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Congratulations to Winter 2016 Pi Sigma Alpha Inductees!

Winter 2016 Pi Sigma Alpha inductees with Dr. Magleby

Winter 2016 Pi Sigma Alpha inductees

The BYU Political Science Department extends sincerest congratulations to the newest members of the honor society Pi Sigma Alpha! The pictured members were inducted and  honored at the Beta Mu Chapter closing banquet in March, 2016.


Sarah Adams, Madison Barr, Joseph Bebel, Lee-Ann Bender, Jeffrey Bennett, Hyrum Clarke, Jacob Coakwell, Faith Conlin, Brian Doll, Rebecca Dudley, Adam Duncan, Devin Earl, Sam Elmer, Jordyn Enos, McKenna Westra Erickson, Aaron Favreau, Tatiana Flexman, Aaron Thomas Gawtych, Mark Gillespie, Brittney Grandy, Tai Gray, Clarissa Gregory, Katiemarie Harmon, Alex John Harper, Blair Harris, Nathan Hogan, Matthew Hurst, Jennifer Hurst, Stevie Jamieson, Andrew Jensen, Nathaniel Jesse, Paul Johnson, Collin Mathias, Cameron McAlister, Scott McClellan, Emmanuel Morga, Nathaniel Mortensen, Alexander Norr, Cody Persinger, Jennica Petersen, J. Thatcher Pinkston, Alexandira E. Prier, Nicholas Roweton, Andrew Sandstrom, Soren Schmidt, Raeni Sroufe, Rachel Stone, Seth Taylor, Jenessa Taylor, Elena Tiralongo, Caitlin Van Wagoner, Matthew Walkden, Matthew Benson Young

Applicants must be at least juniors or seniors, have an overall GPA of 3.5 (and a major GPA of 3.0), and have completed at least one political science course at the 300 level or above. Applications for National Membership are accepted annually, around the middle of winter semester. National Membership is considered lifetime membership in Pi Sigma Alpha.

BYU Professors & Guests Discuss ISIS

ISIS has taken center stage in international policy discussions, growing increasingly infamous for human rights violations and displacing residents of nation-states. In recent weeks, BYU professors and campus guests have provided valuable commentary on the tactics and future of the organization.

The extreme tactics of ISIS are easily sensationalized by news media, making it easy for many to overlook the state-building efforts of the organization, according to Quinn Mecham. For measured and informed analyses of ISIS’ past and future, watch and read below for the commentary of Ambassador Ryan C. Crocker, Dr. Quinn Mecham, Dr. Josh Gubler, and Dr. Donna Lee Bowen.

For more on Quinn Mecham’s perspective click here.

For video of Ambassador Ryan C. Crocker’s BYU address about the Middle East and ISIS click here.

“Why Should We Study Populism?”

From January 28-30, BYU had the opportunity to host an international conference on the causes of populism under the tutelage of Professor Kirk Hawkins of the political science department. Sponsored by the department, Kennedy Center, Wheatley Institution, and Latin American Studies Association, the conference brought together some of the best minds on populism to discuss its root causes and how it spreads. Members of Team Populism, a group of international scholars studying the causes and diffusion of populism as a political discourse, met for the first time in a conference at the BYU London Centre in May 2015.

This conference is the second of the Team Populism conferences and focused on the causes of populism. The conference’s keynote address was a Wheatley-sponsored lecture given by Cas Mudde, an associate professor of political science at the University of Georgia. Professor Mudde spoke on the topic: “Why Should We Study Populism?” and laid out his basic arguments about the importance of studying democracy because of its potential corrective and threatening effects on liberal democracy. Despite a last-minute rescheduling due to a flight cancellation, the address was well attended. Professor Mudde delivered a convincing address on the importance of studying populism because of its effects on democracy, with the power to ultimately turn a liberal democracy into an illiberal democracy.


Alumnus Spotlight: Johnny Harris

Johnny Harris is a multimedia producer at Vox. Harris graduated from BYU as an International Relations major.

Johnny Harris is a multimedia producer at Vox. Harris graduated from BYU as an International Relations major.

