Collaborating for Champions: Students and the Senior Games

The athletes’ muscles tense as their ears ring, waiting to hear the starting buzzer. In the instant the buzzer sounds, the athletes rush from the blocks and the fans let out a roar of cheering. Sitting in the stands, you may think that you’re at an Olympics qualifying event…until you realize that the athletes are all over the age of 50. The Huntsman World Senior Games, held annually in St. George, hosts about 11,000 athletes in events similar to those of the Rio Olympics. Our own Gerontology Department helps sponsor this event because it helps students gain significant, high-quality training and learning experience while representing BYU. At this past October’s games, there were 67 students from various majors across the BYU campus volunteering at the event, producing around 3,000 volunteer hours, and of these 67 students, 16 were studying something within the College of Family, Home and Social Sciences, and seven of those were Gerontology minors.

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One of them, Oleg Mironchenko, shared that at the Senior Games he learned alot about the joy that good health can bring to an individual as they age. He said: “It has changed my perception about getting old and has served as a motivator to take care of my body while I am young.” His  fellow volunteer and Gerontology minor Tyler Brown added that “this was an incredible experience to open your eyes to another side of getting older. You see the people who care about taking care of their bodies and you gain hope in having an independent and fulfilling life throughout your lifetime.”

As Gerontology students have learned, aging is a lot more than getting wrinkles and discounts at restaurants. It’s about taking care of your health and embracing every opportunity and especially every sporting event at the Senior Games. As said by Gerontology student Sarah Rogers, “seeing older adults play at such a competitive level reminded me how important it was to stay healthy and physically active throughout my life.”

Service and Education

Volunteering at the Games is a true combination of service and education. Students provide health screenings three full days during each of the two weeks of the Games. This year, an estimated 3,000 unique athletes went through at least several aspects of the health screenings. “In some cases these health screenings have had life-saving implications for the participants,” said Hager. “Every year we are…able to identify a few of the games participants who have no idea regarding life-threatening health risks they are experiencing…. We even have participants return the next year telling students that this station saved their life based on their previous years screening results  and their follow-up with their regular doctors. That is pretty gratifying for me and even more so for the students.”

11Regarding the educational value of the service for students, BYU Exercise Science professor Ron Hager, who has helped to ensure the quality of care, services, and screenings that volunteers provide for athletes since 1990 along side UVU nursing professor Gary Measom, says that part of his dedication for the Games is connected to the quality educational experience they provide for students. “For me, there are many facets to an education,” he said. “There is traditional in-class learning and instruction, but there is also the practical application of what is being learned, and even research opportunities,” shared Hager. “I feel like the students get great hands-on opportunities when they attend the games and many are involved in data collection for research projects at the undergraduate and graduate levels. For many students it is a complete paradigm shift in terms of what it means to get older as they interact with senior athletes who are committed to an active and healthy lifestyle into their later years.”

 

Impacting Athlete (and Student) Lives

16The Games tend to become more than just excellent service and educational experience, though. Hager reports: “Nearly every student I talk to has said that the Games volunteer experience has been one of the best experiences they have had while at BYU… Students not only make lasting friendships with other BYU students and students from other universities, but also with the athletes.”

Competitions aren’t all about winning, but as Professor Hager has shared, conducting health screenings at the Huntsman World Senior Games is “a win-win-win-win for the students, the Games, the Games participants, and myself [as an educator].”

 

 

Relief and Recovery: How Do Disasters Disrupt Routine Behavior?

How do disasters affect communities? If you’ve followed the impacts of the recent Hurricane Harvey, Hurricane Irma, or Central Mexico earthquake disasters, or if you’ve ever experienced one yourself, you’ll know that the devastation varies from place to place and from disaster to disaster. It can often take years to assess the damage and to reach a new normal. Even harder to assess, though, but in some ways more important, are the effects of various disasters on the people, over time. In a recently published study, sociology professor Michael Cope found that Louisiana communities affected by the 2010 BP oil spill traversed the road to recovery in widely different ways, depending on their core industries, and that community sentiment, in general, served as a protective factor that ameliorated lifestyle disruptions.

