When it came time to decide on a story idea, my heart was set on developing one involving sports and mental health. However, as I searched for sources to interview, I was unlucky in my attempts. I lost my story. I became frightened and unsure as to what I should do next.
I consulted my professor and decided I should pursue another storyline. I immediately decided that my next story would be based in theater. I have a great fondness for theater and performing on stage. I was thrilled about the opportunity to speak with people with the same excitement for theater as I have.
As I searched for sources to interview, I knew the best place to locate them was in the University of Utah Department of Theatre. I was able to interview two professors and a student partaking in theater. The sources provided the best details about key elements in theater production.
Throughout the process of creating my article, I had to change course on what type of story I would write. Although the change of plans frightened me, I grew to connect with my article. Relating to the story with my own individual experiences allowed me to discover the focal point for the article, which is women in theater.
When I began the interview process, I interviewed each of my sources over Zoom. This proved to be a convenient way of communication because I could access my sources right from my living room. With this unique opportunity to receive their thoughts on theater, I wrote down notes throughout the process. As I compiled my thoughts, I discovered my focus. That brought me to the conclusion that women’s importance in theater would become the way I integrated each of the different interviews.
Gathering the women’s quotes became the way I began the writing process for the article. Once I established their thoughts, it helped me form an outline of how I perceived how the article would flow. I learned that the best way for me to write was to create a visual of the outline and set out all my notes in the order I wanted the information to be introduced. However, some details from the interviews did not make it into my final draft. These anecdotes were the connections I made with interviewees when discussing our mutual love for theater. With some we would connect over our appreciation for musicals such as “The Phantom of the Opera,” or “Les Misérables.” Overall, the effort put into the final product has become one of my most memorable experiences.
I am currently a full-time student at the University of Utah. I am majoring in Communication with an emphasis in journalism. I aspire to become a broadcast journalist. With this position in mind, I hope to bring to light important issues and entertain the audience while doing so. In my spare time, I enjoy skiing, running with my dogs, creating graphic designs, singing, and hanging out with friends and family.
After months of tireless work and endless rehearsals, the stage is finally set. A clamoring audience shuffles into their seats and anxiously waits for the lavish curtains to reveal a new world. Behind the curtains, a cast and crew swiftly apply finishing touches to the opening scene. The lights dim and so does the audiences’ chatter. For a moment, the theater is still until music awakes the stage. The performance begins. Everyone holds their breath.
In theater production, various elements take part in creating the world viewed on stage. Women are among the many who assist in the triumph of a production. From the University of Utah Theatre Department, Sarah Shippobotham, Brenda L. Van der Wiel and Savannah Hayes provide insight on how a successful performance is achieved and the importance of women in theater.
Sarah Shippobotham is an actor-training professor at the U. She is associated with the Pioneer Theatre Company at the Simmons Pioneer Memorial Theatre and is a voice and dialect coach. She has also trained as an actor at the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama located in Cardiff, Wales. In an email exchange after a Zoom interview, Shippobotham revealed why women’s representation is significant in theater. She said, “What we are dealing with right now is an underrepresentation of women in theatre while we also deal with the historical underrepresentation of others.”
She added, “Women make up a huge part of society, so it is important that their stories are told – just as it is important that IBPOC (Indigenous, Black, People of Colour) stories are told too.”
Shippobotham has worked on projects with the playwright Jaclyn Backhaus, such as, “Men on Boats,” to aid in more representation. “Men on Boats” focuses on the discovery of the Grand Canyon and Colorado River with all the male characters portrayed by female and nonbinary actors.
Through a Zoom interview, she explained how actor training contributes to a successful theater production. “For me, when people are trained to be actors, they’re trained that acting is an actual skill.” Shippobotham said the voice and body of an actor convey a story that the audience can witness because theater is about telling a story. Without actor training as a core part in theater production, she said a play may not be as impactful for an audience.
In addition to actor training, costume design holds immense importance to the success of a theater production in creating a world in which a story is told. Brenda L. Van der Wiel is an associate professor and the head of the Performing Arts Design Program at the U. She designs for the theater department frequently and designs every year for the Pioneer Theatre Company. Van der Wiel has also designed for the Alabama Shakespeare Festival. Some of her own favorite work has been presented at the festival.
In a Zoom interview, Van der Wiel explained why costume design is an impactful part of theater and how a show is interpreted through costume design. “Every little detail is something that can aid in storytelling, even if it … isn’t something the audience can see, it might be something the actor can internalize [and help] them inhabit the character fully,” she said. Van der Wiel said “even something as simple as a wedding ring” is a decision one must make through the eyes of a character. Costume design in theater assists the audience in identifying a character’s personality. “Theater is all about collaboration,” Van der Wiel said. Constant collaboration is key to executing a director’s vision. In a production, she said, “I think it is amazing when all the elements come together.”
When all the departments come together in collaboration, stage management is an influential part that guides the operations of a theatrical performance. Savannah Hayes is a first-year student at the U. In addition to her studies, she is learning about stage management. Hayes managed theater productions throughout her junior and senior years of high school. She also decided to be a part of a show choir crew and was later offered the position as an assistant stage manager.
Hayes suggested that stage management plays a crucial role in theater. “There just wouldn’t be as much communication,” she said in a Zoom interview. “We help rehearsals and then we run the show too [such as] telling when the lights to go [on].”
To her, stage managers are the “big communicators” who run the production meetings, make sure everyone pitches in their thoughts, and are “everyone’s friend.” Hayes said if anyone needs a Band-Aid or even a pencil, a stage manager would provide what is needed.
In a follow-up email interview, Hayes explained why women’s representation is important in theater. “We can kind of see things a little bit differently than men so we can suggest things they might not think of,” she said. “We can also help inspire young children”
The final scene concludes and the curtains close while a roaring audience applauds the collaborative efforts of the cast and crew. Everyone rejoices in the culmination of the show. For a successful theater production, a variety of people and departments work together to fulfill a director’s vision. Representation of IBPOC and women are historically underrepresented in theater. Savannah Hayes said, “We’re equally as big of a part in theatre as men no matter the area.”
As a Black Muslim woman I have faced many difficulties due to things that were out of my control. These include health disparities, inheriting trauma from war, and living in America. The constant feeling of helplessness depleted my self-confidence and made me afraid to express who I was, all of which has manifested itself in many different ways.
I knew what I wanted to write about as soon as Professor Kim mentioned our enterprise story. I knew it would be different from what my classmates would be writing about. Because of the Black women around me, I was motivated to write about how society plays a role in our lives. At such an early age, we were taught not to show our weaknesses. There would be days when I was so overwhelmed that it showed physically, yet I would still go above and above for whoever came my way. Living in Utah didn’t help. Each day was a different experience. People were staring, pretending to speak broken English and being shocked when I responded in fluent English.
Once I knew the topic of my story, I knew it would be difficult to find a therapist because not many of them are experienced about what Black girls go through, which took a long time. Among the 10 therapists I emailed, only one responded. I found her on Instagram and contacted her privately. However, the conversation went smoothly and she thanked me for writing about this story as it is something society rarely acknowledges.
Fathi Kofiro and Sabrina Abdalla were excellent sources because they both know what it’s like and have experienced it themselves. They are on the other side of it, where they have to learn and unlearn and practice speaking up when something isn’t all right. My goal is to have every other Black girl be comfortable enough to speak up and out. I share my story to encourage others to practice being humble and kind to others. One can never be sure of what another person is going through. Being kind will open many doors in life.
My name is Salma Abdalla I am a second-year University of Utah student. With a minor in Cognitive Science, I intend to major in Communication with an emphasis in Journalism. I am a first-generation African-American student.
My parents were born in Barawa, Somalia, and I was born in Salt Lake City. Somalia was engulfed in civil war in 1991, which has tragically continued to this day. In this turmoil of brutality, many families were killed or separated. My parents made the ultimate choice to flee the country to make sure we grew up in a safe environment. Living every day in Somalia was unpredictable; even waking up in the morning was a miracle.
Being the youngest in the family with not just asthma but eczema, I had a lot of attention that wasn’t conducive to flourishing into a confident person. There were numerous times where I would have an asthma attack and all my mom knew how to do was pray because of her past traumatic experiences. As I have gotten older, I have come to realize that our circumstances do not define us nor are they a reflection of our abilities. Experiences are what make you who you are today. Growing up as a sick child I would be hospitalized 10 times a year. These extended hospital stays affected me physically, emotionally and academically. I have had to work twice as much as my peers. Whereas they tend to understand things as soon as they learn a concept, it often takes me longer.
Witnessing their struggles has motivated me to always strive for the best. It has shown me that opportunities should never be taken for granted. Keeping this in mind, I made a vow to myself that I was going to take advantage of the opportunities that are provided to me. My heart melts and trembles every time I come across a person in difficulty, because I instantly remember the struggles my family and I have overcome. I want to continue helping people throughout my life and I have done that by joining organizations and leading community projects. I want to build strong foundations for people who need and deserve care. The fulfillment I get when helping people shows me the beauty of life.
Reflecting back on all the obstacles my family have been through, I am blessed to be where I am today. The struggles my parents faced reflects on the outcome of my abilities of being adaptable, erudite and always reaching for my goal. The happiness I get from accomplishing my goals is what pushes me to create bigger, daring goals. Goals of pursuing a career in journalism and social work. A quote that always keeps me motivated is, “if you can dream it, you can achieve it.” I believe I can achieve my goals of helping people and making a change. From then on, my boundaries are limitless and time will certainly tell.
Black women are more likely to struggle in society than white women because of systemic racism, discriminatory practices in healthcare and employment, and stereotypes that perpetuate those beliefs. As a consequence, Black women can become desensitized, and harbor more trauma that ultimately leads to physical health afflictions. All of this can also be linked to rapidly deteriorating mental health and emotional stability.
Most Black-identifying women struggle with vulnerability because being open implies losing their shield of shelter. A protective shield learned as a child to combat the systemic inequalities that manifest themselves in different ways. There is a cultural expectation that Black women need to uphold the notion that they are strong and able to tolerate more trauma. This is why Black women battle how vulnerability shows up in their lives.
When people pay close attention to Black women around the world they may wonder, “How often do they speak about their wellness? How often do they speak about their mental health? Have they been able to cry and let go of everything they can’t say aloud?”
When Black women face difficulties or trauma, there is a high chance that it can escalate to physical, mental, and emotional distress. They cry behind bathroom stalls and walk out as if nothing happened or shed tears in front of their steering wheel, while constantly repeating “I need to be strong.”
