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SJRC Blog Archive


Promise of healthier UW-Wind River Reservation relations for healthier Nations

April, 2018

Christine Porter
Associate Professor, Wyoming Excellence Chair in Community & Public Health
Division of Kinesiology & Health, University of Wyoming 

For over 15 years, several people at UW and within Wind River Indian Reservation (WRIR) strived to hold and to grow spaces for good education and research relations between our institution and the Northern Arapaho and Eastern Shoshone sovereign nations. When Dr. Laurie Nichols became our 26th university president in May 2016, UW leaders in this effort saw their chance, meeting with her nearly immediately, including to propose that UW finally create a center where Native American students could find community and support and build from there to enrich and inform our entire campus.  

Having secured, at long last, top-down UW administration support, the Native American Education Research and Cultural Center (NAERCC) opened officially in September 2017. It’s already bursting at the seams with people and programs. Also, this June, UW will be hosting the 2nd annual Native American Summer Institute (NASI) for high school students from WRIR to explore academic options and more at UW.

For the first time since I joined UW in 2010, I’m now regularly seeing positive articles about UW-WRIR relations in the weekly newspaper published in WRIR, the Wind River News. Collective hopes for strong education, extension and research partnerships finally have grounds from which to soar.

In my own arenas of work, in community health and food sovereignty, I’m finding even more reasons to hope. We need those reasons, and to fulfill them.

Native people in WRIR die young, on average – at least 20 years earlier than white people in Wyoming. Often these deaths are called “accidents;” however, because their causes are systemic, they are no accident. These are deaths by historical trauma, intentionally inflicted by US policy and practice. As Aaron Huey puts it, “the last chapter in any successful genocide is the one in which the oppressor can remove their hands and say, ‘my god, what are these people doing to themselves.’” Whether diabetes or drunk driving, root causes trace to slaughtering the buffalo to starve Indians onto reservations, kidnapping children into government boarding schools in cultural genocide attempts, and the US breaking every single treaty ever made with sovereign nations - including the promise to provide adequate health care and preserve the integrity of reservation lands (see, e.g., the Riverton case).

The resilience of Eastern Shoshone and Northern Arapaho nations and communities, however, have defied these attempts on their collective physical and cultural lives. For example, today, Blue Mountain Associates, Wind River Development Fund, Eastern Shoshone Tribal Health, Northern Arapaho Tribal Health, the Growing Resilience Community Advisory Board, Wind River Native Advocacy Center, and the Restoring Shoshone Ancestral Food Gathering group are each and all working to restore and retain the health of their nations, including often through reclaiming foods, and food gathering and production, that sustained them in the thousands of years they thrived before what Melvin Arthur, in his master’s thesis work at UW, calls foreign intrusion in the last 250 years.

I am hopeful mainly because of their work, but also because more people at UW are learning from and helping to support it. In 2010, as far as I know, I was the only person engaging in health action-research collaborations with WRIR partners, but I’m thrilled now to have a few health and nutrition colleagues here taking these WRIR-UW partnership roads to better health. UW people in health fields are also, with financial support from INBRE[1] and College of Health Sciences, collaborating with NASI and Dr. Tarissa Spoonhunter at Central Wyoming College (CWC) to not only offer a “health track” again this year for participating high schoolers, but also to host about 10 high school graduates in an intensive health sciences academic week. We are also exploring seeking NIH funding for a longer-term project that includes this and much more to improve pathways in health disciplines between WRIR schools and communities, CWC and UW.[2]

For the greatest contributions to making healthier nations, these pathways need to go both ways. Education collaborations to make UW a better place for Native students will also make it a better place for all students. Action research, in equitable partnerships, can both fund and learn from new or adapted community health strategies – strategies for sovereign nations, including our US nation.

For me, because of the gross health disparities between Native Americans and whites, I have made Native health one of my top priorities in my life’s work. However, overall, the US spends over double the rich-country average, per person, on health care, and yet we have the worst health outcomes of rich nations, including in infant and maternal mortality (i.e., babies and new moms dying). Also, about a quarter of US adults are managing two more chronic diseases. I think we need new strategies, coming from different paradigms, in order to improve our nation’s health. For example, when Dr. Spoonhunter was leading health workshops (also with INBRE support) with people from WRIR possibly interested in health careers, she invited participants to look through CWC and UW course catalogues for health courses that might appeal to them. She reports that they pointed out courses in areas such as fish and game management and water and land management, in addition to what we would call health courses here at UW. They noted their communities cannot be healthy without clean water to drink, or without the bounty of the land. Imagine that.

