California: A Sum of its Parts

“Just as in the human body, where no atom or cell can act individually without affecting its surrounding elements, the history of nations has been written and shaped both by the most incongruous farmer and the exceptionally boisterous politician,” said Dr. Sam Otterstrom in his new book From California’s Gold Fields to the Mendocino Coast. In it, he examines the growth of the Golden State, it’s migration and settlement patterns, and the people who forged it.

The Basics

To understand California at its most basic level, one has to start with the individual in the context of the following groups:

  • Family
  • Neighborhoods and communities
  • Counties/cities
  • Regional system

gold-ingots-golden-treasure-47047 The way that individuals acted in these settings determined how and where the state grew. For example, families would move to California in search of gold, forming rough mining communities. These were often short-lived however, as miners were continually on the move: looking for better opportunities or ways to escape their harsh lifestyle. Cities were formed around the mining industry, particularly Sacramento and San Francisco. “In this way, all of northern California was intertwined and interrelated in the nearly living regional organism that matured into and economically innovative and increasingly dynamic spatial system,” says Dr. Otterstrom.

 Individual People

“Amidst this mass of historical data is an intricately woven tapestry of interrelated people and events that literally created this dynamic state,” said Dr. Otterstrom. Who are these individuals? They included: 

  • people-vintage-photo-memories Samuel Brannon, a high-profile business man and leader of the Brooklyn, a ship sailing from Eastern America to California, and
  • John Augustus Sutter, whose 40,000+ acre ranch “became a key center throughout the 1840’s for Alta California and the focal point of the gold rush form 1848 on.” 

More often than not however, these trailblazers went unknown. In California, people had the opportunity to find gold and become wealthy; an ordinary man could transform his life almost overnight. Such seekers forever altered the land and forged California into the Golden State. 

Connection to Christ

One may find connections between the examination of California as a unique entity that is part of a greater whole and Paul’s epistle to the Corinthians regarding their particular value as part of the body of Christ. 1 Corinthians 12: 12 reads: “For as the body is one, and hath many members, and all the members of that one body, being many, are one body.”


This concept is further exemplified by California’s migration and settlement patterns. They can be broken down into four interdependent categories that mesh in a number of ways, as illustrated by the following venn diagram:

cali gold venn

While some mining towns faded from maps and memories, others developed into cities that still thrive today, despite constant and rapid in- and out-migrations. “The towns that survived and that have sizeable populations today were the ones that, very early on, fulfilled a variety of economic functions and thus were less dependent on mining,” said Otterstrom. Their resilience was due, in part, to their economic diversity, but also, he found to the number of post offices each town contained. Again, this demonstrates that, no matter where individuals found themselves geographically, they sought connection and viewed themselves, at least subconsciously as part of a greater whole.

The Sum of its Parts

“Every individual matters. Every individual has a role to play. Every individual makes a difference,” said Jane Goodall. Nowhere is exemplified better than in Dr. Otterstrom’s From California’s Gold Fields to the Mendocino Coast.  In it, one comes to understand the vital role of the individual in molding California into a singular state, one that is truly a sum of its parts.


Students: Five Ways to Stay Sharp This Summer

Summer may be for lazy days and having fun with your friends, but that doesn’t mean you should stop learning! Here are 5 ways to stay sharp and have fun this summer!

Find Your Club!

Even though clubs aren’t very active during the Spring and Summer, you can still sort through them at BYU’s clubs’ website and pick which one you want to join in Fall/Winter! Here are some quick links to more information about clubs within our college:

Courtesy of BYU Refugee Empowerment Club’s Facebook page

Visit the Museum of Peoples and Cultures!

Learn all about ancient and more modern civilizations at this museum. Current exhibits include Piecing Together Paquimé, which features the remnants of the city from A.D. 1200-1450, and Steps in Style, which features shoes from a plethora of cultures and time periods.

Courtesy of the MPC Facebook page

Hit up the Library!

