ECON is Coming Home

Students walking around campus this fall may notice a new addition to the campus layout, namely the West View Building, which has been under construction since 2019. This new building is located just west of the Joseph F. Smith Building and enjoys a great view of the city of Provo below. This is particularly exciting news for the College of Family, Home, and Social Sciences, as our very own Department of Economics will be calling this new building home.

After two years waiting, the Department of Economics is preparing to transition to the new West View Building. The department had previously been housed in the long-standing Faculty Office Building (FOB), which was demolished in winter 2019. The FOB was constructed in 1955 and originally served as a bathroom and ticket facility for the old football stadium. Following the completion of the LaVell Edwards Stadium, the building was repurposed to become the Faculty Office Building.

While construction on the West View Building was underway, the department worked from the Crabtree Building, home of the technology departments.

The move into the new building has already begun and will take place in multiple stages. Computers, furniture, and other office materials are being transitioned quickly into the new offices in an attempt to be prepared for fall semester. According to Mark Showalter, Department Chair of Economics, “the new building will have lots of great new space for students.”  He further explains the new features of the building that will improve the academic experience, saying, “The computer lab will be about double the size of our old lab in the FOB. There is more room available for Teaching Assistants, a new space for Professor Joe Price’s Record Linking Lab, and multiple rooms available for Research Assistants who are working on a variety of projects.” 

The West View Building will house not only the Department of Economics but will also be the new home of the Department of Statistics and the Neal A. Maxwell Institute for Religious Scholarship. As the move comes closer to completion, Professor Showalter says, “We miss the unique structure of the old FOB with its natural light and community space, but it will be nice to have heating that works in the winter and cooling that works in the summer.”

School of Family Life Faculty Peter Reschke Receives Honors from the International Congress of Infant Studies

Peter Reschke, Assistant Professor of Human Development in the School of Family Life, was recently awarded the International Congress of Infant Studies (ICIS) 2020 Outstanding Dissertation Honorable Mention. 

Reschke’s work focuses on interpersonal development in infancy, and, as Reschke explains, “creates a theoretical framework to merge two large areas of study: emotion understanding­—the ability to understand others’ emotions—and social cognition—the ability to understand others’ mental states.” He was recognized for three of his dissertation chapters that have been published in well-respected peer-reviewed academic journals. 

Reschke is a BYU alumnus, graduating with a double major in Psychology and Music, and a minor in Spanish in December 2011. Reschke went on to study Psychological Science at University of California, Merced, where he earned his PhD in May 2018. Reschke then went on to teach at BYU, where he currently works as Assistant Professor at the College of Family, Home, and Social Sciences. 

Speaking of his passion for this work, Reschke says, “I chose the field of Human Development because there is so much we don’t know about the developing minds of children, especially infants. When do babies start to reason about and predict others’ behaviors? How do babies learn to understand and interpret others’ emotions? Does what we learn about babies and these abilities matter in the long run? How can parents and caregivers use this knowledge to improve their interactions with children and infants? All these questions and more fascinate me!” 

The College of Family, Home, and Social Sciences is proud of Reschke and all the outstanding academic research and literature being produced by our faculty and students. 

You can read his three award-winning articles by following the links below:

Filling in the Tree: BYU’s Record Linking Lab

Family history has been a staple of BYU’s academic focus since the establishment of the Family History Program in 1962. Since then, the department has developed into one of the most robust and premier genealogical programs in the nation—and the only Family History major in the US—hosting numerous conferences, working in conjunction with top genealogical institutions, and providing outstanding research support to both academics and the general public. Over the years, numerous faculty members and campus organizations have participated in or supported family history on campus, including economics professor Joe Price. 

            Price runs the Records Linking Lab, a research team that works to combine machine learning and family history to “help gather every one of God’s children onto the Family Tree at,” says Price. He further explains that “the three main things we do in the lab are auto indexing, record linking, and tree building.”

            Price discovered family history as a personal hobby and wanted to integrate that interest with his research at BYU, saying “I discovered that many economists and other social scientists have been using machine learning to link records. I realized that we could create a lab at BYU to combine machine and traditional family history tools to hasten the work.”