Other phrases include: “Keep your head up”; “You must be brave”; “Black women never cry.”
“These messages are carried and internalized by Black women, and they influence their adulthood,” said Fathi Kofiro, a therapist and owner of Daryeel Therapy.
Kofiro has a master’s degree in Clinical Social Work and is a licensed graduate in private practice. She also is a certified clinical trauma professional trained in Eye, Movement, Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) and Motivational interviewing, which is trauma training of a combination of advanced training for trauma victims.
Black women have grown up in traumatizing environments due to a variety of factors such as family, financial challenges, health, and school. These factorsgrew so strong that Black women keep spiraling in the same negative mindset, and they eventually become desensitized. “It pushes them into a state of survival mode,” said Kofiro in an email interview. With that being a result, Black women internalize a set of assumptions about themselves and the world.
Kofiro added, “I assist clients with resourcing and unlearning maladaptive coping systems to transition from survival to safety.”
Young Black girls in school try to suppress their feelings for fear of being humiliated. For example, when school isn’t going well, they tend to become overwhelmed and refuse to seek assistance. “I’m afraid to ask for help,” “If this individual looks at me like this or that,” “Would the class laugh if I raise my hands,” and so on.
Sabrina Abdalla said in an interview on Oct. 11, 2021, that even though these issues have existed for a long time, the pandemic has made it more difficult for Black women. She said it made them realize how essential their health is and how critical it is to look after themselves.
“When they wake up every day in isolation, they are confronted with their demons and fears,” said Abdalla, founder of Cirri, a creative wellness platform for Black girls, women, and femmes. “All sense of normalcy is thrown out the window when you wake up to yourself, sleep with yourself, and chat to a computer. All you have are your thoughts and a place to consider them.”
Kofiro said, “Trauma does damage your attention and the quality of your life, women have been failing school due to the stigma of not being able to have rough moments because they are used to being looked at differently, depression and anxiety can be symptoms of trauma. It has an impact on your capacity to do effectively in school. Because trauma alters our neural system, trauma work is essential.”
Kofiro said, “Outside experiences will affect you if those experiences are cyclical and negative. Resiliency means overcoming adversity, but it also means being a change agent in your life once you have overcome adversity.” She continued, “Many people overcome by adapting to their circumstances; however, we sometimes require support and resources for change to occur. For good reasons, the Black community does not always ask for assistance.”
The older these women get, the more they realize how disparities manifest in their daily lives, impact their mental health, and how exhausting their lives can be.
When it comes to healing completely, Black women turn to their communities, finding support groups, therapy, social media of women who look like them and know its education.
Abdalla has fostered a social community to stimulate communal dialogue and inspire, encourage, and give hope to the Black women who come onto the platform. “It’s important to have a community that supports and uplifts you,” said Abdalla, who was profiled in an October 2021 article. “It’s necessary because your community is a reflection of you and your potential. Recognizing a lack of space for creative wellness, particularly for Black women, Black girls, and Black femmes, inspired me to create Cirri. I created it to build the social advancement of Black women through art programming, creative engagement, and collective empowerment. I wanted it to be a space to share resources and encourage everyone to live a creative, well life. My message is to amplify voices and be the mountain created for people to lean on for support in their creative endeavors.”
Each month, Abdalla shares reflective journaling prompts to her community. “The Secrets to a Creative Month is a post of reminders and check-ins at the beginning of each month,” she said. “The words are centered around what Cirri values and intends to promote through our work and content. Reflective journaling prompts, affirmations, and other resources are included in the range.”
October 2021 focused on having an abundant month by cultivating a solidarity mindset to encourage a collective mentality rather than an individualistic outlook on life.
Abdalla creates monthly promotions and workshops for women to learn life skills like writing and becoming the best version of themselves. Weekly and monthly check-ins are vital for Black women’s mental health because they allow them to be vulnerable, and sometimes allow them to open up to others, realizing that they are not alone.
Before the pandemic, Abdalla would host workshops centered around wellness and creativity to give Black women a chance to show their artwork and space to feel comfortable. “Our workshops challenge the stereotype of strong Black women, as well as other damaging stereotypes that limit our expression, and create a space for us to be more vulnerable and reclaim our narratives,” she said.
Support groups, workshops, and social media show hope that Black women will not be in that cycle forever.
Practicing self-care and building the woman they want to be, not waiting for the right day to come but including daily habits to increase that mentality that they deserve to be treated with love, respect, and equality.
Abdalla recommends the following self care tips: creativity, water and healthy eating habits, surrounding themselves with a community of friends that care for them and help them succeed, and to check in with themselves and identify what has been hurting them.
To break from the cycle, individuals must confront the obstacles they face. Once the storm has passed, they’ll forget how much they have suffered in silence.
But one thing is for sure. Once the barrier has passed, they become more knowledgeable and informed. They can encourage children to live the life they wish they could. And break the cycle.
I can’t recall a specific time in my life when I fell in love with photography. It’s been more of a constant companion to me, a comfort in this crazy life, something I can always come back to. It’s dependable. It’s exciting. And most importantly, it’s a much-needed creative outlet for my restless mind that seems incapable of slowing down.
I didn’t grow up with a crazy amount of photography exposure. it was never a “hobby” to anyone in my family. Nevertheless, I was fascinated with it from a very young age. I think what got my attention in the first place was the idea behind capturing moments in life, of freezing pieces of time, of documenting memories in a tangible form that I can look back on in the future. When I take pictures, I feel like a type of magician. Like I’m doing voodoo. It’s exhilarating and it fills me with an unexplainable adrenaline – every time.
Since photography is always on my mind (more or less), it was a no-brainer to base my enterprise story on the topic. One area of photography that I’ve always been interested in but haven’t got around to really studying or practicing is darkroom photography – which is why it was perfect to dive into it for this story.
It was surprisingly easy to find sources for my story since I am currently in a photography class at the University of Utah – to fulfill my minor in photography – and most everyone I reached out to was very excited and willing to speak to me about my topic. The first person I contacted was my current photography professor, who was more than happy to help me out. Then I contacted the owner of the darkroom studio in Salt Lake City, who was also extremely nice and forthcoming with information. I only came across one hiccup with finding my third source, but I ended up reaching out to the president of the Photo Club at the U and he contributed perfectly to the direction of the story. I couldn’t be happier with the sources I got to communicate with for this project!
Overall, I had smooth sailing in this venture of playing journalist for the first time. Besides one source not responding and having to conduct one interview over email (due to busy schedules), it couldn’t have gone better. The only thing I struggled with was trying to narrow down all the information I collected and pick a focus. Which in all reality, is the best problem I could’ve had, so nothing too major to complain about.
The most important thing I learned through the writing process is that you just have to sit down and write. That’s all it takes! But boy did I struggle with just getting a story down on paper. I’m not a procrastinator, never have been, but for some reason this project intimidated me immensely. I think it’s the fact that I have absolutely zero experience in this type of writing, and it scared me because I just had to jump in and do it. Plus, the hardest part for me of any writing project is starting. I made it through though and came out realizing that it was easier than I thought. I just had to find the courage to begin and realize that everything would turn out just fine.
It was an interesting and great experience to learn more about a topic I’m interested in, in a journalist mindset. I’m grateful that I was forced (in a sense) to write a story like this, because I learned that I really love it. Which is good considering it’s the career field I plan to go into.
I’m a busy bee, I always need to be doing something.
Whether that’s photography, sports, reading, journaling, playing the ukulele, running, outdoor activities and spending time with family and friends. My faith in God is the biggest part of my life, and I try my best to live that out every day. I also really enjoy learning and school. At the University of Utah, I am studying journalism and international studies, along with a minor in photography.
I hope to work for a company like National Geographic as a traveling photographer/journalist at some point. My goal is to travel the world and experience all the different cultures and tell all the stories of everyone from everywhere. We all have stories to tell that can contribute to and change the world, I hope to be the one to tell them.
The smell of chemicals, the sound of running water. The serenity emitting from the dim glow of the small light fixture hanging from the ceiling, coating the room in an amber ambiance. Mind and body follow a rhythm, movements become melody as the outside world dissolves into the darkness of the surrounding four walls. Magic becomes material as an image appears on the liquid-submerged paper, making ripples as it sways beneath the surface.
Photography is a centuries-old art form that continues to affect and contribute to how we view the world we live in. The concept of photography has been around since the early 1800s and is constantly developing and evolving into what we know it to be today and what we will know it to be in the future.
Darkroom photography was the original – and only – form of photography available in the world until somewhat recently. Only within the last few decades has digital photography taken over, and almost completely pushed film photography out of the picture.
However, there are still artists and community members who appreciate film photography and acknowledge its history as an art form. Here in Salt Lake City, Dave Azul Brewer co-owns Photo Collective Studios. The experienced photographer started that business in 2011.
In 2016, he and his business partner Jessica Jude bought the Clubhouse on South Temple. The Ladies Literary Club had owned that building for 100 years and wanted to find a new owner who would keep it open to the public for art and expression. Brewer and Jude remodeled the building and made it wheelchair accessible with a historic grant that they won in the spring of 2021.
Photo Collective Studios was operating at its original location and the Clubhouse until 2019, when Brewer relocated that business to the Clubhouse. Brewer explained that they are separate businesses. The Clubhouse functions as more of an event space and the studio is a place for photographers to work out of.
“There’s no other building like it in Salt Lake City,” Brewer said. Some of its main attractions include: a stage overlooking a ballroom floor, a front patio, a backstage barber shop and bride’s lounge used for hair and makeup, and a balcony upstairs that serves as a part of the photo studio. The building also includes the only functioning public dark room in the city, down in the basement.
The studio offers public access to professional photography equipment, backdrops, and lighting at an hourly rate. The studio even offers film developing classes that take place every Monday for those interested in learning how to work in the darkroom. It’s also open to those who are familiar with the art and just need a space to develop photos.
“My goal is to create an experience where people feel comfortable and encouraged to create on their own,” Brewer said. Photo Collective Studios not only offers the only public darkroom in the city – aside from the one at the University of Utah – but also provides a much-needed space for artists to pursue their creative goals.
Brewer said his favorite thing about Photo Collective Studios is “connecting with various photographers from various backgrounds and skill sets and recognizing that we can all learn something from each other.”
Brewer said it’s “more important now than ever to keep darkroom photography alive because it is such a timeless art form and with the introduction of digital photography it has quickly become almost obsolete.” He explained that in his career he went from knowing film photography as the standard to digital becoming the standard, “almost overnight.”
