professor of Family Life

Ashley LeBaron-Black specializes in family finance with a focus on family financial socialization and couple finance. She earned her PhD in family studies and human development from the University of Arizona in 2021. In her free time she enjoys studying art history, particularly French Gothic, Italian Renaissance, and French Impressionism. 

Daniel Frost, Director of the Integrative Writing Program and Assistant Teaching Professor, School of Family Life

Daniel Frost earned his PhD in politics from Princeton University, and his writing interests include marriage, family, sexual morality, personal identity, and moral reasoning, among others. He previously taught political science at Clemson University and BYU.

Liz McGuire, Assistant Professor of Political Science 

Liz McGuire earned her PhD in political science from Yale University in 2021. She uses experimental and quantitative methodologies to study gender politics, changes in gender norms, and comparative gender norms. She is also interested in international development and is currently focusing on East Africa. 

David Romney, Assistant Professor of Political Science 

David Romney has a PhD in government from Harvard University, and was a postdoctoral fellow at Harvard’s Weatherhead Center for International Affairs before coming to BYU. He specializes in comparative politics and methods, psychology of intergroup relations, role of social media, misinformation, and conspiracy theories in the Middle East. In his free time he enjoys watching cooking shows and trying out new recipes with his wife. 

Gentry Jenkins, Visiting Assistant Professor of Political Science

Gentry Jenkins earned his doctorate degree from the University of Chicago, where he was a teaching fellow in the Committee on International Relations. His research interests include the connections between revolution, state-building, civil war, and international conflict.

Sandra Sephton, Professor of Psychology 

Sandra Sephton specializes in developmental, cognitive, and health psychology; biobehavioral oncology; and mindfulness interventions. She earned her PhD in behavioral neuroscience from BYU in 1995 and previously was a professor at the University of Louisville and senior scientist at James Graham Brown Cancer Center. She is the happy owner of three horses.

Kara Duraccio, Assistant Professor of Psychology 

Kara Duraccio earned her PhD in clinical psychology from BYU in 2019. She previously worked held a General Pediatrics Research Fellowship at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center. Her areas of specialty include pediatric psychology with a focus on adolescent sleep and eating behaviors. 

Dawn-Marie Wood, Assistant Teaching Professor of Psychology

Dawn-Marie Wood earned her master’s degree in psychology and behavioral neuroscience at BYU in 1994, and was previously a visiting assistant teaching professor at BYU. She loves to fly fish and is an “honorary member” of the BYU Fly Fishing Club.

Award-Winning Faculty and Staff

Congratulations to all the faculty and staff in the College of Family, Home, and Social Sciences who were recognized with awards from the university and the college. We have an amazing team of people dedicated to delivering the best university education to our students, whether through research, teaching, or providing administrative support. We’re so happy to recognize a few in this way—be sure to stop and offer your congratulations!

AWARDS FROM THE UNIVERSITY
Jan Christensen, School of Family Life
President’s Appreciation Award

Jan Christensen serves her department and the university with distinction. She has mastered the administrative procedures and policies of the university, and her department relies on her to navigate all administrative matters. Christensen is a full team player without an ego who works with faculty and staff in a professional and friendly manner, setting a pleasing tone for the department.

Brenden Rensink, History
Karl G. Maeser Professional Faculty Excellence Award

Brenden W. Rensink is the associate director of the Charles Redd Center for Western Studies. He designs a rich annual program of public lectures and research seminars for the center and manages the center’s research awards, fellowships, and grants. His popular Writing Westward podcast and his student-curated digital history project, Intermountain Histories, make history broadly accessible.

Craig Hart, School of Family Life
Abraham O. Smoot Citizenship Award

Since coming to BYU in 1992, Craig H. Hart has lifted the research and teaching of human development at the university. He has had many noteworthy accomplishments as a scholar, including coediting The Handbook of Childhood and Social Development. Hart has prioritized administrative service for more than 20 years and currently serves as director of the Faculty Center.

Jenny Brooks, Psychology
Adjunct Faculty Excellence Award

Jenny B. Brooks is a talented teacher who goes above and beyond expectations for students and her department. She is dedicated to the aims of a BYU education and uses her class assignments to emphasize these aims. Her students report that her classes build their testimonies and help them become better disciples of Jesus Christ.