            The lab allows the team to address current events in the context of family history. As COVID-19 continues to shake the world, Price and his team have been working on an auto-indexing death certificate tool. One of the functions of this tool allows users to see who died of influenza or pneumonia during the 1918 Pandemic. Price furthers explains how “we’re now using this data to learn what we can from that pandemic that might provide insights about the current pandemic.” The Linking Lab is using the tools that have been utilized and improved over time to help the community better understand COVID and its effect on society. 

            Beyond the pandemic, the lab has been successful in discovering powerful ways to extract text from historical images. They have also crafted what Price calls a “wide set of tools to link people across multiple records,” and “created ways that humans and computers can work together to dramatically increase the cover of the Family Tree.” These accomplishments carry over into research, where the team has been examining “the relationship between education and lifespan, the inter-generational correlation of lifespan, the long-run impact of prejudice, and the long-run impact of your college roommates,” Price explains. 

            All this work, however, could not be accomplished without a dedicated team of students and volunteers. The lab enjoys the help of over fifty undergraduate assistants, who comb through an enormous amount of information to create databases that the public can use to build their personal family trees. The lab is working to increase the accessibility of these tools to as many people as possible. “We are building tools that match the difficulty of the task to the ability of the user and then help them have ways to practice and increase their ability to take on new tasks,” says Price.

The Record Linking Lab team

            All of this is done in an effort to “help change the way people talk about family history research. We sometimes talk about the people on the Family Tree at FamilySearch as ‘my tree’ or ‘our tree’ but it really is God’s tree and we are all part of it…All of our volunteer experiences are built around helping grow the Family Tree for others.”

            Price looks forward to the future of the lab with optimism. Though the team has already accomplished a great deal, Price has additional goals for the project going forward, including: 

(1) Link together the 217 million people that lived in the US between 1850-1940 into a single Census Tree that will interact with the Family Tree to provide hints and other discovery experiences

(2) Increase the coverage of Black families on the Family Tree

(3) Create a pipeline that will allow the lab to auto index historical records that have handwriting on top of a pre-printed form

(4) Create a discovery experience for museums

(5) Make it possible for every new convert in the US to find 100 family names to take to the temple 

These five goals lead to the ultimate aim of the Record Linking Lab, which Price says is to “help ensure that each of the 107 billion people that have lived on earth have a profile on the Family Tree and are linked to as many records and family members as possible.”

         The Record Linking Lab is going strong and provides great opportunities to volunteer with family history research. To learn more about their work and how you can support the lab, visit their website at . 

Photos courtesy of BYU Economics

More Than a Theater: How The Olivos Family Created a Safe Place for Mexican Americans

The Yost Theater (El Cine Yost) circa the late 1960s. (Photograph courtesy of the Olivos family)

When we think of movie theaters today, we think of buttery popcorn, comfy seats, and the newest Marvel movie. But in the early-to-mid 1900s, El Cine Yost, one of the first Spanish-language movie theaters in Orange County, California, was more than a place of entertainment for the Latino population in southern California. It was also a safe place for Mexican Americans to feel proud of their ethnic heritage. During the early-to-mid-twentieth century when schools, neighborhoods, and parks were segregated throughout Orange County, Latinos could enter the theater and feel a sense of community.

Dr. David- James Gonzales, Assistant Professor of History at BYU, researched the theater for his article “El Cine Yost and the Power of Place for Mexican Migrants in Orange County, California, 1930–1990,” which will appear in the Journal of American Ethnic History in July 2020. He interviewed several members of the community, including members of the Olivos family, who were responsible for bringing Spanish-language cinema to Orange County, to learn more about how the theater impacted their lives and provided a safe place during a time of intense racial discrimination.

Gonzales reflected on his research, sharing the insight that we need to create safe places in our communities today for people of all ethnicities to feel accepted. These spaces may not always be physical like El Cine Yost, but we can do this as we focus on understanding the lived experiences of others. “We can ask them about their culture, set aside our limited understanding, and listen,” Gonzales said. He encourages us to talk to people of different backgrounds and “have them to teach us their story.”

