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Young Scholar Awards

Resources provide incentives and recognition for outstanding scholarly work by promising young faculty. Each award provides funds to hire one student to assist the faculty member in his or her research. A small salary stipend accompanies this award for one of the college's promising new faculty members. Students benefit immensely as faculty give their very best efforts to effective teaching and scholarly research.

Brigham Frandsen

Associate Professor of Economics

I’m grateful for Ira Fulton’s generosity and the support I receive as a Mary Lou Fulton Young Scholar. My research focuses on developing methods to more reliably measure cause and effect in situations where the available data are less than ideal, and to apply those methods to answer questions about the impact of charter schools on student achievement, the effects of health insurance for the low-income, the effects of incarceration on defendants’ outcomes, the effects of unionization on firm and employee outcomes, and many others. The award not only helps to support access to data and computing resources to answer these questions, but also helps to include students in the discovery process as research assistants. Below I will describe a and how the award helps make it possible.

One project focuses on methods to perform valid statistical inference. If there were ever an iron law of social science, it would be “more data is better.” Large sample sizes allow researchers to overcome the inevitable noise that comes with measurement and sampling, and usually mean a researcher’s estimates will, with enough data, pinpoint the quantitative answer to a research question with great accuracy. Sometimes, however, no matter how large the sample, the answers to certain questions can only be bounded; they can’t be pinpointed exactly. We call these kinds of questions “partially identified.” This can happen when key quantities of interest, like an individual’s income, for example, are only measured in intervals (e.g., “$70K-$90K”) rather than in exact values. Funding from the Mary Lou Fulton Young Scholar award has allowed a student, Zac Pond, and me to develop new, efficient, and computationally feasible methods to calculate confidence intervals when the empirical question or questions of interest are partially identified.

An important part of demonstrating the effectiveness of our method is setting up a “horserace” between our method and existing methods to compare computational time and statistical efficiency. Zac took on the formidable task of creating a software implementation of existing methods, which are extremely intricate and complicated, and required using advanced, proprietary optimization algorithms. This grant allowed us access to those proprietary algorithms. Zac was able to show that our method outperforms existing methods by a factor of several hundred. This research has the potential to have a large impact in terms of its academic contribution, the opportunity it has given students like Zac to be involved in research, and the exposure it brings to BYU has a place where important research is accomplished.

This project is just one of several that are making similar impact and which are made possible by the support of the Mary Lou Fulton Young Scholar award. Again, I am very grateful for the Fultons’ generosity in supporting our work.

Angela Bradford

Associate Professor of Family Life

Because clinical work at BYU’s Comprehensive Clinic halted for a couple months and then transitioned to an entirely on-line format due to the pandemic, my work, which requires in-person participation, was suspended indefinitely. Thus, we were initially unable to continue data collection for either of the two projects that the Fulton Young Scholar Award has been helping. Still, I sought opportunities to continue the work in other ways so we will be ready once the pandemic lifts.

Among my efforts was the decision to hire an undergraduate student to work together with my doctoral student in developing and initiating procedures that would facilitate data collection once we could resume it. Together, these students were able to prepare that branch of the project (i.e., CHAMPS+) so that we were able to launch data collection successfully after more in-person contact is allowed. I also trained several students on how to code specific behaviors in therapy sessions so that they would be ready to do so once they returned to campus (a necessity since the therapy recordings from our participants should not be viewed outside of my lab).

I also acquired some necessary equipment to enable adjusting our data collection so that it could include the in-person (therapist) participant, even if the clients were receiving services remotely for CHAMPS+. And I was able to intensify recruitment efforts for the comparison sample participants for CHAMPS (as their in-person participation is less intensive and data would not be compromised by mask-wearing). This was helpful because as the clinic began allowing more in-person work, I was able to enroll several more comparison sample couples and begin data collection begin data collection for CHAMPS+. Current clinic protocols (and overall graduate student fatigue) are still making it difficult to collect large amounts of data quickly; however, the projects are beginning to be revived as the pandemic subsides.

Finally, because I do not know how long it will take to “complete” data collection, my colleague and I decided it would be best not to wait any longer to begin publishing from our data. I ran analyses and wrote the first manuscript coming out of this work. That has been submitted, and we are awaiting reviews and an editorial decision. Additionally, I was able to take that time to outline which papers will follow and how to continue producing knowledge from this work despite the fact we are still “in it.”

