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BYU College of Family, Home, and Social Sciences

September 14
Top Ten Tips for Incoming Freshmen


We’ve started a new academic year, and with that comes a little bit of anxiety for everyone. But by now, hopefully we’re starting to get settled in and into a routine. For freshmen, this adjustment time can be a little strange so we’ve asked our FHSS​ current students and alumni for some advice on how to do college.

1. Simple Advice: Choose a Major You Love

Te Hiwi Preston Study a major or field that you’re the most passionate about, the study journey will be much more enjoyable and rewarding! (Facebook)

Seems like simple advice but you would be surprised how many students choose otherwise. Consult your friends and family, take in their advice, but when it comes to crunch time make a decision based on what you think will make you happy both in the short-term and ten years down the road. Take all your generals early on and figure out what it is that you really enjoy doing. Participate in internships, do volunteer work, get involved. The more active you are in trying things out and experimenting with your career options and your passions, the more likely you will be able to decide on a major you sincerely enjoy doing.

2. Life is Not All About the Money

Jon McEwan Major in what fascinates you! Potential income doesn't matter too much. This life isn't about money. College shouldn't be about money. (Facebook)

Again this advice returns to the idea of majoring in what you love. Don’t let money become a deciding factor in your future. Yes, you want to be financially stable but you won’t be stable if you find yourself pursuing a career you have no interest in further than the paycheck. Success comes in many forms and money is only the smallest. Take classes you enjoy doing, pick a major that excites you, and create a career that you are passionate about. And through that passion you will find success.​


3. Don’t Forget About Minors

Mackenzie Anderson Major in something in the field you want to get in, but don't worry about specifics too early. Also remember you can minor in a cool field too. (Facebook)

You may start off in one major, decide that you like it enough but don’t necessarily want it to be your sole focus of your college life, and then switch majors. Don’t discourage, don’t dismay. There are an abundance of choices you need to make in the near future and you will probably want to change your mind a lot. You may pick a major and then realise that you want to expand further, or you may switch majors but worry about all those seemingly wasted credits. Minors are the perfect solution for that subject you enjoy but don’t necessarily want to focus all your time on.

4. Meet with Your Peer Mentor

First-Year Mentoring@BYUMentoring

@byu_fhss Come meet with your Peer Mentor! (Twitter)

As much as you might deny being nervous your first semester at university, this chapter of your life undeniably often comes with a snippet of culture shock in some size or another. It’s a new way of life, being on your own, and that takes inevitable adjustment. Feeling unprepared or anxious about the future is very normal, which is why BYU has the First-Year Mentoring program. Meeting with other students about anything and everything gives you the opportunity to adjust quickly and well on your own terms.

5. Find a Good Balance

@linds.howard Find a good balance between fun and school! Get your work done and then don't be afraid to go spend time with friends. Some of my best memories at BYU come from my freshman year! (Instagram)

Don’t forget to have fun. Just like we are told to exercise regularly and eat a balanced diet, you need to keep yourself mentally healthy. Finding a balance between your school and social life is crucial. One shouldn’t overrun the other, but you shouldn’t do one without the other. When your parents tell you that your college years will be some of the best in your life, listen to them. You are here to learn and grow but you can’t do that without getting to know and interacting with other people. Create a network of friends and find that balance that works for you.


6. Take Advantage


@byu_fhss Check out the CASC for FREE life skills workshops! (Twitter)

Chances are that, as a freshman, you haven’t even scratched the surface of the services BYU provides. There are clubs, advisements centers, and career opportunities in abundance. We are a big school. As professors, employees, and students, we all have the same goal and we are all working toward a betterment of our university career. BYU CASC is there to help you pick your major, do well, and to build a life post-college. This, among many other services are there for you, take advantage of them.

7. Having a Degree Is More Important

Emma Franks Just major in something you like to learn about! I chose my major because I took an intro class and thought, "I could study this for 4 years without getting tired of it," and it worked. Don't be too concerned about the field or job you want after college. One thing I'm learning (as a recent graduate) is that having a degree is more important than what you decided to major in. After your first job or two, education is no longer the most important thing. (Facebook)

There is no point in making your degree longer than it needs to be. You may want to minor in this and that, thinking that one or the other will be beneficiary and they are. But when you begin applying for jobs, employers are more interested in the fact that you have a degree than they are in the fact that you took six years because you double-majored with a minor. Get your education, and enjoy it. And you can always do more school later.

8. Start Thinking About Your End Goal

Jamie Francom Moesser Having graduated, I would say start with your end goal in mind. What do you want out of your career? And take one of those personality tests at career services. Very helpful for me. (Facebook)

You’ve been asked again and again what you intend to do with your major once you’ve graduated and all you can respond with is some quiet under-the-breath mutter that you just started. Don’t feel pressured to have everything figured out in the first week. But also, don’t put off thinking ahead, and planning. Start thinking about your end goal, what is it that you want out of life? What is the lifestyle you want? What kind of people do you want in it? Where do you want to end up? Start brainstorming and, again, take advantage of the services BYU has to offer. It helps to start working in one of your potential fields now. Jobs at university are sort of like a taste-tester, try it out and listen to your tastebuds.


