Dream Ambassadors!

The Dream Center at the University of Utah is hiring two Dream Ambassadors who will work with the Dream Center to increase access to higher education for undocumented students (with and without DACA) in Utah!

Dream Ambassadors will coordinate and execute workshops, presentations and trainings at the University of Utah campus, as well as partner with other organizations (i.e. PK-20 institutions, nonprofit organizations, conferences, etc.) to further fulfill the mission and goals of the Dream Center. Moreover, Dream Ambassadors will conduct research to develop audience-appropriate marketing materials to raise awareness of educational opportunities for all students, regardless of immigration status.

Who Qualifies?

  • Current University of Utah undergraduate students passionate about social justice and increasing access to higher education for undocumented students (with and without DACA) in Utah
  • Applicants must have DACA, or be eligible for employment in the U.S. (i.e. U.S. Citizen or Permanent Resident)

How to Apply?


This is Why I March

By Sarah Anderson, Master of Social Work Student, 2016-2017 ITSW Experiential Scholar


I march because I want my voice and the voices of others to be heard. It is my first amendment right of freedom of speech.

I march because my voice is loud and I can be heard. I am not silenced by the color of my skin. I am White and my whiteness does not lead someone to question my competence. Some have their competence questioned because of their name or hair or color of their skin; racism is a real and current issue. As an ally, I march because I believe that a person is more than a stereotype. I march with women, with transgender and queer populations, and with people of color to stand up against oppression. Even the term “of color” divides people into two groups: us and them. There is much diversity in cultures and ethnicities. Each are beautiful and deserve to be heard. I march behind my sisters and queer of color who are stereotyped by gender AND color.

I march because my gender does not make me “hysterical” or “crazy.”

I march for equal pay for the families who are supported by women who are paid less than their male counterparts. I march for the single women who are supporting themselves, like myself.

I march because violence against anyone is not okay: men, women, transgender, agender. No one deserves to be victimized.

I march against rape culture that states it’s okay to pressure anyone into having sex for any reason, liking paying for a date.

I march because there are still people who think that women shouldn’t hold certain jobs, such as firefighters. It is not commonly mentioned about the gender of an older or smaller man who struggles to keep up with a man in his prime. As soon as a woman is in that position, her female status is used as a reason why she shouldn’t be allowed to complete a certain job. If someone can do the work, she should be able to hold a job.

I march because it is not weak to be a “girl.” Women, girls, fems, queers are strong. We are smart. We have strengths that we can bring to any position or circumstance.

I march because women all over the world are impacted by and connected to each other. My support of this movement can have an impact of courage for someone else, far away that may hear my words and feel strength. Her strength gives me strength.

I march because I will not give up. Some say that it is good enough here, that I should be grateful. I am grateful for what has been fought for and earned, but not everyone has had the same opportunity as me. I will fight through my words and my actions, marching for every single woman, even those who speak out against feminism. With a spirit of empathy or generosity, I march for the histories that some do not know. Every woman today is where she is because of the feminists of the past. Women can vote and own property because of those who marched before. We are not property in the United States.

I march for women’s access to abortion and freedom of choice over their bodies. Not everyone is in the situation to have a baby. There are many babies in the foster system and throughout the world that are in need of homes. Children need care and nurturing. Not all are in the position to give a child the love that they deserve. Social work stands for compassion and nonjudgment.

I march for a world of understanding and action. Women who want equal rights are not “snowflakes.” We are determined to stand up for equality, despite the criticism that we face for doing so.

Success is not standing on the backs of others by sacrificing those who are different; it is holding hands working together for equity for all people of all different types. World success means we embrace diversity of gender, color, age, class, orientation, and the myriad of identities and intersections to work toward the goal of a happy, healthy and safe life, however that is defined. It means that we do not give someone less based on a label that has a bias of not being as competent/important/smart/capable. This is why I march and will continue to march.

I will march and advocate any time I am able. I will speak out to news organizations, as I did in this clip. I will use any avenue to shout for equality for all.  


The views and opinions expressed on the interACTION blog are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the University of Utah or the College of Social Work.

“Objects of Resilience”

Message from the Director

By Annie Isabel Fukushima, PhD, Director of the Initiative for Transformative Social Work, University of Utah College of Social Work


“Objects of Resilience” is a project by the Initiative for Transformative Social Work (ITSW) at the University of Utah College of Social Work. The exhibit went on display on April 10, 2017, and will remain for the duration of the spring 2017 semester. It tells a story of migration through the objects in one’s life. As conveyed by feminist scholar Sara Ahmed, “to be oriented is also to be turned toward certain objects, those that help us find our way. These are the objects we recognize, so that when we face them we know which way we are facing.” Therefore, ITSW wanted to learn more about how the objects of resilience and migration are collectively orienting our students, faculty, staff, community, and even a community beyond Utah.

