Inside Washington Seminar

The most important experiences of your college career may not be in a traditional classroom. Internships provide the opportunity for you to make valuable connections as you apply what you are learning on campus to real-world situations. BYU’s Washington Seminar program is an excellent way about 40 students experience internships each semester.

>>The deadline to apply for Winter 2022 semester is September 24, 2021. Visit 945 KMBL or http://washingtonseminar.byu.edu. BYU has a database of 1,500 internships in the Washington area.

Through the program, well-qualified students have an applied learning experience in Washington, D.C. BYU houses interns on its own property, the Barlow Center, which is conveniently situated in the Foggy Bottom neighborhood. Engaging in a quality internship, briefings on current issues, tours, excursions, and weekly guest speakers supplements students’ academic training and better prepares them for a variety of careers.

“Washington Seminar is one of the crown jewels of BYU,” 2020-21 program director Dr. Jay Goodliffe said. “BYU has invested heavily in resources in D.C. because they realize the opportunities our students have there will then help them influence the world.”

The Washington Seminar program accepts students from all colleges and majors. We talked to four outstanding students from the College of Family, Home, and Social Sciences about what it’s like to participate in the program and how living in Washington has enhanced their vision of future possibilities.

Olivia DeMordaunt

Q: Where were you an intern?

A: National Defense University. It functions like a military academy for people who want to get a master’s degree in national security. I work in the International Student Management Office (ISMO). The “students” are mid-career military professionals. One-fourth of the cohort are generals from around the world—there are 130 generals from 65 countries. They are chosen by their respective countries to come.

These are men and women who have commanded whole armies and navies. I try to honor and respect them in asking about their lives and their careers.

Olivia DeMordaunt, Senior Studying Political Science

Q: It must have been interesting to be with seasoned generals from all over the world. Tell me about it.

A: These are men and women who have commanded whole armies and navies. It’s a weird experience for them to come to the United States and be under somebody’s responsibility again. We are a support office to help them adjust to the United States, find housing, schools for their kids, etc. while they are here for a year, so they can focus on their experience and not have to worry about the difficult things that come with adjusting to a new place. I try my best to honor and respect them in asking them about their lives and their careers and why they chose what they do.

Q: What was a favorite experience you’ve had on your internship?

A: Eight students in joint armed war services came up to D.C. for five days and do a tour. They were going to Arlington National Cemetery and I got to go with them as an escort. During the changing of the guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, I was talking to a man from England and he had been a member of the Queen’s Guard. He had served with Prince William and Prince Harry in Afghanistan and had done tours with them. He has all this intense training that he has to do to guard the queen, and he has to learn to talk without moving his lips. It was so fascinating to learn about that part of the culture in the United Kingdom and to be walking around with this incredible man, learning about his life and his culture and why he decided to do what he did.

Austin Brady

Q: Where were you an intern?

A: I’m with a group called International Business-Government Counsellors (IBC). They are an international consulting and lobbying firm. The big mission is to provide research and information to their clients. They serve a lot of big companies that you would recognize.

An example of what they do is give information on sanctions. Say company X has business in China. There might be some laws coming down about trade with China. What are those laws, how will it affect the company, what should they do to be prepared? An IBC counselor would tell them.

Q: What is your day-to-day?

A: I did a mix of attending various hearings, like congressional hearings, and taking notes for the counsellors, and other small events—attending panels and doing write-ups on those. Occasionally I’d do other projects, like digging into a specific tariff bill or digging into congressional members and seeing if they’ve said anything scandalous that might get the company into some trouble if they donate to them. I do a weekly update about China and trade news, and human rights news.

Q: It sounds like you are probably in the know about a lot of things dealing with international relations that the average person isn’t.

A: It’s more niche China stuff, or I was keeping track of the civil war in Ethiopia. If people want to know about certain products from China being detained, then cool, but it’s not a thing you pull out at parties.

I’m even more curious. I want to keep learning more and see what else is out there.

Austin Brady, Senior Studying Political Science

Q: How has this internship impacted you as a person so far?

A: It’s been really interesting going to the various meetings between policymakers and their various clients. We always hear about the interplay between businesses and government–interplay is maybe a soft word—and it’s interesting seeing how some of this unfolds in real time. It’s a different perspective. It’s looking top-down.

