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.

Student at 2015 Code for America Summit

Recently, Rachel Stone a Political Science student attended the 2015 Code for America Summit.  Below she talks about her experience.

From September 30th to October 2nd, I was able to join twelve hundred government technologists in Oakland, CA on behalf of Provo City and the BYU Political Science Department. We were gathered for the 2015 Code for America Summit, an intensive conference of keynote sessions, panels, breakout activities, and tech exposés to enable governments to better use technology.

I had many reasons for corralling both the Provo City Council (my part-time work) and the BYU Political Science Department into sponsoring my trip. I had a deep interest in attending after independently considering “government technology” to be my research emphasis for the past 1 ½ years. I’ve written Political Science term papers about the potential for technology to streamline, optimize, and democratize government processes of every kind. I then started a Computer Science minor to learn how to build some of those technologies myself. Over the course of this year, I also traveled to Boston and Washington, D.C. to participate in tech workshops dubbed “#Hack4Congress” hosted by the Open Gov Foundation and the Harvard Ash Center. And finally, I had a chance to try my hand in the ‘govtech’ scene of the Bay Area.

Receiving my Summit packet on the first day!

Receiving my Summit packet on the first day!

My experience at the Summit was phenomenally pivotal for me. I began the experience sitting on the front row of the large room where Code for America Founder Jennifer Pahlka welcomed and briefed us on the latest updates in government technology. Her message, with all who followed her, was one of fellowship: we had a duty to our citizens and to each other to be egalitarian, human-centered, empathetic, and efficient in the difficult endeavor of marrying ‘digital’ with ‘democracy.’ I was deeply in awe. As the speakers continued, I recognized a sincere care instilled in the voice of each that this was the means by which they would improve the lives of their fellow Americans.

Jennifer Pahlka, Code for America Founder, speaks at the opening ceremonies.

Jennifer Pahlka, Code for America Founder, speaks at the opening ceremonies.

Throughout the three days at the Summit, I took classes on increasing representation at meetings, mapping root cause analysis, survey construction, opening data, constructing dashboards/visualizations, digital inclusion, and more. I was able to tour the tech fair to demo products already in the market that service the three distinct relationships: government to government, government to citizens, and government departments to other departments internally. It was also a prime opportunity for me to make friends in the industry. Because this is an emerging field, I have few allies in this endeavor except those whom I meet at formal gatherings such as Code for America. I exchanged cards with graduate students and potential employers alike. It became indubitably clear that I have real hiring potential, and that will only grow as I continue in this trajectory. I was much encouraged by this.

Two students determined to make a difference: Uganda 2015

Ethan Rank (top) and Robert Francis (far right) with AidData fellows at Murchison Falls. Each member of the group worked with an international development organization in Uganda for the summer.

Ethan Rank (top) and Robert Francis (far right) with AidData fellows at Murchison Falls. Each member of the group worked with an international development organization in Uganda for the summer.

The urban streets in Uganda bustled more than the two visiting BYU students had expected before they arrived. While nearly 90 percent of the country’s residents live in rural areas, its capital city, Kampala, is growing quickly. These two students, Robert Francis and Ethan Rank experienced that growth as summer fellows for an organization called AidData.

The fellowship was centered around the principle of capacity building, or teaching skills, rather than simply providing goods, as many international development programs do. Before leaving the United States, Francis and Rank joined the rest of the AidData summer fellows in Virginia at the College of William and Mary for a “training boot camp”. AidData designed the training to prepare students for their teaching duties in Uganda, but both Francis and Rank ended up learning how best to accomplish their work on the job

“I had to do a lot of learning while I was in Uganda; they wanted me to train in [experimental] methods I had never heard of. So I had to learn what [each method] was and the theories behind it, even though I hadn’t known they existed the week before,” Francis said. “But they knew I didn’t know everything, and they were okay that we were all learning together.”

Francis worked at the Economic Policy Research Centre at Makerere University in Kampala training staff in different methods, or experiments, for testing development projects executed in Uganda. These experiments provide valuable data about whether or not development projects are reaching the intended goals. Evaluating international development projects in this way is new, but if done properly will improve the caliber of aid given to developing countries.

“It’s pretty cool stuff,” he said of the evaluation methods. “You’re learning if what you are doing actually works or if you are wasting your money or even making things worse.”

Robert Francis (center) talking with his supervisor, Dr. Alex Ijjo (left) and AidData colleague, Emily (right). The three worked together at the Economic Policy Research Center in Kampala.

Robert Francis (center) talking with his supervisor, Dr. Alex Ijjo (left) and AidData colleague, Emily (right). The three worked together at the Economic Policy Research Center in Kampala.

