Students: Deadline Approaches for Martin Luther King Day Student Essay Contest

Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. dedicated his life to the nonviolent pursuit of racial equality. Our national celebration of his birth each year is meant to honor, not only him and his legacy but the lives and work of countless lesser-known leaders, as well as that of ordinary men, women, and children who helped to bend the arc of the moral universe toward justice. The King holiday is also intended for us, today, to consider what we can do to serve our fellowmen and to promote the eternal truth that each of us is a beloved child of God.

June 8, 2018 will mark the 40th Anniversary of the LDS Church’s historic revelation restoring priesthood and temple blessings to all worthy members. In connection with the King holiday and in celebration and contemplation of this important moment in LDS history, we invite you to explore and reflect on Official Declaration 2, the Church’s “Race and the Priesthood” website, and recent statements by LDS leaders on current racial issues, and to write an essay of 777 words or less discussing the long struggle for freedom and the work of building Zion.

Submit your essay no later than Noon on Friday January 12th to: as a Word attachment. Please include the following information with your submission: your name, year in school, major, home town, email address, and phone number.

The first-place winner will receive $150 and the opportunity to read her/his essay at BYU’s MLK Walk of Life Commemoration on Wednesday January 17, 2018. The second and third place winners will receive $60 and $40, respectively. (Previous first place winners are not eligible for the top prize.) Questions about the essay contest can be directed to the above email.

How to Celebrate Christmas if You’re Away from Home

Family, festivities, fun—Christmas is one of the most widely celebrated holidays. It is is traditionally a time when families reunite to celebrate the birth of Christ and give each other presents. However, many of us are college students living far from home. How can we celebrate Christmas away from our families?

1. Connect with Friends

Just because you’re not with your family doesn’t mean you have to spend Christmas alone. Find some friends and do something fun! Make hot chocolate and watch a Christmas movie, have a snowball fight, or compete to see who can make the best snow fort. In a 2015 study, Psychology professor Dr. Julianne Holt-Lunstad found that loneliness is a precursor for early death. “The risk associated with social isolation and loneliness is comparable with well-established risk factors for mortality, including those identified by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (physical activity, obesity, substance abuse, responsible sexual behavior, mental health, injury and violence, environmental quality, immunization, and access to health care),” she and her co-authors said. Loneliness can lead to death just as much as obesity and substance abuse can.

So don’t celebrate the holiday alone! Find some friends and make this the best Christmas ever!

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2. Help a Teen Bake and Deliver Christmas Cookies

 This is a fun way to get involved with the holiday, learn a new skill, and spread Christmas cheer. Christmas isn’t just about presents and Santa, it’s a celebration of Christ. You can easily honor him by serving others. In a 2017 study, School of Family Life professor Dr. Laura Padilla-Walker found that teens’ self esteem was boosted by helping strangers. “There is something unique about helping those that teens do not know that helps them to feel better about themselves, but helping family and friends does not facilitate this same outcome,” said the researcher. Not all of us are teenagers, but serving others can still give us those positive vibes.


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3. Play a Good Video Game

There are good video games out there, ones that encourage prosocial behavior (like these, suggested by our 2014 Hinckley lecturer Dr. Brad Bushman), and good ways to play them, as shown by research done by Dr. Sarah Coyne and others.

4. Have a Christmas Dance Party!

Moving around—dancing—makes you happier! “Pushing yourself to go out and be with other people will automatically increase your mood because your body will be producing serotonin and endorphins, which naturally increase your happiness level,” said a Relate Institute article. If you’re feeling sad that you’re not at home, just dance! Grab some friends, hit the dance floor, and jam!

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It’s not easy to spend Christmas away from your family, but these four tips can make this a Christmas to remember!



Which Historical Figure are You?

Have you ever wondered which historical figure you are? Take our quiz and find out!

What is your favorite class?

  1. Religion
  2. Clothing design
  3. Electrical engineering
  4. Business
  5. Military science

What would you do if someone disrespected you?

  1. Turn the other cheek
  2. Tell them to eat cake
  3. Think: “I’ve been called a ‘tyrant’ and an ‘uninhibited egoist,’ so I guess it’s no big deal
  4. Tweet about it
  5. Repeatedly get revenge

What is your favorite book?