Personally, it’s been really interesting learning about all these weird specific niche things. Like tracking China trade closely. No one cares about customs and border protection seizing goods. Or how prevalent forced labor is within China and maybe the rest of our supply chain. I’m even more curious. I want to keep learning more and see what else is out there.

Q: What advice do you have for students considering an internship through the Washington Seminar program?

A: Do it. If you’re thinking about it, just apply. It’s a really neat experience. The internship you’ll end up doing in itself will be an experience, and the weekly briefings are really interesting. It’s often experienced professionals in their field talking about what they do or what they know in a pretty direct way. It’s neat to have a Q&A with a senator, for example, and get to ask them about issues off the books, because they’re a little more free. You get an insight into how some of these people think.

Kesley Powell

Q: Where did you intern?

A: TargetPoint Consulting. They are a public opinion and market research firm. They work on political campaigns. We run a lot of surveys to find out how the public feels about a piece of legislation or a candidate, and try to help our clients win whatever their issue is. We also do a lot of market research, working for corporations or companies or nonprofits. We are really just focused on gauging public perception on issues our clients care about.

Say someone wanted to pass a bill in 2022. They would come to us now to figure out what public opinion is, and we’d do what’s called message testing. They’ll give us their top four messages they use to help people change their minds, and in our survey we can figure out which message is the most influential. We are involved in every stage of the campaigning process.

Q: What do you like best about your job?

A: I’ve always really liked politics, and as a political science major I discovered data and became really passionate about data. In my internship I get to see how we can use data in the real world. We get results, we actually act upon them, and can have an influence on the country or in a certain state. I like the real-world application.

Q: When did you decide to do the Washington Seminar?

A: When I was in high school I was trying to decide where to go to school for my bachelor’s degree. I was really attracted to a lot of east coast schools because I wanted to live in D.C, but I had also always wanted to go to BYU. As I was trying to decide what school to go to, I found out about the Washington Seminar program and I thought ‘Perfect, I’m going to go to BYU and do this program, and that will be my little taste of the East Coast.’ So I’ve known for four years that I was going to do this program.

I’ve become a lot more certain of what I want to do and who I want to be because of this experience.

Kesley Powell, Senior Studying Political Science

Q: What do you like about living in D.C.?

A: I really love history and this is where it happened. I also love the city feel. The east coast is cobblestone walks along the ocean and that is my vibe.

My husband and I walk to the Lincoln Memorial every Sunday night once it cools down. Everyone knows what the Lincoln Memorial is from movies. It’s cool to actually be there. It’s so fun to sit on the steps and look out at the Mall, and see all the people touring.

I have loved being outside of Utah and being in D.C. and seeing the diversity of people and diversity of opinion. I love the ward that we’re in. It’s so welcoming.

Q: How will your last year of school be different now that you’ve done this internship? What will you take away from the experience?

A: I’ve become a lot more certain of what I want to do and who I want to be because of this experience. I’ve recognized what I can contribute to politics, and that I want to be a positive part of politics. I have gotten to interact with a lot of really kind and wonderful people here and it’s helped me want to be one of those people, so I can help create a more positive view of government.

I’ve always known I would go to grad school so I wasn’t sure if I wanted to take a gap year between my undergrad and other degrees (to work in consulting or on a campaign). This internship has made me more comfortable with that idea and strengthened my desire to be in both worlds at the same time. It has been very reassuring to know I’m on the right path.

Q: What would you tell students considering the Washington Seminar?

A: A lot of people want to come to D.C. but don’t know how, and the Washington Seminar program gives you a really good structure of helping you apply for internships and helping you know which internships are out there. Once you’re here, you have not only a place to live but also support throughout your entire internship. You’re surrounded by people who have the same interests as you, and they’re all trying to figure out the whole D.C. thing at the same time. We were mentored by Dr. Goodliffe, and he’s a really great resource in helping you navigate your internship. Living in the Barlow Center is amazing and super inexpensive.

It’s totally a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

Erin Oliver

Erin Oliver poses at a women’s suffrage exhibit at the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia during the 2021 Washington Seminar (Erin Oliver)

Q: Where did you intern?

A: I interned at a nonprofit called Atlas Corps. They do international development and have a fellowship program where they bring fellows to the United states and host them in different organizations here. They do a leadership program with them and prepare them to go back to their countries and fix social issues that are happening there.