 

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What happened in the BP oil spill?

The Deepwater Horizon oil drilling rig, contracted by British Petroleum (BP) exploded in April 2010, about 50 miles off the coast of Louisiana. The wreck killed 11 people, and the rig spewed millions of gallons of oil for months before scientists finally stopped the flow. At the time of the oil spill, Louisiana produced 25 percent of the nation’s seafood. The state was also the nation’s second largest producer of natural gas and third largest producer of petroleum. The U.S. government placed strict short-term restrictions on fishing and drilling in areas affected by the oil spill, and the fishing industry suffered for years as a result of the oil spill’s impact on the environment.

How did the oil spill affect the community?

Research on people’s general reactions to disasters shows that those disasters have to be viewed not as “single-point-in-time events, but as processes of social disruption that play out over time.” Dr. Cope’s research relied on a telephone survey administered to people living in communities affected by the oil spill. The survey was conducted in five waves, with the first wave administered while the oil spill was active and the last wave administered in April 2013.

The results suggest that the oil spill disrupted people’s routine behaviors (including sleeping and working). The extent of disruption lessened over time, as people’s behaviors normalized again, but people who worked in (or had relatives working in) the fishing industry experienced the most disruption. This makes sense, given the devastating short-term and long-term impact of the oil spill on their livelihood. Too, residents of affected communities reported disrupted lives three years after the spill.

The good news? People who demonstrated positive sentiment toward their communities (in other words, people who liked the places where they lived) experienced less disruption than others did. Their positive community sentiment buffered the effect of the oil spill on their routine behaviors.

What next?

Dr. Cope, an FHSS professor who co-authored this article with a team from Louisiana State University, wrote that issues like disaster recovery warrant continued attention and research. “This study,” they said, “adds to the chorus of researchers who have long contended that planners need to recognize disasters as social processes linked to long-term antecedents and long-term consequences.”

 

 

The Total Solar Eclipse of 1878: Lighting the Path for Science in America

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Courtesy of american-eclipse.com

How do you get 100 history and astronomy students in the same room on a Thursday afternoon? You give them a lecture by awarded journalist David Baron on “Edison and the Eclipse that Enlightened America.” Baron, a science and environmental journalist and recent Charles Redd Center guest lecturer, saw an eclipse in Aruba in 1998 and has since dedicated his time and research to exploring and experiencing these astronomical phenomena and telling the stories behind them.

Eclipse Chasing Now

While there was lots of commotion about the recent 2017 total solar eclipse, a total solar eclipse passes over earth’s surface every 18 months. The path of totality, when the sun is completely covered by the moon, is only 100 miles wide, making the viewing of a total eclipse a once-in-a-lifetime experience for many individuals. In the day and age of cars and airplanes, eclipse chasing is relatively easy with the internet, a pair of glasses from Amazon, and a car ride. In the late 1800’s, however, eclipse chasing was quite the ordeal, and it was primarily this that Baron discussed at the lecture.

Eclipse Chasing 1878

14760792356_1c969e822b_zThe year was 1878. Manifest Destiny was the United States’ call to action, the transcontinental railroad was moving people across the plains, and America was striving to carve out a unique spot in the landscape of worldwide scientific discovery. Solar eclipses were critical to physical and astronomical discoveries at the time, and Europeans were monopolizing these scientific experiences and discoveries. That is, until a total solar eclipse was forecast to cross the American West in 1878.

This was an opportunity for Americans to show that they could compete intellectually with the rest of the world. The government recruited scientists, astronomers, and everyday citizens alike to “crowd source” information on the sun and its corona. Everyone in the western United States would have less than three minutes to make the most important astronomical observations of their lifetime.