  1. The Bible
  2. How to be Parisian Wherever You Are by Anne Derest and Audrey Dewan
  3. Experiments and Observations on Electricity by Benjamin Franklin and Leonardo da Vinci: The Complete Works by Leonardo da Vinci
  4. Anything I tweet
  5. The Art of War by Sun Tzu

What do you like to do most?

  1. Following God’s will
  2. Partying
  3. Inventing things
  4. Taking charge
  5. Conquering my enemies

What is your favorite film/TV show?

  1. The Prince of Egypt
  2. Project Runway
  3. Anything but The Prestige
  4. Anything on Fox and Friends
  5. The Count of Monte Cristo

What is your relationship status?

  1. Single
  2. Married, but it’s not great
  3. Married, widowed, and remarried
  4. Married with children
  5. Widowed, and I’m not getting remarried


If you got mostly 1’s

Congratulations! You are Joan of Arc, fearless French leader in the Hundred Years’ War. Under her command, the nation successfully repulsed the English at Orleans. Eventually, she was captured and executed for heresy. Joan claimed that she was sent by God to help put Charles VII on the throne of France; her faith in God led her to do great things.


You are a deeply religious person who is not afraid to do what’s right, even when it seems impossible. People look up to you as someone who is strong and courageous. Don’t ever change!

Joan of Arc recently participated in the History Department’s Dead Queens Debate, where she debated current women’s issues. She also appeared on Between Two Ferns.

If you got mostly 2’s

Congratulations! You are Marie Antoinette, doomed queen during the French Revolution. Known for her extravagant clothing and love of parties, this monarch was eventually executed. However, her legacy as one of the most fashionable women of her time has lasted centuries.

marie a

You are a style-savvy individual who knows how to command a room and is the life of the party. People look to you for social approval and you are always on the guest list for the most posh events.

You can learn more about Marie Antoinette by taking HIST 294 The Age of the French Revolution and/or HIST 324 France.

If you got mostly 3’s

Congratulations! You are Thomas Edison, inventor of the “commercial electric light and power system,” the phonograph, and the microphone. The scientist owned 1,093 patents. Edison took advantage of the total solar eclipse of 1878 to test his new invention, the tasimeter, to detect changes of heat during the eclipse. He viewed the eclipse as his chance to prove that he was not only an inventor but a serious scientist as well.


Like him, you are an extremely intelligent person who sees things differently than others and knows how innovate. People admire your ingenuity and rely on you to make their lives better.

If you got mostly 4’s

Congratulations, you are President Donald Trump! (He’s not a historical figure yet, but he will be.) You have a passion for leading and aren’t afraid to defend your beliefs. You fight for what you want and always bounce back from adversity. Furthermore, your Twitter skills are legendary.

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If you got mostly 5’s

Congratulations! You are Olga, princess of Kievan Rus. After her husband was murdered by a nearby tribe, she took revenge multiple times, eventually subjugating the people of that tribe. Later in her life, Olga converted to Christianity and, after her death, was canonized.


You feel things deeply and are fiercely loyal to those you care about. When somebody hurts them, you are personally offended. Cunning and resilient, you are someone that everyone wants on their side.

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You can learn more about Princess Olga by taking History 300: The Early Middle Ages.

Gifs courtesy of Giphy

Photo credits: Marie Antoinette, Joan of Arc, Thomas Edison, and Princess Olga.

Student Spotlight: Ryan Shields, Geography Whiz

In the College of Family, Home, and Social Sciences, we have many remarkable students, young people who stand out in different ways. Jacob Fisher, one of our Econ students, recently won a Wheatley Institution award for his writing skills, for example. Ryan Shields, from our geography department, is student who embodies BYU’s motto to “enter to learn, go forth to serve” because of his passion for his major and his extra-curricular involvement in geographical activities. We recently had the opportunity to speak with him about his experiences at BYU:

ryan shields

FHSS: What’s your major?  

Ryan: Geography with an emphasis in Geospatial Intelligence/GIS.

FHSS: Why did you choose it?

Ryan: I have always had a natural aptitude for geography and passion for global affairs. Growing up in rural Nebraska, I did not have a lot of global exposure so maps were a big part of how I experienced the world. As I learned more, the dots on [the] maps eventually became more to me than just locations of cities. They represented people and that helped me to relate to my brothers and sisters across the globe. I started to better understand what life was like for them and how it was similar and differed from my own life. When I found out there were many geography career fields that would allow me to use that perspective and passion, I knew geography was the right choice for me.

