Devoted FHSS Benefactor Mary Lou Fulton Passes Away

Fulton PhotoA rare few have left a legacy so deep and expansive, and one that spans the decades, as Mary Lou Fulton. As a devoted supporter of student achievement at Brigham Young University, Fulton’s generous support and impact on higher education will be greatly missed. The Ira A. Fulton College of Engineering and Technology reported that she passed away the first of October at age 82. She was one of the greatest benefactors of the College of Family, Home, and Social Sciences and Brigham Young University. Through the endowment established in her name, she touched many students’ and faculty members’ lives with her commitment to excellence and appreciation for scholarship.

Along with her husband, Ira R. Fulton, she generously endowed four chairs in Mary Lou’s name at BYU. The Mary Lou Fulton Endowed Chair in the College of Family, Home, and Social Sciences provides meaningful research and educational experiences for students, faculty, and children. The chair was established by her husband in 2004 in recognition of her example.

The Arizona native always maintained an enthusiasm for lifting others and promoting academic pursuits. In 1999, her and her husband’s first gift to BYU came as renovation help for the neuroscience labs located in the Spencer W. Kimball Tower. Since then, they have donated in excess of $50 million to Brigham Young University.

What the Fulton Chair Does

The Mary Lou Fulton Chair in the College of Family, Home, and Social Sciences funds activities that contribute to the holistic education of students and faculty alike in these six ways:

  1. Annual Conference: This BYU initiative encourages hand’s on research and creative scholarship for undergraduate
    1504-31 069 1504-31 FHSS Fulton Poster Conference April 9, 2015 Photo by Aaron Cornia © BYU PHOTO 2015 All Rights Reserved photo@byu.edu  (801)422-7322
    Photo by Aaron Cornia
    © BYU PHOTO 2015
    All Rights Reserved
    photo@byu.edu

    students who receive personal mentoring from faculty. Opportunities may include study abroad, internships, and service projects.

  2. Professorships: Established scholars with a track record of excellence in teaching and research receive a Mary Lou Fulton Professorship for five years.
  3. Internship Grants: Current undergraduate and graduate students who are declared majors in a program in the College of FHSS apply for an internship grant of up to$1,600.
  4. Conference Participation Grants: This award can be used to pay for students expenses (travel, meals, lodging, etc.) regarding participation in professional academic conferences.
  5. Mentored Learning Grants: These fellowships are dispensed based upon peer-reviewed applications and enable faculty to involve undergraduates with unique research and publication opportunities. Students in various disciplines benefit from direct interaction with faculty on significant projects.
  6. Young Scholar Awards: This award offers incentives and recognition for outstanding scholarly work by promising young faculty. Each award provides funds to hire one student to assist the faculty member in his or her research.

The Annual Mentored Student Research Conference is a full-day event, and is approaching its twelfth year in 2016. Both undergraduate and graduate students from all departments within the College of FHSS are invited to submit a research poster. The event is designed to create a platform for students to inform other students, faculty members, and the public.

Several faculty members from the College of FHSS have benefited from the Fulton’s generosity. A professorship is an investment in outstanding scholars. Through this award, faculty recipients extend invaluable learning opportunities–which funnel future success for undergraduate students towards securing jobs and completing degrees at the best graduate programs. In 2005, Arden Pope, professor of economics, received the Mary Lou Fulton Professorship from the College of Family, Home, and Social Sciences. Pope, who teaches more than 600 students each year about the principles of environmental economics, said the Fulton Professorship is an important support to him and his students. “The Fulton Professorship has helped support several collaborative research efforts with scholars from various other universities and institutions,” Pope said.

Student Rebekah Purcell had this to say about her Fulton-funded experience in the British Library:

This experience…helped me realize how real my work is. I will never forget that feeling of accomplishment. I know that it is something that I will always hold on to as I keep pushing forward with my degree. [The Fulton’s] generous contribution [helped] me achieve this dream. I will always be so grateful for it.

Likewise, Wade Jacoby, professor of political science has felt the impact of the Mary Lou Fulton Professorship in Political Science. He said that with the assistance of research support from this professorship, he achieved an exceptionally productive year publishing content and organized a strong team of student research assistants. For him, 2014 was an outstanding year. “I published four journal articles. I also published a chapter in a book at Oxford University Press with a former BYU student, which he used to get into the PhD program at Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island,” Jacoby said. During this time, Jacoby also co-authored a book for Cambridge University Press, in conjunction with colleagues from several top universities in the nation.

