Utah college students on refugee policy

Story and photos by BLAKE LANCASTER

College can be a life-changing part of anyone’s life. Many college students move out for the first time, start their journey to their careers, and real-life topics that may have not mattered as a kid suddenly start to mean more.

There’s a reason why refugee resettlement is such a hot topic around the world. The U.N.’s refugee agency reported in 2016 that 65.3 million people are displaced, which is one for each 113 people and the highest that number has ever been surpassing even the end of World War II. This has sparked political debate in many Western countries where refugees seek refuge, including America, regarding how many refugees should be admitted into the country each year.

“We’re going the wrong way,” said Warren Kidman, a student from the University of Utah, regarding the U.S. admitting 60,000 fewer refugees in 2017 so far compared to 2016. “So much on the news I see that more and more people are showing up at these refugee camps without slowing down and people just arguing about how many we should allow here.”

Kidman happened to be passionate on the subject. He said he doesn’t watch the news much, but something about the stories on refugees and immigration seem to interest him. Kidman isn’t a fan of the low refugee admittance number or recent travel ban from the Trump administration.

“I just think it’s funny how America’s origin is pretty much a bunch of white people claiming some land that other people were already living in and now we’re being stingy with it,” Kidman said.

While Kidman is unhappy with the current refugee crisis and how America is handling it, that isn’t the case for everyone. Jacob Breinholdt, a sophomore in the University of Utah’s pre-law program, said Trump is making smart moves in the refugee situation.

“Every day there’s a new story from one of the European countries that host lots of refugees. Whether it’s the bombings, fights breaking out, sex crimes, stealing, or whatever, I just don’t like all the negativity I’ve read or watched the news about,” Breinholdt said. “Why commit crimes in the place giving you refuge? It makes the whole refugee situation look bad.”

Barack Obama had an overwhelming focus on refugees especially from Syria as an estimated 11 million have fled their homes from a civil war. Donald Trump has cut the number of Syrian refugees that Obama had set by over 80 percent and cut the total number of worldwide refugees allowed in by over half.

“I hate to judge an entire group of people, but what has happened so far in Europe the last couple of years isn’t a small sample size. I don’t know if it’s clashing cultural values or what, but I stand with Trump’s choices until the violence and negativity in other countries of refuge stops,” Breinholdt said. “It’s not worth jeopardizing the safety of Americans and our country.”

However, McKenzie Sandler, a student at Salt Lake Community College and volunteer for The Refugee Education Initiative, doesn’t like to dwell on the negatives.

“I wish Trump, his team, and the people who support his decisions on refugees could just meet some of these kids I’ve worked with,” said Sandler, talking about refugee students she tutors through this program. “They’re people too, but a big difference from us is the amount of help they need right now.”

Sandler has tutored and mentored students from several countries at The Education Initiative, both online and at the downtown center at 101 S. 200 East. She went there once for a high school class and decided she wanted to do more. In spring of 2018 she will be transferring to the University of Utah’s College of Social Work in hopes to enter a career in a field similar to where she’s been volunteering.

“If someone told me five years ago that this would be my career plan, I probably wouldn’t have believed them,” Sandler said. “I had no idea a simple high school assignment would inspire me in this area this much.”

Sandler encouraged others to volunteer and if not to at least learn more about the The Education Initiative at the website.

While there are certainly dissenting opinions on refugee policy, it can be promising to see young people with an interest in refugees and other real world topics.


Uniting for a cause: partnership provides promise of education for refugees in Salt Lake City


The University of Utah, in partnership with Salt Lake Community College and Jesuit Worldwide Learning, is working hard to make it feasible for refugees to earn a bachelor’s degree in social work.

Jesuit Worldwide Learning Higher Education at the Margins (JWL) is a collaborative global partnership that provides an education to those who are marginalized, including refugees, internally displaced people, economically poor, and socially neglected and underserved.

JWL, whose global headquarters is in Geneva, constructs online and in-person learning centers around the world. It offers three levels of educational opportunities, including the Academic or Diploma Program. The online infrastructure allows those in remote villages or in refugee camps, without locally operated schools, to gain an education.

Once a refugee finishes with the programs provided by JWL, the student can begin taking online classes from Salt Lake Community College. Students who complete their last 15 credit hours with SLCC can earn an associate degree. The college has agreed to charge refugees in-state tuition.

Once an associate degree is earned, the University of Utah hopes to take over from there.

Laying the groundwork

Patrick Panos, a professor of social work and director of Global Education and Outreach at the U, is the driving force behind the effort to provide refugees with a chance to earn a bachelor’s degree and become leaders in their respective communities.

“Without an education, all you have is your physical labor to sell. And if all you have is your physical labor, that is a time-limited commodity,” he says.

JWL laid most of the groundwork for SLCC and the U by setting up a structure for education in distant war-torn areas that the colleges wouldn’t dare enter. Panos says he is grateful for the organization’s work.

“They’re going to places where we could not physically go. The University of Utah is not going to go open up a school in Afghanistan. But [the U] can have students in Afghanistan through this process,” he says.

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Refugees take pride in their education from the University of Utah. Photo courtesy of Karen Cordova.

Francis P. Xavier, vice president for academics and research for JWL, said in an email interview that the organization currently has learning centers in the Middle East, Asia and Africa. He hopes JWL will become more global in the future.