Rebekka Matheson, Psychology
Early Career Teaching Award

Rebekka Matheson has established a reputation as a phenomenal and soughtout teacher. She teaches upper-level courses that combine difficult scientific principles, such as physiologic mechanisms and biophysics with behavior. Matheson works hard to create innovative and effective learning opportunities for her students, successfully blending teaching and mentoring.

Wendy Birmingham, Psychology
Early Career Scholarship Award

Wendy C. Birmingham’s research program is at the intersection of health psychology and social psychology. She has published extensively in the fields of health psychology and behavioral medicine, establishing herself as an expert on how relationships impact both physical and mental health. Birmingham has published more than 50 research articles and academic book chapters.

Brock Kirwan, Psychology
Alcuin Fellowship Award

Created in 1986, the Alcuin Fellowship is named after Alcuin of York (c. 730–802), master of the seven liberal arts and leading figure of the Carolingian Renaissance, who brought about far-reaching educational renewal. Alcuin Fellows are expected to teach one of the four Unexpected Connections (GS) courses required of Honors students in partnership with another faculty member.

AWARDS FROM THE COLLEGE OF FAMILY, HOME, AND SOCIAL SCIENCES
Julianne Holt-Lundstadt, Psychology 
Martin B. Hickman Scholar

An internationally-recognized scientist in the field of Social and Health Psychology, Dr. Holt-Lunstad has impacted the lives of thousands of others through her ground-breaking research on the long-term health effects of social connections and the negative consequences of loneliness and social isolation. Her pioneering research has been widely recognized not only for its scientific rigor, but also for its timely social relevance and practical applicability. Her research has been disseminated through prestigious scholarly outlets and her students are forging successful careers at major institutions throughout the nation. In these accomplishments, she has garnered international recognition and deep respect for Brigham Young University. 

Ryan Davis, Political Science 
Martin B. Hickman Excellence in Teaching

Dr. Ryan Davis centers his pedagogy on teaching students how to apply philosophical thinking to the world around them. One student summed up the effect of his tutelage by saying that they now “think of my own arguments, and the arguments of others, in a more constructive way—as premises leading to a conclusion. I appreciate now that we all agree on many different premises, even if some are different and we therefore have different conclusions.” He is best known for his deep love of the greater sage-grouse and Taylor Swift lyrics, resulting in students observing that he is “inadvertently hilarious” and “really defies the idea of a stoic philosophy professor.” 

Brandon Plewe, Geography 
Martin B. Hickman Innovation in Teaching

Dr. Brandon Plewe has been teaching cartography and GIS in the Geography department since 1997. His research focuses on using historical GIS and cartography to better understand the past, particularly in the context of the history of Utah and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. He is also interested in the underlying ontology of geographic information, or how people understand and represent the world. He is a “geo-collector,” having built GIS datasets of 550 hillside letters, 350 old LDS church buildings, and 7,000 historical LDS wards and branches. He has also driven on almost every highway in Utah. 

Karen Carter, History
Martin B. Hickman Achievement in Teaching  

Dr. Karen Carter believes that teaching is the most meaningful work she will accomplish at BYU. She is highly effective in class organization and in seamlessly blending course materials and evaluation tools for the best learning outcomes. She is a superior lecturer who holds the attention of students, but she is also an advocate of peer learning. Her commitment to student learning is exceptional. Even in large online sections of World Civilizations she personally graded each assignment to provide individualized feedback and writing instruction. Her classes are truly habitats of learning where students flourish in many ways. 

Jill Knapp, Geography
Martin B. Hickman Excellence in Teaching by Adjunct Faculty

Jill Knapp received BS (1986) and MS (1989) degrees in geography at BYU. Since 1994, she has been teaching regional and human geography classes. She worked with Freshman Academy and Peer Mentoring programs for many years, and particularly enjoys the opportunity to teach and mentor freshman students. Jill and her husband, Stan Knapp (Sociology), have directed BYU study programs in many European locations for the past 15 years. She loves the opportunity to provide experiences both in and outside the classroom to help change the way students view the incredibly diverse world in which they live. Jill estimates that she has taught over 5,000 students since she began teaching at BYU. Jill’s greatest reward is running into former students who tell her that they took her class and that they still think about the things they learned. 

