Professors Honored at Both University and National Levels

Multiple professors in the College of Family, Home, and Social Sciences were recently recognized with awards and honors, both on a national scale and at the university level.

2021 Career Enhancement Fellowship

On May 5, the Institute for Citizens and Scholars announced their 2021 Career Enhancement Fellows. Among the 39 chosen recipients of this honor is David-James Gonzales, assistant professor in the Department of History.

Gonzales was named a 2021 Career Enhancement Fellow.

Gonzales is one of twenty-one six-month fellows from a highly competitive pool of applicants working on research projects, according to a press release. His project is a book about Mexican-American grassroots politics that challenged efforts to segregate and marginalize their Orange County communities in the first half of the twentieth century. 

The Career Enhancement Fellowship entails a six-month or one-year sabbatical stipend of up to $30,000, a research/travel/publication stipend of up to $1,500, mentoring and participation in a professional development retreat. For his sabbatical, Gonzales intends to spend three weeks in Southern California conducting research, then use the remainder of his six months writing the final chapters of his book.

Career Enhancement Fellows “represent unique perspectives within their disciplines and are committed to increasing diversity and inclusion on campus through service and research,” according to the press release.

“Primarily, I strive to create inclusive spaces in the classroom and across campus where students feel seen, accepted, and supported,” Gonzales said. “I do this by centering my teaching on diverse perspectives and experiences and promoting dialogue in the classroom. I believe the university classroom is such an important space for us to be able to learn from and about each other, as well as those we know little about.”

As part of a minority within academia, he said, “One of the major challenges faced by underrepresented faculty (and students) is the feeling or expectation that you somehow represent or speak for an entire community of people that ‘look like you.’”

Despite this pressure, however, Gonzales also said he feels support from fellow faculty on campus.

“My colleagues in the history department (and several others throughout the college) have been so welcoming and supportive from day one,” he said. “I feel like they have embraced the expertise and approach I bring to serving, teaching, and researching. I also cherish the close relationships I’ve built with so many students, especially BIPOC and LGBTQ+ students. Their support and appreciation for my work at BYU means everything to me.”

Gonzales serves as the faculty advisor for the BYUSA Hispanos Unidos club, a member of the Diversity, Collaboration, and Inclusion faculty advisory committee for the college, chair of the Civil Rights Seminar committee, and a member of the General Education Design Committee Task Force on Diversity.

2020 Inspired Learning Awards

Faculty in the college are also being recognized on the BYU campus. During the Fall 2020 semester, students were encouraged to nominate outstanding faculty and staff for Inspired Learning Awards. Nominees were pivotal to students’ career progress and development of lifelong-learning skills, according to the Experiential Learning and Internships website. Two professors in the college, Sarah Coyne, associate director for the School of Family Life, and Wendy Sheffield, field faculty in the School of Social Work, received Inspiring Learning Awards.

Sarah Coyne was awarded a Career Champion Award.

Coyne received a Career Champion Award. Recipients of this award were exceptionally influential in helping students reach a significant career path milestone. A student who nominated Coyne said she “inspired me to find issues that I am passionate about and begin contributing to knowledge about them even as an undergraduate.”

“Her research and career inspired me to see how I could make a positive impact in the lives of women and girls,” another student said.

Sheffield received an Experiential Learning Award, meaning she inspired students through co-curricular experiences that promoted good life habits or life-long learning.

Wendy Sheffield received an Experiential Learning Award.

 “Professor Sheffield led our cohort to experiential learning that was just right for each of us,” a student said.

Additional faculty in the college were also nominated for Inspiring Learning Awards. For the Experiential Learning Award, these included Alex Jensen, Curtis Child, Daniel Olsen Gantt, Jared Warren, Joseph Price, Larry Nelson, Leslie Hadfield, Lucy Williams, Mark Butler, Niwako Yamawaki, Stacey Shaw, Stewart Anderson, Tammy Hill, and Wade Jacoby. For the Career Champion Award, Darren Hawkins, Dawn Marie Wood, Joseph Price, Natalie Romeri-Lewis, and Tammy Hill received nominations.

2020 General Education Professorship

Larry Nelson was awarded the 2020 General Education Professorship.