Q: What are your responsibilities?

I get to work with the CEO and the communications team and I do a lot of writing reports, I do a lot of research, I work with the database and input donations from fundraising campaigns, and I do a lot of external outreach — a lot of communications stuff where I’m drafting messages or newsletters or reports that then gets sent to our list of contacts.

Q: What is your favorite part of your internship?

A: I get to go to a lot of events which is pretty fun. I got to attend this gala a week ago and the keynote speaker was Malala Yousafzai. She spoke and I got to be in a breakout room with her. It was really fun.

Q: Were you nervous when you started your internship?

A: I was a little nervous at the beginning of my internship. New environment. I definitely wanted to make a good impression on my team. But everyone is super nice and very welcoming, so that went away pretty fast.

Q: What do you love about living in D.C.?

A: There’s always things to do. Museums, and monuments. Truly if you want to go do something, just walk outside. The city’s just beautiful: architecture, monuments, nature/greenery…it’s just a pristine city.

Q: How did you know you wanted to do this program?

A: I had always heard about the Washington Seminar program because I’m a poli sci student. I knew I wanted to save it until the very end because I wanted to end up in D.C. I decided to try and plan an internship around my last semester in college; that way I could come out here and hopefully stay out here. I got a one-way ticket. Bold moves. Really, I just went for it and it’s paid off. I got a job so I’m staying out here.

Q: How did you get a job?

A: Networking is huge here. You do a lot of talking to people and I found some job postings and I applied to them and luckily one of my friends knew someone who was working at the organization I got a job at. I talked with him before I got interviewed.

Q: What is your new job?

A: I will be working at the American Foreign Service Association as a membership specialist.

Q: What did you learn from this experience of finding a job in D.C.?

A: It’s important to be confident in yourself. A lot of people our age tend to doubt their abilities. We’re an anxious group I think. Be confident in what you’ve learned. I know the political science program at BYU really prepared me well for everything I’ve done out here.

It’s important to be confident in yourself. A lot of people our age tend to doubt their abilities. Be confident in what you’ve learned.

Erin Oliver, Senior Studying Political Science

For more information on the Washington Seminar, visit https://washingtonseminar.byu.edu/.

Four Ways You Can Help Congress Be More Effective

Photo by Louis Velazquez on Unsplash

President Biden in less than a month has issued 30 executive orders, clearly demonstrating the power of the executive branch. As the 117th United States Congress starts out with mostly new leadership the question on the mind of many Americans is how effective the elected representatives will be.

If the past is any indication, most Americans probably aren’t expecting much. Over the last decade, Gallup reported Congressional job approval ratings that hovered just over 20% — with a low of 9% in November 2013 and a high of 31% in May 2020. To put it in perspective, the institution has lower approval ratings than colonoscopies, root canals, and cockroaches.

This disdain of Congress can be attributed to many factors, including a rise in partisanship. But Andrew L. Johns, associate professor of history at Brigham Young University, believes the historical record reveals that Congress is not simply ineffective, but has in fact abdicated many of its obligations over time.

“As a result, the constitutional powers, authority, and prerogatives that should be exercised by Congress have been progressively appropriated by the occupants of the White House, both directly and indirectly,” says Johns in his article, “Declining the ‘Invitation to Struggle’: Congressional Complicity in the Rise of the Imperial Presidency,” published in the Pacific Historical Review.

The disturbing result is a less democratic and more authoritarian government. Perhaps most disheartening is the decreasing likelihood of solving complex problems that require a broad range of perspectives and thoughtful deliberation — exactly the strengths a large representative body brings to government.

While Congress will need to be the driving force in reclaiming its authority, citizens can do more than hold their collective breath. By combatting four main reasons Johns outlines for Congressional dysfunction, each of us can find ways to influence the power and effectiveness of Congress.

1. Congress isn’t designed for decisive action. This makes it easy to step back and let the president handle urgent matters. Congress has the authority to intervene, but not always the will to do so when it’s possible there is a faster, if less democratic, way to a solution. As citizens, we can be patient in important matters and, with our representatives, consider a variety of perspectives as they struggle toward solutions.

