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

Story by KAYLA LIEN

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

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

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

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

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

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

However, the support hasn’t always been there.  

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Story and photos by PAIGE NELSON

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Story and photos by HOUSTON FULLER

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Story by MIRANDA LAMB

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Story by SKY NELSON

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Utah’s thriving religious communities exist right under our noses

Story by ABRAM BERRY

Utah is unique in a lot of ways. Compared to most communities, where talking about religion is regarded as a taboo, it is often the primary subject of conversation. Salt Lake City famously is the headquarters of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints — widely known as the Mormon church — and is a cultural hotspot for members of the faith.

However, despite a majority of Utahns belonging to that church, it is not the only faith that exists here along the Wasatch Front. In fact, a number of thriving religious communities are hiding in plain sight.

Rev. Martin Diaz is a pastor at the Cathedral of the Madeleine, the mother church of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Salt Lake City.

There are many reasons as to why someone might join the clergy. But for Diaz, the source of his calling was simple. “The short answer is God,” Diaz said.

The beautiful Cathedral of the Madeleine is the most famous of Salt Lake City’s Catholic churches, but there are a number of other parishes throughout the valley.

The Cathedral of the Madeline in Salt Lake City was completed in 1909. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

“Each parish is involved in its local community,” Diaz said. The parish in West Jordan has a food pantry, the Cathedral has a sandwich program, and some other parishes do clothing drives.

“The people in the parish obviously live in the neighborhood, so for the most part, they’re engaged in the things that are going on in the area,” Diaz said. “Formally, Catholic Community Services is the outreach for the whole church that we do in the state of Utah.” This organization provides a variety of services, including refugee resettlement. According to Diaz, approximately half of the refugees settled in Utah go through Catholic Community Services.

Muslim refugees play a unique role in Utah’s Islamic community. According to Shuaib Din, the imam of the Utah Islamic Center, approximately 80% of the 30,000-60,000 Muslims living between Ogden and Provo are refugees. The Utah Islamic Center, being the largest mosque in the state, is critical in terms of supporting these individuals and their families.

One issue with having the majority of a congregation being made up of displaced people, is that there is not a significant influx of cash coming in from them.

“You can’t expect them to donate,” Din said in a recent phone interview.

But what’s more important than paying their dues, Din said, is getting congregants to become involved in the local Muslim community. However, he is hopeful that the recently completed mosque in West Jordan will serve as a draw. The beautiful new building, which was finished in 2020, is a classy gray and blue and features an impressive spire called a minaret.

The mosque holds four Friday services each week in order to respect social distancing practices, while also allowing as many people as possible to come worship.

“I think that’s pretty unique,” Din said. “I don’t know of too many mosques in America that hold four Friday services.”

Utah’s Jewish population is even smaller than the local Catholic or Islamic communities, but that doesn’t mean that it isn’t just as passionate. A number of synagogues exist across the Wasatch Front, including Congregation Kol Ami and Chabad Lubavitch of Utah, both located in Salt Lake City, as well as Temple Har Shalom in Park City.

Elana Fauth is an employee of Hillel for Utah, an organization for Jewish students on Utah’s college campuses. Fauth said that being Jewish in Utah provides some unique challenges.

Hillel for Utah participants posing for a photo at a 2020 event. Photo courtesy of Elana Fauth.

“The feeling of otherness in a place where there is such an established and cohesive culture can be difficult to navigate. I will say that this immediate ‘othering’ makes for a tight-knit Jewish community that is loving and accepting of everyone around them,” Fauth said.

There are a number of denominations in Judaism, with varying levels of observance, that are all part of the larger Jewish community.

“Depending on your levels of observance, the road blocks are even more difficult to navigate: finding kosher food, keeping Shabbat, or plucking up the courage to ask for the day off for Yom Kippur. The list goes on,” Fauth said.

Shabbat, or the Sabbath, is the weekly rest day that Jews observe every Saturday. Yom Kippur is the holiest day of the year in Judaism, and is traditionally observed through fasting, intensive prayer, and a day spent in the synagogue.

Fauth said that there are definitely things that all Utahns can do to make the Beehive State a more inclusive place for Jews.

“Make yourself aware of Jewish holidays, specifically our High Holy Days. As a recent college graduate, I myself am now currently working with college students, and my heart aches for students who feel that they have to choose between their academics and their religious observance,” she said. “The one thing I always tell people is that, to a Jew, expecting us to come to class, take tests, etc., on Yom Kippur is as outlandish as asking us to come in on Christmas.”

Awareness of holidays and other celebrations was something that Father Diaz stressed as well. “I think [Utahns] need to have an awareness of feast days,” he said, adding that he expects people to have some knowledge about the celebrations of the various communities. “For us,” he added, “Easter is the big one coming up. On Easter Sunday, we go to church. A lot of people come. The singing is beautiful, and the prayer is great.”

Throughout all the conversations, the overwhelming theme was that Utahns ought to be more educated about these communities, since they are, in fact, part of our community. Go out and learn about them. Visit a mosque, go to Mass, or attend a Shabbat service. Donate to organizations supporting Muslim refugees or volunteer at a local synagogue.

Most importantly, open up a dialogue. Imam Shuaib Din from the Utah Islamic Center thinks that Utahns are going to be up to the task. He said, “People don’t mind talking about religion in Utah.”

An inside look at the University of Utah’s baseball program

Story by DANNY BAEZA

Photos by BRAD LAPP

Everyone knows that being a student-athlete is extremely difficult. But, does anyone ever think to ask, “What goes into the day-to-day process of being a Division I baseball player?”

The University of Utah has an outstanding athletic department with nationally ranked teams such as football and gymnastics. However, other sports such as baseball seem to go unnoticed.

One such example is Utah baseball — another outstanding program belonging to the Pac-12 conference in the NCAA.

So, what does go into getting the ball moving on a day-to-day basis, and what does it take to be a baseball player?

“In the fall, it usually starts with a lift in the morning around 7 am. Then, I get some breakfast to refuel after the lift. Next up is class from 10 a.m. to1 pm. From class, I head over to practice which usually starts at 1:30 p.m. Once we finish up there at around 5 p.m., I head up to get some dinner, then head home to get done with all my homework and hopefully in bed by 11 p.m.,” says Justin Kelly, a redshirt junior on the pitching staff.

Justin Kelly gets set to deliver to home plate.

Kelly is the Friday night starter for the Utes, considered by many to be the leader of not only the pitching staff, but also the team itself.

When it comes to what it takes mentally, Christoper Rowan Jr., a redshirt junior on the team says, “It takes a mature mental approach because baseball is a game of failure and if you get down on yourself you can continue to spiral downward.”

Rowan enters his fourth year with the team listed as a catcher/utility player.

Concerning the academic aspect of being a student-athlete, Kelly notes, “If you can put forth the energy to be successful on the field, you’ve got to be putting that same energy in the classroom.”

First-year athletes are expected to complete two hours of study hall a week. Along with the study hall, players are given tutors when needed and are counseled by the athletic academic advisor.

Behind the scenes, Logan Nehls manages all the logistics of getting a Division I baseball program rolling. Recently, he was awarded the position of director of operations for the program after working as an equipment manager within the Utah Athletic Department.

“I’m responsible for a lot of the logistics of the program, whether it’s coordinating meals, buses, or travel accommodations,” Nehls says.

Nehls has had his hands full. As the season gets underway, he not only has to focus on how to travel, feed, and house 35 people, but also do it while juggling COVID-19 precautions.

Athletics come with a toll, especially in a sport as mechanical as baseball. Justin Kelly suffered a torn ulnar collateral ligament in his freshman year, forcing him to sit out for 22 months. “I had never been through any sort of injury before, let alone something as serious as Tommy John Surgery. I leaned heavily on my teammates, friends, family, and training staff to keep my head in a good place while I was getting back to good health,” Kelly says. Tommy John Surgery being the process of repairing a torn ulnar collateral ligament in the elbow.

Christopher Rowan Jr. throws down to second.

Rowan, on the other hand, has had to go under the knife twice to repair an injured shoulder. “The second surgery crushed my spirit,” Rowan says. “I lost my love for the game for a while and if it wasn’t for my little brother pushing me and being there for me when I needed him I would have given up.”

Baseball is a game of failure. A player with a .300 batting average fails 7 out of 10 times, yet he is still considered an all-star. Managing those seven failures thus additionally makes baseball a mental game.

Rowan admits, “It’s inspiring to see little kids who want to be just like you. Kids who look up to you because you have made it this far.” That is what motivates him to keep pushing forward.

For Justin Kelly, his family motivates him. “I want to get to the point where my family is financially taken care of and I can say I’ve gotten to the point where I belong where I should be.”

Remembering to focus on what motivates them is what helps these athletes continue on, and to push through the demanding lifestyle of a student-athlete.

Not only is college baseball a difficult business, but it is another social outlet for these young men.

“I’ve created relationships that will last the rest of my life here. Some I may even consider family, that’s how close we have become,” Rowan says.

When it comes to relationships with coaches, Justin Kelly says, “I consider them sort of father figures where if I’m having any life issues or problems, I know they will take the time to listen to me and help me out the best they can.”

Kelly has advise for the next generation of ballplayers. “Don’t be discouraged when things don’t go your way, just put your head down and get back to work.”

Rowan says, “I would say that if you dream it you can achieve it. But, dreaming is only part of what needs to be done.”

Division I baseball is a difficult lifestyle, but when it comes down to it, it is nothing but young men playing a game they love.

Experts urge water conservation to protect the Great Salt Lake

Story and photos by BROOKE WILLIAMS

As Utah emerges from another dry winter, the snowpacks are at a fraction of where they should be. This raises concerns for Utah that go beyond yearly water supply.

Weber Basin Water Chief Operating Officer Darren Hess says “every day that we don’t receive snow we get further and further behind the normal years.” 

One of Utah’s many reservoirs in Farmington, storing leftover water from snowpack runoff.

The primary source of Utah’s water supply comes from the snowpack runoff, which is expected to shrink as it replenishes the lack of soil moisture from the recent years of drought. 

Hess said in a Zoom interview that he anticipates water restrictions to be in place this summer. He emphasizes that people should stay educated on how to water their yards because they “don’t realize how much water is used when they run their sprinkler system.” 

He estimates that on average 3,500 gallons of water are used each sprinkler cycle, accounting for up to six weeks of household water use. 

Paul Brooks is director of the Hydrology and Water Resources Interdisciplinary Program at the University of Utah. “Even if there aren’t any restrictions active,” he said, “people should think about how they are using their water.”

The water saved from one sprinkler cycle could go toward other concerns posed by the lack of snowfall, like the agriculture industry, economy, and even the future of local ecosystems. 

Conservation includes little things like turning off the water while brushing teeth. Brooks said these efforts can really add up and help preserve our drinking water supply.

“The more water we use the less goes to the Great Salt Lake. It’s about 10 feet lower than its long-term historical average right now,” Brooks said. 

The lake not only provides a home for brine shrimp and a food source for millions of migratory birds, it also acts as an air purifier to the surrounding Salt Lake Valley.