Larry Nelson, a professor in the School of Family Life, was recently awarded the 2020 General Education Professorship for his work teaching SFL 210: Human Development.

“Nelson represents the best in faculty who teach for the General Education Program,” Christopher Oscarson, Undergraduate Education associate dean, said.

Annually, one professor, nominated by their colleagues, is chosen for this professorship that lasts for three years and includes a yearly stipend of $4,000 and an additional $4,000 annually for research.

New Director and Department Chairs Announced

Spencer W. Kimball Tower (Nate Edwards, BYU Photo)

The College of Family, Home, and Social Sciences announced a new director for the School of Family Life and four new department chairs last week.

Erin Holmes will serve as director of the School of Family Life, Curtis Child will serve as department chair of the sociology department, Lars Lefgren as department chair of economics, Daniel Olsen as department chair of geography, and Jay Goodliffe as department chair of political science. Each has been appointed for a three-year term.

New chairs will be guided by the university’s five-year strategic objectives, which include pursuing the Inspiring Learning initiative, increasing enrollment, and promoting a sense of belonging among all members of the campus community. They will also focus on specific issues raised by members of their respective departments.

Holmes was formerly an associate director in the school and will begin her tenure as director on July 1. Dean Ben Ogles said Holmes is a good fit for the next phase of the school’s journey, which includes a commitment to diversity and inclusion and leading “out on studying and teaching about diverse families across national, ethnic, and racial groups from within a gospel perspective that emphasizes Proclamation principles,” according to an email from Ogles.

Holmes played a central role in the creation of the school’s diversity and inclusion statement and encouraged everyone in the School of Family Life to read it and approach her with ideas, concerns, and questions to help foster “unity amid diversity.” She also said she is committed to counsel from Jean B. Bingham, general president of the Relief Society, to “extend an open hand and heart” to create “a safe place for sharing, a safe place to grow, a safe place to become our best selves.”

Erin Holmes will serve as director of the School of Family Life beginning July 1. (Aislynn Edwards, BYU Photo)

Child, associate professor of sociology, teaches courses in economic sociology and qualitative research methods, and studies nonprofit organizations, businesses, fair trade, and the morals/markets branch of economic sociology. Under his leadership, the Sociology Department will seek to address several objectives, including becoming a source of information on current social issues. “We potentially have a big role to play and we need to figure out how to do so,” Ogles said, summarizing statements by faculty members.

Child said he is excited to work with talented faculty in his department. “I feel like part of my role, a big part of my role, is just to help them in doing the good things they are already intending to do,” he said.

Curtis Child will begin his tenure as department chair of sociology July 1. (Leah Kelson, BYU Photo)

Lefgren, Camilla Eyring Kimball professor of economics, specializes in applied microeconomics, including research on the American educational system. He is a research fellow with The Institute of Labor Economics and a research associate with the National Bureau of Economic Research. He will begin his tenure July 1.

Lars Lefgren will chair the economics department beginning July 1. (Claire Gentry, BYU Photo)

Olsen, professor of geography, who began his tenure as chair of the geography department on May 1, said he wants to make geography more visible on campus.

“A lot of people think geography is just about memorizing place names and capital cities and that sort of thing,” he said. “Geography is much more encompassing than Trivial Pursuit.”

Olsen said another one of his priorities is engaging students in the classroom through the Inspiring Learning initiative and experiential learning.

“It takes a lot of training, it takes a lot of work, it takes a lot of working together to try to inspire each of us to be a little bit better with all the things we have to do as professors,” Olsen said. He said he is humbled by and excited about the opportunity.

Daniel Olsen became department chair for geography May 1. (BYU Photo)

Goodliffe, professor of political science, will begin his tenure remotely from Washington, D.C. where he is directing the Washington Seminar program through summer term. His research interests include congressional campaigns and elections, legislative discipline, interest groups, international human rights treaties, and political methodology.

“It is humbling to be chair because previous chairs have led the department so well. Our department has outstanding students, strong staff, and wonderful faculty that are recognized in the profession for their achievements,” Goodliffe said. “I want to help our students and faculty continue to succeed and achieve even more.”

Jay Goodliffe will chair the political science department beginning July 1.