2. Political polarization limits congressional power and influence. The refusal to compromise with one’s political opponents prevents the government from handling pressing issues. Profoundly gerrymandered congressional districts and other tactics contribute to polarization. “Support members of Congress who are willing to reach across the aisle,” Johns says. When Congress is divided it creates power on the extremes of both parties and leaves the center completely powerless. “The center is where the work gets done, where the compromise occurs, and where Congress gets its power and authority.”

3. The evolving relationship of Congress and the presidency with the American public benefits presidential power. In the contemporary world, media and technological tools have created a presidency that has a closer relationship to the public than individual members of Congress have with their own districts, at least in terms of perception and familiarity. Presidents, like quarterbacks, tend to get more credit and more blame than they deserve. Citizens can make an effort to get to know their congressmen and frequently communicate directly with them. Know where to accurately place both blame and praise.

4. Parochial interests override institutional interests. Although members of Congress all theoretically have a common stake in the power of the institution, the stronger motivation to the hundreds of individual members is to get reelected by serving their own district or state. This type of situation results in the diminishing of Congress because the “collective Congress” fractures under parochial considerations. It’s true then, that the greatest power citizens have over Congress is their vote. Use your vote to express how you want elected officials to prioritize their interests when representing you.

Johns reminds us that we should support and elect members of Congress that actively seek to restore the constitutional balance because “the Constitution cannot enforce itself.”

Creating Change: Women in Civic Engagement Spring Workshop

Often times we look at our world, our nation, our city, our neighborhood and see things that we want to change or improve. They can be as simple as a couple potholes or as wide-reaching as tax law. The problem that inhibits us from fixing these things is the lack of knowledge in how to make effective and lasting change.

On Thursday, March 28th, stop by the Spring Civic Engagement workshop to discover how you can make an impact on your environment. The conference is free for anybody to visit and learn from the various panels on women in civic engagement. Featured speakers include women such as the mayors of Provo and Draper, a member of the Utah Department of Commerce and a current and former Utah State Representative.

This event will show people that anyone, especially women, have the power to making lasting impacts and changes for the better. Attending the workshop is a valuable opportunity to learn how you can make your community a better place to live, no matter who you are.

The purpose of any political position is to represent the people in an honest and accurate way. When women run for office, they help better represent their constituents. Regardless of whether or not they become elected officials, running brings new issues and perspectives to light that may help provide ways to begin the enactment of change.

For a view of the full schedule, visit the Office of Civic Engagement website.

Does political party trump ideology?

It’s the political scientist’s often-asked chicken and egg: does a person’s political party or policy attitudes come first?

With party and ideology so closely intertwined, the question has in the past been nearly impossible to pin down, but BYU political science professors Michael Barber and Jeremy C. Pope found a way. The duo published a study in top-ranked American Political Science Review showing that people’s policy positions are quite malleable when told that leaders of their political party support a different position.

The key to answering their question? The election of a president who has made statements both opposing and supporting a range of controversial issues.

“With President Trump as a bit of a weathervane on certain issues, it makes it easier to discern party loyalists from policy loyalists,” Pope said.

In their research, Pope and Barber studied two different groups: party loyalists and policy loyalists. Party loyalists are those who, when informed of the party leaders’ position, willingly and quickly change their policy position to align with the party leader. Policy loyalists are those who hold to their original policy preference, despite opinions or stances of party leaders that might contradict their beliefs.

“It’s odd to think about partisanship and ideology as being disconnected,” said Barber. “Why else does a political party exist rather than to advance a particular set of policies?”

Using a representative survey of 1,300 Americans, the researchers randomly assigned respondents into control, liberal and conservative groups and asked participants about their political positions on a variety of contemporary issues. The issues they explored were ones on which Donald Trump took different positions during his presidential campaign, including abortion, immigration, guns, health care, climate change and minimum wage.

Control-group participants were asked about their opinions on issues, with no mention of Trump’s position. But Barber and Pope presented participants in the liberal group with questions such as, “Donald Trump has said that he supports increasing the minimum wage over $10. How about you? Do you support or oppose increasing the minimum wage to over $10 an hour?”

In this way, the researchers could uncover the effect of a party leader’s endorsement of a policy in both a liberal and conservative direction. President Trump is unique in that most party leaders don’t endorse policies that run counter to the dominant ideology of the party, let alone advocate for both ideological sides of an issue.