Here at BYU, we have one of the best libraries ever! It’s full of cool rooms and exhibits and awesome movies and books. So take time this summer to explore the HBLL and find some great books! Highlights of the HBLL include:

Courtesy of the HBLL Facebook page

Brush up on your Writing Skills

Whether you’re taking classes this summer or not, you can always improve your writing. FHSS’ Writing Lab offers many tools both on-campus and online to help you with that. Take a few moments to brush up on these skills, so you don’t have to do it in the middle of trying to meet a million assignment deadlines:

  • Formatting a paper Turabian style
  • Structuring your paper
  • Writing a conclusion
  • Citing APA style


Watch YouTube Videos!

Did you know that FHSS has two YouTube channels? Every other week, we post videos about the intricacies of daily life and how to live within them.

What are your summer plans?

Capitalizing on Your Education: Know Your Style

Kinesthetic. Visual. Audio. Those three words, these learning styles, categorized us in grade school. They shaped the way we learned, and the ways our teachers taught. The idea of learning styles has been around for decades. “For more than 30 years,” says the Association for Psychological Science, “the notion that teaching methods should match a student’s particular learning style has exerted a powerful influence on education.” As its influence has grown, so has the study of it. Ryan R. Jensen of our Geography department has researched the learning styles of student swithin different majors and learning environments. He identified three new learning styles that describe students working on group projects. And in a 2012 study published in the Asia Pacific Media Educator, he identified four types of communications learners:

Ryan Jensen, All Rights Reserved

Four types of Communications Learners

Global Conceptualizers care about the big picture, the “why” behind lists of facts and details. Concepts are easier to understand than memorized facts, and being sensible is better than being imaginative. These students remember what they see better than what they hear. They are globally, realistically, and sequentially (when it comes to writing) oriented. Global conceptualizers prefer classes dedicated to theory and concepts.

Verbal Learners gravitate to text rather than graphs and charts. They do not like theory-oriented courses. Surprisingly, they do not like reading for fun. Verbal learners do not like proofreading their own work because they are not detail-oriented. They remember things better when they experience them, rather than when they think about them. These students express their opinions boldly in group settings.

Realistic Visualizers see themselves as highly realistic and detail-oriented. These students prefer graphs and charts to obtain information. They understand the overall structures of subjects at the same level that they do their details. When these students remember or recall something, they can picture it in their minds. They learn better by talking things out with other students. Group work is their favorite when they can make a plan for the project. These student rarely get to know their classmates.

Ambiguous Conceptualizers feel most comfortable learning concepts and theory. Remembering what the teacher said is easier for them than recalling visual aids. Reading is their past-time. They love to share their thoughts in group collaboration and dive into projects without planning. These students can remember things that they have thought about easier than things they have done. These students like to master one concept before learning more.

How does this apply to you?

“In recommending a deeper understanding of learning styles,” says Jensen, “we do [not] propose a hyper-individualized approach in which each student is given a unique curriculum to match his or her specific style. But friction may be destructive when existing…thinking and learning learning skills are not called upon and developed. One example of destructive friction is the tendency instructors frequently have to take over as many learning and thinking activities as possible. Knowledge remains inert; that is to say students may learn many facts, formulas and theories but are unable to apply them to new problems.” Jensen suggests that teachers use their knowledge of learning styles to help students “gain satisfaction form learning and thus develop lifelong skills by better understanding their own learning processes and preferences.” It thus behooves students of all majors as well to gain that understanding to further capitalize on their education.

Do your instructors teach to your learning style?

Should Religious Sites be Commercialized? A Study

Every year, three to five million people visit Temple Square in Salt Lake City, Utah, more than the amount of tourists at all five of Utah’s state parks combined! Clearly, religious tourism is a massive industry in the state, but what about in other parts of the world? According to the Huffington Post, there are popular religious tourist locations in India, France, and Jerusalem, to name only a few. One of the oldest travel institutions, religious tourism is growing in importance and in scope every year.salt-lake-city-1762657_960_720

The Study

This trend was actually commented on some years ago by BYU Geography professor Daniel Olsen, who noted that religious sites were being transformed into tourist sites by the marketing efforts of various promotional agencies. This process, in part, tended to change the meaning of sacred sites from that of worship and contemplation to that of leisure, in turn encouraging leisure- and education-oriented visitors and activities. Is this a good thing? What are the effects of it? Dr. Olsen says that commercialization of religious sites can lead to conflict between those who would commodify it—the tourism and government administrators—and the ecclesiastical leaders who would have it remain holy ground.