FHSS: Was there a particular experience that led you to it?

Ryan: When I started at BYU, I declared as a Chemical Engineering major. I had worked in an oil field for a summer after I graduated high school and thought a career as a petroleum engineer might be a good fit for me. I took one class and realized that was not going to be [the case]. I started browsing the major catalogue and came across geography and was surprised at the diverse career paths in that field.

FHSS: What are you involved in (i.e. extracurricular activities)?

Ryan: I’m the Co-President of Praemon, a student organization at BYU that provides a platform for students pursuing careers in intelligence to be published on. I’m also one of the Directors for the Foreign Service Student Organization and a member of the Geography Student Association Council.

FHSS: Any tips for getting involved?

Ryan: Attend lectures on campus, search for groups that share common interests and career goals. Most groups will have a Facebook page or a website where you can contact them. Just ask for opportunities!

FHSS: What do you like to do outside of school?

Ryan: I enjoy spending time with family and friends, traveling, and working on cars and motorcycles. I also manage ThinkSpatial (the cartography service at BYU) and work for the BYU Police Department’s security division. I’ve worked crowd security for multiple special events and dignitary/VIP protection for religious leaders, ambassadors, and other foreign dignitaries from around the world.

FHSS: Random fact or story about yourself?

Ryan: I’ve skydived, visited 18 US States, and traveled outside the mainland US every year since I started attending BYU.



What can You do to Strengthen Your Relationship With Your Roommate?

While each person’s college experience is unique, many share common elements, such as: navigating difficult classes, dating, and living with roommates.  The research of various FHSS professors speaks not only to the importance of building and maintain positive relationships with friends and roommates, but also provides ideas for how to do so.

Why are relationships important?

Psychology professor Julianne Holt-Lunstad studies relationships and the effects they have on health. In a 2015 study, she found that loneliness is a precursor for early death. “The risk associated with social isolation and loneliness is comparable with well-established risk factors for mortality, including those identified by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (physical activity, obesity, substance abuse, responsible sexual behavior, mental health, injury and violence, environmental quality, immunization, and access to health care,)” she and her co-authors said. Loneliness can lead to death just as much as obesity and substance abuse can.

In an interview with Scientific American, the professor spoke on the importance of friendship: “[Friends] provide a sense of meaning or purpose in our lives.”

How can we improve relationships?

1. Understand that they may be struggling

In a recent Connections article, School of Family Life professors Laura Padilla-Walker, Jason Carroll, Brian Willoughby, and Larry Nelson identified the four top concerns of “emerging adults” (people between the 18 and 24) as:

  • Identity: still exploring
  • Parental involvement: transitioning to independence
  • Sexual behavior/Relationships: in light of religious beliefs and newfound independence
  • Religion/Morality: and how it relates to their worldviews

“Emerging adulthood is a unique time of life,” the researchers said, “complete with its own set of challenges and struggles, and it is important for parents, teachers, employers, and others to learn about these issues.” Understanding that your roommate may be experiencing these challenges can help you emphathize.

2. Talk with them

The Relate Institute offers the following ways to have a meaningful conversation:

  • Don’t multitask: focus on your roommate when you’re talking to him or her
  • Don’t pontificate: enter every conversation with the thought that you have something you can learn from it
  • Ask open-ended questions
  • If you don’t know, say that you don’t
  • Don’t equate their experience with yours

Following these tips will allow you to meaningfully communicate with your roommate, which will lead to a better relationship.

3. Do something fun together

rae and madiCheck out our articles on what to do during Thanksgiving break and Summer (these still apply anytime of year) for fun ideas of what to do together.





Happily Ever After: Alumni Advice on Finding Personal Post-Mission Happiness

Courtesy of More Good Foundation

Serving a mission is a life-changing experience, but when missionaries come home, their lives tend to lose structure. Schedules change quickly, languages and lifestyles are different, and no post-missionary handbook exists to tell these young adults what their new identity and purpose should be. BYU Psychology Alumni Andrew Proctor became distinctly aware of these trials when he posted a satirical article titled Unmarried Returned Missionaries: New Option to Apply for Second Full-time Mission” on as an April Fools joke in 2015. The article quickly went viral among the LDS online community, generating over 600,000 organic impressions on the website’s Facebook page and eliciting numerous personal responses. While some individuals were live your mission coverupset that the issue was a joke, Proctor also received a number of emails from hopeful RMs who wished that this joke was a reality.