 [1] The Wyoming INBRE program is supported by the National Institute of General Medical Sciences (8 P20 GM103432-12) from the National Institutes of Health.

[2] Anyone in health fields (however you define that) at UW or CWC who would be interested in collaborating and contributing to programs in this area, please contact me – , ideally with a copy of your CV.

Inspiring the next generation: Women in Engineering

February, 2018

Teddi Freedman
K-14 Project Coordinator, Sr. 
Engineering & Applied Science, Dean's Office

Diversity drives excellence in innovation because individuals from different backgrounds inevitably bring new perspectives, ideas, and approaches for effective problem solving. The engineering and scientific communities rely on a capable workforce that reflects a population that spans across the social spectrum. Without the inclusion of diverse groups, society will continue to encounter failed opportunities for advancement and economic growth. This condition exists today in the fields of science, technology, engineering and math (STEM).

While women earn 57% of all bachelor’s degrees and make up half of the workforce, they are underrepresented in STEM. At the undergraduate level, only 18% of the students earning degrees in engineering and computer science are female (National Science Foundation 2017). These national trends are consistent with trends at the University of Wyoming, College of Engineering and Applied Science (CEAS).

Why do these numbers remain disproportionate despite the parity with men in the attainment of bachelor degrees?

In 2016, the College of Engineering and Applied Science sought to find answers for ways to address this disparity by organizing a forum where women and individuals of other underrepresented groups were invited to share their voice and story about the challenges faced as a minority in STEM. By listening to these stories and providing agency to these often marginalized groups, the CEAS sought to identify resources that would help students navigate and overcome unforeseen barriers. An emergent theme that stemmed from the forum was the need for more mentorship opportunities. As a result, in 2017 the CEAS created a Female Mentor Program.

It is clear that having a mentor can enhance a young women’s ability to navigate and thrive in their personal and professional life (Cal Tech 2017). Supporting and furthering undergraduate students’ success has been a primary goal of the CEAS Female Mentor Program since its inception in 2017. Program mentee and mentor pairs have participated in group outings, as well as one-on-one meetings to build a sense of community, trust, and belonging. In a recent interview with one of the mentee-mentor pairs, the program has so far proven to be a positive experience.

Annaliese Fitzsimmons, a current junior in Civil Engineering said, “To be able to get to know a practicing engineer on a more personal level has been a really fantastic opportunity. I have been able to ask some of the questions that I have had for a while. Since being in the program, it has been easier to talk to other professional engineers. Speaking to an experienced engineer can be pretty intimidating at times, but getting to know my mentor has helped make professional engineers more approachable.” As expressed by Annaliese, mentors can provide guidance for how to navigate unforeseen barriers and can enhance a student’s sense of belonging.

Mentors in the program have shared similar sentiments. Jera Schlotthauer, a mentor and professional architectural engineer from Cheyenne, WY said, “Being a part of the Mentor Program has already shown me the value of supporting female engineering students and other professionals. I have been fortunate to have a network of supportive women... in my own life. I hope that each female mentee feels that sense of support and community, and ultimately, I hope this encourages a positive awareness of their abilities so that they follow their career path without ever question their abilities due to the number of stereotypical barriers surrounding them.”

Together, the mentees and mentors of the program look forward to helping to build an academic and professional environment that is inclusive and celebrates the contributions of all individuals. By encouraging, supporting, and providing resources to our female students and individuals of other underrepresented minorities, the CEAS continues to strive to embody a community that honors diversity and inclusion.

National Science Foundation, National Center for Science and Engineering Statistics. 2017. Women, Minorities, and Persons with Disabilities in Science and Engineering: 2017. Special Report NSF 17-310. Arlington, VA. Available at

Women Mentoring Women. California Institute of Technology, Center for Diversity. Web. 9 May 2017.

Archival Theory and Social Justice

October, 2017

Amanda Stow
Assistant Archivist, American Heritage Center

When speaking with people who are not archivists, I am sometimes met with surprise when I say that part of my job as a faculty archivist is to conduct research.  They wonder, “What is there to research?”  In actuality, research pertaining to archives is necessary, it allows the profession to grow with the changing needs of society.  Research may include, but is not limited to, technology and best practices, pedagogy, arrangement and description, and acquisition of collections.  And within these subjects, different theories inform practices within the field.  It is through these different theories that that social justice and archives merge.  For decades US archivists considered themselves neutral in their collecting, yet in the 1970s it was brought to the attention of archivists that this was not so.  An often quoted article written by Howard Zinn[1] challenges archivists to look at their role in influencing the historical record, one that was abundant with individuals that were upper class, white, and male.  Through the omission of documents in archives, oppressive systems are in place that deny the histories of all peoples. 

New theory was created to argue for the need to diversify the historical record as well as theory about how to do it.  Creation of these theories continue to this day, and the archival field has not solved how it will best document all facets of culture.  One growing methodology regarding the documentation of culture comes from the understanding that today’s events are tomorrow’s history.  Theories are emerging to actively work with the community as events unfold, instead of collecting documents detailing events that happened in the past, documents are collected as events transpire.  At the American Heritage Center (AHC), an example of this type of collecting is evident through its Women’s March, Wyoming (2017) collection (#12666).  On January 21, 2017 women along with individuals representing all gender identities in cities throughout the United States protested to bring attention to the oppressive structures against women.  In an attempt to record the history of women in the United States (a group considered under documented in the historical record) many archives actively worked to record the protest before, during, and shortly after the events of January 21st.  The AHC collected photographs and signs (from the protest located in Cheyenne, Wyoming), while other institutions are working to gather oral histories, or may try to find evidence of counter-protests to provide additional context for the day’s events. 


 Women’s March protestors in Cheyenne, Wyoming

Women’s March protestors in Cheyenne, Wyoming.  Women’s March, Wyoming (2017) papers, #12666, DigitalFolder ahcdm_12666_002, American Heritage Center, University of Wyoming.


Often, the documents in archives are seen as old, and other.  Yet frequently when people look at archival material such as photographs, reports, and legal proceedings, people are able to connect with and humanize the experiences of past atrocities.  The documents and records we produce now are relevant to archives as we strive for social justice in today’s world, in order to give people a place in the historical record, and to give future society the ability to connect with what happens today. 

[1] See,

Common Ground & Title X Funding

April, 2017

Melissa B. Alexander
Associate Professor of Law, College of Law

Earlier this month, President Trump signed legislation that allows states to defund Planned Parenthood, overturning a rule adopted in December 2016 that prevented states from denying family planning funds to organizations capable of providing those services.  To many on both sides of the issue, Planned Parenthood is a proxy for abortion, and viewed in this light, it is unsurprising that the Trump administration would free states to defund the organization.  However, states have been prohibited from using federal funds to pay for most abortions for more than 40 years. 

The politics surrounding Planned Parenthood obscures the important public health role the organization plays in serving rural and low-income communities, particularly with regard to cancer screening, contraceptives, and testing and treatment for sexually transmitted diseases.  These vital public health services constitute 97% of the services provided by Planned Parenthood.  In some states, like Wyoming, Planned Parenthood does not provide any abortion services.    

Abortion can be polarizing, but this is a critical time to refocus the debate and push for common ground.  Everyone should support programs that reduce the number of abortions by decreasing demand.  The evidence is overwhelming that cheap, confidential, and convenient access to long-acting reversible contraceptives (“LARCs”) dramatically reduces the number of abortions.  In fact, a Colorado public health study demonstrated that increased provision of LARCs correlated with a 42% decrease in teen abortion, 40% reduction in teen births, and 26% decrease in infants enrolled in state-funded supplemental nutrition programs.  By providing LARCs, the state saved money, kept more girls in school, and decreased unintended pregnancy.  Similarly, medically accurate, age-appropriate, comprehensive sex education (including but not limited to promoting abstinence) and support for families during early childhood decrease demand for abortion.  These “common ground” strategies, if adequately funded, have empirically shown that they will effectively decrease abortion while improving the lives of women, children and families.

From a public health and social justice perspective, the new law may portend vulnerability in funding health services accessed by several million people a year or it may merely return the nation to the pre-December status quo.  Ultimately, the states will decide.  To help them do so, we should come together to advocate that legislatures continue to support experienced health providers with proven track records, absent evidence of sufficient equal quality alternatives. 

Some states have enough safety-net providers without Planned Parenthood, but most do not.  Two-thirds of states currently report concerns regarding availability of Medicaid providers.  In 21% of the counties where Planned Parenthood operates, there are no other safety-net health care providers.  

For these reasons, the American Public Health Association has issued a public warning that other providers cannot (or will not) absorb Planned Parenthood’s patients.  This may change over time, but for now, it is crucial that states prioritize funding and availability of effective family planning services for all incomes, in all areas.  Affordable access to acceptable, quality care is too important to jeopardize, even temporarily. 