Ogles thanked the new chairs and new director for their willingness to sacrifice time and professional aspirations in order to lead their respective departments.

Ogles also gave a heartfelt thanks to the previous department chairs for their service: Alan Hawkins, who served as director of the School of Family Life for three years; Rick Miller, department chair of sociology for six years; Mark Showalter, department chair of economics for five years; Ryan Jensen, department chair of geography for nine years; and Sven Wilson, department chair of political science for seven years.

5 Keys to Winning the Game of Life

Setema Gali Delivers Convocation Address

BYU Alumnus Setema Gali Speaks at 2021 Convocation

BYU alumnus Setema Gali (BS Sociology ‘01, MPA ‘14) told students that 20 years ago when he graduated, he never could have imagined coming back to his alma mater and speaking to over 1,500 graduates. Gali was the speaker for the 2021 convocation for the College of Family, Home, and Social Sciences.

The former NFL player and best-selling author shared five things he wishes he had known when graduating from college.

Key #1 Get Clear (Crystal Clear) About the Life You Want to Live 

Setema explained that clarity is power and if you lack clarity you might end up in a destination that you had no desire to be at. He said, “No one leaves Brigham Young University and says I can’t wait to be miserable, unhappy, emotionally bankrupt and spiritually out of alignment. But if we’re not careful and we don’t get clear, we end up there.” He asked students to consider how clear they are about the life they want to live, “Does your heart and your soul call to you today? If it does, I invite you to listen.”  

Setema encouraged students to gain a clear understanding of who they want to be, how they want to interact with others, and what type of contributions they want to make.  

Key #2 Be Prepared for Adversity 

Setema shared a difficult experience of becoming bankrupt and being evicted from his home. During this challenging time, he found himself looking to the heavens and asking, “God, where are you?” Setema decided to sell his Super Bowl ring in order to provide for his family. He faced emotional, spiritual and financial trials but he learned to use his struggles to propel him forward. He encouraged students, “Don’t let these trials crush you but use them as stepping stones to help you get to the next level.” He shared with students the teachings he learned from his professors, teammates and coaches at BYU that God can consecrate trials for our good.  

Key #3 Go All In 

As Setema reached his mid thirties he was still struggling to make ends meet and provide for his wife and two sons. He took three summers and knocked doors despite feeling embarrassed and humiliated. He went all in to help his family. Setema reminded students of the blessings from working hard, “Whatever you do, whatever responsibility you have, God will bless you for going all in.” 

Key #4 Have Fun 

While Setema was knocking doors during the summers, he learned how to have fun. He shared the scripture, “Men are that they might have joy.” Setema emphasized that it’s important to enjoy life and that everything isn’t as serious as a Super Bowl game.  

Key #5 Exercise Faith in God 

As Setema reflected back on his life he saw God’s hand in the intimate details of his life. He shared, “We can do so much more with our life when God is a part of it than when he’s not.” He promised students that has they put God first everything else happens the way it’s supposed to.

Setema concluded his message by emphasizing the purpose of a BYU education. He shared, “We came here to learn, grow, and become so we can enter into the world and make a lasting impact.” 

Watch the full address and department programs here and then check out the profiles of our impressive graduates.

FHSS Student Spotlight: George Garcia III

Ecomonics valedictorian eager to do the most good 

George Garcia, valedictorian for the Economics Department, is a first-generation college student who came to BYU without any real understanding of what he was getting himself in to — he says he didn’t even know what “major” meant. He started in a track for international relations, moved to seminary teaching, then switched to political science, and ended with a double major in economics and math. For George, math gives him the tools to more fully understand economics, where his true passion lies.  

George’s passion for learning was ignited by Darrin Hawkins in POLI 200. Professor Hawkins showed George that the point of college wasn’t just to take in existing knowledge but to create and discover knowledge. That’s when he realized that he could generate knowledge himself, instead of just consuming it. Since then, George has helped in a number of research projects involving both political science and economics. 

George’s passion for economics stems from his belief in a higher moral obligation to do the “most good” with the blessings he has received. Looking around at the blessings that students at BYU enjoy, George sees an obligation to take our privileges and use them to bless the lives of those less fortunate. He says economics provides “a beautiful framework to take resources and do the ‘most good’ with it.” The field gives a base of knowledge on which to build a life of service. 

