Opening Doors: Mikaela Dufer on receiving and sharing opportunities

During the Student Mentored Research Conference, students, faculty, and university staff listened to BYU sociology professor Mikaela Dufur speak on Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups, embracing opportunities with gratitude, and opening doors and opportunities for others along the way. As we share an excerpt from Dufur’s speech, we invite you to think about the next semester, job, or phase of your life and how you can appreciate opportunities  and open a door for someone else in the process.


It is so exciting to see the products of your imagination and your science [at the Student Mentored Research Conference]. Mentored research at BYU has opened new doors for you by giving you skills, practice demonstrating them, and evidence of your abilities. You are ready to meet every new challenge and to try, fail, try, fail, and try again until you conquer them, just as you have every time a model refused to converge or an experiment fell apart.

As we celebrate your present accomplishments, I invite you to think about your future. Now that you and your mentors have created science, what’s the next step?

To outline your future, let’s return to the past. An enduring memory from September 11, 2001, is sitting on the ratty couch I’d dragged from graduate school, glued to the news. I remember one family of adult children showing a flyer to the camera while looking for their father. The flyer read, “Please come home—we have peanut butter cups for you.” I always wondered what happened to the peanut butter cup dad and hoped he made it home to his family. Part of my annual observance of September 11 is to have and to share peanut butter cups, but Googling “9/11 Peanut Butter Cup Man” never brought up useful results.

On September 11, 2017, I watched the news while brushing my teeth. By some small miracle, my morning routine aligned with a recitation of names of those lost. I turned to the TV just as family members finished reading names and paused to share memories of their own father. They closed by sharing that a recently born grandchild was named Reese after their father’s favorite candy. Peanut butter cup dad had not made it home after all.

IMG_9396This was painful—I’d convinced myself a happy, chocolate reunion had taken place—but now I was armed with a name. Peanut butter cup dad was Ronald Fazio, and Google could find him. Mr. Fazio had nearly made it to safety, but stopped to hold the door for his coworkers. In those awful moments, he chose to hold the door for others to make sure they would reach safety. Mr. Fazio’s family started the Hold the Door Foundation in his memory, devoted to helping people move through tragedy.

What does this have to do with your future? Someone held the door for you, through mentoring, guiding, and teaching you. Now that you’ve moved through the door and are sprinting into your exciting lives, don’t forget to hold the door for someone else. I especially urge you to look around for people who tend to be left behind, such as women in STEM fields, people of color, and disabled people, and not only hold the door for them, but shout to let them know you’re there. Marry the technical skills you learned through mentored research to a determination to hold the door by reaching out, teaching, and mourning with those who mourn.

For more information on the 2018 Student Mentored Research Conference, read our recent blog post.

 

Fulton Conference 2018: Giving back scholastically

For 14 years, students from the College of Family, Home, and Social Sciences have had the opportunity to perform insightful research alongside faculty mentors at the Fulton Mentored Student Research Conference. This not only gives students the chance to vastly expand their research skills, experience preparing and presenting a scholarly poster, and add a notable research project to their resume, it allows them to personally contribute to scholarship in their field of interest.

The Mentored Student Research Conference is hosted by the Mary Lou Fulton Endowed Chair. Mary Lou Fulton had a passion for educating and elevating student aspirations and through this conference, students are able to achieve the skills and experiences to do so.

At this year’s conference, 250 posters were presented by 542 students who researched topics ranging from the 1964 Tokyo Olympics to how parents teach teenagers about romantic relationships. Prizes were awarded to students from each department as well as from the Redd Center, the Office of Civic Engagement, and the Gerontology department.

Congratulations to the poster winners and to all the students and faculty who participated!

Undergraduate

Anthropology

1st place: A Closer Look at Nabataean Burials
Student: Anna Nielson
Faculty Mentor: David Johnson

2nd place: Converting Gendered Expectations: Emerging Feminist Discourse among Protestant and Seventh-day Adventist Hmong
Student: Stephanie Parsons
Faculty Mentor: Jacob Hickman

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Caffeine on campus, RM romance, millennial parenting: Answering questions at the Fulton conference

“Freedom at Last: Caffeine Consumption on BYU Campus.”

“Courtship Between LDS Returned Missionaries in the Same Mission.”

“Sources of Parenting Advice for the New Millennium.”