A trial run proved the functionality of the distance-learning program and the feasibility of providing online classes with little cost to the student. The classes at the U will be offered to student refugees who qualify. That group will become known as a closed cohort, and pay nominal tuition to the College of Social Work rather than to the university as a whole. This is significant because the college will cover the cost of classes so the refugee students don’t have to. “I can charge them a dollar a class, and that‘s OK. And the university is OK with that,” Panos says.

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Graduates of the University of Utah’s Case Management Certificate Program in 2015. Photo courtesy of Karen Cordova.

Technology as a learning tool

Distance learning challenges historical notions of how a university operates. Traditionally, students come to campus, where they have access to amenities such as tutoring centers and the library. But an online delivery of course content makes it possible for refugees and others in marginalized communities to pursue educational opportunities.

The classes at the U will operate through Canvas, an online learning platform that connects professors and students in real time. A library database can be accessed with a student ID, so refugee students are able to access scholarly articles at their fingertips.

Kyle Jensen, director of Canvas user interface, said in an email interview that Canvas is special in terms of communication.

“Canvas, at its core, is a communication tool. As such, we aim to encourage high quality, meaningful interaction opportunities between educators and students. We also spend a lot of time and resources ensuring that Canvas works for everyone.”

Collaboration leads to reciprocal learning

Students within the Canvas classroom have much to gain from this collaboration and cultural exchange, both of which are crucial to the nature of social work. This relationship is valuable, as it allows traditional students to gain other perspectives before entering their profession.

Regarding the distance learners, Panos said, “If you want to have your students have a high impact upon graduation, these are them. They are changing the world. Educate a refugee — change the world.”

Panos pointed out that refugees who are trained in social work are then able to use this knowledge to work within their respective communities to improve the lives of the people living in the camps.

“Social workers learn how to advocate, how to do community development, how to do all of the things about how to reconstitute a community — and bring mental health in, child welfare in, and all those different pieces,” Panos says.

Refugee students speak in the native dialect of fellow asylum seekers, and have intimate knowledge of what is needed in the places where they work. Because of this insight, graduates of the College of Social Work can later seek employment with International relief efforts such as Doctors Without Borders and the United Nations.

Panos has high hopes for the future of the program. He’d like to see it expand beyond the College of Social Work, so students can earn other degrees in fields such as nursing, architecture and education. Panos also said his wish is for more refugees to have access to higher education, made possible by a collaboration of efforts from universities and programs in the U.S.

Xavier, the JWL executive, said his organization currently offers a diploma and some associate degrees. It wants to offer bachelors and master’s degrees and eventually doctoral degrees.

“I look forward [to] JWL becoming a virtual university which offers degrees of high quality for the refugees and the marginalized at affordable cost,” Xavier says.









Student Athlete Profile- Anthony Gonzalez

By: Gabriella Gonzalez

Anthony Gonzalez may be a soccer player, but it is because it’s in his blood. He spent 3 years in Santiago, Chile playing for a club team during High School.

University of Utah student Anthony Gonzalez is a student athlete, part-time employee, husband and full-time student who is studying business.

Anthony Gonzalez has been a player for the U of U Men’s soccer club for the past three years.

He said he finds it challenging being a student and an athlete because you have to balance family, school and soccer.

“Soccer is fun, but I know that it’s not the most important thing in life,” Gonzalez said,

Gonzalez has been playing soccer for most of his life. He is 25 years old, but he has been playing soccer for 19 years.

“My favorite part of the game is that it takes me back to my childhood,” he said.

Julie Gonzalez, Anthony’s mother and loyal game attendee, dedicates so much time to watching her son play soccer.

“I love to watch Anthony enjoy himself and have fun while playing soccer,” Julie Gonzalez said. “Anthony has so much finesse and is pretty to watch.”

Julie Gonzalez has watched Anthony Gonzalez play soccer all his life. She has noticed how he has changed as a player.

“Anthony has changed overtime by being more confident and comfortable,
she said. “He has always been skillful and had leadership qualities.”

The New York Times article, “It’s Not an Adventure, It’s a Job,” by Bill Pennington, had a quote from Tim Poydenis that said, “most of us are nonrevenue-sport sport athletes who have to do our own fund-raising just to pay for basics like sweat pants and batting gloves. We miss all these classes, which obviously doesn’t help is or make our professors happy. We give up almost all of our free time.”

Anthony Gonzalez can relate to this quote because he says that it is hard balancing life sometimes when you have sports taking up a lot of your time.

Coach of the U of U Men’s soccer team, Nelson Gonzalez, is proud of his team for making this sacrifice of time to play the sport.

Nelson Gonzalez has coached the team for two years, and he has coached other soccer teams for 20 years and he played soccer for 15.

Nelson Gonzalez said one of his favorite things about coaching the U team is the “association with good young men and the pleasure of seeing the team play like I want them to.”

Nelson Gonzalez is also Anthony Gonzalez’s father. He has watched his son play soccer for 19 years. Nelson Gonzalez said that he is proud of his son’s passing skills.

“Anthony always takes care of the ball and his accuracy is very high. Anthony makes simple and not so simple effective passes,” Nelson Gonzalez said “But one of his weaknesses would be is pure speed. He is not the fastest of players, but could be if he worked at it.”

Anthony Gonzalez says the hard work pays off.

“Even though it’s hard to balance soccer, family, and work,” he said, “it is all worth it in the end because it brings me happiness.”



