New Faculty Members Join the College

This fall, we welcome fresh faces to the College of Family, Home, and Social Sciences. Be sure to say hello to our new faculty members and spend a minute to get to know more about them and the expertise they bring. We’re glad they’re here!

Melissa Alcaraz, Assistant Professor of Sociology

Melissa Alcaraz specializes in the intersection between migration and family formation, with a focus on Mexico. She earned her PhD in sociology from The Ohio State University in 2021.

Ruth Kerry, Associate Professor of Geography 

Ruth Kerry grew up in the United Kingdom and did all her studies there, including a PhD in precision agriculture from the University of Reading in 2004. She specializes in soil spatial analysis and land evaluation, and precision agriculture. She was previously an affiliate assistant professor at Auburn University. 

David Simpson, Visiting Teaching Professor of Geography

David Simpson has a passion for making communities better. He has a doctorate degree from the University of California, Berkeley in city and regional planning and has filled many professional roles over his career, much of which was spent with the University of Louisville. Prior to moving to Utah and accepting this position with BYU, he was the chair of the University of Louisville Sustainability Council. 

Ryan Hill, Assistant Professor of Economics 

Ryan Hill earned his PhD in Economics from MIT in 2020 and specializes in labor economics, public finance, economics of innovation, and development of scientific knowledge. He previously worked as a postdoctoral researcher for the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University. Fun fact about Ryan: he stood at the highest and lowest points of the continental U.S. on the same day — he climbed Mt. Whitney, slept on the summit, hiked down, and then visited Death Valley on the way home.

Richard Patterson, Assistant Professor of Economics 

Richard Patterson was an assistant professor in the U.S. Military Academy at West Point before coming to BYU. He specializes in applied microeconomics, behavioral economics, economics of education, and labor economics and has a PhD in policy analysis and management from Cornell University. In his free time he enjoys mountain biking, rock climbing, and skiing. 

Ashley Fraser, Assistant Professor of Family Life 

Ashley Fraser earned a PhD in family and human development from Arizona State University in 2021. Her research interests include childhood and adolescent development; empathy and prosocial behavior; hope, racism and equity, and media. 

Andrea Kinghorn Busby, Assistant Professor of Family Life

Andrea Kinghorn Busby specializes in developmental psychology and public policy; reducing inequality for young children, with emphasis on fathers and neighborhoods; and inequality in children’s home, school, and neighborhood contexts. Her research interests include the impact of violence on children, how children and families experience poverty in suburban communities, and how parents socialize their children about economic inequality. She earned her PhD in human development and social policy from Northwestern University in 2021.

Ashley LeBaron-Black, Assistant Professor of Family Life

Ashley LeBaron-Black specializes in family finance with a focus on family financial socialization and couple finance. She earned her PhD in family studies and human development from the University of Arizona in 2021. In her free time she enjoys studying art history, particularly French Gothic, Italian Renaissance, and French Impressionism. 

Daniel Frost, Director of the Integrative Writing Program and Assistant Teaching Professor, School of Family Life

Daniel Frost earned his PhD in politics from Princeton University, and his writing interests include marriage, family, sexual morality, personal identity, and moral reasoning, among others. He previously taught political science at Clemson University and BYU.

Liz McGuire, Assistant Professor of Political Science 

Liz McGuire earned her PhD in political science from Yale University in 2021. She uses experimental and quantitative methodologies to study gender politics, changes in gender norms, and comparative gender norms. She is also interested in international development and is currently focusing on East Africa. 

David Romney, Assistant Professor of Political Science 

David Romney has a PhD in government from Harvard University, and was a postdoctoral fellow at Harvard’s Weatherhead Center for International Affairs before coming to BYU. He specializes in comparative politics and methods, psychology of intergroup relations, role of social media, misinformation, and conspiracy theories in the Middle East. In his free time he enjoys watching cooking shows and trying out new recipes with his wife. 

Gentry Jenkins, Visiting Assistant Professor of Political Science

Gentry Jenkins earned his doctorate degree from the University of Chicago, where he was a teaching fellow in the Committee on International Relations. His research interests include the connections between revolution, state-building, civil war, and international conflict.

Sandra Sephton, Professor of Psychology 

Sandra Sephton specializes in developmental, cognitive, and health psychology; biobehavioral oncology; and mindfulness interventions. She earned her PhD in behavioral neuroscience from BYU in 1995 and previously was a professor at the University of Louisville and senior scientist at James Graham Brown Cancer Center. She is the happy owner of three horses.