“Find a technical skill that is a hard skill, and get good at it. Get really good at it.”

Johnny Harris came to BYU intending to study film. He majored in media arts his freshman year and hoped to enter the world of cinematography, until an LDS mission changed his plans. The two years he spent in Mexico had a profound effect on the way Harris viewed the world–in that he more often and more actively looked at the world.

“That [mission] shifted my paradigm about international stuff, and I got more interested in international fields like foreign service and international work, so I came back and gave up my dream of being a filmmaker, I thought.”

Though making a sacrifice to be more “serious” about the future by changing his major to international relations, Harris enjoyed his coursework. He fondly remembers his political science courses like comparative politics and the Israeli/Palestinian conflict, which pointed him to his current focus area: Iran. But he still felt a draw to cinematography.

“I couldn’t get rid of my interest in visual communication. I had always been interested in having a camera, making art, being a photographer and cinematographer.”

So, unlike most college students strapped for time, Harris took on freelance work outside of school. He built a portfolio of projects he forced himself to do during limited free time, giving himself hard deadlines and rounding out his filmmaking ability. The work was difficult, but he enjoyed it. For students learning and mastering a technical skill, Harris advises, “Make sure that you want to get good at it.”

After graduation, Harris went to Peru to complete research for his second Orca grant, but had no job to return to in Washington, DC. On a whim, and to fulfill a lifelong desire, Harris emailed chefs in DC who ran professional kitchens for the chance to audition and work for them, which he did. After a short time he found an opening at a government agency that wasn’t a dream job, but would help improve his skillset.

Then he got a break. Though, again, he hadn’t found his dream job, after several months at the agency, a position to make short videos opened up at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

“It was kind of like a boot camp. I just pumped out a ton of work,” Harris said of his time at the think tank. “I truly believe that putting yourself in a position where you are forced to put out a lot of work is essential for getting where you want to be.”

And after about a year, he was ready to take another step toward where he wanted to be. Harris felt his skills and perspective would work well at Vox, and he was confident enough to pitch his portfolio. So he did. He says, “The first time I reached out to Vox they full-on didn’t respond, and denied me essentially.” But he wasn’t deterred. Six months later, he cold-pitched again to Vox, and this time they agreed that he was a good fit.

Harris’ mastery of a difficult communicative skill (videography) outside of his area of study set him apart, preparing him to be an asset to organizations that few others could replicate. But almost more than that, he chose to chase jobs in a unique way–reaching out to people at organizations where he felt his skills would be a good fit, instead of always waiting for formal application processes. Both practices have led him to fulfilling work, and he recommends students looking for jobs to find their good fit and look for the people who can get them to it.

“When I got jobs [I didn’t always have] mutual connections, it just meant I always reached out directly. I would be blunt and bold about it. Every job that I’ve gotten has been a matter of connecting with a person.”

Johnny Harris is a multimedia generalist who specializes in international affairs. He currently is based in Washington, DC where he makes web videos for, reporting on interesting trends and stories around the globe. Johnny’s visual style blends motion graphics with cinematic videography to create content that explains complex issues in relatable ways. He holds a BA in international relations from Brigham Young University and an MA in international peace and conflict resolution from American University.

Thinking Global: BYU Political Review January 2016

BYU Political Review, January 2016

BYU Political Review, January 2016

As we kick off a particularly tumultuous presidential election year, we feel a palpable shift toward domestic policy issues and away from international problems (unless they are related to terror or immigration). The recent passing of conservative Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia will only amplify this trend, with President Obama’s political legacy and America’s sharp partisan divide hanging in the balance.

However, the first 2016 issue of BYU Political Review draws attention to many significant international events that are often glazed over in our 24-hour news cycle. From the editor and senior at BYU, Andrew Jensen, “We’ve dedicated this issue of the Political Review to exploring current events across the world. Our staff writers and student contributors have done an excellent job writing about some of the most essential global developments and events that are shaping humanity’s future.”

