Read With Us! Faculty and Staff Recommend Great Summer Reads for Social Scientists

We invited faculty and staff in the College of Family, Home, and Social Sciences to share what they’ve been reading. Here are their top picks for titles you might enjoy at the beach as well as those that will keep your brain thinking. Scroll through the recommendations and find what interests you.

Dean’s Office

The Story of Arthur Truluv

by Elizabeth Berg

Recommended by Laura Padilla-Walker, Dean

The story of an unlikely friendship between Arthur Moses, an elderly man who lost his wife, Maddy Harris, an introverted girl trying to escape the kids at school, and Lucille, the spinster neighbor who loves to bake. Berg’s novel explores human connection amidst love, loss, and self-discovery.

A Man Called Ove

by Fredrik Backman

Recommended by Laura Padilla-Walker, Dean

Ove is the classic cranky old man next door, but he is so much more than he appears. In this funny and charming first novel, Swedish columnist Fredrik Backman explores the influence one life can have on many others.

The Tea Master and the Detective

Recommended by Mikaela Dufur, Associate Dean

“Futuristic Sherlock Holmes-esque mystery where ‘Sherlock’ is a prickly female scholar and ‘Watson’ is a sentient spaceship. You read that right. Novelette set in the author’s broader Xuya Universe.”

Fearing the Black Body

by Sabrina Strings

Recommended by Mikaela Dufur, Associate Dean

“Compelling argument that changes in ‘fashion’ that have been converted to health assumptions are connected to ideas of racial inferiority.”

I’m Still Here: Black Dignity in a World Made for Whiteness

by Austin Channing Brown

Recommended by Lita LIttle Giddins, Assistant Dean for Diversity, Collaboration, and Inclusion

Austin Channing Brown’s first encounter with a racialized America came at age seven, when she discovered her parents named her Austin to deceive future employers into thinking she was a white man. Growing up in majority-white schools and churches, Austin writes, “I had to learn what it means to love blackness,” a journey that led to a lifetime spent navigating America’s racial divide as a writer, speaker, and expert helping organizations practice genuine inclusion.”

Listen, Learn & Love

by Richard H. Ostler

Recommended by Lita Little Giddins, Assistant Dean for Diversity, Collaboration, and Inclusion

Former YSA bishop Richard Ostler seeks to help his readers understand the experiences of LGBTQ Latter-day Saints through hundreds of true stories. An extension of the Listen, Learn & Love podcast.

A Place for Us: A Novel

by Fatima Farheen Mirza

Recommended by Jordan Karpowitz, Assistant Dean for Communications and External Relations

This novel is the story of an Indian-American Muslim family and the bonds that hold them together as well as the differences that pull them apart. It is heart-wrenching — just as every family story is. But the religious practices and beliefs of this family make the story especially poignant for similarly religious Latter-day Saint families that also wrestle with love, compassion, faith, and forgiveness.”

Becoming

by Michelle Obama

Recommended by Jordan Karpowitz, Assistant Dean for Communications and External Relations

“I love biographical stories about women and thinking about how the stories of different women’s lives are told. I love the framework for this book: Becoming Me, Becoming Us, and Becoming More. It’s such a familiar and universal path for women especially as they move through seasons of their lives — discovering themselves while connecting with others. I think that particularly female students in the college will appreciate reading about Michelle’s educational journey (she majored in sociology and minored in African-American studies) and career path, as well as how she balanced career and family.”

Experiential Education in the College Context

by Jay W. Roberts

Recommended by Danny Damron, Assistant Dean for Experiential Education and Professional Development

“I like Experiential Education in the College Context by Jay Roberts. It outlines the basics of experiential education as a pedagogical approach. It asks that we adopt the experiential learning (ExL) cycle and structure learning with intention, reflection, and integration. My approach to professional development is deeply influenced by the ExL principles Roberts advocates.”

Crucial Conversations

by Kerry Patterson, Joseph Grenny, Ron McMillan, and Al Switzler

Recommended by Carina Alleman, Administrative Assistant to the Dean

“I would highly recommend Crucial Conversations: Tools for Talking When Stakes are High. It teaches how to approach people and have important conversations and discussions, even when things are hard and, like the title says, when the stakes are high. I find it especially important to learn these skills in the world of today, when things are so polarized and people are on very opposite sides. For a non-confrontational person like me, this book was invaluable in helping me learn to not avoid certain topics and to bridge the gaps with loved ones, colleagues, and friends.”

Archaeology

The Maya

by Michael D. Coe and Stephen Houston

Recommended by Dr. John Clark

“It’s a general introduction to one of the major civilizations in the Americas, and it is a very well-illustrated, comfortable read for the non-specialist.