Louis and Phoebe Olivos circa 1945 shortly after Louis returned from serving as a B-17 gunner in World War II.

That’s exactly what Gonzales did when he met with the son of Louis Sr. and Phoebe Olivos, the couple who ran the famous El Cine Yost from 1952 to 1985, as well as two other theaters, The Princes and State, from 1939 to the early 1990s.

Louis Olivos, Jr. revealed that his father could frequently be found at the movie theaters in Santa Ana during his youth. Even though he was forced to sit in segregated sections because “Mexicans” were not allowed to sit alongside whites, this did not diminish his passion for cinema.

Louis Olivos Sr. was a frequent patron of the Princess Theater in the 1930s. He noticed ushers assigned to the “Mexican” section seemed afraid to go up to the balcony. Louis approached the manager suggesting he supervise the balcony section and was soon hired as an usher. Later on, Louis was able to convince the owner, to screen Spanish-language films weekly, which kept the struggling theater in business. Because of the great success of Spanish films, Louis was eventually promoted to manager and soon after took over the lease. When Louis left to serve in the army during World War II, his wife Phoebe was left to manage the theater. After returning home from the war, Louis leased the Princess and State theaters and later purchased the historic Yost Theater, his childhood dream.

Legendary actor Mario Almada (considered the Clint Eastwood of Mexican cinema) signs autographs for adoring fans at el cine.

 “El Cine Yost and the Olivos family brought ethnic Mexicans together physically and culturally, helping them to build bonds of ethnic solidarity despite differences in citizenship, class, and nationality,” said Gonzales. Mexican Americans would come from all over Orange County to meet and socialize. By screening Spanish-language films, Louis brought Mexico’s top actors and recording artists to Santa Ana. He provided audiences with a positive image of Mexican history, people, and culture.

A packed house at El Cine Yost. Louis Olivos, Jr., estimated that the Yost averaged one thousand patrons each weekend. (Photographs courtesy of the Olivos family)

Louis’s journey from patron to owner was a great inspiration to members of his community where his family became model citizens as they achieved their American dream. They treated all patrons as if they were family. Sadly, after thirty-three years of owning and operating El Cine Yost, the Olivos family was forced to sell their theater to the city of Santa Ana in 1985.

Gonzales said, “El Cine Yost provided a physical gathering place for people all over the community, where they could build relationships, they could meet people, and enjoy film together.”

Gonzales shared the many opportunities to learn about ethnic Mexican history at BYU, including the Latino Civil Rights Seminar. Dean Benjamin Ogles and a team of BYU professors in The College of Family, Home, and Social Sciences proposed the seminar in the summer of 2018. Last fall, Professor Gonzales and Professor Bryant Jensen led the first seminar with BYU students, traveling to Texas to meet with civil rights leaders and activists, including the mother of Julian Castro. Professor Gonzales and Professor Jane Lopez plan to lead the seminar in fall 2020 and hope to visit important Mexican American and Latino historical sites in Southern California, but the trip may be postponed due to COVID-19.

There are several courses available at BYU to learn more about Latino civil rights. Gonzales said, “Dr. Jane Lopez teaches the Sociology of Immigration, Dr. Jacob Rugh teaches Sociology of Race & Ethnicity, and Latinos in the United States, which has been taught by Dr. Ignacio Garcia over the past two decades, will be taught by myself in winter 2021.”

Gonzales is also the faculty advisor for “Hispanos Unidos” an official club for both BYU students of Hispanic/Latin origin and anyone who desires to learn and celebrate Hispanic/Latino culture. The club’s goal is to “create a safe space to express our Latinidad and provide students with resources to feel included and involved inside of BYU.”

Whether through establishing a theater, supporting a club, taking a class, or listening respectively to the lived experience others, creating safe places in our communities for people of all ethnicities to feel accepted is important and worthwhile.

Love at Home: making the most of quarantine

With the closure of schools, businesses, and social institutions as a means to curb the spread of the COVID-19 virus, most families have been confined together in their homes for what has become months. For some, this has been a wonderful experience to reconnect with their loved ones in a new way. For others, this may be a suffocating loop of confined over-socialization. And for most, the experience is probably something in the middle.