The exciting fast paced world of multimedia journalism

By: Gabriella Gonzalez

Journalism is a changing world because of the fairly new popular concept of multimedia journalism.

According to Western Preserve Public Media’s website, “Multimedia journalists gather information, write stories, make broadcasts and use social media to keep the public informed about current affairs and events that are happening in the world.”

So what is the difference between journalism and multimedia journalism?

“The term ‘media’ blends (and blurs) concepts of culture and technology. When uses as a synonym for journalism, the term ‘media’ pushes technology into the foreground and conceals the fact that ‘journalism’ is one thing and ‘media’ is another,” said G. Stuart Adam of Poynter.org.

Multimedia journalism blends news with different mediums such as “video, photos, graphics, social media, reporting, writing, and ethics” said Jennifer Napier-Pearce, host of The Salt Lake Tribune’s daily web show Trib Talk.

Napier-Pearce said that the most important elements in multimedia journalism are reporting, writing, and ethics. Those three things are what journalism is all about, and journalism is the element that cannot be forgotten.

Multimedia journalism is just a different way of presenting or telling a story, Napier-Pearce said.

Napier-Pearce describes what she thinks drives this multimedia journalism as digital.

“Digital equals possibilities. Because of the digital environment we have grown up in, we have expectations,” she said.

The audience who is receiving the news has growing expectations because of all the new possibilities the digital world provides in the multimedia journalism world.

Because of these new possibilities with digital mediums, if makes journalism very competitive.

“Everybody is fighting for your eyeballs and your money,” said Napier-Pearce.

Sherwin Coelho, from The Guardian, shared his experience about being a multimedia journalism student.

“If I had to do my course (MA multimedia journalism) all over again I would have made sure I learnt shorthand, HTML, InDesign, DreamWeaver, creating infographics and data journalism — or at least the basics of each,” Coelho said.

Napier-Pearce said she learns new things all the time. Multimedia mediums are an ongoing change. There are a few factors that have changed about multimedia journalism. Napier-Pearce said she has noticed that this type of journalism is changing by the length of the stories, videos, and deadlines. People are expecting news faster, which means shorter deadline to produce news. People don’t want to read a 30-inch long story anymore. The same goes for videos — people are looking for short videos that get them the most important information the fastest.

The Salt Lake Tribune has been experimenting with this for a while, Napier-Pearce said. The Tribune is looking for ways to make Trib Talk shorter.

Overall, Pearce’s biggest challenge of the new multimedia journalism is trying to hold people’s attention.

“You can increase your audience’s attention by making your stories and videos shorter,” Napier-Pearce said,. “You can also break it up with video, pictures and chunky texts.”

Napier-Pearce described multimedia journalism as being “digital in nature” and “digital equals possibilities” so don’t be hesitant to learn new skills. You’ll need them because the digital world is in constant change, and “people have to be will to learn a new skill.”



Experience diversity, culture, and service by becoming a humanitarian


By: Gabriella Gonzalez

University of Utah Student and former Youthlinc participant, Jacob Draper, who has completed two humanitarian trips, Draper said he wanted to become involved in humanitarian work so he could help others.

In an email interview Draper said, “I have always been taught to be grateful for what I have. I know that I have more opportunities than many other people in the world, so I wanted to give back a little of what I have been given.”

Aside from doing good service that’s associated with humanitarian trips, there has been controversy about if international humanitarian trips cause harm. An article from The Guardian, by Ian Birrell talks about the potential harm of these trips. One concern is, “westerners take pity on the children and end up creating a grotesque market that capitalizes on their concerns.”

However Youthlinc, A Utah-based Humanitarian group, that’s headquartered in Salt Lake City, organization’s mission statement is to “create lifetime humanitarians” not just to send people off on a trip and never expect them to do service again.

Youthlinc director Judy Zone, in a recent email interview, states why she thinks Youthlinc is different than the other Utah humanitarian groups (Youth Making A Difference (YMAD), Humanitarian Experience for Youth (HEFY), and Choice Humanitarian just to name a few), and why youth should consider a humanitarian trip. “Youthlinc requires 80 hours of local service, and attendance at monthly meetings during the school year where students work with mentors to actually plan- and then implement – a wide variety of service initiatives.” Youthlinc’s mission is to “create lifetime humanitarians.” Youthlinc’s website states the program’s vision:  “Youthlinc invests in the service ethic of youth in order to foster individuals in our society who understand local and global needs, and who are deeply committed to work to relieve those needs through personal service, partnership, and good will.”

Zone created Youthlinc because of a trip she went on with her daughter to Kenya. Zone was inspired seeing “a young person make the connections between local needs and international needs.” The next year she worked on creating Youthlinc. She knew she had to create a program that had a  “curriculum based in research in what works to engage students, create leaders, and lifetime humanitarians.”

Youthlinc started as a small group but grew to have hundreds of service students traveling each year to Madagascar, Cambodia, Guatemala, Kenya, Peru, Thailand and Nepal. Each member of the teams are required to apply for Youthlinc, be accepted and attend mandatory monthly meetings during the school year, and complete 80 hours of local service before they embark on their international service trip. Forty of the 80 hours have to be performed at the same location, and 40 of the service hours can be miscellaneous service.