Yet the processes used in digital photography stem directly from techniques that are used in the darkroom. There are buttons in Photoshop that have been transferred over from steps of developing film. That alone shows just how important darkroom photography is, even in the digital world we live in.
Edward Bateman has been a professor of various photography classes – Art History of Photography and Digital Imaging for Visual Artists to name a few – at the University of Utah since 2008. He is very passionate about photography and how it impacts our world.
“Chemical has the ability for surprises to happen, things that you’d never imagine, things you couldn’t predict, it can be really exciting,” Bateman said.
Even though Bateman would say that he prefers digital photography – because that’s what he is known for – he likes darkroom photography because “it’s meditative, things go at its own speed, things have its own pace.”
Regarding the appeals of film photography, Bateman also said, “People like the tactile, the tangible quality of actually interacting with something as more and more things become virtual.”
John Moffitt, the president of the Photo Club at the U shares a similar view on photography.
“I genuinely enjoy both digital and darkroom photography. I use both for different things. I honestly couldn’t imagine photography without a darkroom and a computer,” Moffitt said in an email interview.
Moffitt is a senior at the U and is studying operations and supply chain management and photography. He became the president of the club in the summer of 2021 and says that the purpose of the club is to provide a community on campus for students who are interested in photography.
“There is nothing that will transform the way a photographer sees and works faster than a darkroom. Working in a darkroom used to be the ‘norm’ and I think photographers were better off because of it. Even for photographers that don’t plan on using film indefinitely, working in a darkroom for even just a few months can be a transformative process,” Moffitt said
Despite the impact that the art of the past – film photography – has had on the art of the present – digital photography – it’s undeniable that darkroom photography has fallen into the shadows of the art world.
As Brewer said, “There are enough film lovers and film enthusiasts that recognize its uniqueness that I believe as creatives, as artists, we have enough desire to keep it alive.”
I came up with the idea for my story from a colleague of mine who said he had recently joined the esports team. Having heard nothing about this, I was highly intrigued and decided to learn more about the program. I have always played video games with friends growing up and was amazed that there are competitive environments on a collegiate level. The story idea was a perfect blend of the interest I already had coupled with the curiosity of esports.
Through my co-worker, I was able to get in touch with the three sources I used for the story. He helped me join the Utah esports discord server and from there I was able to contact players easily through the platform. I also researched a large amount about esports itself through multiple websites and published articles.
I decided to use these three sources in particular because they were each a part of different Utah esports teams. This way I was able to hear from three different sections of esports and not have my knowledge limited by just one or two of their teams. Additionally, all of my sources had been a part of their respective clubs for more than a year, so they were very familiar with the program.
At first, I struggled with the writing process because I was not sure how I wanted to build my lead and introduce the topic. After multiple drafts, I finally found the right way to start it off and the rest of the story flowed easily. My sources gave me great quotes to use, which helped to make the body and conclusion.
I was shocked to learn how popular esports is and how much money has been awarded at large tournaments. I am excited to see what the future has in store for this sport and how it will progress.
Jonathan Little was born in Las Vegas and lived there for 12 years before moving to Boise, Idaho, to graduate high school. After he graduated, Jonathan moved to Salt Lake City where he began studying at the University of Utah.
Jonathan is currently a fourth-year student studying communication with an emphasis in journalism. He found his passion for writing in high school when two of his English teachers opened his eyes to the joy of writing. He also found a passion for music after playing alto saxophone in his high school jazz band.
He hopes to one day work as an entertainment journalist for popular magazines like Rolling Stone, Billboard, or Genius. His dream is to combine his two interests into the perfect career in the music entertainment world.
When it comes to collegiate sports, most individuals often envision football, basketball, or soccer.
These sports have been around for many years and sit comfortably at the top of American popularity. And in terms of financial success, most universities earn a considerable amount from these sports. At the University of Utah, most revenue is seen from these three sports.
Although these sports seem to dominate the athletic world, a new one is slowly making itself known. This game is known as esports.
Esports is defined as a multiplayer video game played competitively for spectators, typically by professional gamers. Esports has started exploding in popularity in recent years as competitive gaming is getting more attention.
While it seems that professional gaming could not have much money in it, recent tournaments have proven how much of a presence esports really is. According to Esports Charts, in 2019 a tournament titled “The International 2019” featured the video game “Dota 2” with a staggering prize pool of $34.3 million.
This kind of success is seen worldwide with hundreds of different video games being played. Esports is also seeing attention in schools across the U.S. with major universities such as Ohio State, Boise State, UC-Boulder, University of Utah and many more adopting esports teams.
Utah’s esports program has been growing rapidly in popularity, adopting popular video games Rocket League, Hearthstone, League of Legends, and Overwatch. The university also plans to add more games to its competitive portfolio in the near future.
Senior Ryan Murphy is a member of the Hearthstone club team at the U. Utah esports divides teams into varsity, junior varsity, and club levels for all games.
“It’s so awesome to be a part of something like this,” senior Ryan Murphy said. “I always played video games growing up and it has been such a great experience getting the chance to play for my school.”
The division of teams allows players to decide how competitively they want to play.
“It’s nice to be able to join the club team and have a chance to work my way up to a higher level,” Rocket League club player Casey Sturtevant said over Zoom. “This way I can be as competitive as I want and don’t necessarily have to dedicate a lot of time to it.”
With major support from the Entertainment Arts and Engineering program, Utah esports has given students the chance to play the games they love on a collegiate and club level.
Sturtevant explains he did not play sports growing up, and the inclusive environment the esports program has provided for students finally gave him the sense of belonging to a team that he has never had.
League of Legends player Nick Riggio said the scholarship program for esports at the U is great and provides many players the opportunity to play the games they love and pursue a higher education.
Riggio has been a member of the League of Legends club team since he was a junior. He said it has been one of the most fun experiences in his college career.
“I honestly believe that professional esports will be as popular as professional football and soccer one day,” Riggio said in a Zoom interview. “So many kids growing up today play video games, and the competitive platform for gaming keeps growing with no end in sight.”
My enterprise story started out as a profile of a specific club at the University of Utah. However, my attempts to contact the president and vice president of the club failed. I shifted my focus to another club, but I did not receive any responses from that organization either. I tried to reach out to the associate director of student leadership and involvement so I could interview a member of the administration, but I did not hear back from them. I was not expecting contacting sources to be the most difficult aspect.
I finally received an email from Josh Olszewski, the student organizations coordinator, who had been sent my interview request by the other administrator. It was at this point that I decided to make my story about the importance of clubs at the university.
In our interview, Olszewski pointed me in the direction of the Women’s Outdoor Leadership Initiative and the University of Utah Beekeepers Association. Olszewski said these clubs were good representatives to contact. I managed to get in contact with the presidents, Emma Taylor and Amalia Friess respectively, and I interviewed them.
Amalia Friess invited me to observe a club meeting right after our interview. While the information from that meeting did not fit my story, I was personally interested in it. I enjoyed the meeting, and I hope to be able to attend some hive inspections with the club in the spring.
Once I began to write my story, I discovered that my story could only be as good as the interviews that built it. I found that my last interview provided me with the most useable information because I had practiced my interviewing skills twice by then. I combed through my recordings of the interviews and focused on the quotes and information that seemed the most impactful to me. I built my story around that information, and it led to the most natural and engaging result.
I am a full-time student at the University of Utah, and I aim to graduate with a bachelor’s degree in communication in 2024. I am an aspiring journalist, musician, and lyricist. I grew up in a house filled with classic rock from my dad and classical from my mom. My mom taught me to play the piano when I was growing up, but I switched to guitar so I could play the rock music I loved. I have been playing guitar for over eight years.
Music plays a major role in my life and interests, including journalism. I hope to be able to make a living writing about the art I love. Being able to interview and write about artists, especially the guitarists I idolize, is my dream career.
It was during a backpacking expedition that the University of Utah student, Emma Taylor, noticed how large the gender gap is in outdoor activities. The men moved quicker than the women in the group did. Therefore, the long-legged men navigated and led the group.
After resolving the issue within the group, Taylor and her friends discussed how to foster a safe and inclusive environment for women in the outdoors.
“So it’s kind of like on this trip and we’re thinking, how do we do this, how do we do this, and then the idea for a club came up,” Taylor said in a Zoom interview.
The Women’s Outdoor Leadership Initiative is one of over 550 Recognized Student Organizations at the University of Utah. Student organizations provide opportunities for students that they would otherwise have to find off-campus. The university contributes to the symbiotic relationship between it and the student organizations by providing resources and advising.
The Women’s Outdoor Leadership Initiative was established in August 2021, making it one of the newest student organizations at the university. The organization already has about 70 members. The primary goal of the initiative is to provide women with skills and confidence in the outdoors.
“The hope is that they can take that with them, be more independent, and then get more of their friends out there so we slowly start to kind of change that gender gap within the outdoor industry,” said Taylor, who is the president of the club.
To accomplish its goal, the organization hosts a monthly course on an outdoor skill and a monthly community bonding meeting. The courses have covered the set of ethics put forth by the Leave No Trace organization, wilderness medicine certification, and backcountry navigation.
As winter approaches, the organization is planning an avalanche certification course, ski trips, and volunteer opportunities at the National Ability Center.
The outdoor setting of the club provides students with learning opportunities outside of the classroom. “You’re constantly just kind of having to manage risk, manage your group, manage all these different settings around you,” Taylor said.
The club is classified as a Registered Student Organization. This means that the organization is not affiliated with a department at the university. RSOs are the most autonomous classification.
Student organizations can also be classified as affiliated or sponsored. Affiliated clubs are still separate from the university; however, they are tied to a department and have access to some university resources and an advisor.
Sponsored student organizations are part of a department and must follow its rules. This classification also receives an advisor and the most support from the university.
The U’s Beekeepers Association was started about 10 years ago and boasts hundreds of members. Amalia Friess has been president for two years and was an active member for two years before assuming that role.
The organization has nine honeybee hives in continuously changing locations on campus. The hives are inspected by the organization at least monthly. The inspections can be attended by anyone.
Friess said taking care of the bees was like having pets. “These are live animals that you’re working with.”
Educational presentations are given to the club by the members themselves. They also give presentations to elementary schools, Boy Scouts, and others. The talks focus on the importance of honeybees and native pollinators.
“If the pollinators are gone, that means that our plants are going to be gone. And that’s the foundation of our whole ecosystem,” Friess said in a Zoom interview.
The beekeepers harvest honey and wax from their hives once a year. The wax, which is made into candles and lip balm, is then given away to those who participate in events or sold along with the honey.