The review considers issues from Iranian politics to the implications of both exporting and importing democratic ideals. One student, Soren J. Schmidt, penned his opinion of the Syrian refugee crisis and subsequent potential American policies, while adding compelling statistics about the current refugee screening process.

“Since 9/11, the US has admitted 750,000 refugees from various war-torn regions. Of those, a total of two have ever been associated with terrorist activity, and even then only indirectly,” Schmidt writes. “By any measure, that is a remarkable rate of success—indicative, I think, of both the usually innocent intentions of those fleeing conflict and of the care already being taken to sort out the bad eggs.”

He continues framing the international matter in domestic terms, but broadens from policy discussion to general American ideology. Schmidt draws on what he believes are core American values to dispel the secondary partisan rhetoric of fear.

“This commitment to the protection of the innocent is critical to the core principles of this country, but I’m afraid that fear and the pressures of partisan polarization are causing many to marginalize it. Doing so might produce a short-term political gain, but it is ultimately a long-term loss of the values for which I believe we stand.”

By contrast, contributor Samantha Hawkins explores the Paris Climate Change Conference through a global lens. She acknowledges the significant role of the United States in agreements of this sort, but doesn’t stop at Congressional deadlock. Hawkins orients the reader with a history of both past policies and scientific conversations, and then moves forward with the terms of the agreement.

“Global climate change talks have been going on for decades, but nothing significant has ever come out of them, in part due to opposition from Congress, the lack of legally binding agreements, and the exclusion of developing countries such as India and China. At the Paris Climate Change Conference, the pledges were designed to emphasize participation rather than ambition, and to reflect actual scientific recommendations.”

Whether or not you agree with the contributors, the Review includes powerful assessments of global issues. According to the editor, all BYU students should embrace the university motto, becoming well versed in the events of the world.

“As students of the world we must become globally conscious and refuse to hold on to ignorant or myopic views,” Jensen said. “This world is full of billions of our brothers and sisters, and if we are to go forth and serve, we simply cannot afford to ignore them.”

BYU Political Review is the university’s only political op-ed publication. It began in 2006, and publishes the works of student contributors, staff writers, and even elected officials. If you would like to submit an article to be reviewed for publishing, visit here. To connect online, visit

BYU Political Affairs Society at the Capitol

Members of the Salt Lake and student chapters of BYU PAS meet together at state capitol.

Members of the Salt Lake and student chapters of BYU PAS meet together at state capitol.

Last week students and professionals met together in the Utah State Capitol for a day of mentoring and networking. BYUPAS Salt Lake Chapter hosted the event for BYU students, drawing in experts and professionals who help govern Utah.

The students began by touring the building, from the Governor’s ceremonial office filled with furniture made of trees uprooted by Utah’s 1999 tornado, to the operating house and senate chambers.

“I’m not a political science major, but seeing all of this is really cool,” said BYU student Lucas Farnsworth in front of the building’s Brigham Young statue. Following his graduation, Farnsworth hopes to attend medical school.

Following the tour, a panel addressed the students and took questions. The distinguished group included a journalist, legislative assistant, lawyer, state representative, and lobbyist, each of whom had unique perspective about local government.

Utah State Representative, Becky Edwards, spoke about the importance of diversity in government.

“It’s really important to have a variety of perspectives. As I’ve gone around the state, on occasion I hear a perspective on an issue and think ‘wow that really does not seem like… certainly this is not what the public thinks on this issue… it cannot possibly be!’” Edwards said about her experience as a representative. “But then you visit neighborhoods and you talk to people in different parts of your own district and you realize that the beauty of the system is that voices are so varied and so interested in the issues that it adds a robustness to the discussion. We make better policies when we listen.”

Kristen Olsen, the panel’s legal authority, also spoke about the value of diversity, but a diversity of work experience.

“I did a lot of study abroads, I worked abroad, and I basically just took any fun opportunity that came up. And if no fun opportunities came up, I created them. During my master’s program I developed a research project I could do in the West Bank in Jerusalem and I did it. And while all of these experiences definitely slowed me down, I don’t regret them at all because those experiences helped me get the most out of law school and my legal career.”