Pope and Barber found that many people in each treatment group moved to support the policy when informed that President Trump likewise supported the policy. This was true of both liberal and conservative policies. “When informed of the president’s issue position, many people willingly followed that position in either a liberal or a conservative direction,” Pope said.

Respondents who knew less about politics, those who approved of President Trump, strong Republicans and self-identified conservatives were the groups most likely to be moved by seeing an endorsement of a policy by President Trump. Surprisingly, this was true of both a liberal and conservative endorsement. In other words, despite identifying as conservative Republicans, these individuals were more likely to endorse a liberal policy when told that President Trump supported that policy.

This kind of loyal partisanship should worry political observers, said Pope and Barber. They both maintain that politics are better when they revolve around more than just the party label.

“It should be about ideas and not about winning or beating the other side,” Barber said. “Politics should be about pushing ideas and policies that you think will better the country.”

-Jayne Edwards

 

Spring/Summer Valedictorians: Changing the world a cap and gown at a time

With the end of the spring/summer terms comes another inspiring graduating class of Cougars.

The College of Family, Home, and Social Sciences boasts some of the best and brightest of the more than 30,000 students who walk across campus each year. This graduation, we celebrate the almost 400 FHSS graduates and their studies, efforts and experiences that are helping families, individuals and communities thrive. From Orem, Utah, to Tokyo, Japan, our graduates act as forces for good across the county and world.

Check out these adventurous, ambitious, and world-changing valedictorians:

Alexander Baxter PictureAlexander Baxter, a psychology major, loves studying monkeys. As a sophomore, Alexander started working in Dr. Dee Higley’s nonhuman primate research lab. In conjunction with Dr. Daniel Kay, he studied mother-infant attachment and infant sleep development. Alexander went on a summer internship to the California National Primate Research Center at the University of California, Davis. While there, he collected data for his own project of studying prenatal testosterone exposure. He loved the experience so much that he spent the rest of his time at BYU in Dr. Higley’s lab, and went on the internship two more times to collect data. Alexander presented his research with Dr. Higley at four professional conferences, six undergraduate research conferences, and published two first-authored research papers in peer-reviewed journals. In addition to studying attachment and social relationships in monkeys, Alexander also studied similar topics regarding humans, under the mentorship of Dr. Julianne Holt-Lunstad. Through the connections he made on his internship, Alexander was accepted into the biological psychology PhD program at UC Davis, and will continue doing research at the Primate Center. He is grateful for Elizabeth Wood, his lab manager and friend, and for Dr. Higley, his mentor. He will always remember Dr. Higley’s most important lesson: the people you work with are more important than the data they help you collect.

Berklee Baum PictureBerklee Annell Baum is a teaching social science major with minors in both history and teaching English as a second language. She grew up in Orem, Utah, and served a mission in Los Angeles, California. Berklee has always had a passion for learning about history and culture. During her education at BYU, she participated in a social work internship in Italy and was able to do historical research in Germany, Poland, and Austria. She was a member of Phi Alpha Theta History Honors Society, which gave her

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Want to stop corruption? Text voters

A new study shows texting information about political corruption can improve democratic election outcomes.

BYU political science professor Daniel Nielson teamed up with three other professors to look at elections in Uganda, which suffers a range of challenges due to economic, political and social corruption. This study was done as part of a broader project, Metaketa I, which funded six studies in five countries to investigate how disseminating information about corruption impacted voting patterns.

“I am always looking for ways to understand how corruption might be addressed,” said Nielson, whose study was recently published in top-ranked journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. “Helping voters to hold politicians more accountable seems a promising part of the answer to that puzzle.”

In Uganda, Nielson noted, citizens struggle to vote out corrupt politicians due to state control of media, low civic education, untrustworthy institutions and uncompetitive elections.

During the 2016 Ugandan district elections, Nielson and his co-authors worked with Twaweza, a Ugandan-based organization that promotes good governance, to send mobile phone text messages to inform 16,000 voters about suspected budget fraud by local government councils.

The team was able to contact 16,000 citizens, significantly more than is typical in such studies. They found that the impact of the text messages changed citizens’ votes between 2 and 6 percent. This data would have been difficult to detect had the team only surveyed a few thousand participants, but their wide reach provided them the statistical power to detect small changes in the population’s voting behavior.

