When Lora Beth Brown left her job as a BYU professor to become a wife and mother, she never expected that two short years later she would be a widow with four step sons, a baby and one on the way.

Surely no one would fault Brown for hiding from the world, which she did for a while. Some how in the midst of her grief, Brown remembered her love of teaching and education, which started her back on the path toward BYU.

“I had to make a decision to say ‘ok the adventure continues.’ Even now I’ll say, ‘go for the adventure,’” said Brown, a professor of nutrition, dietetics and food science.

Accepting life as an adventure and education as part of that adventure is not always an easy decision when faced with the realities of life. But a group of women at BYU want to show that the path of education is always possible.

A new web series, “By Study, By Faith,” produced by BYU Theatre and Media Arts Department in association with the BYU Faculty Women’s Association, features 10 women who work at BYU and how the pursuit of learning has influenced and shaped their lives.

In addition to Brown, the women interviewed for the web series are mostly faculty members from a variety of departments and disciplines: History Associate Professor Jenny Pulsipher, Mechanical Engineering Associate Professor Julie Crockett, Microbiology and Molecular Biology Assistant Professor Julianne Grose, Sociology Department Professor Renata Forste, Ancient Scripture Professor Camille Fronk Olson, University Spokesperson and Assistant to the President Carri Jenkins, McKay School of Education Professor Roni Jo Draper, Health Science Assistant Professor Chantel Sloan and School of Music Professor April Clayton.

You Can Move Forward

The BYU Faculty Women’s Association, an organization for female faculty dedicated to promoting a sense of community and supporting women to be successful in their work, wanted to create a way to encourage female students at BYU to finish their schooling.

“There are several types of challenges such as health, family roles, academic difficulties, resources, and personal needs.  Sometimes circumstances imply, ‘you can’t move forward,’ and I wanted to be the voice that said, ‘you can move forward and there are wonderful women here at BYU who can inspire you,’” said Faculty Women’s Association President and Associate Professor in the McKay School of Education Barbara Smith.

Smith and the Faculty Women’s Association wanted to contribute to creating an understanding that every effort to gain an education will be beneficial to you and to others. There is no particular path or timeline, and there are countless ways to get there, Smith said.  

In addition to the 10 films, FWA wrote 25 print stories on more inspiring faculty women on campus. They are available on the website.

Everyone Has a Purpose

Starting with an idea tell the stories of the women at BYU that might be inspirational to students, Smith went to Executive Producers and Faculty Mentors Amy Jensen and Tom Lefler to ask for help to tell those stories in a compelling way.

Jensen jumped at the chance to involve some of the very talented female film students on campus in this project. Nine students were able to direct, produce and edit the project. In a way, says Jensen, those filmmakers are much as part of the project as the women featured in the web series.

“The students were the conceptualizers, they were the ones who looked at the footage we took of each women and determined what story would be best to tell,” she said.

The students couldn’t help but be inspired in the process; one student even decided to apply for grad school because of the influence of the women in the project.

“When I began working on this project, I was looking for this kind of mentoring and I didn’t know how to express that,” said Director and Editor Coco Mack, “And I realized that I could do more than I imagined myself doing. And I was able to find the counsel and courage that I needed through these videos.”

The filmmakers easily caught the vision of the project set out by the Faculty Women’s Association and the Department of Theatre and Media Arts: to teach young women how to navigate their lives around continuing education, and how their community can help them get there.

“It’s a really important story that needs to be told,” said Director and Producer Cassie Hiatt. “Heavenly Father does not forget about you, and everyone is on this earth for a specific purpose.”

Stories that Could Change Lives

Everyone involved in the filming hopes that this message will be conveyed through the project. And that many will be inspired and influenced by the stories.

“It’s all about the sharing. I hope that faculty and employees will share these videos with their students who really need to hear these stories so they can start thinking about what their path is going to be,” said Jenny Pulsipher, this associate professor in History featured in the series. “I hope that a lot of people hear these stories, because it could change their lives.”

Health Science Assistant Professor Chantal Sloan agrees.

“People need to hear this, because it can answer questions of the heart,” she said.

The films and stories can be viewed at bystudybyfaith.byu.edu.

 

Writer: Jenna Randle