Looking back on his time at BYU, George remembers fondly the time he spent working on his Honor’s Thesis, which explored the effect of air pollution on people’s expressed sentiment on Twitter. He was able to work for professor Arden Pope as a research assistant for this project. Together they wrote a paper that they hope to publish in the near future. The process of taking an idea and creating something useful with it excites George.  

George will be working as a pre-doctoral research fellow at Stanford Law School studying disability and labor policy. He hopes to go on to get a Ph.D. in economics and spend his life trying to learn how to do the “most good,” whether that path leads further in academia or takes him somewhere else.  

For all the students that will follow in George’s footsteps, he asks that they remember that “no matter the field, it won’t be whole.” There are still discoveries to be made, experiments to be conducted, questions to be asked. He urges students to find ways to look at the world differently and ask seek opportunities to contribute to the wealth of collective knowledge.  

George believes in BYU’s motto: “Enter to learn; go forth to serve.” Beyond just our ability to help, we have a moral duty to lift the burdens of others with the many blessings we have received. An education is more than generating new knowledge, it is building a life that is capable of doing the “most good.”  

Senior Spotlight: Beth O’Brien

Graduate in Social Work promotes systems of support for new mothers

Beth O’Brien April 6, 2021 Photography by Rebeca Fuentes/BYU © BYU PHOTO 2021

As a mother of six, Beth O’Brien has a particular passion for new motherhood and believes there is a substantial lack of postpartum care for women in the United States. From her own experience, Beth understands the value of good postpartum care as well as the challenge of being without sufficient support.  

Beth had originally planned on pursuing a route in marriage and family therapy until she met Dean Barley from the Comprehensive Clinic, who directed her to social work; the program was a perfect fit.  

From the beginning, Beth threw herself into her studies and tried to soak in all of the information she could. She wants students who follow her to know, “Don’t worry about what has passed or even what is next, but be as present as you can in your program. Know that you are qualified to be here and at the end of it, you will be qualified to practice where you choose.” 

For Beth, the next step is just up the road from her home, at the Crossroads to Wellness clinic. There, she will be practicing trauma-informed therapy with an attachment focus, as well as teaching workshops for new mothers and fathers. Her work will put her in contact with children, adolescents, and adults in individual and family settings. The flexibility of her new role will allow her to engage in clinical practice part-time while still successfully supporting her family. 

Beth looks back fondly on her time as a graduate student and the systems of support she benefited from saying, “The professors and the hands-on access to mentorship from such phenomenal people was one of a kind and exceeded any expectation I had.” BYU’s emphasis on experiential learning allowed Beth to work alongside exceptional students and instructors in developing her skills, which is especially helpful for practice-oriented fields like social work. 

Beth also enjoyed her time as an intern at New Roads Behavioral Health and the Green House Center for Growth and Learning. Both have helped her “feel prepared to enter this field and hit the ground running.” She was grateful for support during her internships from the Marjorie Pay Hinckley endowment and also credits the generous financial support she received from BYU’s single parent scholarship.

Beth says, “I have loved everything about my graduate experience.” We are honored to now call Beth one of our many talented alumni and look forward to seeing how she uses her education to bless the lives of many in the community — including her own and her family’s. 

Senior Spotlight: Savannah Melvin

International experiences are driving this anthropology grad to right injustices around the world

Anthropology Senior – Savannah Melvin

Savannah Melvin was raised in Sri Lanka, Thailand and Zimbabwe. Having experienced different cultures and seeing lots of injustice, she feels it’s her moral responsibility to do something that will contribute back and make a difference for people.

For her senior thesis project, Savannah traveled to Ecuador to study its medical culture. Savannah spent two months in midwife clinics and hospitals around the country. As she compared healing practices in Ecuador and America, she recognized important differences. “I realized that Ecuadorians used what we would think of as non-traditional medicine but what they consider traditional,” she says.

Savannah also traveled to Rwanda as part of a study abroad. She worked with genocide-affected women and children. The experience developed even more compassion in her. She explains, “It drove me to want to make a difference because I was surrounded by people who were doing amazing things to help this population who went through so much.”