In another office, Rank trained the employees of a small, non-governmental organization called Agency for Transformation in a mapping software, Geographic Information Systems (GIS). The agency aims to provide information to local farmers about how to maximize output, which is important, considering 60-70 percent of Ugandans rely on their farms for food.

Most of these farmers, however, are illiterate, which presents a challenge for the organization that maps easily fix; maps provide a simple way to communicate information. Learning the software, however, is anything but simple and Rank was tasked with teaching it to agency employees.

“The hard thing about capacity building is that not everybody wants to learn,” he said. “We gave trainings but not everybody in the office was interested or motivated to learn the software because it isn’t very easy,” he said. But he believes in the principle. “It’s a slow process but a valuable one because once they learn the skills, it increases their value as an employee.”

Rank experienced how the new skills can shape the lives of Ugandans. During his time in the country he learned of a former AidData fellow and native Ugandan who has put his skills to use.

“This former fellow is building his own company in Kampala where essentially he does what we did. He goes to companies and he teaches them how to make maps, use excel and these basic softwares, or companies can just hire him out to do it,” Rank said of the young entrepreneur. “It’s great having someone from Uganda who learned these skills that is able to stay there and teach people.”

Both left the busy streets of Kampala feeling optimistic about the country’s future development after a rewarding summer with the two organizations. They felt potential, and worked with several leaders in the country who are trying to harness that potential.

“Obviously there is a lot of suffering and a lot of health concerns, but I wasn’t discouraged when I left. The coolest thing about being there was actually leaving and knowing that it’s only a matter of time before it really develops,” Rank said. “The best thing we can do is not limit their opportunities.”

AidData is a collaborative research organization between BYU, the college of William and Mary, UT Austin, and a non-governmental organization called Development Gateway in Washington, DC. Its research and activities focus on providing transparent information about foreign aid.
Both Ethan Rank and Robert Francis are studying political science and international development at Brigham Young  University.

BYU Students Conduct Research in Thailand

Carly Madsen and Professor Joel Selway on a group excursion in Thailand. Madsen aided Selway on a research project on Thai nationalism conducted during the summer of 2015.

Carly Madsen and Professor Joel Selway on a group excursion in Thailand. Madsen was an aid for Selway during a research project about Thai nationalism conducted in the summer of 2015.

Several BYU undergraduates spent last summer in Thailand as research assistants studying Thai nationalism with Professor Joel Selway. Carly Madsen, a recent graduate of the Political Science Department, helped facilitate the student and faculty research conducted over the summer.

Under the direction of Selway and Madsen, students created, translated and oversaw administration of a Qualtrics survey to over 1000 people in the Chiang Mai area about nationalism and identity.

Due to the nature of the study, research assistants from BYU were unable to conduct the survey themselves. Students from the English Department of North Chiang Mai University partnered with BYU undergraduates to help translate and administer the survey. The translation process was the most difficult portion of the study, according to Madsen.

“When we got to Thailand a lot of our work was re-translating multiple times with different people. Someone would read it and say oh this is fine and then another person would read it tell us it makes no sense or it was too casual or not casual enough,” she said. “Yeah, the language thing was kind of hard.”

While translating the words used in the survey may have been difficult, speaking Thai every day was not new. Madsen served an LDS mission in Bangkok, Thailand from February 2013 to August 2014, and it was her language proficiency that qualified her for the facilitator position. “Basically, I was a communicator and an organizer,” she said of her role.

A significant part of the group’s preparation effort was developing question for each of the research assistants. Before they left for Thailand, Madsen spent time with each student to help them develop a compelling research question of their own.

“I was making sure everyone had a good research question that they felt excited about and then making sure that they were writing proposals that were impressive enough to receive grant money,” she said. The effort paid off. Each student that went to conduct research received funding from the department or school. She cites the opportunity to conduct personal research as a rewarding part of her experience.

“It was really cool for me to get answers to my own questions about women in Thai politics,” she said. Madsen interviewed many professional women, one of whom was an influential municipal leader. Each of these women had examples of the strides women had made in the public sector and hope for the future, which Madsen appreciated. “Thai politics are something that matter a lot to me, as does gender in politics. Having the chance to merge those together and see how women are doing in Thai politics was really cool.”

Madsen is still analyzing the data from her survey with Professor Selway, but observed that many surveyed citizens feel a stronger tie to their region than the country. She anticipates presenting papers of their findings at conferences within the year. Her next step is graduate school, after publishing a paper on the research she conducted personally in Thailand.

Ultimately, “the summer was a success,” she said. 

Dr. Joel Selway joined the BYU Political Science faculty in 2009 after earning his Ph.D. from the University of Michigan. He has researched the democratic systems of ethnically diverse societies, particularly in Asian countries. Ralph Brown was the previous faculty advisor of the Thailand international development internship program at BYU.

Popcorn and Politics: BYUPAS Republican Primary Debate Viewing Party

BYU students and professors gathered last week to view the second Republican primary debate and discuss the upcoming presidential race.

The event, hosted by the student chapter of BYU’s Political Affairs Society drew a large and dedicated crowd. It provided students who may not have otherwise watched the debate an opportunity to do so. The students were determined to watch the entire debate—even after CNN surprised viewers with a third hour—and were commended by their professors.

“You have lasted through quite a marathon here; three hours and fifteen minutes is the longest debate that I’ve ever seen, so kudos to you for doing that,” said Dr. Richard Davis during his closing remarks. “The real winners here were the people who watched the debate.”

Event-goers were hesitant to name a “winning” candidate, even with the additional length. However Sven Wilson, the department chair, was quick to criticize CNN.

“The first questions people usually ask after these kinds of things are who won and who lost,” Wilson said. “I really think the loser here on this debate was CNN. Not because they went too long, but because they fed into that sad and discouraging part of this campaign which is that is has kind of become a reality TV show event.”

But the drama was precisely what motivated some students to attend.

“I like watching the debate with other people because [it’s] highly entertaining and it’s fun to see everyone’s reactions to the ridiculous drama onstage,” said Samantha Hawkins, a senior at BYU. “I had been looking forward to it all month.”

In contrast, Professor Davis gave a nod to the participants who were able to turn the drama into policy discussions. “Congratulations to the candidates who flipped those questions to what they really should have been and talked about the things that the media didn’t want to talk about,” he said. “If [viewers] even watched part of it they got a sense that there are some real policy issues here.”

After both Wilson and Davis gave their responses to the debate students were invited to discuss additional questions with them one-on-one. BYUPAS leadership also encouraged students to attend the Democratic debate viewing party that will be held on Tuesday, October 13.

This debate was broadcasted and moderated by CNN, bringing the network record ratings. According to CNN, 23 million Americans tuned in for the three-hour marathon.

Research on Clan Governance Reveals How the Status of Women Affect a Nation’s Security

The WomanStats Project announces the American Political Science Review (APSR) article of Donna Lee Bowen, Valerie Hudson, and Lynne Nielsen.  The article reveals how the status of women affects a nation’s security and stability.  Clan governance typically involves patrilineal leadership and the subordination of women through marriage practices specific to upholding this system.  Read the abstract and full article, in the leading political science journal in the US, at:

In addition, you can find the first Clan Governance Index, featured in this article, on the WomanStats website ( as MULTIVAR-SCALE-4 (scale #4 from the top of the page).  While we call it the “Clan Governance Index,” it actually measures the degree of female subordination in marriage.  Why?  Certain marriage practices create certain political orders and function as a predictor for the stability of those societies and nation-states.

The following authors designed this landmark research:

Dr. Valerie Hudson, George H.W. Bush Chair and Professor of International Affairs, Bush School of Government and Public Service, Texas A&M University

Dr. Donna Lee Bowen, Professor of Political Science and Middle East Studies Coordinator, Brigham Young University

Pr. Lynne Nielsen, Associate Teaching Professor of Statistics, Brigham Young University

Congrats to our 2015 Valedictorian

Winter 2015

Alan Jameson Hickey, a political science major with an emphasis in American politics and minors in English, editing, and legal studies, is the son of Ed and Beth Hickey. Alan was born and raised in Castalian Springs, Tennessee. He served in the Sierra Leone Freetown Mission, and upon his return to BYU, he met his wife Rachel Lords and they are expecting their first child in August. Alan enjoys hiking, reading, pepperoni pizza, and cooking Italian food. He has been a teaching assistant multiple times and worked as a research assistant for Professors Quin Monson and David Kirkham. Alan has interned with the Deseret News and with Dreamling Books, and was the editor-in-chief of Sigma: Journal of Political and International Studies. He is a member of the Phi Kappa Phi, Pi Sigma Alpha (political science), and Golden Key honor societies. Following graduation, Alan will attend the J. Reuben Clark Law School. He is grateful for the support of his loving wife, parents, and siblings.

Summer 2015


Matthew Beck, major in Political Science, is the son of Kelly and Tracy Beck and brother to Ashley, Stephen and Kirstin. He credits his academic achievement at BYU to the unparalleled support and guidance of his mentors including Quin Monson, Dan Nielsen, and especially Adam Brown. They substantially aided him while he participated in several extracurricular activities, such as the 2012 BYU Utah Legislature Internship program and at the 2015 Mary Lou Fulton Mentored Research Conference where he presented award-winning research. They were also essential in his work as research fellow for the BYU Center for the Study of Elections and Democracy. Matt is currently employed as a Research Analyst for Deep Root Analytics, a firm offering web-enabled media targeting resources to clients in the public and private sectors. He currently resides in Washington DC.