Has one (or all) of these topics ever crossed your wondering mind?

Hundreds of BYU FHSS students alongside faculty mentors have spent the last several months researching topics such as these for the 14th Annual Mentored Student Research Conference on Thursday, April 12, 2018 from 8:30-11:30 a.m. in the Wilkinson Center Ballroom. The Mary Lou Fulton Endowed Chair in the College of Family, Home, and Social Sciences is pleased to host this event that is free and open to the public.

If you are an FHSS student, the poster submission deadline is Thursday, March 29, at noon. Needing some motivation to finish and submit your poster? The first place poster from each department will be awarded $300 cash.

For those who are not presenting research, attend the conference and have you questions answered and your world expanded!

The conference will feature research posters in the areas of neuroscience, sociology, social work, psychology, family life, geography, anthropology, history, political science and economics.

The Mary Lou Fulton Endowed Chair provides meaningful research and educational experiences for students, faculty and children. Mary Lou’s passion for educating and elevating others is reflected in the many elements of the chair, established by her husband Ira A. Fulton in 2004 to honor and recognize her example

Fulton Conference: The Perfect Something for Your Resume

One of our college’s most successful annual events, the Fulton Conference, is coming up at the end of this semester — and we want you to participate! The conference features research done by undergraduate and graduate students from the College of Family, Home, and Social Sciences.

The Fulton Conference gives students the chance to partner with a faculty mentor and do academic research, but there are many additional reasons that students should consider presenting at the Fulton Conference. For example, conference participation looks great on a resume, the conference prepares students to present at other academic conferences, and there are cash prizes for the best research projects.

How can you participate in the Fulton Conference?

Posters are due on Thursday, March 29, at noon.

The Fulton Conference will take place on Thursday, April 12 from 8:30-11:30 a.m. in the Wilkinson Center Ballroom.

Here’s a more detailed list of tasks that you’ll need to complete in order to participate. To summarize, you’ll design a poster, upload a digital version to our college website, and stay near your poster to answer questions during the day of the conference.

We can’t wait to see you at the 2018 Fulton Conference!

Start brainstorming your research questions today.

 

Fulton Winner Researches Substance Abuse Treatment

A 2013 report by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services estimated that 24.6 million Americans over 12 years of age had used illicit drugs, and more than 21 million of them were categorized as having substance abuse dependencies. That same report, though, found that only 2.5 million received treatment at a specialty facility. Over one-third of those admitted did not complete their treatment. For an April 2017 mentored research conference at BYU, sponsored by the College of Family, Home, and Social Sciences, social work student Chase Morgan sought to learn what factors contributed to the length of stay a patient had in treatment. Using data provided by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, Chase learned that more affordable treatment was a significant factor in having a longer length of stay in treatment, but having health insurance was not a significant predictor.

Fulton_Social Work

How to Help

He plans to further this research by: “breaking down the data into various treatment settings, mainly in-patient and out-patient to see the difference between those settings.” As a result of the research he’s done so far, he says: “we hope that we can use this information to help treatment facilities throughout Utah be more successful by helping them understand the risk factors they may see in their clients so these things can be addressed, and more clients can have successful treatment.  We also hope this information can help influence policies throughout the state to help clients get into treatment without having to be put on waitlists. “

In the meantime, how can the average person help someone else struggling with substance abuse? Promises Treatment Center advises:

  • Getting educated about addictions
  • Participating in programs included in friend/family member’s treatment, if possible
  • taking care of one’s self
  • Talking about the problem: “Work on building a good relationship, without judging or accusing…You have to step back, you can’t be on top of them all the time, or they won’t trust that they can come to you.”

 For those supporting friends and family currently in treatment, the National Institute on Drug Use state that “it is important to tell friends struggling with addiction that you admire their courage for tackling this medical problem directly through treatment.” They suggest:

pexels-photo-38940

  • assisting friends or family members in avoiding triggers once they leave treatment
  • Giving support and love

The Fulton Conference

Of his experience with the Fulton Conference, he says: “I really enjoyed my experience with the Fulton Conference. This was my first conference ever, so it was a new experience for me.  I feel like I learned a lot and was happy to share my research with others.”

How would you help someone struggling with an addiction?