Savannah’s undergraduate experiences in the Anthropology program and at BYU have shaped her passion to defend human rights and refugees. She says that she chose to study anthropology because she wants to do something multiculturally based to lay a foundation to practice law in a multicultural setting.

Savannah plans to apply to Harvard Law School next year with the hopes of becoming an international lawyer to right some of the injustice she’s witnessed around the world.

Senior Spotlight: Breeze Parker

Studying Tongan culture helps anthropology grad identify family glue

Anthropology Senior – Breeze Parker

As part of her senior thesis project, Breeze studied three huge kinship groups totaling 100 individuals (some online and some in-person) last summer. All of the families practiced honoring the fahu, which in Tongan culture is your father’s oldest sister. The fahu is an important kinship role and considered the matriarch of the family. Fahus historically dictated many things in the family including who her kinship could marry.  

Breeze noticed how the practice of fahus is dying out. During her research, she discovered the  importance of fahus in present day Tongan families. “Fahus are the glue for the intergenerational idea of family,” says Breeze. She analyzed how Tongan families include all extended family where as an American family is mostly comprised of the nuclear family.  

Breeze chose to study anthropology because she loves diverse groups of people. After graduating in April, Breeze will attend BYU Law School to become an immigration lawyer. She feels her studies have prepared her for her future career in many ways and says “Anthropology is all about getting to know people on their terms. It’s nice because as a lawyer, I will have an anthropologic perspective and desire to understand what my clients are going through.” 

Breeze grew up in Hawaii and felt it was difficult to find her place when she first came to BYU in Provo. She reflects, “I found out what it was like to be a minority on campus and sometimes it was hard to relate to people.”  

Breeze was able to find her place participating in the BYU Polynesian Club. She also felt a sense of acceptance when she started the anthropology program. “My peers and professors made me feel like I was at home.” 

Senior Spotlight: Brayton Bate

Anthropology grad uncovers moral divide Arab-Americans see between themselves and other Americans 

Anthropology Senior – Brayton Bate

Graduating senior Brayton Bate sat in the living rooms of many Arab-American families in Utah, studying how they viewed Americans and American culture. In dinner conversations he learned that the way Arabs distinguish between themselves and Americans is moral in nature. He reports, “It’s about ethics. It’s not about skin color or even religion.”  

Brayton observed how Arab-Americans in Utah understand the ethnic divide between themselves and Americans to be a moral divide. As Brayton discussed the differences between the two cultures with one Arab woman, she said that from her perspective Americans value their career and productive schedules more than relationships. She felt Arabs, on the other hand, prioritize community over autonomy.  

One thing that surprised Brayton during his research was the affinity that Arab-Americans had for members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. He says that the families he talked to respected and loved members of the church in Utah because of how closely related their conduct is to Islam. Brayton shares, “They do not feel that way about other churches and they’re very clear about it.”  

Brayton choose to study anthropology because he wanted to perform his own ethnographic research, “I thought it was a unique opportunity to be able to spend time on the ground in the trenches of people — recording, taking pictures and videos. It’s very similar to work you would do on a graduate level.”  

Brayton loved his time in the anthropology program and how he was able to learn to interact with people in a candid way in order to collect data. Brayton shares the importance of removing personal bias, “You can’t impose your personal beliefs on data, but rather, you collect and publish data based on what the data is saying instead of what you want to say.”  

Reflecting upon his senior research project, Brayton said he gained humility. “Spending time with people and performing research doesn’t necessarily make you an expert.” 

Brayton’s father is a Palestinian immigrant who came to the United States. After Brayton graduates, he plans to apply for foreign policy internships in the Middle East and eventually live and work there. 

Senior Spotlight: Samantha Snow

Anthropology grad studies impact of Zoom turning Provo apartments into college classrooms

Anthropology Senior – Samantha Snow

While Zoom has worked well in lessening the spread of COVID-19 on college campuses, it has had detrimental effects on students’ ability to engage with their classes and connect with classmates and professors.  

