Congratulations to all the faculty and staff in the College of Family, Home, and Social Sciences who were recognized with awards from the university and the college. We have an amazing team of people dedicated to delivering the best university education to our students, whether through research, teaching, or providing administrative support. We’re so happy to recognize a few in this way—be sure to stop and offer your congratulations!
AWARDS FROM THE UNIVERSITY
Jan Christensen, School of Family Life
President’s Appreciation Award
Jan Christensen serves her department and the university with distinction. She has mastered the administrative procedures and policies of the university, and her department relies on her to navigate all administrative matters. Christensen is a full team player without an ego who works with faculty and staff in a professional and friendly manner, setting a pleasing tone for the department.
Brenden Rensink, History
Karl G. Maeser Professional Faculty Excellence Award
Brenden W. Rensink is the associate director of the Charles Redd Center for Western Studies. He designs a rich annual program of public lectures and research seminars for the center and manages the center’s research awards, fellowships, and grants. His popular Writing Westward podcast and his student-curated digital history project, Intermountain Histories, make history broadly accessible.
Craig Hart, School of Family Life
Abraham O. Smoot Citizenship Award
Since coming to BYU in 1992, Craig H. Hart has lifted the research and teaching of human development at the university. He has had many noteworthy accomplishments as a scholar, including coediting The Handbook of Childhood and Social Development. Hart has prioritized administrative service for more than 20 years and currently serves as director of the Faculty Center.
Jenny Brooks, Psychology
Adjunct Faculty Excellence Award
Jenny B. Brooks is a talented teacher who goes above and beyond expectations for students and her department. She is dedicated to the aims of a BYU education and uses her class assignments to emphasize these aims. Her students report that her classes build their testimonies and help them become better disciples of Jesus Christ.
Rebekka Matheson, Psychology
Early Career Teaching Award
Rebekka Matheson has established a reputation as a phenomenal and soughtout teacher. She teaches upper-level courses that combine difficult scientific principles, such as physiologic mechanisms and biophysics with behavior. Matheson works hard to create innovative and effective learning opportunities for her students, successfully blending teaching and mentoring.
Wendy Birmingham, Psychology
Early Career Scholarship Award
Wendy C. Birmingham’s research program is at the intersection of health psychology and social psychology. She has published extensively in the fields of health psychology and behavioral medicine, establishing herself as an expert on how relationships impact both physical and mental health. Birmingham has published more than 50 research articles and academic book chapters.
Brock Kirwan, Psychology
Alcuin Fellowship Award
Created in 1986, the Alcuin Fellowship is named after Alcuin of York (c. 730–802), master of the seven liberal arts and leading figure of the Carolingian Renaissance, who brought about far-reaching educational renewal. Alcuin Fellows are expected to teach one of the four Unexpected Connections (GS) courses required of Honors students in partnership with another faculty member.
AWARDS FROM THE COLLEGE OF FAMILY, HOME, AND SOCIAL SCIENCES
Julianne Holt-Lundstadt, Psychology
Martin B. Hickman Scholar
An internationally-recognized scientist in the field of Social and Health Psychology, Dr. Holt-Lunstad has impacted the lives of thousands of others through her ground-breaking research on the long-term health effects of social connections and the negative consequences of loneliness and social isolation. Her pioneering research has been widely recognized not only for its scientific rigor, but also for its timely social relevance and practical applicability. Her research has been disseminated through prestigious scholarly outlets and her students are forging successful careers at major institutions throughout the nation. In these accomplishments, she has garnered international recognition and deep respect for Brigham Young University.
Ryan Davis, Political Science
Martin B. Hickman Excellence in Teaching
Dr. Ryan Davis centers his pedagogy on teaching students how to apply philosophical thinking to the world around them. One student summed up the effect of his tutelage by saying that they now “think of my own arguments, and the arguments of others, in a more constructive way—as premises leading to a conclusion. I appreciate now that we all agree on many different premises, even if some are different and we therefore have different conclusions.” He is best known for his deep love of the greater sage-grouse and Taylor Swift lyrics, resulting in students observing that he is “inadvertently hilarious” and “really defies the idea of a stoic philosophy professor.”
Brandon Plewe, Geography
Martin B. Hickman Innovation in Teaching
Dr. Brandon Plewe has been teaching cartography and GIS in the Geography department since 1997. His research focuses on using historical GIS and cartography to better understand the past, particularly in the context of the history of Utah and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. He is also interested in the underlying ontology of geographic information, or how people understand and represent the world. He is a “geo-collector,” having built GIS datasets of 550 hillside letters, 350 old LDS church buildings, and 7,000 historical LDS wards and branches. He has also driven on almost every highway in Utah.
Karen Carter, History
Martin B. Hickman Achievement in Teaching
Dr. Karen Carter believes that teaching is the most meaningful work she will accomplish at BYU. She is highly effective in class organization and in seamlessly blending course materials and evaluation tools for the best learning outcomes. She is a superior lecturer who holds the attention of students, but she is also an advocate of peer learning. Her commitment to student learning is exceptional. Even in large online sections of World Civilizations she personally graded each assignment to provide individualized feedback and writing instruction. Her classes are truly habitats of learning where students flourish in many ways.