Foster Care Privatization can Lead to Abuse, Fulton Winner Finds

In the United States in 2015, 427,910 children were in foster care, an institution meant to care for children whose parents are temporarily or permanently unable to do so. A 2013 Child Welfare Outcomes Report found that more than 98% of those children were, in fact, well-treated. However, some sources suggest that the number is much higher. In 2015, a judge in Texas oversaw a case regarding abuse in foster care. In his conclusion he wrote: ” Texas’s [foster care] children have been shuttled throughout a system where rape, abuse, psychotropic medication, and instability are the norm.” As a method of reform, many have turned to privatization of foster care–having private companies find foster homes for children. However, is this truly a solution? Some are claiming that privatization only increases children’s risk of abuse.

sad girlThrough her studies, Fulton Conference Political Science winner Mandi Eatough found by privatizing foster care, these children do have an increased risk of neglect or abuse. She said: “It’s much easier to think about policy and government work in terms of whether it’s “good government” or “good for the economy.” However, I believe it’s far more important to consider these policies based on the impact they have on our lives. I hope that legislators and foster care workers alike will consider the implications of the foster care system on the children in it. ” 

Foster Care

According to the Child Welfare Information Gateway: “As a reform strategy, many state and local public child welfare agencies have contracted with private agencies [for] some of their services. Some child welfare systems have implemented performance contracting, in which contracted agencies are paid based on their achievements of agreed-to outcomes.”

“There are two main theories about foster care privatization policies,” explains Mandi. “The first is that privatization is preferable because of an increase in efficiency and a decrease in cost of foster care placements. The second claims that this increase in time and economic efficiency creates pressure on social workers to place children faster, leading to a decrease in the quality of the placement.”

What she found through her study corroborated this. She discovered that:

  • Changes in foster care policy often have an immediate effect on the children in the foster care system.
  • Children placed by privatized agencies are more likely to have case goals that are more efficient and less costly.
  • Children in privatized foster care systems are at a greater risk of experiencing abuse or neglect than their non-privatized counterparts.

fulton_PoliSci

What’s Next?

Mandi has plans to publish the paper and reexamine her data and in order to better understand foster care. Of her experience with the Fulton Conference, she said: “The Fulton Conference was an amazing opportunity to both share my own work and see the work of other students in the college. The part of the Fulton Conference that stood out to me the most was the fact that every student at the conference had been given the opportunity to work on mentored research with a faculty member. Being able to work so closely with faculty in my department on research I care about has been one of the most rewarding experiences of my undergraduate education.”

Fulton Winner Found That Sibling Size Affects Risky Behavior

Does the number of brothers and/or sisters one has help or hinder individuals in their life goals? BYU student Tiana Hoffmann sought to answer that question through her 2017 Fulton Conference poster. In her sociology class, she learned that the amount of siblings one has directly affects educational results. This prompted her to ask the question: Does sibship size, or the number of children of a particular set of parents, also affect other outcomes? Tiana found that, at least in the early 80s, the more siblings an adolescent had, the more likely he or she was to try drugs or sex at a younger age. However, the age at which they began smoking and drinking rose if they had more siblings.

Application

What does this mean for the everyday American? According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), in the year 2015, 15.9% of those aged 12-17 said that they had used illicit drugs in their lifetime. If you include marijuana in that category- illegal in most states- then the number rises to 25.3%. SAMHSA further found that in the same year and age category,  17.3% and 28.4% had used tobacco products and alcohol respectively. These are serious issues and any research that can be used to better understand and predict adolescent behavior is of paramount importance.

fulton_Sociology

Further Research and Implications

Of her results, Tiana said: “I was definitely very intrigued by the results. I was surprised that a higher number of siblings had opposite effects depending on the outcome.” As for where her research will go next, she added: “I would love to be able to test if birth order makes an impact on the decisions adolescents make. Perhaps, their behavior has less to do with the number of siblings they have in their family and more to do with where they fall in their family. Additionally, I would love to perform the same tests on a newer data set since the data I pulled from was collected in 1979-82. It is possible that we may find much different results when testing with data that is more current.”

What does she hope will happen as a result of her research? “I believe that as a social scientist, it is my responsibility to perform research that matters for people and could impact the way they choose to live their lives. But, I think that people should always be thinking critically about the research that is put out there and make sure that they are considering their own personal circumstances. My results were varied and found that higher sibship had both a positive and negative impact on adolescents depending on the outcome…. I want my research to encourage people to think critically and dig deeper into possible reasons why adolescents engage in risky behavior.”

