Monthly Archives: October 2016

Alumnus Spotlight: Jordan Rogers

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In the heat of the 2012 election cycle and as a graduate of the Political Science Department at BYU, Jordan Rogers moved to Washington, D.C. with his family to work for TargetPoint Consulting. TargetPoint is a firm specializing in a wide range of research solutions, from election consulting to corporate advocacy.

There he enjoyed a high level of autonomy and varied portfolio of projects, the perfect combo for a self-proclaimed “data geek”.

“They relied a lot on the new, lower level [employees] to do a lot of projects that probably wouldn’t ever go down to that level in a bigger organization. I got to participate in projects that I really enjoyed and what I was doing was going to very influential people,” he said. And during his tenure, Rogers presented directly to prominent leaders in the Republican party, including presidential candidate Mitt Romney and Republican Party chair Reince Priebus.

This, however, wasn’t Rogers’ favorite part of the job.

“I thought what we did was fascinating, from a data standpoint I’m kind of a data geek. Data analysis is what I do and what I really like.”

And with the quantitative analysis skills he had first begun cultivating at BYU, Rogers decided he wanted his work to cross partisan lines. Somewhat impulsively, he applied for a job in Salt Lake, and then several more, eventually securing another data-heavy position with his current employer, O.C. Tanner.

O.C. Tanner has been popularized as a jeweler, but the vast majority of their business revolves around helping other businesses recognize their employees. Their services range from tenure packages to employee recognition software.

“The reason I decided to go with O.C. Tanner was I really wanted to go somewhere I felt I was making a more positive impact on the world. I felt very passionately that the work I was doing in politics was having a positive impact on people, in some ways good in some ways bad. But now I’m impacting people no matter who you are. You can be any demographic, have any beliefs, and I have the potential to impact you with my work.”

Most recently, Rogers was accepted to Northwestern to complete a masters degree in predictive analytics, which he does online in addition to his full-time job. Ultimately he hopes to bear the title of “data scientist” and to explore different career opportunities that accompany it.

“The thing that I really like about data analysis is it allows you to apply a lot of different types of information. That’s why I can go from politics to employee recognition. It’s applicable across a lot of industries, which is appealing to me. Having a predictive degree where you’re analyzing data allows you to go anywhere.”

This Wednesday students and professors gathered together in the JSB auditorium to watch the third, final, and highly-anticipated presidential debate.

The event, hosted by the BYU Political Affairs Society, drew a sizeable crowd to see what the two nominated candidates of the Republican and Democratic parties would say as election day draws nearer and nearer.

Students watched as both Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump took the stage and presented their final debate statements to the American people in hopes of better understanding the candidates’ policies before heading off to the polls.

Immediately following the event, BYU PAS hosted a question and answer session with a panel of BYU professors. These questions covered a range of issues, from the policies that were discussed to the manner in which the presidential candidates held themselves throughout the debate.

“I do worry about how the nature of the campaign and how unpopular the candidates are is changing the image of democracy in the long-term,” said Professor Adam Dynes when asked about his thoughts on some of the on-stage statements throughout the debate.

“No matter what happens, I think Republicans are going to come out of this debate doing a lot of ‘soul-searching,’” echoed Professor Celeste Beesley when answering a question dealing with unrest within the political parties. “This is a critical election for both parties, and very real shifts will come out of it as a result.”

Want to get in on more election action? Sign up to be a pollster with Utah Colleges Exit Poll in the upcoming election here: exitpollvolunteer@byu.edu

The BYUPAS watch party provided cookies and drinks to help students settle in before the start of the debate.

The BYUPAS watch party provided cookies and drinks to help students settle in before the start of the debate.

Professors Beesley, Dynes, and Cressman answer student questions post-debate.

Professors Beesley, Dynes, and Cressman answer student questions post-debate.

Students watch 2016 presidential candidates debate on screen.

Students watch 2016 presidential candidates debate on screen.

Tanzania: BYU Student Research in Underdeveloped Countries

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Courtney Rada knew she wanted to do something to make a difference during the summer of 2016. While at first she was unsure of what direction she wanted to take, Rada quickly found an opportunity she felt was worth pursuit in a somewhat unexpected place: her Political Science 444 classroom. With a team of fellow BYU students, Rada decided to travel to Tanzania for the summer as part of Professor Dan Nielson’s research expedition working with underdeveloped countries.

With a team of fellow BYU students, Rada decided to travel to Tanzania for the summer as part of Professor Dan Nielson’s research expedition working with underdeveloped countries. The project was designed with a dual purpose to both allow students to aid their professor in his research, while they also designed and executed their own social and political experiments with the Tanzanian people.

In the field, students helped Nielson in the beginning processes of his experiment analyzing the effects of cell phone ownership on Tanzanian women. The students worked on phase one of Nielson’s interview survey with women in Tanzania, as well as assisted in the sampling process. As researchers in Nielson’s experiment, the students were able to gain valuable experience participating first-hand in a large-scale research process while living on-site in Tanzania.

In small groups, the students also worked on their own research projects. Rada’s group measured the likelihood of innovation in health clinics across Tanzania, dependent on who it was presenting the ideas to the clinics: Americans, or the Tanzanians themselves. By an almost overwhelming margin, Rada’s research group found that the clinics were much more likely to show interest in medical innovation if it was Americans presenting the medical information to the clinics, rather than native Tanzanians.

“In some ways it’s sad, but in a lot of ways it was empowering to see how much potential influence we [as Americans] have in inciting innovation in these clinics,” states Rada, “That we can make a difference means a lot as an outcome.”

What was one of the biggest ways this research experience in Tanzania impacted Rada, a senior studying economics, in her studies?

“This experience has really just opened a lot of doors for me. Right now, I’m applying to a lot of PhD programs, and the fact that I already have experience in the field and with this kind of research is infinitely more impressive to them. The fact that I have research that’s going to be published that I can show them has just proved invaluable to my application process,” Rada says.

Want to make a difference working with underdeveloped countries or do some research of your own? Start here: http://kennedy.byu.edu/isp/

Photos courtesy of Courtney Rada.

Photos courtesy of Courtney Rada.

Alumna Spotlight: Kyrene Gibb

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Like many Brigham Young University students, Kyrene Gibb’s path to her major was, at first, obscured. She spent quite some time searching for the right major until she found political science and data analysis.

She began her time at BYU declared as a civil engineering major, quickly realizing that she liked writing and arguing her points in Political Science 110 better than any engineering class she had taken.

Gibb progressed from student to TA to research assistant quickly, enjoying her time working with professors. As a research assistant, she cultivated a love for research.

“I was really lucky to have TAs and professors who were willing to work with me and who were excited that I was excited about what I was learning.”

After a very involved tenure in the BYU political science department, Gibb accepted a job offer out of college at a consulting firm in Idaho. There she learned more about her love of testing political messaging.

“I’ve always enjoyed studying public opinion, especially as it relates to campaigns and how voters process information about a candidate. I think it’s fascinating. You market a person essentially the same way you would a business. You have to find out what things are appealing to the customer base, or in the political sense, constituents,” said Gibb.

Not long after relocating to Idaho, Gibb was offered a job at Y2 Analytics in Salt Lake. She accepted and currently works as the director of research, a job perfectly suited for the skills she learned at BYU.

Through every advancement in the department of political science, Gibb felt grateful for the many sacrifices made by students who paved the way for her and gave advice.

“Being able to work closely with professors and do meaningful research with professors is what really captivated me and made me love my major.”