Professors Honored at Both University and National Levels

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.

Increase Your Understanding: Fulton conference

There is perhaps no more unique an opportunity for us to support research that increases everyone’s collective ability to understand the world around us and to engage with the people around us, and to see what great work our undergraduate students are capable of, than at the annual Fulton Mentored Student Research Conference. This year’s conference is just around the corner, and promises to inform on topics such as internet addiction, adolescent romantic relationships and their relationship to depression, and parental school involvement and responsible children, and many others.

The Mary Lou Fulton Endowed Chair in the College of Family, Home, and Social Sciences is pleased to host the 13th Annual Mentored Student Research Conference on Thursday, April 13, 2017. The conference will be held in the Wilkinson Student Center Ballroom from 9:00 a.m. – 12 p.m. and is open to the public.  The conference will feature research done in the areas of neuroscience, sociology, social work, psychology, family life, geography, anthropology, history, political science, and economics.

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The conference is a unique opportunity for hundreds of graduate and undergraduate students to present their most recent research visually and succinctly. Parents and family members, students across the Y’s campus, and members of the community are invited.

About Mary Lou Fulton

The College of Family, Home, and Social Sciences honors the life and contributions of Mary Lou Fulton by designating a chair in her name. Mary Lou was a wonderful example of a Latter-day Saint woman who, after devoted service raising her family, returned to college to finish her degree. Throughout her life, Mary Lou sought to help those with personal challenges, whether assisting her own students who struggled with reading or rendering quiet service to neighbors and ward members.

During her lifetime, Mary Lou and her husband Ira supported causes and programs that uphold and strengthen the family unit. This goal continues to be a high priority for Ira, as well as helping others remain free of addictive substances or crippling afflictions that limit their possibilities in life.

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About the Mary Lou Fulton Endowed Chair

The Mary Lou Fulton Endowed Chair provides meaningful research and educational experiences for students, faculty, and children. Mary Lou’s passion for educating and elevating others is reflected in the many elements of the chair, established by her husband Ira A. Fulton in 2004 to honor and recognize her example. The Chair also funds internship grants, professorships, and young scholar awards.

 

 

Research Logs: Essential When Doing Your Family History

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These days, family history, as we’ve mentioned here, is less about finding information about people and more about organizing the amazing amount of information available to anyone who looks. Access to records has greatly increased in recent years, but it might be a challenge for some to keep track of the research they do to find a particular person or straighten out a particularly convoluted limb of the family tree, even with the many online tools and apps available. One tool that has proven useful for many in past years is logbooks. At their most basic level, logbooks are a simple means whereby people looking for their ancestors can record what searches have been done, what results have been found, and which documents are relevant to the question at hand. Peg A. Ivanyo, in her 2016 Family History Conference class for genealogy beginners said that they can contain notes, citations, stories, and even links to blog posts. But how exactly can they be helpful?

Research logs serve to make things easier. Jill Crandell, a history professor at BYU, says that research logs help to decrease duplication of effort and make one’s searches more efficient. Her own research log website, ResearchTies.com, serves to help people plan their research, catalogue their findings, and record their interpretations. Of research logs, she says, “[they] logs need to be detailed and kept consistently. If they are, the logs will prevent researchers from searching the same sources multiple times, documents will be organized and accessible, and research analysis will be higher quality. Find a research log format that works for you, one that you are actually willing to use to record your work, then use it.”

Many years ago, she was working on tracing a nomadic family who had lived in New York, Canada, and Scotland, with a common name. The man she was researching never identified his parents in any of his documents. To solve the mystery of who his parents were, Dr. Crandell turned to her research log. Through it, she was able to learn that this man had been traveling with other people who had moved to all of the same places as him. By studying the documents saved in her log, Dr.Crandell was able to further this genealogy.