Kara Duraccio, Assistant Professor of Psychology 

Kara Duraccio earned her PhD in clinical psychology from BYU in 2019. She previously worked held a General Pediatrics Research Fellowship at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center. Her areas of specialty include pediatric psychology with a focus on adolescent sleep and eating behaviors. 

Dawn-Marie Wood, Assistant Teaching Professor of Psychology

Dawn-Marie Wood earned her master’s degree in psychology and behavioral neuroscience at BYU in 1994, and was previously a visiting assistant teaching professor at BYU. She loves to fly fish and is an “honorary member” of the BYU Fly Fishing Club.

Award-Winning Faculty and Staff

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 EconomicsAmerican 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)

6 Simple Ways to Grow Professionally This Summer

Whether you’re busy at an internship or looking to score one in the future, these six tips from Danny Damron, assistant dean of experiential learning and professional development, will help you get a head start on preparing for the workforce in whatever profession you choose.

Meet Danny

Danny Damron on a seven-day mountain biking trip from Durango, Colorado to Moab, Utah in 2019. (Danny Damron)

Damron has always thrived learning from experience, whether that was building a Huckleberry Finn raft as an 8-year-old, getting his teenage “sea legs” on a lobster boat off the coast of Maine, being tear-gassed while watching a mass protest in South Korea, completing an internship in Puerto Rico teaching English as a second language, or partnering with his wife in raising three children while they were both getting doctorate degrees. He has spent the past 20 years helping students get the most out of their internships and teaching assistant positions.

Damron believes internships provide unique opportunities for learning and growth and hopes students will make the effort to seek out and apply for internship experiences. To help students better for and get more out of their internships, he offers these six tips.

1. Prioritize with a time-management matrix

Working in a full-time internship requires you to fill 40 hours with meaningful work each week. It can be easy to get caught up in less important tasks or allow some things to take more time than they should. To make the most of your time in a professional setting, you can use the Time Management Matrix developed by Stephen Covey, bestselling author of The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.

The matrix consists of four cells: Urgent/Important, Urgent/Not Important, Not Urgent/Important, and Not Important/Urgent, and organizing your daily activities in each box may prove to be a revealing exercise.

For example, you may find that activities like answering email or checking social media, which so often carry the illusion of urgency, are eating away at your time, while items are actually more important to you in the long run, like preparing for graduate school or applying for internships online, are slipping through the cracks. The matrix may be a great first step in restructuring your schedule to reflect your true priorities.

Time management matrix popularized by Stephen Covey in his book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People

2. Craft and refine a purpose statement, and test it out in professionally relevant settings

A purpose statement is a tool to create professional connections on resumes, in job interviews, while networking at events, on social media platforms, and many other avenues. It’s a short, 3-5 sentence opener that describes you and your professional interests in a way that invites a potential employer or colleague to give you a second look and say, “Tell me more.”

A solid purpose statement has three parts: professional intention, reflection, and connection.

Professional intention is what you’re passionate about and what you ultimately want to do with your career. For example, a sociology student might say, “I find it rewarding to understand and create solutions to common problems that face society.”

The professional intention piece of your statement doesn’t need to be niche, because what you want to do professionally can apply to different areas of work. For example, a student wanting to solve societal problems could become a social worker, but also a lawyer, legislator, nonprofit leader, therapist, or psychologist.

Reflection means articulating how your experiences or your understanding of a professional challenge have brought you to the place you are now. The same sociology student might say, “My sociology training at BYU has given me XYZ opportunities to learn and use the tools to help me solve problems.”

Connection is the “clickbait” part of your purpose statement. By finding a challenge you have in common with your potential employer/colleague, you can have a further conversation that will lead to professional connection. The sociology student might say, “I’m eager to apply what I’ve learned to help families come out of poverty,” or “I want to use my training to help low-income students.”

You can also approach the connection part of your purpose statement using an unanswered question you’re pursuing the answer to, a question you may have in common with another professional. For example, the sociology student may have the question, “How do we help people of ethnic minorities afford housing?” or “How do we improve racial relations between students in academia?” Effectively introducing a question that’s important to you will allow you to join forces with someone who is trying to solve a similar problem, or at least get some helpful direction on your career path.