Ryan Gabriel, Sociology 
Martin B. Hickman Diversity and Inclusion Award

Dr. Ryan Gabriel, assistant professor of sociology, is a committed advocate of diversity and inclusion. Professor Gabriel balances a productive research agenda and teaching high-demand classes while contributing to efforts to improve belonging at BYU. Professor Gabriel plays key roles in the college’s Civil Rights Seminar and on the university’s Committee on Race, Equity & Belonging. He is engaged in quieter ways, mentoring students and colleagues one-on-one. To know Professor Gabriel is to know his warmth and perceptiveness. His April 2021 devotional address (“Healing Racism Through Jesus Christ”) exemplifies this approach. Our university is in a better place because of him. 

Michael Cope, Sociology
Mary Lou Fulton Early Career Scholar Award  

Dr. Michael Cope, associate professor and co-director of the BYU Community Studies Lab, continues the long tradition of highly regarded BYU sociologists studying rural communities. From detailing the effects of the BP oil spill, to understanding demographic, economic, and social challenges facing rural western communities, Professor Cope’s work seeks to improve the well-being of vulnerable communities. He is an exceptional mentor who invests countless hours in his students, with whom he frequently publishes. Professor Cope is a tireless scholar, teacher, and colleague that endeavors to help anyone lucky enough to work with him. 

Stewart Anderson, History 
Mary Lou Fulton Early Career Scholar Award

Dr. Stewart Anderson is a strong supporter of BYU’s European Studies program and an outstanding teacher who has won awards from the History department and the European Studies Student Association. His strength in the classroom is rooted in his respect for students and their abilities, and this comes through in his close mentoring of them in their research projects. Dr Anderson’s recent monograph, A Dramatic Reinvention: German Television and Moral Renewal after National Socialism, 1956-1970, draws upon studio documents and the content of television films to assess the objectives of writers and directors and the responses of viewers. 

Jeffrey Denning, Economics  
FHSS Early Career Scholar Award

Dr. Jeff Denning is an outstanding teacher who is conscientious, clear, and has high expectations for student learning. He makes a point of reaching out personally to those who struggle. Dr. Denning studies how to reduce barriers to college enrollment. He has articles published or in press at prestigious journals including the American Economic Journal: Applied EconomicsAmerican Economic Journal: Economic Policy, and the Journal of Policy Analysis and Management. In recognition of his outstanding research contributions, Dr. Denning was appointed a Faculty Research Fellow at the National Bureau of Economic Research and a Research Affiliate at the Institute of Labor Economics (IZA). 

Sherinah Saasa, School of Social Work 
Marjorie Pay Hinckley Pre-CFS Early Career Scholar Award

Dr. Sherinah Saasa is an assistant professor in the School of Social Work at Brigham Young University. She received her PhD at the University of Georgia School of Social Work. Her research interests include African immigrant adjustment in the United States, and international child welfare with a focus on the intersections of poverty, education inequality, gender-based discrimination and HIV/AIDS on the outcomes of orphans and vulnerable children in Sub-Saharan Africa. Dr. Saasa, who grew up in Lusaka, Zambia, says she went into social work because of “a deepening sense of social responsibility obtained through direct practice [that] fueled [her] desire to expand [her] influence in social work to a macro level.” She is passionate about social justice and building a community that promotes equality, especially for women and people of color. She is also one of the nicest persons you will ever meet. We are fortunate to have her here at BYU.  

Rebecca de Schweinitz, History 
Marjorie Pay Hinckley Associate Professor Award

Dr. Rebecca de Schweinitz is an exceptional mentor. Students in her classes and seminars regularly win department awards, publish papers, and present at professional conferences. Students describe her as committed, organized, supportive, and phenomenal. Professor de Schweinitz’s books and articles focus on topics such as the political engagement and activism of youth, slavery, civil rights, and Latter-day Saint youth. Dr. de Schweinitz works tirelessly to improve the university and community, including service on the Faculty Advisory Council, the executive committee for Global Women’s Studies, the FHSS Civil Rights Seminar Committee, Black History Month organizing committees, and the Dialogue Foundation.  