Tibet’s Jokhang Temple in Lhasa, the country’s holiest site, is a good example of this, says Simon Denyer of the Washington Post. Many Asian visitors are flocking to it, creating a tourism boom for Tibet, but many headaches for those actually attending the temple: “Some are respectful of what they are seeing,” says Denyer, but Tibetans on social media complain of cameras thrust in pilgrims’ faces and of sacred prayer flags trampled underfoot. On a recent visit, one tour guide committed a grave breach of religious etiquette by walking the wrong way around a statue of Buddha. At the landmark Potala Palace, a tourist stood beside a sign banning photographs, taking a photo, while a Tibetan tour guide expressed exasperation at how little Han tourists knew or understood.” Natives have taken to social media to gripe about the disrespect the tourism has brought: holy flags are being trampled and pilgrims are having cameras pushed in their faces. People are also taking selfies in the sacred space. Truly, “some of the temple’s magic  [has] seem[ed] to dissipate,”  says noted Tibetan writer Woser.

“Little has been done [to research] how religious groups [can] commodify themselves to both take advantage of the tourist dollar and to market authentic images of themselves as a way of maintaining legitimacy in the eyes of its adherents and secular society in general,” says Olsen. “[Religious tourism] is…an opportunity for religious groups to promote their best selves, and to help people learn more about their doctrines and beliefs.”


Pilgrims at Jokhang Temple courtesy of Flikr

The Solution

Dr. Olsen offers a solution: “Really, what I want to see happen is stakeholders in the tourism industry engage with religious site managers and leaders of religious faiths and make them important stakeholders in the decision-making process when it comes to tourism marketing and promotion as well as the development of tourist experiences at a destination.” By doing this, religions would be able to promote themselves in their desired manner and the economy would be bolstered. Presenting their faith in a respectful atmosphere would be a win-win for all parties involved.

Dr. Olsen will, in fact, publish a book on the subject, titled Religious Pilgrimage Routes and Trails, co-authored with A. Trono, in 2017. Have You Ever Visited a Religious Site?


The “Soul” Tourist: Is There Such a Thing?

When you vacation or visit places far from home, are you the kind of tourist that gets the kitschiest fanny pack money can buy and takes as many selfies as possible, or do you embed yourself in the experience and get to know the people? Do you think that it’s possible for tourists to have epiphanies—spiritual moments even—as tourists? This is a question that researchers have asked, noting that tourism can be large part of any state or country’s economy, and Daniel H. Olsen, one of our Geography professors, recently added to that discussion with a review of that research in a tourism journal.


Researchers Stephen Wearing, Matthew McDonald, and Jo Ankor authored a study in which they explored how tourists can let the country go through them, rather than just going through the country. “These ‘moments of sudden and significant insight…[can] lead to…profound, positive, and enduring transformation through a reconfiguration of an individual’s most deeply held beliefs about self and the world’,” they say, summarizing some of the extant research on the subject. In other words, one can return from their journey with their self-identity fundamentally changed.

Since tourism is one of the fastest-growing economic sectors in the world, according to the United Nations’ World Tourism Organization, and more than one-third of adults sampled worldwide say that they would like to take a humanitarian vacation, the creation of these kinds of experiences by host entities and the awareness of them by members of the public is important. Thus, Dr. Olsen elaborates on Wearing’s study by suggesting that the soul is a tourist identity, that a person who shifts from the visual stimulus of the “tourist gaze” to focus on “embodied experiences” is more likely to engage their soul in their tourist experience. While both researchers agree and acknowledge that religion can play a role in a tourist’s spiritual experience, Dr. Olsen asserts that interacting with body and spirit (the soul) will produce an even deeper experience than just an epiphany. It will help tourists embody their experience, rather than just look at an event or person. This kind of experience allows the tourist to see the deeper meaning and even understand the place and its people.