3. Ask for advice, not feedback

Photography by Gabriel Mayberry /BYU © BYU PHOTO 2017

When asking colleagues, employers, or future employers how you can improve, it’s more effective to ask for advice than feedback. Recent studies published in the Harvard Business Review found that when professionals were asked to give feedback on an employee or applicant’s performance, their comments were vague and generally focused on praise. When asked to give advice, the same professionals gave more specific, actionable items for improvement.

That’s because, when people are asked to give feedback, they focus on evaluating a past performance, rather than on looking forward to future improvements, according to the authors of the study. When asked to give advice, people will focus on the future development of the person being examined, rather than on past mistakes the person can no longer change.

Make it a point to ask current or potential employers for advice, and then implement their suggestions.

4. Talk to people who are successful in your field about how they got there

David Hart’s Class in the Marriott School of Business, 2017 © (Nate Edwards, BYU PHOTO)

You can learn a lot from successful people indirectly. When networking or at another professional event, it may be less effective to ask a professional in your field for direct advice, and more effective to ask them about their own personal journey. People are often comfortable talking about themselves, and you may pick up some of your best advice for finding jobs, interviewing, acquiring skills, and more through the personal stories of those who are currently doing what you’d like to do yourself someday.

5. Role play

It’s awkward, but effective. Prepare for interviews, first meetings with supervisors, public speaking assignments, and other potentially terrifying professional situations by practicing them beforehand. It’s best to practice answering and asking questions with someone you don’t know, or even someone who will make the experience more difficult (like an obnoxious uncle). You can set up a mock interview with a mentor through BYU Career Services here. Simulating the interview environment will allow you to access how you perform under pressure and help you target areas for improvement.

6. Read a professional development book or series of articles

Choose a specific strength you want to develop — like leadership, public speaking, conflict resolution — and read up on it! Need to know where to start? The Collegiate Employment Research Institute at Michigan State University surveys employers about skills they wish college graduates had and they publish annual reports with college recruiting trends. Traits employers said will be important for students in the wake of a global pandemic include persistence, adaptability, the ability to balance work and protect personal time, and a positive attitude.

Books we’d recommend are:

Practice Perfect: 42 Rules for Getting Better at Getting Better

What the Best College Students Do

The Little Book of Talent: 52 Tips for Improving Your Skills

Just Listen

Get Started

Put these professional development tips into action with an internship! Check out what internships are available in the College of Family, Home, and Social Sciences here.

Love Like Your Life Depends on it

One day after she delivered her TedxBYU talk on the importance of social relationships, Julianne Holt-Lunstad, professor of psychology and neuroscience at BYU, found out her father was hospitalized with a terminal condition. She dropped her professional work to spend every day with him before he died two and a half weeks later.

Then her mother passed away.

“I lost both of my parents within two and a half weeks. But I had that incredible time with them before they passed that I’ll treasure forever,” Holt-Lunstad says, becoming emotional. “Really, the most important things in our life are our relationships.”

Holt-Lunstad’s extensive research focuses on the long-term health effects of social connection. Her professional portfolio includes providing expert testimony in a U.S. Congressional hearing, advising the U.S. Surgeon General in the Emotional Well-Being in America Initiative, and serving as a scientific advisor for the Australian Coalition to End Loneliness.

Andy Proctor, a member of the TedxBYU curation committee, said Holt-Lunstad was chosen as a speaker because of her significant contribution to health and psychological sciences as well as the relevance of her message. “Her idea that social connection is one of the most important things we can do for our health is novel and the committee believed deeply it was an idea worth spreading,” Proctor says.

In her talk, Holt-Lunstad says that a lack of social connection poses a health risk similar to smoking up to 15 cigarettes a day.

“It’s time to prioritize our relationships like our life depends on it — because it does,” she says.

Holt-Lunstad began her research by looking at the effects of stress on health. She found that when experiencing the same levels of stress, blood pressure spikes were lower among people with supportive relationships, but more exaggerated in people with few supportive relationships. Expanding their research, she and her colleagues analyzed data from over 300,000 people worldwide and found that those with social connections increased their chance of living longer by 50%. On the other hand, the likelihood of death is increased 26% by being lonely, 29% by social isolation, and 32% by living alone.

Holt-Lunstad points to several ways we can improve our social connections.

1. Make time for relationships

Although making time for relationships can be challenging, there is no substitute for the benefits everyone gains from positive social relationships. They are as important to health as diet and exercise.

2. Discover your preferences

And just like diet and exercise, individual preferences for social interaction varies. People should find the type of social interaction that works best for them, whether that looks like informal gatherings or planned social activities, and whether it’s in large groups or more intimate settings.