For him, the response was an indication that “there [were] tens of thousands of returned missionaries who [hadn’t] yet figured out their purpose after their mission.” He reasoned that it was because they  hadn’t learned how to separate their role from their identity. Proctor has since written a book to help return missionaries find purpose, identity, and their “unique life mission after [their] full-time mission,” and provides this advice:

Embrace who you are without the name tag

“The most important thing that a returned missionary can do when they get home is solidify their identity,” shared Proctor. Return missionaries are bombarded with questions about their future education, job, and marriage, but are these questions about the future justified when the RM has not solidified who they are in the present? “Marriage is important, but even the most hard working, intelligent, righteous, and effective missionaries can have very strained marriages if they don’t figure out who they are after the tag comes off.” This is a key point made in the first chapter of Proctor’s book  Live Your Mission: 21 Powerful Principles to Discover your Life Mission After Your Mission.

He said that after his own mission in Chile, he struggled with transitioning and accepting who he had become, but that when he did, “it made all the difference. One of the keys to determining your life mission is being comfortable with the new you. If you came home confused about who you were, you aren’t the only one…going through an identity transition requires real effort. No effort spent on solidifying your identity is wasted. Figure out who you are. Everything else will follow naturally.”

Combat loneliness by making yourself known

pexels-photo-247195“One of the greatest killers of happiness is loneliness” said Proctor. The challenge with combating loneliness, however, is that it can find you both when you’re alone and when you’re walking around campus with thousands of other students. Proctor believes this occurs because “it is more about being known than is it about proximity to other humans. I believe that to be known we must be willing to reveal ourselves to others.”

In order to share your identity with others, you must first acknowledge and accept it yourself. Turn the compassion you showed to others on your mission towards yourself, embrace who you are, share yourself with others, and then, let God take care of the rest.


Proctor at the World Congress of Positive Psychology

Since leaving BYU after he got his psychology degree, Andrew Proctor has delved into the social science of human flourishing. Taking his further education into his own hands, Proctor continues to learn about positive psychology by teaching others. He has done multiple podcasts and was recently featured in the Mindfulness and Motivation section of the podcast app He was also part of a paper that was published in the journal Mindfulness and was able to present this research in Montreal at the 5th World Congress of Positive Psychology in July 2017. Proctor continues to learn, teach, and reach out to those around him by sharing positive quotes and science-backed happiness facts on his Instagram page. He also just launched the beta version of his course on “finding more happiness by increasing positive emotion.” The course is based on the PERMA (Positive Emotion, Engagement, Relationships, Meaning, Achievement) theory of well-being and is the first of five courses that will become available over the next several years.

Christina Riley: Fulbright Scholarship Recipient

Christina Riley, a recent BYU Applied Social Psychology doctoral candidate, has recently been awarded a prestigious Fulbright Scholarship. With it, she intends to work in India, studying the likelihood of physical abuse in that country.  Her interest in helping resolve social justice issues like domestic violence effectively through prevention efforts is what drove her to apply for the scholarship, and what drives her research. She’s published five papers examining effective domestic violence prevention programs cross-culturally, as well as the social factors that contribute to domestic violence perpetration, as well as gender roles and obesity.

Who is Christina Riley?

Riley is a graduate of Baylor University with a degree in psychology and two minors in English and World Affairs. She came to BYU to pursue a PhD in psychology. While here, Riley has taught the online version of Intro to Psychology, Developmental Psychology: Lifespan, and a Peer Mentoring Capstone. She plans on going into “…into academia for research and teaching…[and]…to collaborate with international research agencies and NGOs focused on ending violence against women.”

What is a Fulbright Scholarship?

