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A Passion for People

September 6, 2019
woman holding a piece of paper

Dedicated to social change, student Taryn Jim works hard to make the community a more benevolent and progressive place.

By Brittany Johnson

In October 2018, University of Wyoming student Taryn Jim helped organize the first campus and state event—called Stand in Solidarity—spreading awareness about the national crisis of missing and murdered indigenous women. Jim majored in Native American and indigenous studies with a disability studies minor. She is the mother of two children and a proud member of the Northern Arapaho tribe.

“About one in five indigenous women either go missing and are never found or are murdered,” Jim says. “And there’s basically no justice for these women.”

Jim and good friend Christie Wildcat invited students, faculty and staff members to wear red and stand for half an hour in front of the Wyoming Union to bring attention to the startling statistics. The cause is especially close to Jim’s heart, as her own grandmother and others she knows were murdered. The event was sponsored by Keepers of the Fire, a student organization that works to preserve Native American culture at UW. Under Jim’s direction as president, the club has placed additional emphasis on supporting social justice issues faced by Native Americans.

Jim grew up in Ethete, Wyo., on the Wind River Indian Reservation. Her decision to attend UW stemmed from a very personal place. “My daughter has microcephaly—it’s a brain disorder, and since the day she was born I worked with  a lot of speech-language pathologists,” Jim says.

Her daughter was visited at home by graduate students from UW who encouraged Jim to enroll at the university. “I really wanted to work with families with disabilities, specifically Native American families,” Jim says. Her goals inspired her undergraduate research, including a project called Ethnographic Interviewing with Native American Caregivers involving caregivers and children on the reservation funded by the Social Justice Research Center.

The first event for missing and murdered indigenous women was so successful that Keepers of the Fire planned a similar event that took place in April 2019. Much larger in scale, the event included a march, speakers, performances and a proclamation signing by Gov. Mark Gordon. The governor was so inspired, he created a task force on the issue.

An active member of the Laramie and campus communities, Jim is involved in several other entities related to her studies and interests. As a member of the advisory board for the Governor’s Council on Developmental Disabilities, she is working diligently with many others to make disability resources more accessible to families who need them. In January 2019, she was honored with UW’s Willena Stanford Commitment to Diversity Award for her concerted efforts to foster diversity on campus.

“I think it’s very important for students to be involved in cultivating diversity on campus because all students need to feel comfortable on all campuses, no matter where you go to pursue a higher education,” Jim says.

This fall, Jim is continuing her research to help Native American families with disabilities by pursuing a master’s in social work at UW. As the daughter of UW alumni, she has always felt at home in the Laramie community and is excited to continue her studies here. Above all, she values the unity of the UW community and the strong friendships she has formed through her involvement.

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