Student researchers shine at Sociology and Political Science Poster Conferences

Students had the chance to show off their mentored research projects and win prizes in poster conferences held by the departments of political science and sociology during Fall Semester 2021.

The political science poster conference is held annually, with up to 100 participants each year, depending on the year.

“This is a great opportunity for students to present and receive feedback on the work they have done with faculty over the fall semester,” Jay Goodliffe, professor and chair of the political science department, says. “Creating and making the presentation is experiential learning for students, and the conference is an exhibition of the experiential learning in the department.”

The sociology poster conference was the first of its kind. Lance Erickson, associate professor of sociology remarked that the conference gave fall semester students an important chance to showcase their research, when in past years only winter semester students had that opportunity through the Mary Lou Fulton Mentored Student Research Conference held each year in April.

The poster conferences also provide opportunities for fellow students to ask their peers about the research process and get inspiration for future projects of their own.

The conferences were held Dec. 9 in the Wilkinson Student Center.

Sociology Poster Conference 2021 Awards

1st Place Winner:

Amber Ashby, “The Key to Maintaining Cognitive Functioning: The Relationship Between Word Recall, Subjective Well Being, and Education” with Lance Erickson as faculty mentor

2nd Place Winner:

Jaimi Mueller, “Community Experience and Bears Ears National Monument” with Michael Cope as faculty mentor

3rd Place Winner:

Jordan Coburn, Hannah Dixon, Morgan Duffy, Brianna Moodie, and Taylor Topham, “Classrooms and COVID: Experiences with Pandemic-Related Online Learning among BYU Students, 2020 vs. 2021” with Carol Ward as faculty mentor

Political Science Poster Conference 2021 Awards

1st Place Overall Winner:

Ashlan Gruwell, “Evangelical Protestants: Friend or Foe?” Awarded $300

2nd Place Overall Winner:

Madison Sinclair Johnson, “Tried and Prejudice: Using Hate Crime Sentencings to Disprove the Rise of Right-Wing Terrorism in the United States” Awarded $250

3rd Place Overall Winner:

David Clove and Abigail Ryan, “Be Thou Sexist? Hostile & Benevolent Sexism Among Latter-day Saints” Awarded $200

Ashlan Gruwell presents her research at the 2021 poster conference for political science (Aaron Barnes )


Subfield Winners

Awarded $150 each

Best comparative paper: Elliana Pastrano, “How do Emigration Rates Affect the Democracy Score of the Home Country?”
Best IR paper: Peyton Lykins, “Tanks and Missiles: The Only Counterterrorism Strategy?”
Best American paper: Kelsey Eyre, Jordan Gygi, and Kesley Townsend, “To Guide Us in These Latter-days: When partisans disagree with the Church’s guidance”
Best Race and Ethnicity Paper: Suzy Yi, “Intersectional Constituents: How Minority Elected Officials Respond to Minority Constituents”
Note: There were no theory posters.

Honorable Mentions: 

  • Grant Baldwin & Chris Vazquez, “Ideologues in the Political Pipeline: Measuring the Ambition of Local Elected Officials” 
  • Kesley Townsend, “Are Supreme Court Decisions Congruent with Public Opinion on Campaign Finance” 
  • Jeremy Pratt, Clara Cullen, and Hannah Forsyth, “Polarization Through a Generational Lens” 
  • Elle Diether, Megan Cann, and McKell McIntyre, “Does Clothing Make the Candidate? Identifying the Impact of Traditional Immigrant Clothing on Elections” 
  • Abby Woodfield, Morgan Rushforth, Meg Price, and Sam Ames,“The Failure Effect: Gender and Benevolence in Sports” 

Read about the Mary Lou Fulton Mentored Student Research Conference.

John Hinckley Recipient of “Outstanding Achievement Award” for Contributions to Utah Archaeology

There was standing room only the night of Oct. 7 when museum patrons gathered at Brigham Young University’s Museum of Peoples and Cultures to celebrate Utah County resident John Hinckley for his lasting contributions to archaeological research. The Utah Board of State History honored Hinckley with an Outstanding Achievement Award for his preservation of Fremont archaeological sites on his property near Utah Lake.