Voters who learned that suspected fraud in the political candidates was greater than they expected were 6 percent less likely to vote for incumbents. Those that learned that fraud was less than expected were 5 percent more likely to vote for incumbents.

“We see this as a bright spot that might suggest some ways forward for other non-governmental organizations when they design public-information campaigns,” said Nielson. “Our job as researchers is to point in promising directions.”

FHSS Valedictorians: Setting the Curve

BYU is famous for many things: Cosmo the Cougar, being ranked the number 1 “Stone Cold Sober” school 20 years running, and our awesome chocolate milk. Our amazing graduates however, trump all. The graduating class this year is one of the school’s biggest, which the majority of the females being returned missionaries.  From undergraduate research in Thailand to managing a neuroscience lab, FHSS boasts some of the most accomplished graduates. Check out our incredible valedictorians:

Boone Robins Christianson, of Provo, had no idea what anthropology was when he declared it as a major his freshman year. He wants to thank his parents Marlin and LaDonn for supporting him even though they were equally confused about what he could do with the degree. Throughout his time at BYU, Boone has spent the majority of his studies researching African agricultural development, including conducting research in Malawi and Namibia. In addition, he speaks Otjiherero, a rare language spoken by small groups of people from those countries. Despite his successes in anthropology, Boone has decided to pursue a master’s degree in Marriage and Family Therapy, and will begin his pursuit of this degree at Auburn University in Alabama this upcoming fall. Boone has enjoyed being involved in intermural sports, the Diction Club, and being an active participant in his LDS campus wards. He loves spending long hours playing Boggle and eating cereal.

boone baby

John Frederick Bonney, an economics major, is the son of Philip and Georgia Bonney. He grew up in the US, Senegal, and Italy, and served a mission in the Netherlands. John has thoroughly enjoyed working with faculty at BYU, performing research in areas including behavioral, educational, and familial economics and teaching other students about applied econometric research. He is grateful to the economics faculty for their stellar instruction and would specifically like to thank Drs. Lars Lefgren, Joe Price, and James Cardon for allowing him to enhance his learning through research and teaching assistantships. While attending BYU, John has also completed four internships during which he designed market research and forecasted models currently in use by multiple Fortune 500 companies. Within the community, John has enjoyed serving through educational organizations like Alpha and Project Read. John is happily married to Amanda Bonney, who is graduating with a Master of Accountancy. After graduating, John will continue his passion for economic research as a pre-doctoral fellow at the University of Chicago.

JohnBonney_headshot

Grayson Morgan, a geography major with a geospatial science and technology emphasis, is the second child born to Daniel and Michelle Morgan and grew up in Beaufort, South Carolina. Geography has surrounded him his whole life, but it wasn’t until his freshman year that he realized that it was exactly what he wanted to do. During his short time at BYU, Grayson has come to thoroughly enjoy his encounters with the various Geography Department Professors, secretaries, TAs, and fellow students. Certainly, much of his learning could not have taken place without their generous help and overwhelming kindness. His family means the world to him and he would like to thank his wife, parents, siblings, and extended family for their support. Grayson loves serving others, BYU sports, playing with his two-month-old daughter, and learning new things. He is excited to continue learning this fall as he begins a master’s degree and eventual PhD program in Global Information Systems/Remote Sensing at the University of South Carolina.

Morgan

Kaytlin Fay Anne Nalder, a history teaching major, grew up in Alberta, Canada. She is the sixth of seven children born to Byron and Deanne Nalder. Her love for history began in high school, but it wasn’t until she came to BYU that she considered majoring in it. While at BYU, Kaytlin was able to work as both a teaching and research assistant for Dr. Underwood, a job which was one of the highlights of her undergraduate experience. She was also the recipient of two history paper awards including the De Lamar and Mary Jensen Student Paper Award in European History and the Carol Cornwall Madsen Student Paper Award in Women’s History. Kaytlin enjoys skiing, reading, cooking, crocheting, and spending time with family and friends. She would like to thank all of the wonderful mentors and professors she was privileged to work with during her time at BYU, as well as her family and friends for their support and encouragement.

