Faculty News: Dr. Sarah Loose: Historian and Humanitarian

loose-sarahAn examination of history—particularly medieval times, which were rife with war, famine, and plague—wouldn’t necessarily lead one to focus on practices of aiding the poor and other forms of charity, but to Sarah Loose, a new professor of History at BYU, they naturally go together. Poor relief and charity “[provide] a window onto a lot of different aspects of society,” she says. By studying them, she can research political relations, religion, social history, and how they all tie into each other.

Dr. Loose graduated from BYU with a bachelor’s in History in 2002, then a masters of Arts in European History in 2007,  and a Doctorate from the University of Toronto in the history of Late Middle Europe, 1050-1494 a.d., in 2013. Her dissertation described the network of charity that existed around a hospital in Siena, Italy during the sixteenth century. She has spoken, published, and written primarily about civic humanism and politics in Renaissance Italy. Because of these academic interests, Dr. Loose is fluent in Italian and can read in French and Latin. She is also a part of the Renaissance Society of America, the American Historical Association, the Canadian Society for Italian Studies, and the Sixteenth Century Society.

Before coming back to BYU, the historian taught a variety of Renaissance and medieval history courses from 2014-2016 St. Jerome’s University and the University of Toronto. Of her Alma Mater, Dr. Loose said, “BYU is in my family blood.” Truly, she is correct: her father is a competitive swimming coach at the university, three of the five children in her family are alumni, and both her grandparents and parents met at the Y.

Currently, Dr. Loose is teaching History 300, Early Middle Ages and History 201, World Civilization to 1500. Her “great experience as a student” at BYU contributed to her applying for the position of professor. She wanted to come back to her alma mater and be closer to her family that lives in Utah.  Her goals in the classroom are to “[help] students understand and see the past in a new way.” As they learn and gain these perspectives, she hopes to in turn learn from them.





BYU Professor Talks About the Importance of Marriage Education

Six years ago, four in ten Americans surveyed by the Pew Research Center said that marriage is becoming obsolete. Of the many challenges facing that institution, those that come from within–different communication or parenting styles, for example–can often be the most difficult.  Married couples, when they reach the point where they begin to consider divorce, have a variety of resources available to them if they want to, as do couples who are not yet married but who want to prepare. Marriage education being one of them. But many are not be aware of this resource, or its effectiveness. A recent BYU study, published in the Journal of Couple and Relationship Therapy, found that through advertisements, couples were more likely to attend the relationship/marriage education classes.

Dr. Alan Hawkins, from the School of Family Life, noted a 20-percent rise in the participation rate of a Utah-based healthy marriages initiative, especially among minorities. divorce-separation-marriage-breakup-split-39483-medium“Scholars and therapists know a lot about how to form and sustain healthy relationships,” he says, “but we need to get that knowledge out of academia’s ivory towers and clinician’s wood-paneled offices to the public, especially to less educated young people who are at much greater risk for churning, unhealthy romantic relationships.”

What is marriage education? Professor Hawkins’ description of it, from his book The Forever Initiative: A Feasible Public Policy Agenda to Help Couples Form and Sustain Healthy Marriages and Relationships, is the government …trying to build a better fence at the top of the cliff rather than funding more ambulances at the bottom of the cliff.” It is classes focused on helping couples learn to better communicate, solve problems, and have healthy relationships.

While there are various government-funded programs to help with unemployment, family planning, and the like, there is almost nothing related to marriage education. Only two states–Oklahoma and Utah–have government-funded, marriage education programs.  pexels-photo-70737-medium“Forever is still the dream of virtually all Americans regardless of their social and economic circumstances,” says Dr. Hawkins. “But getting and staying on the road to forever is probably more challenging than it has ever been.”

That being said, Dr. Hawkins is optimistic about the future. Currently, the government of Utah is considering legislation that would aim to make it easier for couples to get relationship education. His book

  • outlines an integrated set of feasible and affordable educational initiatives across the early life course, beginning in youth, continuing in early adulthood, during cohabitation, engagement, and through the early years of marriage, as well as for couples at the crossroads of divorce.
  • reviews the early, encouraging evidence that these kinds of educational initiatives can help to strengthen relationships and increase family stability.
  • argues that this public policy agenda of educational initiatives can make more young people today better drivers of their romantic relationships, more competent at avoiding destructive detours, and more capable of achieving their marital aspirations and destinations.

He says that “successful navigation of that road provides tremendous personal benefits for children and adults and strengthens the communities they live in.”