Notable Participants

Three individuals in particular stood out among the group of government-recruited scholars:

  1. James Craig Watson of the University of Michigan’s Detroit Observatory was one of the most recognized “planet hunters” of his age. He discovered a number of asteroids and sought to discover a new asteroid planet during the eclipse.
  2. Maria Mitchell was the most famous female scientist and astronomer of the 1800’s and was a teacher at Vassar College in New York when news of the eclipse rang out. Mitchell organized a group of women to go west to study the eclipse and show society that women can be smart, educated, healthy, and feminine to boot.
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    Courtesy of cea+

    Thomas Edison had just been dubbed the “Wizard of Menlo Park” for his invention of the phonograph and was anxious to test his new invention, the tasimeter, to detect changes of heat during the eclipse. This was Edison’s chance to prove that he was not only an inventor but a serious scientist as well.

Not to be Left in the Shadows

At the end of the three minutes of darkness and scientific enlightenment, according to Baron, Edison was inspired to look into light and power (a possible influence on his future invention of the light bulb), the tasimeter was claimed as a success, Mitchell successfully advocated female higher education, Watson claimed to find the asteroid planet Vulcan (which was later proved unreal, but would give Watson something to defend for the rest of his life), and the American public came together to make what newspapers called the “most important observations ever made.”

“Eclipses inevitably reveal much about ourselves,” said Baron in American Eclipse, a book he wrote about the 1878 eclipse. “What we see in them reflects our own longings and fears.” Baron’s descriptions of America’s reaction to the 1878 eclipse, in his book and his lecture here on campus, capture a nation longing for success. The book was published earlier this year with the support of the Charles Redd Center. During his research for the book, Baron was able to visit many of the sites connected to the 1878 eclipse and see the collections of drawings and observations of the eclipse that were collected from American citizens and are now housed in the Library of Congress.

Follow the Redd Center for more events concerning the history of the American West.

How have your eclipse experiences impacted your own life?

 

 

 

 

 

How to Invest as a College Student

Many college students dream of becoming multimillionaires who split their time between philanthropic efforts and exotic travel. But the trouble is that we’re not always adept at making or saving money. Few of us will end up as multimillionaires, but learning how to make smart investments will help us live comfortably and provide for our families’ needs. In fact, according to School of Family Life professor Jeff Hill, any student can invest, no matter what how tight a budget he or she keeps.

Investing Tips for Students

Take Advantage of Compound Interest

Professor Hill is an expert on saving and budgeting money. In fact, one of his undergraduate courses — SFL 260, Family Finance — teaches BYU students those important skills, and Dr. Hill even co-authored the textbook that the students use (Fundamentals of Family Finance: Living Joyfully within your Means). In a June 2015 BYU devotional, Dr. Hill told a story about four hypothetical students, who each had $10,000 and who each planned on retiring 50 years down the line.

 

Get rich slowly - Jeff Hill

The first student put his money in a strongbox, meaning he would still have $10,000 in 50 years. The second student put her money in a savings account, where compound interest would double its value every 25 years. She’d have $40,000 at the end of the 50-year period. The third student put his money in a government bond mutual fund, where it would double every 15 years to become almost $100,000 in a 50-year span. The fourth student put her money in a broad diversified stock market fund, where it would double every seven and a half years. In 50 years, the student would have more than $1,000,000.

“That is the miracle of compound interest,” Dr. Hill said. “When you consistently invest like the fourth student, you have the peace of mind that comes from knowing you will be able to retire in the future and that if an emergency happens now, you have a reserve.”

Start Now

Dr. Hill said that any student can invest, no matter what how tight a budget he or she keeps. Some mutual funds even cater to small investors who can only afford to put a little bit of money into the stock market. “I invite my students, and I invite you, to begin to invest now,” he concluded.