For those hoping to make the most of this time with family—or even just survive it—Dr. David Dollahite, a professor of family life at BYU’s College of Family, Home, and Social Sciences, shares some professional insights. 

For him, the key difference between this being a rewarding experience versus a challenging one comes down to “what might be called the 3Rs of happy families: Relationship quality, Responsiveness to needs, and Reconciliation after conflict: Relationship quality includes love, kindness, and emotional warmth. Responsiveness to needs involves active listening, patient understanding, and efforts to meet needs. Reconciliation after conflict involves being willing to admit fault (apologizing) and practical efforts to make things right.”

Of course, the rewarding nature of this experience will change from individual to individual, even within families. This is especially true during emotionally stressful periods. Certainly, this quarantine could qualify as such a time; many are out of work, worried about getting sick, and generally uncertain about how things will progress moving into the future. Dollahite says concerning the ways families can support those struggling, “Well-functioning, happy families can provide at least three important things during times of stress and uncertainty: a safe harbor where family members can enjoy physical, emotional, and spiritual rest and healing; a sense of meaning in a time of existential anxiety and significant uncertainty; and a set of routines and rituals that can have a calming, comforting influence.”

For those worrying that they aren’t doing enough, one thing to remember is the importance of “Managing expectations… [which is] the central skill in navigating life’s challenges. This can involve expecting changes and challenges to be constant; expecting ups and downs in life, in relationships, and in emotional wellbeing; and expecting that only rarely will real life live up to one’s expectations and ideals.” 

The COVID-19 Pandemic may prove to bring long term changes that go beyond healthcare. When asked about his thoughts on the change in family dynamics in the long-run, Dollahite says, “Families that had relatively good relationships and merely lacked time together will probably have improved relationships, while families with relatively poor relationships and coped by avoiding each other may suffer from worsened relationships.”

            So, what can be done? How can we continue to navigate the volatile world of quarantine and prepare ourselves to return back to normal life? The solution may still be unclear, but Dollahite believes that “from what I have observed, many persons and many families will look back on some aspects of the shutdowns as a blessing in disguise. Having spent significantly more time at home, alone, with family and close friends will have been a recuperative experience for many (and of course, an extremely trying and difficult time for many as well).” This will be a chance for people to take a closer look at their personal relationships. Dollahite believes that this may have beneficial long-term effects to the extent that “Some couples and families may realize that they had let life become so busy and scattered that they will want to make lasting changes in their work-family balance. Some couples and families may realize that they have problems that they really need help with and will turn to self-help books, or therapists, or other sources of help.”

            Concerning what to do as we move forward, Dollahite is confident that “We will have betters answers to this question after we have results from our upcoming survey on religion and relationships before, during, and after COVID-19.” Data is currently being gathered for this study, and results will not be published until the end of the summer. 

Who Suffered More? Comparing the Effects of the 1918 Spanish Flu to the COVID-19 Pandemic

BYU Students were required to wear hygienic masks as they gathered in assembly in College Hall to protect against the Spanish Flu, ca. 1918. Photo courtesy L. Tom Perry Special Collections, UAP 2 F-092]

Looking back over 100 years ago, BYU students faced many of the same challenges you are facing today. Closed campus, social distancing, canceled events, although these times seem unprecedented, this isn’t the first time BYU students have suffered the effects of a worldwide pandemic.

BYU History Department Chair, Brian Cannon compared the effects of the 1918 Flu pandemic to the current COVID-19 pandemic on today’s BYU students. He said, “I think in terms of students being cut-off from one another the potential for isolation was greater in 1918.”

When campus closed its doors in the middle of the fall semester in 1918 to comply with state health mandates and to stop the spreading of the Spanish Flu, classes abruptly stopped.

The university did not open its doors again until after winter break in January of 1919. Upon returning, the students were forced to wear masks on the street and in public buildings. There was even a student death because of the flu during the pandemic; Gerald Beck was a senior and passed away before he could graduate that spring.