Adventure, Appreciation, and Social Justice

January, 2017

Alec J. Muthig
UW Information Technology Trainer & Program Manager, Co-Coordinator for Wyoming Pathways from Prison

I have had the privilege to explore and have grand adventures in many wild places, and experiences on these adventures have led to many personally profound lessons.  During one such occasion, on my own for days during a solo winter crossing of Wyoming’s Snowy Range, there was no readily available source of heat.  If I became cold, I had to increase my pace, put on more of my limited clothing, or crawl into my sleeping bag.  To obtain water, I had to settle down for some time and begin the slow process of melting snow.  Upon returning from my adventure, I immediately and vividly realized how easy it is for many of us to adjust a thermostat to obtain warmth and how water came so easily from the faucet, and was taken aback by the fact that I had always taken these for granted.  A new, deep appreciation sprang from this experience, and then extended to other areas that I had always taken for granted – the ease by which we obtain food, a safe place to sleep, access to an education, and so on.


Eventually this led me to an even deeper understanding of our social underpinnings.

Many of us in first-world industrialized nations have it easy.  That is not to suggest that we do not have our problems and do not experience suffering, but rather that we are able to quite readily fulfill our most basic needs.  We turn a handle and water comes from a faucet.  For a meal, we select from a myriad of foods from the local grocery store, or from a café or restaurant.  We have a warm bed to crawl into at night.  Not everyone in first-world industrialized nations has this, but many do.  And we take it for granted.  We do not take a moment to appreciate that we have these so easily, while others must struggle to obtain them or do not have them at all.  But that others go without is not the main point here.  Rather, what happens next is what I want to examine. 

When we live on a daily basis with certain comforts, and have done so for much of our lives, we become accustomed to them, expect them, and have difficultly consistently appreciating them.  They have always been available to us, and will always be there.1  We begin to perceive the world through the filter of our own everyday experience.  Having running water is part of our normal experience, and so we unconsciously assume that it is also part of everyone’s normal experience.  We may hear about, or possibly even experience, others who do not have easy access to potable water, but unconsciously we continue to not grasp the difference between our situations.  We do this in many similar cases.  We hear about people who do not have enough to eat and are starving, but we do not truly understand it, for if we did we would appreciate how easy it is for us to regularly obtain food, and we frequently do not appreciate it.  This informs our views on social justice.  Taking for granted our own privileged positions does not allow us to understand the position of the more disadvantaged.  If we do not appreciate accessible clean water, we can never understand the struggle of those that go without.  If we do not appreciate accessible healthy food, we can never understand the struggle of those that go without.  If we do not appreciate what we have, whether it is access to education, health care, equal rights, freedom, and so on, we can never understand the struggle of those that go without.  And if we cannot truly understand the struggle of others, how can we act in an ethical, compassionate manner?  

Appreciation is a prerequisite to a complete understanding of justice, and for this reason, among others, it is critical to practice and promote.

1As a relevant side thought: When we have easy, long-term, consistent access to something necessary for life, such as water or food, the awareness of its necessity begins to fade.  On the surface, we continue to understand that a person needs water and food to live, but that understanding is abstract and obscure.  We no longer have a deep relationship with such necessity, and this carries over in our worldview by not allowing us to comprehend the necessity that others are acutely experiencing and thereby not taking their needs seriously.  We may grasp hunger at an instinctual level, and we may grasp the necessity of food on an abstract, intellectual level, but are missing that everyday awareness of such necessity.

Open Access: Overcoming the accessibility divide

January, 2017

David Macaulay
Collection Development Librarian, UW Libraries

For most academics, publishing in books and journals is a central feature of working life -- not just because they want to communicate the results of their research, but also because the survival of their career depends on presenting tenure and promotion committees with a record of publication in reputable venues. Unfortunately, these two aims can sometimes end up in opposition to each other: publications that are considered prestigious and "high-impact" within the profession may also be practically inaccessible to many potential readers, both within and outside academia, simply because of their high price tag.

Academic journal subscription prices in particular have been increasing very dramatically over the past decades. Annual price increases often outstrip the rate of inflation, while library budgets typically remain flat at best, so institutions are forced to contemplate cancellation of subscriptions to keep their spending under control. The result is a situation where academic authors cannot assume that their published work will be easily available even to their peers in relatively affluent North American institutions, while accessibility in poorer regions of the world is even less assured. Inter-library loan services can help on an occasional basis; informal -- and often illegal, in terms of copyright law -- channels for sharing published material also sometimes meet the information needs of those unable to afford the "tolls" charged by commercial publishers. Ultimately, however, the commercial model of distribution inevitably leads to the development of a structural divide between "haves" and "have-nots" when it comes to access to published knowledge.