The benefits of doing genealogy, to both the doer and the ancestor, are plentiful, and logbooks are some of the many tools available to anyone who has a desire to connect with those ancestors. Paul Cardall, the noted pianist who spoke at BYU’s most recent Conference on Family History and Genealogy, spoke of the relationship between family history and missionary work. As Mormons, we believe that families can be together after this life. Therefore, it is essential to strengthen relationships with all family members, both those who are alive and those who have died…for Mormons, genealogical research or family history is the essential forerunner for temple work for the dead.”

 

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What Tips to You Have for Doing Family History?

Video Games Can Make Brothers Cooperate Better: A Study

It can easily be argued that video games will never go away. Gamers generated $630 million in revenues last year in the U.S.  and will generate $99.6 billion in revenues worldwide this year, according to the Global Games Market Report. While this may be to the chagrin of some parents, to more and more of them, it is a part of life. Siblings playing video games together can be a cause of contention that they would bemoan. However, a recent study shows that, sometimes, playing video games together can be a positive thing.

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The study, published in the Journal of Adolescence, surveyed over 500 teens about the content of the video games they played, how long they engaged in them, how often they played them with a sibling, and the quality of their relationships with their sibling. Playing video games with a sibling was associated with higher levels of sibling affection for both boys and girls, but, surprisingly, brothers playing violent video games had less conflict in their relationship.   Sarah Coyne, the primary author of the study and a faculty member in BYU’s School of Family Life, theorizes that this is based on the collaborative nature of some of those kinds of games (Halo’s team mode, for example). In these games, the siblings face off against a common enemy, which breeds cooperation.

This isn’t the first study to look at the ways in which video games affect different relationships, or to document the kinds of things that encourage cooperation between siblings. It is one, however, that shows that “playing video games together may be one way that siblings share time and experiences, and strengthen sibling bonds.” It was motivated in part for Dr. Coyne’s observations of her five younger siblings playing video games together as they grew up. Coyne continues to research video games and the effects they induce; currently, she is studying the brains of those addicted to gaming and those who aren’t using fMRI data.

How do Video Games Affect Your Relationships with Your Siblings?

 

Overweight Adolescents More Prone to Sleep Disorders and Poorer Performance, Study Says

Snoring. It’s everyone’s pet peeve, yet about a third of the population does it, and hardly anyone understands the science behind it. In technical terms, snoring is caused by the vibration of respiratory structures due to obstructed air movement during breathing. Snoring is one of many manifestations of sleep-disordered breathing (SDB), a medical condition that affects millions of people each year.

Scientists have long been interested in the connection between obesity and SDB, and the connection between SDB and executive functioning, or the ability to get things done. In a study recently released in the Journal of Pediatric Neuropsychology, two faculty members in BYU’s Department of Psychology, studied the connection in obese adolescents and found that they were much more likely to snore and thus have impaired executive function skills.

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Shawn Gale  All Rights Reserved

Doctors Shawn Gale and Chad Jensen state that even though obesity is itself one of the most common medical conditions people suffer from, it is unique in its potential to lead to other even more serious illnesses. It has often been associated with sleep apnea and other SDBs, particularly in the young. Also, SDB in children has been associated with behavioral difficulties and impairment in cognitive and academic function.

Gale, Jensen, and BYU graduate student Jonathan Mietchen sampled 37 adolescents enrolled in a weight loss program. Findings from their study suggest that these adolescents, whose obesity made them at risk for SDB, were rated by a caregivers as having “significantly poorer executive functioning compared to adolescents at minimal risk for SDB.”

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Chad Jensen    All Rights Reserved

Given the fact that the adolescents sampled in this study were enrolled in a weight-loss program, Gale and Jensen suggest that the existence of sleep problems be taken into account by caretakers and clinicians when determining the effectiveness of such programs. It may also be useful for parents and caregivers of obese adolescents to note that there is thus hope for the improvement of not only physical health but mental health and cognitive functioning–life functioning–when that adolescent loses weight.