For more information on relationship education classes, visit http://strongermarriage.org/  and http://yourdivorcequestions.org/ 

Do You Think Relationship Education is Important?

Balancing Work and Family: a Facebook Chat

The question of how to balance family and career responsibilities, if we’re mothers, or if we’re not, how we support those that do, is often deeply personal but also quite common. We also frequently ask ourselves, if we’re parents, how to raise our children so that they are productive and altruistic. The answers to those questions are also quite often both complicated but universal. Various female members of our School of Family Life faculty will talk about what they’ve found works best, in their lives and in their research, and invite you to chat with them in real-time and on-line, in conjunction with the release of their latest magazine.

August Facebook chat

Called Family Connections, the latest issue of the magazine shares the example of alum-turned-professors Laura Padilla-Walker, Chris Moore, and Erin Holmes, as well as those of other alumni who are making a difference in the world today, and discussion of raising “prosocial” children. SFL alumni are invited to request to join the SFL Alumni Page BYU SFL Alumni Connect, if they haven’t already been included. Then get online on

Friday, August 4th

6-7 p.m.

If you’re already a member, comment below with the kinds of questions or topics you’d like to see addressed. There will be a drawing for a $50 VISA gift card at the end of the discussion; all chat participants are eligible.


Erin Holmes

In 1998, Erin Holmes graduated with honors from BYU and went on to get her masters in 2001 at the University of Delaware, eventually obtaining a Ph.D. from the University of Texas at Austin in 2006. While going through her doctorate program, Holmes became pregnant with her first child.


As you can imagine, she faced the very difficult choice of continuing her studies or being a stay-at-home mom. Unsure of which was the right decision, she turned to the scriptures. In Isaiah 40: 31 Holmes read: “But they that wait upon the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint.” After that, the choice was clear: continue with her education.

With aid from family and friends, she was able to complete her degree and was offered a teaching position at BYU. Since then, she has had two more children and continues to balance her work as a professor while being a mother to her three children

Laura Padilla-Walker

Professor Walker obtained her BS in 1999 from Central Michigan University, her MS from University of Nebraska-Lincoln in 2001, and her PhD from the same university in 2005. As a working mother, she understands the difficulties of successfully managing both a career and children.


However, Walker finds the experience enriching; when asking her daughter of her desired career choice, the girl replied, “when I grow up I want to have a job like yours and work part-time and spend most of my time with my kids.” Walker adds, “That is success to me because she is not aware of how much I work; she just knows that I am present when I am home with her.” Through her actions, she shows that balancing work and a family is something that can be accomplished.


Chris Moore

Chris Moore knew early in life that obtaining an education was paramount. When she was young, one of her great grandmothers told her: “Christine, you cannot rely on a man to take care you, so I am going to give you some money and you are going to college!”


By the age of 50, Moore had one Bachelor’s degree, two Masters, and a Ph.D. Before becoming the director of the Family and Consumer Sciences Education program, she taught junior high. Throughout both of these careers, Moore has been a positive example to all who come in contact with her.



So, be sure to join us on Facebook on August 4th from 6-7 pm to learn just how these ladies do it- and how you can do it too. We hope to “see” you there!

*Panelists may change.

How do you balance the responsibilities in your life?

Wisconsin department of natural resources

Making Sense of Mustangs and Mushroom Clouds: Leisl Carr-Childers to Speak

While the less-populated areas of Utah may look to some like nothing but desert, they are most of them hotbeds of dispute in the ongoing public lands debate. The core of the issue is essentially whether or not they should be controlled by the federal or state government, and what they should be used for: sources of tax revenue, resource extraction, recreation, or ranch lands. There are as diverse a list of possible uses as there are people who feel strongly about any one of those uses. Leisl Carr-Childers, a professor of history who specializes in combining public history projects and academic publication on the American West and in environmental history, will tackle this tough subject at BYU on November 19th.

Leisl Childers UNI

Hosted by the Charles Redd Center at BYU, her lecture will focus on the Great Basin. “A stark and beautiful desert filled with sagebrush seas and mountain ranges,” she says, “is ground zero for public lands conflicts. Arising out of the multiple, often incompatible uses created throughout the twentieth century, these struggles reveal a tension inherent within public lands management that pits ranchers against federal officials, outdoor recreationists, and wild horse advocates.”