Nalder Picture

Marissa Skinner, a family life major with an emphasis in Human Development, is the daughter of Terry and Lottie Anderson. Although she grew up in Salt Lake City, she is a Cougar fan through and through. She discovered her passion for human development simply by taking a general class and has been hooked ever since. During her time at BYU, she served as a council member for Y-Serve, served a mission in the Philippines, and worked closely with many professors to conduct research projects regarding the topics of gender-socialization and moral development. Marissa also conducted two research projects that she presented at conferences on campus. She is so excited to implement what she has learned in her program and hopes she can make a difference because of it. She would like to thank her husband, family, and faculty members for pushing her out of her comfort zone and helping her reach her goals.

Marissa Skinner

Reed Lynn Rasband, a political science major, is the son of Kevin Rasband and Heather Watts and is the oldest of eight children. He grew up raising sheep in Brigham City, Utah and served a mission in Rancagua, Chile. As an undergraduate, he was able to carry out research for his Honors thesis in Thailand, additional research in the United Kingdom, and an internship with a refugee camp on the Thai-Burma border. He worked for four years as a teaching and research assistant in the Political Science department. He has also served as the President of the BYU Political Affairs Society, as Editor-in-Chief for the undergraduate journal Sigma, and as a volunteer with two organizations serving the Utah County Latino community. This fall, he will begin work on a Ph.D. in political science, focusing on ethnic and migration politics in the hopes of finding ways to improve intergroup relations around the globe. He is incredibly grateful for the continuing support his family provides him, as well as for the excellent mentorship he has received from BYU faculty.

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Charlotte Esplin, a psychology major with a clinical emphasis, grew up in Basildon, Essex, UK. After serving a mission in the Utah St. George Temple Visitors’ Center, Charlotte came to BYU. The first to attend a university in her family, Charlotte has embraced academics and all that a university life has had to offer.  While at BYU, Charlotte has worked as a teaching assistant for multiple psychology classes, and has performed quantitative research into how personality variables affect marital outcomes with Dr. Scott Braithwaite. This research has resulted in various articles,

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Halloween Costumes Based on Your Majors and Minors

It’s that time of year again, where we get to dress up as our favorite characters, monsters, or people. There are so many options that it can be hard to pick your costume. To remedy that, here are costume ideas based on your FHSS major or minor.

History or Women’s Studies

Last year, History professor Ed Stratford hosted two “dead debates,” which were fun events in which various professors acted as “resuscitated” dead U.S. presidents and queens and debated modern political and gender issues. Watch this “Between Two Ferns” parody trailers for the Dead Queens Debate for costume ideas:

 

Geography

Embrace your inner explorer and dress up as Christopher Columbus! To dress like him, you would need:

  • baggy pants, tucked into
  • white knee socks
  • floppy hat
  • long sleeved shirt
  • Long, plain vest

For some ideas on how to create simple spyglasses out of paper cups, check out this post. To see some of the maps the geography department has made of the nation, click here.

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Anthropology

Dressing up like an anthropology major would be very easy, if this post is any indication.

Political Science

Abraham Lincoln or any current or past American president are just a few of the options available for political science students. Here are instructions for creating President Lincoln’s famous stovepipe hat.

For updates on the political science department, check out their blog.

Halloween doesn’t have to be hard; there are a plethora of people you can dress up as. So why not show some academic pride and dress up as someone from your major or minor?

Photo credits: Christopher Columbus.

Utah Special Election 2017: Why Your Student Vote Matters

As millennials, we hate hearing over and over again that we are not civically involved because we actually are, according to education researcher Catherine Broom: we volunteer in our community, we generally know who our political representatives are, and we petition for positive change on social media. But there’s one thing that our generation has continually forgotten or neglected to do: vote.

When public office candidacies are determined by a handful of votes, it’s an understatement to say that every vote matters. This is the trend that’s being seen in recent past elections, yet research shows that nationally only 42% of 18-24 year-olds were registered to vote, a 40-year low, and only 17% of registered voters cast a ballot in the 2014 elections.

On November 7, Municipal General Elections as well as a Special General Election will be held and your votes are needed. The elections consist of the following:

Municipal General Elections

Municipal general elections are how you vote for your local mayor and city council members. In Provo, candidates for mayor include Michelle Kaufusi, Sherrie Hall Everett, and write-in Odell Miner. Acting as the executive branch in local government, the mayor’s responsibilities include, among other things, enforcement of all laws applicable to those residing or conducting business in Provo.