Students then had the opportunity to “speed-network” with their choice 10 of professionals in attendance.

BYU students touring the Utah Capitol. The Salt Lake Chapter of BYU PAS hosted a day at the Capitol complete with speed networking. BYU students touring the Utah Capitol. The Salt Lake Chapter of BYU PAS hosted a day at the Capitol complete with speed networking. BYU students touring the Utah Capitol. The Salt Lake Chapter of BYU PAS hosted a day at the Capitol complete with speed networking. BYU students touring the Utah Capitol. The Salt Lake Chapter of BYU PAS hosted a day at the Capitol complete with speed networking. BYU students touring the Utah Capitol. The Salt Lake Chapter of BYU PAS hosted a day at the Capitol complete with speed networking. BYU students touring the Utah Capitol. The Salt Lake Chapter of BYU PAS hosted a day at the Capitol complete with speed networking. BYU students touring the Utah Capitol. The Salt Lake Chapter of BYU PAS hosted a day at the Capitol complete with speed networking. BYU students touring the Utah Capitol. The Salt Lake Chapter of BYU PAS hosted a day at the Capitol complete with speed networking. BYU students touring the Utah Capitol. The Salt Lake Chapter of BYU PAS hosted a day at the Capitol complete with speed networking. BYU students touring the Utah Capitol. The Salt Lake Chapter of BYU PAS hosted a day at the Capitol complete with speed networking.
BYU students touring the Utah Capitol. The Salt Lake Chapter of BYU PAS hosted a day at the Capitol complete with speed networking.

“This was an invaluable experience in helping me decide what directions I will take in my life. Being able to talk to real-life experts and receive their advice influenced my decision making process greatly,” said BYU student, Matt Benson.

Another student, Thomas Richins said, “What once seemed impossible for me, is now very possible. I went into the Capitol with a desire to learn, but with little knowledge, and left the Capitol with a new sense of purpose. The most important thing I took away from this experience was a greater appreciation for government.”

Throughout the day, trusted community leaders came together to inspire a new band of college students, stated well by Rep. Edwards during her remarks.

“If I were to leave a plea or invitation with all of you it would be that public service is called public service for a reason: it is intended to be a wide range of people from the populace who decide for a season in their life they are going to serve the people of their community.”

BYU Career Reflections 2015

The BYU Political Science Department had the privilege of welcoming many incredible professionals to campus to address students in the department last semester. Each gave wonderful career and general advice as they relayed their field experiences related to government.

The lectures were carefully planned to highlight the vast range of employment possibilities for students of political science, from local government involvement to NGO work to communication jobs.

Director of LDS Charities, Sharon Eubank, acknowledged the unique nature of a BYU education. She maintained that the aims of the university should be a priority throughout students’ lives.

“What can I do to relieve suffering?” she told students to ask themselves. “What can I do to build self-reliance and mourn with those that mourn and comfort those that stand in need of comfort?” Eubank’s own attitude about service enriched her personal and work life, which she credits, in part, to her time at BYU.

Deputy chief of staff in the governor’s office, Mike Mower, advised students to “magnify” their internships and to volunteer for those internships, if necessary. He also urged students to keep an open mind and entrepreneurial spirit as they finish school and look for jobs.

“As you start your careers you’re going to have the opportunity to do things that were not part of your plan or what you expected,” said Mower. Like Eubank, he noted the unique perspective and skills students often leave BYU with, insisting that these factors often lead to unanticipated opportunities.

However, as the course instructor, Kellie Daniels, introduced the class to her students, she quoted Bill Waterson who said, “I don’t think I’d have been in such a hurry to reach adulthood if I’d have known the whole thing was going to be ad-libbed.” She challenged students not to simply look for job training, but to take advantage of their education by enjoying the rich learning opportunities made available to them. Courtesy of the Kennedy Center, this particular learning opportunity is also available to anyone with an internet connection. Below is the collection of 2015 lectures.

