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2016 Valedictorian

Congratulations to our Winter 2016 and Summer 2016 Valedictorian Alejandra Teresita Gimenez and Lauren Barden Hair.



Displaying IMG_8556.JPGAlejandra Teresita Gimenez, a political science major with an emphasis in American Politics, is the daughter of Oscar and Durelle Gimenez. Born and raised in Southington, Connecticut, she grew up singing and playing tennis with her four sisters. At BYU she was a research fellow with the Center for the Study of Elections and Democracy and the Gender and Civic Engagement Lab, as well as a Wheatley Scholar. She has been a member of the BYU Concert Choir and also served as the publicity chair of the Political Affairs Society. In 2014, Alejandra was heavily involved with the Utah Colleges Exit Poll, coordinating the 1,200 student volunteers and serving as an analyst on KBYUTV’s election night broadcast. She has presented research at multiple professional conferences. She was an American Political Science Association Minority Fellow for 2016-2017.  In her last semester, Alejandra worked as an intern at the Pew Research Center. In the fall, she will begin a PhD program in American Politics with plans to be a professor. She would like to thank her parents, sisters, and especially her professors for their incredible support and mentorship.


Lauren Barden Hair, a political science major with a minor in Chinese, has always possessed a passion for public service. As a young woman in Minneapolis, MN, Lauren became fascinated in United States politics as she volunteered in the 2008 Romney campaign and completed a congressional internship in Washington, D.C. After arriving at BYU, Lauren’s interest in politics shifted to the international stage as she participated as a team member, and later teaching assistant, for BYU’s Model United Nations Team, and completed a study abroad in Jerusalem. A church mission in Taipei, Taiwan furthered her interests in the Chinese language and in China’s internal and international policies. Lauren has also served as a research assistant and project manager for BYU Professor Dan Nielson and had the opportunity to travel to Uganda for her work. Lauren will be moving to Chicago to pursue dual master’s degrees in international relations and public policy at the University of Chicago.  Lauren is the daughter of Dr. Christopher Barden and Robin Jones Barden.

Dr. Garth N. Jones Student Writing Award



The Jones Family and Chair Wilson with the two first place winners.

The Jones Family and Chair Wilson with the two first place winners.

This year, the Dr. Garth N. Jones Student Writing Award found a new home in the Political Science Department. G. Kevin Jones established the grant in 2004 as a way to honor the life and service of his father. Due to this generosity, the Political Science Department honored several students with financial awards for publishing a paper in the 2016 edition of Sigma, which is an annual undergraduate journal that focuses on political and international studies.

Many of the award winners, as well as the Sigma leadership team, met with the Jones family at a luncheon in April, where they talked about their various papers and their plans upon graduating from BYU. Both Garth and Kevin were especially impressed by the student research and faculty involvement that led to exploration of these topics, and they are eager to continue the encouragement of student research by offering these cash awards to next year’s crop of Sigma authors.

The 2016 Dr. Garth N. Jones Student Writing Awards are as follows:

1st Place ($1,000): Mandi Eatough and Jordan Johnston, Immigrants and Voting: How a PersonalRelationship to Immigration Changes the Voting Behaviors of Americans

2nd Place ($750): Brandon Willmore, Economic Consequences of the Palestinian Multi-Currency System: A Cost Benefit Analysis

3rd Place ($500): Madaline Gannon, At What Cost? Discrepancies between Women’s Legislative Representation and Effective Policy to Protect Women from Violence in Argentina

Honorable Mentions ($100 each):

 Andrew Jensen, How to Hold on to Hierarchy: Russia and the Near Abroad

 Jake Berlin, Unpopular but Effective? The Drone Strike Dilemma

 Rebecca Dudley, Do You Hear the People Sing? Populist Discourse in the French Revolution

 Benjamin Schmidt, Does Large Family Size Predict Political Centrism?

 Jennica Petersen and Rebecca Shuel, How Partisan Identification on the Ballot Affects Individuals’ Vote Choices

 Neil Longo, “All Things Denote There Is a God”: Platonic Metaphysics, Thomistic Analogy, and the Creation of a Christian Philosophy

You can find the articles in the current issue of Sigma

Beyond BYU 2016



During the first weekend in May the Brigham Young University Political Affairs Society DC Chapter hosted current BYU students for a two day mentoring and networking event. Students participated in small group visits to various work-sites through out the city. Students visited sites ranging from the State Department to USAID to Capitol Hill. Besides visiting differentsites students attended a networking evening and a graduate school information evening.

The goal of the event is to help students bridge the gap between their undergraduate education and professional life. One student said, “It was really helpful in learning all the options, pathways, and opportunities within the agency; getting in contact with government workers is generally pretty difficult, but by being able to have so many of them in one place that were willing to talk and coordinate and give information that is generally not easily available to find made all the difference in the world.”

Beyond BYU provides connections for some students to gain internships and jobs. One student’s success story, “I attended Beyond BYU in 2015 on a whim. I have always wanted to work on the Hill, and the experience seemed like a good opportunity to meet some individuals up there and prepare for a career. I was not expecting the event to be as beneficial as it was. I met a plethora of people during the trip (and got more than a few business cards). I stayed in contact with those individuals until I was back in DC four months later. During that visit, I met with all of them again and was encouraged by the majority to complete an internship in a district office for a Member of Congress in Utah. I did. The internship turned into a full-time job offer last week!”

This event wouldn’t be possible without the help of BYUPAS, friends of BYU, and others. As one student stated, “I learned how eager BYU alumni are to help however they can.”





Stan A Taylor: A BYU Legacy

Stan Taylor is an emeritus professor at BYU and is a former chair of the Political Science Department.

Stan Taylor is an emeritus professor at BYU and is a former chair of the Political Science Department.

Brigham Young University is well known for many things, among them are the BYU Creamery ice cream, its affordability, loyal sports fans, and extensive opportunities for students to study abroad. A beloved legacy of the BYU Political Science Department, Stan Taylor, is helping students further realize the affordability of education or studying abroad with a scholarship fund awarded in his name.

Stan Taylor is an expert in national security, with an impressive portfolio of publications on the subject. He is also the founding director of the David M. Kennedy Center for International Studies at BYU and infamous creator of the Political Science 200 course. Over his long and successful career, Dr. Taylor has blessed many lives, and through the Stan  A. Taylor Endowed Fund in Political Science and International Relations that trend continues.

One 2015 recipient of the award, Sierra Davis, reflected on her ability to go abroad as a result of the scholarship money. “As a married undergraduate, I can eat and buy books. Just kidding; I’m hoping to use the funds to go to Tanzania and work with the Chagga women to use better cookstoves that are better for the respiration system and cleaner environmentally.” Ultimately she plans to follow Dr. Taylor’s example, “I really admire my mentors here in Political Science, so I want to attend graduate school and become one of them.”
Presently, Dr. Taylor is on the Board of Editors of the leading academic national security journal, “Intelligence and National Security.” He is the former chair of the department of political science. Students working as “teacher’s assistants” may be nominated by professors to win the scholarship awarded in his name.

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.”