 

Take a Little Risk, and Diversify

To Dr. Hill’s tips, Economics professor Scott Condie, who has published papers describing the effects of ambiguity aversion (the preference of known risk over unknown risk) on investment. It’s common among many investors, driving them to have less diversified portfolios and to participate in the market less often. “Ambiguity averse investors will almost surely have their wealth converge to zero if there is a rational expected utility maximizing investor in the market,” Dr. Condie wrote. In other words, investors who remain sufficiently ambiguity averse will not survive.

So make sure that you have a diversified portfolio, that you participate actively in the stock market, and that you don’t entirely avoid risk. After all, what’s life without a little risk?

How do you save, budget, and spend your own money?

Take a minute to think about your own finances. If you’ve got any questions about personal finance or investing, let us know in the comments, and we’ll get a research-based response to you!

 

Instability and Complexity in American Families

Today’s families are changing, as we’ve discussed here and here. Our School of Family Life professors are studying more and more types of families with more and more complex relationships. At our college‘s 2017 Hinckley Lecture, Dr. Kathryn Edin addressed the impact of instability and complexity on many American families. As parents break up, then re-partner, then bring new children into the family dynamic, Dr. Edin explained that “the parental roster is unstable” and “the child has multiple adults in and out of his or her life, claiming the role of mom or dad.” This dynamic is both a consequence and a cause of poverty.

Learn more about instability and complexity by watching this two-minute video, and stay tuned for new videos as we continue to explore these issues.

Dr. Edin’s full lecture is available here.

This post is thirty-fourth in a series of videos available in our new BYU Social Sciences YouTube channel! The channel contains tidbits of many of our most popular lectures and useful, succinct, research-backed advice on relationship, political, religious, media, and financial issues. Follow us there to stay up-to-date on wisdom that will help you and your family live better lives.

Learn How to Recognize and Monitor Media’s Impact in Your Home at an Upcoming Event

Media and technology can be a blessing, but when they negatively impact family relationships in the home, they can quickly become a curse. sarah_coyneIn a society where media is present in most aspects of our lives, individuals should be informed on how media use influences their relationships and decisions and how they can manage this content in their own lives and in their homes. As a part of BYU’s Continuing Education Families at Risk lecture series, on December 13th Dr. Sarah Coyne of the School of Family Life will expound on how media affects families and how individuals can manage the media in their home with specific strategies and tools. 

Dr. Coyne is an associate professor of human development and has focused much of her recent research on media and its affect on the family. In a recent study on mothers’ media monitoring styles on adolescent technology and media use, Coyne collaborated  with Dr. Laura Padilla-Walker to study certain parental monitoring styles within the home. Research found that when monitoring strategies consisted of active monitoring, which is the promotion of educational and critical thinking about media by parents, and connective co-use, which is use of media by both parents and children in a joint experience, there is less media usage.

families at risk
Courtesy of BYU Continuing Education

Coyne has also worked on research that investigates the impact texting has on adolescent behavior. The December 13th event will be part of the Families at Risk: Issues Facing Today’s Families lecture series. To register and learn more about their classes, please visit their website.

 

 

Speaker to Present on Utah’s Hidden Diversity

“Our ability to reach unity in diversity will be the beauty and the test of our civilisation,” said activist Mahatma Gandhi. On December 7th, Dr. Pamela Perlich, Director of Demographic Research Director at the the University of Utah’s Kem C. Gardner Policy Institute, will speak on the importance of recognizing and utilizing diversity in our communities at an event titled “Utah’s Hidden Diversity, Multicultural Demography.” “Good active citizens,” said Dr. Brenden Rensink, assistant director of the Redd Center, which is sponsoring the event, “need to be aware of who makes up their neighborhoods and communities, otherwise we can’t make progress towards serving and representing each other appropriately in civic life, politics, culture, etc.” The event will be held on December 7th at 11am in B192 JFSB.

Diversity

Utah is not known for its diversity. However, the state is more diverse than people realize, said Dr. Rensink. The purpose of the event is for citizens to “learn about multiculturalism, diversity, and demographics in Utah, and to come away with an understanding that Utah’s 21st century population is much more diverse than we realize.” He continues: “Utah, along with the rest of the nation, is in the midst of a remarkable demographic transition, becoming older and more ethnically diverse.  Utah County, projected to add one million residents over the next fifty years, will be especially impacted.”