Civic Engagement

Politics is for Power

by Eitan Hersh

Recommended by Dr. Quin Monson, Director of Civic Engagement and Dr. Jay Goodliffe, Department Chair of Political Science

“(The book) provides motivation and concrete ideas for anyone who wants to be more involved in civic life. Hersh equates what he calls ‘political hobbyism’ to treating politics the way many of us treat sports teams. We like to watch and talk about them and we too easily substitute time spent consuming current events and talking about it (including social media posts) to more meaningful activities that will actually lead to meaningful change. The book is very readable and is filled with examples of meaningful ways to make a difference, especially at the local level.”

Economics

Capitalism and Freedom

by Milton Friedman

Recommended by Dr. Mark Showalter

“Written by perhaps the most influential economist in the second half of the 20th century. Outlines the case for classical economics as the underpinning of a democratic society.”

The Undercover Economist

by Tim Harford

Recommended by Dr. Mark Showalter

“Lots of interesting stories where economics helps understand behavior. Writer of an economics column for the Financial Times.”

Family History

The Spiritual Practice of Remembering

by Margaret Bendroth

Recommended by Dr. Amy Harris

Amazon Review: “A splendidly written summons for us to remember and honor the past. We often dismiss history as dull or irrelevant, but our modern disengagement from the past puts us fundamentally out of step with the long witness of the Christian tradition. Yet, says Margaret Bendroth, the past tense is essential to our language of faith, and without it our conversation is limited and thin. This accessible, beautifully written book presents a new argument for honoring the past. The Christian tradition gives us the powerful image of a vast communion of saints, all of God’s people, both living and dead, in vital conversation with each other. This kind of connection with our ancestors in the faith, Bendroth maintains, will not happen by wishing or by accident. She argues that remembering must become a regular spiritual practice, part of the rhythm of our daily lives as we recognize our world to be, in many ways, a gift from others who have gone before.”

The Family: A World History

by Mary Jo Maynes & Ann Waltner

Recommended by Dr. Amy Harris

Amazon Review: “Mary Jo Maynes and Ann Waltner tell the story of this fundamental unit from the beginnings of domestication and human settlement. They consider the codification of rules governing marriage in societies around the ancient world, the changing conceptions of family wrought by the heightened pace of colonialism and globalization in the modern world, and how state policies shape families today.”

Family Life

General Conference Talks & BYU Speeches

Recommended by Erin Holmes, Director of the School of Family Life

Instead of recommending a book, I echo an invitation offered by President M. Russell Ballard.  He said,  “I invite you to look deep in your souls and ask how you can fulfill your purpose of being a child of God by loving the Lord and loving your neighbor more faithfully than you ever have before. . . . You might best accomplish this by finding some quiet time in which you can think through where you are with your relationship with Heavenly Father and His Son and His Church. At different times in the Savior’s life, He took opportunities to be alone to ponder and pray. I invite you to spend some time in the next few days to be alone in a quiet place to commune with your Heavenly Father and learn how to better understand and serve each other by helping and lifting each other.”

Students, as you take this time, I also invite you to consider reading and pondering the following recent General Conference talks, BYU devotionals, and Ensign articles that speak to understanding, serving, helping, and lifting each other. This is by no means an exhaustive list, but it represents some of the talks I have been pondering recently.

The All-or-Nothing Marriage

by Eli J. Finkel

Recommended by Dr. Alan Hawkins

From Amazon: Eli J. Finkel’s insightful and ground-breaking investigation of marriage clearly shows that the best marriages today are better than the best marriages of earlier eras. Indeed, they are the best marriages the world has ever known. He presents his findings here for the first time in this lucid, inspiring guide to modern marital bliss.

A Time to Build

by Yuval Levin

Recommended by Dr. Alan Hawkins

Amazon Review: Levin argues, now is not a time to tear down, but rather to build and rebuild by committing ourselves to the institutions around us. From the military to churches, from families to schools, these institutions provide the forms and structures we need to be free. By taking concrete steps to help them be more trustworthy, we can renew the ties that bind Americans to one another.

The Secret History of Home Economics

by Danielle Dreilinger

Recommended by Natalie Hancock, Director of Family and Consumer Sciences Education

The New York Times: Dreilinger’s carefully researched homage to a field that is often belittled chronicles its origins in practical science and its key role in establishing nutritional standards, the federal poverty line, radio programming and more. “Dreilinger chronicles home ec’s decline beginning in the 1960s and its frantic efforts to reinvent itself,” Virginia Postrel writes in her review, fondly recalling her own time in a middle school home ec classroom. “Learning how to cook and sew — to make useful physical objects with sensory appeal — was deeply satisfying for a 12-year-old bookworm. It’s the same satisfaction that animates the contemporary maker movement. … Integrate some electronics and carpentry and you’ll have a hit.