The lecture will take place Thursday, November 19th at 11 a.m. in B192 of the Joseph F. Smith Building (JFSB). Parking is available as follows:

  • in a large Y lot to the west of the building if you are a student, or
  • if you are a visitor, in the visitor lots north of the Museum of Art or east of the Wilkinson Center (see this map).
Woodstock Poland

Mapping Life: What’s New in BYU’s Geography Department

Geography is the study of places and features on the earth and the relationships between human, physical, and biological systems. Human systems include cultures, migration, politics, and economics. Physical systems include landforms, climates, and rivers. Biological systems include animal and plant species, ecosystems, and adaptations. Geography bridges the divide between the social, physical, and biological sciences, and geographers study these systems from a spatial perspective. This perspective focuses on the spatial dimension of these systems and seeks to answer questions such as “Where is it? Why did it occur here? What might happen next?” It is a big discipline, broad in its consideration of so many factors. Because it is so broad, and deals with things that seem to be relatively immutable, it may not seem like anything new ever happens in geography. But it does. Our geography department has been doing some neat new things:

Mapping Mormonism

Dr. Brandon Plewe recently completed the second edition of ‘Mapping Mormonism – an Atlas of Latter-day Saint History.’ This atlas was the result of a multi-year effort to spatially describe the church’s history since its inception in 1830. It has over 500 maps and figures that allow readers to visualize the growth and other characteristics of the church during this time. Mapping Mormonism has received the “Book of the Year Award” from the Mormon History Association and the “Best Atlas of 2012” from the Cartography and Geographic Information Society. In addition, the atlas has been positively reviewed in a number of outlets, including Cartographica, Library Journal and BYU Magazine. Further, the atlas was featured in a Deseret News article “Mapping Mormonism: Award-winning atlas tracks the LDS movement.”

Mapping Mormonism Plewe

Mapping Software

Geographic Information Systems, or GIS software, allows people to view, understand, question, interpret, and visualize the world in ways that reveal relationships, patterns, and trends in the form of maps, globes, reports, and charts. The president of a company in Florida, for example, can use the software to predict how much risk the company’s building and employees face if a hurricane approaches. Woodstock concert organizers in Poland use it to provide their attendees with interactive maps to and at the venue. Leaders in all sectors of government and across many industries use it for a variety of purposes. Faculty in BYU’s Department of Geography use it as one of a variety of classroom and research tools.

Woodstock Poland gis map
Photo courtesy of esri.com
Woodstock Poland
Photo courtesy of esri.com

Mapping Life

Geographers study human migration, the role of gender in state security, sacred places, conflicts between public and private forces in public lands, human/environment interactions, climate change, transportation networks, population change, water resources along the Wasatch Front, and many other themes.

How often do you use mapping or navigational tools? Which do you prefer?

This post was provided by Dr. Ryan Jensen, chair of the BYU Geography Department. Dr. Jensen has a BS in cartography and geographic information systems, as well an MS in geography, both from BYU, and a PhD in geography from the University of Florida. He has been a geography professor at BYU since 2005. He was served as an editorial board member of Applied Geography since 2008, and as co-editor of of the Earth Observation Section of Geography Compass since 2007. He has published over 50 peer-reviewed journal articles and authored or co-authored eight books.

BYU Social Work Conference to Focus on Trauma and Mental Health Treatment Awareness​​​


Advances with mental health treatment have come a long way. Yet, a recent Pew Research Center study concluded that only 19 percent of Americans believe the nation is making progress in tackling mental health diseases. Brigham Young University’s Annual Social Work Conference strives to bridge the gap between those affected by mental health issues and treatments for them. It approaches its tenth year next month and centers on trauma and mental health treatment.  The one-day conference on November 6, 2015 includes speakers who are therapists, psychologists and clinicians. Conference organizers say that the objectives for the annual Conference are to help people

1) Understand the challenges faced by trauma victims, both short term and long term

2) Improve understanding of how to treat and work with those who are struggling with negative side effects of traumatic experiences

3) Recognize the long term effects of trauma and how it impacts the individual’s development, including childhood trauma

4) Create an awareness of trauma related issues within the community and how to protect vulnerable children and families

5) Understand the effect of trauma on the family unit and interpersonal relationships.

Director of the School of Social Work, Gordon Limb, says the goal of the Conference is to “get people more information, knowledge, and skills in how to effectively treat trauma in their work.”

Trauma is our emotional response to a disturbing or distressing event.

                                                                 –Gordon Limb, Director, School of Social Work

The impetus for the conference focus came through expert opinion and strong recommendations. “As we have talked with supervisors of student internships and members of the Social Work Advisory Council, among others, the issue of trauma came up as number one over and over again,” Limb says.

Limb says that most mental health agencies in which students work in are dealing with trauma-related issues. All students participating in the graduate program are required to participate in two internships.