3. Make the first move

Loneliness can be a vulnerable, stigmatizing feeling. And those feelings can make it difficult to make the first move when trying to build social relationships. But Holt-Lunstad says that feeling is normal and can be overcome. “One really empowering way to break the ice is to look for others who might need help or who might need a friend.”

4. Serve others

One of the best ways we can help ourselves is by helping others. Holt-Lunstad shared, “There is significant research that shows that providing support to others or doing small acts of kindness for others actually significantly reduces our own loneliness and increases a sense of social bonding between you and the other person. That’s something any one of us can do.”

Holt-Lunstad is currently working with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Administration for Community Living (ACL) to create a national clearinghouse for interventions to address loneliness and social isolation. She is also working with the Gravity Project to make recommendations for national standards for representing social isolation in electronic health records, and serving as the scientific chair of the Foundation for Social Connection and the Coalition to End Social Isolation and Loneliness.

Learn more about Julianne Holt-Lunstad’s research.

Niwako Yamawaki Joins College Administration as Associate Dean

July 1 marks a new beginning for several faculty members in the Dean’s Office for the College of Family, Home, and Social Sciences. While Laura Padilla-Walker, professor of family life, assumes her role as dean of the college after four years as associate dean, Niwako Yamawaki, professor of psychology, joins the office as associate dean for faculty development. 

“I had the privilege of working closely with Dr. Yamawaki on the college Diversity, Collaboration, and Inclusion committee and I appreciate her thoughtfulness, responsiveness, and organization,” says Padilla-Walker. “She has a passion for helping students and faculty to succeed and I am delighted she agreed to join our college team.”

Padilla-Walker believes Yamawaki is well qualified to serve as the associate dean over faculty development because of her dedication to the mission of the college and university, her strong research and teaching record, and her fierce dedication to mentored student research. 

Yamawaki was most recently an associate chair in the Department of Psychology and received the college Diversity, Collaboration, and Inclusion award in 2020 and the Martin B. Hickman Achievement in Teaching Award in 2019. She conducts cross-cultural research to investigate cultural factors — such as stigma, discrimination, and collectivism — that influence attitudes toward mental health services and violence against women. Along with that, she is interested in the role of psychological resilience in Eastern and Western populations and is affiliated with both the American Psychological Association and the Japanese Association for Mental Health.

Specific responsibilities Yamawaki will have as associate dean of faculty development include overseeing faculty research awards and grants, faculty leaves, reviews for the college’s institutes and centers, and the use of space in the college. She will head the Marjorie Pay Hinckley Endowed Chair committee, the Mary Lou Fulton Mentored Student Research Conference, and lead the college Diversity, Collaboration, and Inclusion committees for race and first-generation students.

Padilla-Walker is enthusiastic about the team of associate and assistant deans she’ll be working with. “I am confident that together we will be able to continue the positive trajectory of our college. We are here to support our wonderful faculty and students and hope you will feel free to seek us out to help in whatever ways we can. We look forward to working with all of you.” 

Mikaela Dufur, professor of sociology and associate dean, has new responsibilities too as she shifts from overseeing faculty development to now focusing on faculty evaluation.

“Dr. Dufur is well qualified for this position after serving as the college rank and status chair for several years, and I look forward to continuing to benefit from her wisdom, careful attention to detail, and her strong desire to support faculty and students,” says Padilla-Walker.

Dufur’s specific responsibilities now cover college rank and status, stewardship Interviews, and faculty profiles, university awards, and the university faculty development meeting. She will lead the Diversity, Collaboration, and Inclusion committees for gender and health/disabilities and continues to manage computing services, technology, and capital equipment. 

Sam Otterstrom, professor of geography, will continue in his role as associate dean for curriculum and teaching where he oversees academic advisement, assessment, education preparation, American Heritage, the bachelor of general studies, graduate studies, writing instruction, international study, online and independent studies, the BYU-Salt Lake Center, and scholarships. He also leads the Student Career Development Council and the University and College Curriculum Council, and remediates student complaints. 

“Dr. Otterstrom has been such an important asset to the team for years and we will greatly benefit from his continued expertise,” says Padilla-Walker. “He is a team player and I appreciate his patience, his perspective, and his desire to support our students through our many college efforts surrounding curriculum and experiential learning.” 

Find our contact info at the Dean’s Office Directory.

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.