New faculty spotlight: Sherina Saasa

Dr. Sherina Saasa, the newest Social Work faculty member, has spent her life improving the lives of others.

A social worker from the start

Growing up, Saasa looked up to her father and the work he did as an international social worker. Little did she know at the time that her own work and research as a social worker would bring her across the globe to Provo, UT.

Dr. Saasa’s practice and research interests branch from her experiences observing the poverty, oppression and social injustices that vulnerable populations and individuals experience, as well as from her own background as an African emigrant living in the United States.

More specifically, Saasa’s work focuses on inequality, poverty and mental health of underprivileged and vulnerable children in sub-Saharan Africa and that of African immigrant populations in the United States. The fact that there is so little research on African immigrants combined with her own experiences as an immigrant from Zambia only add to the purpose and importance of Saasa’s research.

Sharing goodness

In a time when issues of power and powerlessness are so apparent in politics, standing up for human rights and promoting societal change is needed everywhere.

Saasa promotes and implements these necessary societal changes through her nonprofit, the Crispin Mwakamui Memorial Foundation (CMMF), named after her father. The organization focuses on helping orphaned children living with relatives in impoverished conditions not only have better access to education but also succeed academically.

“My parents always emphasized the value of education,” shares Saasa. “I believe education has the power to change lives and countries for the better. With the non-profit, we do our part to improve the socio-economic and health trajectories of these children who are the future of Africa.”

Teaching with the Lord in mind

Saasa graduated from BYU with a master’s in social work in 2013, but she is very excited to return and teach social work practices with gospel principles.

“God is the greatest scientist, greatest engineer, and greatest social worker that ever lived; to leave him out of the classroom where these subjects are being taught would be such a disservice,” says Saasa. “I always thought that if I ever was to teach and be effective, it had to be in a place where the spirit was a big part of the learning process.”

Through her teaching, Saasa hopes to teach students to believe in themselves and to see and embrace their potential to be a force for good in the world.

 

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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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.

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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.

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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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FHSS student wins BYU’s 3MT Competition!

In 2008, Queensland University started hosting a competition titled 3MT (Three Minute Thesis). “An 80,000-word PhD thesis would take nine hours to present. Their time limit…three minutes,” reads the inaugural university’s website for the event.  The program has since spread to several universities worldwide and last year was BYU’s inaugural event for graduate students.

This year, a student from FHSS won BYU’s campus-wide competition!

Psychology PhD student Elizabeth Passey took 1st place for her research on why teenagers binge drink and was awarded $5,000. Passey also took 1st place in the college-level competition.

why do teenagers binge drink

Jessica Simpson, an Anthropology Master’s student, took second place at the college level. She studied how wear patterns can determine the function of ceramic vessels.

ceramic vessel function

Social Work student Candi Child-Illum took third place at the college level with her research on human trafficking.

human traffikingCongratulations to Candi, Jessica, and Elizabeth! Visit BYU’s Three Minute Thesis website for more information on the competition.

2018 Hinckley Lecture: Fostering Belonging, Inclusion, and Friendships for People with Disabilities

New Year’s resolutions often focus on strengthening and improving our lives. They might include strengthening your cooking skills or your muscles, but how about strengthening your home and family?

In the name of Marjorie Pay Hinckley, the late wife of Gordon B. Hinckley, and in honor of her commitment to strengthening home and family, the College of Family, Home, and Social Sciences will hold its fourteenth annual Marjorie Pay Hinckley lecture on February 8th, 2018. The topic for this year’s lecture is Fostering Belonging: Inclusion, MarjorieHinckleyFriendship, and People with  Disabilities” presented by Dr. Erik Carter of Vanderbilt University. In the past years, distinguished scholars have come to BYU to address pertinent issues such as family instability and complexity, social media, and social aggression, and factors that put children and the American future at risk.  

This year’s topic: Inclusions, friendships, and people with disabilities

Disabilities have always been a present aspect of individuals and society but have only recently received the attention and focus they need and deserve. Whether they be mental, physical, or learning disabilities, these impairments often present challenges to individuals and families who deserve the opportunities to succeed.

In his own experience and research Dr. Carter has found that educational, community and religious organizations all play powerful roles in providing opportunities that  help people with disabilities find valued roles, employment, and relationships with their local community members and peers. These relationships themselves go on to unify and strengthen the community as a whole.

During his lecture, Carter will focus on ten aspects of belonging and how attitudes and actions toward people with disabilities can create more meaningful and lasting inclusion in the community.

BYU research and experience

BYU professors have collaborated among themselves and with other scholars to form groups that research and educate on disabilities. One of these groups is Autism Connect which helps families and individuals with autism better understand the disorder and available resources through research. In addition, BYU also puts on the annual Autism Translational Research Workshop to educate on and share best practices in autism.

While research is fundamental to this field, the next step is making sure that people with disabilities and those associated with these individuals are able to receive the access and support for opportunities such as education, jobs, community, and peer relationships. In a recent article by BYU Psychology and Neuroscience professor Mikle South and Associate Clinical Professor Jonathan Cox, BYU’s own environment for supporting individuals with disabilities and autism was observed and critiqued. In order to succeed in post-secondary education, individuals with disabilities may need transitionary programs, “safe spaces” with minimal sensory stimulation where they can take tests, and have support groups or student mentors.

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A Community of Inclusion

Success in education and in the community is something that everyone should have the opportunity to achieve. Just like no one should be excluded from receiving an education or job, no one should feel excluded in their community. It is detrimental that we look to establish friendships and relationships with people who need our support.