This exhibit speaks to pressing issues surrounding migration. The context of “Objects of Resilience” is one that is tethered to both micro and macro contexts. The call for submissions was circulating in February 2017; a time when the president was signing executive orders calling for stricter immigration laws that targeted vulnerable and marginalized communities: Muslims, people from South West Asia/the Arab Worlds, the Middle East, undocumented, refugees, and anyone whose body was read as Other and ineligible for citizenship. The impacts of the macro context shaped the students, community, and University at a local level – it impacted people’s individual lives. This exhibit pushes back against the reductive, violent and oppressive narrative that exists in the United States that problematically reduces migration and migrant experiences to colonial thinking as “us versus them” through practices of deportation, incarceration, and erasure.

Receiving over 30 submissions, we found that the contributors told a rich story of migration. ITSW students originally hoped that it would tell a story regarding the refugee experiences. However, in reaching out to the community for stories surrounding displacement and migration, the submissions oriented us toward a broader story of migration. The stories of resilience and migration are multiple – in fact, to lock it into a thematic would be to limit the connections across images, experience, and context. Therefore, the exhibit is organized by last name. In addition, as the viewer moves through the various images, we invite you to connect with a story of multiplicity, heterogeneity, hybridity, transnational connections, with multiple localized contexts. Through the multiple, these photos and stories speak to a resilience that is not singular or monolithic. “Objects of Resilience” makes appeals to the viewer to inhabit the role of the witness, where this witnessing sees and facilitates actions that center migration as encompassing a range of experiences and humanities. These objects encompass the familiar and unfamiliar. Moreover, through the objects the hope is that the viewers will connect with the complex personhood that defines the migrant experience. “Objects of Resilience” speaks to the object that migrants are turned into, the objects that are in our lives, and the objectification occurring in dominant narratives. Anti-oppressive work includes seeing the complex personhood that migrants inhabit and the radical possibilities of the border crosser, border dweller, and the transnational subject.




WARNING:  This exhibit contains strong language and images that some may find offensive.  In an effort to respect the educational and cultural context in which this exhibit is displayed, as well as respect the rights of the individuals whose work is represented, the College of Social Work has taken measures to notify exhibit visitors of sensitive content prior to its viewing.  The images and essays presented in this exhibit represent the stories and views of the individual artists and do not necessarily represent the views of the University of Utah, the College of Social Work, its students and employees, nor the other individuals whose work is displayed.

Wor(L)ds Surrounding Religion

By Sarah Anderson, Master of Social Work Student, 2016-2017 ITSW Experiential Scholar


“Everyone has a unique story to tell about religion. I know how easy it is to prescribe a certain set of ideals and values onto your understanding somebody else’s religion when really our job as social workers, our job as human beings, should be to get to know people on the very basic human level… How can we connect together?” —Student, “Storying Ourselves”

According to the Pew Research Center, 55% of adults in Utah are affiliated with the LDS Church. The other 45% are a mix of other religious and nonreligious affiliations making up minority voices. The tension between religion and social work ethics contributes to the disruptions and challenging conversations within classrooms in the College of Social Work at the University of Utah. Giving validity to diverse religious stories helps to increase collaboration between social workers and the diverse communities they work with. To give validity to differing stories within the College, the Initiative for Transformative Social Work (ITSW) hosted an event centering on the use of words to describe experience with religiosity.  

The word I used to describe my experience surrounding religion is “disowned.”

Most of my family members are religious. At about age 21, I decided to leave a faith of my heritage, a Christian faith. I felt that my family disowned me as I created my new path, which was an opportunity for a greater exploration of truth in many ideologies. I also feel like I disowned my heritage by having my name removed from the religion’s records of membership. This decision was monumental on the potential impact with my relationship with my family. I did not know if my family would accept me or allow me to continue to be part of the family. But I am lucky. My family has come to accept me, even if I hear regular disapproval about my choices.