Geography

Come Follow Me: Doctrine and Covenants

Recommended by Daniel Olsen, Department Chair of Geography

“There’s so many other good books out there, but we should be reading from the best book…I would do the Doctrine and Covenants Come Follow Me but I would then try to read at least a few verses of the Book of Mormon. We learn by study but also by faith. If we’re so focused on study and we’re not studying by faith, we’re not going to get out of our classes what we need to get out of them. If you’re not going to read during the summer, at minimum, read your scriptures.”

History

Walking With the Wind

by John Lewis, with Michael D’Orso

Recommended by Dr. Rebecca DeSchweinitz

“John Lewis’s autobiography, Walking with the Wind: A Memoir of the Movement is an award-winning book that gives you a front row seat to the civil rights movement and offers inspiration, understanding, and lessons for our time. Lewis’s story reminds us that we ‘can feel hope and love at the same time as [we] feel anger and a sense of injustice.’ His life shows us the personal and societal transformations that can take place if we allow ourselves to be moved by the ‘spirit of history’ to ‘do our part.'”

Jesus and the Disinherited

by Howard Thurman

Recommended by Dr. Rebecca DeSchweinitz

“I find myself thinking more and more about Howard Thurman’s Jesus and the Disinherited. A mid-century black theologian who greatly influenced the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King. Jr., Thurman shows the significance of Jesus’s life and teachings to the work of antiracism.”

The Bear River Massacre: A Shoshone History

by Darren Parry

Recommended by Jay Buckley, director of the Charles Redd Center for Western Studies and BYU’s American Indian Studies minor.

W. Paul Reeve, author of Religion of a Different Color: Race and the Mormon Struggle for Whiteness.”While never flinching from the realities of Latter-day Saint encroachment on Shoshone land and the racial ramifications of America’s spread westward, Parry offers messages of hope. As storyteller for his people, Parry brings the full weight of Shoshone wisdom to his tales—lessons of peace in the face of violence, of strength in the teeth of annihilation, of survival through change, and of the pliability necessary for cultural endurance…”

Political Science

Why Nations Fail: The Origins of Power, Prosperity, and Poverty

by Daron Acemoglu and James A. Robinson

Recommended by Dr. Darren Hawkins

“It is smart yet readable, with breathtaking scope and insights on many different countries across centuries of time. It helps us understand why the United States is so successful compared to others.”

Twilight of Democracy: The Seductive Lure of Authoritarianism

by Anne Applebaum

Recommended by Jay Goodliffe, Department Chair for Political Science

“From the perspective of a historian of communism in Eastern Europe, this is a book that helps us understand where the United States and other democracies are headed and how to change the trajectory.”

Psychology

Behave

by Robert M. Sapolsky

Recommended by Dr. Rebekka Matheson

“Sapolsky is a vibrant character who writes about behavioral neurobiology in fresh, compelling ways. The book brims with colorful anecdotes, fascinating science, and a writing voice seasoned by a life well-lived.”

Anxious People

by Fredrik Backman

Recommended by Dr. Ben Ogles

“If the students prefer a light distracting summer read that is entertaining, I would recommend Anxious People: A Novel by Fredrik Backman. It’s a fun book and easy read with interesting characters and quirky Scandinavian humor.”

Social Work

Somewhere in the Unknown World

by Kao Kalia Yang

Recommended by Dr. Stacey Shaw

“I would recommend two books by Kao Kalia Yang, “Somewhere in the Unknown World,” and “The Latehomecomer.” Yang came to the United States as a child with her family and community of Hmong refugees. She visited BYU and spoke a few years ago.”

Sociology

The Sum of Us

by Heather McGhee

Recommended by Dr. Jacob Rugh

From Amazon: One of today’s most insightful and influential thinkers offers a powerful exploration of inequality and the lesson that generations of Americans have failed to learn: Racism has a cost for everyone — not just for people of color.

How Beautiful We Were

by Imbolo Mbue

Recommended by faculty in the Sociology Department

“Mbue is a Cameroonian author who artfully describes how a young woman inspires her small African village to stand against an American oil company. Set in the fictional village of Kosawa, ‘How Beautiful We Were’ illustrates how colonial legacies and corporate greed continue to threaten communities, and how people can come together to resist these global forces.”

Share your favorite reads with us @byufhss.

College Invites Collaboration with Three New Assistant Deans

The College of Family, Home, and Social Sciences has three new assistant deans: Danny Damron (BA ’92) for experiential education and professional development, Jordan Karpowitz (BA ’92) for communications and external relations and Lita Little Giddins (BA ’92, MSW ’95) for diversity, collaboration and inclusion.

