Foundations of success: Psychology student receives award for excellence

“Nothing in life worth having comes easy.”

This was the philosophy Kara Duraccio had growing up on a small farm in Idaho. Though neither of her parents had finished college, they supported and loved their children by teaching them the importance of earning what they wanted in life.

Today, Duraccio is a new mother and the recipient of the Deseret Book Award for Excellence. This prestigious award is only given to one BYU graduate student every five years. Deseret Book requires that the recipient “incorporate into their lives… traits of excellence that will allow them to make a worthy contribution to the communities in which they live.”

Respected as both a teacher and student of clinical psychology at BYU, Duraccio is driven by a passion for childhood development and adolescent behavior. Her compassionate desire to help others is seen in her excellence in leadership and academia.

Throughout her life, her foundation has been the principle of compassion and care. “As cliché as it sounds,” says Duraccio, “I have always known that I wanted to go into a profession that emphasized helping others.”

Duraccio began higher education with the intention of studying nursing, but quickly ended up dropping the major. She remained undeclared until she took Introduction to Psychology, saying, “I knew psychology was the field for me when I ended up reading the entire textbook only a few weeks into the class.”

With her newfound passion, she became involved in research labs and saw the impact this research could have in application. “While I loved psychological research, I felt that a career path that was solely focused on research lacked the depth that could be obtained by entering into clinical psychology,” she says.

Believing in the power of action, Duraccio began working with Dr. Chad Jensen in his pediatric obesity lab. “I love the career that I have chosen,” she says, “because not only do I get to research childhood behaviors, but I then get to put the things that I learn from my research directly into my practice!”

According to Duraccio, the principles of psychology expand beyond the academic discipline: “I feel that it is so useful to teach future and current parents about normal child development, where development can go wrong, and, most importantly, what to do if it does go wrong.”

Recently, Duraccio has been able to see this reflected in her own life as a new mother with both the perspective of a clinical psychologist and a parent. “It is so easy to become consumed with all of the things that we need to do as parents,” she says. “Limit screen time, make sure your child is eating enough fruits and vegetables…foster self-esteem and self-efficacy…and the list goes on and on.”

However, motherhood has taught her what can’t be learned in a research lab. “I truly believe that successful parenting boils down to one simple practice,” she says, “love your child…and everything else should fall into place.”

Life-saving training: BYU tsunami education in Indonesia

With recent hurricanes and specifically the tsunami in Palu, Indonesia, we’re reminded yet again of the devastating impact that natural disasters have on individuals and families across the world.

BYU Geography professor Chad Emmett is taking action to make sure that no matter how devastating earthquakes and tsunamis can be, lives do not have to be lost in the process.

Evaluate (and recognize) regional risk

Indonesia is at a high risk of earthquakes and tsunamis because of its location on the Ring of Fire where several tectonic plates collide. Add this risk to limited infrastructure and a lack of uniform tsunami education and evacuation plans, and the potential damage is astronomical.

Since the 2004 Aceh tsunami, national and local disaster mitigation agencies across the Southeast Asia country have worked to better prepare Indonesians against tsunami risk by putting up evacuation signs, designating gathering places, building tsunami evacuation buildings, offering training and holding evacuation drills. What hasn’t been done, however, is emphasizing the need for individuals to know the signs of tsunamis and the need for individuals to act on their own to save their lives.

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Evacuation signs point the way to landmarks that are high enough in elevation to be safe from tsunamis.

“The tsunami monitors and sirens did not work in Palu,” notes Emmett in regards to the catastrophic aftermath of the recent tsunami. “At the first shaking of the earth, people should have instinctively headed to higher ground.”

Emmett has been involved in research in Indonesia over the past 18 years. While the majority of his studies focus on Christian-Muslim relations and the history of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Indonesia, more recently Emmett has worked with BYU Geology professor Ron Harris to collaborate on an interdisciplinary study looking at tsunami mitigation and training efforts in the country.

Educating for a better-prepared future

During the summers of 2016 and 2017, Emmett and a group of BYU and UVU students and faculty (funded by Geoscientists without Borders) traveled the more than 9,000 miles to Indonesia to perform critical research and carry out essential education in regards to tsunamis.

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Fulton Conference 2018: Giving back scholastically

For 14 years, students from the College of Family, Home, and Social Sciences have had the opportunity to perform insightful research alongside faculty mentors at the Fulton Mentored Student Research Conference. This not only gives students the chance to vastly expand their research skills, experience preparing and presenting a scholarly poster, and add a notable research project to their resume, it allows them to personally contribute to scholarship in their field of interest.

The Mentored Student Research Conference is hosted by the Mary Lou Fulton Endowed Chair. Mary Lou Fulton had a passion for educating and elevating student aspirations and through this conference, students are able to achieve the skills and experiences to do so.

