Life, family and faith among African-Americans and Latino families

January 29, 2016

Nick Wolfinger, a U professor of family and consumer studies, this month released research about faith and family life among nonwhite Americans in a new book, “Soul Mates: Religion, Sex, Love & Marriage Among African Americans and Latinos.” By 2050, a majority of Americans will be minorities, yet we know little about faith and family life among nonwhite Americans, according to Wolfinger, whose book details interesting aspects of family life. “Soul Mates” offers a positive portrait of black and Latino families. Most African-Americans will marry at some point in their lives, a majority of African-Americans are coupled when they have children, and most black couples are happy and monogamous. Most Latinos will marry at some point in their lives, a majority of them are married when they have children, most Latino couples are happy, and divorce rates are lower among Latinos than for the country as a whole. One reason so many families of color are thriving is that they tend to be more religious than average Americans. Wolfinger is available to talk to media about the book and some of its surprising findings. Nick Wolfinger, office 801-581-7491, nick.wolfinger@fcs.utah.edu


Law student works for justice on gang sweep case

December 8, 2015

The U.S. District Court in Salt Lake City this week entered a judgment in a case brought by three former West High School students over a 2010 school- based “gang sweep” that prompted a class action lawsuit by the ACLU of Utah and the ACLU Racial Justice Program. As part of its offer of judgment, West Valley City disclaimed liability and offered a total of $50,000 to the three plaintiffs inclusive of all claims, attorney fees, and costs. The case, Winston v. Salt Lake City Police Department, et al, was filed in 2013 in response to a police action at West High in Salt Lake City, where more than 12 joint-agency gang task force officers entered the school during school hours. They detained students on school property, interrogated them about alleged gang affiliations, and photographed them holding signs listing their purported gang affiliations. Nubia Pena, a third year law student at the S.J. Quinney College of Law, worked on the case as part of Racially Just Utah, a coalition that works with the ACLU on issues related to positively and proactively ensuring racial equity in Utah through policy, accountability, and education. She is available to speak about the case.
Nubia Pena, cell: 801-671-3131| Email: nubia.pena@law.utah.edu

On the heels of the Congressional Forum on Violence against Transgender People

November 20, 2015

The first-ever Congressional Forum on Violence against Transgender People will be held Tuesday, Nov. 24. Since Jan. 1, 2015, to now, 21 transgender women of color have been killed in the United States. On Oct. 14, 2015, hours before Ashley Hallstrom, a transgender woman living in Logan, Utah, took her life by stepping in front of a dump truck, she posted on Facebook “These are going to be my final words. I can’t stand to live another day, so I’m committing suicide. The reason why I’ve decided to do this is because I’m transgender.” As a nation, we can no longer stay silent by denying, erasing or eradicating the lives of transgender people. We must invest in a Futuro de Esperanza and reject a life path of despair caused by transphobia, hate and violence towards transgender people. C. Kai Medina-Martinez, director of the U’s LGBT Resource Center, is currently involved with research focusing on the experiences of transgender faculty and staff in higher education more broadly, work that will help mold best practices across the field. Kai goes by the pronouns: they/them/theirs/he/him/his.
Phone: 801-587-7973 | Email: kmartinez@sa.utah.edu  

Will the Paris terrorist attacks close the borders for refugees around the world?

November 16, 2015

The world is still reeling from horrific terrorist attacks in Paris. As the story continues to unfold, new questions are arising about refugees’ future entry into Europe.

Desperation of families to escape a war-torn Syria and Europe’s escalating crisis over how to handle an influx of refugees has been an issue for months. What’s the significance of the migrant crisis and how could the recent terrorist attacks in Paris influence public policy and public opinion on the matter? Claudio Holzner, associate director for the Center for Latin American Studies and an associate professor in the U’s Political Science Department, can speak to the developing issues on the future of migrant populations.

Phone: 801-585-7988 | Email: claudio.holzner@poli-sci.utah.edu

All-gender bathrooms

November 13, 2015

As LGBT rights continue to expand, discussions on all-gender restrooms as a civil rights issue are also taking flight. Terry Kogan, a professor at the University of Utah S.J. Quinney College of Law, has spent the past decade considering the rights of transgender people, in particular issues surrounding the legal and cultural norms that mandate the segregation of public restrooms by sex.  Kogan also has been active in gay and transgender politics in Utah, and serves on the Advisory Board of Equality Utah. He is available to speak on issues related to gender-neutral bathrooms.

Phone: 801-581-7890 | Email: terry.kogan@law.utah.edu

YWCA honors College of Social Work professor integral to new refugee camp program

September 25, 2015

This month, the University of Utah College of Social work will see the first cohort of students living in refugee camps graduate from a new online Case Management Certificate program after nine months of intensive online classes, learning skills to better serve refugee populations. The new graduates are the first cohort who’ve lived in camp communities to receive their training –and all came into the social work program after already living in camps for years and wanting to forge a new career path to helping refugees and the many issues they face as a community, according to Rosey Hunter, an associate professor in the College of Social Work who oversees the program. Dr. Hunter joined the College of Social Work faculty in 1995, but has been a social worker for close to 30 years.  In that time, she has taught and mentored countless students, worked to help refugees and immigrants navigate new systems, supported higher-education opportunities for first-generation students, encouraged and built numerous community partnerships. For most of the last decade, Dr. Hunter served as special assistant to the president for campus-community partnerships, and director of University Neighborhood Partners (UNP). Located on Salt Lake City’s west side, UNP values community knowledge and the lived experiences of resident partners and organizations that represent and serve youth and families.  Under Dr. Hunter’s leadership, UNP fostered partnerships across four institutions of higher education and 51 community organizations and schools in 25 community locations.  Additionally, west side University enrollment dramatically increased during Dr. Hunter’s tenure as director.  In 2001, fewer than a dozen individuals residing in west side neighborhoods were enrolled at the U.  Since Spring 2012, over 475 west side residents — including 120 Spanish-speakers — have registered as U students through their involvement with UNP partnerships. Dr. Hunter’s social work teaching, research and practice areas are focused on developing mutually beneficial relationships – connecting people to resources and shared power in ways that expand opportunities and build on existing strengths.  Her community-based research with local leaders of refugee backgrounds led to the development of the College of Social Work’s Case Management Certificate program.  The nine-month certificate program began in the fall of 2013 with a cohort of 27 Salt Lake City-based community leaders (most of immigrant and refugee backgrounds) representing 14 different countries of origin.  In the spring of 2015, the second cohort of 22 students, representing 11 countries of origin, graduated with their certificates. Dr. Hunter was honored today by the YWCA for her leadership. She is available to speak to reporters about the new certificate program.

Phone: 801-608-9888 (Melinda Rogers can arrange interviews with Dr. Hunter)  |  Email: r.hunter@socwk.utah.edu

Religion and social justice

September 21, 2015

The LDS Church this week examined the question of how to provide assistance to refugees in need and how to galvanize its church members to do the same. The question brings up a broader issue across all belief systems: how do different religions intersect with social justice issues? Christina Gringeri, a professor at the U’s College of Social Work, has researched the topic of social justice and religion. She is available for commentary on the subject.
Phone: 801-581-4864 | Email: christina.gringeri@socwk.utah.edu  

School discipline and American Indian students

September 21, 2015

Washington County school administrators made headlines this week when they asked an American Indian student to cut his mohawk, a hairstyle that is part of the 7-year-old’s culture as a member of the Seneca Nation of Indians. The administrators later backed down from the request. The incident in Southern Utah, however, is emblematic of a larger school discipline problem in Utah, which researchers at the U’s S.J. Quinney College of Law’s Public Policy Clinic studied earlier this year. The research revealed that school disciplinary actions handed down to students at Utah public schools disproportionately impacts American Indian children over all other ethnicities enrolled in the state’s public education system. Researcher and law student Vanessa Walsh found that although American Indian students comprise the smallest student demographic in Utah, they have the largest percentage of students referred to law enforcement and arrested at schools. This means such students often become part of the “school-to-prison pipeline,” which is a system of practices by school and law enforcement that steer schoolchildren out of the classroom and into the juvenile justice system. Walsh is available to talk about her research. A summit to delve further into this topic is planned at the law school later this fall.
Phone: 801-910-1503 | Email: vanessa.walsh@law.utah.edu

The migrant crisis

September 11, 2015

The world is still reeling from a photo of a dead toddler from Syria washed ashore on a beach in Turkey, the latest image that speaks to the desperation of families to escape a war-torn Syria, and Europe’s escalating crisis over how to handle an influx of refugees. What’s the significance of the migrant crisis? Claudio Holzner, associate director for the Center for Latin American Studies and an associate professor in the U’s Political Science Department, can speak to the developing issues as the European Union grapples with how to handle growing migrant populations.
Phone: 801-585-7988 | Email: claudio.holzner@poli-sci.utah.edu

Sept. 8 is International Literacy Day

September 9, 2015

Kathleen Brown is the director of the University of Utah Reading Clinic, which has helped more than 11,000 children improve their reading and retention skills since 1999. Brown believes reading is the cornerstone of academic and socioeconomic success in our society, and children who struggle to learn to read often fall into a negative spiral of learning problems, low grades and poor self-esteem. Brown specializes in methods for teaching at-risk and struggling readers and has developed intervention models designed to meet the needs of struggling readers from diverse backgrounds.
Phone: 801-541-4594 | Email: kathleen.brown@utah.edu