Photo caption: John Hinckley (right) receives Outstanding Achievement Award from the state of Utah, standing beside Michael T. Searcy (left) BYU anthropology professor (Photo credit: Quinn Karpowitz)

Hinckley has graciously turned his property into an outdoor classroom where BYU students are mentored in archaeological excavation and research. This tradition was begun by his father, G. Marion Hinckley, who allowed BYU professors to bring students to do field archaeology on the Hinckley land since the 1940s.

During that time, hundreds of students have discovered artifacts and participated in excavations at the Hinckley Mounds, including students from both Brigham Young University and Utah Valley University. During a 2015 field school, Hinckley opened the Fremont sites to the public, and over 600 fourth graders studying Utah history and prehistory made visits. Boy Scout groups also participated in the excavation to earn an archaeology merit badge.

Through his efforts, Hinckley has provided countless opportunities for experiential learning and has inspired the next generation of Utah archaeologists.

One of those students is Sam Jensen, a master’s student in anthropology and research assistant to Michael Searcy, associate professor of anthropology at BYU. Jensen said the experience of working on the Hinckley site has prepared him for a future career as a professor and has helped him have a better appreciation for the archaeological sites close to home.

“When most people think of archaeology, they think of large, grandiose sites like Chichén Itzá, Mesa Verde, the Great Pyramids of Giza, etc.,” Jensen said. “Consequently, most people don’t worry about protecting sites that aren’t big or that don’t draw in millions of tourists every year. Sometimes people don’t even realize that smaller sites exist and that they exist right here in our back yard. These sites represent the lives of people in the past and may still hold important spiritual or cultural significance to living populations.”

Searcy said he and his team discovered an additional part of the site in August. “It’s still yielding,” he said.

Utah State Historic preservation officer Chris Merritt publicly thanked Hinckley for protecting the artifacts during his speech at the Hinckley reception.

“Without more people like you engaging and preserving these sites, we’re going to continue to lose our archaeological heritage as Utah continues to grow and development occurs,” Merritt said. “And in this case, you’ve helped us save this important piece of the past, which has shaped our understanding of the Fremont culture in Utah county and beyond.”

Merrit hopes Hinckley’s example will inspire other landowners to preserve archaeological sites. Jensen expressed the importance of being aware of and protecting sites like the Hinckley Mounds because there are constant dangers that threaten them, such as development, vandalism, and looting.

When receiving his award and throughout the event, Hinckley displayed an attitude of humility despite receiving thunderous applause.

“I have personally worked with Mr. Hinckley for many years and seen his humble, strong support for protecting the past,” BYU research archaeologist Scott M. Ure wrote in support of Hinckley’s nomination. “He is a steward of the past in every sense of the word, and I cannot think of a more deserving recipient for Utah’s Division of State History 2021 Outstanding Achievement Award.”

Hinckley said he enjoys seeing the students’ discoveries. When asked what he would like people to know about the archaeological site on his property, he chuckled. “There’s a surprise under every shovelful of dirt,” he said. After the reception, visitors could view artifacts discovered at the Hinckley Mounds and donated to the Museum of Peoples and Cultures.

Provo Resident Honored for “Remarkable Contributions” to Utah’s History

Longtime Provo resident John Hinckley was awarded the Outstanding Achievement Award by the Board of State History for his lasting contributions. Through his work, Hinckley provided countless opportunities for experiential learning and has inspired the next generation of Utah archaeologists.

Through the preservation of priceless Fremont archaeological sites on his land, Hinckley has turned his property into an outdoor classroom where BYU students are mentored in archaeological excavation and research. This tradition was begun by his father, G. Marion Hinckley, who allowed BYU professors to bring students to do field archaeology on Hinckley land since the 1940s.

Since then, hundreds of students have discovered artifacts and participated in excavations at the Hinckley Mounds, including students from both Brigham Young University and Utah Valley University. During a 2015 field school, Hinckley opened the Fremont sites to the public, and over 600 fourth graders studying Utah history and prehistory visited. Boy Scout groups participated in the excavation and earned their Archaeology merit badges.