The effects of the 1918 pandemic were worse in some respects, and better in others when compared to today’s challenges. Cannon explained, “I think that the effects of the 1918 flu pandemic were more severe in the sense that there were deaths in the student body.”

In 1918, little was known about the flu virus. Small preventive measures were taken at BYU to stop the spread which included, girls being asked to “dress more warmly that windows might be thrown wide open, insuring full and thorough ventilation of all rooms.” (White and Blue, October 16, 1918).

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, it is estimated that one-third of the world’s population became infected with the flu virus. BYU students in 1918 not only faced a great risk of death but they were also instantly cut-off from each other and classes without access to virtual communication. Students’ only form of instant communication was telephones, “Although they existed very few people had them” said Cannon.

On March 12, 2020, when BYU announced the closing of campus for classes there were resources available to continue online instruction, “It’s allowed classed to continue, not under optimal conditions but still it allows us to engage in the dissemination of information” said Cannon. Online platforms like Zoom allow students to continue to engage and interact with teachers and classmates.

However, the constant access to information can be a disadvantage for BYU students of today. Cannon said, “We’re so connected to what’s going on across the world that it can heighten our sense of distress. 100 years ago, if you left Provo, and went home to the farm, you didn’t have instant knowledge of what was going on as a pandemic was unfolding.” The access to news and systems tracking every new virus case causes us to “feel the effect of people suffering across the nation and world in real-time” said Cannon.

Comparing the effects of both pandemics there are great risks for students’ mental and physical health. Pandemics are never easy, but BYU students can focus on the fact that classes have been able to continue and interactions with one another are only a few clicks away. Students can find peace in the fact that our nation has overcome pandemics in the past, and with increased knowledge and technology our nation and university will do it again.

Want to learn more about the worldwide pandemic of 1918? Check out “Lessons from 1918” By Michael R. Walker

All Are Free to Breathe

As George Floyd died at the hands of law enforcement officers he cried out, “I can’t breathe.” Those desperate final words now echo in the mouths of the American people as protests erupt across the nation. 

His is yet another name added to a growing list of victims of police brutality against blacks, and with every name the outcry for change and justice grows louder. Lita Giddins, the College of Family, Home, and Social Sciences’ (FHSS) Diversity, Collaboration, and Inclusion Coordinator says, “The question on the minds of everyone…is ‘How long until we are free from this issue?’  Protestors against racism are no longer asking the question.  Their unified response is, ‘Now.’”

One of the voices speaking up belongs to Taylor Munlin, a FHSS student. Munlin is an executive director with BYUSA, a member of the Black Student Union, and a member of the FHSS Diversity, Collaboration, and Inclusion Committee. She says that the primary goal of this committee is to create a culture of Zion in the college and at BYU.

We are commanded in the scriptures to “keep my commandments and seek to bring forth and establish the cause of Zion” (Doctrine and Covenants 6:6). Zion is the place where all of God’s children are treated with an equal fullness of love and respect, where the arbitrary distinctions of social categories are stripped, and each can be appreciated for their unique identity as a son or daughter of God. The Book of Mormon promises “blessed are they who shall seek to bring forth my Zion at that day” (1 Nephi 13:37). 

But how? Repeating tired platitudes of unity and love on social media, while perhaps well-intended, does little by itself to solve issues at the fundamental level. 

Giddins comments, “The question I continue to ask myself is ‘What is preventing Zion, the ‘pure in heart,’ from being established?’  Purity or clarity of vision to increase self-awareness as we ask ourselves, ‘What lack I yet?’ is key (Matthew 19:20).” She goes on to say “Lowering our defenses to acknowledge the truth of what we see is greatly needed.  Accepting with courage the need to rethink historic mindsets in order to care and act differently to eradicate the deadly pandemic of specific community members being ‘acted upon’ is essential.”

Munlin says that Zion cannot be established until the injustices against the black community are addressed and remedied. Individual instances of injustice are simply manifestations of a larger societal illness. 