9. Seriously Look At All Your Options

McKay School of Ed@McKaySchool

@byu_fhss Major in education! #ourbestadvice (Twitter)

Ultimately, our purpose is to help you. You’re here to get a higher education, and we are here to help you reach that level. The various services and advisors, even professors, are genuinely interested in helping you to find a niche that works for you and one that works with the future you are planning. You’ve entered to learn, but it’s about finding the right fit for you, so you can go forth to serve in the best way you can.

10. Finally, Don’t Be Discouraged

Life is never easy, but where’s the fun in that? With attending university you will come across hurdles that seem easy to fly over and you will come across others that will trip you up and scrape your knee. When that happens, pick yourself up, rub the dirt off, and keep on going. You have come to university to challenge yourself and you mustn’t despair when that challenge becomes real. But believe it or not, you have friends and family, and all of BYU in the stands cheering for you.

September 09
Dr. Brenden Rensink: Hooked on Western American History at the Charles Redd Center for Western Studies:

“Originally, I was not interested in American history, and especially not the American West. It was the worst.” That’s what Dr. Brenden Rensink, Assistant Director of the Charles Redd Center for Western Studies, had to say about his undergraduate freshman self. Then, one semester his schedule forced him to take a western American history class from Professor Jay Buckley.

Rensink, Brenden.jpg

“I was dreading it,” said Rensink, “but the class just hooked me.” Since then, he has not swayed from his focus on western history. Receiving an M.A. and a Ph.D. from the University of Nebraska - Lincoln in History, he has been able to come full circle back to Brigham Young University.

His connection with Professor Buckley continued after that first class he took. During his final semester in 2003, he was hired to be a research assistant under Dr. Buckley. The project went unfinished until, ten years later, Buckley asked Rensink to co-author the work that he had participated in all those years ago. Together, they published The Historical Dictionary of the American Frontier in May of this year.

Rensink co-authored the book on his own time while serving as an editor for the forthcoming Joseph Smith Papers Documents Vol. 4 and Vol. 6. His forthcoming comparative borderlands monograph, Native but Foreign,  is in the process of being published. “I’m always pushing comparative study because it can be quite revelatory. Certain aspects of one history can pop out in contrast to the other, and you analyze things that you wouldn’t have otherwise considered.”

His role at the Charles Redd Center will be to facilitate scholarship from a variety of disciplines. The center focuses on interfacing public interest with scholarly research. To Rensink it is important to, “get the general public interested in dialogue with scholars.” And he aims to cooperate with other universities and centers like the Redd Center. He and Redd Center director Brian Cannon are currently composing a regional symposium of western studies centers.

Dr. Rensink has been a part of scholarship at BYU in a variety of ways for several years. We thank him for his service and anticipate much good in the future from his scholarship.

September 09
Celebrate the Constitution With Us!

Provo, UT -  In recognition of the 228th anniversary of the signing of the U.S. Constitution, the honorable Kenneth F. Ripple has been invited as the guest speaker for BYU’s Constitution Day annual lecture. He will discuss: “Nixon vs. the United States: a Case Study in Judicial Independence.” The lecture will be held on Tuesday, Sept. 15, at 11 a.m. in auditorium 1060 in the Harold B. Lee Library. Admission is free and the public is invited.

Electronic Slide Constitution Day Judge Ripple.jpg

Judge Ripple received his law degree from the University of Virginia School of Law in 1968 and his master’s of law, specializing in administrative law and economic regulation, from the National Law Center of the George Washington University in 1972. Since then, he has worked as a legal officer of the U.S. Supreme Court, an attorney in the Office of the General Counsel of International Business Machines Corporation, and as a branch head for the Judge Advocate General of the Navy, as well as other positions.

In 1976, Ripple joined the University of Notre Dame Law School’s faculty. He teaches a judicial process seminar, a conflict of laws class, and multiple classes on federal courts. His published works include Constitutional Litigation, and co-published, Sanctions Impossible for Violations of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, in addition to numerous articles and book reviews. In 1985 Ripple was nominated by President Reagan to serve on the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit, a position confirmed by the United States Senate later that same year. His areas of expertise include conflict of laws, constitutional law, federal courts, judicial biography, and judicial process.

For more information see his faculty bio on Notre Dame’s website.

September 08
The Mary Lou Fulton Conference: Fulfilling the Mission of BYU through Mentored Research

Shelby Mcneill believes “The way your school impacts your life has lifelong consequences for you and your children.” She was first place winner of BYU’s College of Family, Home, and Social Sciences’ annual Mary Lou Fulton Mentored Research Conference. Shelby’s research poster The Legacy of School Desegregation: How Schools Influence Neighborhood Diversity has provided evidence that supports her belief. But Shelby’s life is evidence enough


The Student

From a young age, Shelby’s father and mother taught her the importance of receiving an education. Looking to provide a better life for his family, Shelby’s father returned to his secondary education in his late thirties. “I saw many blessings come into my life after he returned to school.” One of those blessings would be her ability to attend BYU - and meet her mentor, Professor Kristie Phillips.

