The diversity and importance of Black-owned businesses in Salt Lake City

Story by KAYLA LIEN

It is 5:45 a.m. and Timothy Horton Jr. has just started his day. He wakes up his daughters, 2 and 4, and gets them ready for school. After dropping the 4-year-old off, he then heads back home, toddler in tow, and starts to create.

A Chicago native and University of Utah alumnus, this father of two is the CEO and founder of Koda’Fe, a luxury streetwear brand based in Salt Lake City. 

An assortment of new products from Koda’Fe. Photo courtesy of Timothy Horton Jr.

Horton came up with the name Koda’Fe back in 2009, but didn’t really start putting his ideas down on paper until 2016, when he legalized it as a limited liability company (LLC). Koda’Fe is actually an acronym for “Keeping Our Dreams Alive For Eternity,” and with “fe” being the Latin word for “faith.”  Horton notes that “a lot of positive energy went into creating this name.”

This idea of positivity and growth is the base of Koda’Fe. It’s all about “bringing everyone together,” Horton said over Zoom. “Koda’Fe is a brand for every culture. …  Koda’Fe will be focused on uniting everybody and ending racism in general. … I say it every time, Koda’Fe is bigger than a fashion brand and I stand on that.” 

Koda’Fe boasts a substantial Instagram following, with big names such as Rayjon Tucker of the Philadelphia 76ers and Derrick Rose of the New York Knicks being seen wearing the brand’s clothing. 

However, the support hasn’t always been there.  

Growing up, Horton said his mom “didn’t really understand.” Having been in and out of fashion since he was eighteen, Horton always knew what he wanted. His mom, however, was strict about having a stable job that paid well. He has since earned a degree in economics. While certainly useful in the long run, Horton repeatedly pushes the concept of listening to “nobody but yourself.”

Koda’Fe is part of a growing number of Black-owned businesses in Salt Lake City. Minorities make up 22.3% of Utah’s population, yet a little under 7% of Utah startups are minority-owned. While that statistic looks bleak, as of 2013, three areas in Utah (Ogden-Clearfield, Salt Lake City, and Provo-Orem) experienced a growth of at least 40% in minority-owned businesses.

Mikell (far right) and Stephanie Brown (left) and their kids wearing T-shirts from Edify Collective. Mikell is the vice chairman and events committee lead for the Utah Black Chamber. Photo courtesy of Tabarri Hamilton.

Across the city, Tariq Staton puts in a nine-hour work day before going into his garage to get started on orders. Staton, the founder and co-owner of Utah-based clothing brand Edify Collective, juggles a full-time job to support his family on top of running a company that isn’t yet profitable. 

“We haven’t taken any money out of the company. Everything that we make is either donated or put back into marketing or apparel or new designs and things like that,” Staton said in a Zoom interview. “Our goal is to just put out good product and put money back into the community and things we believe in.” 

Edify Collective donates 15% of its profits back to the community through providing youth therapy sessions and supporting nonviolent movements fighting social inequality. Incorporating this message of positivity and unity was something the brand had wanted to do from the beginning. 

Within the first trial week, the company raised $1,000 for the NAACP. Six months after that, Edify Collective donated over $2,000 to the Utah Black Chamber.  

Moving his toddler out of view of the screen, Staton said, “When I was a minority youth, it was hard for me to express anything I was going through at that time to either my family or my friends. … Just speaking for the Black community, I know that it’s taken as a sign of weakness if you talk about … struggling with depression or talking about suicide and things like that … they’re shown as weak. So a lot of people don’t talk about it, but we want to bring that forward and say that it is OK.”

Edify Collective got its start in June 2020 after George Floyd and Breonna Taylor were thrust into the limelight, having been killed by police. Staton’s wife wanted to do a photoshoot wearing shirts that were meaningful, with graphics depicting themes of unity and togetherness. After that initial photoshoot, Staton said, “We got a lot of people asking, you know, like where do we get the shirts and where can they get them.”  So, the Statons turned it into a business. Since then, Edify Collective has put out numerous T-shirts and hoodies, as well as beanies, the latter with a little help from a company called Embrogo.

The Embrogo trailer camper at Ironsmith Coffee in Encinitas, California. Quinell Dixon (left) hands an item to a customer. Photo courtesy of Jenna McKay.

It’s a snowy evening in Salt Lake City and Quinnel Dixon has logged onto Zoom from his phone. “Can you hear me? My son busted my phone,” he says. Dixon sports a dark blue cap with the words “EMBROGO BRAND” stitched in bold lettering.

Quinell and Adrienne Dixon are the owners of Embrogo, a business founded in 2017 that curates  “personal embroidery on the go.” Embrogo boasts small batches of personalized baseball caps, beanies, tees, patches, and even shoe tongues. It was an idea for a “side hustle,” Quinell said, not intending to be much of anything. However, the Dixons realized there was a market for this type of embroidery, whether it be for a small business or an individual wanting items for themselves. 

Adrienne is the one sitting behind the embroidery machine, while Quinell is out in the community promoting the business. Their company saw a really positive impact once the Black Lives Matter movement took the spotlight, both in sales and customer support.

“People wanted to speak about what was going on, right, and they put it on their apparel,” Quinell says. “Another thing that happened, too, is people started to realize that, hey, we may not be able to do things right now when it comes to police brutality, when it comes to unfairness and injustice. But what we can do is support the people who are still around, who are people of color.”

The community has really embraced Embrogo, says Quinell, who adds, “We’re also glad that people are starting to really realize that small Black businesses is very far and few in between.”

Buying from small businesses has become a trend since the pandemic hit, one with gratifying results for many company owners.

Within the United States, there has been a tangible shift toward supporting local businesses, especially those owned by people of color and women. The U.S. Small Business Administration reports in 2020, the number of small businesses in the U.S. reached 31.7 million, which is 99.9% of all U.S. businesses. However minority-owned businesses make up only 18% of that, according to the U.S. Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship.  

Supporting small businesses is essential, Quinell says. “You put the money back into your own economy and your ecosystem thrives. Not necessarily with revenue, but thrive in areas of being able to take care of their families. … Small business is bigger than just another ticket or another dollar or another revenue. [The owners] support their families on it.”

Salt Lake City is determined to take charge of curbing homelessness: Who is putting in the work?

Story and photos by PAIGE NELSON

As the weather warms up, tents are beginning to line the downtown streets of Salt Lake City.

Tents lining streets, garbage in flower beds, needles scattered across public parks. This is the picture that is painted in most individuals’ minds when thinking about homeless people. 

Stripping down any perception of a human living in these conditions, all the public sees is unshaven men sleeping on sidewalks and drug addicts pushing stolen shopping carts full of personal belongings. 

While this stigma surrounds low income Utahns, there is work happening behind the scenes actively trying to help individuals get off the streets and back into the community. 

Kat Kahn, director of development at The Road Home, has had ample experience helping the homeless population of Salt Lake City. 

“Our No. one goal is to move people out of emergency shelter and into housing as quick as possible,” Kahn said in a Zoom interview. “The majority of the people we serve stay under six months.”

The Road Home is one of the oldest homeless centers in Salt Lake City, established in 1923. It has grown to having three emergency shelters across the Salt Lake area, not including overflow shelters used during the winter. 

The Road Home stresses housing first. Each emergency shelter is tailored to the individual in need, and there are three options to choose from:

The Men’s Resource Center in South Salt Lake is located at 3380 S. 1000 West and houses 300 single men. 

In Midvale, another shelter is located at 529 W. 9th Ave.,where 300 beds are provided for families. 

Finally, the Gail Miller Resource Center is located at 242 W. Paramount Ave.and is a 200-bed split shelter for both men and women.

The public perception of the homeless community is one of the most challenging factors that Kahn deals with on a daily basis. Upward of 100 children facing homelessness at a time may have to jump through extra hoops to not feel the embarrassment that comes from lack of housing. School buses in Salt Lake City pick up the children at the shelters first on their way to school, and drop them off last so that their peers don’t see their living conditions. 

The Road Home helps families and individuals pay their first months’ rent so that they can get their feet under them and start providing for themselves again. Kahn explained, however, that for about 13% of homeless people that won’t work. Those who face disabilities, have substance abuse disorders, or who are chronically homeless might not make it out of the shelters in that six-month period. 

Homeless shelters in Salt Lake City work with each other, as well as apartment companies, food banks, and mental health facilities to create a healthy environment for those who come to seek help.

Volunteers of America, Utah, is a nonprofit that works with homeless shelters in the area, including The Road Home.

Andrew Johnston, chief strategy leader at Volunteers of America, said in a Zoom interview, “We’ve been doing street outreach for a number of years … there are a lot of folks who are outside all year round who don’t have housing, and we are just offering basic needs and services to them … and trying to get them housing.”

These basic needs are things like getting homeless people IDs so that they can get medical help and subsidized housing. Volunteers of America also helps people get into detox centers and off substances they might be abusing.

While lots of work is happening out in the city, there is another, smaller, community that is making great strides in helping people experiencing homelessness as well.

The basement of the student union at the University of Utah is in the process of building a new basic needs office to help students facing financial hardship and homelessness.

The University of Utah, home to 25,000 undergraduates, works daily to help find affordable housing for its students. The Student Affairs Division acts as an umbrella to multiple departments and centers on campus, including those focused on student diversity and inclusion.

Kimberly Hall, an associate director of development for Student Development and Inclusion, explained in a Zoom interview that the U helps students facing food scarcity and financial problems, and experiencing homelessness. 

“We want to take that concept and ideally help students learn to negotiate the university system as well as community resources to address their needs,” Hall said.

Student Affairs is creating a new office in the student union basement. It will be located next to the Feed U Pantry with the goal that more students will start to utilize the resources that they are paying for.  

The renovated area will be child friendly for parenting students, and will contain a financial wellness office to help with issues ranging from rent assistance to domestic violence situations. Because of its close proximity to the Feed U Pantry, students will also have access to food if they don’t have the money to cover that extra expense.

All across Salt Lake Valley the community is getting involved and making a difference in curbing homelessness.

Kat Kahn, director of development at the Road Home, is one of those individuals who is working hard every day to help people experiencing homelessness. Kahn believes that, “Anyone that wants to be housed should be able to be housed without it being really problematic.”

Populism’s only certainty is uncertainty: the causes and consequence of populism on a democratic society

Story by OWEN BENSON

Authoritarian governments are sinking their claws into every corner of the globe. Creeping command of complete control in Orban’s Hungary, Erdogan’s Turkey, Maduro’s Venezuela, is ripping their populations asunder. Upending citizens stable lives for pursuit of fleeting power via relentless institutional dismemberment. In the United States, citizens grip to a belief that its institutions are infallible. That its system of governance upholds the bulwark between freedom and tyranny.

Yet tyranny is only ever one generation away from usurping power. In the U.S. many believe that the nation is slowly careening toward this disaster. That a government will be elected that will ignore, or even tear down our safeguards. To prevent this from becoming a reality it is imperative we identify these forces before they overwhelm our governing institutions.

Many point to populism as the root cause of this decline. Populism — an obscure term, one too often applied to disparate concepts in the mind of the American citizenry. Until Jan. 6, 2021, when the concept crashed to the center of American politics during The Capitol Hill Siege. The actions perpetrated that day are often attributed to former President Donald Trump’s speech prior to the riots. This would be an oversimplification, a fundamental confusion of addressing symptoms rather than the underlying disease.

In his speech, Trump highlighted the uncertainty of the election, the political uncertainty of a volatile democratic process, and the uncertainty of a globalized society. Uncertainty makes people susceptible to populism. Politicians who claim they can manifest certainty in an uncertain world apply appeals to the most basic senses of human stability – shelter, food, money.

“Psychologically none of us like the experience of uncertainty,” said Ethan Busby, an assistant professor of political science at Brigham Young University. During a Zoom interview, he emphatically motions toward his head with rolling wrists in an act to mimic the chaos one can feel via these forces in one’s mind.

Ethan Busby is an assistant professor of Political Science at Brigham Young University, specializing in political psychology, extremism, public opinion, racial and ethnic politics, and quantitative methods. Busby studies extremism in democracies, and the factors that encourage and discourage extremism both at the public as well as at the elite levels. Busby’s research relies on lab experiments, quasi-experiments, survey experiments, text-as-data, surveys, artificial intelligence, and big data from Google and Twitter. Photo courtesy of Ethan Busby.

Yet, the United States possesses some of the highest rates of uncertainty in the western world according to FRED Economic Data. This is concerning, especially when one looks at the cultural uncertainty currently facing the U.S. People cite concerns over immigration, high rates of job loss due to globalization, and wealth gaps.

But Busby noted people yearn for certainty in their lives and will pursue it in any way they see fit. The use of populist rhetoric clearly defines and separates the world into tangible right and wrong. Strategic political actors can then exploit this perceived certainty, and through the use of their rhetoric provide their supporters with a feeling of moral righteousness, Busby said.

“I don’t fundamentally believe that extremists are a different kind of people than the rest of us,” Busby said. As a specialist in political psychology, he focuses on the forces that cause individuals to become susceptible to populist rhetoric. The same people you stand in line with at groceries stores, wait behind in traffic, and pass by on the street every day. These are not enigmatic boogeymen, they are our fellow citizens — fathers, aunts, cousins, and neighbors.

Everyone can be susceptible to this form of rhetoric. Populism isn’t an ideology that is reserved for a select group of people, it is an ideology built from the supposed “common people”. Attempting to project an individual — or movement — as the legitimate voice of all the people. Asserting that one person, or a particular group of people, can save the country from the elites and those who wish to dispossess them of the American Dream. Populists point to supposed oppressive forces that keep the American public subjugated, claiming the country can shed these chains and rise into prominence once again by following their vision, Busby said.

In American governance one of the bulwarks to curb this rise of deceptive rhetoric that cements populist power is through freedom of the press. Our Constitution enshrines the right to criticize the government and share ideas openly in the marketplace of ideas. Thus, our media structure has taken the form of being a crucial institution within our democratic society.