While most Americans have an understanding of racism from slavery through the civil rights movement, the story doesn’t just end there. The issue, Munlin explains, is that “we are taught that systemic discrimination ended with the successes of the civil rights movement in the sixties,” when in fact those systems were simply altered and replaced. She says that though laws do not specifically target individuals based on race, certain laws, institutions, and practices have a disproportionate effect on the black community. According to Munlin, these include, but are not limited to education, housing, healthcare, criminal sentencing, and incarceration.  

Even at BYU, where the administration seeks to create an environment of equality and tolerance, there are still obstacles to overcome. Munlin explained how the BYU rule requiring a full-time faculty sponsor for clubs makes it difficult for organizations like the Black Student Union to find that required sponsor support. This would be easier if the sponsorship rule could be extended to part time or ¾ time employees as well. 

Forms of racism are also present within strains of the campus culture. Even well-intentioned individuals are prone to make insensitive remarks or dismiss the lived experience of others. 

“What if I told you ‘you’re really smart for a blonde’,” Munlin asked. “Those are the kinds of comments that people make here that are meant to be compliments.” 

Munlin said one way that students can make a meaningful change is to, “Say things for what they are. Don’t say ‘the issue in society’, say ‘racism against blacks.” To Munlin, the use of euphemisms to avoid addressing uncomfortable topics only prevents the kind of honest discussions that lead to meaningful change. 

Munlin appreciated President Worthen’s willingness to address the issue directly in his June 2, 2020 message, “With the tragic deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery and others over the years, and the confluence of recent events, important conversations are happening…BYU stands firmly against racism and violence in any form and is committed to promoting a culture of safety, kindness, respect and love.”

The question then shifts to what concrete steps must be taken to create real change. Munlin cites the official site of the NAACP, where specific pieces of legislation are posted and explained. She says that everyone should take the time to review these proposed laws and supplement that with an immersion in relevant literature.

At the end of the day, “allyship is about more than social media campaigns,” says Munlin. To her, it involves addressing issues directly, making donations, consuming black media, participating in community outreach, identifying and stopping micro-aggressions, taking relevant courses, giving a platform for black voices, and most of all, genuinely listening to those voices with the intent to understand and act. 

Giddins shares her hopes for a more loving inclusive society saying, “I now view the air we breathe as a heavenly gift.  I now view a Zion community as ‘the pure in heart.’ Christ and His people are one there, and all are free to breathe.”  

Dean Benjamin Ogles Releases Statement on Commitment to Fight Racism

Helpful Resources:

Equal Justice Initiative

FHSS Valedictorians: Paige Park, Sociology

Paige Park

Graduate Paige Park was named valedictorian for the Department of Sociology.

She grew up moving around the country with her family for her dad’s job. Though she enjoyed all of the places she lived, Paige claims Columbus, Georgia, where she went to high school, as home. The racial injustice apparent in her Columbus community prompted Paige to study sociology at BYU, where she hoped she would learn how to eradicate systemic inequality. Almost immediately after choosing sociology, Paige became involved in research and internships with professors who have continuously instructed and inspired her throughout her time at BYU.

Paige has worked on projects related to community well-being, education access, and rural health care. Currently, she is working on a project related to paid family leave that she plans to turn into her master’s thesis at BYU next year. After completing the BYU master’s program, Paige plans to attend law school to become a public interest lawyer. She would like to thank her family, friends, and BYU mentors for their continued encouragement and support. 

FHSS Valedictorians: Pamela Love, School of Family Life

Pamela Love

Graduate Pamela Love was named valedictorian for the School of Family Life. She is the daughter of Ross and Jolene Davidson.

At age 10, she set a goal to attend BYU on scholarship. Her father mentored her until she accomplished her goal. After studying elementary education for a few years, she decided to continue her education at home when she married Kevin Love in 1993.  She devoted the next twenty-five years to her family and she and Kevin now have six children: McKaila, Hunter, Emily, Weston, Elisabeth, and Abigail. When Kevin’s health prevented him from working, she returned to BYU to finish her childhood dream.

She looks forward to using her undergraduate education as a foundation as she enters the Master of Social Work program at BYU in the fall. She would like to thank BYU, her professors and mentors, and especially God, her parents, husband, and children for their support, guidance, and encouragement.