Allison Pond – Editor, Deseret News National Edition

Peter Valcarce – Campaigns and Direct Mail

Mike Mower – Deputy Chief of Staff, Governor’s Office

Sharon Eubank – Executive Director, LDS Charities

Jennifer Hogge – Executive Director, Engage Now Africa

John Dinkleman – Director of the Office of Caribbean Affairs, U.S. State Department

Patricia Dorff – Editorial Director, Council on Foreign Relations

The career lecture series is a one-credit class available every fall semester. It functions as a networking and career guidance resource for students, exposing them to different careers available to students of political science.

Alumna Spotlight: Liz McGuire

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“It’s a great privilege to be able to spend your life learning,” said a BYU graduate about her future in academia. Liz McGuire is a current PhD student of political science at Yale, after earning a bachelor’s degree in international relations at BYU. A commitment to learning has always driven McGuire, but academia wasn’t always her goal.

McGuire developed an interest in the American political system in her high school government class, but chose international relations as her major during her freshman year at BYU.

While she was not a student of political science, McGuire found her niche at BYU under the tutelage of two department faculty members: Dan Nielsen and Michael Findley. She heard about a mentored research program in one of her classes and decided to learn more by talking to them directly about the program.

“BYU professors are very approachable and I was very lucky to find the mentors that I found,” McGuire said of the two. “ And I just went to class and took advantage of their office hours.”

Without BYU’s extensive undergraduate research programs, McGuire would likely never have found her way to Yale or even political science.

“When people think political science they think politics. But political science has a lot more to do with research as opposed to just U.S. parties and elections,” McGuire said about general perceptions of the discipline. She too shared similar conceptions before she began researching.

Studying with Nielsen and Findley exposed McGuire to the career opportunities available for researchers. She participated in the mentored research program in Uganda the summer before her senior year at BYU, where she learned both how to direct research, and that even well-informed hypotheses can be proven wrong during experiments. Years after she conducted her initial study, McGuire is looking for another opportunity to run the same study a second time to validate her first results.

“We are hoping to do it again to publish. I know it seems crazy to still be doing a write-up three years after the research is over, but we need to bolster the findings because they are counterintuitive,” she said of her results. “But the surprises are some of the great things about research.”

Shortly after she graduated, McGuire caught wind of an opening at Oxford University, for which she was uniquely qualified because of her experience in Uganda. She directed research in Tanzania for several months, before returning briefly to BYU.

McGuire says those months back at BYU were indispensable, as she took the time to learn from female mentors while preparing for graduate school.

“I was fortunate to find some really good mentors, some really good female professors to talk me about [what family life would look like] and also being a woman in academia and a woman in the Church, and how all of those things are worthy goals and can be pursued simultaneously.”

Now, as a PhD student of political science at Yale, McGuire is pursuing those goals. While not even she could have predicted her future, she is grateful for the unique and rewarding path to academia that BYU provided. She will continue to pave her way, with the help of the opportunities she encounters.
“That’s the real truth of life. All of us are just making it up as we go.”

Girls’ club, celebrating one year of BYUPAS Women in Politics

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Politics, historically synonymous with the “old boys’ club”, is becoming anyone’s game. As two women run for President of the United States, it is clear that the gender gap in American politics is narrowing, but not closed. The same is true on BYU’s campus, and three female students are doing their best to expedite this process in the Political Science Department.

Born of concern for the young female students that would follow them, the Women in Politics arm of the BYU Political Affairs Society was founded by Sarah Sheets Curry, Elvira Correa Lazaro and Rachel Stone just more than one year ago.

The goal of the organization is to fill the need for an “empathizing community of diverse political inclinations [that seemed] to go largely unaddressed, especially on a campus so confounded with the competing interests of religion, pressures to marry, and a void of female political alumnae in leadership,” as found in its annual report.

Under the faculty direction of Department Chair Sven Wilson, the three founders legitimized the organization and began holding meetings. Event attendance was slow-going at first, but has gained momentum as more students learn about the club.

This year, to make WIP a better known resource among students of political science at BYU, the leadership sent invitation emails to every woman in a 100 or 200 level political science course, to inform them about the association.

