2021 FHSS Valedictorians

Anthropology

Samuel Jensen Headshot
Samuel J. Jensen

Sam Jensen is an anthropology major with an emphasis in archaeology and a minor in Latin American studies. While studying archaeology, Sam had the opportunity to learn about people all over the world and throughout time. He was able to participate in archaeological excavations and research in Chihuahua, Mexico; the American Southwest; and the Great Basin. He completed an undergraduate thesis chemically characterizing obsidian stone tools and artifacts recovered from Ancestral Puebloan sites in southeastern Utah. This research was accepted into multiple conferences and received the Redd Center’s award in the 2020 Mary Lou Fulton Mentored Student Research Conference. Sam is currently planning to continue his education by earning a PhD in archaeology. He is waiting to hear back from several programs across the country. Sam would like to thank his family and friends, as well as the faculty membersin the Department of Anthropology, for their continued support and encouragement. Sam is the oldest child of Brett and Tonia Jensen, was raised in Provo, Utah, and has always had a love of learning.

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Economics

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George Reuben Garcia III

George Reuben Garcia III majored in economics and mathematics with minors in political science, philosophy, and Latin American Studies. Throughout his undergraduate studies, George conducted research with various professors including Arden Pope III in the Economics Department and Darren Hawkins in the Political Science Department. With Dr. Pope, George studied associations between body mass and mortality, and between air pollution and both health and Twitter sentiment. With Dr. Hawkins, he helped create a large database of development-related impact evaluations and studied various aspects of Latin American governance. George was also a teaching assistant for various professors, co-founded and co-presided over BYU’s first academic Interfaith Club, interned as a research fellow at The Humane League Labs, and took part in the Rwanda/Uganda Peacebuilding and Conflict Resolution Study Abroad. He is passionate about the Effective Altruism movement and hopes to spend his life studying how to most effectively do good. After graduating, George will be a predoctoral research fellow at the Stanford Law School, after which he plans to begin a PhD in economics. He is grateful for the many friends, mentors, and family members — especially his wife Helen Barton — who have supported him throughout his time at BYU.George is the son of George Reuben Garcia Jr. and Amy Christine Thomas, grew up in Pueblo, Colorado, and is a first-generation college student.

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Geography

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Haley Anna Morris

Haley Morris is a geography major who is grateful for the spatial awareness and holistic view of the world geography has given her. These skills and new ways of thinking have been integral for success in her second major of Russian. The amazing professors and faculty members in the Geography and Russian Departments have helped her realize her passions and potential, and she will always be grateful for their influence. She is thankful for her father, who has always encouraged her to dig deeper and learn more about the world. Starting in the fall she will combine her two loves, geography and Russian, by attending the University of North Carolina to pursue a master’s degree in Global Studies with an emphasis in Russian, Eurasian, and Eastern European Studies. Haley is from Monroe, Louisiana, and a love of geography has been instilled in her from an early age thanks to her mother who was also a graduate from the BYU Geography Department.

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History

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Hovan Lawton

Hovan Lawton is a history major who has spent four year as an American Heritage TA and interned with both the Joseph Smith Papers Project and the Wilford Woodruff Papers Project. Much of his undergraduate research has focused on Western U.S. history and Mormon studies, including his capstone paper which won the Eugene E. Campbell Student Paper Award in Utah History. He will continue this research in the History MA program at Utah State University this fall. Hovan is proud of his Latino heritage (his mother is from El Salvador) and has enjoyed learning more about Hispanic culture through pursuing a Spanish Studies secondary major and a Latin American Studies minor. This additional knowledge will help him view Western and Mormon Studies in their global context. He is grateful for the quality education that BYU provided him and for mentoring he received from knowledgeable and supportive faculty. Hovan is the son of Jonathan and Jenny Lawton, the oldest of three children, and is from Provo, Utah. He served as a missionary in southern Chile and enjoys hiking, traveling, cooking and spending time with family and friends.