To have that kind of meaningful tourist experience, Wearing suggests that tourists:

  1. Be open to the differences in the people. This is enhanced when the trip entails unpredicted travel.
  2. Personal encounters with the locals. Face-to-face interactions with the people you’re visiting helps you to learn about their differences, and appreciate them.

Just as a missionary or a volunteer would think, tourists who want to have a deeper connection with the people they encounter are looking for more in their vacation that a cool fridge magnet.  Wearing suggests that, “Tourists are not passive consumers of either destinations or their interpretations, but are actively engaged in a multisensory, embodied experience whereby they have the opportunity to create new elements of self-identity” (p. 165).

Do you agree? Have you had a vacation that was more than a visit? What made it so?



Daniel H. Olsen (2016): Other journeys of creation: non-representational theory, co-creation, failure, and the soul, Tourism Recreation Research, DOI: 10.1080/02508281.2016.1261782

Wearing, S., McDonald, M., & Ankor, J. (2016). Journeys of creation: Experienceing the unknown, the other and authenticity as an epiphany of the self. Tourism Recreation Research, 41(2), 157–167

Jarvis, N. A. (1997). Taking a break: Preliminary investigations into the psychology of epiphanies as discontinuous change experiences (Doctoral Thesis). University of Massachusetts, Amherst

Photos compliments of Wiki Commons and BYU Photo

Students: What Kind of Learner Are You?

What runs through your mind when you’re assigned a group project? For some, it’s excitement at the opportunity to cooperate, collaborate and learn with peers. For others, it’s viewed as a chance to slack off and get a good grade while their fellows shoulder the load. And still some don’t even register the difference–group project or individual, they’re going to do all the work anyway. How we respond to group projects is one indicator of what kind of learner we are. As sociologists have noted for decades, different students learn in different ways, and because these different learners are lumped into the same classes, not all teaching is optimal for all students. Researchers have worked at solving this age-old educational quandary for some time, and one of the latest to make headway is Ryan Jensen, chair of BYU’s Department of Geography.

Using what he’s termed “the Q-method,” Jensen (along with two other researchers) distinguishes between three different kinds of learners:

The Lone Pragmatist: Lone pragmatists don’t like group projects; in fact, they “prefer not to be involved in cooperative or group learning” of any kind, according to Jensen’s findings. They’re neither outgoing nor social with other students in their class, and they’re proactive and realistic in their approach to classwork. The lone pragmatist thrives when information is provided in a clear rather than abstract manner, and do well in an “I teach, you listen” classroom atmosphere.

The Explorer: Group projects are a bit more tolerable to the explorers, who, according to Jensen, “learn better when talking about new material with other students.” However, they’re still somewhat ambivalent about immersive group study. Explorers are visual learners, and appreciate learning in terms of concepts and theories (as long as the theories aren’t too abstract). They value sensibility over imagination, and exploring multiple ways to learn new things.

The Synergist: If you’re a synergist, you prefer to have things written down, not in maps in pictures, but in words. Synergists tend toward verbal learning over visual, and see themselves as detail-oriented. They’re also the most likely to be enthusiastic about a group project, perhaps because they “enjoy brainstorming as part of the group learning process.” Synergists try to make connections between their learning and the bigger picture; in this way, they better understand the details of why they learn what they learn.

Of course, no student falls completely into one of the above categories–each learner is individual, and grouping students into three pre-labeled factions instead of one would do little to personalize education. But in a 2013 study, Jensen provided some suggestions for how teachers could optimize their education to assist as many different learning styles as possible.

Ryan Jensen, Copyright BYU PHOTO 2007 All Rights Reserved (801) 422-7322
Ryan Jensen, Copyright BYU PHOTO 2007
All Rights Reserved

“We propose adopting a balanced approach in which teachers create course plans to address the variety of learning styles present in their class,” Jensen says. One potential suggestion would be “moving from teacher regulation to student regulation in what [researchers] refer to as process learning,” or in other words, giving the students more leeway in deciding what projects would help them learn best. This and other optimizations allow greater chances for individualized learning; according to Jensen, this means that “instructors can think of using learning styles as a way of helping students gain satisfaction from learning and thus develop life-long skills by better understanding their own learning processes and preferences.”