In response to the increasing inaccessibility of research published in commercial journals, the Open Access movement advocates for a transformation of publishing models to support online access to research that is free of charge, and free of most copyright and licensing restrictions. Since its inception in the early years of this century, Open Access has grown rapidly as a force to make academic publications more widely available to, and usable by, a global readership – regardless of the reader's  ability to pay. Open accessibility is normally achieved in one of two ways. Authors may publish in one of the steadily growing number of reputable Open Access journals, which fund their operations not by charging for subscriptions, but through grants, membership dues, or "article processing fees" paid by authors after their work is accepted. Or, they may publish in books or subscription journals as they normally would, and then post the final, peer-reviewed manuscript versions of their work in an Open Access repository, in accordance with the policies of the publisher involved (and, of course, the agreements signed when the work is accepted for publication). This type of self-archiving practice is permitted by most publishers; it can happen in some cases at the time of publication, in others after an "embargo" period of 6 months, a year, or occasionally longer.

As a librarian at UW Libraries, my primary role at the Social Justice Research Center is focused on assisting SJRC scholars in making their funded research globally accessible in this way, so that their contributions to knowledge are shared with the widest possible community that might benefit from it. In particular, we promote the self-archiving of funded research in the Wyoming Scholars Repository (WySR), a service implemented and maintained by the Libraries to preserve and make openly accessible the research and creative output of University of Wyoming faculty and students. This includes not only published work as described above, but also presentations, posters, audio-visual material and more. While the overarching aim is break down barriers to access and to communicate research as widely as possible, scholars also benefit practically from making their research available in this way: content archived in WySR is typically more easily discoverable by people using search engines such as Google, so their work is more likely to be found, read, and potentially cited, by other researchers. So, those dual aims  of widely disseminating knowledge beyond the walled gardens of affluent academia, and of building a successful academic career, do not have to come into conflict!

For more information about the Wyoming Scholars Repository and related services provided by University of Wyoming Libraries, visit or email

In a good way: ethics driven, evidence informed

September, 2016

Christine Porter
Associate Professor, Wyoming Excellence Chair in Community & Public Health, Division of Kinesiology & Health 

Globally, the evidence clearly indicates that educating girls leads to better overall family health later. However, should we only educate girls if it improves health? Or should girls have equal access to education because it is right and good? When I was a student at London’s Institute of Education in 2000, Professor Elaine Unterhalter pointed out the dangers of using evidence-based, as opposed to ethics-driven, arguments for universal girl education. If research showed that universal education for girls does not yield any socially desirable results, then what? Girls should stay home and do laundry for the boys who are at school? Or, if education produces such results for girls, but not for boys, boys should be doing the washing?

About 10 years later I was presenting my dissertation work about community-based childhood obesity prevention efforts at Cornell University. It was part of my PhD defense process. During the Q&A a professor asked me, what if community-based approaches aren’t as effective as other strategies? I replied, I don’t care, because, in a democracy, it is the right approach to use.

Following a few beats of heavy silence, I went on to add that of course I care about evidence, including for informing those community-led efforts. However, the core tenant – that ethics comes first, and that evidence should be generated and used in service of ethics – remains. As public health ethicist David Buchanan has noted, “figuring out how we should live, individually and collectively, is a moral and political process, not a scientific problem to be solved.”

The fancy philosophy words for discussing these issues are ontology, epistemology, and axiology. I translate this as truth-ology, knowledge-ology, and ethics-ology. Ontological questions ask about the nature of truth and reality, namely, “what is?” Epistemological questions ask “how can we know what is?” Axiological questions ask about values and ethics, “what should be?”

As I increasingly formed my own life philosophies around the ideas Dr. Unterhalter raised, I began talking about “fronting ethics” over ontology and epistemology; i.e., generating knowledge about truth in explicit service of ethics. Though I had been studying social theory on and off since the early 1990s, I did not yet know the equivalent fancy word for ethics-ology, i.e., axiology.

I find that ignorance telling about how much our society, and especially our formal education system, values truth and generalizable knowledge over other values. In the horrifically extreme case of the federally supported Tuskegee Study, in which African American men were left to suffer with untreated syphilis as “research subjects” for 40 years after a cure was discovered, knowledge production (underwritten by racist supremacist values) was valued over human life.

A more temperate example is reducing vitamin A deficiency. Globally, nearly a third of children under five suffer severe vitamin A deficiency, which leads to impaired immune systems and night blindness. Since we have the scientific knowledge and technical capacity to end such deficiencies, I believe choosing to ending them is an axiological, or ethical imperative. However, the strategies we use (or not) to end vitamin A deficiency are also shaped by values and informed by research. Options include developing “golden rice” genetically modified to include vitamin A and then persuading famers to grow it and people to eat it; increasing vitamin A content in staple foods already grown and consumed (such as sweet potatoes) via conventional breeding; fortifying staple foods during processing before distribution (like the US adds folic acid to wheat flour to prevent birth defects); distributing vitamin supplements (unlike most other deficiencies that require ongoing intervention, just two high doses of vitamin A per year prevents deficiencies); and sustaining diverse and traditional diets that are naturally rich in vitamin A.