Learn how to foster belonging within your community through inclusion and friendship with people with disabilities by attending the fourteenth annual Marjorie Pay Hinckley Lecture on February 8th, 2018 at 7:30 p.m. at the Hinckley Assembly Hall. Admission is free and the event is open to the public. Individuals from the BYU community, families, community leaders, and educators will greatly benefit from Dr. Carter’s presentation.

BYU to host Social Work Conference on Intimate Partner Violence

Intimate partner violence. It seems like a daunting issue that only comes up in TV shows until it affects a loved one or happens to you. This serious public health problem, and the focus of the 12th Annual School of Social Work Conference, happens to both male and female individuals of all ages, socio-economic statuses, and religious affiliations. BYU Social Work professor and conference organizer Jini Roby states that “because human relationships are the foundation of security and happiness in life, intimate partner violence (IPV) can seriously impair the quality of life. At the extreme end, it is a leading cause of homicide in our country. Without intervention, IPV will impact not only the couple but also the children involved.”

While there is some misconception that Utah and Utah County have lower IPV rates, the area is about average with the national norm. Professor Roby notes that “there is also a greater stigma [here] so victims don’t come forward as readily, allowing the problem to escalate and subjecting children to [the] trauma of witnessing the abuse.” This year’s Social Work Conference, held November 3rd from 8 am to 5 pm in the Wilkinson Center, will

  • help professionals and community members understand the prevalence, dynamics, and impact of IPV on victims, perpetrators, and affected children in the family.
  • improve understanding of IPV on the couple’s relationship and the power dynamics in the family.
  • help individuals understand the research on IPV and how it can be used to develop effective treatment methods for victims, perpetrators, and affected children.

The conference will feature speakers such as

  • Dr. Sandra Stith of Kansas State University, who has written extensively about treating and understanding IPV;
  • Dr. Casey T. Taft of the National Center for PTSD in the VA Boston Healthcare System and Associate Professor of Psychiatry at Boston University School of Medicine, who serves as Principal Investigator on several grants focusing on understanding and preventing partner violence;
  • Jennifer Oxborrow, the Executive Director of the Utah Domestic Violence Coalition and an active volunteer with the statewide Crisis Intervention Stress Management team debriefing first responders after traumatic incidents; and
  • Stuart Harper, therapist and Treatment Coordinator at Orem’s Family Support and Treatment Center where he serves children and families whose lives have been affected by abuse and trauma.

For the schedule of when these individuals will present, click here. joseph-gonzalez-273526The Social Work Conference is formatted primarily for clinicians but members of the public are welcome. The conference may be particularly helpful for ecclesiastical leaders, community leaders and members, and family members of those affected by IPV.

When asked what someone could do to help a friend affected by IPV, Roby advised that they let the victim know that being a victim of domestic violence is not their fault. They should know that there are resources that they and their children can plug into. Some of these include:

  • domestic violence hotlines for their area (they can also call 911 if it is an emergency),
  • domestic violence service shelters in 17 cities in Utah ranging from Brigham City, St. George, Blanding and Vernal;
  • counseling,
  • legal services available through service centers.

 

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:

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  • 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?

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:

refugee
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.

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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:

hbll
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

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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?

One Way to Validate Children in Stepfamilies

This post is fifteenth in a series of videos available in our new BYU Social Sciences YouTube channel! The channel contains tidbits of many of our most popular lectures and useful, succinct, research-backed advice on relationship, political, religious, media, and financial issues. Follow us there to stay up-to-date on wisdom that will help you and your family live better lives.

It can be difficult to adjust to living with a step-parent, especially for children and teens. According to stepfamily expert Dr. Patricia Papernow, the best thing a parent can do to ease that adjustment is to listen to what their children are saying. In order for the blended family to be successful, the youth need to feel validated. Papernow said, in a 2017 BYU Social Work Conference, “[It] turns out people have really big hearts.” If parents listen to and acknowledge their children’s possibly negative feelings, the transition to a blended family will be smoother. This two-minute video highlights how:

BYU’s Social Work Conference is held annually for clinicians and members of the public. Papernow is a psychologist in private practice in Hudson, Ma, and Director of the Institute for Stepfamily Education. The Marjorie Pay Hinckley Chair, which sponsors the conference, was created to strengthen, understand, and research families as well as create strategies to bolster families through challenges such as learning disabilities, social development, and single parenting.

Italians Eating with Chopsticks? How to Mesh Family Cultures in Stepfamilies

This post is thirteenth in a series of videos available in our new BYU Social Sciences YouTube channel! The channel contains tidbits of many of our most popular lectures and useful, succinct, research-backed advice on relationship, political, religious, media, and financial issues. Follow us there to stay up-to-date on wisdom that will help you and  your family live better lives.

How do you blend two families together into one happy stepfamily? Does trying to do so sometimes feel like meshing two entirely different cultures, like telling Italians and Japanese to eat pasta with chopsticks? It can be done, says Dr. Patricia Papernow, an expert in the field who we introduced here, by making mistakes and learning from them. She called it “learning by goofing,” at a 2016 BYU Social Work Conference. The meshing of the two cultures can lead to misunderstanding and unintentionally hurt feelings. It is only through making these mistakes that people can come to know one another and to reconcile their differences.

 

Are you in a stepfamily? What mistakes have you learned from, and how have they helped?