Youthlinc teams perform different construction service projects in each country such as one team might build a fence, while another team builds a kitchen and clean water systems for a school. But according to Youthlinc’s website, Youthlinc’s teams have committees that must do the following:

  • Construction Committee- all Youthlinc team members are a part of this committee and each location has different projects.
  • Community Health Committee- this committee teaches health lessons and donates medical supplies to the service site.
  • Education Committee- “gather supplies and plan and prepare lessons to be taught at primary and secondary schools.”
  • Cultural Exchange Committee- “plan activities to help the group understand and interact with the communities where [Youthlinc] serves.”
  • Business Development Committee- teaches basic business and helps create a small business that will benefit the community.
  • Vocational Training Committee- “teach various skills—sewing, baking, barbering, computer skills – as requested by villagers.”

Draper shared his favorite service projects the team did while he was a part of the Thailand June 2014 team and Nepal 2015 team.

Draper said in Thailand his “favorite project was doing the home visits and seeing exactly how the people lived, and helping paint and reconstruct the playground at a local Thai school.”

Home visits are called “cultural exchange” on the Youthlinc website. The website states that the reason Youthlinc does the cultural exchange is because Youthlinc “encourages [their] young people to learn about the culture and society through structured and casual interaction with people.”

Youthlinc also “encourage[s] the Cultural Exchange to oversee Cultural Conversations, or dialogues that take place within the homes of the villagers. Through the process of having cultural conversations—or interviews – [Youthlinc’s] team members are able to powerfully connect and find commonalities with, learn from and honor the people they will be serving.”

Draper’s favorite service project in Nepal “was hauling rocks to build a rock wall. It doesn’t sound that fun but we were able to really bond as a team doing that because we were all singing and laughing together.”

Draper said he plans on going on another humanitarian trip with Youthlinc in the future.

Abi Scoma, a former Youthlinc participant and assistant team leader, in a recent email interview shared why Youthlinc is important to her.

“Youthlinc gave me an opportunity to be a leader, to be a giver and to most importantly to receive. To receive the goodness of those across the world, it changed my heart and made me better,” Scoma said, “I owe everything to Youthlinc and I am so grateful for it.”

Zone said one important thing participants should know before they apply to Youthlinc is, “That it’s a local and international service year, [participants] will gain valuable leadership and project management skills. This is not a program where you meet your teammates at the office and fly off not really knowing what you are going to do in country. The service year experience really does make you a lifetime humanitarian. And it is a lot of fun.”

Youthlinc offers a Young Humanitarian scholarship every year to a student who has shown and developed humanitarian attributes, and who has made a difference in their community. These scholarship applications are reviewed and narrowed down to a recipient of the scholarship.

Deanna Morley, a former judge for the scholarship said, “As I reviewed the applications for the Youthlinc Young Humanitarian Award, I was awed by the extensive hours of service and compassion that came of it. The passion that these young adults had drove them to go above and beyond community service. They are true leaders and examples of what we should strive to be in our lives.”


Ugurt, a delicacy designed for U

Story and photos by SYDNEY BULL

Sam Webster, a University of Utah graduate in Information Systems, wasn’t planning on opening a frozen yogurt business the day of his graduation.

The idea of Ugurt was inspired by the lack of dessert joints around the U. Brothers Sam and Adam Webster wanted to celebrate Sam’s graduation with their family, but were unable to find a place that served desserts.

While driving past The Pie Pizzeria at the bottom of campus, the Webster brothers saw the old Utah Textbook Exchange building was vacant and available for a new lease. That moment, the two rookie business owners came up with the name, “UGURT.” The Websters didn’t want to open a franchise yogurt shop because they wanted to market their brand freely. Since the location is so close to the U, it offers a closer association with the university and the students.

Customers take their cup and begin filling it with yogurts and toppings as they make their way through the line.

Customers take their cup and begin filling it with yogurts and toppings as they make their way through the line.

“We can market directly to campus, with the fraternities and sororities,” Adam Webster said, while accompanied by his wife Paola. “This month and next month we’re going to be doing a lot of philanthropy nights. So they will be coming over here and 20 percent of what they purchase will be given straight to whatever cause they are working for at the time.”

Neither of the brothers had previous experience in running a business. In fact, Adam is a student at the U, working toward his masters in International Studies. Being new to the small-business world didn’t deter them from opening Ugurt in October 2013. The entire family pitched in to help get the business up and running.

The Websters work hard to create a great environment for their customers and employees alike. While providing flexible work hours and a solid payroll, they aim to hire students because they want to cater to all aspects of the college life. The Websters understand what it’s like to be a working college student, so providing a job that is located on campus is quite convenient.

Kassidy Samuels, an employee at Ugurt, agrees that it is a great business to be involved in.

“I love working for Ugurt. It’s so fun and I love that we’re super associated with the U,” she said. “I’m on the dance team, so I get to really see how they cater to athletics, the spirit squad and marketing and all that. They really try to support the U as much as possible and vice versa. It’s such a great atmosphere and that’s why I have been here since they opened.”

Most of Ugurt’s success originates from the owners’ passion to provide the best experience possible for their customers. Ugurt can easily cater to students’ needs because it is open until midnight and offers free Wi-Fi. This gives plenty of options for students, whether it is a place to host late-night study sessions, socialize with friends or satisfy those late-night munchies.

Ugurt's menu lists many different options other than frozen yogurt treats.

Ugurt’s menu lists many different options other than frozen yogurt treats.