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Neuroscience

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Alyssa Stockard Lee

Alyssa Stockard Lee considered nearly every major at BYU, but when she found neuroscience, she knew it was exactly what she wanted to study and has never looked back. One of Alyssa’s favorite experiences at BYU has been working as a research assistant in Dr. Steffensen’s lab. She has spent the past three years there studying substance abuse and addiction. In conjunction with that research, she has presented posters at neuroscience conferences at both the local and national levels. She is looking forward to beginning medical school in the fall. Alyssa has loved her time at BYU, and would like to thank her professors, classmates, friends, and family. Most of all, she would like to thank her parents, Tom and Julie Stockard, and her wonderful husband, Alex, for supporting and encouraging her every step of the way. Alyssa was raised in Fallon, Nevada and is the youngest of four children. In her free time, Alyssa loves to listen to audiobooks, take walks outside, and work on craft projects.

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Political Science

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Heather Kristina Walker

Heather Walker, a political science major with a minor in sociology and an emphasis in legal studies. She declared political science as her major in her application to BYU, and never looked back. During her time at BYU, she has enjoyed working as a teaching assistant and research assistant for various professors. She was also the recipient of the Garth Jones Scholarship. Additionally, for her last two years of college, she was a Wheatley Fellow. She also had the opportunity to work as an intern in Washington, D.C. for the Department of Justice. Following her time in there, she was a fellow at BYU’s Center for the Study of Elections and Democracy and in this last year was an author for BYU’s Prelaw Review. She would especially like to thank all of the wonderful mentors and professors she was privileged to work with and learn from during her time at BYU, as well as her family and friends for their support and encouragement. Heather is the youngest child born to Julia and Verdon Walker and grew up in Pleasant Grove, Utah.

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Psychology

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Sydney Rasmussen

Sydney Rasmussen is a psychology major with a developmental and clinical emphasis. She has always been interested in human behavior, but only came to truly uncover her love for psychology during her freshman year. While at BYU, Sydney has worked closely with professors researching a range of topics within psychology. Her favorite and most rewarding work, however, was examining the relationship between body image and Latter-day Saint culture with Dr. Sarah Coyne. Sydney’s Honors Thesis examined the relationship between body size and perceived righteousness among Latter-day Saints, revealing how weight stigma manifests within the specific faith community. Sydney presented her research and a personal essay at conferences on campus. She also worked as a BYU First-Year Peer Mentor and is very grateful to have served so many incredible freshmen. Sydney would like to thank her family and excellent mentors for all their support and guidance. She is the fourth of six children born to Greg and Lee Ann Rasmussen and grew up in Franklin, Tennessee.

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School of Family Life

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Eliza Crump Heim

Eliza Crump Heim was drawn to her major in Family and Consumer Sciences Education because of her belief in educational equity and its ability to change individual lives and the world. During her time in the School of Family Life, Eliza was able to work as teaching and research assistants for Professors Dawna Baugh, Chad Gibbs, and Natalie Hancock, all of whom gave her valuable experience and mentorship. Eliza would like to thank those mentors, as well as her husband, family, and friends for always encouraging her and making her time at BYU feel like home. She is looking forward to beginning her teaching career this fall at Mapleton Junior High School. Eliza is the youngest of Stan and Holly Crump’s five children and grew up in Lehi, Utah. She enjoys rollerblading, sewing, playing soccer, camping, and being with family and friends.

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Sociology

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Emley Holcombe

Emley Holcombe is graduating with a major in sociology and a minor in Global Women’s Studies. While she initially started at BYU in the theatre department, her freshman Introduction to Sociology class soon convinced her that the Sociology Department was her home. While at BYU, Emley had the privilege of working as a teaching assistant for Dr. Eric Dahlin and Dr. Melissa S. Jones. She is currently researching with Dr. Jones on the topic of child abuse outcomes by gender and will present this research at the American Society of Criminology Annual Meeting in November with a plan for publication. She has been accepted into the BYU sociology master’s program and is excited to begin this fall. Emley would like to thank her mentors and the other professors she has had the pleasure of learning from and working with. She would also like to thank her parents and husband for their endless support and guidance throughout her time at BYU. Emley is the third child of Nick and Charity Holcombe and grew up in Morton, Illinois.

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