Great Salt Lake Institute Coordinator Jaimi Butler has studied the Great Salt Lake since 1999. She compares it to a California salt lake, Lake Owens, which was dried up by water use in the growing days of Los Angeles.

“When the lake dried up it essentially turned into a ghost town because the dust was pretty inhabitable. It’s not just dust, it’s salt and particles and stuff that we don’t want in our lungs,” Butler said in a Zoom interview. 

Lake Owens’ bed was covered with 2 inches of gravel to prevent dust from blowing, and has since cost over $2 billion in Los Angeles tax revenue in an ongoing effort to reclaim the lake. Butler puts this in perspective, stating that while Lake Owens’ bed covers 110 square miles, the Great Salt Lake has a much bigger area with 1,700 square miles of lake bed. 

She fears the impact and complications the lake could face after repeated years of drought and overuse of water. Utah’s culturally historic lake is at serious risk of being dried up, which Butler expresses goes beyond air quality. The local economy and wildlife depend on the lake, and she said it’s impossible to truly predict and see the future of Utah with a dried up lake.

“It’s worth over $1.3 billion every year, it’s over 600 jobs that contribute to the local economy,” she said. 

As for the hundreds of bird species that visit the lake each year, this could have a serious impact on their migration and survival, Butler said, as the Great Salt Lake is one of their only places to go.

“It’s this very incredible place that people come from all over the world to study and watch our birds,” Butler said. “There’s not other places for the birds to go. This is one of those last places, so any change in the ecosystem is gonna affect the entire system.”

Jaimi Butler studies with Sarah Null, a professor at Utah State University, who found that streamflow and precipitation, while highly variable, are not showing any overall long-term change. In her Salty Seminar, Null says the suffering state of the lake is due to humans’ overuse of water. 

While agriculture accounts for 63% of water use in Utah, compared to 11% municipal and industrial, much of that water used for agriculture disperses back into rivers going straight to the Great Salt Lake. 

Great Salt Lake flats on the southwest side of the lake. This is where Jaimi Butler described finding the first of many pickled birds. This preservation happens due to the high salinity of the lake.

The lake becomes more saline as less water is saved for it because the only way water leaves the lake is by evaporation, and the only way it receives water is from what residents do not use. This makes human impact on the lake’s health much bigger than it seems on the surface, Null said, because the water never makes its way to the lake. 

“Trying to understand all the crazy nuances of how the system works is what it’s going to take to save the lake,” Butler said. 

Utah experts, including Butler, Brooks from the U, and Weber Basin Water COO Hess, promote programs like Slow The Flow and use of resource websites like SnoTel.

These programs provide a simple way to educate people about what they can do to help, which ultimately comes down to water conservation.

“It’s incredibly important that we use it as efficiently and thoughtfully as we can,” Brooks said. “It’s essential to everything that we value yet we take it for granted.”

Project Homeless Connect: COVID-19 changed its plans, but not its commitment

Story and photos by JANE KREMER

Oct. 9: This would have been the day where service providers, volunteers, and the majority of those experiencing homelessness in Salt Lake County would meet at the Salt Palace for services to be rendered and received. But, the COVID-19 pandemic changed the plans.  

Project Homeless Connect, a nonprofit organization run by its committee and volunteers, holds a service event for those experiencing homelessness in Salt Lake County annually in the fall. 

According to the organization, among the most popular services provided by this event are medical, dental, vision, and haircuts. In 2019, 125 service providers and 900 volunteers aided over 1,000 people currently experiencing homelessness, with over 3,000 services provided. 

Project Homeless Connect’s fall 2019 service event at the Salt Palace in downtown Salt Lake City.

Mike Akerlow, executive director for Project Homeless Connect in Salt Lake City, started the organization here in 2017 after attending a panel discussing homelessness and PHC in other cities across the U.S. 

Akerlow, who worked for the mayor of Salt Lake City at the time, gained traction for PHC through resources and press coverage from the mayor and support from the community. 

The Salt Lake City Library and a Veterans Administration program, Project Stand Down, had held events similar to those previously conducted by PHC. As Akerlow assembled a team for PHC, he incorporated those programs into the event. 

After running the Salt Lake organization for three years, Akerlow said the organization has been able to improve each year by making its steering committee stronger and refining services provided to people experiencing homelessness. 

“Every year we look at how do we make this the best experience for everyone coming,” Akerlow said during a phone interview. “I think the point of it is to make sure people [experiencing homelessness] are getting connected to the right things.”

In 2020, however, Project Homeless Connect has had to change its events due to the health and safety restrictions of COVID-19. 

Originally, PHC planned to hold events every Friday in October at different homeless resource centers where service providers and volunteers would meet to aid the population. Then, with the surge in cases of COVID-19 in late September, the events fell through.

“Once cases started going up, some of our service providers also got a little bit nervous, so they decided to pull out,” Akerlow said. “And it made sense, we didn’t want to expose people who are experiencing homelessness.”

One of the biggest challenges for the committee this year was reducing the number of 900 committed volunteers down to 20 volunteers due to health and safety restrictions.

Volunteers, from left, Nate Kremer, Robyn Kremer, and Mandy Allen collect donations from community members at a donation drive in October 2020.

“People in our community want to help. I think there’s a lot of people out there who don’t have organizations that they already go to or belong to, and they’re looking for ways that are more meaningful than the traditional service opportunities,” Akerlow said. “And Project Homeless Connect provides that for a lot of people.”

Rethinking how PHC will continue to serve in 2020 and 2021 has been challenging with new information daily surrounding COVID-19. Committee member Natalie Clawson, one of the logistics coordinators for PHC, said the centers that the team planned to visit went the whole summer without a positive COVID-19 test result. 

But as the rise in numbers of COVID-19 in Salt Lake City became more prevalent, PHC had to postpone bringing the services to the centers. 

“The executive directors at all the centers totally understood why we needed to postpone the events,” Clawson said during a phone interview. 

Clawson, who’s been a part of PHC since the first year as a volunteer, said her job description this year is far different than a normal year. 

“At first it was very scary,” Clawson said. “But then as you dig into it, you’re like, you know what this is an opportunity to create and to get everything on its head and rethink what you’re doing and why you’re doing it.” 

Reinvention, as Nicole Handy, the other logistics coordinator for PHC, said, is what this year is all about. 

“As we know, nothing is easy about 2020,” Handy said in a phone interview.  

Handy said the committee knew it wanted to keep the same values and goals while delivering the services this population needs. 

“There is something really rewarding of going in and organizing this event that overall has a really positive outcome,” Handy said. “We are excited when we are able to get back into the centers to really bring some of those high priority [services] in.”

The Project Homeless Connect team held donation drives throughout October, accepting donations such as clothing, hygiene items, and pet care products. It also had a donation link on its website, and had an Amazon wish list that members of the community donated to. 

Bags of donations waiting to be distributed to homeless resource centers across Salt Lake County.

For spring of 2021, PHC plans to return to the original idea of visiting the homeless resource centers weekly to provide services, meals, and donations. Members of the community can learn more about volunteer opportunities for PHC in 2021 and sign up through the website.

The committee for Project Homeless Connect, according to its website, has committed to the idea that “COVID-19 has changed the plan but not our commitment to serving our homeless friends.” 

As Mike Akerlow, executive director for PHC in Salt Lake County, said about the first year, “We did it, somehow we did it.” Little did he know, the very same thing could be said about Project Homeless Connect in 2020 and 2021. 

Nonprofit organization, Holding Out Help, saving lives and providing hope

By BRYNNA MAXWELL

Holding Out Help (HOH) is an organization that has made it its mission to save girls and women from the dangers of polygamous communities. Through a small staff and dedicated volunteer support, HOH provides the care and resources needed for victims to be able to live on their own and become independent.

Cindy Metcalf, director of development and marketing as well as project manager at HOH, said, “We want to make sure they’re safe. We want to make sure they’re mentally stable, that they are getting the best care possible.” A safe environment full of love and protection is new to the women who have escaped polygamous situations. 

A client is participating in a craft session. Photo courtesy of Holding Out Help.

“Polygamy has the greatest sexual abuse statistic in the state,” Metcalf said. “It has a sex abuse rate of 75%.” Metcalf tells of cases where fathers, uncles, and brothers have abused the girls in the family from as young as 4 years old. Boys are sent away to work camps because of their “sinful behavior” where they are physically abused through beatings. 

According to Metcalf and other sources, the abuse does not stop there. When a child misbehaves, they are withheld proper necessities such as food and water and medical care. Child labor is also commonly found where young children are forced to work long hours. They are often required to operate heavy machinery and work in mines without proper protection. 

Metcalf said she has been helping these people since Holding Out Help started. “The girls are like little moms … you typically see a 9 year-old girl being forced to take care of three little ones (children).”

An escapee from a polygamous community who asked to remain anonymous said in a video interview, “The rest of the world will never be able to understand what it is like to be in a place like that.” Holding back tears she described what life was like in three words, “It was prison.”

Holding Out Help offers a safe space for women and children to be their true selves. Photo courtesy of Holding Out Help.

All this abuse is difficult to overcome but Holding Out Help has been a stepping stone for the healing process. The organization not only provides shelter for the women who have escaped, but it also offers resources to help them get back on their feet. These include necessities like clothing, healthcare, and food. Case managers provide counseling, help them get enrolled in school, and coach them to set goals.

The source who escaped polygamy said she smiled when she first walked into HOH. “I realized this was the first moment since we came out that things might be OK,” she said.

Intern Emma Harter has worked for HOH for three years. Photo courtesy of Harter.

Intern Emma Harter has a soft spot for stories like these and the women who come through the organization’s doors. She is now passionately working at Holding Out Help after hearing about it through her high school where she met some of the clients.

“There were multiple people taking classes at my school who had come out of polygamy,” Harter said. “One in particular shared with me her life story and I just had a huge heart for her and being able to see her grow.”

Now, Harter is entering her third year with the nonprofit organization and is changing people’s lives left and right. She is a case manager, specifically over the new residential complex center that was built in 2020.

Her job is simple, meet with clients — women who have escaped polygamy — and help them figure out what they want to do in life. 

“I help establish what their goals are, initially. What they want to see growth in, where they want to move forward in life,” Harter said.

Cindy Metcalf, pictured on the left in the back row, and Emma Harter, in the middle of the back row, smiling for a staff photo. Photo courtesy of Harter. Below, a client selects some new items from a recent school supply drive and a child holds a new backpack. Photo courtesy of Holding Out Help.

These goals range from physical fitness and academics to having successful careers. She then helps them through HOH to take small steps toward achieving those goals. 

Holding Out Help has made such a difference that it is becoming more and more popular among victims seeking refuge. So much so that HOH has needed to nearly double the amount of staff members in 2020.

Because of the rapid growth, the organization’s resources are strained. “We are constantly in need of host homes, mentors, partners, and any other resources,” Harter said. “Especially with COVID, we have experienced more need than ever.”

Cindy Metcalf, the director of development and marketing, said the biggest needs right now are donations. These could be but are not limited to food, clothing, and cash donations. 

Host homes are also always needed. Most girls and women need a family to take them in short term to help them get back on their feet and smoothly transition into society. 