The Fultons at BYU

Nearly every college and department on BYU’s campus has felt the generous hands of Ira and Mary Lou Fulton. Among those include the Joseph F. Smith Building, the BYU Athletic Complex, the BYU Broadcasting Building, and the Gordon B. Hinckley Alumni & Visitors Center. Other chairs begun to honor her legacy include the Mary Lou Fulton Chair in Theatre and Media Arts, the Mary Lou Fulton Chair in Health and Human Performance and the Mary Lou Fulton Chair of World Languages.

To find the imprint of Mary Lou Fulton’s hand at BYU is an easy task. To follow the impact of it for generations to come will not be so easy.

What kind of legacy would you like to leave at BYU?

Raiders of the Prehistoric: BYU Grad Students to Present at the Utah State History Conference

“Archaeology is the search for fact … not truth. If it’s truth you’re interested in, Dr. Tyree’s philosophy class is right down the hall. So forget any ideas you’ve got about lost cities, exotic travel, and digging up the world. We do not follow maps to buried treasure, and “X” never, ever, marks the spot. Seventy percent of all archaeology is done in the library.”

―Indiana Jones

As children of a great film period, many of us dreamed of one day growing up to become Indiana Jones. But as kids, we also missed this famous quote shared by all archaeology professors at the beginning of a semester. For most of us, the dream eventually simmered down to a simple Halloween costume, or a vague wish to explore. But, this dream never died for BYU FHSS graduate students Daniel King, Joseph Bryce, and Madison Pearce, who made presentations at the recent Utah State History Conference.

Daniel King’s presentation on the use of fossils suggests that a collection of fossils may have just been a prehistoric form of pop culture. “My findings suggest that fossils were viewed as talismans, by some,” he says, “to offer physical protection and healing.” His presentation focused on the use and interpretation of fossils by various peoples living in the prehistoric Utah region. “Others are known to have curated fossils, keeping them…within their homes.”

In King’s own personal time as an undergraduate here at BYU, he had the opportunity to work at the Museum of Peoples and Cultures with fellow conference presenter, Joseph Bryce. Part of their work at the museum was organizing the museum collections. “We stumbled upon a prehistoric Fremont collection that contained fossils and our curiosity got the best of us,” said King. And the rest is history.

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Grad student Joseph Bryce’s curiosity led him down a different path. Determined to dip his toes in the waters of the scholarly community, Bryce is a Utah State History Conference veteran. While attending the conference a few years ago, Bryce was intrigued by a presentation discussing basketry impressions that had been found on the backs of Fremont figurines.

A week later, Bryce was back at BYU analyzing pottery from a Fremont site here in Utah Valley when he spotted a basketry impression on the bottom of a bowl. His team has now identified over a dozen examples of basketry impressions from that site alone.

“Finding the basketry impressions started me thinking about how to find out more about the artifacts that don’t survive in the archaeological record,” said Bryce. Artifacts, particularly those made out of plant materials, decay long before archaeologists get digging, leaving behind lots of literal holes in the cultural makeup of a prehistoric society. “[These] impressions that are found in clay are one way that [to] get information about artifacts that we would otherwise have no information about,” said Bryce.

From a grain of salt, Bryce was able to take this concept of basket impressions on clay figurines a step further. “Right now I am researching the basketry impressions as well as the impressions left by the beams of their houses when the houses collapsed,” said Bryce. “I am also interested in fingerprints that can be found on some of the artifacts.” The information that small historical fingerprints like this can give us provides those missing pieces of the puzzle, helping us to put together a fuller picture of the past.

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Also searching for lost puzzle pieces, grad student Madison Pearce focuses her studies on the ethnographic records of prehistoric peoples. Her goal is to discover if, how, and why prehistoric peoples in today’s Utah Valley were using plants. To do this, Pearce was required to get down and dirty, quite literally, by analyzing the preserved seeds found in prehistoric coprolites, or old feces. In making this sacrifice, Pearce was able to determine which plants were being consumed by the inhabitants of the Spotten Cave near Goshen, Utah.

Her findings combined with the historic cultures’ application of plants were able to develop an understanding of plants as a source for food and medicine. “While I cannot make the claim that how prehistoric peoples used plants was the same as historic peoples, I can at least provide possibilities for if, how, and why plants were being used in the past,” said Pearce. The use of plant life obviously changes according to time, season, and place. But with an understanding of historic cultures applied to the basic information they had discovered in prehistoric remains, Pearce was able to piece together another crucial part of the puzzle.

“The notion that prehistoric peoples were able to walk outside of their homes and find plants that they could eat or use to help cure colds and fevers is really attractive to me,” said Pearce. “I often find myself looking out my window wondering, ‘Could I eat that? Or would that cure a disease? And if so, which one?’”

As a stay-at-home mom, Pearce doesn’t get as many chances as she’d like to be out in the field but her interest in ethnobotany isn’t going away anytime soon. “[It’s an interest] that I hope to continue to cultivate throughout my life,” said Pearce, glad of the conference as an opportunity to test her knowledge and her ability to share that knowledge.

While these three are not collecting golden idols and racing to discover the ark of the covenant, their research brings us a few steps closer to discovering the past. The Utah State History Conference was held Oct. 2 and featured a variety of professors, scholars, and students presenting their research on the history and archaeology of Utah.

What do you think will be the fossils we leave behind for future generations?

History and the Digital Age: Boon or Bane?

Mass communication has come a long way since Gutenberg’s printing press. History is now being recorded in 140 characters, thanks to Twitter. But the job for historians in this digital age has advantages and disadvantages, said FHSS associate Brigham Young University history professor Christopher Hodson.  “In a lot of ways the Internet has transformed the possibilities for our research. We can do things faster. We can be more accurate,” he says. But there’s a catch. We’re at a crossroads of sorts.

Boon…or Bane?

One of the advantages the internet provides historians and its students is the much-widened breadth of available data. Places like the National Archives in the United States, the British Library, and L’archives Nationales in France are starting to digitize documents that are healthy enough to withstand the digitization process. Sources like Evan’s American Bibliography, is an online database that makes accessing historical documents easy and efficient. It’s a database of everything published on a printing press, excluding newspapers, between 1639 and 1820. The primary documents are keyword searchable and super accessible to both scholars and students.

history in digital age
Photo credit: Pratt Library

“We are getting more eyes on more different types of topics and that can only be good for the way we pursue scholarship,” Hodson said. The database links on BYU’s library website is a fantastic resource with lots and lots of information. For example, there is a database of early American newspapers. There is no better way for students and historians alike to get a sense of the texture of life in the eighteenth century than to read the newspaper.

Even with the endless options for historical hunting in the new age, there is a downside to all of this. “If students become too reliant on digital databases and sources, they forget to read the books. This is a problem for us [educators] and one we have to combat in our classes,” Hodson said.

“It’s great to be able to look things up online. Everybody uses Google and Wikipedia and those things are fine so long as you don’t ask them to do things they aren’t capable of doing. They aren’t capable of the deep proper research and that you get in actual scholarship.”

Since everything does come back at some point to print, the other problem, according to Hodson, is the inability to discriminate among digital sources. “All websites look alike. There’s a sense that if it’s on the internet, it must be okay. That really isn’t true.”

Could You Be a Historian?

Prof. Hodson; Photo by Cheryl C. Fowers/BYU Copyright BYU PHOTO 2007 All Rights Reserved
Prof. Hodson; Photo by Cheryl C. Fowers/BYU
Copyright BYU PHOTO 2007
All Rights Reserved

Hodson says its important to be discerning about what you are looking at and understand the difference between good and bad scholarship. For example, a peer-reviewed article that appears in a scholarly journal or book is different than a post in someone’s blog.

For those looking for the difference between a great historian and an average one, we asked Professor Hudson what skills a historian for our time should have. Here are the top three tips for a novice historian:

  • Learn how to write clearly, and recognize that ability in what you read: Whether you are going to be a historian or going into a field related to history, it’s crucial to be able to process some information and analyze it clearly in writing.
  • Remember how to read deeply: Our brains, if we spend a lot of time on the internet, become less habituated to sitting down and reading a book and thinking about it contemplatively. Hodson recommends reading “The Shallows: What the Internet Is Doing to Our Brains,” and thinking about its application, or lack there-of, in your life.
  • Maintain an active imagination: It may seem counter-intuitive for a historian to have an imagination because they have traditionally been bound by traditional sources. To an extent, everything a historian does is held in check by what people in the past wrote down. But, the best historians and the best people who use history in their fields are able to use their own creativity to make interpretative connections between sources that might seem like they don’t have anything to do with each other. Imagination separates great historians from lesser historians.

What are your on-line go-to resources for historical information?