The College of Family, Home, and Social Sciences has three new assistant deans: Danny Damron (BA ’92) for experiential education and professional development, Jordan Karpowitz (BA ’92) for communications and external relations and Lita Little Giddins (BA ’92, MSW ’95) for diversity, collaboration and inclusion.
Outgoing Dean Ben Ogles says he wants to establish a solid team for incoming Dean Laura Padilla-Walker to support her in moving the work of the college forward.
The appointments change the landscape of the dean’s office. The assistant dean position formerly held by Scott Dunaway, director of Washington Seminar who retired, has been expanded from overseeing internships to improving experiential learning in the college generally. Communications and diversity and inclusion were elevated to assistant dean positions.
Padilla-Walker says the reconfiguration of college leadership will invite more collaboration.
“For example, under this new system, all of the college leadership will be informed to some degree regarding experiential education, communications, and diversity and inclusion, where in the past we have been a bit more siloed,” she says. “This will take two things we care about deeply — experiential education and diversity and inclusion — and allow the vision of these efforts to be incorporated and communicated in a way that will influence everything we do at the college level.”
Damron, the new assistant dean for experiential education and professional development, says he wants to improve the way students view internships.
“Primarily, my focus is on repurposing and recalibrating the internship experience in ways that make it more valuable, so what a student gets out of the internship adds value to their growing professional direction,” he says.
Damron formerly was responsible for internships in the BYU College of Humanities. He has a doctorate degree in political science from Purdue University and taught in the political science department at BYU for four years, during which time he established the Scottish Parliament internship program. His professional background also includes directing the international centers at Utah Valley University and Oregon State University.
Damron says he wants to help students be proactive in developing transferrable skills and be able to articulate the relevance of those skills to future employers, rather than just checking an internship off on a resume. He believes students in the college have unique knowledge from social sciences they can use to add value to their internship experiences, beyond making copies and calls.
Damron sees experiential learning as a collaborative effort incorporating faculty and curriculum in the college.
Karpowitz’s role of communications and external relations was created to increase the college’s visibility, according to Ogles. Karpowitz has a degree in communications with an emphasis in public relations and brings 25 years of public relations and marketing communications experience to the role. She hopes to be effective in sharing the stories of human connection that emerge from faculty research and student learning.
“Across the many departments and schools in the college, there is a common thread of studying how humans interact with each other and with institutions — how we care for each other and learn from each other— that unites the disciplines,” says Karpowitz. “Focusing on these similarities will help create a stronger purpose across the college that will better unite students, faculty, and alumni in accomplishing the mission of the university and the aims of a BYU education.”
Karpowitz’s role will focus on building the college brand across student, faculty, and alumni audiences. She is eager to develop more ways to help people engage with social sciences and understand how the disciplines can benefit them in their careers and their lives.
Karpowitz’s professional background includes working for technology, pharmaceutical, and consumer products corporations. She also has several years of agency experience and has retained her own clients including Northwestern Mutual and Coursera.
Ogles said elevating Giddins’ role of diversity and inclusion to assistant dean was an important strategic move.
“Promoting Giddins to an assistant dean is a sign that our executive team wants to communicate that this is an important part of our college,” Ogles says. “Diversity, collaboration, and inclusion needs to be a central focus of everything we do.”
Giddins joined The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints at age eighteen and served in the England Leeds Mission between 1986-1987. She has a bachelor’s degree in socio-cultural anthropology and a master’s degree in social work from Brigham Young University and is a licensed clinical social worker. She says coming to BYU was an answer to heartfelt prayer.
“I did pray that Father in Heaven would use all the bits of me, all the parts of me: my race, my culture, my ethnicity, my gender, my education, my life experiences, my conversion to the gospel, mission experiences — every single thing — for His use,” she says. “I wanted to continue as we do in the mission field, which the world is, to help in the gathering and to invite people to come closer to Jesus.”
Giddins says pain she has experienced in the past prepared her for her role.
“I know that everyone has healing to do,” she says. “That’s how I approach this work, that’s how I approach individuals. Especially when it gets hard. There is healing that needs to happen in the lives of individuals, in the hearts and souls of individuals.”
Stepping outside her comfort zone to accept the position of assistant dean helps Giddins empathize with students, who are often asked to do hard things.
When asked what strengths she brings to her new position, Giddins laughed. “I bring Jesus,” she says with a smile. “He is my strength.”