Fulton Conference

Of her experience with the Fulton Conference, Tiana said: “I had a great time. The conference was very well organized and I felt very accomplished as I presented my research to people who seemed to be very interested in the results. I am obviously very grateful for my mentor, Dr. Mikaela Dufur, and the encouragement and guidance she gave me through the process.”

What do you think of this research?

Infants with Siblings on the Autism Spectrum are more Likely to Repeat Tasks, Student Finds

The fact that, as of 2012, the prevalence of children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) had increased from 1 in 150 children to 1 in 68, according to the CDC, is alarming. In response to that, BYU’s Family, Home, and Social Sciences college has sponsored a variety of programs, research, and events meant to cast more light on the effects of the disorder and on better treatments, some of which we discussed here, in our last issue of Connections. Perhaps of equal concern, though, is that some research demonstrates a possible connection between children who have a sibling with ASD and a higher risk of being diagnosed with the disorder.

BYU Psychology student and Fulton Conference participant Katherine Christensen, under the guidance of Dr. Rebecca Lundwall, found that “infant siblings of children diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder have higher perseveration,” meaning that these infants tended to redundantly or insistently repeat tasks more than infants who didn’t have siblings with ASD. The implications of this study for earlier diagnosis and intervention are big, says Katherine: “I hope that in the future, the computer task that we used in the current study could be used as a screening device that could discriminate between high- and low-risk populations for ASD. If the computer task is able to do so, it could potentially help with earlier diagnosis and intervention for children with a higher risk for developing attentional disorders. Earlier treatment allows for a better prognosis.”

Fulton_Psych
Katherine Christensen’s Fulton poster

 

Katherine’s Connection

What made Katherine want to study ASD? In her own words, “I have grown up with a sister with developmental disabilities, and so the topic was interesting to me given my experience growing up with her.”

The Fulton Conference

Of her experience with the Fulton Conference, a college-wide event held every April highlighting students’ research projects, Katherine said: “I had a great time at the Fulton Conference. I am so grateful to be given the opportunity to get experience researching and presenting research in an open and friendly environment. I thank Dr. Lundwall for allowing me to be on her team and trusting me to present her research. It was neat to be able to see some of the other research in the FHSS school disciplines. I liked walking around and seeing and hearing from other students who are involved in research with other professors!”

Helping Families with ASD

In their 2005 book Helping and Healing our Families, professors Karen W. Hahne and Tina Taylor Dyches suggest the following, for those not affected by ASD who want to help those who are:

  • Offer respite care to families who are unable to attend church.
  • Provide transportation to church, activities, or other functions.
  • Ask parents of children with disabilities and service providers to give in-service training to auxiliary and priesthood leaders
  • Set high, rather than low, expectations for children with disabilities.
  • Express your love for the family, even if you cannot empathize fully.
  • Listen to parents’ concerns without judging their parenting skills.

How have you helped families affected by ASD?

Black and white feature image courtesy of Flickr.

Are Vehicle Safety Inspections Useful? Fulton Winner Says No…

The improvements in car safety technology over the past 20 years have caused a number of lay people and government officials to question the efficacy of state-administered mandatory vehicle inspections. Only 16 of the U.S.’s 50 states require them, according to Economics student Alex Hoagland, and those that don’t have not noticed a corresponding rise in accident fatalities due to car failure. Hoagland won first place in his department for the presentation of his research results in BYU’s recent Fulton Conference, sponsored by the College of Family, Home, and Social Sciences.

Under the direction of Professor Lars Lefgren, he and his co-researcher Trevor Woolley had studied fatality rates in car accidents, by state, that were caused by car failure. Why did they choose this topic? He said, “In our training in the Econ program, Trevor and I felt that many of our economics projects lacked real investigative questions. Therefore, we decided to do something real, and reached out to our local representatives. We got in contact with Rep. Norm Thurston, who had previously become interested in the topic of vehicle safety inspections and was looking for some new research on the topic. He urged us to choose that as our topic for our Applied Econometrics class project, and so we did.”