Friess estimates that 40% of the organization’s funds come from honey, wax product, and merchandise sales. The rest of the funds come from the Associated Students of the University of Utah, a perk of being a Sponsored Student Organization.
The Beekeepers Association provides students with an easy way to start beekeeping, an otherwise difficult field to join. The university also benefits from the community engagement.
“From research, we know that students who get involved tend to have higher GPAs, they tend to feel a stronger sense of belonging on campus, and students who feel like they belong on campus tend to stay,” said Josh Olszewski, the student organizations coordinator for the university.
The broad selection of clubs is an incentive for prospective students to enroll at the U.
Olszewski said having student organizations helps students find community, support groups, and opportunities to build skills outside of the classroom. Students benefit from clubs regardless of the focus of the entity.
Student organizations have raised awareness for immigration laws, mental health, and COVID-19, Olszewski said in a Zoom interview. “These are student-led initiatives that I think raise awareness to the broader community and to the institution as a whole.”
Transitioning from living in a coastal neighborhood to Salt Lake City has definitely been a big change. I began noticing all the community gardens that we had in the area here. I developed my story off of my main interest in these gardens and how they benefit the community and its residents. Especially while being a new resident of Salt Lake City, I wanted to get a feel for the main benefits of community gardens.
The first step I took was choosing the main garden that I wanted to focus on. Once I came to the conclusion that I was going to focus on the Wasatch Community Gardens, the next step I took to find my sources was familiarizing myself with the website. Then, I read about what it had to offer and decided what I wanted my story to focus on. Once I had my main points chosen, I went to the Board and Staff tab on the website and mentally selected the best candidates I thought would help with my story.
I reached out to the staff members with the emails provided and asked if they would be willing to meet with me and answer some questions. Since I wanted to also write from a community standpoint, I reached out to a community member. My goal was to get a real opinion on what it is like living with and near a community garden. I feel I chose the best sources for my story because they are the most educated on my chosen topics.
I encountered some obstacles with people not getting back to me in time. I got a lot of responses referring me to other people. However, I was then having a tough time getting responses from the references. Because of the pandemic and busy schedules, one of my interviews was held over the phone.
In order to make sense of all the information I gathered, I created a story outline. I organized all of the quotes I wanted to use and the main points that I was making and created a story map to prepare for the writing process. I found the writing process to be very enjoyable. I learned many new things about what the garden has to offer and enjoyed getting to share that knowledge. I was surprised by how much I learned about the community garden and how much it really does for the community.
Although the garden is very pretty and fun, that is not all it is. It helps bring jobs to people in need and offers free pick zones to help feed the residents with organic and healthy produce. The Wasatch Community Gardens really does a lot of good and cares deeply about its community and what it grows.
My name is Leah Beehler and I am currently a full time student at the University of Utah working to earn a degree in Communication. My passion for writing and reading began in high school and my English courses. Throughout my high school years I was involved in a full-time, strenuous sport which taught me time management and how to be dependable. I have now integrated those skills in my journalism. Through my honesty, excitement, and drive I aspire to be accurate and respectful with my writing.
In my free time, I enjoy sitting and reading a good book, going for walks, and spending time with my family. I also love to travel and experience new cultures and lifestyles. My lifetime and family experiences drive my curiosity in people and their stories.
“You don’t need to speak the same language as someone else, you don’t need to look the same or have the same background to be able to get your hands in the dirt and create something together,” said Georgina Griffith-Yates, the current executive director. Located at 600 E. 800 South in the central hub of Salt Lake City, the living oasis is focused on bringing the community together and growing local food, while also striving to educate.
The mission of the Gardens is to empower people to grow and eat healthy, organic, local food.
The Community Garden Program, Community Education Program, Youth and School Program, and the Job Training Program are the ways in which the Gardens accomplish that mission.
According to its website, the Community Garden Program is a way for the people in the community to “come and gain hands-on skills through [the] series of organic gardening workshops.” There are a total of 16 gardens throughout the county to apply what you learn during the workshops.
The Community Education Program targets not only real-life experience but also shares real knowledge of the food and how to grow it with the members of the community. It additionally focuses on hosting workshops and events that show people how to translate what they learn during classes to their home and how to make use of what they grow. “It is not just a get together — there is a lot of information provided to you and resources,” said Kerrie Toner, a member of the community and volunteer.
After the informative sessions and workshops, the Gardens provide many recipes to try yourself, how to perform a soil analysis with ingredients you have at home, and natural remedies that can help with colds and sickness.
“Another thing they offer is how to properly compost and get rid of pests naturally and organically,” Toner said.
Events and workshops are beneficial to the community because they are a chance to bring people together and build relationships. “Having in-person connection points, there is no substitute for that,” said Amber Nichols in a phone interview. Nichols is the outreach and volunteer director. Volunteering is a big part of the Wasatch Community Gardens and how it includes the community. If you are interested in volunteering, you can sign up by filling out the online form.
The goal for volunteers is to learn while also making sure they have fun. They are able to be there for a couple hours and offer services while learning about the plants, seeds, and soil.
Volunteers are able to plant seeds that will grow and later be available for purchase at the plant sale. They also work to beautify the gardens and harvest fruit.
The Youth and School Program is designed to teach kids about food and where food comes from. According to its website, “kids ages 4-12, are invited to learn in the [the] productive school garden program.”
Kids are encouraged to see that food is more than fast food. They have the power to take a small seed and grow something that is healthy and safe.
The Job Training Program is available to help women who are experiencing homelessness be reintegrated into a job setting and be hired once the program is over.
The program is a one-year-long process and is very beneficial for the participants and their futures. As well as helping the women get jobs, the Gardens also has a free pick zone for the community.
The free pick zone provides a source of clean fruits and vegetables, such as strawberries and tomatoes, to people passing by and those who can’t afford organic produce from the grocery store, and kids in the community who are learning what they like.
On the Gardens campus is a fully functioning kitchen that is used to cook meals and prepare food for the guests and volunteers. The food used and eaten is all grown at the campus.
Community outreach and happiness is a big importance for the Gardens. “They want to work with the community and are very community driven,” said Toner, a member of the community and volunteer.
There are many cultures and people in a large city. The gardens focus on the diverse histories of people, food, and agriculture. They do this by offering a different variety of plants and different land plots to adhere to history and culture.
The Wasatch Community Gardens is a great green, open space in a city and is a huge learning outlet. It is also a large benefit to the community by bringing them together, getting them out of the house, meeting new people, and learning new things that they can implement in their own homes and at-home gardens.
After having a few ideas fall through for a story involving the pandemic, I started wondering how a larger company and its employees were adapting during these times. Through a family connection I was able to interview three people with varying positions in departments within the L3 Harris company. Since each person was in a unique situation, they were able to give a different perspective on how their departments were operating.
The pandemic provided some easy and difficult aspects with the interviewing process. It was easier in terms of response time from the interviewees. Since many people have adapted to online communication, I was able to complete two interviews quickly and effectively through email. Complications did occur with one interview involving Zoom, however. A few times during the interview there were periods of the screen and sound freezing, so there would be repeats of discussion.
Once I had all my information gathered from the questions I had asked, I realized my focus had pivoted slightly. I was originally focused on wanting to know what kind of procedural changes and problems a company was facing during the pandemic. But after reviewing the questions I had asked, I realized I wanted to know more about how the people themselves were managing procedures and obstacles within the company through their perspective. I enjoyed it and felt surprised about the process of communicating connections and differences within each person’s experience. By that I mean describing how each employee had different obstacles, yet those obstacles connected to the bigger picture of facing a pandemic together.
Watching the news since the start of the pandemic gave me anxieties over businesses crashing and not being able to bounce back. But after interviewing the employees of at least one company, I feel better in knowing that they are managing just fine.
I grew up reading book after book and was always creating art, and those passions have travelled over to my secondary education.
I am a University of Utah student and will be graduating in spring 2022. I will be receiving my Bachelor of Science in writing and rhetoric studies and a minor in animation. I am a writer and an artist who hopes to use my work to shed light on topics such as environmental awareness and mental health advocacy.
The pandemic doesn’t have an end in sight and many companies have adapted to this new normal while facing its challenges. L3 Harris is one of those companies.
L3 Harris is an international company with over 46,000 employees in 100 countries that focuses on communications technology with the U.S. military. The company’s headquarters are in Melbourne, Florida, and have carried out coronavirus protocols to all its other locations.
Three employees from the Salt Lake City location share their pandemic-related experiences while working for their respective departments.
Brian Strohm works as the associate manager of the shipping department. Leading his team of 14 people and having communication with other departments became one of his main worries during the pandemic.
He said the company had been accustomed to in-person meetings and operations, most of that transferred to using Skype and Zoom within a short time.
Online meetings were a struggle for the shipping department due to time zone clashes and technical lagging on the platforms. Emails became a huge obstacle and created a lot of confusion. Before the pandemic, Strohm could walk to a person’s desk if he had a question about emails. It’s not an option now that people are working from home or closing their office doors.
“Sometimes you won’t get an email back for another 40 minutes because they’re not there,” he said in a Zoom interview.
Another adaptation Strohm had to worry about was how the supplies were coming in. Supplies come from ordering through vendors and L3 Harris’ products come from various ways including trucking companies.
If one vendor is shutting down, Strohm said the department would have to work around that and find another one, which creates delays and extra time.
Trucking became another obstacle for a couple of reasons.
Strohm said that due to the pandemic, trucking companies like FedEx had to change shipping procedures by not taking as much quantity of products. This happened because FedEx was used for carrying out and delivering a portion of the COVID-19 vaccines once they were created. That meant companies like L3 Harris and its products became secondary to the vaccines.
It’s strange enough to adapt to a pandemic when working with a company, but imagine working for a new company in the middle of a pandemic. That’s what happened to Daniel Boland when he joined the shipping department of L3 Harris in August 2020.
Boland joined the company when pandemic restrictions were in effect at the workplace. He explained that it was strange to start working for a new company while meeting everyone with face masks and having a mandatory temperature screening before clocking into work each day.
“There were also a lot of people still working from home at the time, so it seemed like a big campus without a lot of people physically at work,” Boland said in an email interview.
Much like Strohm, Boland noticed challenges with communication in the workplace.
Boland experienced communication problems at other companies he has worked for, and he noticed the pandemic further increased these problems. “If you add in the pandemic and a lot of decision makers working off-site, it adds to the communication issues,” he said.
