Highlights from BYU colleges: Nursing professor wins award, students collaborate with creator of Alexa


College of Nursing

Associate teaching professor Peggy Anderson, right, received the DAISY Award for her work in the Brigham Young University School of Nursing. (College of Nursing)

A BYU professor was recently recognized for her outstanding work in the Brigham Young University School of Nursing. Peggy Anderson received the DAISY Award for Extraordinary Nursing Faculty. Anderson works as the undergraduate studies program coordinator and has had a special role in ensuring safety for students exposed to COVID-19. 

“Peggy speaks for the vulnerable, cheers for those who work hard, has a ready smile for all, and intuitively knows what to do or say,” one faculty member said. “Students can feel her warmth and always come away cheered by an interaction with her.”

“Rarely in my life have I been blessed to encounter anyone who is as charitable, guileless and compassionate as Peggy,” another individual said. “She goes about quietly serving the faculty and students of the College of Nursing, usually in ways that are nearly invisible, yet indispensable.”

College of Humanities

Allison McIlleece and Jeremy Hills are on the team of students who helped create software to transcribe thousands of oral histories. (Rebekah Baker)

BYU students are partnering with the creator of Amazon’s Alexa to preserve Cambodian stories. BYU alumnus Jeff Adams, lead designer of Alexa and founder of Cobalt Speech and Language, was impressed by BYU’s Cambodian Oral History Project. This project has involved recording nearly 5,000 life narratives bringing to light the 1970s Khmer Rouge regime in which nearly two million Cambodians were killed. Adams suggested a mutually beneficial collaboration: Adams’ recording technology could be used to transcribe the Cambodian stories, and those stories could train computers to recognize Khmer, the language of Cambodia, for the first time. 

“It was one of those things where you wonder how much divine intervention was involved,” Adams said.

“Increased access to these stories will be a gift for the Cambodian people who treasure having written copies for their family records,” BYU linguistics students Allison Lasswell said. “For the first time, many in the rising Cambodian generation are hearing about what grandma’s wedding day was like or how their uncle died.”

“Sometimes it’s tempting to think, ‘Who’s going to go back and look at 5,000 interviews?’” information systems student Jeremy Hills said. “But we’re playing the long game. Someday somebody’s going to want these interviews of their parents or grandparents, and we’ll have them.”

Marriott School of Business 

The undergraduate team presents to the judges of the Purdue Human Resources Case Competition over Zoom. The BYU MBA and undergraduate teams both placed first this year.

BYU Marriott students won a handful of awards at the Purdue Human Resources Case Competition this year, including two first place wins. BYU Marriott’s MBA and undergraduate teams both placed first in their division. BYU students Amelia Phillips and Sam Porter also won awards for being the best question-and-answer responders. The competition, hosted virtually by Purdue University in Indiana, gave student teams the chance to create solutions for representing workplace diversity. 

The MBA team included Easton Johnson, Sam Porter, Andy Price, Mindy Torbit and Kimberlee Whatcott. The undergraduate team included Chelsea Allen, Rebecca Garrett, Carson McCracken, Daniel Pehrson and Amelia Phillips.

“The most rewarding aspect of the competition was working with great team members who were all willing to collaborate together and achieve the best presentation possible,” Whatcott said.

“Beyond offering students an opportunity to tackle real-world problems, case competitions like this one allow students to gain experience through presenting their ideas to external experts and practitioners,” BYU Marriott professor Cody Reeves said. Reeves served as a faculty advisor for the competition. “Gaining this experience while in school will serve students well as they pitch solutions in the workplace.”

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