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Meet September's Humans of the U: Sharing compelling stories from the heart of the University of Utah campus.
2017 Ms. Wheelchair America Eliza McIntosh

“Being disabled is normally seen as a very negative thing. It sounds kind of funny but I was basically born a celebrity. Every time I come into a room people notice. I can go for years without seeing somebody, and they’ll still remember me. That’s impact. That’s power. And so, I feel like you should use what you have available to your advantage.

My platform as Ms. Wheelchair America 2017 is ‘Where there’s a wheel there’s a way – identify a problem that you’re passionate about solving, invite others to join you in your cause, and ignite your community behind you.’ If your passion is accessible travel, then you know, make that happen. Talk to the airline, become a speaker, be engaged. If your thing is support animals, GREAT, you can make that happen.

In my wheelchair I’m going to get people’s attention no matter what and that’s not going to change so I might as well use it. You have the choice, you can either be depressed by it, or you can use it, and I’d much rather use it.”

— Eliza McIntosh, student and Ms. Wheelchair America 2017

To learn more about Eliza McIntosh, visit her Facebook page or also Instagram.


“My father and I were regulars at University of Utah sporting events, particularly basketball games, so we were aware of the red-tailed hawk that was in need of a name. I remember brainstorming names with my dad, and we settled on Swoop because it worked in a number of ways. A bird swoops, a ball swooshes and players swoop in for an interception. So it seemed like a versatile name. I don’t remember how I was informed that I had won the naming contest, although I do remember that as a perk of winning, I got to go to an away football game with the team. Utah got obliterated in that game, playing against Rice University. I remember being astonished that the linemen could eat an entire pizza individually.”

— Brandan Mayer-Blackwell, Fan, son of a faculty member and winner of the mascot naming contest in 1996

“I grew up Jewish and gay in Utah, so appreciating being different was a matter of survival. In fact, being able to capitalize on even an inkling of hope or to find positivity where others might see the opposite is, I’ve come to appreciate, my super human strength. I call myself a practicing optimist because having hope hasn’t always come easily. It’s a muscle I’ve had to exercise, but developing the skill of seeing what’s good saved my life, and has now even shaped what I do for a living.

So as wife and new mama, a human rights activist and the leader of the communications and marketing team for the U’s College of Fine Arts, I get to spend the majority of my waking hours sharing positivity. In my role as board chair of the LGBTQ advocacy organization, Equality Utah, I help turn the pain of inequality into the transformation of discriminatory policies, ultimately creating a more fair and just Utah. Here at the U, I not only get to promote the diverse array of arts experiences on campus, but I get to help illuminate how the arts go beyond just aesthetic and entertainment, and act as agents for change that shape our perceptions, our research, our understandings and our lives.

It’s a beautiful world and I’m just living in it.”

— Marina Gomberg, associate director of communications and marketing, University of Utah College of Fine Arts

Hailey Schiff

“My family moved to Salt Lake City when I was 10 years old and I haven’t looked back since. I had the privilege to grow up with some of the world’s greatest skiing and biking in my backyard as well as incredible access to awesome places like Moab, Jackson, various national parks and so much more nearby. Many summers and winters were spent perpetually outside playing and enjoying this beautiful place I call home. When it came time to choosing a college, the University of Utah was pretty much a no brainer. How could I say no to a top-notch school located in the mecca of outdoor activities?

Five years, a lot of powder days and late nights later, I’ve recently graduated from the U with a double major in Sociology and Environmental and Sustainability Studies. Currently I am planning on pursuing my MBA next fall, racing my bike in local Enduro series during the summer months and skiing for Sego Ski Co., a new up and coming, handcrafted-in-the-U.S. ski company during the winter. Between my degrees and unending passion for playing outside, I hope to be a voice for environmental stewardship and advocacy within the Wasatch. As more people are discovering what this great place holds, it’s become even more important to protect and take care of the places we love to recreate in. The Wasatch is as grand as it is delicate and heavy use in recent years has caused a great deal of erosion and degradation. It’s important to find a balance between sustainability and making sure that everyone has access to the mountains. If anything I hope to be a link between the recreationists, preservationists and the Wasatch Range.”

Hailey Schiff, Class of 2016

[bs_well size=”md”]We’ll be featuring Humans of the U and sharing their stories throughout the year with the university community. If you know someone with a compelling story, let us know at[/bs_well]