Each option for reducing Vitamin A deficiencies raises scientific, logistical, cultural, and ethical questions. For example, at one end, golden rice research embraces top-down technological solutions and tacitly accepts and enables a socio-political context that limits access to traditional foods that were rich in Vitamin A (e.g., deforestation in South-east Asia for palm oil plantations to supply the processed-food industry in the West has displaced mango trees and edible leafy green “weeds” that used to supply plenty of the vitamin to rural communities). At the other end, the food sovereignty movement embraces democratic solutions where communities shape their own food systems and solutions.

Since 2010, as an academic at UW, I have been asking research questions about how to support US communities in shaping their own food systems and solutions. I use “participatory” research methods – collaborating with other academics and with community leaders to identify questions and to identify and test potential solutions. With nine organizations and over three dozen people, I’ve begun that work via research, action and education in Food Dignity (USDA/NIFA/AFRI funded, $5 million, 2011-2017). Now, with seven organizations and, eventually, 100 Eastern Shoshone and Northern Arapaho families in Wind River Indian Reservation, we’re asking a much narrower version of that question in the Growing Resilience project (NIH/NIGMS/NHLBI funded, $3.2 million, 2016-2020), which is assessing the health impacts of home gardens.1

We already know from the Team GROW research within Food Dignity, where 33 Laramie gardeners weighed every harvest from their food gardens, that even at 7200 feet gardeners can grow enough to supply two adults with all their recommended daily vegetables for 4.5 months of the year. If the randomized controlled trial results of Growing Resilience confirm the positive indications of our pilot work, which suggested (along with much observational research) that home food gardening improves family health, this evidence can also be used to inform policies that would support home gardening for those who wish to garden.

“For those who wish to garden” is a key phrase. Once, when I was co-presenting the Team GROW results at a conference, a biochemistry PhD student, who was also a financially struggling single mom, said she was impressed with the yields of gardening. She also asked, “when do I get to rest?” Rigorous research is one key way to generate knowledge we can be pretty sure is true. However, we need rigorous ethics (aka “radical axiology”) to guide us in what questions to answer, how to answer them, and how to apply the generated knowledge ethically.

If I had known the colleagues and friends from Wind River Indian Reservation that I have now, I would never have needed all those fancy-pants “ology” words to work through these issues. They have taught me how do any and every action with one phrase. Whatever I do, do it in a good way.

1Note: Both figures include indirect costs, or overhead; taxpayers pay for that too, so I include it here. For example, direct costs of Growing Resilience are just under $2.5 million. About $500,000 goes to UW and $200,000 is divided between the four organizational partners who have subawards as indirect costs. This pays for things like award administration and facilities.

This Year at the Shepard Symposium on Social Justice…

Shepard Symposium 2016 Poster

April, 2016

We mark the 20th anniversary of the Shepard Symposium this year with the theme: Reflecting on Social Justice – Local, National, Global. The event features four days of programming including three days of concurrent sessions, a reception at the UW Art Museum and four keynote speakers. Presenters include students, scholars, community members and activists concerned with local, regional, national, and international issues of social justice.

This year’s symposium will begin on Wednesday evening, April 6th, at the UW Art Museum with a reception at the Kara Walker exhibit, followed by a talk by renowned Walker scholar, Rebecca Peabody, in the Fine Arts Building. Events from Thursday through Saturday will be held in the second floor of the UW Union. On Thursday, we feature two keynote speakers: at noon, Russian-American journalist and global LGBTQ rights activist, Masha Gessen presents, “Refugees from the War on Queers”; at 4pm, Janaya Khan, global ambassador for the #BlackLivesMatter Network will discuss the global dimensions of this growing movement. On Friday, we welcome Emmy award winning filmmaker and co-founder of the symposium, Dr. Omowale Akintunde, who will provide a keynote address at the noon hour. On Saturday, we host the second annual Gay Straight Alliance (GSA) Day, featuring high school students from Wyoming and the region. At the noon hour, a panel of undergraduate, graduate, high school students, and community activists will discuss their work combating intersecting issues of discrimination. Details about keynote speakers and other presenters are available from the schedule link on the website at