Alex Jensen, School of Family Life
Marjorie Pay Hinckley Associate Professor Award

Dr. Alex Jensen has excelled at BYU in all the activities in which he has engaged. Dr. Jensen has become a nationally recognized scholar for understanding the direct and indirect ways siblings influence human development from adolescence through adulthood. Students in his human development classes rate him highly as a teacher; he is one of the most popular and innovative teachers in the School of Family Life. Dr. Jensen has also strongly contributed to the School’s curriculum as one of two creators of its new undergraduate applied statistics course.    

Rick Miller, School of Family Life
Martin B. Hickman Citizenship Award

Dr. Rick Miller is a leader committed to the success of the departments in the college of Family, Home, and Social Sciences. Dr. Miller has demonstrated that commitment by serving both as director of the School of Family Life and as chair of the Sociology Department. In addition to these administrative accomplishments, Dr. Miller is a marriage and family therapist and studies those aspects of therapy that make it most effective, with a specific focus on therapist effects. Additionally, Dr. Miller is one of the founding PIs of the innovative Marriage and Family Therapy research project, the Practice Research Network (PRN). The PRN is a large clinical research project designed to bridge the practice-research gap by enrolling dozens of clinics worldwide in a collective effort to gather and analyze real clinical data to improve clinical practice. 

Jeff Hill, School of Family Life
Virginia F. Cutler Scholar

Dr. E. Jeffrey Hill is a Professor of Family Life at BYU. His research examines the interface of work, finances, and family life.  Dr. Hill obtained a doctorate in Family and Human Development at Utah State University and Master of Organizational Behavior from the BYU Marriott School of Management. He has authored or co-authored seven books and more than 100 scholarly articles and book chapters. Jeff and his wife Tammy are blending a family of 12 children and 35 grandchildren. They also team-teach marriage enhancement at BYU. 

Eric Eide, Economics
Clayne B. Pope Professor in Economics

Since his arrival in 1993, Eric Eide has exemplified what it means to be a professor at BYU.  He is a popular teacher who is caring with a wonderful sense of humor.  He is also quite rigorous with high expectations for his students.  Dr. Eide is an accomplished scholar with dozens of publications, primarily in the economics of education.  As a researcher and teacher, Dr. Eide has mentored many students who have gone on to success in both industry and academia.  Dr. Eide is a model citizen who served as department chair and as a coeditor for the Economics of Education Review.  Significantly, Dr. Eide is a wonderful friend to faculty and students alike. 

Ken Millard, Computing Services
Dean’s Platinum Service Award 

Ken has done tremendous work during the pandemic creating virtual events and experiences in place of in-person ones, including moving our college’s mentored research conference online and creating a graduation website for the college. Ken also worked with AVP Larry Howell’s office to create a custom website that allowed BYU to host the Utah Conference on Undergraduate Research. As a result of Ken’s teamwork, BYU was able to pull off their rotation hosting the UCUR conference during a pandemic, and hundreds of undergraduate students from all over Utah were able to have a conference experience. 

Arlene Colman, Anthropology
Staff/Administrative Excellence in Service Award

Arlene Colman has worked for many years for the New World Archaeological Foundation as the technical editor of our paper series, generating some of the highest quality print publications in the discipline of archaeology. She is especially adept at finding novel ways to graphically represent complex excavation maps and illustrations. When it seems Arlene has reached the pinnacle of her skills, the next new publication exceeds all the former ones as she incorporates her unique archaeological and design-oriented perspective. In concert with authors, the director, the press, employees in Mexico, and artists, Arlene effortlessly pulls together all content and does so as an incredible leader and team player. 

Jessica McDowell, Economics
Outstanding Rookie Award

Jessica McDowell is a wonderful department administrator who is unfailingly prepared, capable, and fun-loving. Shortly after Jessica started, the Economics department was informed that it would be moving within a few months. Jessica had primary managerial responsibility for this major undertaking. The pandemic complicated the actual move, and the stress of the situation was further heightened by her having to manage multiple rounds of scheduling for Fall 2020 as the university sorted through options for dealing with the pandemic. It was a very busy and stressful time. Jessica handled it all marvelously and is most definitely worthy of the FHSS “Rookie” award for outstanding performance. 

Service Awards for Administrative & Staff Employees
  • Karen Christensen, FHSS Internship Office (20 years)
  • Carina Alleman, FHSS Dean’s Office (15 years)
  • Paul Stavast, Museum of Peoples & Cultures (15 years)
  • Laurie Weisler, Geography (15 years)
  • Nathan Bench, Computing Services (10 years)
  • Jan Christensen, School of Family Life (5 years)
  • Starlyn Hjorth, School of Family Life (10 years)
  • Sarah Rogers, Gerontology (5 years)
  • Aaron Barnes, Computing Services (5 years)
  • Laurel Bishop, School of Family Life (5 years)
  • J. Matthew Clarke, Political Science (5 years)

Niwako Yamawaki Joins College Administration as Associate Dean

July 1 marks a new beginning for several faculty members in the Dean’s Office for the College of Family, Home, and Social Sciences. While Laura Padilla-Walker, professor of family life, assumes her role as dean of the college after four years as associate dean, Niwako Yamawaki, professor of psychology, joins the office as associate dean for faculty development. 

“I had the privilege of working closely with Dr. Yamawaki on the college Diversity, Collaboration, and Inclusion committee and I appreciate her thoughtfulness, responsiveness, and organization,” says Padilla-Walker. “She has a passion for helping students and faculty to succeed and I am delighted she agreed to join our college team.”

Padilla-Walker believes Yamawaki is well qualified to serve as the associate dean over faculty development because of her dedication to the mission of the college and university, her strong research and teaching record, and her fierce dedication to mentored student research. 

Yamawaki was most recently an associate chair in the Department of Psychology and received the college Diversity, Collaboration, and Inclusion award in 2020 and the Martin B. Hickman Achievement in Teaching Award in 2019. She conducts cross-cultural research to investigate cultural factors — such as stigma, discrimination, and collectivism — that influence attitudes toward mental health services and violence against women. Along with that, she is interested in the role of psychological resilience in Eastern and Western populations and is affiliated with both the American Psychological Association and the Japanese Association for Mental Health.

Specific responsibilities Yamawaki will have as associate dean of faculty development include overseeing faculty research awards and grants, faculty leaves, reviews for the college’s institutes and centers, and the use of space in the college. She will head the Marjorie Pay Hinckley Endowed Chair committee, the Mary Lou Fulton Mentored Student Research Conference, and lead the college Diversity, Collaboration, and Inclusion committees for race and first-generation students.

Padilla-Walker is enthusiastic about the team of associate and assistant deans she’ll be working with. “I am confident that together we will be able to continue the positive trajectory of our college. We are here to support our wonderful faculty and students and hope you will feel free to seek us out to help in whatever ways we can. We look forward to working with all of you.” 

Mikaela Dufur, professor of sociology and associate dean, has new responsibilities too as she shifts from overseeing faculty development to now focusing on faculty evaluation.

“Dr. Dufur is well qualified for this position after serving as the college rank and status chair for several years, and I look forward to continuing to benefit from her wisdom, careful attention to detail, and her strong desire to support faculty and students,” says Padilla-Walker.

Dufur’s specific responsibilities now cover college rank and status, stewardship Interviews, and faculty profiles, university awards, and the university faculty development meeting. She will lead the Diversity, Collaboration, and Inclusion committees for gender and health/disabilities and continues to manage computing services, technology, and capital equipment. 

Sam Otterstrom, professor of geography, will continue in his role as associate dean for curriculum and teaching where he oversees academic advisement, assessment, education preparation, American Heritage, the bachelor of general studies, graduate studies, writing instruction, international study, online and independent studies, the BYU-Salt Lake Center, and scholarships. He also leads the Student Career Development Council and the University and College Curriculum Council, and remediates student complaints. 

“Dr. Otterstrom has been such an important asset to the team for years and we will greatly benefit from his continued expertise,” says Padilla-Walker. “He is a team player and I appreciate his patience, his perspective, and his desire to support our students through our many college efforts surrounding curriculum and experiential learning.” 

Find our contact info at the Dean’s Office Directory.