I expect that in the next year, we’ll be able to continue collecting data and use what we have for initial analyses, which will result in dissemination of meaningful results. I plan in the coming year to hire a project manager and more undergraduate students to facilitate the collection, cleaning, and compiling of data so that I can continue to publish on what we have. As conferences move to in-person (which still hasn’t happened in my field), we will also present findings there.

Leslie Hadfield

Associate Professor of History

As I sat flipping through the advanced copy of my book, A Bold Profession: African Nurses in Rural Apartheid South Africa, in April 2021, I thought of what a good position I have been in to make substantial progress on two major research projects during the COVID-19 pandemic. As we were all grounded and confined to working from home last year, I saw my manuscript for A Bold Profession through the final publication stages. I also made great progress on my research on the history of porters and guides on Kilimanjaro as I sifted through hundreds of pages from the digitized archive of the Kilimanjaro Mountain Club. To do this, I did not need much money, however, I am now in an excellent position to continue this research in significant ways with financing from the Fulton Young Scholar Award. I also am poised to contribute to collaboration with African scholars and opportunities to increase African participation in the production of knowledge about Africa, a crucial step in correcting past inequities in the academy.

Now that A Bold Profession is published, I can apply for promotion to full professor and focus on the history of porters and guides project. The Fulton Young Scholar funds from the award will also support my further research activities in Tanzania that were placed on hold by the COVID-19 pandemic. My plan for 2020 was to use my research money to host my Tanzanian co-authors Festo Mkenda and Kokel Melubo at BYU for a week of collaboration. I still plan to do this, perhaps in 2022. In the meantime, Mkenda and I participated in a writing group with my department via Zoom. I also hope to travel to Tanzania this year to hire and train two local research assistants to help with oral history interviews of porters and guides. Research funds will make this possible and will give further research experience to Tanzanian students or other research assistants working with Kokel Melubo at the College of Wildlife Management at Mweka.

I have been honored and deeply grateful to be a Fulton Young Scholar. It has played a significant role in furthering my research and promises to support more important research to come, with a reach beyond BYU. Please accept my sincere thanks.

All of these themes will come together in a book-length manuscript that I am currently working on. I hope that it will deepen our understanding of the nature of religious belief, and the way that belief was expressed in French Catholic society.

Ryan Gabriel

Assistant Professor of Sociology

I was very fortunate to be named a Mary Lou Fulton Young scholar at BYU staring in 2019. My research focuses on urban sociology, racial residential segregation, residential mobility and neighborhood attainment, and the historical legacy of racial violence. I investigate these areas using quantitative methods with the goal to explicate the color line that has separated Blacks and Whites, its historical power on contemporary processes, how it is transforming through increasing racial and ethnic diversity, and how it will manifest in the future.

This year I used the Fulton Award to help publish a manuscript entitled “The Neighborhood Attainment of Mixed-Race Couples across the Black/White Spectrum” with two BYU students, Aïsha Lehmann and Hannah Spencer, in the journal Sociological Perspectives. In this research we highlight that with the removal of legal barriers to mixed-race marriage in 1967, there has been a consistent increase in the number of Black-White couples. This has coincided with growth in the number of Black-White individuals who have formed couples with a Black or White partner. Little is known, however, about how these couples function within a key area of racial stratification—neighborhood attainment.

To investigate this gap in the research literature we used data from the Home Mortgage Disclosure Act and the U.S. Census to investigate the percentage of Whites and the average income in the neighborhoods of home-purchasing couples defined by their levels of Black and White representation. These couples being White couples, Black-White individuals with White partners, Black-White couples, Black-White individuals with Black partners, and Black couples.

Our findings reveal that the percentage of Whites and average income in the neighborhoods of couples decrease as couples increase in Black representation. Besides sharing these results in the journal Sociological Perspectives, we also presented our findings from this project at the annual meeting of the Population of Association of America, which is the flagship conference for population demographers.

Ultimately, I am incredibly grateful for the support that I have received from the Fulton Award to help advance this important work with such talented students.