Jill Knapp, Geography
Martin B. Hickman Excellence in Teaching by Adjunct Faculty
Jill Knapp received BS (1986) and MS (1989) degrees in geography at BYU. Since 1994, she has been teaching regional and human geography classes. She worked with Freshman Academy and Peer Mentoring programs for many years, and particularly enjoys the opportunity to teach and mentor freshman students. Jill and her husband, Stan Knapp (Sociology), have directed BYU study programs in many European locations for the past 15 years. She loves the opportunity to provide experiences both in and outside the classroom to help change the way students view the incredibly diverse world in which they live. Jill estimates that she has taught over 5,000 students since she began teaching at BYU. Jill’s greatest reward is running into former students who tell her that they took her class and that they still think about the things they learned.
Ryan Gabriel, Sociology
Martin B. Hickman Diversity and Inclusion Award
Dr. Ryan Gabriel, assistant professor of sociology, is a committed advocate of diversity and inclusion. Professor Gabriel balances a productive research agenda and teaching high-demand classes while contributing to efforts to improve belonging at BYU. Professor Gabriel plays key roles in the college’s Civil Rights Seminar and on the university’s Committee on Race, Equity & Belonging. He is engaged in quieter ways, mentoring students and colleagues one-on-one. To know Professor Gabriel is to know his warmth and perceptiveness. His April 2021 devotional address (“Healing Racism Through Jesus Christ”) exemplifies this approach. Our university is in a better place because of him.
Michael Cope, Sociology
Mary Lou Fulton Early Career Scholar Award
Dr. Michael Cope, associate professor and co-director of the BYU Community Studies Lab, continues the long tradition of highly regarded BYU sociologists studying rural communities. From detailing the effects of the BP oil spill, to understanding demographic, economic, and social challenges facing rural western communities, Professor Cope’s work seeks to improve the well-being of vulnerable communities. He is an exceptional mentor who invests countless hours in his students, with whom he frequently publishes. Professor Cope is a tireless scholar, teacher, and colleague that endeavors to help anyone lucky enough to work with him.
Stewart Anderson, History
Mary Lou Fulton Early Career Scholar Award
Dr. Stewart Anderson is a strong supporter of BYU’s European Studies program and an outstanding teacher who has won awards from the History department and the European Studies Student Association. His strength in the classroom is rooted in his respect for students and their abilities, and this comes through in his close mentoring of them in their research projects. Dr Anderson’s recent monograph, A Dramatic Reinvention: German Television and Moral Renewal after National Socialism, 1956-1970, draws upon studio documents and the content of television films to assess the objectives of writers and directors and the responses of viewers.
Jeffrey Denning, Economics
FHSS Early Career Scholar Award
Dr. Jeff Denning is an outstanding teacher who is conscientious, clear, and has high expectations for student learning. He makes a point of reaching out personally to those who struggle. Dr. Denning studies how to reduce barriers to college enrollment. He has articles published or in press at prestigious journals including the American Economic Journal: Applied Economics, American Economic Journal: Economic Policy, and the Journal of Policy Analysis and Management. In recognition of his outstanding research contributions, Dr. Denning was appointed a Faculty Research Fellow at the National Bureau of Economic Research and a Research Affiliate at the Institute of Labor Economics (IZA).
Sherinah Saasa, School of Social Work
Marjorie Pay Hinckley Pre-CFS Early Career Scholar Award
Dr. Sherinah Saasa is an assistant professor in the School of Social Work at Brigham Young University. She received her PhD at the University of Georgia School of Social Work. Her research interests include African immigrant adjustment in the United States, and international child welfare with a focus on the intersections of poverty, education inequality, gender-based discrimination and HIV/AIDS on the outcomes of orphans and vulnerable children in Sub-Saharan Africa. Dr. Saasa, who grew up in Lusaka, Zambia, says she went into social work because of “a deepening sense of social responsibility obtained through direct practice [that] fueled [her] desire to expand [her] influence in social work to a macro level.” She is passionate about social justice and building a community that promotes equality, especially for women and people of color. She is also one of the nicest persons you will ever meet. We are fortunate to have her here at BYU.
Rebecca de Schweinitz, History
Marjorie Pay Hinckley Associate Professor Award
Dr. Rebecca de Schweinitz is an exceptional mentor. Students in her classes and seminars regularly win department awards, publish papers, and present at professional conferences. Students describe her as committed, organized, supportive, and phenomenal. Professor de Schweinitz’s books and articles focus on topics such as the political engagement and activism of youth, slavery, civil rights, and Latter-day Saint youth. Dr. de Schweinitz works tirelessly to improve the university and community, including service on the Faculty Advisory Council, the executive committee for Global Women’s Studies, the FHSS Civil Rights Seminar Committee, Black History Month organizing committees, and the Dialogue Foundation.