Other ways to get involved are through volunteering or becoming a mentor to one or more of the victims. 

Metcalf said Holding out Help’s goal right now is to be staffed 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Volunteering could be a tremendous help to that. 

There are many ways to sign up and join the Holding out Help community. Its website is a great tool to not only register as a volunteer or to donate, but also to learn more about the organization and its mission.

Harter said, “If you could offer any sort of service, reach out.”

Branches to bottles — A guide to Utah’s first hard cider distillery

Story by HANNAH CARLSON

First came the breweries to Utah, then the distilleries and wineries; the brewpubs soon followed. In 2014 Utah’s latest taste sensation arrived in Salt Lake City: Mountain West Hard Cider.

Owners Jeff and Jennifer Carlton share a drink in the distillery’s tasting room. Photo courtesy of Fathom Croteau.

East Coast natives Jennifer and Jeff Carlton began their careers in the hospitality industry. The couple then switched gears to the financial services industry, all before deciding to create something they could call their own.

During a work-related trip to Ireland in 2011, the Carltons found themselves in a small pub in the harbor city of Galway. That’s where Jennifer first fell in love with hard cider.

In addition to bottles and cans, Mountain West offers a growler option for guests to take their ciders to-go. Photo courtesy of Fathom Croteau.

“I just loved it,” she recalled. “I thought, wow, I found a product that is comparable in alcohol percentage and price to beer. I can finally drink it toe to toe with my husband instead of me having a glass of wine and falling off the chair.”

After returning home, Carlton tried as much hard cider as possible while her husband researched the ins and outs of the hard cider industry. He ultimately discovered the market’s double-digit growth year after year. 

“My husband read this article and he approached me and he said, ‘We’ve always wanted to get into business on our own and we’ve always talked about owning a restaurant, bar, or some type of hospitality and what do you think of hard cider?’” Carlton said. “I actually thought it was a great idea because there were no other dedicated hard cider distilleries here in Utah. There still isn’t.” 

So, the Carltons got to work.

Jeff Carlton enrolled in a cider-making course and the couple attended CiderCon, a cider convention whose mission is to provide information, services, and resources to its members. There, the Carltons were able to speak to some of the industry’s leading experts and gather the knowledge they needed to get a foot in the industry’s door.

A Belgian glass, a favorite way to sip cider for many people. Photo courtesy of Fathom Croteau.

One thing the Carltons didn’t find at CiderCon, however, was a cider maker to join their team. Luckily, they found Joel Goodwillie in the nick of time.

When approached by the Carltons, Goodwillie — then living in Washington — looked at the opportunity as nothing more than a free weekend trip to Salt Lake City. 

“Through my consulting business, I had met with dozens of couples who were bored with their lives and always thought it would be fun to open a winery,” Goodwillie said in an email interview. “It was usually people who just wanted to impress their friends by having a wine or cider with their name on the label.” 

While in Salt Lake City for the weekend, Goodwillie fell in love with the city. However, after meeting with Jeff and Jennifer, he also fell in love with their knowledge of the industry and their clear vision of a successful hard cider business. “I could tell that they were committed to producing a quality product and building a presence within the Utah business community,” Goodwillie said.

So, he loaded his truck, a few pieces of winemaking equipment and made his way to Salt Lake City to start his new chapter with the Carltons.

Upon arrival in Salt Lake City, Goodwillie had come to the Carltons with an impressive resume and over 30 years of experience in winemaking. 

“When you think of cider making, it is winemaking,” Jennifer Carlton said. “Just instead of grapes, it’s apples.”

The distillery’s fermentation tanks, where all the cider magic happens. Photo courtesy of Fathom Croteau.

Next up, the team needed a location and found theirs in central Salt Lake City at 425 N. 400 West. The couple’s urban warehouse serves as their cidery, office, and tasting room for visitors. 

“So, we secured our cider maker, we found the location — now we needed apples,” Carlton said.

While Utah isn’t usually considered an apple-growing region, the new team eventually found a small orchard in Santaquin, roughly an hour south of Salt Lake City. 

“They were a perfect partner for us,” Carlton said. “They had the resources and manpower to be able to pick the apples, but more importantly the commercial equipment to be able to juice the apples into apple juice for us.” 

Mountain West Hard Cider was finally born.

Plenty to go around

Today, Mountain West Hard Cider offers four regularly stocked products including Ruby, 7-Mile, Cottonwood, and Desolation. All of Mountain West’s ciders are named to honor various canyons throughout Utah. Every three to four weeks the cidery also features what it calls its “little orchard series” cider, which is available on tap to customers who visit the warehouse. 

The “little orchard series” on tap. Photo courtesy of Fathom Croteau.

The series is a chance for Goodwillie to experiment with flavors and try new recipes — 100 gallons at a time. Although, once the 100-gallon batch is gone, it’s gone for good.

“During my first visit, I sampled all the different products available and fell in love with Sweet Alice, one of their smaller batches available a few weeks ago,” said James Stephenson, a new Mountain West customer. “I’ve gone back multiple times since to refill my growler. I look forward to trying their new small batches in the future as well.”

However, Mountain West’s most popular cider, Ruby, is always available and ready to be poured. It is described on Mountain West’s website as “a crisp 6.8% alcohol by volume hard apple cider for year-round enjoyment and everyday get-togethers.”

When asked what his favorite cider is, Goodwillie compared it to a parent being asked which one of their children is their favorite.

“I’m proud of all of the Mountain West Ciders but what’s really great is that we’re having new children every month now with our small orchard series of small batches,” he said. “Unlike children though, if we don’t particularly care for one of these small-batch ciders we just get rid of it and produce something else.”

Jennifer Carlton identified the two leading determining factors of each product’s final and unique flavoring. First, Mountain West doesn’t receive a specific blend of apples in the apple juice that it receives from its distributors. 

A fridge full of Ruby, waiting to be taken home and enjoyed. Photo by Hannah Carlson.

“We don’t have that luxury of choosing a specific blend of apples like some of the bigger names, but I also like that because it does make us craft,” Carlton explained. “The flavor might vary slightly every time. It all depends on the blend of apples in that specific batch of apple juice we receive.”

The second thing that makes Mountain West stand out is the cidery’s partnership with a local flavor lab. The team discusses its desired flavor outcome with a lab technician, who then recommends a specific strain of yeast for Goodwillie to use when fermenting the ciders.

“Take Cottonwood, for example,” Carlton said. “We reached out to the lab and we said, ‘We’re adding Centennial hops, which tend to be very floral. What would you recommend as a yeast strain that we can use to really highlight the juniper flavors or that little bit of citrusy that pulls forward?’” 

Once the team decides on the right strain of yeast, it will continue to use that same strain in every batch throughout the product’s lifespan.

Anytime, anywhere, anybody kind of drink

Since Mountain West opened its doors in 2014, the team’s hard ciders have continued to grow in popularity around the state. However, the Carltons and their team still make an everyday effort to educate and inspire every consumer who wants to learn more about hard cider.

“There’s a lot of misconceptions when it comes to hard cider,” Jennifer Carlton said. “Men often think it’s a woman’s drink, or everybody thought it was going to be super sweet. So, we intentionally made our ciders dry, like what I originally had in Ireland.”

Carlton also wants to clear up the common misconception that hard ciders can only be enjoyed in the fall and winter months. 

“Historically, the ciders are fermenting during the winter months, they don’t actually come to drinkable conditions until the spring or summer,” Carlton said. 

Eric Montgomery, part of Mountain West’s “cider slingin’” crew, as he says. Photo courtesy of Fathom Croteau.

As much as Mountain West seeks to inspire and educate the community, it has also created a space where it can be inspired and learn from others. Mountain West service employee Eric Montgomery’s favorite part of working at Mountain West is the exposure to others who are passionate and dedicated to their own crafts and talents.

“Whether it’s those of use behind the bar who are responsible for service, or the professionals we contract with for entertainment,” he said in an email interview. “Everyone in our little community has so much talent to bring to the table and I feel like I have the space to learn and grow in my own strengths.”

Mountain West offers free tours of its cidery and $6 cider tastings. Tours can be scheduled in person or over the phone.

How three Salt Lake City women are fighting modern day gender inequalities with their social media platform, Fluence

Story by KATYA BENEDICT

A Salt Lake City-based company is combating gender inequalities with empowering social media posts. Nicole Wawro, Alba Fonseca, and Sinclaire Pierce are the three women behind the social media platform known as Fluence

In a technologically driven world, Fluence is discovering innovative approaches for practical solutions geared toward women.

The idea of women being at a disadvantage in society is a concept that many consider to be antiquated. But for Wawro, Fonseca, and Pierce, this was one of their founding principles — to educate and advocate for women who always felt as though they were falling behind, but couldn’t figure out why. So, after sitting down together and coming to the same realization, they decided to start a company designed specifically for women. 

Nicole Wawro sits in the Fluence podcast studio. Photo courtesy of Fluence.

The three shared similar experiences of gender-based workplace discrimination. This was a huge factor in what drove them into their research. “They fired all the women in my firm who were eligible to take maternity leave because they didn’t want to pay it out,” Wawro said in a FaceTime interview. This was what ignited her desire to stand up for women in the workplace. 

Fonseca shared instances in which she would bring up good ideas that were instantly dismissed. In later meetings a man would bring up the same idea and it would be labeled as “genius” and “perfect.” 

Pierce had always struggled with being interrupted, and it wasn’t until their research was conducted that she realized maybe there was a gender piece to it. “I always thought people interrupted because they were mean, not because the person talking was a woman,” Pierce said in a FaceTime interview. 

These new realizations led to a shared understanding — that until they made people recognize there is a problem, they couldn’t begin to solve it.

The company experienced immediate growth, quickly gaining the attention of thousands of people. “Part of it was timing, and part of it was strategic,” Pierce said. “We saw an opportunity with TikTok and we jumped on it.” They attribute a large majority of the growth to the fact that the stories they were sharing resonated with so many women, and TikTok was becoming an incredibly popular app for young women.

Fluence’s TikTok account has more than 308,000 followers.

The inequalities women face tend to remain swept under the rug, and for Fluence this seemed controversial. The entire purpose of the brand is to achieve more influence and affluence for women, which is why these inequalities are publicly recognized. “We believe that when women have more influence the world becomes a better place,” Wawro said.

Upon obtaining more recognition, Fluence received an overwhelming amount of responses from women who didn’t even understand that these were real issues. And since they didn’t understand they were real issues, they didn’t understand there were real solutions. 

Emma Watson, the actor and feminist advocate, said in her 2014 speech to the United Nations that what many young women fail to realize is that they are living in a society that for hundreds of years has been working against them.

This ideology has become a huge focal point for Fluence. “A lot of people don’t even know where to find information. Being a platform that challenges a perspective to see things differently is something so powerful,” Fonseca said.

The company produces content across Instagram, TikTok, and even music streaming services such as Spotify and Apple Music. A recent video addressed a hand signal used to signify domestic violence in the home.

A main goal of the company is to create refreshing and accessible content that can reach a diverse group of people. Its success is based upon how many people Fluence is able to reach in terms of followers and views.