In the spirit of social justice in action, the planning committee has worked closely with two student groups, the Abilities RSO and the Sustainability Club, to make the symposium maximally accessible and sustainable. In addition to physical access, all non-workshop presentations will have real-time captioning, audio description devices will be provided upon request, and a low-sensory room will be available for all conference attendees. Additionally, presenters have been given guidelines to better plan for accessibility. In order to make the symposium a zero-waste event, all meals will be vegan, and the Sustainability Club is working with the ACRES Student Farm to compost all materials. We will be providing water bottles to pre-registered attendees (while supplies last), and we encourage attendees to bring reusable beverage containers. Lunch will be provided, with pre-registration, during the keynote addresses on Thursday, April 7th, and Friday, April 8th, and at the GSA Day Panel on Saturday, April 9th. Registration is free and only takes a few minutes. Find the registration link from the website at

On Friday and Saturday evenings, we also have exciting evening events planned. The Shepard Symposium has partnered to co-sponsor a Friday Night Fever event with Mohammad Bilal, known as the “even-tempered, dread-locked rapper guy” on MTVs Real World III: San Francisco. And as a final celebration, please join us at the Shepard Symposium annual party with fundraising raffle at the Laramie Train Depot, beginning at 9pm. The party is open to the public, with a suggested donation of $5, and open bar provided by the Crowbar & Grill.

Our Story

The Shepard Symposium on Social Justice, an annual event at the University of Wyoming since 1997, has evolved into a major national conference, seeking to engage participants in discussion and analyses of strategies and actions that can eliminate social inequality.

Co-founded by Omowale Akintunde and Margaret Cooney, both faculty members in the College of Education at the time, the Shepard Symposium has grown from a local grassroots event to an internationally recognized conference. Originally named “The Symposium for the Eradication of Social Inequality," the event was renamed to honor the work of the Shepard family and the memory of their son, Matthew Shepard, a UW student who was murdered in 1998. In recognition of the 20th anniversary of the Shepard Symposium, we are delighted to welcome back co-founder Dr. Omowale Akintunde, now a professor at the University of Nebraska at Omaha. As part of this talk, Dr. Akintunde will reflect upon social justice issues in the United States since the founding of the symposium and share his thoughts about ongoing justice work.

Social justice and equitable human flourishing

January, 2016

Alec J. Muthig
Information Technology Trainer & Program Manager
IT/Client Support Services

As I do many evenings, after work yesterday I spent an hour or so browsing through my social media newsfeed, and in it, as usual, I saw a multitude of pleas for support in fights against discrimination, poverty, starvation, and suffering of all sorts; fights for equality, for opportunity, for a chance at happiness - so many battles being waged!  (I suppose that I am lucky enough to have some interesting and caring acquaintances.)  While initially these many battles seem quite varied and different, they seem to have a very similar end goal, which is to strive for and eventually reach a state of human flourishing. 

Social justice, at its very foundation, is a movement towardequitable human flourishing.  Of course, this begs the question, “What exactly comprises a state of flourishing?”  Is this synonymous with “well-being” or “living the good life?”  Historical concepts of flourishing range across Aristotelian eudaimonia and other moral and social philosophies, various religious conceptions, and modern positive psychology.  What is it that we are all reaching toward?  Happiness does seem like a strong contender (can you imagine someone flourishing without being happy?), but is a feeling of happiness all that is entailed by well-being or flourishing?  Flourishing, and thus social justice, is concerned with much more than striving for happiness.  A few other questions to consider: Is flourishing culturally relative?  Or perhaps it is a subjective experience to each individual?  Or are there aspects that the entire human family celebrates?  The complexity of human flourishing is astounding, and so the concept of social justice is challenging to appreciate.  Before we can reach adequately toward social justice, we must understand what we are reaching for. 

We invite you to explore “human flourishing and social justice” during a series of on-campus and online discussions during the coming months.  To participate, please email Alec Muthig ( for details. 

 Ernestine, a Denver-based sex worker, struggles for a better life against social stigmas.

Ernestine, a Denver-based sex worker, struggles for a better life against social stigmas.
“Telling my story because it needs to be told”: A photoethnographic exhibit by Wendy Perkins

Historical Resources for Social Justice Research

Amanda M. Stow
Assistant Archivist
The American Heritage Center

The events of the past are frequently contested and reinterpreted, even more so now with historians frequently using postmodern and revisionist theories to guide their research.  Researchers are reaching out beyond wealthy, white, and male history to histories that explore multiclass, female, minority, and marginalized communities; often in engagement with social justice research. 