Alex Jensen, School of Family Life
Marjorie Pay Hinckley Associate Professor Award
Dr. Alex Jensen has excelled at BYU in all the activities in which he has engaged. Dr. Jensen has become a nationally recognized scholar for understanding the direct and indirect ways siblings influence human development from adolescence through adulthood. Students in his human development classes rate him highly as a teacher; he is one of the most popular and innovative teachers in the School of Family Life. Dr. Jensen has also strongly contributed to the School’s curriculum as one of two creators of its new undergraduate applied statistics course.
Rick Miller, School of Family Life
Martin B. Hickman Citizenship Award
Dr. Rick Miller is a leader committed to the success of the departments in the college of Family, Home, and Social Sciences. Dr. Miller has demonstrated that commitment by serving both as director of the School of Family Life and as chair of the Sociology Department. In addition to these administrative accomplishments, Dr. Miller is a marriage and family therapist and studies those aspects of therapy that make it most effective, with a specific focus on therapist effects. Additionally, Dr. Miller is one of the founding PIs of the innovative Marriage and Family Therapy research project, the Practice Research Network (PRN). The PRN is a large clinical research project designed to bridge the practice-research gap by enrolling dozens of clinics worldwide in a collective effort to gather and analyze real clinical data to improve clinical practice.
Jeff Hill, School of Family Life
Virginia F. Cutler Scholar
Dr. E. Jeffrey Hill is a Professor of Family Life at BYU. His research examines the interface of work, finances, and family life. Dr. Hill obtained a doctorate in Family and Human Development at Utah State University and Master of Organizational Behavior from the BYU Marriott School of Management. He has authored or co-authored seven books and more than 100 scholarly articles and book chapters. Jeff and his wife Tammy are blending a family of 12 children and 35 grandchildren. They also team-teach marriage enhancement at BYU.
Eric Eide, Economics
Clayne B. Pope Professor in Economics
Since his arrival in 1993, Eric Eide has exemplified what it means to be a professor at BYU. He is a popular teacher who is caring with a wonderful sense of humor. He is also quite rigorous with high expectations for his students. Dr. Eide is an accomplished scholar with dozens of publications, primarily in the economics of education. As a researcher and teacher, Dr. Eide has mentored many students who have gone on to success in both industry and academia. Dr. Eide is a model citizen who served as department chair and as a coeditor for the Economics of Education Review. Significantly, Dr. Eide is a wonderful friend to faculty and students alike.
Ken Millard, Computing Services
Dean’s Platinum Service Award
Ken has done tremendous work during the pandemic creating virtual events and experiences in place of in-person ones, including moving our college’s mentored research conference online and creating a graduation website for the college. Ken also worked with AVP Larry Howell’s office to create a custom website that allowed BYU to host the Utah Conference on Undergraduate Research. As a result of Ken’s teamwork, BYU was able to pull off their rotation hosting the UCUR conference during a pandemic, and hundreds of undergraduate students from all over Utah were able to have a conference experience.
Arlene Colman, Anthropology
Staff/Administrative Excellence in Service Award
Arlene Colman has worked for many years for the New World Archaeological Foundation as the technical editor of our paper series, generating some of the highest quality print publications in the discipline of archaeology. She is especially adept at finding novel ways to graphically represent complex excavation maps and illustrations. When it seems Arlene has reached the pinnacle of her skills, the next new publication exceeds all the former ones as she incorporates her unique archaeological and design-oriented perspective. In concert with authors, the director, the press, employees in Mexico, and artists, Arlene effortlessly pulls together all content and does so as an incredible leader and team player.
Jessica McDowell, Economics
Outstanding Rookie Award
Jessica McDowell is a wonderful department administrator who is unfailingly prepared, capable, and fun-loving. Shortly after Jessica started, the Economics department was informed that it would be moving within a few months. Jessica had primary managerial responsibility for this major undertaking. The pandemic complicated the actual move, and the stress of the situation was further heightened by her having to manage multiple rounds of scheduling for Fall 2020 as the university sorted through options for dealing with the pandemic. It was a very busy and stressful time. Jessica handled it all marvelously and is most definitely worthy of the FHSS “Rookie” award for outstanding performance.
Service Awards for Administrative & Staff Employees
- Karen Christensen, FHSS Internship Office (20 years)
- Carina Alleman, FHSS Dean’s Office (15 years)
- Paul Stavast, Museum of Peoples & Cultures (15 years)
- Laurie Weisler, Geography (15 years)
- Nathan Bench, Computing Services (10 years)
- Jan Christensen, School of Family Life (5 years)
- Starlyn Hjorth, School of Family Life (10 years)
- Sarah Rogers, Gerontology (5 years)
- Aaron Barnes, Computing Services (5 years)
- Laurel Bishop, School of Family Life (5 years)
- J. Matthew Clarke, Political Science (5 years)