The Power of Prayer

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The Study

BYU professors Loren Marks and Dave Dollahite are passionate about researching the connections between families and faith. As we mentioned in an article in our most recent Connections issue, that passion has grown into a decade-spanning, religion-spanning project. Amongst the Jews, Muslims, and Christians included in their research, prayer was universally acknowledged as a

  • catalyst for change,
  • a facilitator of humility and positivity, as well as of communication and understanding among couples
  • a unifier of couples and an aid in resolving conflict.”

 

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The Meaning

 The families interviewed were, in fact, very open in discussing prayer, says Dr. Marks. “We did not ask any direct questions about prayer, yet prayer was directly mentioned by our participants in substantive ways nearly 300 times and by a majority of the participants.”

The Impact

Eleven studies conducted over the last ten years combine to show the following, as expressed here:

  • the ability to unite during challenges, more than avoiding challenges, defines strong marriage,
  • marriage [partners] benefit not merely from sharing the same faith, but from sharing similar levels of involvement and commitment, or have a ‘shared vision’ of faith and family life,
  • youth spiritual development is more successful when based on certain anchors of religious commitment,
  • it is not necessarily what families believe, but what they do that matters most.

They provide a variety of tips gleaned from their research here.

Dr. Loren says that he will be studying specific religious activities, such as the Jewish Shabbat, the Mormon Family Home Evening, and the Muslim Ramadan, next. He will also be analyzing the ways in which people emotionally struggle with religion and what religious parents believe are the paramount traits they need to possess and exemplify in regards to their adolescent offspring.

How has prayer influenced your life?

 

New Professor Shares Expertise on Marriage and Finances

      George Horace Lorimer once said, “It’s good to have money and the things that money can buy, but it’s good, too, to check up once in a while and make sure that you haven’t lost the things that money can’t buy.” No one knows this better than Dr. Jeff Dew, who specializes in researching how finances affects couples, and working to show them the tools they can use to bolster their relationships. Of his research, Dr. Dew says he wants people to understand the correlation between relationships and money so that they can “think about the different results they might get.”

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His desire to do so sprang out of his own desire to understand how changes in his financial circumstances when he was in school would affect his marriage. In an interview for the  Journal of Financial Therapy, he says:   “I left a job in the mental health field to attend graduate school. The job had a reasonable salary and incredible benefits. As I was walking home from my graduate office one evening, I wondered how the financial change would influence my marriage. I have been researching this issue ever since.”

dew_jeffHowever, his research interests did not always lie in finances; at first, he was interested in the parent-child dynamic. He credits his original research to time spent employed at a youth treatment center. At the center, they offered parent education classes. Dr. Dew observed that the adolescents whose parents attended the class were rarely re-admitted to the center. Conversely, those whose parents skipped the meetings often returned to the center.

His work has been featured in numerous publications: The Huffington Post, DadsDivorce, and The New York Times to name only a few. Previously, he was a professor at Utah State University. He now brings his expertise to BYU, in our School of Family Life. Dr. Dew says he loves to teach because he gets to be around “bright and accomplished” students who are “eager to learn,” and because he gets to discuss family studies in the context of the gospel.

 

Alumni Spotlight: Stephanie Ashcraft

Stephanie Ashcraft’s career as a successful cookbook author and TV personality began as a mere class assignment for her Family and Consumer Science major almost twenty years ago. She turned in a list of 101 things to do with a cake mix, and then started teaching a cooking class on the subject at the local Macey’s. Because her students wanted the recipes, she decided have them bound in a book. Eventually, demand for book grew so large that Stephanie made the decision to pass it onto Gibbs-Smith, Publisher. Within two months of its release, 101 Things to do with a Cake Mix hit #9 on the New York Times Bestseller List for Paperback Advice. From there, her success only grew.