While Strohm and Boland were at the workplace physically, employees like Melissa Schut worked from home during the height of the pandemic. And that brought just as many challenges, if not more.
The associate manager of facilities said her teams struggled more with collaborations. And keeping others motivated to keep up with their work and getting responses in a timely manner became more of a hope rather than a reality.
“There was personal, emotional struggles with not seeing people, staying inside, not feeling part of anything,” Schut explained in an email interview. Working from home created environments of emotional disconnect.
She also described the communication with employees being more on edge, and people seeming more irritated toward any changes that happen.
Even when working at home, supply and material shortages are affecting her work within the department. Schut said it’s difficult to make sure materials go to those who are physically at work for projects, materials like safety glasses, pre-made lab doors, wood, and even hazmat suits.
Just like the shipping department, the facilities department has been adapting and managing in its own way. For Schut’s department, in-person meetings haven’t occurred since March 2020. Instead, her team utilize Skype and other virtual platforms.
Schut has currently returned to work physically for part of the time. She said the interactions between people are slowly reverting to being more normal.
Keeping a company on its feet during the pandemic is a feat in its own. And just like every company across the U.S., L3 Harris has been trying to work out the kinks when it comes to communication between employees, managing supply shortages, and other endless situations.
A company is best set for success when preparing for a situation and adapting accordingly. As Strohm put it, “What we did is we prepared for the worst.”
I had been thinking about this story since before I had taken a journalism class. In fact, this story is part of what convinced me to start taking journalism classes at all. I was frustrated that the story of Little Cottonwood wasn’t being told as much as I thought it should be. Thus, coming up with the idea for my story was natural. I was passionate about the topic going into the project, and that passion only grew during the process.
I knew right away what organizations I wanted to contact for this story. Salt Lake Climbers Alliance was the obvious choice, as it is the organization at the forefront of the conversations about Little Cottonwood Canyon, advocating for protection of climbing. I also knew I had to get in contact with UDOT, as it is the driving force behind the potential upcoming changes to the canyon.
My source at SLCA was David Carter, the chair of the policy and conservation committee. He was extremely receptive to me and my request for an interview. I was pleasantly surprised that he was not only willing to do an interview, but he also seemed genuinely excited to talk to me about an issue he was clearly passionate about. The interview felt very natural and conversational, and it was highly informative on the opinions of SLCA, and what the organization proposes as alternatives to UDOT’s current favored policies.
My sources at UDOT, Josh Van Jura and John Gleason, were also very helpful to me in crafting my story. While it took much longer to get in contact with them, they were happy to tell their side of the story. Even though UDOT’s proposals distress me, I am grateful for the information they provided.
This brings me to the moral dilemma I experienced when crafting my story: I feel very strongly that UDOT is dead wrong about the proposed traffic solutions in Little Cottonwood. I wondered, before the interviews, if my opinion would shift more to center between these opposing organizations after talking to both sides. The opposite happened. When writing, I found it difficult to remain objective. To address this, I did my best to provide both sides with the same amount of representation in the article. Luckily, all my sources gave me plenty of information; I could have written pages more for each of my sources, so providing equal representation in my article was not much of a challenge.
My sources were what made this story so enjoyable to write. I am very happy with my decision to interview sources who are on opposite sides of an issue, and this is something that I will take with me to future articles. Hearing my sources address the ideas of their opposition and offer a rebuttal made my article both easy to write and, I hope, interesting to read.
I am a full-time student at the University of Utah pursuing a degree in communication with an emphasis in journalism. After starting my academic career in the chemistry department, I realized journalism was the best way for me to explore my passion for the outdoors in a productive way. I plan to use my platform as a journalist to bring awareness to issues important to me, such as environmental and social justice. My hobbies have been shaped by the communities I have grown up in, and by extension they have influenced what I’m passionate about. These hobbies include rock climbing, skiing, and skateboarding. I also enjoy cooking and playing the violin.
If you’ve driven in Little Cottonwood Canyon in the past few years, the problems it faces are hard to miss. The narrow road creates traffic backups that can stretch far out of the mouth of the canyon in winter months, when snowy conditions compound its problems. Add to this the hundreds of thousands of annual visitors, and it’s clear to see why people are calling for an update to transportation up and down Little Cottonwood.
The Utah Department of Transportation has two updates in mind. One is an added shoulder for busses to travel on. The other is a gondola stretching from the mouth of the canyon to the ski resorts Alta and Snowbird.
Both proposed solutions aim to improve traffic flow in Little Cottonwood, near Salt Lake City. But both of UDOT’s proposals will also have an irreversible impact on rock climbing in the canyon, and that has activists and community members worried.
“That is potentially the biggest threat to loss of climbing resources and climbing access that we’ve seen on the Wasatch Front in a couple decades,” David Carter said in an interview over Zoom. Carter works on the board of directors for the Salt Lake Climbers Alliance, an advocacy group that aims to protect access to rock climbing in the Wasatch mountain range. He also serves as the chair of the SLCA’s policy and conservation committee.
Carter said the potential road widening and gondola construction come with their own unique impacts to climbing in the canyon.
“Widening of the road is certainly the greatest of potential impact,” Carter said. “There we’re looking at dozens of boulders that could potentially be destroyed, and hundreds of bouldering problems.”
Destruction of boulders isn’t the only impact that SLCA is worried about. Carter said that changes to the overall climbing experience will inevitably be a pitfall of the proposals.
“It basically impacts any climbing that happens in that main canyon corridor, because if you’re climbing at the Gate Buttress you’re going to look over and be level with gondolas running by,” Carter said. Gate Buttress is one of the most popular rock climbing walls in Little Cottonwood.
However, destruction of climbing resources remains Carter’s main concern. “The roadway widening — it’s hard to see how that would not result in permanent loss of iconic, world-class bouldering.”
These are concerns that UDOT has heard from SLCA on numerous occasions, said Josh Van Jura, project manager at UDOT.
“They’re obviously very concerned with boulders being removed, as well as the viewshed,” Van Jura said in a phone interview. Viewshed refers to an impact on scenery by structures or pollution.
Van Jura explained that UDOT plans to eliminate roadside parking in Little Cottonwood, a move that aims to address safety concerns created by people walking up and down the busy, narrow street. This would also help to prevent road erosion and environmental strain caused by “spider trails,” paths created by many people walking to a similar destination from different starting points, Van Jura said. To make up for lost parking, UDOT plans to build four new parking areas, which he said would keep the total number of parking spots about the same.
Carter disagrees that the number of spaces is all that matters. He said SLCA understands the safety concerns created by roadside parking in the canyon, but these changes to parking will inevitably lead to a loss of access to climbing resources.
“We’ve been working in good faith to help improve the safety of the situation and we feel like the needs of climbers and other dispersed recreators haven’t been taken into account,” Carter said.
UDOT created an environmental impact statement, or EIS, to analyze the potential effects of the proposed projects. These projects have been narrowed down to an added shoulder lane or gondola. However, “a no-action alternative is always considered as an alternative,” Van Jura said. UDOT also collected public comments about the impact statement in order to make sure its analysis was complete.
“One of the preferred alternatives comes from the last comment summary,” John Gleason said in a phone interview. He is the public information officer at UDOT. “We have received over 13,000 comments on the EIS. We will undoubtedly have a better EIS because of it.”
The goal of obtaining these comments was to make sure UDOT had conducted a complete analysis. “The goal is not a vote,” Van Jura said about the public comment period.
SLCA has submitted its own public comments to UDOT, in conjunction with its meetings with UDOT officials. While SLCA agrees that something has to be done to mitigate traffic in Little Cottonwood, Carter says UDOT’s two preferred alternatives are going too far, when cheaper and less impactful alternatives have yet to be explored.
“Our No. 1 message is, let’s not start with very costly, very impactful, permanent infrastructure changes. It’s irreversible, it’s irresponsible from a policy perspective,” Carter said.
Carter said SLCA is in favor of more flexible, less impactful traffic mitigation solutions, such as increased busses and tolling.
“Why not try those measures to see if you can get that many folks off the road before we go build a gondola or widen the road,” Carter said.
The idea for my enterprise story initially came to me during one of our class sessions when I was thinking about topics that interest me. I am an avid skier and got the idea to look into some of the all-female ski groups that I know of in the area. This appealed to me because I love skiing and wanted to document the growing inclusivity in the sport. Because I am not a member of any of the groups I focused on, I was still detached enough to tell their story objectively.
I primarily used Instagram to locate and contact my sources. My sources were all younger people, so I thought I would be more likely to receive a quick response if I reached out to them via Instagram direct message instead of email. This suspicion turned out to be correct — each of my sources got back to me the same day I reached out. This strategy also made sense because the Salt Lake Sisterhood functions primarily as an Instagram page. From there, I was able to see people who were tagged in posts or mentioned in comments to find some options for my sources. I think that the sources I ended up with were a perfect selection for my story.
Nicole Weaver, as the local representative for a global organization, demonstrated the link between changes here in Utah and a wider movement of inclusivity. She was passionate about Womb Tang and had a lot to share about the group.
Sarah McMath was a great source to talk to about her initiative, Alta Lady Shred, which, although it was put on hold the past couple of seasons due to the pandemic, was founded back in 2017. She had a great perspective and was able to reflect on how things have changed since she started the group.
McMath was also a segue to the Salt Lake Sisterhood and my next source, Clare Chapman because they are close friends and coordinated Lady Shred together. Chapman could then talk more about the Salt Lake Sisterhood page, which she runs by herself, and connect back to McMath, who has been a long-time supporter of the project.
Making sense of the information I compiled was one of my biggest challenges. I used Otter to transcribe my recordings. After the interviews, I combed through the text, picking out the most important information and themes and copying down quotes that had potential. After doing this with all three interviews, I began to narrow down what I had collected and piece it into a preliminary order. This became a long and messy draft, which is not uncommon with my writing projects. But the process helped me discover a theme that emerged in each interview, which was the shifting narrative from competition between women in skiing to the idea of uplifting one another instead.
In terms of my writing process, I often struggle with stripping down my stories to create something compact and complete. This assignment was a good exercise in condensing a lot of information into a small amount of text and making hard decisions about what to include.
Overall, I didn’t experience too many setbacks or major dilemmas while writing this story. However, due to my sources’ availability, I had to conduct two of the interviews the week the story was due, which didn’t give me much time to piece together my draft. However, it was good to practice writing a piece under a tight deadline.
Although I was initially nervous to reach out to sources, I was pleasantly surprised by the eager response I received from each one. It has given me more confidence as I move forward with a career in journalism.