The Research

Alex’s research contributes to a large body of research that shows no conclusive evidence exists between vehicle safety inspections and a reduction in mechanical-error car accidents. According to the Libertas Institute, a Utah think tank: “comprehensive studies show that there is no link between mandatory inspections and a reduction in vehicle failures or fatalities, so in absence of that justification, the program should not exist. And now it won’t, once the governor signs it.” Governor Gary Herbert signed the bill into law in March of 2017, and it will take effect in January 2018.

Senator Jim Dabakis corroborated this, saying: “The statistics from all of the states that have revoked and done away with these mandatory inspection systems; the statistics are out, there is no safety increase for the states that have this.”

econ 1st place

If these inspections aren’t helping, why do we have them? Alex theorizes that “…a lot of people have the preconceived notion that they must be useful for two reasons:

  1. we are all a little of the mindset that we are better safe than sorry, and
  2. we all assume that any existing government program must exist because it works.”

“However, if we stop to think about it, vehicle safety inspections are a byproduct of the 1930’s and 1940’s, when cars were at their worst. With advances in technology and increases in driver awareness, however, it seems obvious that what worked for the 30’s and 40’s wasn’t going to work now.”

He suggests that states should instead be focusing on things like distracted drivers, seat belts, and drunk driving. Alex hopes that through his research, governments will be able to make their roads safer: “We want to help state governments focus their attention on the areas where they can make the most impact in order to keep the roads, vehicles, and drivers safe.”

The Fulton Conference

Of his experience at the Fulton Conference, which is an opportunity for undergraduate and graduate students in the college to share their research with members of the general public, Alex said: “[It] was an amazing opportunity to describe our research and receive feedback from our colleagues and professors. We also had a wonderful time surveying all of the other research going on in the school; it made me realize just how many bright and clever minds we have at this university working on complicated and important issues.”

Do you think safety inspections are effective?

Kids Learn Financial Responsibility Best Through Real-World Experience, Fulton Student Finds

pexels-photo-325154How can parents best teach their young adult children to manage their money well? Sam Runyan, a BYU School of Family Life student found that “practice makes perfect.” He interviewed 90 undergraduate students from various American universities, and found that, by enlarge, parents used experiential teaching to teach their children how to manage and spend money, how to work hard for their money, and how to become independent and self-reliant. He presented the results of his study at our college’s annual Fulton Conference,  where he and his co-authors won first place for their department.

Specifically, their study found that parents taught their young adults beginning when they were young, by doing the following:

  • Opening a bank account for their children
  • Giving them an allowance
  • Helping them understand smart spending
  • Giving them opportunities to work

Importance

Sam has seen the benefits of these teachings in his own life: “My parents taught me to work hard to earn money through chores around the house and different jobs, and they taught me how to spend and manage my money once I earned it.  They ultimately taught me to become an independent person, and as I got older they gave me more opportunities to do things on my own.  I think that because they taught me in that way, I was able to financially support myself when I went to college.”

He further described its universal importance :“Today, the millennial generation struggles to manage money as wisely as past generations.  In our day, it can be easy to make foolish mistakes with our money.  I believe it is important for people to learn how to avoid those mistakes so that they can financially take care of themselves and improve the lives of those around them.” He hopes that researchers, educators, and future parents will take his study’s results and and implement them in teaching their children about financial responsibility.

sfl first place

Where Next?

Sam’s project was part of a larger study examining the financial practices of emerging adults, something about which relatively little research has been conducted. More quantitative (i.e., numerical) data will now be gathered to supplement the qualitative (i.e., verbal). He says: “Our study gives us an accurate picture about the ways parents are teaching their children today, and the next step would be to find the most effective ways parents can help their children learn.”

The Fulton Conference

About the Fulton Conference, he said: “[It] was a really good experience.  It was great to be able to present our research and see all the work that other students have done this year.  I loved the opportunity to talk with other students and professors to share research with each other.  Seeing everyone’s posters and the hard work they put in helped me appreciate the opportunities we have at BYU.  It was also a great opportunity to work with such an amazing research team.  Dr. Hill, Dr. Marks, and all the wonderful students I worked with have made an impact in my life.  I was able to participate in a great study and at the same time make a lot of amazing friends.  Overall, the Fulton Conference was a wonderful experience, and I loved the opportunity to celebrate the great accomplishments of so many students.”

How did your parents teach you financial responsibility?