Despite the contradiction that I felt and continue to feel within myself, I seek to respect both my future and past self. This has led me to contend with a simultaneous hatred and deep respect for religion; in this manner, religion can bring people together and divide them. As I have walked a path that has felt very lonesome at times, I have found something that is more meaningful for me, completing a full circle of walking away and discovering new. Because of my own experience, I felt it was important ITSW host an event centering on the experience of religiosity within the College of Social Work that contributes to divides within classrooms.   

On December 2nd, ITSW hosted an event, “Storying Ourselves: A Dialogue on Religiosity within the College of Social Work,” at the University of Utah. The purpose of the event was to deepen the story of ourselves as students of the College of Social Work and our relationships to religion. It began with the audience writing a word they associated with religion. The purpose of this activity was to show that someone could have either a positive or negative experience with religion, which will be the reality inside and outside the classroom.

The event started with a screening of a video we created featuring students sharing their stories and experiences with religion. The video, “Storying Ourselves: Religiosity within the College of Social Work,” was directed by Sarah Anderson and Hannah Wilde. It begins with individuals sharing a word associated with the word “religion,” followed by a sharing of stories. The differences in words demonstrate the variety of experiences in regards to religion. The video, however, did not include people who do not identify as affiliated with religion, which is something we wish we had included. The event ended with a panel discussion on how to understand the differences in religious experiences and the impact on conversations between students within the College of Social Work. This dialogue brought together students to share their stories and see others’ perspective.

This sharing of our words connects our worlds and experiences surrounding religiosity, which develops an understanding of alternative stories. We, as social work students, must develop a listening ear and a perceptive eye to see the story less spoken. This is accomplished through showing respect, validating people’s experiences, and listening to the words they use to define their experiences with religion and intersecting experiences (i.e., race, gender, sexuality, etc.). This is imperative because it supports the goals of social work to create self-determination and social justice to the minority story.


Pew Research Center. (2017). Adults in Utah. Religious Composition of Adults in Utah. Retrieved from: http://www.pewforum.org/religious-landscape-study/state/utah/


The views and opinions expressed on the interACTION blog are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the University of Utah or the College of Social Work.

Coordinator, Administrative Program

The University of Utah



Open Date 11/29/2016
Requisition Number PRN12979B
Job Title Coordinator, Administrative Program
Working Title Coordinator, Administrative Program
Job Grade D
FLSA Code Administrative
Patient Care Job Code? No
Standard Hours per Week 40
Work Schedule Summary Monday – Friday 8am-5pm. Some evenings and weekends.
Department 01490 – Outreach and Engagement
Type of Recruitment External Posting
Pay Rate Range 32000
Close Date

NOTE: May close at anytime.

Open Until Filled

NOTE: May close at anytime.

Job Summary Built on the foundation of educational equity and opportunity, the Dream Program Coordinator strives to empower undocumented students, their families and members of the community in being informed leaders and active participants in our communities. Continuing the Office of Engagements holistic college access pathways, this new Dream Program will strive to educate and build awareness of changing policies affecting Utah’s undocumented population. We acknowledge that immigration status is one aspect of an individual’s identity that does not solely define a person or their capacity. We promote a holistic approach to recruitment and retention of students in higher education, taking into account a student’s mental, emotional, and financial well-being.
The primary functions of the Dream Program Coordinator include student support, college access, campus network/awareness /advocacy, and community outreach. This is a new position and will be responsible for launching a full array of Dream Program.

Student Support: The Dream Program Coordinator will be the primary interface with undocumented and DACAmented students, providing them with in-depth, customized information to assist in the navigation of their educational careers. This professional staff member utilizes an understanding of college student development, learning, and persistence theories to assist new, transfer, and current students in developing plans to enhance their academic programs while at the University of Utah. Major responsibilities are to foster a successful transition to the university environment, identify services and resources for degree development that meet the student’s needs, assist students in identifying resources for major & career selection, and encourage timely graduation. Program staff endeavor to create a supportive and inclusive community wherein undocumented and DACAmented students can develop and thrive. This person will use their professional experience to mentor student teams in the creation and execution of education, advocacy and awareness projects.

College Access: The Dream coordinator will participate in college access efforts, providing expertise on DACA/undocumented student access. This staff member will attend college application and financial aid events to provide support and information to students and their families.

Campus Network, Awareness, & Advocacy: The Dream Program Coordinator will serve as campus network coordinator to promote collaboration and integration of services between campus entities. The incumbent will design and deliver training for faculty, staff, and administrators to better understand students’ strengths, barriers, opportunities, and experiences. The Dream Program Coordinator will create and manage the “UndocuAlly” campaign. The incumbent will represent student population in high-level university meetings, advocating for this student population and coordinating resources.