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101 Things to do with a Cookbook

Just one year out of college, she formed her own company, Stephanie Ashcraft Inc., and has gone on to publish twenty more successful cookbooks, like 101 Things to do with a Slow Cooker, 101 Things to do with a Tortilla, etc.) She has taught hundreds of classes and appeared on hundreds of television and news programs all over the country sharing ways that families can save time and money in the kitchen. While living in Arizona, Stephanie worked as a media contributor doing money saving stories for various local stations. She also assisted in creating, running, writing, and promoting the Arizona Mormon News. Aside from these and spots on the New York Times Bestseller List, she has been honored with an induction into the Self Publishing Hall of Fame.

101-things-to-do-with-a-cake-mix-coverThe food industry, however, is not the only area in which Stephanie has succeeded. She also volunteers for the Marana Middle School PTO, the Marana Police Citizen Advisory Commission, the Media for Southern Arizona, and the District Continuous Improvement Committee in Marana, Arizona, according to her LinkedIn profile.

Two years ago, Stephanie and her family moved back to Utah to live closer to family. Currently she serves on her local elementary school’s community council and on the PTAs for both the junior high and high school in her area. She’s the mother of five children, and lives with her husband Ivan, who has a PhD in Electrical Engineering from BYU, in Salem, Utah. She is an alumni who is truly exemplifies the mission of the school from which she graduated, the School of Family Life,which is to enhance the quality of life of individuals and families within the home and communities worldwide. You can read more about her and her books on her Amazon page.

If you are an alumni of BYU’s School of Family Life, or any of the nine other departments in the College of Family, Home, and Social Sciences, we’d like to hear your story! Please share with us your accomplishments, your stories of service and inspiration. Share them at Rise.byu.edu.

 

Have you read any of Stephanie’s books?

 

New Faculty Member Dr. Derin Cobia Studies Mental Illness and the Brain

Cobia_DerinWhen Derin Cobia first came to BYU as student, he didn’t think he would end up studying the human brain. Through the help of one professor, his life changed directions. Now, thirteen years later, he’s back, and in the same position as his mentor. As his life was enriched, so is Dr. Cobia enriching others: through research that has the potential to aid countless individuals.   

 

 

 

Mental Illness and the Brain

Cobia is focused on mental illness, primarily schizophrenia and dementia, and its causes. He studies what factors lead to symptom variance, and what tools the brain uses to combat these diseases.

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These pictures show the areas of the brain most affected by schizophrenia. The brighter areas are places where the strongest amount of variance in relation to healthy brains occur.

He has found that different people react to the same illnesses in differing ways; some might feel the symptoms very strongly, others might not. The focal point of Dr. Cobia’s research on dementia has been PPA, or Primary Progressive Aphasia. This differs from traditional dementia in that the patient loses their language capabilities, yet remains cognitively sound.

Dr. Cobia’s research and findings possess significant implications. While he himself, not being a medical doctor, cannot produce treatments for mental illness, his studies will assist others in doing so. Other researchers can potentially use his findings to facilitate clinical studies that may eventually result in treatments.

The Importance of a Mentor

Dr. Cobia credits Dr. Erin Bigler, one of our psychology professors, for galvanizing his interest in neuroscience. It was Dr. Bigler who taught him about brain functions and other principles of neurology. About the organ, Dr. Cobia says: “I can’t think of anything more interesting.”

Dr. Cobia was hired as assistant professor in the Department of Psychology recently. He graduated in 2003 with a BS in Psychology, and later obtained a masters and a doctorate in Clinical Psychology from the University of St. Louis. He went on to become a Postdoctoral Research Fellow at the Cognitive Neurology and Alzheimer’s Disease Center at Northwestern, and then a neuropsychologist with the Northwestern Medical Faculty Foundation. While there, he was promoted the positions of Associate Director of Education and Clinical Training and Assistant Professor at the Northwestern’s Feinberg School of Medicine. He held those jobs concurrently.

Of his return to his alma mater, he says that “BYU feels like home… [It] is my tribe.” More importantly, though, he looks forward mentoring a new generation of scientists and to pay back the university for the education he was given.