Compared to franchises, local businesses do not have that automatic public awareness of the new products, which can make starting a brand-new business really difficult. Marketing wise, the Websters believed it would be a good idea to incorporate as many local events into their business as possible, such as weddings, banquets and school and sporting events. Social media’s role in advertising and promoting has led to improved interaction with their customers and the University of Utah student body as well.

“We’ve worked (catered) at Crimson rally and Crimson Night,” Samuels said. “We have posters set up around campus all the time. We really try to keep a super open environment and make it feel like everyone’s welcome.”

The environment of Ugurt alone has brought in a lot of customers, but their new promotions continue to bring in new people every week. All thanks to the Websters’ new promotion of “Light the U.”  This season, customers get buy-one-get-one-free on cups of frozen yogurt every time the Utes basketball and gymnastics teams win. It has benefitted Ugurt because it encourages customers to come in and buy their product even during the wintertime when frozen desserts aren’t as appealing.

“This last week there was a home game and a lot of people came over and took advantage of the buy-one-get-one-free promotion,” Adam Webster said. “Not to mention it has brought us a ton more business.”

Ugurt attracts its customers with a wide range of yogurt flavors, toppings and gourmet hot beverages. The frozen yogurt flavors rarely change, which is why cookies ‘n’ cream, raspberry/pomegranate, peanut butter and cake batter tend to be the most popular. With the variety of flavors and toppings, Ugurt gives customers freedom to choose. At 49 cents an ounce, chocolate addicts and fruit fanatics can fill their cup however they want.

The display of toppings allows customers to choose however much they want and whatever they want.

The display of toppings allows customers to choose however much they want and whatever they want.

The owners purchase their frozen yogurt and most of their toppings from U.S. Foods and their fresh fruit from local markets. The hot chocolate is bought locally from Stephen’s Gourmet Hot Cocoa. Their hot chocolate bar adds a nice twist to the Ugurt menu, and is a clever way to keep business steady during the winter.

The Webster family hopes to expand their company to other areas in the near future. Even without business degrees, Adam and Sam Webster are successfully running Ugurt and just took over management of the Hokulia Hawaiian Shaved Ice franchise in Utah.

“It’s basically the best shaved ice,” Paola Webster said. “They just have such a following because it’s so different; it’s like the thinnest, lightest shaved ice with ice cream in the middle. We were super fans way before we even knew it would be a possibility to acquire them. So Hokulia Hawaiian shaved ice will be another thing Ugurt, as a company, will work on this summer.”

TRAILS creating paths to success

Story and photo by NATALIE CHRISTENSEN

TRAILS Brochure

After sustaining a spinal cord injury, it’s hard to get back into life as it was before. But, a program in Salt Lake City called TRAILS can help those individuals become involved in recreational sports.

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Sugar House Park is an area where TRAILS participate in preparing for races and other events. Photo by Natalie Christensen.

TRAILS (Therapeutic Recreation & Independent Lifestyle) helps anyone with a spinal cord injury get out and be active in outdoor recreational sports like skiing, hiking, kayaking and more. The main goal of this program is to help people not just physically, but also spiritually and mentally by keeping a tight community of people affected with spinal injuries.

TRAILS is housed in the University Hospital, which provides most of its funding. Medical residents as well as trained volunteers assist with the program by helping participants in the outdoor activities.

“We have a community of people with spinal injuries,” said Tanja Kari, the TRAILS program coordinator, in a phone interview. “Peer mentors are able to help each other.”

Mentors and participants give advice and share feelings and thoughts about this new part of their life with their peers. According to the TRAILS website, “The Peer/Mentor Program is a collaboration with United Spinal Association and links an experienced mentor to a peer who will work on problem-solving, self-management and assist with assimilation into an active lifestyle.”

Wally Lee has been involved with the program for five years and has really enjoyed it and what it has to offer.

“Having a spinal cord injury and trying to do something is an effort,” Lee said in a phone interview. “It’s a hassle to find transportation. Having a spinal cord injury is hard but everything is there (with TRAILS).”

Lee explained that getting any equipment to do anything with a spinal cord injury makes it hard to do recreational sports and is very expensive. But now that he has access to the equipment he is able to participate in activities he used to do before he became paralyzed.

Because of TRAILS Lee has been able to do recreational activities with not only other participants, but also with his family again. Lee is now teaching others with spinal cord injuries how to play wheelchair tennis,  and do sit skiing as well as other sports.

“I really enjoy it (TRAILS),” Lee said. “Having a wheelchair, you get isolated because you don’t want to be around people in wheelchairs so you end up alone, but with recreation you can integrate back into able bodied recreation.”

TRAILS coordinator Tanja Kari had her arm amputated at birth. She has always been an active athlete, and has been involved with sports for people with disabilities her whole life. She was also a gold medalist in cross country skiing in the 2003 Paralympics. However, she agrees that TRAILS has been a highlight.

“Being disabled is limiting,” Kari said. “Seeing people in the hospital then getting back into activities is incredible. It’s a privilege to be a part of.”

Kari and Jeffrey Rosenbluth M.D., assistant chief of the Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation at University Hospital, started the program in 2006. Rosenbluth, who specializes in spinal cord injuries, had envisioned this program even before Kari came along. But with a professional in the medical field and an athlete who has been involved with sports for people with disabilities, TRAILS has become a success.

Kari explained that many people who sustain a spinal cord injury don’t usually want to be involved in sports, but when they join TRAILS their attitude changes and they end up loving this new way to participate in recreational sports.

Participants don’t have to be a patient at the University Hospital. It is open to anyone with a spinal injury.

People who are interested in volunteerting with TRAILS don’t have to be a nurse or a professional. Volunteers will be trained in how the equipment works and how they can help the participants with spinal injuries get back into activities that they were once involved in, or try a new sport they didn’t know about.

Safe-zones create inclusive environment, safe space to be in

A rainbow flag, the symbol for the LGBTQ+ community, is a sign to all that the space is a safe place to go and be included in everything without worry of discrimination.

Story and photo by AINSLEY YOUNG

Every month, the LGBT Resource Center at the University of Utah holds classes known as Safe-Zone Trainings. They’re a three-hour session designed to answer questions and provide a safe space for people to come together and be educated about the power of words, how they affect people around you and how to keep an open mind when it comes to diversity.

Each training session is usually formatted with a short presentation, a discussion and activities. At the training offered during Pride Week 2012, the activity was to go around the room and silently answer several yes or no questions and then add a bead to a string for each yes, to symbolize the attendees’ privileges.

“In the training, we cover concepts related to the LGBTQA community. We also do exercises that are intended to spark dialogue on what it’s like for people to be marginal on gender expression and orientation,” said Kai Medina-Martínez, the director of the university’s LGBT Resource Center.

“The trainings create a situation of inclusion around dialogue that’s intended to bring awareness to people and have them learn things based on inclusive narratives,” said Medina-Martínez, who uses the pronoun they.

“We live in a world where we assume everyone is cisgender [born as a gender and identifies and acts within societal expectations of that gender] and heterosexual but we’re not. We have people who are transgender, gay, bisexual and a-sexual,” they said.

Medina-Martínez said it’s important to break down the negative stereotypes that are cast by society.

“We value a certain type of person, but we live in a diverse world with a lot of diverse people. Not everybody is the same, and we should all benefit from equal treatment,” they said.

The trainings are designed to be a safe place where people can meet others who are interested in learning how to be inclusive of all people or people who want to share their knowledge on being inclusive.

“I think it’s a great resource for anyone who wants to know a little more about the community and the real issues that face this population,” said Valerie Velarde, the safe-zone coordinator at the LGBT Resource Center. “As for creating a safe zone, people have to know where they can go for support with no biases or assumptions precluding them. Too much of this world is harsh, and people need that place they can go to relax and be themselves.”

Velarde said the trainings can help to make the world “be that much less harsh.”

“We always say once you hear a person’s story, it is a lot harder to hate them. I think that is a lot of what we are trying to get out there — personal stories of raw and real hatred. We are all privileged and not everyone sees the pain we often inflict,” she said.

“Safe-zone training gives individuals the quaint, safe space to ask any questions they want and get a rough view of LGBT identities,” Velarde said.

These trainings are a good way to educate people on different matters and issues going on in the LGBTQ+ community that may not be shown to everyone all the time, she said.

“For too long, people have had little to no idea of what the community really looks like, simply gaining most of their assumptions from popular media or the news…. A little more knowledge never hurt anyone,” Velarde said.

It’s important to be knowledgeable and active in minority communities, such as the LGBTQ+ community, she said. These trainings are an excellent way to get involved by showing an interest and making an effort to create a safe space and environment for all people, she said.

Between five and 30 people usually attend the workshops that are held in open, public spaces. The LGBT Resource Center also holds private training sessions for companies and departments at the university or small businesses. These private trainings have more than 100 attendees.

In addition to the full-length, three-hour trainings, the center hosts quasi-trainings that are a little shorter, with varying activities tailored to the organization or department’s needs, with job-specific situations and  opportunities to work together as coworkers and peers.

“Also, I sometimes mix and match what I do and ask different questions, but usually the same concepts are brought up regardless of what I say,” Velarde said. She said sometimes she starts with a question and answer session, while other times she’ll start with a discussion or activity she created to best suit whichever audience she is educating.

“These trainings opened up a lot of doors for me,” said Kim Bliss, who attended a safe-zone training in spring 2012. Bliss attended the training when she saw a flyer for it around the university campus that caught her attention.

Bliss said she was deeply impacted by one of the discussions at the training, and that it had changed her mind about a lot of the stereotypes that she had been familiar with.

“Whether you’re straight or gay, black or white, young or old, you’re still a person and you deserve to be treated with respect. Just because you may not agree with how someone lives their lives doesn’t mean you can judge them and cause them any harm,” she said.

Velarde holds these trainings  once a month at various locations around the U campus. Velarde said there can be more than seven meetings a month depending on which department or campus organization wants to schedule one.

The University of Utah plans to update transgender housing policy

Story and photo by MADELINE SMITH

The University of Utah ranked as one of the top schools in the country for having an LGBT-friendly campus, according to Campus Pride’s “Top 25 LGBT-Friendly Colleges and Universities,” released on Aug. 21, 2012.

However, Kai Medina-Martínez, the director of the U’s LGBT Resource Center who uses the pronoun they, said the U received a low rating for its housing policy. They said the U doesn’t allow students to self-select a roommate of the opposite sex.

Medina-Martínez said in a telephone interview that the Center collaborates with Housing and Residential Education on inclusive policies in housing.

“We let students know how to contact housing and find safe and comfortable living arrangements,” they said.

The U’s current policy accommodates transgender, genderqueer and gender variant students in finding comfortable on-campus housing through a confidential application process.

According to the Housing and Residential Education website, possible accommodations include allowing the student to live with a preferred roommate, live in a super single room, or live in one of the communities that have shared rooms and a unisex bathroom.

Andrew Kahrs is a housing specialist with Housing and Residential Education at the U. With regards to transgender students, Kahrs said in a phone interview that they work with students on a case-by-case basis to find appropriate housing.

Kahrs said Campus Information Services (CIS) recognizes students by their birth gender, and the U only offers single-gender suites.

“A student can request to be identified as female although CIS says male, and if they have already transitioned, they can live with other females,” Kahrs said.

Kahrs said all of the resident advisors, resident advisor supervisors and live-in supervisors in the residence halls are trained by the Utah Pride Center, located off campus at 361 N. 300 W.

“We train our staff to be aware, and there are resident advisors on every floor to make sure all students’ needs are met,” Kahrs said.

The U’s housing office and the LGBT Resource Center are working on a more simplistic process for transgender students to get into appropriate housing, Kahrs said.

A possible change to general housing applications would be asking students if they would be comfortable living with an LGBT student, Kahrs said.

“Times are changing and people are more open,” he said.

By including a web page on the Housing and Residential Education website specifically for students to see transgender housing options, Kahrs said it’s easier for potential students to see that the U has multiple housing options and it could help students choose to attend the U.

LGBT Housing at Other Pac-12 Universities

The U was among four other Pac-12 schools listed in Campus Pride’s “Top 25 LGBT-Friendly Colleges and Universities.” According to Campus Pride, University of California, Berkeley; University of Oregon; University of Washington; and Stanford University are also lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender-friendly campuses.

The University of Oregon has a Gender Equity Hall that is open to any student identifying as LGBT. It’s located on one floor of Carson Hall, a residence hall on Oregon’s campus. According to Oregon’s housing website, this option is also open to intersex students, or those who don’t want to be identified by any gender, and students who are more comfortable living with members of the opposite sex are able to live here. It has gender-neutral bathrooms in every wing.

The University of California, Berkeley, offers mixed-gender room assignments in the Unity House, which is a theme program. Theme programs are residential communities sponsored by an academic department. According to the website, “The Unity House Theme Program is unique to Berkeley and is a pioneer in its focus on gender and sexuality…”

Similar to Oregon’s housing policies, Stanford University has gender-neutral and gender-inclusive housing in buildings that offer additional privacy in restrooms and showering areas, according to the student housing website. Transgender students can choose to find their own roommate and live in the gender-neutral housing, or apply for housing through a confidential process. They are only asked as much information as needed to place them in the appropriate housing arrangement.

Like the U, The University of Washington allows students to request their own roommate. According to the housing web page, roommates are assigned based on the “gender marker as it appears in the UW Student Database and cannot assign opposite sexes to the same room or apartment.” However, gender-neutral housing is available.

On-campus Housing at the U

According to the U’s website, students can choose their roommate, live in a super single room with their own bedroom and bathroom or in a community of single rooms with a shared unisex bathroom.

Chapel Glen and Sage Point residence halls are the only two buildings that offer super single bedrooms, which are more expensive, Kahrs said. Super single rooms and single deluxe rooms run for $4,322 per academic year, according to Housing and Residential Education’s website.

Chapel Glen is one of the residence halls at the U that offers super single rooms.

“Students who are nervous about living with other students often choose the super single,” Karhs said. He added that there’s a possibility that similar spaces to the super single could be built in the future if there were to be an increase in students living on campus.

The Alliance House is another on-campus housing option that is open to anyone with an academic interest in living and learning, and it celebrates diversity. “It’s not just for LGBT students,” Kahrs said.

According to the Community Diversity web page, “[The Alliance House] is a safe place where the things that make us unique are shared and explored.”

Kahrs said, “Most students want to live with someone else, regardless of how they identify.”

Beyond the medical standard: University of Utah offers wide array of beneficial research

Story, Photo, Video, and Audio by JAVAN RIVERA

Additional Photos courtesy of CAROLYN STWERTKA and CRAIG GRITZEN.

Craig Gritzen doing fieldwork in the Great Basin Desert, in Juab County Utah, 2009. Working with the sin nombre virus requires the use of specialized headgear to prevent human infection.

It’s a delicate and time-consuming process.

University of Utah graduate researcher Craig Gritzen spends his days at the U’s Dearing Lab viewing parasites through microscopes and testing for the sin nombre virus. However, it’s not medical research he’s doing, but biological studies of parasite and virus correlation in Utah’s population of deer mice.

The U is well known for being on the cutting edge of medical research and innovation. With an entire section of the campus dedicated to a fully-functioning research hospital, it can be easy to forget that the university also serves as a quality institution of scientific research that spans from biology and immunology, to meteorology and paleontology and more.

Gritzen is just one of the many students and professionals at the U doing important research that rarely gets the press of its better-known  medical counterparts. But that doesn’t make it any less vital.

“There’s a lot of opportunity for students to pursue their interests,” Gritzen said. “You really find yourself as a scientist when you do research.”

Doing research is exactly how Gritzen spends most of his days. A graduate student pursuing his master’s in biology, the core of Gritzen’s work is investigating possible correlations between the numerous parasites that can be found in the guts of deer mice, and the deadly sin nombre virus that the rodents carry.

Gritzen’s work represents an important step forward in understanding the dangers of at least one type of Hantavirus, a genus of virus that can be fatal to humans if inhaled. He hopes his research can help to track sin nombre virus infection in future deer mice populations and provide more warning for the people who live in deer mice populated areas, such as Emigration Canyon.

“Understanding what parasites are infecting these mice and identifying the effects of the parasites on the mice will allow for researchers to understand whether the parasites will increase or decrease the likelihood of the mice becoming infected by the virus, which in turn can determine the likelihood of humans getting infected due to close proximity to the mice,” Gritzen said.

Protospirura numidica is just one of the many parasites that can infect the digestive tract of Deer Mice.

Gritzen’s research could benefit Utahns who live in close proximity to the mice, who are, by default, at risk of inhaling the rodents’ feces and contracting sin nombre virus. The virus, which fills human lungs with liquid, literally causes the infected human to slowly drown.

“Humans who live in close quarters with the mice are the ones in danger of being infected,” Gritzen said. “It [his research] is important for people who live in environments where the mice can live and thrive.”

Of course, biology isn’t the only field of lesser known, but important research going on at the U. Two graduate researchers at the U’s Atmospheric Sciences Department are working on separate research projects that could shape the future of pollution regulation and legislation, and save energy investors millions of dollars.

Carolyn Stwertka is one of those researchers. She is working on a revolutionary new atmospheric model that could help us truly understand and accurately measure carbon dioxide emissions.

An inversion creeps across the city as Carolyn Stwertka hikes up the Grandeur Trail to gather carbon dioxide density measurements of Salt Lake City’s surface air.

Stwertka, a graduate researcher in the U’s Atmospheric Sciences Department,  is working with a unique set of carbon dioxide measuring sensors set up across the Salt Lake Valley that help measure and compare carbon dioxide output across the valley and into the upper atmosphere. The outcome, Stwertka explained, should help scientists truly understand the amount of carbon dioxide circulation in our atmosphere and its effect on the population.

These sensors, she said, represent the “longest standing, consistently running set of stations in a city in the world.”

Part of what makes Stwertka’s research unique, besides the network of established carbon dioxide sensors, is that Salt Lake City represents an exceptional staging ground for her research and the development of her carbon dioxide tracking model.

“Essentially, Salt Lake City is a great place to study [carbon dioxide circulation] because it’s so isolated,” Stwertka said. “It’s very difficult for air to drain out of this valley.”

What has Stwertka discovered so far?

With research that has spanned from crunching years of data, to a hike up Millcreek Canyon’s  Grandeur Peak lugging a backpack full of electronic, atmospheric measuring equipment, Stwertka’s unpublished results seem to indicate an interesting atmospheric affect.

Carbon dioxide seems to create a sort of bubble around cities like Salt Lake, which  is quite similar to another scientific phenomenon known as the “heat island effect.”

“That [her research] is important because the human population is growing, more people are moving into cities, and more carbon dioxide is being added in the atmosphere,” Stwertka said. “If there is going to be [future] regulation on carbon dioxide, they should be enforced in cities because that is where the highest concentrations of human-created emissions are.”

Stwertka’s research represents real progress, not only in helping to solve Utah’s inversion and pollution problems, but could even be used to better understand global climate change and pollution regulation around the world.

With climate change and global warming becoming a hot topic around the world, Stwertka’s work is extremely relevant, if unconnected to U researcher Ryan Oates’ atmospheric studies.

Ryan Oates uses global climate models to simulate massive increases of carbon dioxide in earth's atmosphere in order to make observations of its affect on the polar vortex.

Oates, whose work is also based in the Atmospheric Sciences Department at the U, is based around an established phenomenon known as a “Stratospheric Sudden Warming Event.”

These warming events take place above the North Pole in the upper part of the atmosphere, known as the troposphere. The events are basically destabilization of the polar vortex, a massive circulation of the atmosphere during the winter months above the North Pole that directly affects mid-latitude weather.

Oates said the cause of these polar vortex destabilization is simply strong weather fluctuations below the vortex.

“The troposphere affects the polar vortex but it also works the other way,” Oates said. “So when you have these sudden warming events, that then impacts storm tracks. ”

That’s where the money comes into play with Oates’ research. With energy representing a billion dollar industry that relies on weather forecasting and the understanding of storm tracks and weather patterns during the winter, adding more knowledge to that database is priceless.

“That [research] is important to investors because it increases both the opportunity and risk of their investments,” Oates said.

Oates’ work is very similar to Stwertka’s research because, much like her, he is interested in discovering the effects of carbon dioxide on the atmosphere, and more specifically, the effects of carbon dioxide increase on the polar vortex.

“I’m seeing how the vortex changes with climate change,” Oates said. “It’s really important because we’ll be able to identify the behavior and frequency of these sudden warming events, thus we’ll be able to see if there is an increase or decrease in [large-scale] tropospheric weather.”

Oates’ preliminary results seem to point to a direct correlation between carbon dioxide increase and an increase in stratospheric sudden warming events, something many weather-sensitive commodity investors will likely find interesting—and profitable.

In the end, whether they’re studying climate change and weather patterns, or mice and deadly viruses, the quiet but deliberative scientific research going on at the University of Utah is more important than most people realize.

“For me science ties into everyday things,” Oates said. “What I love about science is that you can’t isolate it to just one thing. It always has real life implications.”

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