“Our audience is global — the U.S., Canada, Germany, the UK, Australia,” Pierce said when asked about its demographic. It strives to appeal and market itself toward young women. “If you can catch a 13-year-old before she experiences these horrible things … before she decides, ‘I’m not going into STEM’ — that’s so powerful,” Pierce said.

Fluence targets high school women, educating them on topics such as building confidence and fighting the stigma. From lower left: Katya Benedict, Isela Ayala, Jackie Helbert, and Karen Bruce.

Ultimately, the goal for this company is to change the world, and these three founders believe it has the power to do so. When women are lifted, when women become more active in their homes, communities, and businesses, the result is better for everyone, Pierce said. 

Alba Fonseca wears the Women’s Empowerment Pullover, which features the names Harriet Tubman, Maya Angelou, Serena Williams, and Aretha Franklin. Photo courtesy of Fluence.

Fluence understands that to reach a global market, it has to keep in mind how differently women live in different parts of the globe. But the first step begins with education in order to help women feel more independent, valuable, and capable, no matter their situation.

“I want to empower women to do something about these issues. I want to enable them with very specific tools and resources and practical solutions to then make changes,” Pierce said. Fluence is a community, and the more people it is able to reach, the stronger this community can become. 

Alba Fonseca, left, and Sinclaire Pierce working behind the scenes for a TikTok video. Photo courtesy of Nicole Wawro.

The company does not define itself as the stereotypical feminists people most often picture. The image the owners want to portray does not include feelings of anger or distaste, but rather optimism. The brand intends to be fun, sarcastic, and lighthearted but based on high quality information.

“This company helps people feel validated and understood,” Fonseca said. Fluence centers around being a positive light for women everywhere, no matter what inequalities they might have experienced. So whether it be an informative Instagram story based on well-detailed research, or a goofy TikTok video mocking sexism in the workplace, Fluence is changing the lives of women everywhere.

Grief work: the process of loss against a backdrop of chaos

Story and gallery by ALEXIS PERNO

When you walk into the small front lobby of the Serenicare Funeral Home, the first thing you notice is the pleasant yellow walls. 

The second would be the dark wooden desks opposite each other. 

The third is a small, yet striking detail; next to the ubiquitous tissue box is a new fixture — a bottle of hand sanitizer. 

Francis Mortensen, funeral director of seven years, sports a surgical mask as he stands alone in the Serenicare Funeral Home’s small viewing room.

Francis Mortensen, Serenicare’s funeral director of seven years, is wearing a blue surgical mask as he speaks to a client on the phone, mid-interview. I pause the recording as he talks. When he finishes, I smile, thinking back to his earlier comments about the upcoming weekend.

“You weren’t kidding when you said a funeral director’s job never ends.”

Mortensen laughs in agreement, and we speak for 20 more minutes. 

The pandemic hasn’t changed Serenicare’s process all that much: when a death occurs, the home, located at 2281 S. West Temple, is notified by a hospice nurse or social worker. Then, the home contacts the family to learn their desires and arrange pickup of their loved one. A time to meet with the family is set, and plans for a service are put into motion. 

However, this face-to-face collection of information between Mortensen and a grieving family has been replaced with online forms, emails and phone calls. Precautions are taken that weren’t before. Instead of simply straightening up the meeting table for his next client, Mortensen spends time sanitizing before returning the ever-present tissue box and hand sanitizer to their respective places. 

“We do have to have different precautions,” he said. “When we are going to a facility, I used to never ask, ‘Do they have an infectious disease?’”

Early in the pandemic, Mortensen and his team would suit up in complete protection gear to even step foot into a room with a deceased person, regardless of if the person had died from COVID-19. Now, greater precautions are only taken if the deceased was positive at the time of death. 

“That comes down to not only a time thing and a stress thing but also a financial thing because of purchasing all that protective equipment,” he said. “It’s just going to be thrown away.”

Although the death rate in Utah has remained low compared to hard-hit places —  773 deaths as of Nov. 20 compared to New York City’s 19,517 — changes still have made themselves known.

With the sudden lack of in-person, open-casket viewings, embalming is not taking place. To comply with social distancing guidelines and church closures, funeral services have been replaced by graveside services at the cemetery. More families have begun to choose cremation, causing changes in the revenue stream. 

But for Serenicare, Zoom funerals have worked well. During one service with over 100 attendees, Mortensen was completely alone in Serenicare  — save for the casket. 

“All of the speakers did their talk from a different location, so [Zoom] worked very well in that aspect. It was different not having anybody here,” Mortensen said. 

Preschool teacher Shanna Beesley lost her mother, JoAnn Peirce, on June 15, 2020. While her mother’s death was unrelated to COVID-19, the family decided to limit the number of people who could attend the service to just Beesley’s siblings, their children and Peirce’s siblings.

As Beesley and her family met at Larkin Sunset Gardens in Sandy, Utah, over 100 people attended virtually through a Zoom organized by the family.

“I think it’s been harder for sure to grieve but you know what, at least we have our family,” she said in a Zoom interview. “That’s No. 1. We had our family there, and so that was helpful.”

Despite some technical difficulties, Beesley said attendees were thankful to be present, albeit virtually. 

In Peirce’s obituary, it’s written that “family was her most priceless treasure.” When things become overwhelming for her daughter, family ensures perseverance as well. 

“I hold on to all the great things that [my mother] did for me and the impact she made here,” Beesley said. “The memories and love of family, supportive family, that’s what I hold on to.” 

These infographics were originally created Nov. 15. In the five days between creation and publication, case counts increased by 2,625.

The stark necessity of social distancing has made mourning into a greater challenge, according to Francis Mortensen. For some, it isn’t enough to be notified of a death. Seeing a loved one for the last time at a viewing can be a vital step for someone to work through their grieving process.  

“Death is the definite factor in all of our lives, and understanding that, some people try to deny it to the greatest extent,” Mortensen said. “Those tend to be those that have the greatest difficulty feeling [grief] in different aspects.”

Jessica Koth, the director of public relations for the National Funeral Directors Association, agrees that grief is a powerful force. 

“We often think that we can move on from a death and find closure, implying there is some endpoint where grief ends,” Koth said in an email interview. “However, as anyone who has lost someone they are close to, you never quite get over their death and your life is changed because they are no longer there.” 

While the Wisconsin-headquartered NFDA has worked with the federal government to plan for mass-fatality circumstances for over a decade, the pandemic has been the biggest challenge to date. Calls increased as the organization worked with federal agencies to provide personal protection equipment and information to funeral homes across the nation. 

Koth said she couldn’t imagine what the experience had been like, especially considering that the majority of funeral homes in the United States are small and family-operated. 

“Day in and day out, funeral directors everywhere continued to serve families with the same level of care and compassion they always exhibit; they never missed a step,” she said. “I have never been prouder to work at NFDA than I have these last few months.”

Funeral and memorial gatherings are often crucial parts of both the mourning and healing process. Grief becomes even more complicated now as individuals also experience non-death losses. 

Within Serenicare Funeral Home, a bottle of Germ-X hand
sanitizer sits next to a tissue box in an effort to slow the spread of
the coronavirus.

“Some may be concrete and easy to identify, such as financial or employment insecurity and lack of social interaction,” Koth said. “Other losses might be harder to recognize, like no longer having the comfort of our normal routines or freedom of movement in public spaces.”

As grief evolves with the times, one constant remains: the image of the hand sanitizer next to the tissue box. But no matter the environment, the process toward healing can — must — begin somewhere.

The University of Utah and COVID-19

Story by CHANDLER HOLT 

The University of Utah had to change many things about the 2020-21 school year to account for the COVID-19 pandemic just like thousands of other colleges around the United States. Whether it was cancelling the majority of in-person classes or changing hours for many spots on campus where students can shop or eat, the student experience had to be altered coming into the school year to make sure that all students could attend college without contracting the virus and putting others at risk. 

COVID-19 made itself prevalent at the beginning of 2020 and has turned into a worldwide pandemic with over 225,000 fatalities in the United States alone. Some colleges such as University of Colorado Boulder and the University of North Carolina did not put enough restrictions in effect and had to add additional more-intense precautions after the schools had large COVID-19 outbreaks. 

The University of Utah emailed all students in September 2020 letting them know that the college had only a 0.5% positivity rate through the first month on campus. This translates to only 16 positive cases with over 3,000 people living on campus for the year. This number was one of the lowest in the U.S. among other Division 1 colleges. Despite a spike of positive COVID-19 cases in the Salt Lake Valley in November, the U has altered procedures as necessary and kept cases on campus as low as possible. 

Craig Caldwell, a professor in the Department of Film and Media Arts, said he had never seen anything like the COVID-19 pandemic in his 40 years of teaching. He said in a Zoom interview that many smaller disasters had occurred but nothing to the level where “students can’t interact.” Caldwell said he felt the U had done a tremendous job handling COVID-19 and he would give them a grade of “one thousand percent.”  

Cameron Vakilian, an academic advisor in the Department of Communication, shared a similar answer to Caldwell and agreed that he had never seen a calamity on this level where drastic changes had to be made to ensure the safety of every student on campus. Vakilian added in a Zoom interview that the only disaster in recent memory that brought a similar amount of distress was the murder of Lauren McCluskey that occurred on campus. McCluskey was a student athlete who was majoring in communication, which adds to the devastation that Vakilian as well as so many others felt after her death. 

Vakilian said the U has done a tremendous job handling the COVID-19 pandemic and said the university has taken the situation very seriously. He added that it is very hard to lock down a campus and a lot goes into it, but the U did it for the safety of everyone on campus. The U also has an effect on the rest of the Salt Lake Valley based on its response to COVID-19 just due its proximity. With this being said, it can be inferred that all the surrounding cities benefitted from the U handling COVID-19 so well. 

Hayley Kievman, a graduate student who also teaches an anthropology course, compared the distress from COVID-19 to the distress a hurricane would bring to a small island. Despite it being her first year teaching a course, Kievman said in a Zoom interview that she definitely noticed a difference in how professors/teachers can interact with students. She described continuous virtual meetings and classes as “awkward.” She has experience teaching younger students so that is what she based this observation on. Kievman was also quick to point out that she has seen a large dip in student participation and student focus as well. 

All three individuals said the biggest change to their work life brought on by COVID-19 was the majority of work being moved online. They also agreed it was more convenient to talk with students, but it wasn’t as personable and maybe not as effective in terms of building, or establishing, rapport.  

Caldwell brought up that body language is a very key part of communication and it’s very hard to read body language over the internet or through a webcam. Caldwell, an all-online professor even before the COVID-19 pandemic, explained that he saw way more changes in his job than he expected despite being strictly online. 

In conclusion, the U rose above the criticism and put in a large variety of rules to combat COVID-19. These rules promote social distancing and being educated on how to avoid contracting the virus. The U should be admired and studied by other colleges in the U.S. on how to deal with the pandemic. All rules that were changed in response to COVID-19 will be re-evaluated at the end of the semester to see if any changes can be moved back or slightly altered for the students’ sake. 

The Red Door: Salt Lake City’s sleekest bar

Story and photos by MORGAN PARENT

Glasses clink together and again as they’re set on glass table tops throughout the room. The music is at the perfect volume for listening without having to shout to hold a conversation. You feel relaxed here.

This is the Red Door that faithful patrons have come to know and love.

IMG_6927Opened in October 2002, “the Red Door became the second non-smoking club in Salt Lake at a time when bars were private clubs which allowed smoking,” said Louise Hannig, the owner. “My vision was a comfortable warehouse vibe with a unique martini menu and liquor selection.”

Hannig’s vision continues to live on after 17 years. The Salt Lake City bar, located at 57 W. 200 South, specializes in craft martinis, cocktails, and ambiance. The red painted brick with subtle artwork, exposed lighting, and odd monkey in the corner give the spot an eccentric feeling, unlike any other in the city.

IMG_6926Getting the joint going was no small task. In the beginning, Hannig spent hours at the bar for eight months straight, working out the quirks and making sure it could run smoothly. Although preparing to open was occasionally challenging, the hard work and personality that went into the creation is evident.

The lighting was custom-made, the tables were handmade by a local artist, and Hannig and her friends painted the brick walls.

Down to the bartender name tags, the Red Door is a full experience. Though some say the styling of the name tags was a bold choice, “it actually happened as a happy accident,” Hannig said. “We had just opened the bar, but I hadn’t planned any name tags yet. A friend who was helping me said she had her actual missionary name tag with her, so she wore it the night we opened. We took the idea from there and I used a favorite line from my favorite show as a kid, “MASH,” and tweaked the wording.”

IMG_6929
The name tags read “Sister” or “Brother” then the name of the bartender, followed by “Church of the Emotionally Tired and Morally Bankrupt.” This play on the influence of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints continues in the design of the A-Frame sidewalk board in front of the bar.

IMG_6919Martyn Duniho, a University of Utah graduate student, is a Red Door regular. He’s been patronizing the establishment for a few years and considers the Vesper Martini his go-to mix. “This is by far my favorite place to get a drink,” Duniho said. “The staff are excellent at what they do, and the crowd is rarely too rowdy. Weekend nights can get a little crazy, but weekday nights are just perfect.”IMG_6920

Lynnae Larsen-Jones, manager of the establishment, said those who know Red Door believe in its great drinks and mature atmosphere. Alternately, those who aren’t familiar with the bar tend to think it may be too fancy for them, there is a dress code, or it’s only for old people.

About this reputation, Duniho said he “fully agrees. The atmosphere can’t be beat, but before visiting the first time I assumed it would be a snooty kind of place.” Now he can’t imagine going anywhere else.

The people who frequent the Red Door are certainly a spread of personalities. Larsen-Jones said the people have been the most interesting part of working at the bar over the last 16 years. “Especially the couples who come in for a few drinks then start fighting with each other and want the bartender to weigh in on the argument, tell them which one is right, or play therapist. But that kind of situation isn’t super common,” she said.

“Most of the guests coming in are generally pretty alright — just weird in their own ways,” said Larsen-Jones. No matter the attitude of the customer, Larsen-Jones’ philosophy of bartending is to “be nice no matter what and don’t ruin your own night. Also, don’t worry about tips. You don’t know what’s going on for other people.”

As diverse as the individuals drinking here are, the types of cocktails are equally varied. Hannig has seen bar trends change time and again over her nearly 30 years of bartending.

IMG_6930Vodka martinis and drinks such as the Cosmopolitan and sour apple martini were very popular when the Red Door opened. Bourbon and other classic cocktails like the Old Fashioned were in vogue next, around five to seven years ago.

Gin has been the preferred drink base recently, although it was rarely ordered in a martini or craft cocktail 15 years ago. Tequila and mezcal, liquors which are typically shot, seem to be next up in the ever-evolving cocktail mix craze.

Witness to these changing trends, Larsen-Jones has adapted to each new style. No single drink tops her list of favorite drinks to make. Rather, making something up on the spot provides her the opportunity to have fun and use her knowledge of how flavors mix to create something in line with the customer’s desires.

“I don’t know how she does it, but every drink Lynnae makes is amazing,” Duniho said. “I can ask her to include a couple specific ingredients then she does her thing and hands me something delicious.”

At the end of the day, owning the bar throughout the years has been worth the effort to Hannig: “Pouring what you love to do in every drink makes a bar successful.”

 

Misrepresentation of Soul food at the University of Utah

Story and photos by QUINCY WANSEL

The University of Utah celebrated Black History Month in 2018 in a variety of ways. For example, the Office of Equity and Diversity hosted the Blackout, an event at the Peterson Heritage Center featuring hundreds of Black faces and a celebration of Black excellence. 

Others though, renounced Black History Month by hanging a White supremacist banner over the side of the George S. Eccles Legacy Bridge and posting hateful White supremacist posters around the campus. This is not the first time that racist posters have been found around the U, but campus police and students were quick to tear them down. 

IMG-4455

Lassonde Studios is one of the residence halls on the University of Utah campus.

Meanwhile, Miller Cafe, located inside the Lassonde Studios residence hall at the U, celebrated the month by serving an interpretation of Soul food: chicken and waffles. 

Chicken and waffles is not entirely Soul food, but more a product of different regional cuisines. 

Chicken and waffles is a product of Pennsylvania-Dutch cuisine and Soul food, according to renowned chef Tori Avey. Fried chicken was already popular in the US, but waffles were brought over by the Pilgrims during their time in Holland. The Pennsylvania-Dutch were the first documented people to experiment with chicken and waffles.

The question then becomes — what is Soul food?

According to a popular source in the culinary community, Soul food is a staple in the African American community, and has been for decades. Soul food can typically include fried or smothered chicken, fried catfish, collard greens, candied yams, okra, cornbread, and so on.

This proves that Soul food and chicken and waffles are not the same. 

The stereotype is wrong — not all Black people like fried chicken. But, fried chicken is an integral part of what Soul food is.

IMG-4457

A neon sign advertises Miller Cafe inside Lassonde Studios.

Miller Cafe received an anonymous complaint about the dish. According to Mark Jacson, former chef at Miller Cafe, the people who complained said they were “offended” by the food. 

In 2018, Jacson said he was upset, and that if Mexican food and Italian food can be served, then why not historically Black food? Jacson felt that because of low Black enrollment and racist media at the U, this was another attempt from someone not in agreement with Black History Month. 

About a year elapsed without further discussion until a reporter investigated the situation. Cha McNeil, a social justice advocate at the U, said Black students living in Lassonde were the ones who filed the complaint. McNeil said the students believed Miller Cafe was “promoting a stereotype.”

By serving chicken and waffles as Soul food for Black History Month, the meal choice highlighted the stereotype that all Black people like fried chicken. After the complaint, housing at the U told Miller Cafe that “they had to take it down,” McNeil said. After the complaint, Soul food was not served at the cafe again. 

The sign above the food did not say “Soul food,” it said “chicken and waffles.” The cafe meant to advertise Soul food, but did it inaccurately. 

The students who complained then brought another issue to light — cultural awareness for chefs at the U.

By getting rid of Soul food, with the assumption that chicken and waffles is a part of that, Miller Cafe missed the opportunity to correct the misunderstanding and celebrate Black History Month.

Meligha Garfield, the director of the Black Cultural Center at the U, said diversity is a “cross-cultural collaboration including various entities to accomplish a goal.” But how can there be diversity if the goal was never accomplished? 

Jatara Smith, the Black Cultural Center’s coordinator, said the U is “outshined in the diversity sector. The university should compete and model after other institutions.”

Many colleges in this nation serve Soul food on campus regularly. For example, Howard University in Washington, D.C., has Soul Food Thursdays at its cafe, serving fried chicken, collard greens, cornbread, and more. University of Hawaii-Hilo has Soul Food for Thought Cafe, where Hawai’ian and Black cultural food share the plate.

However, in 2015, Wright State University in Ohio served Soul food for Black History Month through its dining service vendor, Chartwells — the same vendor at the University of Utah. The menu depicted photographs of historical Black figures, such as Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Sojourner Truth, in the background of the menu. Black students at Wright were offended because “the vendor and school had juxtaposed Black History Month with foods associated with offensive racial stereotypes,” said Alan Yuhas with The Guardian.

Fried chicken may be a staple in Soul food, but ever since the 1915 film “The Birth of a Nation,” fried chicken has been tied to the Black stereotype — along with watermelon. In an NPR interview, race and folklore professor Claire Schmidt, at the University of Missouri, said, “It’s a food you eat with your hands, and therefore it’s dirty. Table manners are a way of determining who is worthy of respect or not.” With “The Birth of a Nation” being arguably the most racist film ever made, this stereotype took off without hesitation. “[It’s] the way people eat it,” she said. 

There is no dedicated restaurant on campus that regularly offers Soul food options, but Tawanda Owens, the executive director of Diverse Student Advocacy at the U, has plans for that. Owens suggested bringing Black culturally-aware chefs to the U for Black History Month in 2020. She hopes there will be an appropriate celebration of Black excellence at the U in collaboration with the Black Cultural Center.

The recovery of Soul food at the U is underway, along with cultural awareness and the diminishment of a stereotype that has made Black History Month a challenge in the kitchen.

 

LGBTQ+U: The community at the University of Utah

Story and photos by ANDREW LURAS

Salt Lake City is known as being one of the most Mormon cities in America. And to counter the common knowledge of that, it’s also known as one of the “gayest” cities, which many people find hard to believe.

With it being known as this type of city, many different students from out of state are probably wondering how the University of Utah may reflect those values.

The conversation of the LGBTQ+ has always been around, but it’s become such a widespread debate through politicians, news, and just everyday conversation. This community is constantly fighting for its well-deserved rights in this country, as well as the freedom to walk around safely without the lingering fear of running into the many hateful people who reside within America. 

LGBTQ+ students are seeking out which colleges and universities to attend based on many differing factors such as how accepting toward them will their future campus be. With the U, at new student orientation, the staff will kindly ask you to state your name, without it even having to be your birth name, and your pronouns, such as he/him, she/her, they/them, etc.

The LGBT Resource Center is located on the fourth floor in room 409 inside the U’s A. Ray Olpin Union building. The center was founded in 2002 by Stayner Landward and Kay Harward, both retired and moved on. This was during a time when the Mormon church was “anti-gay” with many of its teachings and practices showing some distaste toward gay marriage, according to Whit Hollis, the director of the Student Union. It started out as just an LGBT student organization with weekly meetings garnering a range of 80 to 250 students. 

Hollis attended a few of these meetings. “There was a clear need for services for that group of students, faculty, and staff of course due to the sheer size of the student organization,” Hollis said. When creating the resource center, Landward and Harward found support from the student body and administration at the U but it wasn’t always like that. 

Proposition 8, also known as Prop 8, came about during 2008. It was a ballot proposition against same-sex marriage. During this time the LGBTQ+ found themselves being targeted for hate-speech and microaggressions. “They would tell us, ‘Why do you need more rights, you already have equal rights,’ which was bullshit,” Hollis said. 

“Things have definitely been better recently. There’s still these microaggressions going around but the U has improved since the resource center first started,” Hollis said. He commented on the many different locations the resource center has occupied as it’s grown. “There was a point where I had to convert a storage closet to be the center’s main room which was ironic for the gay director to put all the gays in the closet,” Hollis said as he laughed at the idea. 

“Right now it seems to be quite successful, but we all can strive to do better, no matter where we are,” Hollis said. “The U isn’t as safe as it needs to be and that we must always strive to make the U a safe campus for all students, faculty, and staff who attend or work here.”

As of February 2019, the resource center’s director is Clare Lemke, the former assistant director of the Center for LGBTQIA+ Student Success at Iowa State University. “I was looking for my next step and Utah wasn’t on my radar,” she said. “I’ve been looking for different opportunities in the West and this job came up.” Lemke had been moving in order to try to find something closer to her partner’s career. When this job opportunity appeared, she became surprised by the vibrancy of diversity in the U’s campus with the many queer and transgender people she has been able to meet on campus. 

Originally, she thought she was studying to become a professor but over time she found that working in a resource center felt more “collaborative” than being a traditional educator. Currently at the resource center there are three full time staff members and two student staff members. “All of our staff here bring a wealth of different backgrounds and personalities. It’s refreshing to see for the students who visit the center,” Lemke said. 

When it comes to the changes the U has gone through in terms of LGBTQ+ acceptance, Lemke feels as if the U “isn’t just a place you go to and leave at 5 p.m. anymore.”

Lemke finds that the U is very different from her previous institution. “I don’t think I’ve been anywhere with so much of its influence being made by the different cultures within the U.” She added, “We’re constantly striving to make the U a safe space for queer and trans students, we just want to make sure we don’t let these negative experiences an LGBTQ+ student might have affect the rest of their life here.”

One student in particular, who asked to be identified as “G,” said she had some pretty odd experiences at the U as an LGBTQ+ member. “I’m a business major and a lot of the students in those buildings in particular are pretty discriminatory towards my sexuality.”

G also said her Mormon peers have invited her to church. “They would be overly friendly at first,” she said, but she felt like they were only inviting her to change her sexual orientation.

G doesn’t know how accepting the rest of campus is, but that experience left her with much anxiety. She found it harder to reach out to many of her peers or professors about this issue but she found solace in the many other friends outside of school who were LGBTQ+ accepting. G used to go to Westminster College and she felt the transition from there to the U was “an odd experience.” G said there is room for improvement at the U and we should be looking for ways to help students have an overall great campus life.

“I’ve been to the resource center a few times,” G said. “Clare [Lemke] and the staff at the center are very helpful, though I had trouble finding it at first. If you are a part of the LGBTQ+ you should definitely check out the resource center, they’re a really great group of people, especially if you had an experience on campus like mine.”  Even with G’s experience at the U, she has decided to stay and not let it affect her pursuit of a business degree. This is just one in the many cases of what it’s like to be a student at the U who is a part of the LGBTQ+. 

As much as Salt Lake City has this good image on being an open and welcoming city to the LGBTQ+, students, faculty, and staff at the U are always working on improving upon the areas they may be lacking in. Whit Hollis believes we need to focus more on the safety of our LGBTQ+ members. And Lemke knows we must prioritize these students because the negative experiences they might have on campus may affect their education here. As Hollis, Lemke, and G have agreed on, the U should always be striving to do better in order to figure out the best way to serve its students so they can have an educational, safe, and happy experience here on campus. 

 

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The startup of Simply Açaí at the University of Utah

Story and gallery by GRIFFIN BONJEAN

University of Utah student Seth Neelman, 23, has opened his first location for his company Simply Açaí in the Lassonde Studios building on campus. 

As a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, he spent two years on a religious mission in Brasilia, Brazil, to help the community. 

While in Brazil, he met the friends who introduced him to açaí berries. “It was like the most amazing thing ever,” Neelman said, “and from then on out I was eating açaí like two to three times a week.” 

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Freshly made Simply Açaí Power Bowl.

After finding his love for açaí, he later joined a summer 2019 internship with Makai Fruits. It is a company that ships hand-picked açaí berries from the Amazon Forest to customers in the US. Through the internship, Neelman got to travel to Belem, Brazil, to check the açaí harvest and factory.

Neelman also met and helped support locals in Brazil by purchasing bracelets made from the açaí berry shells. He handed them out for free after opening in Lassonde on Aug. 19, 2019. 

Neelman believes that this internship taught him information that was used to help the start of Simply Açaí. He also credits Lassonde for giving him his entrepreneurial spirit because he lived there as a freshman student. 

Being a student at the U helped him gain the ability to connect with the Lassonde Entrepreneur Institute and its food partner Chartwells Catering. Neelman wanted to stay on campus with Simply Açaí and felt that the food trailer in the Lassonde lobby would be a good place to start. 

In order to open, he had to hire employees. Neelman said, “First I started with a manager because I wanted someone that was familiar with the restaurant industry.” He wanted someone who would lead by example and enforce the rules involving cleanliness and health codes. Neelman interviewed the job candidates. He said many of the employees whom he found were references from other employees. Not only did he want to find good employees, but he wanted to create an experience where his employees could have fun and enjoy the work.

Employee Reid Lanigan feels that Neelman has succeeded in doing so. “I’ve loved it so far,” Lanigan said. “I have class after it on some days and class before it on some days so it works out well with my schedule.” 

Lanigan only works an average of three shifts a week with each of his shifts only lasting about three hours. He works Monday mornings, and Tuesday and Thursday lunch shifts. His duties are to follow the health codes as he makes food that customers order from the menu and to serve it to them. He said the company encourages employees to “try to get the food out as fast as possible and try to make sure that the food is correct.”

The menu displayed on the red and white Lassonde trailer gives students a variety of different açaí bowl options. Each item on the menu contains the pureed frozen açaí palm fruit berries. Customers are also able to choose additional toppings like dark chocolate chips, goji berries, almond butter, Nutella, and many more. 

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Employee Reid Lanigan adding the final ingredient into a customer’s açaí bowl.

An avocado toast menu is now a new addition to the menu items that are offered to add to the different flavors. Avocado toast is an example of how businesses have to make adjustments to change. Employee Grayson Goodyear has had to deal with business changes for the company. He said, “We’ve actually started to run out a lot mid week and I’ve had to do two grocery store runs for Seth [Neelman].” The employees of Simply Açaí are adjusting as the business makes its way through its early stages.

These changes contribute to the success of the startup of Simply Açaí, and the employees face these changes to help with company success. Goodyear believes that the bosses did well with hiring their employees. He thinks this is important. “Seth has done a really good job hiring just like friendly people and people that seem inviting to the customers, and I think that creates a lot of attention,” he said. 

Goodyear believes that this attention to the relationships that are built between the friendly employees and customers contribute greatly to the success of the business. 

When it comes to the success of the business, customers returning is one of the ways to measure Simply Açaí’s success. “It started off a little slow, but after the first couple of weeks it picked up,” employee Reid Lanigan said about his first few shifts after opening. “The longer it’s been open, the more word has definitely spread.” He believes that the company continues to grow as it gets further and further away from its opening day.

As a student entrepreneur, Neelman feels that he is able to gain knowledge in the classroom that he can apply to his business. In a follow-up FaceTime interview he said, “It is kind of cool now that I’m in a lot of my management and leadership classes, like that make sense or that would work in my situation.” Neelman has started his journey toward success as a college student entrepreneur.

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Electric scooters and skateboards on campus

Story and photos by CHRISTOPHER STENGER

Electric scooters and skateboards are everywhere on the University of Utah’s campus. These personal transporters have such a large impact on campus and anyone who walks the campus will see the hazards they have created.   

Electrical powered personal transporters are still required to follow the same rule of non-motorized personal transporters, like bikes, which include a 10 mph zone all throughout campus. When class is getting out or about to start and the sidewalks are filled with students, it makes it more difficult for those on electric scooters and skateboards to keep a consistent speed and direction without either crashing into people or forcing pedestrians off the sidewalk.

Students have bought their own personal electric scooters or skateboards to avoid having ton pay the rental cost. The electrical scooter companies require a small fee before you use every time. Companies like Lime and Bird provide electric scooters to rent for $1 with a per minute cost ranging from 25-50 cents.

According to the U’s policy code 3-232, skateboards are defined as ‘a non-motorized device consisting of two or more wheels affixed to a platform or board upon which a rider stands and which does not have steering capability similar to that of a bicycle or brakes which operate on or upon the wheels of the skateboard.” Having these electric skateboards around campus is technically violating school policy.

According to Ginger Cannon, the University of Utah’s active transportation manager, ‘The current contract prohibits Lime and Bird from deploying scooters on school property, but does not ban the operation of the vehicles.” This stops these large companies from having the ability to mass drop scooters all around campus, she said in an email interview.   

Students around campus who do not ride these electric scooters or skateboards explained that they actually do not have serious issues with these personal transporters. Alex Dasla, a senior here at the U, said, “I believe that the scooters might be more safe to use on campus than the skateboards, but still would prefer that they both stay in the biking paths instead of the walking paths.” 

People are caught off guard when an electric scooter or skateboard flies past them while walking to their classes. Since they’re electric, it’s very difficult to hear the scooter or skateboard approaching.

William Slicer, a junior at the U, explained how he was actually involved in an electric skateboard crash, as a pedestrian. Slicer believes that “they should be required to ride in the bicycle paths and only those areas when on campus because of their stealthiness and quickness.” He added, “I am just lucky I was hit onto the grass and not into another person or the concrete.” 

Lt. Terry Fritz of the U’s campus police explained that he believes that “the issue isn’t the electrical part, but it is the mode of transportation in general. I think that the human powered and electric powered scooters as equally as dangerous on our campus.” Fritz also said “he sees more bicyclist abusing the speed limit of 10 mph than of the skateboarders and scooter riders.” This happens because they do not have a set max speed and can go well above 15 mph.

Fritz explained how he thinks that with all the electrical scooters being stranded outside campus buildings, that “they’re creating not the best image for campus.” He said that “hub locations would be very helpful with correcting the bad image of the scooters stranded all over campus.” 

Cannon has been working at the U for nearly two and half years and is constantly working to improve the ways of transportation around campus. Cannon uses social media, like Twitter, to spread news of her work to improve campus mobility. Her Twitter handle is @GingerCannonU.   

Walking around campus you will see scooters scattered all around building entrances, in bike racks or even just in front of doors. Cannon says she wants to create “Mobility Hubs” for the scooters and skateboards in the near future.

These scooters and skateboards are still new to the U but are on the uprise for campus. The U will have to adapt to these electric personal transporters and work to better their operation, as people are not going to stop riding them on campus. 

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Utah musicians discuss struggles for work and appreciation from residents

Story and illustrations by NATALIE ZULLO

Upon graduating from college, professional musicians look toward their careers with hope. But outside of the campus, they worry about their careers due to the lack of professional opportunities available.

Hallie Mosteller, a violin teacher in the Sandy, Utah, area and member of the Orchestra at Temple Square said, “I maybe thought I would have a little more option. But I have found that I’ve had a lot of opportunities that I never thought I would have, like the Orchestra at Temple Square.”