Community Outreach: The Dream Coordinator will work with community partners to provide information at community-based events. Information will range from awareness and advocacy for undocumented people, to college access information for students and families. The incumbent will build strong and effective community relationships that enhance student experiences at the U and promote pathways for future students to the U. Incumbent will develop a complete knowledge of community services and resources that can support students and families, and serve as the point-of-contact for community entities into the University and vice versa.

Responsibilities Specific elements of the work include:
1. Advise new, transfer, and continuing students and their families, linking them to campus opportunities to enhance their academic experience
2. Develop a working knowledge of University of Utah academic advising, financial aid, and career development office services and policies as they relate to this student population
3. Engage with departmental and program academic advisors to gain a working knowledge of program requirements to consider when assisting students in connecting with University resources and opportunities
4. Employ listening and advising practices to assist students from diverse backgrounds in accessing University resources and opportunities, and developing graduation plans
5. Assist students in accessing non-academic resources necessary to thrive, such as counseling, legal aid, housing, tax support, etc.
6. Document advising sessions and develop practices and procedures for following up with student advisees
7. Mentor Dreamers student group and connect student teams with outside resources
8. Develop resources (printed literature, web sites, videos, social media sites, etc.) to assist students in exploring opportunities to enhance their academic program at the University of Utah
9. Serve on University committees and make recommendations that affect advising processes, program development, and published materials
10. Engage in data compilation, analysis and reporting of program outcomes
11. Participate in information sessions, orientations, college application, financial aid, and tabling events on campus and in the community
12. Build a network of campus offices to understand, identify, and coordinate services targeted to this student population
13. Develop and deliver awareness training to staff, faculty, and students across campus, including managing the UndocuAlly campaign
14. Develop new programming and workshops specific to this population in in areas of legal, academic, financial, and mental health
15. Embrace rapid change and develop new solutions to meet evolving student needs
Incumbent is expected to possess a working knowledge about academic programs, policies and procedures, and student support services. The ability to be sensitive to the needs of diverse student populations, such as non-traditional and minority students and students with disabilities is a necessity. Incumbents must also be able to interpret student needs and determine when referral to other University resources is appropriate.
Minimum Qualifications Bachelor’s degree in a related field plus one year directly related experience or equivalency required. Demonstrated ability to work independently, analyze and make decisions related to program content. Strong coordination and organizational skills required to prioritize conflicting deadlines. Demonstrated human relations and effective communication skills are also required.

Applicants must demonstrate the potential ability to perform the essential functions of the job as outlined in the position description.

Preferences Bachelor’s degree in Social Work or a related field plus one year directly related experience or equivalency required.
Familiarity with DACA/Undocumented student success and a commitment to helping all students achieve their dreams. Working knowledge of laws and policies affecting undocumented student populations.
Evidence of successful work with a diverse range of students, including populations typically underrepresented in higher education (e.g. students of color, first-generation college students, LGBTQstudents, students with disabilities, and students from lower SES backgrounds)
Experience building effective working relationships and open communication with students, staff, faculty and University leadership
Ability to communicate effectively in writing and verbally to diverse audiences including administrators, faculty, students, and staff
Skills in decision making that allow for quick, informed, and appropriate decisions essential to understanding students’ needs and identifying where those needs can best be met
Ability to thrive in a rapidly evolving environment with a positive attitude, embracing change and adapting to student needs
Applicants must demonstrate the potential ability to perform the essential functions of the job as outlined in the position description
Type Benefited Staff
Additional Information
The University of Utah is an Affirmative Action/Equal Opportunity employer and is committed to diversity in its workforce. In compliance with applicable federal and state laws, University of Utah policy of equal employment opportunity prohibits discrimination on the basis of race or ethnicity, religion, color, national origin, sex, age, sexual orientation, gender identity/expression, veteran’s status, status as a qualified person with a disability, or genetic information. Individuals from historically underrepresented groups, such as minorities, women, qualified persons with disabilities, and protected veterans are strongly encouraged to apply. Veterans’ preference is extended to qualified applicants, upon request and consistent with University policy and Utah state law.
To inquire about this posting, email: employment@utah.edu or call 801-581-2300. Reasonable accommodations in the application process will be provided to qualified individuals with disabilities. To request an accommodation or for further information about University AA/EO policies, please contact the Office of Equal Opportunity and Affirmative Action, 201 S. Presidents Cr., Rm 135, (801) 581-8365 (V/TDD), email: oeo@umail.utah.edu.