For a populist, institutions are synonymous with the ruling elite. This places a large red bullseye on the back of our media establishment for populist politicians. By discrediting the media structure, the populist politician not only scores points with their base by attacking the elites, they can begin to structure the narrative around themselves. With the rise of the digital age the threat of these institutions being worn away rises every day.

The speed at which information and misinformation flows in the digital age is unlike anything that we have seen before in human history. The proliferation and broad acceptance of social media and fake news are fracturing society, increasing uncertainty. For RonNell Anderson Jones, a law professor at S.J. Quinney College of Law at the University of Utah, “It is one of the most significant challenges facing American democracy today.”

RonNell Anderson Jones researches the critical intersection of media, law, and the press. She strives to address press access and transparency, the role of the press as a check on government, newsgathering rights, reporter’s privilege, and the increasingly important and emerging role of social media law. Jones’ scholarly work has been published in a variety of books and journals from across the country including the Northwestern Law Review and Harvard Law Review Forum. Photo courtesy of RonNell Anderson Jones.

Jones specializes in media law, and particularly the newly emergent space of social media law. The rise of fake news within American society is nothing new. We have combatted its rise multiple times throughout the nation’s history, she said in a Zoom interview. However, the nation is not just seeing the rise of another wave of yellow journalism, in which salacious stories were spun by specious salesmen. We are facing something altogether new.

The fake news that proliferates today typically has a severely specific partisan point of view, purposely intended to maximize the interactions that these stories will receive via social media. Intended to inflame passions and prejudices for a precise outcome dictated by those who benefit, and even profit, from these outcomes. Jones said this resurgence of fake news in an online environment is exceedingly dangerous. Through these new avenues Americans are receiving a hyperinflated sense of reality, truly fixed within their echo chambers.

Heightened partisan tensions can only spell inevitable disaster for the United States. Through this degenerative process Americans are beginning to lose the shared common ground between themselves. “All good democracies throughout history have had some shared baseline of objective truth in their society,” Jones said. Sitting up from her chair she leaned toward the camera, emphasizing with her raised eyebrows and meticulous diction the point that we may be straying too far from this ideal.

So, with the degradation of our shared baseline, citizens are more likely to believe charismatic leaders who are professing to be telling their truth, the truth of the average citizen. This places enormous power within the hands of populist politicians since many see them as the arbiters of truth. With instant communication, Jones reiterated, this raises even more concern and speculation from followers about what truth really is. Is truth what your community tells you, what leadership tells you, what you believe, is it objective?

A populist will capitalize on this uncertainty, presenting a truth that appeals to a broad base of people. Yet, lies told big enough and loud enough, with enough uncertainty present, begin to chip away at the foundational tenets of objective truth, Jones said. Dismantling our shared common grounds, destroying our trust in each other, and devouring our relationships. This is where power for the populist snowballs.

The centralization of power within the hands of powerful charismatic leaders is dangerous, since it will perpetuate the forces of populism. A positive feedback loop is obtained through the cycle of certainty constantly being just on the horizon. The populist will strive to maintain this loop. Populism must be addressed prior to gaining any form of traction with our system of governance, for once a populist politician has obtained enough power to begin influencing a democratic process, it may already be too late.

“The populist sees an election not as an exercise of fair competition, but as an expression of the will of the people,” said Kirk Hawkins, a professor of political science at Brigham Young University. He furrowed his brow, eyes closed, accentuating each word so that it hung in the air for just a moment longer.

Kirk Hawkins is a professor of political science at Brigham Young University, specializing in comparative politics with an emphasis in Latin America. Hawkins’ current research focuses on political organizations and populism. This includes being a director of the global scholarly network Team Populism. His current projects include the creation of a global populism dataset, experimental research on populism’s rhetorical mechanisms, and the mitigation of populism’s negative consequences for society. Photo courtesy of Kirk Hawkins.

If a populist has already accumulated enough power to be democratically elected to government, it is hard to oust them from that position. They emphatically believe themselves to be the personification of the will of the people, and thus anything that contradicts this belief cannot be true, Hawkins said. With a degraded perception of the truth already in place this narrative begins to propagate.

The effective implementation of misinformation was witnessed in full by the American public in the final days of Trump’s presidency. Neither Trump, nor fanatical sections of his base, could accept the electoral loss since it violated this perception of the supposed will of the people. The will of the people — or at least a specific segment of the people — was on full display in the form of mob mentality. This was seen in stark reality the day of the riots on Capitol Hill. As Hawkins put it, “Populism is a response to the very things the rhetoric invokes.”

Hawkins is a director of Team Populism — a global project intended to bring together scholars from across the world to share their research on the causes and consequences of populism — of which Busby is also a member. Hawkins’ research focuses on populism’s effect on large systems, such as a democratic society. Through the knowledge he has gained from research Hawkins said assuredly, “Americans are not real cool with populist rhetoric; they think it’s strange and unnecessarily provocative.”

Major news agencies, polling sites, and Americans themselves repeat this sentiment. According to Reuters, The Hill, and Forbes — in addition to others — more than half of Americans believed Trump should not have completed his term following the events that transpired.

This is undoubtedly a hopeful sign for the present, but what about the future? We are only at the beginning of the age of social media, the American people are still fumbling their way through this new medium of interaction. There are a few things that can be done at the governmental and individual level to combat the rise of populist rhetoric in the future, Hawkins said.

Education is the future. Through reinvigorating the spirit of the Enlightenment, whose ideals our government was founded upon, we can combat not only the rise of extremist rhetoric but the proliferation of misinformation. The American public needs to find its passion once again for critical thought and critical literacy, Busby said.

As a society we must repair our degrading shared baseline of ideals, facts, and direction, said Jones, the law professor. By holding each other accountable for the preservation of our way of life we eliminate the driving force of us versus them, and we reenter into a community minded future.

Through the restoration of our shared common ground, we will begin to drive out misinformation, thus eliminating another force that drives populist rhetoric. However, Jones said, none of this manages to address the problem of uncertainty in American society. Arguably the basal source of this issue in the first place.

Life may never be free of uncertainty. But if the American public can begin listening to each other again we can begin taking the first steps in the right direction. The American people need to once again recognize that people who think differently are not inherently bad or immoral people, Busby said. This sentiment destroys the bonds that hold us together.

The American public ought to stop believing that we must dominate each other to profess our particular viewpoint. To value other voices and opinions is the only way to create a more perfect solution to any given problem. No one person can be the will of the people. No individual has every answer to every problem. For Kirk Hawkins, the professor at BYU, “The way you correct prejudice is by helping people get better informed about things they don’t like.”

The rise of Utah’s standout e-commerce company during the pandemic

Story and photos by SKYLAR YENCHIK

The development of tech start-ups within Utah over the last decade has accelerated both innovation and the creation of high-paying technical jobs. The growth of the tech sector has been so impressive that the area, which houses a long stretch of companies ranging between Salt Lake City, and Provo, Utah, has been dubbed Silicon Slopes, with the epicenter being located in Lehi. 

The term “Silicon Slopes” was coined by Josh James of DOMO, who also founded a widely successful company called Omniture that was acquired by Adobe Systems in 2009 for $1.8 billion. James created this term as a reference to the original Silicon Valley located in the San Francisco Bay Area, which is legendary for its creation of some of the first high-tech companies dating back to the 1970s.

Silicon Slopes in Lehi, Utah.

Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, many companies have reached a point of stagnation in which they are no longer growing, largely due to a halt in economic expansion. E-commerce, however, has exploded and continues to build and innovate due to an influx of business as citizens have turned to online shopping. 

Route App Inc., the foremost e-commerce company in Utah, more than doubled in size in 2020. Starting with only eight employees upon opening in 2018, Route now has upward of 350 employees, and the mobile application is number 35 on the list of most downloaded apps in the App Store. 

While the COVID-19 pandemic has caused many businesses to close their doors to the public, Route is helping customers stay connected and maintain a positive shopping experience. As the name suggests, Route allows users to accurately track all of their packages in a single application, as well as provides its customers shipping insurance to ensure the safe delivery of packages. Route not only enables single users to track their packages, but provides a format for businesses to provide streamlined tracking for customers with this platform.

Steph Black, head of talent and culture at Route, said in a Zoom interview that she was one of the first 50 employees at the company. Route has now outgrown several office spaces as the company continues to expand, currently occupying a very large office space at Innovation Pointe in Lehi. 

Innovation Pointe offices in Lehi, Utah.

Route plans to create more than 3,000 high-paying technical jobs in Utah in the next 10 years. This expansion will greatly stimulate the local economy, and is also an exciting opportunity for local graduating university students. 

This rapid expansion and success is in large part due to the unique customer experience that Route aims for, and there are no other competing e-commerce companies in Silicon Slopes. The other part, Black explained, is Route’s value of unique, creative, and innovative employees. “Culture at Route is incredibly organic,” Black said. “We focus on hiring the right people.” 

Black also stated, “E-commerce has been on a steady growth path for 10-plus years. What happened during the pandemic kind of catapulted e-commerce forward at least an additional five to eight years. Demand for individuals to purchase what they need online, and also for businesses to transform their offerings to this growing space. A lot of businesses had to pivot very quickly in order to offer and meet their e-commerce demands.”

Route is revolutionizing and changing how consumers view e-commerce. Route has recently released a unique feature, the Discover page, on the app. This feature allows brands to directly communicate with consumers using targeted advertising. 

University of Utah alumnus Nick Lloyd is one of five software engineering managers at Route. He said about the development of the Discovery feature, “Our latest large scale initiative was around a feature set that we call ‘Discover,’ allowing people to see new things in the app from different merchants.” 

After exploring the Discover product, a Route customer will find that Discover is helping unearth interesting brands some may not ordinarily purchase from. There is very engaging content to showcase the brands, and customers can even shop directly within the app.  

Over time, Lloyd said in a Zoom interview, the aim of the Discover product is to analyze the purchasing behaviors of customers and connect them with unique and relevant brands, both local and international. Both the shopping and purchasing will remain in Route’s app, essentially creating a new e-commerce marketplace.

It is this kind of innovation from this local e-commerce company that has led to Route’s rapid growth and exciting expansion. 

Lloyd said Route has created many student internships since expanding, and has interacted with the University of Utah to get students involved in the company. Though Lloyd was hired on directly as an engineer, he has participated in recruiting events targeted toward U students, specifically in the engineering field. Route is also very active in reaching out to students at the U through the Handshake portal.

Lloyd personally reflects on his University of Utah experience as having been full of passionate people like himself when he was in the Computer Science program. “One of the things I really felt like I got from the University of Utah was a strong sense of community,” Lloyd said. At Route, he feels that there is the same kind of important community. 

Since the U puts such huge emphasis on innovation and helping to build creative minds, employment at Route is a great opportunity to capitalize and build on that innovation and creativity.

“It’s really interesting to be a part of e-commerce in a time like this,” Black said. “So many companies closed their doors unfortunately during these times, and e-commerce has only opened theirs wider.”

Maintaining the connection and sustaining the spirit on University of Utah Greek row in the midst of a global pandemic 

Story by EMMA SELLERS

Dealing with COVID-19 has been no easy feat for institutions and organizations across the globe this past year, and each has experienced hectic changes, including college Greek life. University of Utah’s Greek life is doing its best to smoothly transition to the world of virtual living and social distancing. Though this “new normal” is not ideal, keeping the community alive and strong is a priority for all sororities and fraternities across campus. 

This year has been unlike any that the Office of Fraternity & Sorority Life has encountered before, and many challenges have arisen. The greatest being that all events are required to be virtual, and a large aspect of Greek life is having a connected community. It is hard to create a close-knit community when people never get an opportunity to see one another face to face. 

This challenge has been especially hard on freshmen. Any previous year attending the University of Utah and going through the recruitment process guarantees meeting new people and making new friends. Whereas this year, when the opportunity to hang out with the people in your fraternity or sorority is limited, it is much more difficult to bond. 

Alpha Phi President Katya Benedict enjoys a socially distanced 
and masked bid day event in September 2020. Photo courtesy of Katya Benedict.

Alpha Phi President Katya Benedict said in a Zoom interview that the Panhellenic Council was “worried about the number of women who would attend recruitment this year.” They believed that it would be a very scarce group of women. Yet, this year went better than they could have expected, and more women signed up for recruitment than in any past year at 550 compared to the usual 400.  

Yet, many questioned if joining Greek life and paying the dues was worth it this year, when in-person events were very limited. Matt Economos, the freshman vice president of programming for Sigma Phi Epsilon, said his decision to rush this year was worth it because he now has “a solid group of mentors and a support system to rely on.” 

Recruitment was fully virtual for both fraternities and sororities, according to the University of Utah Greek life homepage. Only very small and limited groups of people can meet together, and events need to be approved by the Panhellenic & Interfraternity Council offices. Although the houses of each chapter are not owned by the university, the members are still required to follow the rules of all students as if they were living in university-owned housing.

Though most events are required to be virtual, certain smaller events are allowed to be in person with many safety guidelines being established. Economos conducts small and safe events, such as pairing together older members with new members in masks and socially distanced. He wants each event to present an environment all parties feel safe in. Also, outdoor activities such as snowboarding and hikes can allow for active members to still engage with one another and remain healthy. 

Matt Economos stands with other members of the Sigma Phi Epsilon executive board as they participate in a philanthropy event. Photo courtesy of Matt Economos.

A big part of Greek life is the concept of traditions. Traditions that have been passed down for decades through each chapter. Benedict, the Alpha Phi president, expressed the difficulty this year because “many of the events are ritual based, so when members cannot be personally involved it feels less special.” 

Despite this difficulty, the executive boards of each chapter are putting in their best effort to keep all members engaged and excited. Benedict believes that “individually the community has stayed strong within each chapter,” but as a greater Greek community she feels they have lost strength. This year everyone was more focused on themselves and figuring out their own plans, rather than supporting all chapters’ endeavors. She believes next year the community as a whole will regain the strength they once possessed. 

Tracey Mai, Panhellenic vice president of membership, says her main responsibility is to “foster and build relationships between chapters and a good environment all around.” She said it is easier to hold certain events virtually, such as the alumni panel, because more people can attend. Yet, the greater challenge is encouraging active members to attend events virtually. 

A main reason that virtual events this year had a low attendance was due to communication and marketing. Mai said in a Zoom interview that she is “learning how important marketing is and taking that into account next year.” Oftentimes members don’t know what is going on until it is too late. 

Benedict said if she could go back and change anything about the past few months, she would “open a greater stream of communication between active members and executive members.” She believes every participant of Greek life deserves to know all the information regarding COVID-19 and be a part of the process of safety measures at every step of the way. 

One of the many images that is posted to encourage Greek life members to practice healthy COVID-19 precautions and safety measures. Photo courtesy of UofUsororities Instagram.

The Instagram pages of the different sororities and fraternities are one of the main forms of marketing that each chapter uses. Not only do they post about upcoming virtual events, they also are very informative about COVID-19 procedures. They each encourage wearing masks and social distancing, and even have “challenges” different weeks where members show on their Instagram page how they are being proactive in staying healthy with COVID-19 precautions. This might entail wearing masks along with wearing chapter letters and taking a photograph. 

Just as this virus has been extremely unpredictable these past months, so has planning for next year. Greek life executive boards have no idea what next fall will hold yet, but they are hoping for the chance to have more in-person events. Regardless, they plan to follow all city and state guidelines. If in-person activities are not possible though, they feel more prepared to better function next semester after having experienced this previous year. 

Greek life has experienced a year like no other, but has pushed through better than anyone had expected. Mai said the main goal continues to be “keeping up morale and safety within the community.”

Utah hospital ensures stability for employees during COVID-19

St. Mark’s Hospital knows how to take care of its employees during the coronavirus pandemic.

Story and photos by MIKEN MCGILL

Health care providers at St. Mark’s Hospital in Salt Lake City are being supported in ways they couldn’t imagine during COVID-19. While other hospitals in the United States were laying off health care workers, this company was ensuring that each employee would be taken care of.

St. Mark’s Hospital, located on 1200 E. 3900 South, is owned by HCA Healthcare Co. out of Nashville, Tennessee. The mission statement of the company is, “Above all else, we are committed to the care and improvement of human life.” This goes for not only the patients of the hospital, but also their own employees.

Visitors see this engraved wall when walking into the hospital.

There are many areas that St. Mark’s covers for their employees, including “emotional, mental, and spiritual support,” says Kelly Brimhall, vice president of human resources. “From our 24/7 hotline to our Employee Assistance program, St. Mark’s Hospital provides free mental health care. In addition, we also employ a full-time Spiritual Care department, who also provide constant support in all of those areas.”

He goes on to say, “Any employee can use the Employee Assistance Program if they are experiencing mental health issues, work-related exhaustion, or stress in their personal lives. The program offers a hotline and also availability to line up to a psychiatrist, social worker or other behavioral health care worker. They can also attend a virtually or in-person counseling if needed.”

Spiritual Care offers onsite support for health care providers who need a break from their job. It is provided Monday through Friday at 11 a.m. in the chapel. Spiritual Care colleagues offer a calm, safe place to talk or meditate. The team also traveled to each department to give out uplifting notes to let the employees know they are appreciated.

At the national level, HCA is committed to ensure no jobs were lost during the coronavirus pandemic from the start in March and going forth to today. “In fact, we paid our colleagues 70% of their wage to stay home when there were no patients to care for. Our top executives willingly took 30% pay cuts in order to ensure no colleagues were lost and all employees were able to continue to provide for their loved ones,” Brimhall says.

The hospital offered quarantine pay for all employees. “This pay was for colleagues that tested positive for COVID-19 and included full pay for the 14-day quarantine period for the days they were scheduled prior to contracting the virus,” says Trent Pulley, manager of PBX/Unified Police/Screeners.

“A new opportunity came through called ‘pandemic pay,’ which employees could take when hours were slim and offered to them that pay period in place of paid time off.” He excitedly says, “Having this offered aid all health care providers in knowing they will have income.”

St. Mark’s employees brought their concerns to upper management regarding accessibility to basic groceries during these challenging times. Employees were finding it hard to get to a grocery store that would be open after their shifts. Pamela Martinez, senior center office specialist, says, “Part of the cafeteria was turned into a makeshift store where employees could purchase items such as milk, bread, cheese, vegetables, toilet paper, etc.” It was very much appreciated by the employees through the whole hospital.

The hospital also saw a lot of outside support from the community. Martinez says restaurants provided about 300 meals a day, bakeries offered desserts, florists delivered flower arrangements for the hospital and for employees to take home, and more than 100 companies donated care packages.

“The Volunteer Department at St. Mark’s has a program through Intermountain Therapy Animals, in which animals visit patients,” Martinez says. “When COVID-19 struck, the animals were not allowed to come into the hospital, so ITA and the department collaborated to bring the animals together outside on the patio a few times during the pandemic for employees, patients, and their families to enjoy the animal presence.”

Hospital sign when turning into the main entrance.

Trent Pully, the manager of PBX/Unified Police/Screeners, says, “As far as physical health, St. Mark’s offers access to the hospital gym as well as incentives to participate in Spring into Fitness and Fall into Fitness. This is a program that allows employees semiannually to participate in a competition individually and as a team. Points are rewarded through the hospital’s point system and can be exchanged for gift cards, electronics, and other items.”

Many employees have said that the hospital has taken great care of them during hard times. Hernan Garcia Cervantes, radiology concierge, says, “If I had to compare it to other hospitals, I know St. Mark’s did more.” Cervantes adds, “From what I have seen on the news from other hospitals with healthcare workers asking for more PPE (Personal Protective Equipment), more staff, union protesting. I believe they did a lot for us.”

Kelly Brimhall, vice president of human resources, says, “For me personally, it’s not as much about me versus our colleagues and their challenges. My goal as an HR professional is to ensure all obstacles are removed from the path of my colleagues to ensure they can focus their efforts on caring for our patients. It was also a great blessing to be able to provide the vaccination to our colleagues. Hope has been restored.”

Kayla Lien

MY STORY:

The diversity and importance of Black-owned businesses in Salt Lake City

MY BLOG:

From the moment I laid eyes on a Vogue magazine, I’ve wanted to have my name on its pages. Fashion and clothing have been a part of my life since I was 12, when I started learning how to sew costumes. 

So often, I was told there was no market for someone like me. I didn’t look like those designers, the models walking the runway, not even the people watching in the stands. It became abundantly obvious that, if I wanted a seat at the table, I would have to make one. My interest in this, heightened by the volatile sociopolitical climate from the past year, led me to my story idea, highlighting clothing brands and creators of color.

Originally, I had wanted to talk to people of color from all regions and was specifically interested in speaking with women. I was especially looking for people of Asian descent because I wanted to see how COVID has impacted their business. However, all my sources ended up being Black men, coincidentally. 

I located sources from a lot of Google searching and scouring Instagram nonstop. It was hard to get responses from potential sources, even harder trying to coordinate schedules. Admittedly, I am not well-versed in Zoom, so that was a struggle for me while interviewing. At one point, I thought I had lost half an hour of content — my nails were chewed down to the quick. Luckily, everything righted itself, helped along with typing in Comic Sans font and video game soundtracks in the background.

ABOUT ME:

Kayla Lien is a full-time student at the University of Utah, majoring in communication with an emphasis in journalism. She attended East High School in Salt Lake City and was involved in the journalism class all throughout her time there. Having been an editor for two years, Kayla became the editor-in-chief her senior year. During her time at East, she won a few awards for her writing, such as First Place for Op/Ed writing in the Utah Futures of Journalism awards in 2018.

Kayla enjoys writing about and highlighting social issues, especially those that influence minority groups. As a queer woman of color, she recognizes the need for diversity and inclusion. As much as she loves to write, she vehemently detests writing autobiographies. 

Between school and work, she can be found crocheting, sewing, or making funky earrings. If not there, check under her 80-pound German Shepherd. She may have gotten lost.

Paige Nelson

MY STORY:

Salt Lake City is determined to take charge of curbing homelessness: Who is putting in the work?

MY BLOG:

On my way home from work one day on the TRAX, I was mulling over possible ideas for my enterprise story. I hadn’t the faintest clue as to what I thought would be important enough to write about. Something that equally hadn’t already been beaten into the ground yet and something that I was interested in. While I was sitting there a woman got onto the TRAX with a stroller full of personal belongings, crying. She asked me for directions to the nearest Smith’s, and I told her it was two stops up. She didn’t ask me for money, or for food, just directions to the nearest grocery store. 

This changed my perspective quickly on the homeless population of Salt Lake City. This whole time I had been stereotyping them as drug users, panhandlers, and threats to my safety. But that isn’t always the case. I decided in that moment that I wanted to better understand the homelessness problem in Salt Lake City.

I started with this broad idea that I would be able to single-handedly understand homelessness, how it pertains to Utah, and how to fix it, all within this one assignment. I quickly realized that wasn’t going to happen. But I had to start somewhere. 

My first contact was with the University of Utah’s Student Affairs Division. I talked to Kimberly Hall, an associate director of development, who explained to me that a lot of students don’t know what help is out there if they are facing things like food scarcity, financial problems, and homelessness. 

I was then able to hold a Zoom interview with Kat Kahn, director of development at The Road Home, a noteworthy homeless shelter organization in the Salt Lake Valley. She gave me insight on how to break down the stereotypes often portrayed onto people experiencing homelessness and stressed the importance of creating affordable housing in the area.

My final interview helped me tie up loose ends in my article. I met with Andrew Johnston, chief strategy leader of Volunteers of America. He explained to me how organizations like his work with people living on the streets and help them find the correct path to get them back into the community in a healthy way. He discussed rehab and mental health centers, and homeless shelters that his organization helps provide to people experiencing homelessness. 

Upon completion of my interviews, I had a lot of scattered information I needed to sort through. I came up with a plan to focus on how different organizations in the Salt Lake City are combatting homelessness, and was able to incorporate some really interesting quotes and anecdotes into my story. 

Once I had gotten my topic refined, the words came quite easily. I was surprised how much I enjoyed the Zoom interviews because it allowed me to go back and not only listen, but watch how the interviewees spoke to get more concrete and descriptive details into my article. 

Wrapping up my article felt so refreshing because I was able to find a nice balance between informing the audience as well as showing my journey learning along the way. It was really rewarding to see it all come together in the end!

ABOUT ME:

I grew up in Arlington, Washington, a small town about an hour north of Seattle. With forests and mountains surrounding me, I had a lot of room to let my imagination run wild. But the place I loved the most was inside my collection of books. 

Because of Washington’s rainy climate, I spent a lot of time nestled up on the couch with my favorite authors. I read hundreds of novels from “Harry Potter” to “The Selection” to “The Mysterious Benedict Society,” and through them all I had created a secondary life. One full of comfort and bliss.

As I grew older I learned the world wasn’t fitting into the fairytale ending I was so accustomed to. I started paying more attention to the news, reading more timely articles, and developing educated thoughts of my own.

Today I am 18 years old, on track to graduate from the University of Utah with a political science degree and an emphasis on law and politics in a total of 2.5 years. I hope to one day work as a news correspondent or share my ideas with the country as an elected official. 

However, politics can be exhausting, and that’s why I find it so beneficial to write. I have a blog that is basically my diary for strangers to read, and I actually find great joy in writing essays for my classes. One day I hope to write a book, maybe a memoir of my life’s accomplishments or I might take on the next great American novel. 

For now, writing remains a hobby as I pursue my dream of working in politics. And whether I choose to pursue a masters program, law school, or jump straight into my profession, I know that I will always find comfort in putting words down on a page.

Owen Benson

MY STORY:

Populism’s only certainty is uncertainty: the causes and consequence of populism on a democratic society

MY BLOG:

When the class was presented with the enterprise story project, I was initially quite anxious about the process. I was unsure of my own capabilities and competence in the field of journalistic work. This would, after all, be my first real story for publication. I had written a few opinion pieces for my high school’s magazine “The Royal Banner,” however, these pieces looked vastly different than what was expected from this project.

So, I wracked my brain trying to work out a topic that was not only a pertinent story, but something that I was passionate about as well. My initial thought was to write about the comic book culture in Salt Lake City. I am a massive comic book fan. Ever since I was a kid I consumed comics with gusto. I’m drawn to them in a way only a few things in this life can hold a flame to. The mixture of visual and written storytelling in tandem with archetypal heroes who could be role models was exceptional for a developing mind.

However, I believed there was a more important story to be told in our modern world. The age of comic bookstores, with their rows of yellowing ink-ladened comics, is coming to an all too swift end. Sadly. Yet, there is something on the rise in America, something far more sinister than comic book villains.

The rapid rise of extremist rhetoric — it is being used by politicians and the public alike. I am a student of history; there is nothing more fascinating to me than the rise and fall of societies, cultures, and government. Examining how and why these events occur, and how then to extrapolate that information to other situations to learn from the past is a passion of mine.

The proliferation of this rhetoric is a concerning historical trend. Not only is it concerning when one looks to the past, but even more so when one looks at the present. Extremist leaders are gaining power in every corner of the globe. The rise of these politicians is concerning for anyone with a cosmopolitan bent — like myself. I fear with the rise of extremism our global society will once again slip into sectarian, ethnic, and nationalistic disputes. I dread this outcome.

The events that transpired on Capitol Hill on Jan. 6, 2021, shattered my perception that America was still the moral and political arbiter of the world. I believe as the sole global superpower it ought to be our duty to champion the ideals that we claim to hold so dear; the unalienable rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. We did not live up to these ideals that fateful day, but our war is not lost. The battles are only just beginning.

I needed to know more about the causes and consequences of extremist rhetoric on a democratic society, like our own. I knew this was an important topic, one that deserved justice in its telling. That doesn’t mean that I thought I should be the one telling it, however. To gain that personal confidence, I would have to look outside myself.

My first stop was my parents, Leigh and Joel Benson. They are not only my biggest cheerleaders, but they are also my mentors, my friends, my counsels, and my bedrock. They truly urge me to be the best version of myself possible. Even when I doubt myself, they never do. Parents are unique in that way. After I pitched them my idea, they only had one response, “You got this!”

With a smidgen of extra confidence, I decided to head on toward my second station. Next stop, Professor Mangun. I went into the conversation with her hesitant about my pitch, starting with my comic book idea in case I was getting too outlandish with my proposal on extremism. This was not the case. My pitch on extremism made Mangun’s eyes light up, a grin crept across her face until it spanned from ear to ear.

“You’ve got this, Owen,” Mangun said with determination and excitement wrapped into one. I may not have been confident enough on my own, but with the support of those close to me I was able to manifest my goals into reality. Mangun assured my that not only was I competent enough to grapple with such a topic, I would be doing a disservice to myself to believe otherwise. I was ready to tackle extremism, or so I thought.

I began my crash course in extremism in the same place that incubates this rhetoric, on the dark web. Through the use of Tor and a VPN, I scoured the web for the chatrooms and forums where this form of rhetoric is king. I never appreciated the vile vitriol that existed on the internet until my brief trip down the rabbit hole. Yet a few themes kept rearing their ugly heads: the belief of disenfranchisement by the elites, fears and anxiety about our political and societal institutions, and how uncertain our world is and subsequently how that makes people fear the future.

This was all crucial information, but it didn’t mean much to me at the time, I had no idea what to do with this information. With Mangun’s help I was able to whittle down my scope and begin looking for my sources. I began by searching for professors in the Salt Lake Valley who are experts in extremist rhetoric. That is when I found Dr. Ethan Busby at Brigham Young University, my first source.

Busby specializes in political psychology. He also wants to understand why people are attracted to this inflammatory rhetoric. What about it is so appealing to the average citizen? I conducted an interview with Busby that lasted a little more than an hour. It was during this interview that my story would begin crystalizing.

Busby is part of a global research network called Team Populism. Team Populism connects scholars from across the world to share their research with each other and the public in pursuits of evaluating, educating, and elevating the collective knowledge on populism. It is through my connection with Busby that I was able to find my second source.

Busby recommended that I reach out to Dr. Kirk Hawkins, who is also a professor at BYU and a director of Team Populism. Busby said he enjoyed our conversation and would recommend me to any of his colleagues for an interview. I was flabbergasted. This was my first real interview and yet I conducted it well enough to receive a seal of approval the first go-around. My hopes were climbing.

I reached out to Hawkins via email to see if he would be interested in an interview. He responded the very same day. He was exuberant that such a young person was exploring these topics and wanted to provide any help and information he could in assisting me to develop my story. We scheduled an interview, and much like my interview with Busby, we talked for about an hour.

Hawkins specializes in the larger systems that populism affects. He studies what happens to governments and power when populist leaders infiltrate them. Hawkins was impressed by my level of geopolitical knowledge, and my understanding of the inner workings of a political movement. I attribute this to my passion for history, but also my interest in the Middle East, where it is crucial for one to grasp these connections to see the web that develops between ideas and movements.

Partly due to this — but also due to their extensive knowledge and teaching experience — I received a massive amount of information from these two sources. I was losing sight of my focus. I was beginning to think of my topic as a senior’s thesis rather than a single news story, I needed to change something.

My first change was switching my topic from extremist rhetoric to specifically populist rhetoric. This may not seem like a big difference, but extremist rhetoric is a massive topic and I needed to look at a much smaller slice. My first two sources are experts in populist rhetoric, so I already had the information I needed to make this switch. It also became acutely apparent to me that my questions on extremism were really questions on populism. This may be due to populist rhetoric being the most common form of extremist rhetoric in the United States and the Western world more broadly.

It is at this point that I hit another major hurdle. I ran out of professors of populist rhetoric in the Salt Lake Valley after interviewing Busby and Hawkins. This turned out to be a blessing in disguise. I was unsure who I would reach out to for my third and final interview. I knew I wanted a source from the Salt Lake Valley to keep the story relevant to the publisher and the reader that I envisioned being from this region for this specific project. I wanted a source that would add a completely different frame of mind to the story.

What is a democratic society other than a system of laws and mutual agreement? Not much in fact. To understand the effects and consequences of populism on a democratic society I needed to understand that system of laws and mutual agreement. I needed a lawyer, an expert in law. Not just any law, but the law that concerns the very sites that I began this process with in the first place — media law.

RonNell Anderson Jones is a law professor at the University of Utah. She ended up being my final source. I found her through the S. J. Quinney College of Law website by searching for professors who specialize in media law. Jones was the perfect source; she specializes in social media law.

I found it fascinating that all three of my sources came to the same conclusion just by different methods, viewpoints, and modalities. Uncertainty is high in the United States, this leads to people seeking ways to amend this uncertainty. Populism offers that solution, through a veil of perceived certainty. The way to combat this rise is not necessarily through legal measures, or altering our current system of governance, or condemning individuals for having concerns about their government’s decisions, but by educating the individual.

Click. The focus of my story snapped into place, I knew the tone that I would have to convey to tell this story, I knew what my outcome had to be, I knew what my story had to be. I now had a blank map with two points on it, I knew where I was and where I wanted to be. I had the tools to fill in this map through the information I gained from my sources and the knowledge I gleaned through research. I just had to begin drawing.

It still had yet to dawn on me that my map was massive. I had mountains of information. I truly could have written a research paper on the topic, but that was not my intention. I needed a news story. I needed to tie all my information back to the reader. I wanted my piece to serve as part of the education required to combat this rise of populism. How was I to do this?

My first attempt was a disaster. It was too bloated, and the message got lost in the myriad of details. I hated this outcome; the message was a huge part of my intention and to muddle it was a disservice to the topic and its gravity. So, I reached back out to my support network.

After a crucial conversation with my parents, I was able to winnow out my focus even further. Through the lens of uncertainty, I could show how populism affects us all. I could ground the cognitively complex topic of susceptibility to populist rhetoric to one maxim, one that everyone can relate to — uncertainty in one’s life.

Then came my conversation with Professor Mangun. I pitched the idea of viewing populism through the lens of uncertainty. She loved it, it grounded an esoteric topic to the everyday citizen, it provided the pathway for anyone experiencing uncertainty to question if they were becoming more extreme or populist with their rhetoric. It showed the consequences of this line of thinking and the slippery slope that all of us must actively be aware of and earnestly stray from.

This reinvigorated my spirit for the project. I had felt so bogged down by the topic, anxious that I couldn’t say everything that I wanted or needed to in a single story. But, like any diamond, an intense amount of pressure is required to transform something raw and ugly into something beautiful and dazzling. It was time to start cutting my diamond — it now needed to sparkle.

To make my story connected to the reader I would have to ground my ideas into real-world events. I couldn’t just talk about them in abstracts, nor would it make sense to evaluate another country’s descent into populism. I needed to ground my story firmly in America, for an American audience, so why not use the event that opened my eyes to the dangers of this rhetoric in our own nation. The riots on Capitol Hill.

I grounded my story in real politicians, from both sides of the political spectrum, because populism isn’t just a trend for one political party. I wanted to show that we are all in this struggle together. I didn’t want to be the kind of journalist who sits in their ivory tower and spouts long prose just to shame or demonize a group of people for not thinking the same way as themselves. In fact, that’s part of the reason we’re in this mess in the first place.

I knew I couldn’t eliminate bias from my story, since I still wanted to have a message, a moral to my story. But I knew if I could refrain from exposing that bias until the end the reader would be more likely to read the entire story and take my words into consideration. I studied other articles published on populism in major newspapers, most of them start out with a strong bent against populism. Shaming it from the start, shaming the people who fall victim to its ideas, and shaming the country for allowing this to happen.

I knew I couldn’t write an article like this. It’s simply not how I viewed the subject anymore. I understood that populism is an ideology supposedly of and for the people, the fact that it is attractive to an average citizen is the point of populism. It was vital to show that falling victim to populism is easy.

Yet one should be wary of populism not because it is inherently bad, but because it places too much power in the hands of a few in addition to turning citizens of a collective society against each other for perceived slights. The employment of populist rhetoric is capitalized upon by clever political actors in pursuit of power through public opinion. If I could show that citizens are the victims of such rhetoric and the consolidation of power, and not benefactors of finally being heard, then I have succeeded.

My map was gaining details, the path between A and B seemed clearer than it ever had previously. My diamond was beginning to shine, but it still wasn’t that perfect princess cut that I envisioned. I scrapped my first draft, completely. I appreciated the lessons I learned through the process of writing and evaluating it, but it wasn’t the story I wanted to tell.

So, I began all over from scratch. I opened an entirely new document, staring at the blinking black bar on the stark white page. I was blank. How was I going to possibly achieve the goals I had set out for myself? With reassurance from my support network, of course.

“Just close your eyes, envision your finished piece, take a deep breath, and let the writing flow,” my mom said to me during the phone call. “You know how to write, Owen, you know your topic inside and out. Believe in yourself enough to know your voice matters, breathe and let that strong voice flow through you. It’s just like climbing Mount Kilimanjaro. Just keep putting one foot in front of the other, and before you know it, you’ll reach heights you never knew were possible.”

I wrote. I wrote like the wind. My fingers were doing the thinking. Of course, I knew the topic, I was ensconced in it. I thought about it while skiing, I thought about it while lying in bed, I thought about it while playing video games. I had been obsessed with my topic, and I had let my obsession and pursuit of perfection cloud my vision.

My vision had crystallized, I let the words and ideas flow from my fingers like a river that might never stop. I was putting one foot in front of the other. Before I knew it my piece was sitting before me, finished, from lead to kicker in one run-through. I leaned back in my chair and chuckled to myself, “So that’s where this map has been leading me, huh?”

My map was finished, I had plotted my course and allowed myself the grace to traverse it with care. I take pride in my work, I compete against myself constantly, always striving to surpass myself and reach new heights. This project was one of those new heights. I didn’t enter this class thinking I could turn out a piece of work like my enterprise story, but I proved myself wrong. Which is always a welcome surprise. I continued to work on my piece, refining it, tweaking it. Trying to push it up the ladder of excellence. I still have much to learn about journalism, and populism for that matter, yet this excites me instead of discouraging me. I had crafted my princess diamond, and it sparkled more than I could’ve hoped when the lump of carbon first sat before me.

ABOUT ME:

I am a full-time student at the University of Utah. I am currently double-majoring — in journalism through the Department of Communication and in Middle Eastern Studies with an Arabic emphasis through the Department of World Languages and Cultures. I grew up inculcated in the stories from every nook and cranny of our vast globe, devouring the experiences and absorbing the crucial nutrients of empathy, humility, and the unwavering strength and majesty of the human struggle. Thus, this is why I tirelessly toil to continue weaving this collective chronicle of existence.

I strive toward giving voice to the voiceless. In an increasingly globalized society I believe now more than ever it is critical we hear voices from every corner of our globe. I aspire to report on the stories that shape our geopolitical landscape. I believe the most crucial part of shaping public opinion is the knowledge that is provided through human stories. To work toward a more perfect Free World our society must have as much empathy for our neighbors as we do for those we’ve never met. To give voice, power, and recognition to these experiences is the first step toward a more perfect world.

The duty of a journalist ought to be to hold those in power accountable. I am fascinated by revolutions, coup d’etats, protests, and both intra and international conflicts. The relationship between the people and those in power will always be a tenuous line. I believe it is journalists who can act as mediators between these parties. If not mediators, then informants for the betterment of our globalized society. Through human stories, journalists have the opportunity to open hearts and minds to the realities of our world.

“In a time of deceit telling the truth is a revolutionary act.” — George Orwell

Skylar Yenchik

MY STORY:

The rise of Utah’s standout e-commerce company during the pandemic

MY BLOG:

In the past year of hardships caused by the spread of COVID-19, e-commerce has boomed as people have forgone in-person shopping in favor of the online shopping platform. Because of this marked increase, I thought it would be interesting to explore how e-commerce has changed, not only during the pandemic, but in the past several years. 

In an effort to keep my story local and relevant to Utahns and University of Utah students alike, I researched local e-commerce companies that have innovated and expanded within Utah. While there are companies such as eBay Inc. that have offices in Utah, I wanted a company that had started, and been built here. Route App. Inc was founded and established in Lehi, Utah, by Evan Walker and Mike Moreno in 2018. 

The Route App has expanded and changed since its opening, causing it to be number 35 in the Apple iTunes store. Route has gained millions of users by streamlining the process of tracking packages, and creating the unique Discover page within the app to allow users to connect directly with brands. 

I believe this unique evolution of the online shopping and shipping platform to be extremely relevant to this day and age, especially this generation of college students. I decided to direct my story toward Route, e-commerce, and how this company has benefited the local economy and created opportunities for students at local universities such as the University of Utah. 

A valuable asset to my story was Nick Lloyd, an alumnus of the University of Utah and a software engineering manager at Route. He was able to connect his experience at the U to his current position at Route. Because of his position at the company, he was able to teach me how Route has innovated and changed the online platform, specifically the mobile app. 

I also interviewed Stephanie Black, head of talent and culture at Route who was uniquely qualified to expand on what Route aims to accomplish, in addition to the work culture and environment at Route. 

It was challenging to be able to coordinate schedules with Black and Lloyd because they both manage large teams at Route, and their time is in very high demand. Because of the rapid expansion of Route, there are also certain topics that are not available to be released to the public, which meant I also had to be careful of which questions to broach in both interviews. 

I was surprised with the writing process and ending result of my story, because I had initially started with the idea to write singularly on how local e-commerce had changed in 2020. After interviewing my sources, I realized that in addition to the change of the online shopping platform, I also realized I wanted to look into the strides in innovation, the benefit of e-commerce on the local economy, and the benefits to my fellow university students.

ABOUT ME:

I am currently a full-time university student, and hope to graduate in May of 2022. I am first and foremost a writer, with aspirations to work in the publishing industry. I love writing fiction and short stories as often as possible. I also enjoy reading, cooking, and pop culture centered around cinema. I hope to continue to create after leaving university, and discover new outlets of creativity and art.

Emma Sellers

MY STORY:

Maintaining the connection and sustaining the spirit on University of Utah Greek row in the midst of a global pandemic 

MY BLOG:

As a relatively indecisive person, choosing a topic for my enterprise story was a complicated task for me. I wanted to write about something that I was interested in but also a topic that was relevant to my own life. As a freshman and new member to Greek life, I was curious about how this year differed from past years. I have only experienced a COVID-19 style Greek life, so I decided to write about the way this year had changed the organization as a whole. 

I wanted to locate sources who were personally involved in the planning and regulating of fraternity and sorority events. I started with asking my own sorority president, Katya Benedict, if I could interview her. Once I did it led me in the direction of other good sources to interview. I chose to interview people who had a executive position, because I believed they would have the most current information on COVID-19 safety precautions and plans for next year.  

Next I interviewed Matt Economos, who is vice president of programming for his fraternity. He plans all events and gatherings, and this year has been a big change for that role. Everything he plans must be approved, and it needs to safely follow city and state guidelines. He knew every up-to-date rule that organizations must follow and answered every question I had for him. 

Interviewing Tracey Mai was an important asset to my story because she is on Panhellenic Council and oversees all memberships. She gave me the plans and goals for the future, and was very transparent about what Greek life was currently dealing with. I had a slight obstacle when some of the information that my sources gave me contradicted one another. Matt Economos told me that they were planning an in-person recruitment in the fall, whereas Tracey Mai said that all recruitments would be virtual. I discovered later that because fraternities are under the jurisdiction of Interfraternity Council, their recruitment might differ from what Panhellenic decides sororities can do next year. 

After all my interviews I had a good idea of exactly what I wanted to include in my enterprise story. I had to re-read my interviews a few times to really process what they told me, and then look over what I had researched. I discovered my writing process through this assignment. I realized that when I write from scratch without thinking over everything beforehand, my work is sloppy. I had to make an outline, and then under each bullet point I made I would put the quotes that I would use. After my outline, the writing was easy and smooth. 

It surprised me how little I knew beforehand about the regulations and plans for next year in Greek life. I know I am only a freshman, yet I thought I knew most of what was going on. During each of my interviews I learned information that I was not aware of beforehand. I am glad I chose this topic because I know I learned a lot from it so I hope any readers feel the same.

ABOUT ME:

Emma Sellers is a freshman at the University of Utah. She has always enjoyed stories, whether that be reading or writing them. She is studying Journalism and hopes to pursue a career in writing. 

She grew up in Southern California and recently moved to Salt Lake City. Here she discovered her passion for writing. She wants to become a travel writer. Traveling has always been another of her passions and her goal is to combine her two loves into one career. 

Next fall, Emma hopes to continue her journey in writing while learning more about the craft and herself. She plans to take this knowledge with her throughout the rest of her college experience and future. 

Miken McGill

MY STORY:

Utah hospital ensures stability for employees during COVID-19

MY BLOG:

For my enterprise story, I found it hard at first to even try to develop a story idea. My mind was so jumbled with ideas on what could be reportable and newsworthy to be able to be published that I could not think of the best idea to pitch. I started to collaborate with my family and friends to see what they thought could be an interesting story to do. I wanted it to be unique, but at the same time write something I knew I could report on.

My mom started talking about St. Mark’s Hospital and how I used to volunteer there for school; she said how it could be an interesting topic to ask how the hospital was aiding their own employees during the pandemic. There had been no articles on the U NewsWriting website and I knew that being able to highlight a different hospital would be an idea that readers would want to read. I thought it was an excellent idea and knew I could easily get most of the information from interviewing who I could from St. Mark’s. I had great ideas on who to talk to, but during a pandemic I was a little worried. I went on to ponder my sources and where I might get the information from.

Next, I started to research more on St. Mark’s Hospital and think about how I wanted to talk to other people not just at the hospital in Millcreek, Utah, but others in the surrounding hospitals owned by MountainStar Healthcare. I started looking up some employees online and had an email contact or a phone number that I could contact. I found one of my resources pretty easy since he is the vice president of human resources. I knew that he would be a great gateway into finding other sources to talk to for my article. This got me to get all of my resources from him and getting three other managers being impacted from the hospital’s resources and aid during the pandemic. It was also easy to find the website for MountainStar Healthcare and finding other information to make sure what they stated was clear. Locating my sources was not the most difficult part of my enterprise story.

I knew that my resources were definitely the best sources for my story since all of my sources are on the front lines of helping, seeing, and understanding the impact that St. Mark’s has given to its employees to ensure that they are not going to struggle every day. All of them were very helpful in the interview process of making sure that they answered all the questions I had and also giving me the concrete details to the story. I felt very confident in what they were answering for my story and was successful in writing a full story from the answers that I was able to get during this process. It was nice to be able to interview other frontline workers in the background for many stories. It was amazing to talk straight to the sources knowing they would give me exactly what I needed.

Going into the actual writing process, waiting to get emails back to interview, and making sure I knew exactly what my story was going to be about were just a few of the obstacles that I had during this process. Overall, I knew that eventually everything would work out, but at the time I was worried over all of these things and more. This is my first time ever writing something that is going to be published online and be a news article. Again, trying to interview during a pandemic with a hospital as my resource location was also difficult. I addressed them easily by talking to each source and making sure we did an interview that was comfortable to them and all of them were pretty quick and easy. Then being able to start writing felt pretty easy as well, I had lots of information that I wanted and needed, and I knew I would be able to come up with a professional story.

Given all of the information I gathered, I started to organize it and figure out if there were similarities and find the stuff that added great details to my story. I had to start thinking about my focus of the story; I felt that it was easy to see that I would break it up kind of into three parts around how St. Mark’s is aiding employees during a pandemic with mental, physical, and spiritual aid. There were details of other random things and events that St. Mark’s also has done for the employees, which I added at the end of the middle. I struggled at first figuring out the focus, but going back and finding the key pieces is how I got to finally writing this story and making sure I kept to a straight focus.

My writing process was pretty similar to how I usually write anything, but there were a few different things that I did that helped a lot with writing. When I first sit down to write, I usually try and get the format correct to what I am writing and then going into how to get the reader to read the story and keep an interest. I start going straight into how I feel the story will flow and keep on looking back on the information I have to make sure I am getting everything I need in a correct order. Then going back and reading over and over and having one of my family members look it over or a friend toward the end. This time however, I had my mom look over it when I was in the middle of writing it.

I was about halfway through when I felt that I couldn’t decipher if I was on a good track or not. Having my mom look it over and help me edit my writing helped me to feel confident that I was writing my story to the best of my ability. I learned that my craft is changing a little bit as I am writing more and more different types of stories. It is good to develop my skills and to ask for help when I am struggling which I used to hate. I am glad that I have been able to learn more about how I write and how to improve my writing.

I felt that I included a lot of my details and information that I got from my interviews into my story, but I didn’t totally include everyone’s feelings around the pandemic and how it has helped people in their departments, but more of a general analysis. I still feel that I got the best information in my writing and there was not much left out for interpretation, which I did not want to happen when reading my story. I was glad to get the information needed and extra for my story and I do not regret making sure all of my questions were answered and seen in my story. I think the only thing that changed was how I thought my story was going to be like, but I did not have a concrete story really in my mind, so it still worked out to a great article.

I was surprised by how the interview process was going to go with how some sources like to get straight to the point of the questions and others will talk about themselves and other details. Neither of these ideas are terrible, but I was surprised at the different techniques and how things just happen randomly during interviews. There is no real set idea that happens with those. I was surprised at how I felt very confident in writing my story and truly felt that I had skills that I did not even know I had. I was glad to have this opportunity to write a story that I truly feel proud of. I know that I still have a long way to go to become a more professional writer, but I felt that this story was a big stepping-stone on becoming a great writer and to be able to do this for a living. I would do this whole process over again just to experience the confidence I felt to write a story to publish for the first time. I hope to do more writing like this in the future.  

ABOUT ME:

I am a sophomore at the University of Utah working toward following my passion for photography, writing, and wanting to make an impact on the world.

Early on in my high school experience, I found a love of taking photos that led to my extracurricular time as the yearbook photo editor for two years. I enjoyed capturing moments whether on the turf of the football field to interviewing my local peers; I felt I was documenting history for those students during my high school career.

When I’m not taking photos or doing school, I enjoy my other interests in fashion, films, beauty care, meditation, and being a consumer of environmentally friendly products. I want to embark on life with truth, passion, and honesty.

My goal is to find a career that brings me joy while also inspiring others. Whether photography and writing become my career or is my weekend hobby, I hope my work will spark passion for others to do what they love.

Utah branch of Decoding Dyslexia helps empower individuals  

Story by THALESE BARNES

Imagine it’s your first day of elementary school. You are feeling nervous because of the unfamiliar surroundings, new classmates, and being away from your trusted mom all day for the first time. Just as you are settling in, the school teacher asks you to read out loud for the class. You look down at your paper, and there is not a single familiar word. You struggle to open your mouth and speak as none of the words, sounds, or letters seem to make sense. Suddenly, you feel as if there is a thick wall standing between the letters on the paper and your eyes.

This scenario is not far-fetched or unique. This story describes the experience of many children due to dyslexia. 

Dyslexia is more common than people think. In fact, The Center for Dyslexia and Creativity found that dyslexia is the most common neurocognitive disorder; 20% of the population is affected by dyslexia.

Many students, parents, and teachers have experienced hearing the words, “you have dyslexia,” “your child has dyslexia,” or “this student has dyslexia.” Unfortunately, despite the frequency of these phrases, very few know the basic meaning of dyslexia, and what resources are available for students and their families. 

Jared Madsen is one of those 20% who has been affected by dyslexia. He said he was diagnosed with dyslexia in first grade by a child psychologist. “The very beginning of school, I remember kids were reading these books, and they were fun and exciting. I wanted to read it, and I couldn’t. I just couldn’t.”

Following first grade, Madsen was frequently pulled out of the standard classroom to attend a resource class. He said this class was a place to stick students who couldn’t get through the school day like the other kids. This class included kids who were disruptive, had physical disabilities, attention deficit hyperactivity, or dyslexia. 

Madsen said in a Zoom interview that he had empathy for his classmates. “I look back on that group of kids in that class with me and know that I was the only one that ended up graduating high school. It was so much easier to drop out.” Madsen said he begged his mom to let him drop out like all the rest of the kids in the resource class, but she wouldn’t let him. 

Jared Madsen owns Madsen Cycles, which are known for their buckets that carry children. Photograph by Travis Richardson, and use is courtesy of Jared Madsen.

He described his experience in the school system as “shattering.” He felt lonely and misunderstood. None of his teachers understood his struggles or provided the tools, resources, or education necessary to succeed after his diagnosis. 

Madsen, now 48, is not the first person to feel shattered by dyslexia and failed by the traditional school system. Despite this adversity, he now has hope for future dyslexic students because of Decoding Dyslexia. Decoding Dyslexia is a network of resources and satellite programs aimed to help young students facing the disorder.

Deborah Lynam is the founder of Decoding Dyslexia, located in New Hampshire. Lynam first became interested in helping those affected with dyslexia when her own son was diagnosed when he was in third grade.  

Concerned by the lack of support and education for those diagnosed, Lynam went to the National Center for Learning Disabilities Conference in October 2011. She left this conference with a group of new friends ready to bring awareness to their children and friends with dyslexia. As Lynam spoke with others at the conference, she said she realized that “this was a diverse group of parents, but they all had the same stories.” 

Every month following this conference, Lynam said in a phone interview, this group of parents would meet at a library in the middle of New Hampshire and discuss plans and ideas to change the face of dyslexia. After many meetings and conversations, Decoding Dyslexia was established.

There are now satellite groups of Decoding Dyslexia in all 50 states. Each state handles its group differently and is in charge of implementing its own Decoding Dyslexia program. All states are at a different stage within the movement, but they all have volunteers working tirelessly to improve resources for their respective communities.

The co-founder of the Utah branch of Decoding Dyslexia is Phoebe Beacham. Beacham was inspired to take part in the movement after watching her father, late husband, and two sons struggle with dyslexia. For the past eight years, she has been on a mission to empower parents, and she regularly presents in front of legislatures with propositions to help dyslexic Utah students succeed in the Utah school system. 

Image courtesy of Phoebe Beacham.

“We initially set out to be a resource for parents, and we are, but our niche has been to educate teachers,” Beacham said. The Decoding Dyslexia group in Utah is focused and determined to help Utah teachers understand how they can recognize a student with dyslexia and help them be successful. 

Beacham said that children who are not supported at a young age may go on to experience problems with the law. She explained that 80% of the inmates of our prisons are dyslexic. Beacham asked the important question, “So what is the difference between this millionaire who has dyslexia or this guy that ended up in prison who is dyslexic?” She answered her own question: “When you speak to successful dyslexics, the most common thread that they have — that you can string them all together with — is that they all said that there was someone that believed in them.”

This is why Beacham and the entire Decoding Dyslexia community are coming together to educate our teachers. This will not only decrease prison rates but will also help those diagnosed with dyslexia to become successful and confident readers and students. 

Jared Madsen said he felt shattered by his earlier educational experience. Sadly, many students with dyslexia echo his perspective and feel that their school systems have failed them. 

However, we need to understand that this is not the fault of teachers, as they have not received the proper education to help students with dyslexia succeed. If our teachers knew how to recognize the signs of dyslexia, the resources available, and how to teach techniques to help those affected, Decoding Dyslexia believes that the world would be much different.

Youth sports and a global pandemic

Story by JACK DALTON

Sportsmanship, Perseverance, Optimism, Respect and Teamwork (S.P.O.R.T.) are the core values of the local Park City, Utah, nonprofit, Youth Sports Alliance (YSA).

Founded shortly after the 2002 Salt Lake City Winter Olympics, YSA aims to get more kids in the Park City area involved in winter sports. YSA does this two ways, first by providing after-school programs to students in first through ninth grade in the Park City area. And secondly by providing direct scholarship funding through the YSA Stein Eriksen “Dare to Dream” Scholarship Fund to higher-level dedicated athletes (generally high school students), who simply cannot cover their own cost of tuition, training, or travel. 

Today, after-school programs remain at the core of what it does. Beginning in first grade, students can explore nearly 30 summer and winter sports on early release school days.

That program is YSA’s Get Out and Play program. According to the website, Get Out and Play introduces kids to as many sports and skills as possible. They can try everything from alpine skiing and snowboarding to speed skating or mountain biking and everything in between. They can also learn things such as basic camping skills. This program is offered up through fifth grade and is open to all elementary school students. 

Gracie Barre Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu has been added to the lineup of programs for April’s Get Out & Play and ACTiV8 Fridays. This six-week class is held at the studio. Photo courtesy of Heather Sims, YSA’s program director.

Once students hit middle school they can continue their Get Out and Play experience through ACTiV8. ACTiV8 was developed in direct collaboration with middle school students. According to the website, it provides unique experiences to develop eight of what YSA calls “lifestyle qualities”: Accountability, Confidence, Equality, Inspiration, Kindness, Leadership, Respect, and Versatility. ACTiV8 is available to students in sixth through ninth grade.  

The Stein Erikson “Dare to Dream” scholarship is the last big piece of YSA’s community involvement. According to the website, the fund is a need-based scholarship, provided to deserving athletes in any of YSA’s seven partner programs such as Park City Ski & Snowboard or Wasatch Freestyle. 

On an annual basis, YSA gives out thousands of scholarship dollars to hardworking young athletes in the community who would be unable to compete without funding support. Since 2014 this scholarship fund has brought in right around $2 million for athletes, according to YSA.

Just like every individual, every business, every corporation, COVID-19 hit nonprofits hard. YSA was no exception. The initial lockdown began in Utah on March 13, 2020. At that point, YSA was quickly forced to cancel and refund all of its after-school spring programs and it immediately started its COVID response planning, which YSA Executive Director Emily Fisher said “was just totally reactionary.” 

It also pretty quickly became apparent that most of the key annual events were not going to happen. Jans Winter Welcome, for example, YSA’s biggest annual fundraising event scheduled for fall 2020 was quickly canceled months in advance.

Of course, YSA was eventually able to get the Get Out and Play, and ACTiV8 programs going again sometime in mid-summer, with time and with new COVID safe protocols. And since then, Fisher said in a Zoom interview, those programs have been a massive success at getting kids back outside and active. Seeing their friends, getting in a healthy activity, and building a healthy lifestyle.

Raising scholarship dollars and hosting fundraising events proved to be a slightly bigger challenge, according to many within the organization.

This pandemic year has also resulted in more permanent changes for the organization. And while they were able to host their annual golf tournament over the summer, Jans Winter Welcome became a campaign of direct asks over nearly six months rather than a one-night gala. This campaign turned out to be highly successful for YSA as it raised more than $250,000 according to chief fundraising officer Jana Dalton.

So, what led to this successful campaign in an unpredictable, everchanging pandemic year? 

Unlike many other nonprofits or charities, YSA did not seemingly serve an immediate purpose in a pandemic year. It was seemingly, somewhat non-essential. There are plenty of nonprofits that helped with immediate relief, but YSA and organizations like it are the more unsung heroes of this past year. 

Thor Kallerud, a longtime donor/board member and new board president, said, “Most critically obviously is helping make sure people have food on the table and are healthy.” And in that sense, he said in a Zoom interview, “YSA is kind of the second tier behind essential nonprofits, serving a value to students in the community, by getting them outside, keeping them active, and helping them forget and hopefully improving mental health.” 

YSA has survived this pandemic year thanks in large part to the community around it. Thanks to loyal donors and generous sponsors YSA has a great reputation within Park City. And when it comes to the success of the organization, the proof is in the pudding. Over the last two decades, YSA has contributed heavily to the success of local winter sport/Olympic legends in the community such as Ted Ligety, Sage Kotsenburg, Billy Demong, and Steve Holcomb.

Local legend Ted Ligety with current PCSS athletes at Park City Mountain. And feel free to follow YSA on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter. Photo courtesy of Heather Sims, YSA’s program director.

As YSA continues to grow and continues to support the youth of Park City after fighting through the past pandemic year and as it continues to instill each of its core values in amateur skiers and future Olympians alike, longtime donor and new board member Tom Litle said, “With YSA, there is an opportunity to just do more of the good stuff.” 

 

The world’s greatest snow is melting, and it might not come back

Story and photos by HOUSTON FULLER

A smoke plume is emitted from a Rocky Mountain Power smokestack.

For Evan Robison, the air quality index wasn’t always something he thought about when he wanted to step outside to water his plants. With summer inversions getting worse every year, Robison’s doctors now suggest staying inside if possible. For many older adults living in Utah, this may seem all too familiar a struggle.

“I think it’s gotten worse because it’s causing health problems for elderly people. When I was first living up here there were no problems, but it’s gotten worse,” Robison says when comparing the air quality in the Salt Lake Valley to what it once was. Born in 1942, he has had a firsthand experience of these changes taking place right in front of his eyes.

Utah is placed in a geographical location that exacerbates typical climate issues that other states in the U.S. might be able to handle easier. 

Logan Klingler is a resident of California who moved to Utah to attend college. Living in California gave he a different understanding of how climate change affects our daily lives. “I’ve visited and driven through the valley here many summers when I was younger, and I always remember stepping out of the car to stretch my legs and the wind itself being hot — that was a new experience for me, coming from the coast,” Klingler says in a Zoom interview.

Even with a limited knowledge of the climate in Utah, certain events in Utah made headlines across the nation, putting Utah’s climate issues in the spotlight. Klingler recalls a particular inversion from 2019 where “a giant smog cloud” was looming over the Salt Lake Valley. He was largely unaware of some of the issues Utah’s climate faces, however. “I didn’t think it was worse than it should be,” he said. “Anywhere in a valley with no coast or something to let the smog escape is going to have air quality problems.”

Factories and industry are significant contributors to Utah’s high emissions.

One of the most pressing issues Utah’s climate faces is accelerated warming caused by a higher altitude, drier weather, and most importantly, high emissions.

Emissions are temporarily trapped by surrounding mountains in northern Utah. Storms typically carry out the bad air and smog, but these emissions are still warming Utah’s climate. According to the Utah Climate Action Network, Utah is actually warming at twice the global rate, which could have devastating impacts on not only our environment, but also our economy.

Logan Mitchell, a University of Utah research assistant professor with a doctorate in atmospheric sciences, says, “We would have really devastating heatwaves in the summertime. There is a model of springtime snowpack under a high emissions scenario, and the springtime snowpack disappears in 50 years from now.”

In a Zoom interview, Mitchell says he attended a panel discussion a few years ago where one of the panelists was a sustainability manager for Alta, a world-class ski resort located in Utah. “Another [presenter] showed … in 70 or 80 years the springtime snowpack is going to be gone.” The panelist said that in another 80 years — the same amount of time Alta had been in business — “Utah could have no springtime snowpack if we were in a high emissions scenario, and the ski area would then cease to exist.”

Mitchell adds, “We wouldn’t have the greatest snow on Earth.”

The accelerating warming would melt springtime snowpack and make summers even hotter. This warming could cause droughts that last decades. “As climate change continues to unfold, drought conditions in the Southwest will get worse,” Mitchell says. “There is a very high risk of a severe drought extending over not just years, but potentially decades. A decade-long severe drought would absolutely cripple Utah’s economy and our ability to live because we need water.”

These issues present very real threats for Utahns and the Southwest as a whole, but Mitchell suggests that the future might not be as bleak as these projections make it out to be. Many of the models and scenarios he presents are under the assumption that we do nothing to combat this climate crisis. Yes, climate change will bring about catastrophic and devastating effects, but Mitchell doesn’t want to downplay all of the strides we are taking toward a cleaner and cooler climate.

“But, I don’t think any of that’s going to happen,” Mitchell optimistically states regarding the devastating effects of climate change, “and the reason why is because there have been huge advances in research and development, and deployment of new technologies that are zero emission technologies to the point where they are cost competitive with fossil fuel energy. … Today, producing energy from solar is cheaper than coal.”

Mitchell points out that many Utah politicians are working together to find bipartisan solutions to the climate issues that are unique to Utah. He believes that the existing climate issues Utahns face provide a unique advantage for promoting systemic change at a political level. These issues pose real health risks to many Utahns, making it hard to deny that the climate is changing drastically. Despite that, Mitchell says he believes that “Utah is going to change the national conversation on addressing environmental challenges and being good stewards of the environment.”

Thalese Barnes

MY STORY:

Utah branch of Decoding Dyslexia helps empower individuals 

MY BLOG:

When I found out that this article was going to be published, I was terrified! Not in a negative way, but in an empowering way. I was motivated to get my thoughts on paper and express my passion to the reader. I thrive when I am sharing my passions.

I elected to write about a personal issue, dyslexia. I have struggled with dyslexia my entire life. During my research, I came across an article about a mom who became an activist for dyslexia. Her child was dyslexic. She became a voice for her child and other children diagnosed with dyslexia. I was inspired by the power of one’s voice. Dyslexia needs many voices — both loud and soft. People need education around neuro disabilities. The future is bright and hopeful.

Understanding dyslexia has come a long way. A learning network for dyslexia started in 2012. The name of the network is called Decoding Dyslexia.

As I looked more and more into it, I saw that there had been national networking for dyslexia since 2012; the network is called Decoding Dyslexia. By just researching, I knew the direction I wanted my story to go but wasn’t entirely sure where I wanted it to land.

Professor Mangun encouraged me to interview the activist’s mother, Phoebe Beacham, to help me direct this story more. I ended up going to a coffee shop with Beacham and talked with her for two hours. I had so many questions, and she answered so many questions that had been weighing on me for years. She led me to the cofounder of Decoding Dyslexia in New Hampshire and a man here in Utah who is a successful dyslexic.

I focused my article equally on my three interviewees. I wanted the reader to feel the emotion of a person with dyslexia and feel the pain and heartbreak from this disability. At the same time to have hope for the future because of the movement Decoding Dyslexia.

ABOUT ME:

I was born and raised in the red rocks of Southern Utah. I am a lover of life. I love watching any musical, walking my dog, singing at the top of my lungs to Taylor Swift songs, being outdoors and my personal favorite: being around people. I am currently attending the University of Utah, majoring in Communication with an emphasis in Strategic Communication. I enjoy everything about Salt Lake City and the U! The best decision I ever made was to attend the University of Utah. Go Utes! My aim in life is to make the people around me feel comfortable and needed. That will always be my end game in every aspect of my life.

Jack Dalton

MY STORY:

Youth sports and a global pandemic

MY BLOG:

In developing the idea for my story, I wanted to find a way to focus on sports one way or  another, which if you know me well is not a surprise by any means. At first I thought about trying to find a way to write about this past football season. Then I thought about trying to find a way to write about sports in Utah (the Utes, the Jazz, Real Salt Lake). Both ideas seemed both too complex to coordinate and too simple to actually write about.

Finally, I settled on trying to write about my biggest passion, skiing. I thought about trying to write about how the U.S. Ski Team, which is headquartered in Park City, Utah, navigated COVID-19 and the current World Cup Season over in Europe. The other idea that came to mind was sports-related nonprofits. Of course, at that point, the Youth Sports Alliance (YSA) seemed like an obvious choice. After all it’s an organization that means a lot to me personally.  

YSA is an organization I have had some sort of involvement with for a long time. My mom currently works for it, and certainly was part of my reasoning in writing about YSA. But YSA was also highly involved in my own ski career. 

That is how I connected with all of my sources, each of whom are key to YSA. I spoke with the executive director, board president, and a longtime donor/new board member within the organization. They were awesome sources. 

In terms of the actual writing process, I wanted to focus on the pandemic and the effect it had on youth sports in the Park City community. One of the main things I struggled with was simply the wording of questions, considering so many of them were about money or the pandemic one way or another (donations, funding, cancelations, etc.). 

Everyone I spoke with was incredibly generous with their time. Every interaction I had over Zoom was like catching up with an old friend. Oddly when it came time to write my story, I struggled to find quotes and ended up relying on my conversations for more general information and different perspectives. I certainly wish I had asked for more stories and had asked more follow-up questions. 

I learned to appreciate both the writing and interview process and had a ton of fun writing this piece.

ABOUT ME:

Growing up in Park City, Utah, I was pretty much born on skis. I was literally skiing before I was walking. Both of my parents were ski instructors at the time and they put me on skis for the first time at 18 months old. That passion has stuck with me ever since. 

For as long as I can remember my dream as a young ski racer was to race on the FIS World Cup tour and be an Olympian. Eventually, reality set in but my desire to ski and to compete was still there. I raced competitively until I was 18 and starting college at the University of Utah, after dedicating my life to the sport for nearly a decade. To this day it is pretty much all I know. I skied for the University of Utah alpine club team for my first two years of school, before spending the last two seasons coaching for Park City Ski and Snowboard club, the ski team I grew up on. 

It has been so much fun to see the program through a different lens. I love being able to share my knowledge and passion for the sport with the next generation of little shredders. 

In terms of life beyond skiing and sports in general, I am currently a junior at the University of Utah pursuing a degree in Communication with an emphasis in strategic communication. My goal is to work in the world of sports one way or another and put that degree to work. I would love to get into broadcasting and commentary. For the time being, I am beyond happy to continue coaching and my education with plans to graduate in the spring of 2022. 

Houston Fuller

MY STORY:

The world’s greatest snow is melting, and it might not come back

MY BLOG:

My enterprise story’s main focus on climate change in Utah stemmed from my passion for environmentalism and being a citizen of Utah. The pollution found in the Salt Lake Valley is so prevalent and constant that most everyone living here is aware of its harmful effects, so finding sources was easy. I connected with friends and family to see if they knew anyone directly affected by climate change who would be willing to talk about their experience. I think my sources benefitted my story because I was able to get three different perspectives all relating to one issue. I utilized a professional opinion to establish credibility, I interviewed an older adult with health issues that are exacerbated by pollution, and I used the opinion of a student from California to highlight the lack of understanding for climate change outside of Utah. 

Writing my story was mostly smooth sailing, but I think an issue I failed to address was how politics play into the issues I discussed. Politics weren’t a focus of my story, but the Republican majority in Utah’s government plays a large role in the issues we face so I felt like I needed to address it.

The pandemic has slightly affected the amount of emissions found in Utah, but I found that it wasn’t significant enough to mention since most people are back to work and driving normally again. 

My focus came to me after writing ideas I felt were important to my story. I was able to connect these ideas to create a focus on climate change and how it is affecting Utah specifically. Writing this story was honestly very challenging for me because I’m not a great writer to begin with, so writing in a journalistic style proved difficult for me. It was also difficult because one of my sources gave me so much information that I could use for multiple different stories. I had to find what was important to me and write about that, but that was difficult when there was so much interesting information. I wanted to add a section about politics in Utah but couldn’t find a way to fit it into my story effectively without it being distracting or out of place.

Overall, I learned a lot about my writing and what I like and don’t like about it. It mostly taught me that I’m not passionate about journalism and it isn’t one of my strong suits. Interviewing was very difficult for me and connecting the pieces of my story proved even more difficult. While news journalism may not be for me, I have definitely learned a lot of skills that I can utilize in other areas of my life.

ABOUT ME:

I am a full-time student at the University of Utah currently studying strategic communication. I am planning on graduating in spring 2022 and hope to use my knowledge of visual rhetoric, public relations, and communication theory in a career relating to social media. In my free time I enjoy producing music, photography, video games, movies, and art.

Miranda Lamb

MY STORY:

Community during COVID: How University of Utah student groups are staying connected

MY BLOG:

I started my freshman year at the University of Utah in the fall of 2019. Now a sophomore, I have spent more of my college experience online due to the COVID-19 pandemic than I have in person. I, like so many others, have lost a lot due to COVID. However, my on-campus connections have been the saving grace during it all.

When considering enterprise story ideas, I decided to highlight on-campus communities and connections in the times of COVID, with hopes to find a silver lining in such hard times, and maybe even help someone find the community they have been looking for.

As a member of Delta Gamma women’s fraternity, I knew the Panhellenic community has been active during the pandemic and that it was a resource worth highlighting. To hear from a perspective much wider than my own, I spoke to Panhellenic President Erin Doyle. She gave me great insight into what the community was doing as a whole rather than just the actions of my own sorority.

I wanted to highlight a diverse range of communities, so next, I spoke to Shelby Hearn at the LGBT Resource Center. I previously did not know much about the services at the center, but after speaking to Hearn I was glad I chose it as a resource. The center has found such creative and engaging ways to help students. It has even started connecting with students in new ways that will likely continue post-pandemic.

One of the biggest and best surprises I encountered during my process was in my interview with BobbiJo Kanter, the associate director of student programs at the Bennion Center. I was worried going into it that I would have to tell stories of the center’s struggles finding people willing to participate in its community service opportunities. Instead, I saw the opposite. It had more students hoping to help than it had places to put them. Wanting to tell a positive story in the light of the pandemic, I was very excited about this.

Once I had gathered my notes, I began to write. I had come up with my headline, “Community during COVID: How University of Utah student groups are staying connected” weeks before. Throughout my interviews and especially in my writing, I kept that as my focus. If it answered that question, then it had a place in my story.

I was finally able to end it exactly as I’d hoped, on a positive note with the quote from Kanter about how despite the difficulty, “This year gave us an opportunity.”

ABOUT ME:

When I was little, I dreamed of being a doctor, then a wizard, then a dentist, then a potter, and everything else in between. The only passion that persisted through it all was writing.

However, that dream has continued to evolve through my time at the University of Utah. I am currently pursuing a degree in quantitative analysis of markets and organizations and a double minor in computer science and writing and rhetoric studies. I have loved learning about such broad topics and seeing how the skills from each area of study complement each other.

I enjoy the breadth of my studies, but I am unsure of exactly where it will lead me. I plan to work as a business analyst, or go to graduate school to get an MBA, or go to law school, become a journalist in any of those fields (assuming becoming a wizard doesn’t work out).

To me, my dream of writing is still relevant no matter what field I go into, as every job (and life as a whole) requires some element of storytelling.

Community during COVID: How University of Utah student groups are staying connected

Story by MIRANDA LAMB

Students at the University of Utah, much like the rest of the world, were sent home in March 2020 as the COVID-19 pandemic forced classes and extracurriculars online. In the fall of 2020, students were partially brought back to campus with classes offered in a hybrid-style. This largely consisted of online teaching, and classes that were able to meet in person had spaced-out seating and mandated masks.

A return to in-person academics was made a priority, but the lack of in-person community was a persisting challenge. Campus organizations, which rely on student engagement, have worked hard to stay connected to undergraduates during the past year.

The Panhellenic community, made up of seven sororities, has found success in not only staying connected, but also in growing its community. The Panhellenic President Erin Doyle said in a Zoom interview that rather than decreasing their sisterhood events or weekly chapter meetings, sororities have worked hard to adapt these events to be online.

In August 2020, Panhellenic hosted its yearly recruitment completely virtually (although they were able to have a partially in-person bid day). Despite this unprecedented challenge, it had more women register than in 2019, and several houses saw the largest member classes that they had seen in years.

Part of Delta Gamma’s fall 2020 new member class at their bid day, wrapping up a fully-virtual recruitment. Photo courtesy of Anna Henderson.

In February 2021, several sororities participated in a successful spring recruitment. Notably, Doyle said Delta Gamma was able to welcome a spring member class of 15 women, the first spring member class that it’s had since 2015.

Members of the community miss being in person. However, Doyle said that through social media the “supportive aura of the community has been making everyone feeling more connected.” Doyle also praised the houses for their creativity. Rather than just meeting up in the park for a picnic, women have hosted virtual Jeopardy games and Zoom “speed dating” events for new members of the house to meet everyone.

The LGBT Resource Center is another resource that is “making sure there are still opportunities to be in community,” said Shelby Hearn, the coordinator of education and outreach, in a Zoom interview. Its members had to think more creatively. Similar to the Panhellenic community, one of its biggest challenges has been the loss of its in-person offices and its student lounge.

Hearn said that pre-pandemic, “my door was open and students could come through. I definitely saw a lot more casual conversations — they see a picture of a cat on my desk, and talk about that, then eventually are talking about a coming-out strategy.”

The center has responded to this challenge by offering drop-in hours, Zoom appointments, and a virtual student lounge hosted via Discord. Discord will likely continue as a resource post-pandemic, Hearn said. “It remains really relevant to our students. They can dip their toe into the community while still remaining anonymous.”

Discord also allows students to find a more a relevant community. “Students can sign up for more specific channels, i.e., queer students of color, or a channel just for grad students,” Hearn said.

Although the center has seen a decrease in participation in its one-time events like its movie screenings and panel events, it has still seen consistent participation in some of its other events like its “fab Friday” hangouts (now over Zoom). It has also seen an increase in its one-on-one scheduled meetings along with the successes from the Discord channel.

Another community that has seen successful connection despite the pandemic is the Bennion Center.  BobbiJo Kanter, the associate director of student programs, said in a Zoom interview that several of its programs have had more student involvement than they did pre-pandemic.

A wall in the student union building (where the Bennion Center is located) dedicated to the Public Service Professor Award given by the center. Photo by Miranda Lamb.

The service corner located in the new freshman residence hall, Kahlert Village, has been heavily used by students. She said in an email interview that “students (and anyone from the campus community) have the opportunity to participate in projects that do not require any previous training or a significant time commitment.”

Bryce Williams, the student programs manager at the Bennion Center, said in an email interview that students have taken advantage of “ʻgrab and go’ opportunities” while still being safe. He said that they will “participate in some of our projects while watching a movie in their residence hall rooms or while they’re in a virtual class to keep their hands busy.”

Kanter said in a Zoom interview the center has also involved more students with its Alternative Breaks programs. These used to be offered at various locations across the world. However, due to travel restrictions, it has shifted to “hyper-local breaks” taking place in Salt Lake City. These are offered at no cost, which has allowed them to be accessible to more students. Kanter said this option may remain post-pandemic.

Despite its current success, getting up and moving after the initial shutdown was a challenge for the Bennion Center. Kanter said at first, “everything stopped, there were groups of students who were ready to help, but didn’t know how to.”

The Bennion Center emphasizes serving its community partners, focusing on listening to and serving their needs. Kanter said for those partners, “their priority has to be their community and their staff, so those people take priority then volunteers come after that.” It took some adjustments on both the part of the Bennion Center and its partners to navigate how to allow volunteers to help in the way they want to, but also in a way that is safe for and serves those in need.

The center has had to shift the way that it hosts its larger service projects as well. For example, the Legacy of Lowell service project typically brings in 800 to 1,000 people. However, this year participation was capped closer to 200 people, with volunteers broken into groups of 10 at each site.

Kanter said because of the smaller sizes, “we don’t get that same sense of community. People were still interested, we reached capacity. There is a demand, but for safety, we have to keep things smaller.”

Beyond just pandemic-related changes, Kanter said that the murder of George Floyd and the surrounding protests in May 2020 “mobilized students to show up — whether physically or mentally and internally,” and brought attention to “some of our systemic issues.” She said “this year had brought people together around activism. I’m not really sure we saw that with our students before.”

To serve this increased interest in activism, Kanter said in interviews that every two weeks, the Bennion Center has been virtually hosting monthly “community conversations” with other on-campus partners, namely the American Indian Resource Center, the Black Cultural Center and the Peace and Conflict Studies program in the College of Humanities. They are focusing on dialogues about “about what is happening and what they can do to change it.” She said these talks have been received well by the campus community.

Dean McGovern, the executive director of the Bennion Center, said in an email interview that “the topics vary and sessions have attracted more than 825 faculty, students, staff, and community members over the course of the dialogue series.”

Despite the changes and challenges from the pandemic, these communities were able to stay connected. The creativity and resilience of their members even resulted in solutions that will continue to serve students when in-person life continues. As Kanter said, “This year gave us an opportunity.”

How COVID-19 has impacted Utah’s live music industry

Story by SKY NELSON

You’re in a crowded room, bopping your head to the beat of the music as you weave your way through other dancing, sweaty bodies. Maybe you have a drink in your hand, and you are on your way to your friend’s table. Everyone around you is laughing and talking over the music, but all you care about is one of your favorite songs blasting through the speakers, being played live right in front of you.

You’re at a concert and you feel amazing as the energy around you surges through your veins. You feel the drums in your feet and the bass in your chest. You finally see your group of friends and make your way over to them, smiling as you exclaim, “What a fun night!”

George Kelly, founder of Keys on Main, during a live performance. Photo by Rita Mangum.

Except, you probably haven’t been to a concert in months. You are more likely to be in your pajamas right now, reading this from the comfort of your couch.

Since March 2020, the live music industry in Utah, as well as across the globe, has been struggling. Unlike other industries that keep the economy going, the live music industry’s hardships are unique because the product it’s selling isn’t a tangible thing, but rather an experience.

“Live performance puts an emphasis on people coming together and enjoying something that is spontaneous and is an experience and an event,” said Jordan Saucier, a Utah musician. He was speaking by Skype while he was driving to Elko, Nevada, with a colleague to do a paying gig.

Saucier is the definition of a working musician, meaning all of his income comes from performing live with his array of different bands he participates in, working in studio recording sessions, and teaching private guitar lessons.

Despite having a bachelor’s degree in commercial music from Snow College and a master’s in music technology from Southern Utah University, Saucier said his income took a hit “big time” when everything shut down March 14, 2020.

In 2019, Saucier was playing three to seven gigs a week, every week, totaling 135 performances. One of his groups — No Limits, a party band — traveled all around the country for paying gigs. He said the money he made from those live performances accounted for about two-thirds of his income that year.

Now, Saucier only performs locally once or twice a week, which is much better than how he was doing last spring. Because of the pandemic, all his gigs scheduled throughout 2020 got cancelled, and he didn’t get booked anywhere for over 10 weeks. Teaching guitar lessons brought in some money for him, but a lot of his students quit lessons during the first stages of the lockdown.

In one month, he lost an estimated $5,000 and calculated a loss of about $30,000 for the remainder of 2020. Saucier said he realized he needed to “diversify” his income in order to stay on his feet as a working musician. He was able to start his own business called Casino Entertainment Group in which he produces, manages, and books bands for casinos.

Keys on Main, a dueling piano bar franchise founded by local musician George Kelly, has seen hardships as well. Kelly’s two locations in Seattle and Tacoma, Washington, have been completely shut down for a year. The Keys on Main in California was forced out of business in the spring of 2020.

Thanks to government assistance and the fact that Utah has been “looser” regarding COVID-19, as Kelly said, Keys on Main in Salt Lake City, 242 S. Main St., was able to re-open in May 2020. Due to the new capacity restrictions, sales went down about 30 percent, and the company had to hire more staff because it had lost 23 employees while Keys on Main was closed.

The Salt Lake City Keys on Main has reopened to patrons for live performances on Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays. Photo by Rita Mangum.

The local dueling piano bar managed to stay afloat throughout the summer and into fall, but on Nov. 9, Utah Gov. Gary Herbert issued a mandate banning alcohol sales after 10 p.m. Keys on Main was able to get through those four weeks of the alcohol ban, but sales were down 50 percent, Kelly said.

This decline in sales isn’t just tough for the business, but for its musicians as well. One of Kelly’s friends, David Holloway, is in a popular Mardi Gras jazz band that played for high-paying, huge events before the pandemic. For Mardi Gras this year, the band performed in Salt Lake City’s Keys on Main for free because the musicians were itching to perform on stage and had no other gigs lined up, Kelly explained.

Of course, it’s not all about money. It’s about the music!

Excellence in The Community is a nonprofit organization that has been showcasing Utah musicians since 2005. “We’re trying to help Utah musicians, and we believe that by helping Utah musicians have better performance opportunities and more performance opportunities, and by having these concerts be offered to the public at no charge, we’re helping Utah communities,” said Jeff Whiteley, founder of Excellence in The Community and a musician himself. “The potential contribution of these fabulous musicians of all genres has generally been overlooked, so that’s where we come in.”

On a recent Friday night, Whiteley was at the Gallivan Center, 239 S. Main St., Salt Lake City, setting up for a livestream concert featuring the Xiné String Quartet. The performers and volunteering staff had their temperatures taken when they entered the building and then they filled out forms about COVID-19 symptoms. It showed the organization’s dedication to safety and health as it worked to put on a quality livestream performance.