Municipal elections also allow individuals to vote for the city council member who will represent their local district. As the legislative branch and policy makers of Provo, the City Council

  • Establishes laws.
  • Sets policy.
  • Oversees the city’s budget.
  • Provides opinion on the administrative branch’s execution of the law
  • Approves long-term contracts and commitments of city resources.

Political science professor Chis Karpowitz  notes that there are two major reasons why BYU students should care about these local, and specifically mayoral, elections in a recent The Daily Universe article:  “One reason is that decisions made in Provo directly affect a student’s life — things like where they can live, where they can park, what community resources are available to them. The second reason they should care is because students could turn the election…they turned out to vote.”

Special General Election

Utah’s 3rd Congressional District representative Congressman Jason Chaffetz resigned from the U.S. House of Representatives this past June, leaving a vacancy. The House of Representatives is responsible for making and passing laws, formed by the bills and resolutions introduced by our own district representatives. Candidates for the position include current Provo Mayor Republican John Curtis, Democrat Kathie Allen, Libertarian Joe Buchman, United Party Jim Bennett, Independent American Party Jason Christensen, and unaffiliated candidate Sean Whalen.

John Curtis and Kathie Allen have taken a particular interest in college students and the millennial generation.

john curtis
Courtesy of John Curtis

In the past month both candidates have in fact made special efforts to spend time with and reach out to millennials. Curtis has held several “meet and greets” with students at Slab Pizza and Sodalicious, later posting on his Twitter account that “these people will change the world.” Kathie Allen has likewise held special town hall events where she told millennials that “if they would own their voting power, they could change the outcome of this special election and elections nationwide”.

katie Allen
Courtesy of Kathie Allen.

In a town where one third (32.6%) of the population is college or graduate school students, Provo millennials need to accept the challenge and responsibility to vote. “We don’t have a right to complain about [politics] if we have this right to vote and we don’t exercise it because that’s how things change. It’s a really cool power we have, so why not use it?” shared Samantha Frazier, a Political Science major and President of BYU’s Republican group on campus in a recent article

Make change with your votes, Cougars.

How To Vote

elliott-stallion-105205The first step to vote is to register. The last day to register in person at the Utah County Election Office (see the state website for necessary documentation, hint: you don’t have to have a Utah license if you still intend to be a Utah resident) is October 31st, but you can also register online (just remember to have your Utah drivers license with you) by that date. Since all ballots will be conducted entirely by mail, make sure you register as soon as possible and that your registered address is your current residence. Your completed ballot must be postmarked no later than November 6th to be counted in the election.

In the past, BYU students have led several projects to help millennials lift their political voice, but this year’s special and municipal elections are the time to put these initiatives into action. Vote November 7th and join one of the many BYU campus clubs geared towards politics and civic engagement to stay involved until the next election.

 

New Faculty Spotlight: Dr. John Holbein

“When you study great teachers… you will learn much more from their caring and hard work than from their style,” said author William Glasser. Dr. John Holbein experienced this firsthand while attending BYU as a political science undergraduate, and it was what brought him back to his alma mater to teach. Dr. Holbein is BYU’s newest Political Science professor.

Sanford School of Public Policy

“For me, there’s just something really exciting about helping people learn,” he said. “I’ve always thought that you never really understand a topic until you teach it. I learn a lot from my students. That might sound crazy to say–after all, professors are supposed to know everything. But, I find it really refreshing and invigorating to interact with students.”

So he offers this advice to students: “Don’t be afraid of your professors; we’re normal (OK, mostly normal) people just like you. We realize that BYU is a special place and are all here because we want you to be successful. Come to our office hours. Don’t shy away from contributing in class for fear of saying something stupid. You have a voice, you have something to contribute. Don’t hide that.”

Dr. Holbein’s area of expertise is voting, particularly motivations for voting. Currently, he is working to formulate inventive ways to stimulate voting. “Voter turnout is depressingly low and unequal–with disadvantaged people voting at much lower rates than advantaged people. That should be deeply troubling to us,” said the professor. As being connected with society is paramount to a person’s well-being, this is a critical problem that needs to be addressed.

Dr. Holbein graduated from Duke University in 2016 with a Ph.D in Public Policy and is currently working on a book about youth voting participation. He and his wife Brittany have one son.