For Samantha’s senior thesis project in the anthropology program, she studied the experiences of BYU students in the summer of 2020, during the largest influx of remote learning that has ever occurred. The students she observed were participating in all their classes via Zoom. Samantha noticed how the pandemic didn’t just ruin things by adding distractions with learning from home, but students were having to control two parts of their lives at once: being a student and whatever they tried to do simultaneously.  

Samantha argues that Zoom shouldn’t be viewed as an equal replacement to in-person courses but as a secondary method of instruction. She explains, “You can’t mute yourself in an in-person interaction, so classroom exchanges are much more genuine. It’s easier to tell the mood of a classroom than a Zoom room, for reasons such as feedback, technological delays, and overall, the simple lack of togetherness-feeling over Zoom.” 

Despite feelings of disconnection, Zoom offers advantages like allowing students to take classes from literally anywhere in the world. It also helps with accessibility issues. Zoom’s closed captioning feature can be added to a recorded meeting and help those who would otherwise need an interpreter.  

After looking at the advantages and disadvantages of Zoom, Samantha notes that many of the successes and failures are at the control of both the student and the professor. 

Tips For Students  

Samantha’s research shows that students need to feel present in their live-streamed classes, even if they’re not physically with their classmates and professor. She saw how difficult it can be to balance two frames of life at once. To combat this, Samantha suggests that students become aware of these contrasting frames and be willing to change, “If students are taking classes at home, there’s nothing they can do about the maintenance workers showing up, but they can try to place themselves in a location that removes them from the most distractions possible.”  

Tips For Professors 

Samantha encourages professors to understand the features of Zoom and use them for the student’s benefit. “The professor, or anyone facilitating a Zoom call, has the chance to make the meeting as engaging as they’d like, but this also requires premeditated effort and training on their behalf,” she says. Professors can also request feedback from students to learn how they can improve and increase engagement. 

Samantha plans to continue pursuing her interest in education and attend Boston College this fall for a master’s program in international higher education. Samantha’s dream is to work in an administrative position at a college or university.  

Samantha is grateful for the anthropology program and how it prepared her for graduate studies. “Anthropology is really broad and some people see that as a downside but it’s really a benefit because you can apply its main focus of understanding people to anything.” 

Senior Spotlight: Jordan Etherington

Family life grad organizes first Springville food pantry for civic engagement capstone

Jordan Etherington cuts ribbon for the grand opening of Springville’s first food pantry

On Saturday, April 10, the Springville community cut the ribbon and opened the door to its first food pantry sponsored by the Kiwanis Club. 

Jordan Etherington, a senior graduating in family life with an emphasis in human development, organized the Springville Food Pantry as part of his civic engagement leadership capstone project. Jordan coordinated efforts between several organizations to make this dream a reality. Jordan worked as a representative of Mountainland Head Start, which provided space for the food pantry at the former Grant School located at 400 East and 100 South in Springville.  

Jordan says Mountainland Head Start plans to turn the school into a community center with the food pantry being its first program. The Kiwanis Club of Springville will operate the pantry as a satellite of the Community Action Services and Food Bank in Provo. Community Action will be providing foodstuffs and other support. The mission of the Springville Food Pantry is to distribute donated food directly to low-income families in the area.  

“I hope this local resource will help individuals and families get through difficult times by providing food and reassurance about where their next meal is coming from,” says Jordan of his efforts.

Jordan chose to participate in the civic engagement leadership minor at BYU because he wanted to be involved in the community. “At first I was a little nervous that the minor was going to be all about political involvement but the program taught me the importance of making connections with community leaders and organizations,” he says. 

Jordan encourages all students to consider participating in the minor as a good way to serve the community and make an impact for good.  

Jordan highlighted the ample opportunities available for BYU students who want to make a difference. “If there is a cause you want to be involved in, just reach out to the organization and see what opportunities they have. They won’t turn you away.” 

Jordan’s plans after graduation are to attend the University of Southern Mississippi in the fall and pursue a Ph.D. in school psychology with an end goal of becoming a therapist for autistic individuals. 

To volunteer at the Springville Kiwanis Club Food Pantry, contact them at springvillekiwanisclub@gmail.com or to find other volunteer opportunities in your area visit https://www.justserve.org/.

Find out more about the Office of Civic Engagement at https://civicengagement.byu.edu/.