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A 2016 Pew Research Center study found that 58% of Americans believe that diversity makes America “a better place to live.” However, in a different Pew study, the number of Americans viewing racism as a ”big problem” has increased 8 percentage points in the past two years to 58%, and roughly doubled since 2011. America seems to be a nation conflicted about the value of diversity versus the implementation of that value in daily actions.

Dr. Perlich

Dr. Perlich holds a doctorate in economics and has worked for the Utah Governor’s Office of Planning and Budget and the Bureau of Economic and Business Research.

 

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Will you be attending the event?

Photo of man with American flag courtesy of Luke Braswell on Unsplash.

A Reason for Hope: How Transcendent Hope Inspires Us to Do Good

How can hope inspire us to do good? Better yet, how can it inspire us to be good? C. Terry Warner, an author and emeritus professor of philosophy, shared a few ideas at this semester’s recent bi-annual Reason for Hope Conference, hosted by the Wheatley Institution.

He shared the story of the The Other Side Academy, a live-in school that boards adult criminals and substance abusers looking for a fresh start after they’ve hit rock bottom, to demonstrate the difference between short-term and long-term hope, and how recognition of those different kinds of hope, and feeling both, can truly change lives.

The academy’s residents often begin their two-year stay with a sense of hopelessness or of “imminent hope,” defined by Dr. Warner as short-term, passing hope. The residents usually become discouraged, and they doubt that they can change.  Dr. Warner compared their mindsets to those commonly held by many people: “Our mental constructs both enable and limit our experience. Our mentality is, in this sense, prejudicial.”

But, as other people invite residents of Other Side to do good things and to be better people, the residents acquire a sense of transcendent hope, with the idea that these invitations to do good in and of themselves disrupt and intrude on the residents’ negative mentalities. They begin to recognize that they can change, and they find increased confidence in themselves, the future, and others. The academy’s programs give residents work experience, and its strict rules teach them self-control, but its success depends on each resident’s commitment to change.

Dr. Warner said that anyone can change, but we can only do so if we’re motivated by a call to goodness that originates outside ourselves. That call to goodness interrupts our negative (and often cyclical) thinking, and then it plants a seed of transcendent hope in each of us. “Transcendent hope is a hope that goodness will prevail,” he said. For Dr. Warner, the gospel brings transcendent hope into his life. He specifically mentioned the light of Christ and its permeating influence on every person who has ever lived.

Dr. Warner concluded by referring to scriptures that discuss how all goodness is rooted in God and Christ. “But behold, that which is of God inviteth and enticeth to do good continually; wherefore, every thing which inviteth and enticeth to do good, and to love God, and to serve him, is inspired of God.” (Moroni 7:13)

What is the Wheatley Institution?

The Wheatley Institution is an on-campus entity that enhances BYU’s scholarly reputation while enriching faculty and student experiences. It lifts society as it preserves and strengthens its core institutions.

What invites you to do good and be good?

Let us know in the comments below!

Student Spotlight: Ryan Shields, Geography Whiz

In the College of Family, Home, and Social Sciences, we have many remarkable students, young people who stand out in different ways. Jacob Fisher, one of our Econ students, recently won a Wheatley Institution award for his writing skills, for example. Ryan Shields, from our geography department, is student who embodies BYU’s motto to “enter to learn, go forth to serve” because of his passion for his major and his extra-curricular involvement in geographical activities. We recently had the opportunity to speak with him about his experiences at BYU:

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FHSS: What’s your major?  

Ryan: Geography with an emphasis in Geospatial Intelligence/GIS.

FHSS: Why did you choose it?