“[The emails] increased our turnout and let the freshwomen know that they have people as resources who actually care about taking care of them in this major,” Stone said. “A lot of these women are ambitious and care a lot about the world and making their voice heard but don’t know what the venue for that would be and we try to offer that for them.”

Examples of past events include sponsored attendance of the Real Women Run event, hosting speech slams, a senior spotlight night, and alumni lectures on campus, but one of the most valuable resources provided by the organization is a mentorship program. Freshwomen and underclassmen who desire to participate list their interests in political science, and are matched with a near-graduated student who shares those interests. Pairs foster camaraderie within the department and expose young students to examples of success.

For Stone, the goal of the organization is met well by this program. She relays the story of one participant.

“After we did the mentorship pairing meeting there was a girl who came up to me and said ‘I’m a freshman, I just arrived here, I got into the political science program at Georgetown, and I gave it up to be here because I felt it was right,’ and she was really seeking to have a community where she could exchange ideas and be challenged and be with the same caliber that she would have been at Georgetown. She came to me with this delight that we would be that venue for her. I came away feeling like all of this was for something, if we just helped this one girl, it was definitely worth it because we were here for her during her freshman year, and I didn’t have that. It makes me feel confident that we can help girls feel comfortable in their academic environment.”

While proud of the organization they have built, Stone is unsure about its future. She hopes that ten, or even five years from now gender specific organizations in politics will be irrelevant.

With equal opportunity as the goal, this girls’ club helps connect driven women to networks that will help them realize dreams of making a difference in their world.

“At first I was worried that we were discriminating against men, but then I talk to some of [them] and ask them if this thing I am doing is worth it, and they all tell me that it is.”

Dr. Valerie Hudson

Dr. Valerie Hudson lectures a captivated audience about gender relations around the world on Thursday, October 15. While teaching at BYU, Hudson began the WomanStats program, which has grown to be the largest database about the status of women in the world.

Dr. Valerie Hudson lectures a captivated audience about gender relations around the world on Thursday, October 15. While teaching at BYU, Hudson began the WomanStats program, which has grown to be the largest database about the status of women in the world.

“There cannot be peace between nations until there is peace between men and women.”

Dr. Valerie Hudson shared this and many other compelling statements about the importance of good gender relations for global security during her visit to BYU campus on Thursday, October 15.

Hudson is the author of several books including The Hillary Doctrine: Sex and American Foreign Policy and Sex & World Peace, both of which she highlighted in her remarks.

Dr. Hudson also spoke about WomanStats, the largest collection of data about the status of women around the world. It provides over 170,000 different data points for 175 nations with populations over 200,000. The project began at BYU and has expanded to partner with eight additional universities.

“I always thought that it was so divinely fitting that it was at Brigham Young University that the largest database in existence on the situation of women in the world was created,” Hudson said. “I always thought that was something BYU could be proud of and brag about, that it was at the forefront of this kind of data initiative about women in the world.” Though project employees are not all female, it provides female coders an excellent outlet to expand their skills and contribute to a historic data initiative.

While her professional career has broadened Hudson’s focus to the global status of women, she encouraged attendees to do simple things every day that would improve gender relations. About potential uncomfortable remarks or quips, Hudson counseled, “there are some jokes you should just never laugh at.” She called the audience to action by adding that Latter-day Saints in attendance should evaluate their perceptions of gender roles and strip away cultural practices that cloud truths about eternal family dynamics,

“Just saying, ‘Yes, we’re for women’s empowerment,’ doesn’t lead to the change we need in the world,” she challenged.

Hudson will continue to be an advocate for women around the world, firm in the conviction that much can and should be done to improve the status of women everywhere. “The roots of many things that we value such as democracy, human rights, are to be found in the societal relations between men and women, the two halves of humankind.”

As a mother of eight children and a leader in her field, Dr. Valerie Hudson will tell anyone who asks that it is possible to have it all, one must simply sacrifice perfection.

The event was sponsored by The BYU Women’s Studies Honor Society, BYUPAS Women in Politics, and Students for International Development, and was well attended.