Joanne Andrus, owner of Andrus Music, agrees that there are a lot of opportunities in Utah for music. She said, “I think the thing that’s great about living in Utah is that that there are a lot of avenues, a lot of venues, that you can use to make money.”

But opportunities to share music on the professional level do not come to everyone. “I think if you have a talent level, there is a lot of work out there,” Andrus added. “But you have to be the best of the best to have those kinds of opportunities.”

Those musicians who are not “the best of the best” worry about their financial future.

In a previous interview, Kasia Sokol-Borup, assistant violin professor and director of the String Preparatory Division of the University of Utah’s School of Music, said, “When people think that what we do is just this constant inspired magical moment, they feel that we should feel lucky when we’re asked to do that in front of other people.”

Mosteller, violinist in the Orchestra at Temple Square, said she gets asked to do a lot of performances for free. “Especially in Utah, you get asked to do a lot of church things like performing in church. It definitely takes a lot of work to be able to make a living performing. It’s tough. I’m a little worried about it.”

To help make ends meet, many musicians have turned to teaching children and owning their own studios. But they fear that their rates are an issue for parents.

“I do feel like music is highly valued and the arts are very import to our culture,” Andrus said. “But I do feel like people don’t like to spend a ton of money.” Andrus charges $25 per private lesson but has had experiences with parents who refuse to pay her rates.

Mosteller, who is both performing and teaching, said she worries about her future as a teacher. “I feel like you hit a brick wall teaching. I probably would need to get another job.”

Sarah Affleck, Utah mother of six, feels differently about the rates musicians offer. She said in reference to hiring private music instructors for her children, “Price was never an issue for us because we were happy to invest in that for our children. I would pay their prices because I know how genius they are.” No matter how high the price of the musician, Affleck said she feels that music is a long-term investment for her children. It is a skill that can be taken with them throughout their lives no matter their age.

Affleck’s children have been privately taught piano, guitar, voice, cello and composition from instructors around the Salt Lake Valley. When asked if Affleck hired an instructor based on a music degree and skill, she replied, “Their background in music education was less important to me. What was important to me with the instructor was how well they interacted with children. That was probably the number one over degrees or skill.”

Mosteller has felt in her performing career that her degree is not as important to employers as her skill and experience. She said, “I feel like experience is definitely more valued, like with the Orchestra at Temple Square.”

Musicians tend to take up other musical careers to help with finances giving private lessons, including teaching the arts in school orchestras, choirs and bands. But musicians are seeing the loss of music in the education system.

Sokol-Borup said, “I think the fact that people ask for so much music and [desire] it shows that music actually is a basic human need, which when you look at the way our education works, it’s as if it wasn’t.”

In reference to the current school system, Andrus said, “It’s not just STEM it should be STEAM. It shouldn’t just be science, technology, engineering and math. We need to throw the arts in there. Because that’s what makes our children people. That is what humanizes all of us is the arts.”

Leslie Henire, concert mistress of Sinfonia Salt Lake, also has noticed the lack of arts in the lives of children. “It’s necessary for us as humans to have beauty and art and culture in our lives. I just don’t see any other way. It’s a necessity and it’s becoming less and less,” she said.

Affleck feels strongly about music in the lives of children. She wants her own kids to be involved in music “for their own self-expression and creativity. Music is a powerful brain tool.” She added, “It can be used for education. It stimulates the brain.”

For many Utah musicians and parents, music is crucial in school curriculums and individual lives. Andrus said it is also a crucial part of humanity.

“That creative part of life gives a huge reason to get out of bed every day and if we lose that, we lose part of our culture, part of our humanity and we lose all the benefits that come to our brains by creating and being more than just robots,” Andrus said. “We have things that we can accomplish that are so much bigger if we include the arts in our curriculum for our kids and in our lives as adults.”

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The Writing Center at the University of Utah

Story and photos by HAILEY DANIELSON

The world is filled with words. Every second of every day is filled with reading, writing, and speaking. But writing is one of the most complicated and demanding assignments at a college or university. Writing, especially college writing, requires a certain skill set. Each class, each professor, each assignment has different formats, rules, and guidelines. It can be tricky for students to meet all the criteria for all sorts of writing, not only adequately but skillfully. 

Many students need help with their writing, no matter their major or area of study. Students often work through these problems alone, because many have no idea the resources that schools like the University of Utah have to offer.

Photo by Hailey Danielson 2019 | Screen grab of the results for the University Writing Center.

Tucked on the second floor of the Marriot Library, across from the Protospace office, and just above the Gould Auditorium, is the Writing Center. In the 2018-19 school year, 7,200 appointments were made at the Writing Center, and 95% of the students who visited were satisfied or highly satisfied with their experience at the Writing Center. But if it’s so helpful, why did only 7,200 people visit out of the 24,743 undergraduates enrolled in the University? That’s only 29% of the student body.

Audrey Guo, a sophomore at the university, believes that the Writing Center’s unpopularity is due to the fact that “most people don’t know it even exists.” She said that the Writing Center on campus just slips the students’ minds.

But is that the only reason why the Writing Center is visited by just a fraction of students? Mary Muench, a second-year math major at the U, explained that she had heard of the Writing Center on one of her very first tours of the campus, but admits, “I don’t know enough about it. And I don’t even know how to make an appointment.

Muench was intimidated by the Writing Center as a freshman, sharing how scared she was as a first-year student talking to new people, so she never went.

If current students believe that there isn’t enough information out there, what can the Writing Center do about it? Abbey Christensen, a tutor and student coordinator at the Writing Center, said there’s no consistent form of communication that all students receive, which makes advertising for the Writing Center difficult. 

Photo by Hailey Danielson 2019 | Front desk of the University Writing Center.

Currently, the Writing Center has posters in the writing and rhetoric departments, but Christensen admits those posters only reach a certain population. But she explained that some of the best ways that the Center is promoted are through word of mouth. When a student comes into the Writing Center to get some guidance and has a beneficial experience, the student will tell their friends about the Writing Center, and then their friends will visit. Christensen said these conversations are the best type of promotion for the Center.

Anne McMurtrey, the director of the Writing Center, agreed with much of what Christensen said, but also added that the Center is on the orientation tours. And she does her best to represent the University Writing Center in classroom visits and tabling events. She said the Center even uses social media, news stories, and podcasts to spread the word.

So the word is being spread, perhaps slowly, by word of mouth, or through orientation tours or social media. But even if people are catching wind of these promotions, and are aware that the U has a Writing Center, what do they think the Writing Center does?

Guo believes the Center “allows students who want some improvement on papers or other written things to get the advice that they need.”

But when asked, Muench answered, “I don’t even know.” She said that maybe she would visit the Center to work on a resume, but is unsure if the tutors can even help with that sort of thing.

To clarify, McMurtrey said, “The Writing Center can help with so many things! Our tutors can help writers brainstorm ideas, understand their assignments’ needs, focus their arguments, support their points using proper evidence, organize their ideas, and polish their final drafts.” She added that the Center can also help students with procrastination and self-confidence as well.

Christensen said that “it would be helpful to have more students realize that we have a diverse range of tutor experiences and we’re not just English people,” and tutors can assist all students from across disciplines.

McMurtrey believes that students don’t visit the Center because some “may think they are better writers than our tutors. Some might be embarrassed to share their writing out of fear that it isn’t very good. Some may have crazy schedules, and they simply can’t make it in.”

McMurtrey said, “The UWC welcomes all currently-enrolled University of Utah students and offers free, one-to-one consultations in person and online.”

Both McMurtrey and Christensen strongly advocate for the Writing Center. They believe that everyone should come in for any written work they need help with and hope that students are aware of how the Writing Center can assist them. 

Photo by Hailey Danielson 2019 | Screen grab of the Writing Center About Us Page

Christensen wants students to know that it “doesn’t matter what you’re bringing to the table in terms of writing level or ability.” The Writing Center can help with all of it, and it’s a free service. She explained how people don’t realize how relaxed the Writing Center is, and maybe if students could recognize that, they might find the Center a lot more inviting. Knowing about the relaxed environment would help many students, like Mary Muench, who found the Writing Center scary and intimidating when she was a freshman at the University of Utah.

McMurtrey described the Writing Center as “the best place on campus, hands down!” She is proud of the fact that the Center attracts good people who just want to help others succeed. 

“The Writing Center’s energy is positive and diverse, with tutors and students from a variety of disciplinary, linguistic, and cultural backgrounds,” McMurtrey said.

To add to the warm, positive, and inviting air of the Writing Center, she added excitedly, “I often bring in baked goods!” 

At the end of the interview, Mary Muench was asked if she would ever see herself visiting the Writing Center in the future. “Personally, probably not,” she said. “But it’s possible.”

It’s possible.

And it’s that possibility that makes McMurtrey excited: “I just want to encourage students to give us a try. Our tutors are highly trained and nonjudgmental.”

Our campus, your safety, their services

Story and gallery by SALWA IBRAHIM

The University of Utah has many resources provided on campus through the Department of Public Safety. The department is made up of two divisions including the Hospital and Main campus. Both divisions run many functions available for the students, faculty, and anyone else in need here at the U.

Officers and dispatchers can be contacted in case of an emergency, whereas Security is primarily tasked with providing around-the-clock support and maintaining quality customer services every day. Both resources are determined to provide a safe campus for all citizens.

U Officer Jesse Buchanan said, “We have a fully functioning police department. Police officers that are state-certified police officers like any other police officer in the state and we have a dispatch center here on campus so if someone were to call 911 it [would go] to them. There also are many security officers as well that help citizens with all kinds of things and also provide general security for campus.” Resources are provided 24/7 every day of the year.

The Campus Security Division offers safety escorts to students, staff and faculty who are on campus late at night or at odd hours. An officer will accompany individuals to their car, dorm, or building.

Buchanan said, “Students are able to just call no matter what and we will be able to direct them to the resource they need.”

The security component is divided for the hospital services and one for main campus. Lt. Brian Wahlin runs both divisions. The Patrol Division for the University of Utah is known as being one of the largest divisions in the police department, which consists of 27 official full-time sworn policemen and one police reserve officer.

As a student, the privilege of being able to call someone, regardless of the time of day, on campus is ensuring you feel safe and get to where you need to be safely.

The U’s President, Ruth V. Watkins, said in a Nov. 2, 2018, statement to the campus community, “We’re committed to learning all we can from this tragic event and doing what we can to make the University of Utah as safe as possible. Our campus community deserves nothing less.”

The U developed a new mission statement titled “Violence Has No Place on Our Campus.” Since 2017, campus has researched ways to promote campus safety. According to a report by the task force, recommendations were created in hopes of investing in a safer campus with many comprehensive and reliable resources accessible to anyone.

More in-depth explanations of the resources include Wellness Advocates, rape aggression defense, active shooter presentations, mental health workshops, campus suicide prevention training,  alcohol risk reduction, and more. All links are included in a 2018 story.

Watkins asked the task force what she can include in the new budget for safety resources here at the U. Areas of improvement emphasized were in prevention campaigns needed to reinforce campus safety culture, improvements needed for campus physical infrastructure (security cameras, lightings, facilities), and required mandatory training for campus life related to safety issues. All strategies are constantly being produced and improved to the best way they can become for us.