The scholarship that will be the catalyst for her dynamic research is one of many awarded by the J. Williams Fulbright Scholarship Board, whose members are all appointed by U.S. presidents. Each year, it gives around 1,900 grants and works in over 140 countries. It is administered overseas by bi-national commissions and U.S. embassies, who all work to increase mutual understanding between people of the U.S. and of other countries through exchange. In a time when both the physical and virtual worlds are more accessible that they have ever been, such increased, mutual understanding, acquired by as many students as possible, is perhaps more important than it has ever been. BYU’s College of Family, Home, and Social Sciences is not only proud of Christina, but interested in making sure that other students know about this great opportunity. To that end, the college hosted events in March to increase awareness and facilitate application preparations.

At that meeting on campus, Lee Rivers, an outreach specialist for the U.S. Student Fulbright Program and other international scholarship programs, encouraged students to consider applying for the next round of Fulbright scholarships, as the next deadline for applications will be in October 2017.  During their grants, Rivers said, Fulbrighters will meet, work, live with and learn from the people of the host country, sharing daily experiences.  “The program facilitates cultural exchange through direct interaction on an individual basis in the classroom, field, home, and in routine tasks, allowing the grantee to gain an appreciation of others’ viewpoints and beliefs, the way they do things, and the way they think. Through engagement in the community, the individual will interact with their hosts on a one-to-one basis in an atmosphere of openness, academic integrity, and intellectual freedom, thereby promoting mutual understanding.”

Other Students Are Encouraged to Apply

All of the following are encouraged to apply to the Fulbright U.S. Student Program:

  • graduating seniors and recent bachelor’s-degree recipients that have some undergraduate preparation and/or direct work or internship experience related to the project.
  • master’s and doctoral candidates who can demonstrate the capacity for independent study or research, together with a general knowledge of the history, culture, and current events of the countries to which they would like to apply
  • Young professionals, including writers, creative and performing artists, journalists, and those in law, business, and other professional fields   Competitive candidates who have up to 5 years of professional study and/or experience in the field in which they would like to apply will be considered. Those with more than 5 years of experience should apply to the Fulbright U.S. Scholar Program.

More information on the scholarship program can be found at This programprovides grants for individually designed study/research projects or for English Teaching Assistant Programs.” The research will take place outside of the United States. Applications can be found here.

The Fulbright Scholarship

The Fulbright Scholarship was proposed in 1945 and signed into law by President Harry S. Truman in 1946. A student does not need to be currently enrolled in an institute of higher education to apply. They can apply for two kinds of grants, based on their desire to do independent research or study abroad, or to teach English abroad. Each grant funds 8 to 10 months of work. The grant funds round-trip airfare and provides a monthly stipend, as well as accident and sickness insurance and other possible benefits.


Featured image courtesy of Flickr.




Students: Four Ways You Can Help Others This Holiday Season

For many, this is the Happiest Time of the Year, and for good reason.  The getting of presents is generally an experience enjoyed by all. But the giving of not only presents but also time and service can make the season much more meaningful. The true enjoyment of the season, however, is one that might take some time and a little bit of creativity to develop, but is truly worth it. Here are four ways that you as a student in BYU’s College of Family, Home, and Social Sciences can help others this holiday season:

Support the Refugee Empowerment Club

This group, as we mentioned here, “…offers students the opportunity to become aware of the refugee crisis in Utah and around the globe.” Currently, there are 21.3 million refugees in the world, with more than half being less than 18 years old. There are things that students can do to educate themselves about the issue, right here on campus. Check out their Facebook page for information on their next activity. 14495385_615473538613308_7091328931985394175_n

Courtesy of the Refugee Empowerment Club

Do Your Family History

Just because they’re dead doesn’t mean we can’t serve them. The prophets and apostles have spoken on this and why it is imperative that we do it. Doing family history can also help you to be a better missionary. Furthermore, who knows what you might find?



Participate in #LightTheWorld

For each day in December, the LDS church has challenged us to participate in an act of service. These range from helping the homeless to helping someone who is struggling. They’re simple, yet meaningful acts that we can all do.

Courtesy of

Partner Up with Y-Serve

Y-Serve offers a vast amount of service projects. Programs include: International Network of Tutors of Languages, Cougar Coaches, Jimmerosity, and RAH (which comes with bowling.

Courtesy of Y-Serve

Service doesn’t have to be grand or loud to be impactful. As Markus Zusak said, “Big things are often just little things that people notice.”

What will you do to help out this holiday season?