The University is a participating employer with Utah Retirement Systems (“URS”). To be eligible for retirement contributions, you must be hired into a benefit-eligible position. Certain new hires are automatically assigned to the URS retirement plan and other employees with prior URS service, may elect to enroll in the URS within 30 days of hire. Regardless of whether they are hired into a benefit-eligible position or not, individuals who previously retired and are receiving monthly retirement benefits from URS must notify the Benefits Department upon hire. Please contact Utah Retirement Systems at (801)366-7770 or (800)695-4877 or the University’s Benefits Department at (801)581-7447 for information.

This position may require the successful completion of a criminal background check and/or drug screen.

Special Instructions Summary The Office of Engagement and the University of Utah value interactions among individuals with varying traditions, cultures, identities, expressions, orientation, religious beliefs, economic backgrounds, and racial/ethnic origins. We strongly encourage applications from candidates who will share and explore this value with our team and the students we serve.


Fair Housing/Testers

The Fair Housing Program at the Disability Law Center (DLC) continues to fight housing discrimination in Utah!


The spring issue of the DLC newsletter features a story about one of our clients, Tika, a refugee whose family experienced discrimination due to their race and national origin.  Tika contacted the Fair Housing Program at the DLC and we were able to help with filing a complaint against their discriminatory landlord.  You can read more about Tika’s story here:  http://disabilitylawcenter.org/wp-content/uploads2/2016/04/FY16-Q3-Spring-Newsletter_WEB.pdf


We’ve received many great referrals from our partners, for both testers and clients, but once again we’re in need of more testers!


Testers are the people who visit or call landlords to inquire about apartments, then submit written reports about their experiences back to the DLC.  Testers receive a $50 stipend for each completed test after attending a training session.


What we’re looking for is a diverse group of people to use as testers.  They don’t have to belong to a particular protected class—race, disability, color, religion, etc.—to participate.


If you know of anyone who might be interested, they can fill out an application online by following this link to our website:  http://disabilitylawcenter.org/job-posting-fair-housing-testers/


I can be reached at vmcguire@disabilitylawcenter.org  or at 801-363-1347×3192 if you would like additional information about our Fair Housing Program or to answer questions you might have.


Utah’s Invisible Population

By Charles Hoy-Ellis, PhD, Assistant Professor, University of Utah College of Social Work


Lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender (LGBT) adults aged 50 and older are at significantly greater risk for poor mental and physical health outcomes compared to same-age older heterosexual adults; not because they are LGBT, but as a result of the direct and indirect effects of discrimination, victimization, and marginalization they experience because of who they are.  They are also more likely to live alone and be socially isolated.

About 2 percent of American adults aged 50 and older self-identify as LGBT. Doesn’t sound like much, right?  Consider this: according to the latest U.S. Census Population estimates, more than 640,000 of Utah’s nearly 3 million residents are aged 50 and older.  This suggests there are nearly 13,000 self-identified LGBT Utahns aged 50 and older today.  And, this may be an underestimate, as LGBT older adults are more likely than their younger counterparts to conceal their identity.  Moreover, Salt Lake City has the seventh highest percentage of LGBT residents of any major metropolitan area in the U.S. overall.

In addition to being invisible in the larger community, LGBT older adults are often marginalized within LGBT communities because of their age, which is a loss for both younger and older generations.  Younger LGBT people may not be connected to the unique history of LGBT communities in America.  Into the 1970s, police raids on places where LGBT people congregated were common.  Patrons were arrested on “morals charges” that ranged from women wearing men’s attire (slacks, sports jacket), to two people of the same gender dancing together.  The names and photographs of those arrested were often published in local newspapers, which all too often led to being fired from jobs and rejected by family and friends.  During this same era, the American Psychiatric Association (APA) categorized LGBT people as having “sociopathic personality disturbances.”  People could be and were involuntarily institutionalized and forced to undergo treatments to “cure” them, including electroshock therapy, lobotomy, and castration.  As a result of ageism both within and outside of LGBT communities, our LGBT elders do not typically have the opportunity to share their lived history with the next generation.

LGBT older adults are less likely to have children than heterosexual older adults.  Unlike the general population – wherein the typical informal caregiver is a middle-aged women caring for both a younger and older family member related by blood or legal ties – LGBT older adults tend to provide and receive informal care to and from each other.  While this is clearly an aspect of the resiliency of LGBT older adults and communities, it can also be problematic.  These informal caregivers may not be able to make legal decisions, and may themselves need informal caregiving supports.  Because of historical and continued, ongoing discrimination, LGBT older adults are less likely to access community supports, such as senior centers and in-home caregiving services.  Most believe that in order to access these programs and services, they would need to conceal their identity to protect themselves from discrimination, abuse, and harassment from both staff and other clients.  This puts LGBT older adults between the proverbial rock and hard place; concealing one’s sexual orientation has been linked to higher rates of depression and chronic physical conditions.  Disclosing their identity does make them a target for discrimination, harassment, and abuse.  Because of Utah state law, such treatment remains legal.

I can’t tell you the number of times I have heard staff and other personnel in mainstream aging services and programs say something to the effect of, “we don’t discriminate – we treat everyone equally.”  While well-meaning and no doubt laudable in intent, this belies reality.

Despite long histories of being invisible, LGBT older adults do exist, and are incredibly resilient.  I’d like to share some words from a 70-year old gay man who was quoted in The Aging and Health Report: Disparities and Resilience among LGBT Older Adults (2011):

“In spite of some of the hassles I have had in my life because I am gay, I consider being gay a gift.  It has made my life richer and opened so much of the world for me.  Of course if I had it to do over again, there are some things I would have done differently, but being gay isn’t one of them.”


SAGE Utah and the University of Utah College of Social Work are pleased to present a free screening of the documentary Gen Silent, which poignantly portrays the actual experiences of six LGBT older adults in health and aging service systems.  The screening will be in the Salt Lake City Public Library’s Nancy Tessman Auditorium (210 East 400 South) on Thursday, April 7, 2016, beginning at 6:30 pm, and will be followed by a conversation on LGBTQ aging.  This event is free and open to the public, however pre-registration is requested: http://bit.ly/SAGEGenSilent


Fresh snow and blue skies provide the perfect backdrop for the glitterati, the independent, and the inspiring who are visiting Park City and Salt Lake City for the Sundance Film Festival. Over the last 31 years, the annual festival has served as a venue for thousands of unknown voices to share unique, creative, and powerful untold stories.

Many of our faculty and staff at the University of Utah College of Social Work take advantage of having this internationally-acclaimed annual event in their back yards. After an evening at the theater, they often return to the College with a list of must-see films for social workers. We’re pleased to share a few of their 2016 recommendations (in no particular order).

Christine - 2016 editedChristine

Recommendation: “Christine is the story of Christine Chubbuck, a television news reporter in Florida who committed suicide on live television in 1974. We get a more rounded view of her personality, and why her co-workers described her as difficult but brilliant, warm, and funny. While her depression and rapid cycling from mania to despair become increasingly evident, it was not sufficiently evident for anyone to correctly diagnose her bipolar disorder in order to save her. This would be an excellent case study in BPD, but also is a wonderful argument for physician training and mental health policies in general.” – Dr. Joanne Yaffe, Professor

About this film: “In 1974, a female TV news reporter aims for high standards in life and love in Sarasota, Florida. Missing her mark is not an option. This story is based on true events.” (Director: Antonio Campos)

Sophie and the Rising Sun

Recommendation: “If I see only 10 films at #Sundance2016 please let them be this good. Amazing film!” – Dr. Joanne Yaffe, Professor

About this film: “In a small Southern town in the autumn of 1941, Sophie’s lonely life is transformed when an Asian man arrives under mysterious circumstances. Their love affair becomes the lightning rod for long-buried conflicts that erupt in bigotry and violence with the outbreak of World War ll.” (Director/Screenwriter: Maggie Greenwald)

Captain Fantastic

Recommendation: “Really, everybody should see ‘Captain Fantastic….’ You’ve got mental health issues (bipolar, suicide), child welfare issues (style vs safety), loss and grief (mom’s death and burial, saying good bye), and lessons about family love and forgiveness. It was fabulous.” – Lisa Himonas, Assistant Dean for Development

About this film: “Deep in the forests of the Pacific Northwest, a father devoted to raising his six kids with a rigorous physical and intellectual education is forced to leave his paradise and re-enter society, beginning a journey that challenges his idea of what it means to be a parent.” (Director/Screenwriter: Matt Ross)

Hunt for the Wilderpeople

Recommendation: “Wonderful exploration of a disrupted foster placement in NZ.” – Dr. Joanne Yaffe, Professor

About this film: “Ricky is a defiant young city kid who finds himself on the run with his cantankerous foster uncle in the wild New Zealand bush. A national manhunt ensues, and the two are forced to put aside their differences and work together to survive in this heartwarming adventure comedy.” (Director/Screenwriter: Taika Waititi)

Resilience - 2016 editedResilience

Recommendation: “Solidly grounded in science, the film brings to light how adverse childhood experiences (ACE) affect the health and behavior of children, as well as adults. It provides great examples of helping children overcome experiences that are often misdiagnosed, such as a misdiagnosis of toxic stress as ADD. How do we train children to recognize the stress in their lives? How do we make the connection between childhood traumas and the body’s manifestation of that stress? This film examines the connections between health and mental health through an interdisciplinary lens and acknowledges a major public health issues – an epidemic – that our society doesn’t want to talk about.” – Dr. Dena Ned, Associate Professor/Lecturer

About this film: “This film chronicles the birth of a new movement among pediatricians, therapists, educators, and communities using cutting-edge brain science to disrupt cycles of violence, addiction, and disease. These professionals help break the cycles of adversity by daring to talk about the effects of divorce, abuse, and neglect.” (Director: James Redford)


Recommendation: “This documentary is an important contribution to educating viewers on current issues young girls and women face in other cultures. The film addresses traditional family views on forced marriage in Afghanistan and Iran, lack of education for women, women’s rights, human rights in general, immigration, and refugee life in the United States. What makes Sonita’s story unique is her courage and determination in creating a rap video that earned her a scholarship opportunity in the United States. After leaving Iran secretly initially without her parents’ knowledge, she is not only pursuing a better life and education for herself, but also hopes to help other young women in similar situations in her home country.” – Inka Johnson, MSW Program Administrative Assistant

About this film: “If 18-year-old Sonita had a say, Michael Jackson and Rihanna would be her parents and she’d be a rapper who tells the story of Afghan women and their fate as child brides. She finds out that her family plans to sell her to an unknown husband for $9,000.” (Director/Screenwriter: Rokhsareh Ghaem Maghami)

Other People

Recommendation: “Mom is dying of cancer, so her gay son comes home to help, but his father is not accepting of his sexual orientation. It’s a story of loss and grief, as well as LGBTQ/family acceptance.” – Lisa Himonas, Assistant Dean for Development

About this film: “A struggling comedy writer, fresh from breaking up with his boyfriend, moves to Sacramento to help his sick mother. Living with his conservative father and younger sisters, David feels like a stranger in his childhood home. As his mother worsens, he tries to convince everyone (including himself) he’s ‘doing okay.’” (Director/Screenwriter: Chris Kelly)

Eagle Huntress - 2016The Eagle Huntress

Recommendation: “The Eagle Huntress is a tour de force. See it!” – Dr. Joanne Yaffe, Professor

About this film: “Step aside, Daenerys and Katniss—Aisholpan is a real-life role model on an epic journey in a faraway world. Follow this 13-year-old nomadic Mongolian girl as she battles to become the first female to hunt with a golden eagle in 2,000 years of male-dominated history.” (Director: Otto Bell)

Hooligan Sparrow

Recommendation: “This film is a great portrayal of some of the difficult and amazing work being done by some advocates for social justice in China. If you love social justice, you’ll love this film.” – Miguel Trujillo, Youth Empowerment Program Project Coordinator

About this film:   “Traversing southern China, a group of activists led by Ye Haiyan, a.k.a. Hooligan Sparrow, protest a scandalous incident in which a school principal and a government official allegedly raped six students. Sparrow becomes an enemy of the state, but detentions, interrogations, and evictions can’t stop her protest from going viral.” (Director/Screenwriter: Nanfu Wang)


We Are Not All Terrorists: Islamophobia and Recognizing Religious Privilege in the U.S.

By Orlando Avila, BSW Student


Quran Crop In December, many of us are surrounded by joy and optimism, as we finish our studies and spend time with our families, enjoying the holiday season. As a Christian-privileging nation, typically, little attention is paid to other non-Christian religions. Often, when other religions are recognized, negative remarks are made about them.

The Islamic religion is often cast as evil and Islamophobia has become common. Islamophobia is defined as a dislike of or prejudice against Islam or Muslims, especially as a political force. When religion is used to promote political interests and power, many people have a hard time separating the religious beliefs from the political forces, which can misrepresent the beliefs or use them to gain power.

Islam does not condone terrorism. The Quran, which is the central religious text of Islam, states, “Fight in the cause of God against those who fight against you, but do not transgress limits. Lo! God loves not aggressors…” (2:190). In short, war is only permissible when defending oneself; we must not initiate harm against others in the name of God.

Yet, since 9/11, Muslims are often labeled as “terrorists” or “Muslim extremists,” and equated with extremist groups such as the Taliban or the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS). These groups do not follow the Muslim beliefs of peace and defense, but follow their own beliefs, imposing their interpretation of Islam through terror and hate. Recent acts of terrorism may perpetuate the misperception of Muslims as terrorists, when many other issues may be at play, such as mental health issues and fanaticism. The Muslim community-at-large has expressed its dismay regarding these recent events.

Americans, and the media in the U.S., frequently cast all Muslims as extremists, without recognizing forms of religious extremism here at home. The Ku Klux Klan, for example, is an extremist group in America. They are reported to have close ties with Protestantism, but they are not identified as extremist Christians, or extremists at all. They are a group that perpetuates hate against other people for their ethnic background, religious views, whether they are documented or undocumented in the United States, etc. But, in America we see the KKK as expressing their free will or exercising their right to free speech.

christianity-islamI know these are challenges, I was born and raised Catholic and I am still practicing. I recognize my privilege in that sense. I understand that I’m unlikely to be discriminated against because of my religion, to be labeled a terrorist or accused of affiliation with an extremist group, and that (most of the time) the way I pray or when I pray will not have a negative effect on the way people perceive me. But I believe, as a nation, we must love and respect Muslim people. As Pope Francis recently stated, “Christians and Muslims are brothers and sisters, and we must act as such.”

What is the duty of social workers regarding Islamophobia? As stated in the NASW Code of Ethics, the dignity and worth of a person are part of the social worker’s core values. So we must acknowledge that Islamophobia is real, and the accusations and stereotypes against Islam are false. ISIS and the Taliban are not the faces of Islam. The dignity of the Muslim people, and the religion’s core values of peace, equality, and love – rather than hate and injustice – must be recognized.


Halloween Costumes and Cultural Appropriation: Your Role as a Social Worker

ITSW Blog Pic (Blur)By Carissa Perry, MSW Student


Although college students may have grown out of trick-or-treating, many undergraduate and graduate students still dress up for Halloween. There is usually at least one occasion in October that requires a costume, be that a church activity, a costume party, or an office tradition.

Choosing a costume is never easy, and it gets harder as you get older. When you are younger, it’s normally pretty simple: a funny cartoon, a spooky character, or a favorite superhero. As you get older, you choose between a funny costume, a culturally relevant costume, a scary costume, an attractive costume, or a witty costume.

Regardless of which costume you choose, you should also keep social justice in mind. This means you must avoid mimicking another culture, ethnicity, or race other than your own.  The costume then becomes cultural appropriation, which manifests and creates oppression. White people have a history of oppressing many different groups, including taking land from Native Americans and enslaving African Americans. Even though you may think “time has passed” and “nobody actually thinks like that anymore,” it’s deeply offensive for a White person to “dress up” as a Native American, or wear black face, when White people have already caused so much pain for Native Americans and African Americans in history.

It doesn’t matter how obvious or intentional the discrimination and racism is; even small acts of cultural appropriation contribute to cultural and racial oppression. By implying that a culture, ethnicity, or race is something that can be easily taken off or copied, you are devaluing that culture, ethnicity, and/or race, and ignoring your privilege in your ability to “put on” a culture for one night and “take it off” when you’re done. This very idea perpetuates the systemic racist notion that being White is the “norm” and everyone else qualifies as “the other.”

The Center for Multicultural Affairs at Duke University is currently doing a media campaign titled “Our Cultures Are Not Costumes.” The images depict people who identify as certain cultures or races holding pictures of people wearing costumes of that culture or race. The images are powerful; check them out here: http://ourculturesarenotcostumes.tumblr.com/.

The NASW Code of Ethics says social workers have the responsibility to advocate for social justice and fight against social injustice, which includes fighting against oppressive and racist actions and comments. As social workers, it’s our responsibility to have the difficult conversation about race and cultural appropriation with our friends when they tell us they are dressing up as Pocahontas or a mariachi band. It’s probably not the best choice to call out every problematic costume at a party, but it is important for social workers to talk to their friends and family members about cultural appropriation and how it perpetuates oppression.


Carissa Perry is a second-year MSW student and a student representative for the Initiative for Transformative Social Work (ITSW) within the University of Utah College of Social Work. For more information about the ITSW, email: itsw@utah.edu.