Outgoing Dean Ben Ogles says he wants to establish a solid team for incoming Dean Laura Padilla-Walker to support her in moving the work of the college forward.

The appointments change the landscape of the dean’s office. The assistant dean position formerly held by Scott Dunaway, director of Washington Seminar who retired, has been expanded from overseeing internships to improving experiential learning in the college generally. Communications and diversity and inclusion were elevated to assistant dean positions.

Padilla-Walker says the reconfiguration of college leadership will invite more collaboration.

“For example, under this new system, all of the college leadership will be informed to some degree regarding experiential education, communications, and diversity and inclusion, where in the past we have been a bit more siloed,” she says. “This will take two things we care about deeply — experiential education and diversity and inclusion — and allow the vision of these efforts to be incorporated and communicated in a way that will influence everything we do at the college level.”

Damron, the new assistant dean for experiential education and professional development, says he wants to improve the way students view internships.

Danny Damron recently joined the Dean’s Office as assistant dean for experiential education and professional development.

“Primarily, my focus is on repurposing and recalibrating the internship experience in ways that make it more valuable, so what a student gets out of the internship adds value to their growing professional direction,” he says.

Damron formerly was responsible for internships in the BYU College of Humanities. He has a doctorate degree in political science from Purdue University and taught in the political science department at BYU for four years, during which time he established the Scottish Parliament internship program. His professional background also includes directing the international centers at Utah Valley University and Oregon State University.

Damron says he wants to help students be proactive in developing transferrable skills and be able to articulate the relevance of those skills to future employers, rather than just checking an internship off on a resume. He believes students in the college have unique knowledge from social sciences they can use to add value to their internship experiences, beyond making copies and calls.

Damron sees experiential learning as a collaborative effort incorporating faculty and curriculum in the college.

Karpowitz’s role of communications and external relations was created to increase the college’s visibility, according to Ogles. Karpowitz has a degree in communications with an emphasis in public relations and brings 25 years of public relations and marketing communications experience to the role. She hopes to be effective in sharing the stories of human connection that emerge from faculty research and student learning.

Jordan Karpowitz is the assistant dean for communications and external relations.

“Across the many departments and schools in the college, there is a common thread of studying how humans interact with each other and with institutions — how we care for each other and learn from each other— that unites the disciplines,” says Karpowitz. “Focusing on these similarities will help create a stronger purpose across the college that will better unite students, faculty, and alumni in accomplishing the mission of the university and the aims of a BYU education.”

Karpowitz’s role will focus on building the college brand across student, faculty, and alumni audiences. She is eager to develop more ways to help people engage with social sciences and understand how the disciplines can benefit them in their careers and their lives.

Karpowitz’s professional background includes working for technology, pharmaceutical, and consumer products corporations. She also has several years of agency experience and has retained her own clients including Northwestern Mutual and Coursera.

Ogles said elevating Giddins’ role of diversity and inclusion to assistant dean was an important strategic move.

“Promoting Giddins to an assistant dean is a sign that our executive team wants to communicate that this is an important part of our college,” Ogles says. “Diversity, collaboration, and inclusion needs to be a central focus of everything we do.”

Lita Little Giddins is the assistant dean for diversity, collaboration, and inclusion.

Giddins joined The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints at age eighteen and served in the England Leeds Mission between 1986-1987. She has a bachelor’s degree in socio-cultural anthropology and a master’s degree in social work from Brigham Young University and is a licensed clinical social worker. She says coming to BYU was an answer to heartfelt prayer.

“I did pray that Father in Heaven would use all the bits of me, all the parts of me: my race, my culture, my ethnicity, my gender, my education, my life experiences, my conversion to the gospel, mission experiences — every single thing — for His use,” she says. “I wanted to continue as we do in the mission field, which the world is, to help in the gathering and to invite people to come closer to Jesus.”

Giddins says pain she has experienced in the past prepared her for her role.

“I know that everyone has healing to do,” she says. “That’s how I approach this work, that’s how I approach individuals. Especially when it gets hard. There is healing that needs to happen in the lives of individuals, in the hearts and souls of individuals.”

Stepping outside her comfort zone to accept the position of assistant dean helps Giddins empathize with students, who are often asked to do hard things.

When asked what strengths she brings to her new position, Giddins laughed. “I bring Jesus,” she says with a smile. “He is my strength.”

Professors Honored with National and University Awards

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

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, 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.

Erin Holmes will serve as Director of the School of Family Life beginning July 1. (Aislynn Edwards)

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.”

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, Sociology (left); Lars Lefgren, Economics (center); and Daniel Olsen, Geography (right) will begin serving as department chairs this summer.

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.

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.

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

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.”

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.