GIFs courtesy of

Students: How to Navigate Christmas FHSS Style

It’s that time of year again! Candy canes, ugly sweaters, and an endless barrage of Hallmark movies. You may be tempted to navigate Christmas like this:



However, that’s not what Christmas should be; we need to be focusing on its true meaning. Try these steps instead:



If you need help, BYU Speeches has some great material that applies to navigating Christmas:

How do You Navigate Christmas?

Student News: Even You Can Help Refugees, Right Now

Owing to an increase of global unrest, we have heard much about the global refugee crisis.  Because our country is not physically connected to the countries most affected by this unrest (like Europe, which is connected to the Middle East where many refugees are fleeing from), we mistakenly assume that there is nothing we can do to really help.  This assumption is incorrect.  There is more you can do than just donate money to refugees in Europe. There are refugees here in the United States. There are refugees struggling in Utah. Dr. Stacey Shaw, one of our new professors and a collaborator with the International Rescue Committee, says that the IRC resettled 1,245 people as refugees in Utah in its last fiscal year. The main countries of origin for these people were the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Somalia, Iraq, Burma, Syria, Afghanistan, Bhutan, Sudan, Eritrea, Burundi, Central African Republic, and Iran. Most of them are being resettled in Salt Lake County and a few are going to Ogden, but agencies are also considering possibilities for resettlement in Utah County and St. George. She advocates, as do others, helping them, not only because of their obvious need but also out of sheer empathy.

“If we could see, hear, smell, touch, and feel what people are experiencing, I believe we would live differently,” she says. “[Like] Cecilia Razovsky, who was a great advocate for refugee resettlement and services during World War II when Americans were resistant to immigration in ways that are very similar to what is happening today, [we should recognize that], ‘When you are asked to help in the cause, bear these things in mind and say with others- There but for the grace of God, go I!’ Elizabeta Jevtic-Somlai, visiting professor of political science, adds, in a recent BYU Magazine article, “Look at refugees as human beings, not as a service project. If you want to extend yourself, be a real friend and be there. Do small, consistent acts rather than a one-time project. Really assess, ‘What can I do?’ and ‘What am I willing to do?’ If you can do more, a practical way to help is to create opportunities for self-reliance.”

For that very purpose, a club has been organized at BYU, to help BYU students empower refugees.

Join the Refugee Empowerment Club

14495385_615473538613308_7091328931985394175_nThe Refugee Empowerment Club offers students the opportunity to become aware of the refugee crisis in Utah and around the globe.  It also gives students opportunities to serve refugees.  The goal of the club is to change the community in to a more understanding, unified, and empowering place to thrive. Dr. Shaw said of the club, “It is great to see students interested in learning more about refugee issues and finding ways to serve.”

Students Norma Villenueva and Rachel McAllister created the club to help students know where to start in supporting refugees.

“We realized there wasn’t one source for students who want to get involved in refugee resettlement and the issues with that,” says McAllister, “So we started researching and compiling those resources and were connected with some other individuals who wanted to create a formal organization.” The Refugee Empowerment Club meets twice a month on Wednesdays in the FLAC in the basement of the JFSB.  One meeting will be the speaker series (mentioned below). The other meeting is an involvement activity. The club helped with the Spice Kitchen Incubator project for the International Refugee Committee.  They also had a refugee cultural night. The club’s involvement activities are chosen based on the refugee’s current needs and the interests of the club members. The Refugee Empowerment Club has the following events in the works:

  • a cultural night in collaboration with SID on Thursday, November 17
  • a refugee-run catering service where participants can buy the cultural foods sold by refugees
  • an evening to write letters to Congress and the UN to urge better human rights practices related to refugee resettlement
  • a benefit concert to raise money for refugees (Fall 2017)

The Refugee Empowerment Club will begin a speaker series about the refugee crisis.  In the series, a member of main organizations in refugee resettlement and assistance in Utah, or refugees themselves, speak about specific refugee issues, their organization, and how to get involved.  The first speaker will be the director of the Women of the World organization, Samira Harnish.  She will speak about what it’s like to be a refugee, and especially the experience of female refugees.  Harnish’s speech will be on November 30 from 7:00-8:30 p.m. in Kennedy Center’s main conference room.

chain-690088_1280If participating in any of the club’s activities is not a possibility for you, you could consider these opportunities as well: