Alumna Spotlight: Kyrene Gibb


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.”

WomenStats: Pathway to Non-Profits

Photo provided by Crys Kevan Lee--Empower Playgrounds

Photo provided by Crys Kevan Lee–Empower Playgrounds

For many, choosing a career in non-profits seems like a dream. For BYU graduates Crys Kevan Lee, Jessica Hogstrom, and Julie Ford Brenning, however, this dream is their everyday reality.

As an employee of Empower Playgrounds, Crys Kevan Lee works with children in Africa. Lee helps provide the children a way to study at night by overseeing the installment of Empower Playground merry-go-rounds  at schools that double as power generators for alternative light sources. Lee works from Salt Lake City in conjunction with on-site employees in West Africa to help fund girls’ scholarship programs, oversee wells that provide clean water, and manage the forty-seven merry-go-rounds placed in West African schools.

Across the country, Jessica Hogstrom works from Williamsburg, Virginia in conjunction with the College of William & Mary and non-profit company, AidData. Analyzing data using various methods such as remote sensing, Hogstrom provides companies with a visual representation of their aid disbursement to better understand where their money is going. Using geocoding technology, Hogstrom and her team work to understand where aid should go and how aid dollars should be disbursed to help aid  global development in foreign countries.

Julie Ford Brenning works to end gendercide in Asian countries. Working with the non-profit organization, Give Her Life, Brenner utilizes both her Chinese language skill and her drive tp aid women targeted by their gender in foreign countries. Brenner is currently working on a publication to help people better understand gendercide in China, as well as working in conjunction with Give Her Life to analyze data concerning gender selection in Asian countries.

What is the common factor that unites these three amazing women and their high profile careers in non-profit? All three became involved with WomenStats Project while studying at BYU. As students working with WomenStats they gained valuable skills, such as coding and data analysis, that helped prepare them for real-world experience to enter non-profit careers in global development upon graduating.

Photo provided by Crys Kevan Lee--Empower Playgrounds

Photo provided by Crys Kevan Lee–Empower Playgrounds

Want to know more about getting involved? Follow the link: to learn more.

Congratulations to BYU:BYUPAS for winning the Pi Sigma Alpha’s Best Chapter Award for 2015-2016

This year the student chapter of BYUPAS won the Pi Sigma Alpha’s Best Chapter Awards for 2015-2016. This is the fifth year in a row that they have received this award!


Brodie Wray, president of the local chapter, oversaw a year that saw an increase in membership and a variety of activities. The year started with the September GOP Primary Debate where over 800 students packed the auditorium to watch the debate. Through out the year the local chapter hosted local debates as well as more viewing parties for national debates.

One of the highlights of the year was a symposium titled, “Understanding the 2016 Presidential Nomination Process.” The chapter received a grant from the National chapter of Pi Sigma Alpha and used this grant to invite Professor Dante Scala from the University of New Hampshire who presented on the New Hampshire primaries and Professor Eric Redlawsk from Rutgers University who presented on the Iowa caucuses. The two professors spent the day meeting with students and lectured approximately 250 students about the recent Iowa caucus and New Hampshire primary.

Besides the numerous events, the chapter continued to encourage dialogue and research through their monthly publication, Political Review, and an annual journal, Sigma.


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.