My name is Rose Shimberg and my path to Communication at the University of Utah has been a bit unconventional. I grew up in rural New Hampshire, where I spent a lot of my time skiing, rock climbing, and playing sports. However, I loved to create from an early age. An only child, I spent free time at home, long car rides in the backseat, and even family meal times reading, writing stories, and drawing. After high school, I attended the University of Vermont, where I received my BA in Geography with a minor in Community and International Development.
The study of human geography gave me an understanding of the intersectional nature of the issues facing the world today and a passionate drive to do something about it. But toward the end of my college career, I realized more and more that I couldn’t envision myself going into the field in my future. Although I was passionate about the topics I studied, I wanted to create something. In a mid-pandemic revelation, I decided that I’d been adhering to the path I’d carved out for myself for too long. What I wanted to do was simple. It was my first passion, my longtime hobby, the manifestation of the ideas bouncing around in my head. It was suddenly obvious. I wanted to write.
Acting upon this epiphany has gotten me where I am now. On top of continuing my studies by taking journalism courses at the U, I work full-time and do freelance content writing on the side. I hope that the experience and samples I gain through my coursework will help me to follow my passion and land a job or internship in the industry soon. Ideally, I will one day get the chance to write about the many issues facing our world today — and use my voice to do something about them.
Newcomers to Womb Tang are often hesitant at first. It’s intimidating to approach a group of women, gathered for a skiing or biking session, talking and laughing and hyping each other up.
Asking the question takes a considerable effort, a deep breath in. A familiar insecurity is suppressed for just a moment.
Can I ride with you?
Nicole Weaver is familiar with those questions. She used to feel the same way. It’s one of the reasons she became an ambassador for Womb Tang in the first place.
Expert, intermediate, still struggling to get your boots on. Everyone is welcome at Womb Tang.
“That’s the whole point,” Weaver said.
Womb Tang isn’t just for Utahns. The organization, dedicated to connecting female skiers, started as a school project among friends in Alberta, Canada, and now has members all over the world.
It’s just one of several groups bringing women together in the growing ski community in the Wasatch Mountains of northeastern Utah. More and more women are riding together and fighting back against an industry that’s deeply rooted in misogyny and has historically pitted one woman against the other.
To Weaver, that’s the beauty of Womb Tang.
“We’re not trying to be the best girl in the group or in competition with one another,” she said.
Weaver grew up skiing in the Midwest before she moved to Utah. When she first arrived, she struggled to find where she belonged as an intermediate skier.
At the helm of Womb Tang Wasatch, she’s created a space where women at any level can feel welcome.
“No matter what you’re working on, whatever it is, we’re here to cheer you on and help you in whatever you want to achieve,” she said.
But Womb Tang isn’t the only group of its kind in the area.
Alta Lady Shred started in 2017. And its founder, Sarah McMath, is just as excited about it as ever.
McMath has found that skiing with women is all about energy. As a bubbly, outgoing person, her goal is to use her energy to uplift others. This can be challenging in a sport that has historically been linked to competition.
“When it comes to skiing with women, there’s a positivity that we can bring to this sport that has this negative energy sometimes. It’s like this weird negative, combative space,” McMath said in a Zoom interview.
McMath, in a self-described one-third-life crisis, packed her bags and moved across the country from Kentucky to Utah.
She told her friends she’d be gone for six weeks. It’s been six years and she’s not going anywhere.
After getting a job at Alta Ski Area, McMath began to run the social media for the resort. Her first thought (“selfishly”) was that she wanted to get more women skiing together.
She decided on a weekly time and started posting about Lady Shred meet-ups. Initially, she dragged her friends along. But the numbers just kept climbing.
Clare Chapman, on the hunt for female skiing partners, was one of those attendees. She quickly befriended McMath and took a role in helping her run the program.
“It would be a lot of local girls joining and then we’d have women who were like, ‘I’m sick of skiing with my husband’ or ‘I’m from out of town and my kids are in ski school and I just don’t know what to do,’” Chapman said.
Chapman is also the founder of The Salt Lake Sisterhood, an Instagram platform connecting and uplifting women around Utah. The project took off at the start of the coronavirus pandemic, which pulled people from the slopes and plopped them in front of their phones.
Chapman hoped to use the platform to connect with others in a virtual space and keep alive the spirit of camaraderie found through Lady Shred.
McMath, who describes herself as The Salt Lake Sisterhood’s biggest cheerleader, found that the page reached a wide audience amid the pandemic, making more people aware of Lady Shred and the multitude of female skiers in the community.
“We were able to stand on the Sisterhood last year and make a little more noise because we had to use that as our Lady Shred platform,” she said.
Chapman’s path to Alta and Lady Shred was a bit different.
A gymnast for many years, she was used to being competitive around other women. When it came to skiing, she was the only woman in her group. It took a monumental life change to begin to look at things differently.
“I went through this breakup and we had like, almost all mutual friends and they’re almost all guys. And I felt so intimidated by women and I wanted to change that,” she said.
Not limited to skiing alone, Chapman shares posts and stories from women in the community about many different things: other sports, art, self-expression. With friends offering to help, Chapman has organized events of all kinds. Fitness classes. A writing group. An earring-making workshop.
Seeing everyone’s unique talent inspires her. She said her aim is to inspire others as well, even if they never get the chance to meet in person.
“What I’ve focused on is just creating an empowering space within social media because it can be so negative and stressful but so addicting at the same time,” she said. “So if you’re on it I want there to be something good.”
The three women agree that they have seen things improve for women in the skiing community. Just a few years ago, all-female groups were a rare sighting on the mountain. Change is coming — and groups like Womb Tang, Lady Shred, and The Salt Lake Sisterhood are the catalysts.
“I think this kind of support between women has really grown,” Chapman said. “Women are acknowledging that they rip and they can also shred with women. They don’t have to ski with the guys.”
Deciding to focus my story on political polarization wasn’t a hard choice. I have been taking many classes focusing on the freedom of expression and how it is important for a free flow of information for society to truly thrive. The problem as I see it today, is that faith in journalists is at the bottom of the Mariana Trench. Rather than listening and trusting communication professionals to disseminate accurate and credible information, many people chose to believe reposts on social media that tend to have zero credibility. I wanted to investigate what a solution to this problem is, and what initiatives local organizations have taken to bridge this gap.
The hardest part about writing this article was developing the focus statement or nut graph. As I conducted my interviews, I realized that my perceived solutions to political polarization were off the mark. I believed that the Conversations held by Utah Humanities was the answer because it allows constructive dialogue for people who have differing opinions. It was only after speaking with Professor Kevin Coe, that made me realize the problem was structural and needs massive overhaul. Learning that was defeating in a way because I wanted to focus on solutions, not perpetuate problems. My solution was to revamp the focus into a question, and to end with what the Conversations do best, show the humanity in one another.
I appreciate all my sources being so accommodating and knowledgeable. Without their input and perspectives, I wouldn’t have been able to dive into the problems and solutions of political polarization. The only thing I would want to change, was being able to meet face to face with them, so we could have shared this information over a hot cup of joe.
I believe that this was a good start for my portfolio as a print journalist. I learned that the best ideas come to you on a Friday evening while walking across the street to a 7-Eleven, so always keep a voice recorder handy. I learned that grammatically no good I am sometimes, those pesky commas! I hope I can continue to grow and build off of this piece to become the dynamic storyteller that I aspire to be.
A child watching TV at all hours of the day is as expected as the sun rising in the morning. But when I would begrudgingly watch the news with my grandparents, there weren’t many reporters who looked like me. Unfortunately, that is a trend that has continued.
I want to become a journalist to inspire other high-energy, storytelling, chatter box Chicano kids because I didn’t even know that this was an avenue perfectly suited for my abilities until I was 24 years old.
I am a student at the University of Utah studying communication with an emphasis in journalism. I also work as a videographer for ABC4 and a public affairs specialist with the Utah National Guard. I love writing, but I have also been drawn to photography since graduating from the Defense Information School as a PAO.
Regardless of the medium, I aim to prove that Latinos in the media don’t have to stick solely to the immigration beats. I plan on becoming a dynamic storyteller who brings life and care to every story I cover, while hopefully inspiring some mocosos along the way.
A month before the 2020 election, roughly 8 in 10 registered voters on both sides of the aisle said their differences with the other side were about core American values such as the economy, racial justice and climate change, according to a 2020 study done by the Pew Research Center.
“I feel like we sort of lost that ability to have a conversation without feeling like we have to convince each other of our side,” Caitlin McDonald said in a Zoom call.
Utah Humanities, a Salt Lake City-based nonprofit, created the Community Conversations as a space for respectful dialogue. But is it enough to help alleviate the political polarization plaguing Utahns across the state? McDonald, the program manager in charge of the Conversations, knows that bridging the gap is not a painless task for participants.
“It’s not an easy thing. It’s not all puppies and rainbows. It’s not all hugging each other. It’s hard, and it’s emotional, and we’ve had people cry,” McDonald said.
Utah Humanities has been hosting hard and uncomfortable conversations about relevant and polarizing topics such as racial justice, climate change and civic participation since its inception in 2015. Pre-pandemic, these conversations were held in person. Currently they reside within the virtual walls of Zoom. Regardless of the meeting space, McDonald said she believes the process of creating meaningful and productive dialogue is more successful than regular town halls or other forums where people come ready to argue and yell at one another.
Part of the Utah Humanities’ success can be attributed to its Conversation Agreements that serve as a code of conduct for these monthly meetings. The agreements outline expectations for how the conversations will be held and how participants are expected to conduct themselves. The guidelines include “respecting all participants, … thoughtfully considering perspectives which are contrary to their own and behaving courteously should a disagreement and/or non-closure occur.”
McDonald said all participants must sign the agreement before any dialogue can begin. This weeds out anyone who is looking to come with pitchforks in hand.
“Because as we’ve seen, people’s rules for behavior seem to have changed recently. What’s acceptable in public and what’s acceptable in how we treat each other? I’ve seen it change in the past few years,” McDonald said.
She also said that weeding out the agitators who are looking to throw gasoline onto the political fire has proven to be beneficial, as they have never kicked out a participant. The agreement also helps alleviate some concerns of first-time participants, while also providing them with a space to be vulnerable and listen openly to perspectives that they might disagree with.
“These conversations just give them a chance to come somewhere where you don’t have to come with your guard up,” McDonald said. “You can come knowing that you’re in a space where you can express yourself, but also hear somebody else express themselves without fear of being yelled at.”