Fun, Prizes, and Free Stuff: Geography Awareness Week is This Week!

Have you ever wanted to go onto the roof of the SWKT? Do you like competitions and prizes? If you answered “yes” to either of these questions, then the Geography Department’s Geography Awareness Week is the week-long festivity for you. This is an annual activity meant to make geography fun and interesting for everyone.

The event kicks off on November 14.  Here is a rundown of the week’s activities:


November 14

Repp-ing It Up

A week long Geoguesser competition. Similar to last year’s geocaching competition, this year’s competition will involve hunting for things to win a prize. This year’s prize, though, will be a national parkannual pass (an $80 value). Visit their booth in Brigham’s Square outside of the Booth in the WILK everyday from 10am to to 2pm with details on and sign up sheets.


November 15


3pm. Student Urban Planning Association’s Tour of Campus. Conducted by Dr. Michael Clay. Meet at the Geography department office

November 16

Geographic Information Systems (GIS)

SWKT Rooftop tours from 10 a.m. and 2 p.m.

OSM (Open Street Maps)  Lab 2-3 640 SWKT: An effort to ” crowd source digitizing of roads and rural areas.”

November 17

Chauncy Harris Lecture at 11am 250 HBLL

They’ll also have a Bowl of Heaven (1283 N University Ave #101,) fundraiser from 3 -8 p.m., in which 15% of your purchases will be donated to the Geography Club. Be sure to place your receipt in the fundraiser donation box!

November 18

Geography Major Picture: All geography majors gather on the SWKT lawn (time TBA) for free hot chocolate and donuts and picture-taking!

Geoguesser winner announced at 12 noon

This event is bigger than just BYU’s Geography Department; it has in fact been going on around the country for more than twenty years. 

Anyone is eligible to win other prizes as well, including t-shirts, maps, and books by:

Says Geography club president Roman Huerta about the purpose of all of these activities: “We hope to raise awareness of the power of maps and spatial analysis.  When people understand its power and abilities they will use it more and apply it more to various aspects of their studies, research, and lives.  It is super relevant in today’s world, and the more people are using mapping software the more new and creative applications for geography will come forth and continue to grow and advance.”

Think Spatial: Think Maps & Success

Some students panic as finals week approaches. They worry that they have too much to do, between tests, papers, and the like. Many want or need to make their work stand out, to give it an edge in the grading process. Sometimes, a visual may be what’s needed. And sometimes, BYU’s own Think Spatial, a map making and data analysis club, can help.

Think Spatial: What is it?

Courtesy of Think Spatial

This club specializes in Geographical Information Systems (GIS) training and analysis and cartography: “Think Spatial is a consulting agency run by students to serve the geospatial needs of the BYU community, including students, faculty, and administration.  Since 2013, we have made maps for scholarly publications, developed web mapping sites, helped administrative units develop spatial data, and assisted professors in conducting analysis for their research,” says Roman Huerta, the group’s president.

They provide training so that students can analyze, understand, and display their data in new ways. One-on-one sessions enable them to tailor their training so that students can create their own professional-looking maps.

What are People Saying About It?

Professional is the very definition of their work, says Devan Jensen, BYU’s Religious Studies Center’s executive editor. He has had the group make maps for various books, including An Introduction to the Book of Abraham by John Gee, as well as Richard Cowan’s Provo’s Two Temples and The Oakland Temple: Portal to Eternity. Of Think Spatial’s work, Jensen said, “Overall, they did outstanding work: highly professional results at a good price. The students are a joy to work with. In particular, Roman Huerta exudes great enthusiasm and follows through very well on projects.”

HBLL Communications/PR Manager Roger Layton had much the same to say about Think Spatial: “I don’t have the final maps yet, but I’m happy with the maps I’ve seen. The students were great to work with. They asked good questions and they were very detail oriented in their work.” The club is making floor maps of the library. Layton anticipates that these will help us to better find what we are looking for.

It is this zeal coupled with the members’ talents that have pushed Think Spatial forward.

Have You Ever Made a Map?