SafeU, a new website, is a reminder to students, faculty, and staff of broader institutional effort to prioritize safety. These resources can prevent so many things and it will allow the U community to feel more protected. Safety is key.

In the Salt Lake Fire Department, it’s still a man’s world

By Emily Albrecht

SALT LAKE CITY — In the Salt Lake City Fire Department, women show interest but still seem to be on the outskirts of the “boys’ club” that’s been cultivated.

Part of this is historically, firefighting has been men’s work. This dynamic has real-world consequences, and those are becoming increasingly apparent. In order to survive in industries like this, women often adapt by distancing themselves from each other or trying to become ‘one of the boys,’ which furthers preexisting norms. One of the biggest issues, however, is sexual harassment. In a study by Pew Research Center, 62% of women in male-dominated fields said that sexual harassment was an issue in their industry, as opposed to 42% in female-dominated fields. In that same study, women in male-dominated industries reported 10-20% more discrimination on the basis of sex than those in other fields.

When it comes to the SLFD, it’s evident that there are stories to be told, but victims are too scared to speak openly about it. Of the five people that were approached to be interviewed for this story, only three were willing to talk and all of them did it on the condition that the interviews would be anonymous.

Liam*, a 25-year-old male firefighter, said part of it is a culture that punishes those that speak out. He’s seen many women forced to prove themselves in ways the men aren’t required to and has friends who have experienced sexual harassment or assault but don’t want to tell anyone out of fear of being “blacklisted.”

“If you haven’t had at least five years of experience, you aren’t expected to have an opinion on anything.” Even after that, he says it is nearly impossible to make real change, saying the system just “isn’t set up for it.” The men in positions of power are, for the most part, happy where they’re at. As long as they continue to benefit from the systems, Liam doesn’t have a whole lot of hope. “It’s not a system that’s based on change. There’s a lot of opposition, culturally and otherwise.”

For the women in the department, it is evident they love their jobs. When so few of them are women, it is something they have to love, or it wouldn’t be worth it. The United States Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that in 2018, 33.9% of EMS personnel and 5.1% of firefighters were women. With this in mind, it’s easy to see why one EMT called it a “boys’ club” or, as Liam said, a “fraternity.”

As for the actual women in the department, they’re obviously competent and passionate about what they do. Katie*, 18, and Sarah*, 22, both work with Gold Cross as first responders, and therefore spend significant time with the firefighters on calls. Sarah feels like she’s built a rapport with the men, to the point where she’s not worried if they try anything with her because she knows she can tell them to back off, but that doesn’t mean she doesn’t notice the differences between how they treat men and women.

When new people come on to the team, especially guys, she tells them that although she’s treated nicely, she “is a female, so that changes the way they treat us.” It’s not always a “creepy” kind of nice, she emphasizes, but it doesn’t happen with the men on the team.

Image by Emily Albrecht

Aside from that, there are more concrete incidents or actions that get brushed off out of practicality. She’s there to do her job, and although they know better than to give her a hug and “leav[e] their hands on [her] lower back,” she doesn’t have the time to do anything about it. It’s a matter of picking your battles, and she finds it easier to say “no” and expect them to listen. “It makes me uncomfortable and then I just leave it alone.”

That said, there are some things that can’t help but put a woman on edge. “[I] knew a specific crew that had little nicknames for every woman at Gold Cross,” says Sarah. Even if some of them weren’t derogatory, some of them were, which left her wondering “well what on earth were they calling me?”

This uncertainty is echoed by Katie, saying “I feel like I need to be on my guard” around the firefighters. She’s happy with what she does, and doesn’t feel like she’s in a hostile environment, but that doesn’t mean she doesn’t have reservations. It’s not just about the small comments here and there that could be construed as sexual, it’s also about the attitude towards women in general.

There’s one part of the physical exam to become a firefighter that is especially difficult, says Katie, one all of the men say “when they watch it, none of the females pass.”(?) It’s this type of attitude that’s frustrating for Katie, and part of what she called the “boys’ club.” Despite her own experiences with harassment, her hopes for the future are high. “In my career, I don’t want it to be ‘cool’ to be a female firefighter. I want it to be normal, not just nine out of 400.”

*Names have been changed for privacy.

Salt Lake City’s juicing scene is on the rise

Story and gallery by LAUREN HINKLEY

Nutritious eateries and shops seem to be on every corner in Salt Lake City, an indication that the community is becoming more health-conscious by the minute.

One of the most powerful trends of this healthy-dining movement is cold-pressed juice bars.

This form of juicing involves a hydraulic press that extracts juices from fruits and vegetables. Consumers often choose these products based on their desired mental or physical health benefits. These benefits can be determined by the ingredients included in each individual batch.

In Salt Lake City, juiceries including Vive Juicery, Just Organic Juice, and Seasons Juice Bar and Cafe are among some of the companies that are leading Utah toward better health with their nutrient-dense cold-pressed beverages.

Upon entering Vive Juicery, located at 1597 S. 1100 East, customers are greeted and welcomed into a cozy, chic atmosphere. With couch seating, ambient music, and a fun and friendly counter staff, this store is an inviting space for anyone and everyone looking to explore and be educated on the health benefits of cold-pressed juice. This is the exact vibe Brittany Shimmin, founder and CEO, had in mind when she created Vive Juicery in 2013.

“We’ve really tailored the experience to be inclusive of everyone,” Shimmin says.

Shimmin appreciates the wide variety of clientele she sees engaging with and supporting Vive’s brand and product. Even those who are just entering the world of nutrition and healthy living can find Vive to be the perfect place to start.

Sitting conveniently between two major college campuses of Salt Lake City, the juicery has become a hot spot for students of The University of Utah and Westminster College.

Many students are now turning to cold-pressed juices during the stresses of midterms and finals week. “Hearing what drinking juice has done for them opposed to a Red Bull has been really cool,” says Shimmin, reflecting on this new trend.

At the forefront of the local juice scene, Vive contributes even more to the community than just its state-of-the-art products. By sourcing its produce from local farms and gardens whenever possible, Vive is making a positive impact on the economy and sustainability of Utah.

Shimmin and the Vive team are passionate about forming relationships with the farmers who grow their ingredients. “When you can talk to the person that grew your food, you in turn will end up appreciating it more,” she says.

Just a few blocks away at 2030 S. 900 East sits another local juice bar, Just Organic Juice, the creation of cancer survivor, Lisa Graham.

When Graham was diagnosed with breast cancer at the age of 27, she opted out of chemotherapy and turned to nutrition to help nurture her back to health. After implementing juice into her diet, she recalls immediately seeing the benefits. She has been cancer free ever since.

Graham stated that the impacts cold-pressed juice had on her own health inspired her to start Just Organic Juice where she could show the rest of the community just how beneficial juicing can be.

“We see a lot of customers with cancer and other diseases,” Graham says. She also mentions that she has noticed a growing awareness in the importance of nutrition across the medical field.

Graham says she believes this new importance doctors are placing on nutrition has contributed to the growing popularity in her business. “More doctors are advising patients to change their diets,” she says.

With juiceries popping up all across Salt Lake City, Just Organic Juice continues to stand out from the rest by serving products that contain only 100 percent organic ingredients.

The most popular juice on the menu at Just Organic Juice is the “Giving Green.” “I could go on and on,” Graham admits as she raves about the product’s health benefits. “You couldn’t even eat that many vitamins and nutrients in a day.”

Another up-and-coming juice spot is Seasons Juice Bar. Seasons is located in Midvale at 7630 Union Park Ave. and is proudly owned and run by juice enthusiast Bobby Movarid.

When Movarid moved from Santa Monica, California, to Salt Lake City, he was driven to show Utah what cutting-edge high-quality health food and beverage really is.

Movarid says he saw what was missing around town and knew he would be the one to introduce truly good cold-pressed juices and acai to the community. That’s when he started Seasons Juice Bar and Cafe.

Movarid has used his entrepreneurial mind to curate a delicious and nutritious menu of cold-pressed juices. He says he is eager to encourage new customers to sample them.

The “Black Lemonade” remains one of the most popular juices at Seasons. This pitch-black beverage is a little intimidating at first glance but has a pleasant flavor of lemon and agave. The key ingredient is activated charcoal, a detoxifying ingredient, which is explained in the company’s juice guides and pamphlets.

Movarid has put care and attention into every aspect of the Seasons experience, from the biodegradable utensils to the complimentary water. “Our water is alkalized and purified using reverse osmosis,” he explains.

Seasons in the product of Movarid’s extensive hard work. “You gotta hustle!” he exclaims.

While the juicing scene is already flourishing, there’s no doubt it’s still growing every day. Brittany Shimmin, Lisa Graham, and Bobby Movarid are among some of the pioneers of a movement toward a healthier Utah. Through their craft, they are inspiring the community of Salt Lake City to prioritize wellness, one juice at a time.

Tayler Lacey talks new EP and journey to being a musician

Story and gallery by JENNA S. O’DELL

Tayler Lacey performed at The Underground at 833 Main St. in Salt Lake City on a cold March night. It is an industrial-looking building down a narrow alley. The door is marked only by band stickers. Inside, the walls are plastered with stickers and graffiti. There are small rooms that line a long dark hallway that can can be rented out to bands for practicing and performances.

It was $5 to get in this atypical venue. The room is lit with fluorescent bulbs. You can hear the sounds of musicians practicing in other rooms and the performance was unplugged.

Tayler Lacey, 22, is a Utah native who currently resides in South Jordan. At 13 he started guitar lessons. Lacey plays several instruments and admits his selection of genre influenced his choice in the ones he wanted to play.

He describes his genre as folk but credits many artists including Jack Johnson for influencing his love for acoustic music. Shakey Graves inspired him to be a “one-man band.” He enjoys the simplicity and storytelling of Bob Dylan’s lyrics and said “lyrically, Paul Simon is a genius.” 

Lacey describes writing a song as a mindset, not a mood. “I have to be by myself because it’s hard to get other people on the same wavelength.” 

Performing is Lacey’s favorite part about being a musician. His hope is to make an impact on those he’s performing for, and that they can connect with his music. With all the live performing he does, the performance anxiety he initially felt transitioned to anticipation and excitement.

“I would tell my younger self to not get discouraged and to stop comparing yourself to others,” he said. “Do it because you love it not because you want to get famous.”

During his March performance, there was a lot of interaction with the crowd which consisted of friends and local music enthusiasts. One admitted this was her first time going to the Underground and jokingly said, “I’m going to get murdered going to this place.” Lacey’s set consisted of some songs from his previous albums and from his new EP. His song “Ghosts” was a crowd favorite, everyone was singing along.

He said that this EP is different than everything else that he has out. “I think it was a very transitional time in my life. I started doing solo music again after breaking up with my guitar player. I was also moving from place to place and going through transition in relationships. I chose the name “Street Corners” because of the love of busking and hearing street performers play but also because through every change I feel Salt Lake is my home and the street corners never change.”

Tayler Lacey’s new EP “Street Corners” is available to listen to on Spotify, Apple Music, YouTube and Bandcamp. If you would like to see Lacey perform, he will be touring the Pacific Northwest Summer 2019.