One participant is openly looking for this challenge of ideas and values. Steven Olsen is a senior history curator for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. He said he embraces aspects of the humanities such as diverse thinking and the civil interchange of sharing ideas. Olsen said he is especially interested in the perspectives that differ from those around him.
“I really am interested in sharing that perspective with others in a kind of an academic setting or from an academic perspective, but also gaining other insights that I might not get from my own tribe, as it were,” Olsen said in a Zoom interview.
It might seem as if Olsen has found his happy place within the virtual walls of the Zoom Conversations, but the problem is, he has had a hard time garnering a new perspective from these sessions.
“Unfortunately, there hasn’t been the kind of diversity of perspectives that I had kind of hoped [for] going forward, I would say it’s mostly centered left of center,” Olsen said.
The lack of contrasting opinions interests Kevin Coe, a professor with an emphasis in political communication at the University of Utah. But he believes the problem is bigger than a conversation.
“It’s useful to think in terms of some of those interpersonal solutions [Community Conversations] as small-scale acts of goodness, that are useful. They won’t ultimately be enough to solve the problem, right? Because the problem is structural,” Coe said in a Zoom interview.
The structural problem Coe is referring to involves the amount of information and misinformation that can be found on social media, and how that changing information environment is shaped and influenced by political structures and those in power. Social media and news outlets could be to blame due to the number of opinions that are now in the marketplace of ideas. But Coe said he thinks the real problem lies within the curators who are controlling the release of questionable content being cultivated for public consumption.
“The deeper problem is that people are toxic because people are creating that information environment, and particularly people in power, who often have an incentive to put out misinformation, for example,” Coe said.
Power isn’t the only incentive to deceive the public.
“To get that misinformation to circulate and that might be a monetary incentive as a way for them to just increase their own personal wealth, say, unscrupulous journalists … an unscrupulous participant in the media environment who benefits financially from having their message, which … they know is factually inaccurate, circulate widely, because it builds attention for them,” Coe said.
This could be applied as well to politicians who use misinformation or inflammatory remarks to influence their following and maintain power. Coe also said it would take a broader reform of the political and information system to reach the overarching goal that those interpersonal acts of communication like the Conversations are seeking.
It might seem like the deck has been stacked against the participants of the Conversations like Steven Olsen, who look through the lens of the humanities to navigate these uncomfortable conversations and polarizing topics. But there is consensus and hope among those who attend, that the Conversations will continue to provide participants with the opportunity to not see a political enemy on the other side of the aisle, but a vulnerable person who also wants what is best for the country.
“Those conversations can rise above the particulars of our contention, you know, the differences of our points of view,” Olsen said. “To see the human underpinnings of even the necessity of having differences of opinion, in other words, it’s not about who’s right and who’s wrong, but it’s about the meaning of the truth that we’re seeking from the conversation.”
I have always had a passion for thrifting and shopping locally. In summer I love getting up early on Saturday and Sunday mornings to attend garage sales, flea markets and swap meets. When brainstorming for my enterprise story I wanted to focus on something I was passionate about. A friend of mine told me about his experience attending the Urban Flea Market a few days before and I was immediately interested in attending.
Once I knew that I wanted to focus on the Urban Flea Market as the main idea for my story, I needed to get in contact with local vendors so that I could ask questions about their experience with the Urban Flea Market. My friend told me about some of his favorite vendors when he was in attendance. After doing some research on the local vendors, I knew who I wanted to interview. Once arriving at the Urban Flea Market it was time to meet with the vendors and take pictures.
I originally wanted to base my story on how local small businesses were going to be affected with the ending of summer markets. I was under the impression that Oct. 10, 2021 was to be the last chance to attend the market. Once I arrived, I had learned that there would be an indoor winter Urban Flea Market that started in December.
I had already prepared a list of questions to ask the vendors about how the end of summer markets was going to affect their small business. It was at this time that I had to think on my feet and pivot the topic of my story. After some quick thinking I decided to focus on the community that the Urban Flea Market builds.
Once I decided to make the focus of my story on the community, I had to think of new questions to ask in my interviews. By making the focus of my story on the community rather than profits, I was able to ask more open-ended questions that sparked insightful conversations.
Finally after I had conducted all of my interviews and taken my pictures, I went home to go over my notes and listen to the interviews. I typed out my handwritten notes and typed out my favorite quotes from listening to the interviews. It was at this time that I realized I didn’t have as much information or quotes that I thought I needed.
This problem stems from me conducting my interviews at the market. Although I do think this was still a good time to get pictures and attend the market, maybe a different time for interviewing might have been better. Due to how busy the market was and the vendors catering to their customers, it was hard to get the undivided attention of the vendors. I felt bad taking their attention away from their customers to conduct our interview.
I learned a lot about the writing process while writing this assignment. I had never written any type of journalism piece before so this was a new skill that I was developing. Once I had created an outline for how I wanted my story to flow I was able to craft a story that I was very proud of. This project pushed me out of my comfort zone and it is something I’m happy to have accomplished.
I am a senior at the University of Utah studying strategic communication. I will be graduating this spring of 2022. After graduation I hope to pursue a career in public relations, marketing or advertising in the fashion industry. I have a passion for fashion and it’s something that I love to incorporate in my everyday life. I fell in love with clothing and thrifting at a very young age when my father and I would attend yard sales and go thrifting on Saturday mornings. I am passionate about sustainability and how it can affect climate change and the environment. I have volunteered with many climate organizations in Utah and I hope to bring my take on sustainable fashion practices to every job that I am involved with. I love the hunt of finding my own piece of treasure and I hope to inspire others to use thrifting as a way to live more sustainably.
The crisp autumn air fills the wind as the end of summer approaches. Shoppers stroll down the brick paving in downtown Salt Lake City in hopes of finding something special. Music and chatter swells as shoppers dig around local booths looking for their own piece of treasure.
The Urban Flea Market is home to a variety of local vendors, who are able to come together, grow their business and create a sense of community for local businesses and shoppers. The Urban Flea Market’s Instagram describes the event as “the biggest SLC flea market! Eclectic vintage, yard sale style, and crafted items — clothing, records, furniture, art, and more.”
An article published in SLUG Magazine says that Kate Wheaton and Michael Sanders founded the market in 2011 after they were influenced by New York and L.A. style of inner-city parking lot markets.
After realizing that Utah was missing its own flea market, Wheaton and Sanders decided to bring this market style to Salt Lake City.
Over the last 11 years this event has grown into a downtown Salt Lake City staple for locals and visitors.
According to the Urban Flea Market’s website, this is a year-round market that is thrown every second Sunday of each month located at The Gateway, in the heart of downtown Salt Lake City.
The Gateway’s website states that the market features 80-plus vendors selling the best vintage clothing, antique decor, original artworks, handcrafted jewelry, collectables and much more.
This market also includes a special guest DJ playing music with local food trucks feeding patrons as they shop.
The market runs 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and has a $2 entrance fee for adults, with free admission for children under the ages of 12.
A variety of unique vendors are involved with the Urban Flea Market such as Wild Future, a booth that grabs people’s attention with its unique handcrafted colorful jewelry and accessories.
Tiffany Hwang, the owner of Wild Future, said when she started her business in 2020 she sought out many markets around Utah before attending the Urban Flea Market as a customer first.
After visiting the Urban Flea Market, Hwang said she loved the community, and knew it was the perfect place to grow her business.
“Best market of all,” Hwang said.
The location, variety of vendors and customers makes it a great space for Hwang to attract shoppers as she is in the process of building her online store.
Due to its popularity, Wild Future has seen its sales increase thanks to the Urban Flea Market helping to grow its fanbase.
On the flip side, Brittney Lee, who co-founded Earth and Ether with Haley Millet, had never attended the Urban Flea Market until her first time as a vendor.
Earth and Ether, an energy work healing service, has been a vendor at the Urban Flea Market since summer 2020. The business is centered around stones and energy-infused liquid that Lee described as “all about the soul, spirit, mind, [and] body.”
UniTea is a branch of Earth and Ether founded by Millet. The tea is brewed from mountain rose herbs that are sustainably harvested into sun and moon tea blends infused with healing frequencies.
The Earth and Ether website states, “Earth and Ether was created for a soul experience. We have combined and made available multiple avenues in how you choose your path to unlocking your higher self and inner wisdom. From reiki infused crystals, private healing sessions, skin treatments, and community healings, you can embark on your path to inner healing and embrace your ascension.”
Lee and Millet participate in local markets throughout the greater Salt Lake City area, but this is the one they attend most frequently.
“One of the best markets for sure,” Lee said, standing behind the booth filled with stones, crystals and homemade herbal teas.
When asked to describe the community at the Urban Flea Market, Lee said, “It’s amazing!
Lee said older patrons tend to shop first. She called them “a little more reserved,” but added that “they know what they want.” Later, younger shoppers “dig through vintage stuff.”
Millet added, “Also the conscious community comes in strong. A lot of people want to support people who are doing it (creating products) sustainably.”
Lee said in a subsequent text interview, “The Urban Flea Market is always beneficial to meet and talk with wonderful souls.”
Chelsey Cummings, owner of Vintage by Chelsey, had attended the Urban Flea Market for years before becoming a vendor.
“I attended the flea, shopped the flea, and then I was like ‘I think I need to do it,’ so that’s how I started this,” Cummings said.
Vintage by Chelsey or VBC for short, is a mix of eclectic, modern vintage clothing pieces and accessories sourced by its owner. The Vintage by Chelsey website describes her business as “curated vintage clothing for modern trends & timeless style.”
After becoming obsessed with the hunt for vintage clothing, Cummings began selling her collection at local markets and pop-ups.
You can find VBC at other local stores such as The Hive Market, Salt and Honey and the Outlets Park City.
Her vintage shop began to thrive when she started selling her treasured finds at the Urban Flea Market in October 2020.
“The Urban Flea has allowed my business to grow within the local community. I was primarily selling on Etsy and now I have shifted to local stores and customers. The flea has also given me so many lifelong friends and connections,” Cummings said in a follow-up text interview.
The Urban Flea Market has created a space and community for local vendors to connect and grow with their shoppers.
Want to attend the Urban Flea Market, but missed the summer market? No worries — you can find Vintage by Chelsey, Earth and Ether, and Wild Future and many other local vendors at the indoor winter Urban Flea Market starting Dec. 12, 2021.
When considering enterprise story ideas, I did not want to take the easy way out. I really wanted to search for a topic that I was passionate about and would enjoy writing. I first thought of big picture things that interest me and that I have a passion for. Topics of interest included sustainability, human rights and mental health.