The Mentor

Phillips is an ardent supporter of the Fulton conference. She requires each of them to participate. “The Fulton Conference gives students a chance to stand back and say, ‘I produced knowledge. I put something out there that nobody else has put out there before.’”

“When you’re working with Dr.’re not an after-thought. She’s in it to help you. And that means a lot to me,” said Shelby. Professor Phillips describes her research efforts with Shelby as “The ideal mentoring experience.” Shelby’s desire to help other people by studying the importance of education fit perfectly with Dr. Phillips’ research emphasis is desegregation of schools.

poster shelby.jpg

The Project

Shelby’s passion for the subject pushed her to apply for an ORCA grant - which they received. “[This Project] has taken a tremendous effort because it is a longitudinal study,” said Phillips. “The grant has facilitated Shelby’s ability to invest in the project in a big way.” And their success with the project has given Shelby extensive experience in research - preparing her for BYU’s sociology graduate program.

Mentored research plays an important role in BYU’s vision of preparing students to be lifelong learners and contributors to society. And Shelby has already “gone forth” to serve by presenting her findings at the Kentucky Human Rights Commission.

In 2007, a supreme court decision had major implications for the diversity of schools and neighborhoods across america. Research like that of Shelby Mcneill is relevant to ongoing public discussion on this subject.

If you would like to learn more about mentored research through the Mary Lou Fulton Conference, you can talk to a professor in the College of Family, Home, and Social Sciences, and watch for deadlines here. Keep your eyes peeled for more articles on the Fulton conference winners.

August 31
“Opting” for Online Learning: New All-Online Courses From the College of Family, Home and Social Sciences

online education via Flickr Mike Licht .jpg

While the benefit of a college education is relatively undisputed, the value of sitting in a classroom versus in front of a computer to get that education is a relative unknown. There is definitely a burgeoning education movement toward online instruction, though. This movement is partially aided by the information technology revolution. Pioneering online innovators such as Western Governor’s University and Kaplan University are trendsetters, offering higher education online.
BYU has recently dipped its toe in those waters, with BYU Online. And the College of Family, Home, and Social Sciences is excited to announce their four classes that are being taught right now! 


BYU Online

Our university began offering some courses exclusively online as early as 2012. This Fall semester, BYU Online will offer four classes from the College of Family, Home and Social Sciences. These classes are:

Each course is taught exclusively online and the credit is applied to each student’s total credit hour limit. The classes are just for matriculated BYU students and the tuition fees apply the same way.  Each is led by one instructor and facilitated by a teachers’ assistant. These kind of classes offer the increased ability to balance work commitments and other responsibilities, flexibility of time management, increased geographical access to higher education and, in some cases, lower costs. More will be added in the Winter 2016 semester.

“Incorporating the internet into education is important to support lifelong learning,” Carolyn Andrews said, BYU Online Courses Administrator from the Division of Continuing Education. “Classes are added as departments determine the need. BYU students want options and when it makes sense to offer a course online, departments and faculty are favorable,” Andrews said.

BYU Online currently offers a total of 19 online classes, with an enrollment of 925 for fall semester, and a waitlist of almost 300 more. Class styles vary in length and presentation. For some courses, professors record a portion of the lecture, usually with an introduction and instructor notes. Textbook guidelines also vary by class. Some courses require printed texts that need to be purchased while others offer online texts that are often customized for the particular course. These classes are also part of the many teacher-led and paper courses that Independent Study offers.


Is Online More Effective Than Traditional?

Administration members have been carefully assessing and analyzing the success of these courses and others taught campus-wide since the beginning of the program three years ago. Results typically indicate that students exhibit less satisfaction with online courses in terms of professor/student  interaction, but greater satisfaction with flexibility, although they report that procrastination presents the biggest challenge. The difference in the average GPA’s of students who complete online courses compared to those who don’t is negligible, less than .2%.
Studies that compare learning outcomes for online versus traditional courses show minimal difference. 

Some students have shared these comments from their participation with online courses:

  • “You have as much interaction with the TA and the professor as you would like so an online class is really what you make of it.”

  • “I chose to take an online course because of the flexibility. I needed to take classes and not be on campus for 3 extra hours each week.”

Overall, extensive studies done by the US Department of Education show that “students who took all or part of their course online performed better, on average, than those taking the same course through traditional face-to-face instruction.”

The Big Picture

According to a Pew Research Center study, nearly 90 percent of college graduates say that “college has been a good investment for them personally.” Yet three out of four people surveyed think that college is too expensive for them to afford. And the chief academic officers of most universities recognize that that continues to be more of a barrier to a successful college education than accessibility. Nevertheless, public and private non-profit universities across the country reported a combined 17.2% increase in “distance learning” enrollments in 2014. It’s not going away anytime soon. 

We encourage you to try one of these courses for yourself, and let us know how it goes! Email with your feedback. You can check out BYU Online for more information.

Photos courtesy of Flickr and BYU Photo.

August 31
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