A behind-the-scenes photo of Excellence in The Community producing a livestream featuring the Xiné String Quartet. Photo by Sky Nelson.

According to Whiteley, the organization has produced over 910 shows in total since it was founded in 2005. The Gallivan Center is the headquarters of Excellence in The Community and has hosted most of its concerts since 2006.

Before COVID-19, the nonprofit put on big band dance events every Tuesday night, where everyone could go to have a music and dance-filled night with their loved ones. Better yet, the local musicians got more exposure, a top-tier stage to perform on, and a regular paid gig to look forward to.

Excellence in The Community’s big band dance event. Photo by Lex Anderson, official photographer for Excellence in The Community.

Since March 2020, Excellence in The Community has had to adjust in order to continue helping local musicians. That support is needed even more now than it was before. Instead of cancelling concerts, Whiteley said the organization has doubled its shows and has put all efforts into producing livestream concerts.

The nonprofit produces a livestream concert every Wednesday and Saturday night, showcasing some of Utah’s best musicians in a variety of genres. Despite a huge loss of funding in spring 2020, the livestreams have proved to be a success. Since that March, the organization has reached over 7 million views in total, according to the website.

“Music is a spiritual experience. Music is a recharging experience,” Whiteley said. That’s why the volunteering staff with Excellence in The Community do what they do. Livestreams are a great way to keep local musicians in business during this pandemic, but they are not equal to live performances.

As musician Jordan Saucier said about live performances, “The musicians are reacting to each other, reacting to the audience, and the energy exchange between all these people is a unique thing at each event.”

Sky Nelson

MY STORY:

MY BLOG:

When first given the assignment, I spent a few good weeks thinking about what I might want to write about. I ultimately decided on how COVID-19 has impacted the live music industry in Utah. I wanted to choose something that I was interested in, and as a musician, I was very curious to find out how local music venues and musicians are doing during this pandemic.

To find sources for my story, I did some research on local venues and read every article I could find about the live music industry written within the last year. Some venues were already featured in news stories, like The State Room in Salt Lake City, and Velour in Provo. These articles sounded similar to one another because music venues are facing similar hardships.

I decided to broaden my scope by reaching out to a local musician, Jordan Saucier, whom I discovered via Instagram and a mutual friend. I also contacted the owner of Keys on Main, which isn’t just a place that holds live performances by local musicians, but a bar as well. My third source was the founder of a nonprofit based in Salt Lake City called Excellence in The Community, which was recommended to me by my professor.

The people I interviewed were great resources for my story. They all were directly affected by the pandemic and because of social distancing mandates, lost a lot of their income. They had to adjust in order to stay afloat while everything was shut down. Additionally, they are members of our community and their struggles should be heard.

I ran into a few obstacles while working with my sources. Some of the people I originally reached out to never responded to my inquiries. One person even scheduled a Skype meeting with me but kept canceling at the last minute. Because I had a deadline, I had to scramble to find another good source.

After speaking with my three sources, I had more than enough information on each of them to write a story. It was difficult to decide what was important for my focus and what was unnecessary information. I even felt a little bad about not putting certain thoughts into the finished story because I learned so many cool things, but not all of it was relevant to the focus of my story.

The actual writing of the story went well. It was hard to figure out what sort of lead would be the most effective, but once that was done, the rest of the story came easily. After the first draft, I had to edit most of it, but it turned out well-focused and readable. I learned that writing comes easily to me, but I have a few habits that aren’t great for news writing, and I will need to refer back to the AP Stylebook to help me.

I felt that Jeff Whiteley, the founder of Excellence in The Community, had a lot of interesting things to say about the organization that I unfortunately could not made work with the focus of my story. The reason for why he started the nonprofit is inspiring, and I think I would like to write a separate piece about the organization and what they are doing to help Utah musicians and the local community.

ABOUT ME:

If I could only use one word to describe myself, it would be the word “creative.”

I am a musician. I’ve been singing all my life and it is my absolute favorite thing to do. I used to be in musicals and piano lessons when I was young, but once I started guitar lessons at the age of 14, I fell in love with the instrument and grew even closer to music. By 15, I was teaching guitar lessons in an after-school program. I didn’t think I was anywhere near qualified enough to teach, but it ultimately helped me become a better guitar student.

After graduating high school in 2016, I started teaching guitar and voice lessons at the studio I took lessons from for six years. I currently have 50 students that I see every week, and I have come to love teaching almost as much as I love making playlists.

I will be releasing my first single this year. It’s amazing to see a song I wrote for fun one day turn into a professionally produced single, and I’m very excited about it. I hope releasing this song leads me to more opportunities in the music industry.

All bodies are good bodies — why the body positivity movement is important for women

Story by LAUREN LLOYD

In the 17th and 18th centuries, women with round, voluptuous figures were praised for their beauty. This look became so sought after that the fashion industry designed understructures for women’s dresses that provided them more volume. Then, in the 19th and 20th centuries, the standard for women dramatically shifted to thin bodies, which led to the prominence of corsets and eating disorders.

Women don’t wear corsets anymore, but they were replaced by a toxic diet and fitness industry. In the 1990s, unreasonably skinny figures were in fashion. Flat stomachs became an accessory item. Now, to have the ideal body, women’s chests and hips must have the fullness of an 18th-century woman, but their waists and arms should be as slim as a supermodel from the ’90s.  

Women’s bodies go in and out of style just like bell bottom jeans and Birkenstocks. The beauty industry picks and chooses what features it favors at that time, and consistently changes them so they are always unattainable. The more biologically impossible the ideal body is, the more profit the beauty industry obtains.

Abby Lloyd, a budding artist, drew inspiration from this article to create this illustration.

In recent years, women have decided to combat perpetually changing standards with the body positivity movement. This movement challenges the unrealistic beauty standards for women and encourages them to love themselves as they are. Unfortunately, many women still fall prey to societal influences that tell them they need to change their bodies. Nowadays, some girls have social media as young as 10 years old. On these sites, they are subjected to extremely limited representations of what women are supposed to look like.

Robin Jensen, a professor of communication at the University of Utah, discusses the dangers of the portrayal of women on social media. Jensen said social media create an exterior image for women that they place all their value onto. This separates them from themselves and their worth as individuals. Women cannot focus on the important parts of life, such as benefiting humanity or cultivating their identity, because they are so engrossed in their appearance. 

“Women on the internet look like they have been drawn,” Jensen said in a phone interview. “There is a very distorted idea of what it means to be a human being — especially for women.”

People use different Photoshop tools and camera angles to create their looks on social media, and it is not representative of a day-to-day lifestyle. Since many components of physical appearance are out of their control, this pressure to always look perfect can be very isolating and anxiety-inducing for women, and even leads to depression and suicide, Jensen said.

Jess Wojciechowski, student body president-elect at the University of Utah, experienced this toxicity firsthand as she came of age. When she was younger, the only women Wojciechowski saw on social media were skinny influencers. They made her feel as if she needed to be thinner so she could wear the clothes that they did. 

“It definitely contributed to me being more self-conscious and never wanting to post photos of myself,” she said in a Zoom interview.

However, after high school, Wojciechowski was inspired by the women she found on social media who embraced their individuality. Her love for dyed hair, jewelry and eccentric makeup was no longer something she had to repress. The representation of different kinds of women helped her become comfortable with who she is and helped her stop pursuing a “picture perfect” version of herself.

“Self-worth goes so much further than your appearance,” she said.

Tyler Feder depicts her own body positivity ritual she uses to encourage self-love. Image courtesy of Feder.

It is because of people on social media like artist Tyler Feder that Wojciechowski’s generation has been able to accept their bodies. Feder is a self-taught artist whose illustrations center around feminism, mental health and pop culture. When Feder was growing up, she lived in a diet-focused household. Her parents fed her and her sisters food from Weight Watchers, unaware that it would later lead to eating disorders and unhealthy relationships with food. Growing up in an environment where her and her sisters’ bodies were consistently scrutinized had a long-lasting impact on her body image.

“I get so mad about that time. I feel like I was a blank canvas, and I had all this negative stuff projected on me from such a young age,” she said in a Zoom interview. Later, when she was attending Northwestern University, Feder was able to find body positivity and fat acceptance blogs that sparked her journey of self-love. The transition was not seamless. She was still counting calories while reading these blogs, but she now had an online community to support her.

Feder believes the body positivity movement has made impressive strides in the past few years. However, there is still a long way to go. “You still look at plus-sized models and they all have flat stomachs and they’re hourglass shaped,” she said.

Feder’s work is breaking the cycle for young women. Her book, “Bodies are Beautiful,” strives to show young children that all bodies are good bodies before society can tell them that only certain ones are acceptable. In her art, she depicts women with their curves and their stretch marks, and draws people of all shapes, colors, and sizes. She represents all body types and demonstrates to women that they are still beautiful and worthy even if they don’t look like how the media portrays women.

More representation of different body types is essential to making progress with the body positivity movement. Professor Robin Jensen explains that the more diverse images we see and accept as beautiful, the better. When more realistic depictions of women circulate on the internet, it shows women that there are lots of different ways to be beautiful, and they are not the only one who isn’t perfect.

Tyler Feder’s “Precious Blooms” illustrates her comparison of women to flowers. The image, courtesy of Feder, is available for purchase on her website.

“If you go to a flower garden that has all different kinds of flowers, you think they’re all pretty,” Feder said, comparing women to flowers. “It’s not like this one kind of flower is pretty because it’s small or it’s a specific shape or it’s a specific color. They’re all pretty even though they look really different.”

COVID-19 boosted the earnings of a South Korean beauty company, while others faced bankruptcies

Story by YEH-RHYM CHEON

Masks have become essential to survive in this dark world.

It is now impossible to see the bright smiles of children or eat delicious food in crowded restaurants. We cannot even breathe in the fresh air of the coming warm spring at will.

After COVID-19 hit South Korea in 2020, life before the pandemic no longer exists.

Over the past year, the pandemic has changed many aspects of our daily lives. In particular, the high bankruptcy rate of small- and medium-sized enterprises harmed the economy in South Korea.

According to Gyeonggido Business & Science Accelerator, the business situation of companies in South Korea deteriorated in 2020. Particularly, hard-hit were small businesses, companies with less than $1billion in sales, and companies with fewer than 10 employees.    

Countless small- and medium- sized enterprises are suffering from extended social social distancing and lockdown due to the COVID-19. Photo courtesy of Francesco Ridolfi.

For small- and medium-sized enterprises that provide face-to-face service, the mandated social distancing and long-term shutdown systems make it difficult to operate and maintain the business.

Eun Kyoung Kwak, CEO of Norang EAT Academy (노랑EAT학원), has been running an education business located in Siheung, South Korea, for 14 years.

It was her pleasure to run supplementary classes such as art, mathematics, English, and Korean for elementary school students. However, her happiness will no longer exist.

“Because of the COVID-19, numbers of students have left our academy,” Kwak said in Korean over the phone.

To prevent the spread of the COVID-19, the South Korean government continues to extend the social distancing period, including the ban on gatherings of five or more people.

In order to retain students, Kwak has been offering online classes. Nevertheless, it was difficult to guarantee a high quality of teaching due to various limitations such as a lack of internet knowledge and difficulty controlling students online.

Kwak confronted financial difficulties as the number of students declined. There was no other option besides reducing the number of employees.

“I am now exhausted facing these situations caused by the pandemic. I should have dismissed them to maintain my business,” Kwak said. “I just feel sorry for the fired employees.”

According to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, the unemployment rate in South Korea has surged as many small- and medium-sized enterprises have been going through hardship with the business operation.

Yuna Lee was one of the victims who lost her job due to the COVID-19.

Since 2019, Lee had worked part-time for six months at a mathematics academy located in Seohyeon, South Korea.

At the academy, she could take the first step towards her dream of becoming a teacher.

“Even though it was a part-time job, I worked hard because I love both children and teaching. Also, it was a great opportunity to build my career,” Lee said in Korean in a phone interview.

While she was working hard and doing well as the instructor, the COVID-19 hit South Korea, and the tragedy began.

Like other companies, her academy also suffered financial problems from the COVID-19, and Lee eventually got fired.

“After being fired, I had to find a new job to make a living,” Lee said. “But, the reality did not allow me to do it.”

She said that other companies are not hiring new employees but rather reducing the number of employees.

Lee could take this situation as she knew how COVID-19 affected society, but now she has to handle her financial challenges.

While many people are facing economic difficulties, there is a company that has benefited from the COVID-19.

OTK Corp. is one of the small beauty companies located in Asan, South Korea. Han-Jong Kim, CEO of OTK Corp., started his business in 2010 by selling facial sheet masks.

The facial sheet mask is a beauty product made of non-woven fabric containing essence, moisturizing the facial skin.

When COVID-19 just hit South Korea, there was a limit on the number of masks purchased due to a lack of mask supply.

While everyone lined up to buy the masks, Kim turned this situation into an opportunity.

Kim produced masks out of his company’s sheet mask material. Thanks to the COVID-19, he was able to increase sales. Photo illustration by Pauline Yeh-Hyun Cheon.

“I could manufacture tons of masks with a non-woven fabric, which is a material of our sheet mask,” Kim said in Korean in a phone interview.

As a result, his product diversification strategy, applying the mask supply shortage situation, played a crucial role in increasing sales and income by 70%.

However, Kim was also worried about the situation after the end of COVID-19. He foresees sales and income to decline as the supply of masks increases over time.

Kim said that new problems arise with new social situations all the time. He added, “It is one of my challenges to resolve as a leader in an organization.”

Although Kim could generate more sales from the pandemic, he hopes for an end to COVID-19.

As an entrepreneur, Kim knows how difficult this situation can be for other companies.

He also knows that not only many companies but employees and consumers are struggling with COVID-19.

He believes that the economy of South Korea will recover when the pandemic is over. Hence, everyone will be able to live a better life than we are now.

“Even if it is impossible to take off the mask right now,” Kim said, “we will be able to breathe in the hot summer air that is coming up.”