I knew, however, that I needed to be specific when picking a story idea. Coincidentally, my sister had just become a volunteer for the Know Your Neighbor program. This program aids refugees and seemed to fit my passions well. I knew the Know Your Neighbor program was an important topic that I would enjoy writing about.
My sister gave me the contact information for the volunteer coordinator, Megan McLaws, at Know Your Neighbor. McLaws was a wonderful source, and she put me in contact with two volunteers, Lexie Hanks and Kim Langton.
Hanks was a great source because she has been an active volunteer in the Know Your Neighbor program for a little over a year. Further, she has volunteered in a number of different ways, including virtual tutoring and going to the goat farm that is run by a Refugee Community Based Organization (RCBO).
Langton was also a great source because he has been an active volunteer for over three years and is also on the board for an RCBO, the Umoja Generation, which also aids refugees. He gave good insight on how helping refugees has impacted his own life and the new perspectives that can be gained from it.
After interviewing McLaws, Hanks, and Langton I needed to focus my story. The biggest problem for me, however, was that there was so much good information, thoughts and quotes I wanted to use. All three of my interviewees had something inspiring and profound to say, but I couldn’t include everything they shared.
I didn’t get to include Hanks’ story about reading “Snowy Day” to the refugee kids she tutored virtually. As she read this story, the kids stopped her because they were excited that it was snowing outside, just like in the book.
Langton also had some fun stories that I couldn’t include, one being about the refugee he mentors. After Langton’s mentee called him from a Walmart parking lot with smoke coming out of the engine of his first car, Langton explained that you have to change the oil in your car every few months.
While I didn’t include everything each interviewee discussed, I did pick out important aspects of what each person shared, and was able to craft a story that explains what the Know Your Neighbor program is and how it helps volunteers and refugees alike.
Growing up, I was never sure what I wanted to do when I became an adult. When I was very young, I always said that I wanted to be an angel when I was older. This, obviously, couldn’t become a reality.
Despite my first dream “job” being unrealistic, I still felt I needed to pick a specific path. Over the years, I have considered many options when it came to a career. I felt I needed to plan out with certainty what I was going to do.
I now have realized that it’s impossible to plan for the future in this way. I instead have started to focus on what I value, what I’m passionate about and what will be fulfilling and aim toward goals that encompass those ideas.
Considering this, I want to fight for the rights of others and spread awareness surrounding issues regarding race, mental health, ethnicity, gender, class and sexual orientation. Furthermore, I wish to inspire people of all ages through advocacy and writing.
When refugees arrive in the U.S. they are matched with one of nine nonprofit organizations. There are two such organizations in Utah, the International Rescue Committee and Catholic Community Services. The problem is, however, these organizations only help refugees for their first two months in the U.S. and these asylum seekers often need sustained assistance.
This is why Utah has the Know Your Neighbor program. The Know Your Neighbor program recruits volunteers to fulfill needs and create connections between refugees and community members.
Megan McLaws is the program’s volunteer coordinator. She matches volunteers with newcomers who require assistance. The main categories volunteers assist with are tutoring and mentorship, programs and classes, Refugee Community Based Organizations (RCBOs), and the goat farm which is a special category of RCBO.
McLaws said that when the pandemic started, the program had an influx of volunteers, more than they had a need for. The program wasn’t matching people unless it was virtually, which made it difficult to give every volunteer an opportunity. However, now that people are going back to work, they don’t have as much time to volunteer.
“We’re having the opposite problem where we have a lot of opportunities, and we have a lot of volunteers, but they are getting back to work and have busy schedules again,” McLaws said.
Lexie Hanks is one of those volunteers who has a busy schedule but fits different volunteer opportunities into her day-to-day life. She said it’s best to fit opportunities in where you can, even if it’s just for an hour or two a week, since there is no shortage of needs for the refugees.
“Volunteering can be tiring work, but it’s worth it,” Hanks said.
One of the volunteer opportunities that Hanks takes advantage of is the goat farm. The goat farm is an RCBO within the program, but it is unique because it relies heavily on volunteer support. Hanks said when volunteers go to the farm, they usually feed and water the goats as well as do health checks. However, Hanks has also vaccinated the herd and re-tagged them.
The farm is run by Somali Bantu, Burundi and Bajuni communities right outside Salt Lake City. Hanks explained that this farm is very important in preserving and passing on cultural practices related to goat farming.
“Through helping and volunteering in that way, it gives refugees a piece of their home,” Hanks said.
Hanks started working with the Know Your Neighbor program during the pandemic, in the summer of 2020, so for her first volunteer opportunity she was paired with a Burundi family. She helped their kids with homework virtually.
The children in this family were in the same grades as two of Hanks’ own children, one in kindergarten and the other in third grade. Hanks’ kids came to like the children across the screen and on Fridays when she was helping them with virtual learning, she said they would often ask, “are our friends on?”
Hanks would then tell her boys that they would have to wait until the other kids are done with their learning before they can say hello.
Virtual learning, however, wasn’t easy. Hanks said the kids would often hold up their homework to the camera, and she would have to quickly write information down so she could help them. The language barrier also made things more difficult.
“Kind eyes meeting kind eyes,” Hanks said, was basically the only communication she had with the parents. This is because they had recently arrived in the U.S. and hadn’t learned much English.
Kim Langton, another volunteer, has more experience with helping refugees learn English and teaching in general. Langton has a degree in education and has been teaching and working with children since 1975.
In fact, after retiring, Langton said he lost his fulfillment. He said he missed helping children and that’s why he began volunteering.
Langton, more specifically, volunteers for the Umoja Generation. The Umoja Generation is an RCBO under the Know Your Neighbor program. Langton is also on the board of this RCBO and has been volunteering there for nearly three years.
Part of what Langton does is help refugee children learn conversational English. English learning is important, he said, because if students don’t understand English they won’t do well in other subjects.
Further, Langton said it’s critical for refugee students to do something that interests them when learning English, and that they do it with others in the Utah community. It’s an easier and more fun way to learn, plus they can make new friends.
That’s why Langton first finds something that the kids are interested in and bases a lesson around an activity. He said a lot of kids like soccer, so one of his lessons involved writing up English words that are related to the sport, talking about each word, using the words in a sentence and going out and playing some soccer.
Langton’s grandkids also love soccer. He described them as “soccer fanatics” since they have been in competitive leagues and traveled in Utah from St. George to Ogden for tournaments and games.
Since Langton knew his grandkids loved soccer, he invited them to the English lesson based around it. He said his grandchildren didn’t expect the refugees to be as skilled as they are, because of their background with the sport, but they were humbled.
“They said, ‘Wow, we didn’t know they were gonna be so good. Those kids are fantastic.’ And they were, so it was a good way to start teaching them English around something they’re intrinsically interested in,” Langton said in a Zoom interview.
Langton also is a mentor for a refugee named Didier. Didier and Langton have been working together for about a year. Langton helps with anything he needs, including homework, finding scholarships and getting his food handler’s permit.
They communicate virtually over Zoom and text since Didier lives in West Jordan and Langton lives in Glenwood, a three-hour distance. Despite the distance, however, Langton said his mentee feels like one of his grandkids. He said they are close, and that he’s learned so much from their relationship as well.
Langton said he has learned a lot about Didier’s culture. Didier is from the Congo and Langton has heard his family play their traditional music. Langton said he also was able to better understand the refugee experience after talking about it with Didier when helping him apply to a college scholarship.
“I think he’s taught me a lot more than I’ve taught him,” Langton said.
This is one of the main goals for the Know Your Neighbor program, for refugees to make connections with local community members. Further, Langton explained that it’s not just the volunteers who should become friends with the refugees.
He said it’s the responsibility of everyone to make these new arrivals feel welcome and appreciated, adding that refugees are deserving of all kinds of love.
“They’re wonderful students, wonderful people,” Langton said, “hearts as big as any I’ve ever known.”
When brainstorming ideas for my enterprise story, more than anything I felt overwhelmed. Overwhelmed by all the possible options and avenues.
I thought about my passions and hobbies. I considered topics that sparked my interest. Yet, I knew that I ultimately wanted to write about something that felt important.
My story idea was introduced to me by my mom. Both my parents have worked with Jim Pehkonen, a “Life Architect” or “Life Coach” who works here in Salt Lake City. When my mom mentioned to me that Pehkonen had started a new podcast, “Sobriety Elevated,” with his co-host Kevin Thole, I immediately thought, “This is what I want to write about.”
Right away I thought this was a topic that people should be informed about. In their podcast, “Sobriety Elevated,”Pehkonen and Thole discuss some really pertinent subjects relating to drug and alcohol abuse and the recovery process. I felt as though this was a resource that should be shared with others.
First, I knew I wanted to interview Pehkonen since he is an expert in his field. He has worked with a multitude of people struggling with alcohol and drug abuse so I knew he would be a really great resource. Setting up the interview was fairly easy since I already had connections with him and shortly after reaching out, we met for coffee. As I expected, he was extremely helpful and informative.
Pehkonen then helped me get into contact with his co-host. Unfortunately, my interview with Thole had to be over the phone since he lives in St. Louis, Missouri. However, despite the lack of face-to-face interaction, Thole was extremely helpful and offered me ample information for my story.
When conducting the interviews I experienced difficulties with recording the conversations. I found that taking handwritten notes for both of the interviews was difficult, but overall I felt more connected with my story.
Another challenge for me was that much of what I talked about with Pehkonen and Thole was very sensitive. Both of them gave me permission to use any of the information they provided me, but I wanted to make sure I did so in a respectful manner.
Just from these two interviews, I was given more than enough information to write my story. I started by finding my lead. I knew I wanted to start out strong and I was hoping for a good anecdotal lead. Luckily for me, Thole provided me with a great one. From there I wanted my story to move chronologically. First, introduce Thole and Pehkonen. Then I went into how the two of them met and finally how they started their podcast.
I found my interviews with both Thole and Pehkonen to be extremely uplifting and empowering. Hearing their stories of what they have overcome in their own lives gave me a sense of empowerment. No matter what hardship you may come across, there is always a light at the end of the tunnel, and that is what I wanted the focus of my story to be.
I am a full-time student at the University of Utah, currently in my senior year. I expect to graduate in the fall of 2022 with a major in communication with a journalism emphasis. Writing has always been a way for me to express myself and now I hope to use writing as a tool in my career and as a way to connect with people. I have always seen writing as an opportunity to bring a community together. This is what I hope to do in my future career.