“(The site) has been a boon to our educational endeavors,” said BYU anthropology professor Michael T. Searcy. Searcy said finding artifacts on the Hinckley property helps students connect with the past, and in many instances, it has led students to choose archaeology as a career.

Searcy said Hinckley’s protection of Fremont artifacts, despite losing acres of his property to Provo City due to eminent domain, is impressive, and the Hinckley Mounds are some of the last archaeological remains of a large Fremont village.

“I have personally worked with Mr. Hinckley for many years and seen his humble, strong support
for protecting the past,” BYU research archaeologist Scott M. Ure said. “He is a steward of the past in every sense of the word, and I cannot think of a more deserving recipient for Utah’s Division of State History 2021 Outstanding Achievement Award.”

A reception will be held in Hinckley’s honor tonight at the Museum of Peoples and Cultures from 7-8 p.m. Join us to celebrate his outstanding accomplishments.

BYU and UVU student surveying the fields at Hinckley Farms. (Michael Searcy)

Native Peoples of Utah County Highlighted in New Exhibit

A new “Utah Valley” exhibit at the Museum of Peoples and Cultures invites visitors to get to know the people who once inhabited Utah County.

“A lot of people who live in Utah Valley don’t realize there is a long history here,” museum director Paul Stavast says. “They just assume its history begins maybe just a little bit before the pioneers got here. That is not correct at all. People have lived in Utah Valley for thousands of years.” 

The exhibit features artifacts from the Archaic, Fremont, and Ute peoples, as well as Mormon pioneer artifacts excavated from the ruins of the Provo Tabernacle. Walking through the small gallery, visitors can examine a horse “quirt” used to spur horses in Ute horse races, or see canine bones dating back to around 3,600 B.C.

History student Hannah Smith helped select the artifacts for the displays, and under the direction of Stavast, she was responsible for the research and text for the exhibit. Her work was part of an internship for the Museum of Peoples and Cultures and later turned into a regular, continuing student position.

nnah Smith poses with Hayden Crofts at the Utah Valley Exhibit. Smith played a major role in the research, text, and design for the exhibit. (Hannah Smith)
Above: Hannah Smith poses with Hayden Crofts at the Utah Valley Exhibit. Smith played a major role in the research, text, and design for the exhibit. (Hannah Smith)

“The internship was a custom experience for me,” Smith says. “I was able to experience many different types of museum work: with the administration, with technicians, archaeologists, etc. I was able to experience so much and it really impacted the work and the exhibit that went up. It was perfect.”

Smith hopes to have a career working in museums and designing exhibits in particular. “Working in a museum is cool, because I can use my research but also my creativity,” she says.

Student participation like Smith’s was central to the success of the project. Stavast had students in his anthropology classes workshop possible ideas for the exhibit. Students were also responsible for the design, promotion, fabrication, installation, and object registration to get the new gallery off the ground. 

Above: Ute moccasins decorated with dyed porcupine quills. The exhibit includes artifacts used in cooking, hunting, dancing, etc. by the Ute tribe as well as other indigenous peoples. (Aaron Barnes)

“We want to give students an experience from beginning to end so that they have an understanding of what it takes to put an exhibition together — even on a small scale — so they have a framework for their future careers,” Stavast says.

Both Stavast and Smith say they hope the exhibit invites Utah residents to reflect on the place where they live. Stavast also hopes seeing the exhibit will remind visitors of the rich history in Utah county so that in the wake of booming development that history can be preserved rather than destroyed. There are over 2,000 archaeological sites in Utah county alone.

“No matter where you go, there’s a lot more history than you might initially realize,” Stavast said. “Take the time to find out who lived in the places where you live. There are sites all over. Learn about them, respect them, and preserve them.”

The Utah Valley exhibit will be on display for at least five years and will likely be modified with additional pieces from sites in Payson, Goshen, and Provo.

For more information about the Museum of Peoples and Cultures, visit their website.