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Character

Cougar Query: "I’m grateful that the Lord saw more potential in me than I did – as He does for each of us."

Name: Kevin John
I’ve been a BYU employee since... 2011, if you count my time as an adjunct instructor and don’t count my time as a student research assistant, haha!

My job at BYU is... being a professor and working as the director of the BioComms Lab in the School of Communications.

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I’m currently working on... lots of research on skin cancer, body image issues and substance use. It’s actually kind of funny because, since I work in each of these areas, my computer is full of images of alcohol advertisements, moles and people in swimsuits and such—probably the last thing you’d think of with BYU research! But the goal of all of these studies is to help people make informed decisions about their health and physical and mental well-being. With many of these studies I like to use advanced technologies like eye-tracking, facial recognition, virtual reality and other means to see what people see and how they feel about it.

I’m currently playing through... Final Fantasy VII Remake, and I recently finished Final Fantasy XV for the third time. I LOVE the mixture of deep stories, complicated characters and emotional music that are typical of these games. Outside of Final Fantasy, I love the Mass Effect universe, an indie game called Gris, all of the Halo games and old-school Super Nintendo games like Chrono Trigger, Secret of Mana, Super Metroid, Mega Man X and so many others.

My favorite part about teaching is... the variety of experiences each student brings into the classroom. Every semester is a unique environment and challenge, and I love learning about what each student in my class is interested in and where they want to go after BYU. A major part of learning is the creation of shared meaning, and I learn just as much from my students as they learn from me each semester. For me, interactions with students are the best part of the job!

When I tell people I work for BYU, they often say... that I don’t look like a BYU professor. Well, what is a BYU professor supposed to look like? Can you have spikey hair and still love the Lord? Of course! We don’t all need to look like we just stepped out of the MTC. The Lord looks on the inside and so should we. It is our spirit and the light of Christ that will show people that we are disciples of Him. Sure, how we present ourselves says a lot about what’s on the inside, but it doesn’t say everything, and there are many ways for us to express ourselves in a manner that is consistent with the doctrine of the restored gospel. We don’t all have to have parted hair, right? :)

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My most cherished memory at BYU is... meeting my wife here—and now you expect me to launch into some traditional story about how she was in my FHE group and we were engaged after knowing each other for like a month, right? Well, nope, haha! We did have a connection to each other, and at one point she WAS in my FHE group, but we dated on and off for four years before we eventually got married. And Hillery will tell you that I was the holdup, and she is totally right. I had to learn and grow throughout our dating process before I could figure out which way to go with things, but I’m glad that she went on that crazy ride with me, because our relationship since then has been an absolute riot. She’s the introvert, I’m the extrovert, and together we combine to make some dynamic duo that stumbles through parenthood and laughs all the way. I look forward to seeing her every single day.

I chose to come to BYU because... well, actually I didn’t initially choose to go to BYU. I grew up in Alexandria, Virginia, and I was taking classes at Northern Virginia Community College focusing on architecture—and I wanted to transfer to George Mason University. But, one day, I got the distinct impression that I needed to apply to BYU, and when I bounced this idea off of my mom, she said she had received the same impression. This was odd because—how do I put this nicely?—my high school GPA really wouldn’t have been competitive at BYU. But through my time at NVCC, I learned study habits and how to work hard in academia, and when I eventually applied to BYU, my transfer credits were weighed more heavily than my high school GPA, and I was accepted. I know the Lord had a lot to do with the process, and there is much more to the story, but that’s the surface level. I’m grateful that the Lord saw more potential in me than I did—as He does for each of us.

My go-to comfort food is... a sandwich from Schlotzsky’s deli, but (wouldn’t you know it?) the coronavirus closed down the ONLY Schlotzsky’s in Utah. So I have been left without material comfort for a little over a year now. Send help.

The biggest challenge I’ve faced was... losing my dad to pancreatic cancer back in 2008. I was 25 years old at the time, and I talked DAILY with my dad about life, hopes for the future, the latest struggle I was going through, etc. My dad was like me but skewed more heavily toward the analytical side, so he always had sound advice to give. I inherited my logical side from my dad and my bubbly and emotional side from my mom, and I always felt like my dad knew how to help me balance the two. When he passed away, it took me longer than it should have to feel confident in myself, and even though I had a clear path ahead of me (and I’m thankful to the Lord for that), I still felt like I was wandering without a map. It’s an odd feeling to know what you need to do, and to do it, but at the same time to feel a little empty and lost as you go along the path. But life is full of these seemingly contradicting emotions and experiences, and pushing through them is what makes us who we are.

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My dream car is... a Toyota Supra. Like any kid, I loved Lamborghinis and other exotic cars growing up, but I knew I would never own one because they cost as much as a house. But a Supra, that’s actually something I COULD own, and it didn’t help that a friend of mine in 10th grade had a black one that I got to ride in (lucky kid). I’ve wanted one ever since but gave up when the prices of used ones went through the roof. But then, lo and behold, they launched a new Supra in 2020, and this coincided with me deciding that it might be time to give up riding a motorcycle (which is difficult because it was a connection to my dad) so that I could stay safe for my family. Well, my wife saw the new Supra, and she loved it, and she supported me in selling my motorcycle and my prior car to pick up a 2021 Supra in bright yellow. So now, if you see one on campus, just know that it’s from some spikey-haired professor in the Brimhall building who has dreamed of one since playing Gran Turismo on the original PlayStation and watching The Fast and the Furious back in the 2000s, haha!

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