At this year’s conference, 250 posters were presented by 542 students who researched topics ranging from the 1964 Tokyo Olympics to how parents teach teenagers about romantic relationships. Prizes were awarded to students from each department as well as from the Redd Center, the Office of Civic Engagement, and the Gerontology department.

Congratulations to the poster winners and to all the students and faculty who participated!

Undergraduate

Anthropology

1st place: A Closer Look at Nabataean Burials
Student: Anna Nielson
Faculty Mentor: David Johnson

2nd place: Converting Gendered Expectations: Emerging Feminist Discourse among Protestant and Seventh-day Adventist Hmong
Student: Stephanie Parsons
Faculty Mentor: Jacob Hickman

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Caffeine on campus, RM romance, millennial parenting: Answering questions at the Fulton conference

“Freedom at Last: Caffeine Consumption on BYU Campus.”

“Courtship Between LDS Returned Missionaries in the Same Mission.”

“Sources of Parenting Advice for the New Millennium.”

Has one (or all) of these topics ever crossed your wondering mind?

Hundreds of BYU FHSS students alongside faculty mentors have spent the last several months researching topics such as these for the 14th Annual Mentored Student Research Conference on Thursday, April 12, 2018 from 8:30-11:30 a.m. in the Wilkinson Center Ballroom. The Mary Lou Fulton Endowed Chair in the College of Family, Home, and Social Sciences is pleased to host this event that is free and open to the public.

If you are an FHSS student, the poster submission deadline is Thursday, March 29, at noon. Needing some motivation to finish and submit your poster? The first place poster from each department will be awarded $300 cash.

For those who are not presenting research, attend the conference and have you questions answered and your world expanded!

The conference will feature research posters in the areas of neuroscience, sociology, social work, psychology, family life, geography, anthropology, history, political science and economics.

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

Pornography and Impulsivity

Most Americans agree that internet pornography is harmful.  A 2006 study is one of many that shows a correlation between consumption of material depicting nonviolent sexual activity and an increase in aggressive behavior by the consumer of that material. BYU FHSS student Bonnie Petersen took a closer look at that relationship between pornography and depression as a part of the 2015 Mentored Student Research Conference .

Her study, “YOU WATCHED WHAT?! Does the Type of Pornography Influence Depression?,” found that “while viewing hardcore pornography, softcore pornography, and sexual content significantly predicts depression, impulsivity may act as a mediating variable.”  In other words, she found that pornography consumption and aggressive behavior were also connected with impulsivity; the less one views pornography, the less impulsive one is likely to be. She suggests that when clinicians work with people dealing with pornography addiction, special attention should be placed on impulsive behavior, since addressing that may be more effective in alleviating depression than in addressing pornography viewing.

The Definition of Pornography

For the study, the word pornography was broken into categories and defined explicitly for participants. Four to five items were then combined into each category of the following:

  • hardcore pornography: (explicit videos of homosexual and heterosexual intercourse, masturbation, three-way sex, etc.)
  • softcore pornography: (written descriptions of sex, photos of nude men/women, photos of intercourse (genetalia not shown)
  • sexual content: (swimsuit magazines, suggestive photos not containing full nudity)

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Furthermore, religious activity may protect adolescents from intentional and accidental exposure to pornography.  Social science research confirms that when concerning pornography, sex and age are important predictors of the likelihood of pornography use, regardless of technological context. A 2013 study titled Adolescent religiousness as a protective factor against pornography use in the Journal of Applied Developmental Psychology, found that for accidental pornographic viewing, “the only indirect effects were from religious internalization through self-regulation and social control, and from religious involvement through social control.”

HITS for Human Data Gathering

To gather research data for her study on the link between impulsivity and pornography, Petersen used Amazon Turk, a site that enables individuals and businesses to coordinate the use of human intelligence to perform “hits,” or human intelligence tasks, that computers are currently unable to do. She supplied a survey to an international sample of 387 men and 262 women to measure viewing patterns of pornography.  

Petersen, mentored by assistant professor of Family Life Brian Willoughby, analyzed the data using SPSS software and performed statistical analyses of hierarchical regression models. To further add to her research, Petersen said she would evaluate the role of self-perception of pornography addiction and evaluate how that interacts with the relationship of pornography use and depression. As an undergraduate student, Petersen majored in history with an emphasis in Mormon history.

Do Your Own Research

Now in her first year as a graduate student in the master’s program for Marriage and Family Therapy, Petersen has some advice for students pursuing research of any kind:

  1. Approach your research question with an open mind. She says she was “surprised to find what we found!”
  2. Do thorough prep work. “Understand the existing scholarship and see where your own research fits in with that.”
  3. Work with a mentor who is willing to be patient. “Dr. Willoughby has been an incredible mentor. He was willing to teach me step by step. I’m grateful for his patience with me!”

What kinds of interesting research have you done?

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?