To question and rewrite history researchers must find a way to identify different sides of the story and be able to prove their argument that these new interpretations are valid.  To do so requires going back to the original sources, such as those preserved in an institution like the American Heritage Center (AHC), the University of Wyoming’s repository of manuscript collections, rare books, and university archives.  While the AHC first and foremost serves university students, faculty, and citizens of Wyoming, its collections are internationally known and freely and openly accessible to the general public.

Beyond the University Archives the AHC collects records regarding Wyoming and the west, media history, entertainment history, politics and world affairs, environment and conservation, transportation, economic geology, and women’s studies. Within these collecting areas records contain dissenting opinions, reports of scandal, and various forms of conflict in a range of formats which are frequently used for social justice study by researchers in an array of disciplines including but not limited to law, education, multicultural programs, communication studies, and history. 

View of Heart Mountain Japanese relocation camp

View of Heart Mountain Japanese relocation camp. Bill Manbo papers, #9982, Folder 1, Resource Identifier ah09982_017, American Heritage Center, University of Wyoming.


A few examples of the many topics and records used for social justice research located at the AHC include: legal documents of the Nuremberg Trials following World War II; records regarding the Teapot Dome scandal; images of life at the Heart Mountain Relocation Center; correspondence in favor and against the dismissal of the Black 14 from the UW football team during the 1960s; and the political records of many Wyoming legislatures.

Image of protests regarding the dismissal of the Black 14 from the UW football team

Image of protests regarding the dismissal of the Black 14 from the UW football team.  Irene Kuttunen Schubert Black 14 collection, #10405, Box 2, Folder 7, American Heritage Center, University of Wyoming.


If you wish to learn more about the AHC and the research opportunities available, please visit its website at

Syracuse University Dean Bethaida Gonzalez, President of University Professional & Continuing Education Association (UPCEA)  

March, 2015

Reed Scull
Outreach Credit Program
Associate dean and director

I am very proud to tell SJRC blog readers about my colleague Bethaida "Bea" Gonzalez, who has had a tremendous impact on my own field of continuing and online education.  She began her career at Syracuse University as an academic advisor and gradually worked her way up to her current role as Dean of the University College, a college which is somewhat similar in scope and mission as our Outreach School.  

During her tenure at Syracuse, she has become well known nationally for innovative international programs and University College's innovative English Language Institute. She has also been a strong advocate for the Alexander N. Charters Archive, a Syracuse University library collection dedicated to the preservation and archiving of documents critical to the development of the continuing and adult education field. In 2014, Bea was elected President of the University Professional & Continuing Education Association (UPCEA), and her influence has grown even more as she works on an international scale articulating the vision and values of the Continuing and Online Education field.   This UPCEA role is important, as our field is made up of a broad group of adult educators, non-credit AND credit program administrators, distance educators, and lifelong learning leaders.  

While working at Syracuse, Bea has given a great deal of spare time to her community, serving on the Syracuse City Council and eventually becoming President.  

An additional element to her leadership is her compelling life story.  Bea and her parents, and her five siblings moved to New York in the 1950's from Cayey, Puerto Rico in search of better economic and educational opportunities.  Bea's father worked hard to support the family working in a variety of jobs, such as a dishwasher, baker, and construction worker.  Bea's parents worked hard as community advocates to break down negative stereotypes of people of color and the poor, a cause Bea has been interested in also.  Her parents had a particular in improvement of their English language skills, which led them to participate in Syracuse's English Language Institute, which of course Bea supervises today.  

A graduate of the State University of New York-Binghamton and Syracuse's prestigious Maxwell School of Public Affairs, Bea is a powerful speaker and listener, as well as a advocate and leader who symbolizes the possibilities of the continuing and online education field to support and advance the interests of social justice.  

I am excited to tell you that Bea will be here on the 27th and 28th of April of 2015, and she will be speaking to the UW deans' and directors' council, and meetings are being planned with Outreach School leaders, as well as college associate deans, and  SJRC advisory board members.  Particularly for the SJRC meeting, I hope that you all could attend and talk with Bea not only about her work, but about the good works you all are engaged in here to advance social justice.  As I am proud of Bea, I am also proud of the SJRC and its supporters, whom I have witnessed doing great and courageous things that benefit our entire university community as well as our city and state.  

Please do not hesitate to ask questions here or contact me personally if you would like to know more about this visit.  I will be carefully coordinating with Kate Welsh to make sure that Bea will be available some time on either that Monday (April 27th) or Tuesday (28th) for an SJRC meeting.

Contact Us

Social Justice Research Center

314 UW Beta House

1731 Fraternity Row

Laramie, WY 82071

Phone: 307-766-6672


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