This year, in addition to the usual format of plenary speakers and break-out sessions, the conference also offers a self-care element. “Given that the nature of trauma is a very sensitive topic, participants have the option of entertainment or self-care during lunch,” Limb explains.

Conference organizers say the purpose “is to not only shed light on this topic, but to provide an understanding of how to care for, and meet the needs of those who deal with trauma.” Sponsors for the Conference include the School of Social Work, The Marjorie Pay Hinckley Endowed Chair ​in Social Work and the Social Sciences and the BYU College of Family, Home, and Social Sciences.

Trauma Conference flyer for website

The event is free to the public. Visit swevents.byu.edu to get more information or to register. Guests may register at the Varsity Theater in the Wilkinson Center the morning of, if capacity has not yet been reached.

Trauma and Mental Health Treatment

8:30 AM to 4:00 PM

BYU Wilkinson Center

Anxious About Marriage? You Are Not Alone

A variation of an old adage is well-spoken: happy wife equals happy life. But, no relationship is perfect, and marriages are not one-dimensional. What about marital relationships that are lukewarm? BYU FHSS psychology professor Wendy Birmingham and four of her colleagues published a study in the Annals of Behavioral Medicine that suggests that ambivalence plays a role in both the health of a marriage and the physical health of those in marital relationships. What should young adults seeking a good marriage or a good marriage partner do?

Butler study correlating health and marital quality

1:  Realize That Marriage Isn’t a Cure-All

Marriage is not necessarily a cure-all to pre-existing problems. Brigham Young University student Caroline Belnap met her future husband in New York City after he moved there for work. They married in July of 2014. For her, marriage came when she least expected it–when she wasn’t seeking it out. She observed that issues one might have before marriage, whether it is regarding body image or self-confidence, don’t necessarily go away after one is married.

Photo by Caroline Belnap
Photo by Caroline Belnap

“Even though marriage might seem like a fantasy,” she says, “prior issues don’t disappear. I’ve told girlfriends on more than one occasion that if they have ever had body image issues, marriage is nice because there is someone who cares about you and thinks the world of you. However, she explains that those issues must be dealt with personally. “Your husband can’t fix that for you.”

2:  Have realistic expectations

Lauren Johnston, an Arizona native who married in December of 2014 says she tells her friends—married and unmarried—that they should be realistic about wanting to change another individual.  “You want to love your significant other as they are right now, knowing that you both are going to grow,” Johnston says. ”If he’s awesome before, he will stay awesome.”


Johnston performs as a Cougarette for BYU and her husband is preparing for medical school. She says that marriage means being willing to accept people as they are. “If you are going to get married on the stipulation that they are going to change, they won’t. If anything, marriage will magnify the problems you already have.”

A Cinderella-style courtship does not guarantee an automatic happily-ever-after. Whether you anticipate marriage or are newly-married, you might be riddled with emotions and feelings ranging from doubt to confidence, exhaustion to elation and even bliss to anxiety. Mark Butler, Professor in the School of Family Life at BYU says that emotions play a central role in the strength of relationships.

“Emotion is, among other things, our social signaling system. It first tells us how things are going in our relationship generally and in any interaction specifically. Emotion next prompts us to act, to share with others what our experience is, and where needed, make things better.”

Emotional communication contributes to the health of our relationships-whether spouse-to-spouse, boyfriend-to-girlfriend or parent-to-child. Butler explains that “when emotions are positively shared and underlying threats resolved, differences, disagreements, or problems are much more manageable, and sometimes simply disappear.”

He adds that:

“Relationships are shaped toward health as we express what we are feeling—our emotions—and together uncover and resolve any self-concept or attachment threats occurring in our interaction or relationship.”

3: Develop Your Self-Confidence and Personal Goals

Looking back on her engagement period before marriage, Johnston said she maintained her self-confidence and brought her personal goals to the marriage, and that made for a healthy start to her new adventure. “The stronger your self-confidence and the direction you want to go in your life, the more you will feel that you are able to grow in your marriage.”

Belnap said she focused on herself during the months before getting married and that led to a more dynamic relationship. She suggests that, “you want to be your best self, academically, spiritually, and especially emotionally. Work on who you are as a person because that will bring a stronger you to the table.”

Doctor Butler adds: “After emotion gets our attention, it next becomes a motivating influence getting us to act to make things better.”

In terms of making things better, Johnston says her emotions become a motivating influence to keep impressing her husband. ”Treat each date likes it your very first date‑minus the awkwardness!”

How do you prepare for a good marriage?