BYU Geography Professor Teaches Students to be Disciples of Christ

bridge canada

Jill Knapp, professor of Geography at BYU, shares Doctrine and Covenants section 88, verses 78 and 79, in which we are taught to learn about “countries and kingdoms” that we might “be prepared in all things” in the first lecture of every semester in her class Geography and World Affairs. Through the class, she strives to increase students’ awareness of their relation to the rest of the world.

She says: “The Lord sees geography as an important thing. And that’s partially because geography helps us know that we’re not an isolated people, but we’re connected to the rest of the world.”

Learning Sympathy through Geography

To that end, Knapp fuses gospel learning with secular education throughout the course. One of her class outcomes is to “better understand the inter-connectedness of the world so we will appreciate those who contribute to making our life so abundant and easy and so we will be more willing to help those who have less. For me, the hope is that by introducing students to a variety of different peoples, cultures, and problems in the world, that they become more sympathetic.” Over the twenty-two years she’s taught the course, she’s noticed a difference in her students.

“Today’s students are so much more globally aware. They’ve traveled more, seen the world more, and are much more willing to get involved.”

The Blessed Location of the United States

In a history class, you’ll likely learn about how politics, ideologies, and religions shaped the world. But geographic location and environment is not always considered as part of the equation. Knapp teaches, however, that much of the reason that the United States has been so prosperous has been due to environment and geographic location.


“We have been so tremendously blessed to live in the United States,” she says. “People everywhere are our brothers and sisters. And [the fact that we live] in such a blessed circumstance [is] not by chance, nor [is] it without some responsibility for the rest of the world. I try to help students understand that we really aren’t more deserving of the blessings that we have [than anyone else], so let’s go do something to improve the world in some way. Finding that way can be tough, even for me. But there is certainly a way for each of us to do it.”


Desire is More Important than Knowledge

At BYU, we enter to learn and then go forth to serve. Jill Knapp is just one of the many great professors who are working to build the kingdom of God on the earth, one pupil at a time.

“For me, it’s more important to instill a desire than to instill knowledge,” says Knapp. “I encourage my students to be disciples, and to go out and love the world. A desire to learn, serve, and to learn for a lifetime – that’s what I want for my students.”

What other BYU professors do you know who help others become disciples of Christ?





“Failure of Leadership or Intelligence?” Geography Professor to Discuss War Tactics at Annual Hickman Lecture

In 1973, Egyptian and Syrian forces launched a surprise attack on Israel. The attack took place on the holiest day in the Jewish calendar, Yom Kippur. They successfully caught Israel off guard and inflicted heavy casualties. Israel, with assistance, was eventually able to fight off the advances and secure a cease-fire, but only after great loss and destruction.

The Wilson Quarterly commented on this historical event.

Since its victory in the Six-Day War in 1967, Israel had been waiting for such an attack, and military and political leaders, including Prime Minister Golda Meir, were sure they could anticipate such a strike at least 48 hours ahead of time. After the war, citizens and politicians alike were left wondering, what happened?

BYU Geography Professor Perry Hardin may have an idea. He will deliver this year’s Martin B. Hickman Outstanding Scholar lecture on March 10th. The title of his address is “Failure of Leadership or Intelligence?  The Yom Kippur Surprise Attack of 1973.”

Hardin, PerryHardin was hired by the BYU Department of Geography in 1989 to begin a geographic information systems curriculum. He has taught at BYU for twenty-seven years minus a small detour in the private sector. During his time at BYU he has published articles in several peer-reviewed journals, authored several book chapters, and given many conference presentations. Hardin attended BYU as an undergraduate, stayed for a M.S. degree, and graduated from the University of Utah with a PhD in 1989. Currently he is finishing a Master’s degree in Intelligence Analysis from American Military University.

The Martin B. Hickman Outstanding Scholar lecture is held annually in honor of Martin B. Hickman, a former dean of the College of Family, Home, and Social Sciences. During his time as dean he played an instrumental role in the creation of significant research opportunities by establishing the Women’s Research Institute, the David M. Kennedy Center for International Studies and the Family Studies Center. The Martin B. Hickman Scholar Award was established to recognize a distinguished member of the college faculty who emulates Hickman’s example.

Event Details:

March 10th

7 pm

250 SWKT