Ryan: I have always had a natural aptitude for geography and passion for global affairs. Growing up in rural Nebraska, I did not have a lot of global exposure so maps were a big part of how I experienced the world. As I learned more, the dots on [the] maps eventually became more to me than just locations of cities. They represented people and that helped me to relate to my brothers and sisters across the globe. I started to better understand what life was like for them and how it was similar and differed from my own life. When I found out there were many geography career fields that would allow me to use that perspective and passion, I knew geography was the right choice for me.

FHSS: Was there a particular experience that led you to it?

Ryan: When I started at BYU, I declared as a Chemical Engineering major. I had worked in an oil field for a summer after I graduated high school and thought a career as a petroleum engineer might be a good fit for me. I took one class and realized that was not going to be [the case]. I started browsing the major catalogue and came across geography and was surprised at the diverse career paths in that field.

FHSS: What are you involved in (i.e. extracurricular activities)?

Ryan: I’m the Co-President of Praemon, a student organization at BYU that provides a platform for students pursuing careers in intelligence to be published on. I’m also one of the Directors for the Foreign Service Student Organization and a member of the Geography Student Association Council.

FHSS: Any tips for getting involved?

Ryan: Attend lectures on campus, search for groups that share common interests and career goals. Most groups will have a Facebook page or a website where you can contact them. Just ask for opportunities!

FHSS: What do you like to do outside of school?

Ryan: I enjoy spending time with family and friends, traveling, and working on cars and motorcycles. I also manage ThinkSpatial (the cartography service at BYU) and work for the BYU Police Department’s security division. I’ve worked crowd security for multiple special events and dignitary/VIP protection for religious leaders, ambassadors, and other foreign dignitaries from around the world.

FHSS: Random fact or story about yourself?

Ryan: I’ve skydived, visited 18 US States, and traveled outside the mainland US every year since I started attending BYU.

 

 

What can You do to Strengthen Your Relationship With Your Roommate?

While each person’s college experience is unique, many share common elements, such as: navigating difficult classes, dating, and living with roommates.  The research of various FHSS professors speaks not only to the importance of building and maintain positive relationships with friends and roommates, but also provides ideas for how to do so.

Why are relationships important?

Psychology professor Julianne Holt-Lunstad studies relationships and the effects they have on health. In a 2015 study, she found that loneliness is a precursor for early death. “The risk associated with social isolation and loneliness is comparable with well-established risk factors for mortality, including those identified by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (physical activity, obesity, substance abuse, responsible sexual behavior, mental health, injury and violence, environmental quality, immunization, and access to health care,)” she and her co-authors said. Loneliness can lead to death just as much as obesity and substance abuse can.

In an interview with Scientific American, the professor spoke on the importance of friendship: “[Friends] provide a sense of meaning or purpose in our lives.”

How can we improve relationships?

1. Understand that they may be struggling

In a recent Connections article, School of Family Life professors Laura Padilla-Walker, Jason Carroll, Brian Willoughby, and Larry Nelson identified the four top concerns of “emerging adults” (people between the 18 and 24) as:

  • Identity: still exploring
  • Parental involvement: transitioning to independence
  • Sexual behavior/Relationships: in light of religious beliefs and newfound independence
  • Religion/Morality: and how it relates to their worldviews

“Emerging adulthood is a unique time of life,” the researchers said, “complete with its own set of challenges and struggles, and it is important for parents, teachers, employers, and others to learn about these issues.” Understanding that your roommate may be experiencing these challenges can help you emphathize.

2. Talk with them

The Relate Institute offers the following ways to have a meaningful conversation:

  • Don’t multitask: focus on your roommate when you’re talking to him or her
  • Don’t pontificate: enter every conversation with the thought that you have something you can learn from it
  • Ask open-ended questions
  • If you don’t know, say that you don’t
  • Don’t equate their experience with yours

Following these tips will allow you to meaningfully communicate with your roommate, which will lead to a better relationship.

3. Do something fun together

rae and madiCheck out our articles on what to do during Thanksgiving break and Summer (these still apply anytime of year) for fun ideas of what to do together.