HUMANS OF THE U: AUGUST & SEPTEMBER

“While I was studying for my Master of Divinity, I spent a summer serving as a hospital chaplain on the south side of Chicago. I worked with people during their most vulnerable times, which helped me develop special listening skills. I was able to help people understand their feelings and gained the ability to listen for certain words that were an expression of something deeper.Throughout my master’s degree, I also took a lot of classes in pastoral psychology, pastoral counseling and completed extensive work in anti-racism and interpersonal relationships. This has all been very useful to me as an academic advisor and has helped me connect with students and address their individual needs.

I often times work with students who have scholastic standards issues and I let them know that I also I struggled with academics as an undergraduate at the U. My biggest struggle was understanding the system and how to chart a meaningful path to graduation. Unlike those years, though, we now have a group of academic advisors who are committed to student success. Having that conversation with students helps put them at ease and makes me a more adept advisor. I also boast about the fact that in spite of my struggles, I have lasting friendships with faculty and certain organizations on campus.

My biggest piece of advice to struggling students is to take advantage of every opportunity you have on campus, whether it’s a social organization or club. Take advantage of things that don’t necessarily take place in the classroom. You’ll realize you’re part of the larger U community and find others who are in the same position as you.

The U was so good to me as an undergraduate and I have such a sense of loyalty to my alma mater and I want to provide that to my students.”

— Copeland Johnston, academic advisor, College of Humanities


“I’ve seen a lot of space stuff — spiral galaxies, partial eclipses, Venus crossing in front of the sun — but this is the coolest thing so far. I’d probably have to see a black hole in person, or the surface of Mars or something, to beat it.

Two of the coolest things that I saw were the corona — that white ring streaming outward from the totally blocked sun. You only get to see that during an eclipse, unless you’re in space and built yourself a special cover to block the sun. I’ve only ever seen it in pictures.

The other thing was when it’s coming out of it, you get that diamond ring — that first pinpoint of light when the moon moves away from the sun. It seemed like the crispest, most intense bright light that you’ve ever seen in your life. There’s not a single flashlight that could compare to what you’re looking at. It’s really hard to explain. 

And the light — everything is dimmer. If you think about it, if we were further away from our sun or if our sun was smaller, that’s how the light on our planet would be. The whole time I was thinking, “This is what the light would be like on Mars.”

Before something like this, you have tons of misconceptions about what an eclipse is. When you have a big event like this, it helps to educate people. I go out and talk to 10,000 people a year. The total eclipse was publicized in regular media outlets. So, instead of thousands of people, you get millions of people all learning at the same time. It gets them into an aspect of science that they either didn’t know or didn’t care about before because now there’s something really cool to do.”

— Paul Ricketts, director of the U’s South Physics Observatory in the Department of Physics & Astronomy


“As I reflect on my work at the U over the past several years, I think about the messages that have had a profound impact on me, both positive and negative. And for every negative message, there was a voice of resistance which has shaped my work in social justice today.

I remember my experiences as an undergrad student at the U and being excited about a program only to be told by the counselor that I was not cut out for the program. He said the program was highly technical and far too complicated for me. An assumption he made without looking at my academic record or area of interest. I remember an instant feeling of isolation. Like I was here on false pretenses. And this is the message that stuck with me throughout my college career. And what struck me most is how often these types of experiences happen on our campus, especially with students who are underrepresented.  

So, after graduation, it was important for me to make my way back to the U and connect with the students, staff and faculty that are doing the work of social change on our campus. The work of amplifying powerful messages that positively change our campus’ narrative. I felt that my experience, along with the experience of many underrepresented students on campus, should not be the norm. And messages of not belonging should not be perpetuated.

Although this work is rewarding, it’s also challenging. It’s a challenge to navigate spaces where people may not understand social justice work or understand the importance of diversity. To have to conjure up the energy and convince people that this is important is one thing, but to have to come to the realization that some people find this work meaningless is another.  

There’s a lot going on around us locally and nationally, and with that, I encourage our campus community doing work around social justice, to take time to yourselves and truly pay attention to your health. Often times we feel helpless or alternatively carry the burden of change on our shoulders. It’s draining. It takes a mental and physical toll. This work requires a collective effort, a message I remind myself daily.”

— Neelam Chand, marketing director, Office for Equity and Diversity and account executive, University Marketing and Communications


“They say it takes a village to raise a child. I say it takes a literary agent, an amazing editor, a publisher, friends, family and lots of patience to get a book published!

I began work on my novel, “The Devil in the Deal,” (which is being published by Elektra Press) in 1996. Yes, 21 years ago.

It is a novel based on a true story — my story. At age 18, I worked in a massage parlor and as a stripper before moving to Utah and marrying into a family that, unbeknownst to me, was mixed up with crime. The theme of the book is overcoming problems, bad choices and learned helplessness.

There is another lesson here, too, about having a dream and never giving up. There was a force driving me to keep going. I took every writing class there is through Continuing Ed and the critiques of my fellow students really helped me. I finally found my voice. But what if I had given up half way through?

Once I get the hard copy in my hands I will probably go cry — and jump up and down with joy!”

Sheryle Bauer is an office assistant in the College of Social Work and a first-time author


“I was a high-energy kid, active in football, wrestling, track and basketball. By my freshman year I was tall enough to dunk, but my coach was old school and didn’t tolerate it.

I was born in Utah, adopted as an infant and raised in Novi, Michigan, outside of Detroit. Not knowing much about my biological family, I did what curious people do — I went online, found a random post by my biological dad’s parents who were looking for me and we got linked up.

When we met, I found out my biological father, Herb Jones, played basketball for the University of Montana alongside then-teammate and now – University of Utah head basketball coach Larry Krystkowiak. My father died in a car accident while attending college, heading back to school after visiting Utah.

I was curious, so I sent an email to Krystkowiak, who was coaching the New Jersey Nets. He emailed right back and filled me in about my father. He said, “Herb Jones was an amazing athlete. I once saw a sign at a Grizzlies game that said, ‘Larry is our bread and butter, but Herb is our jam.’ Great dude and still missed.”

A year after high school, I joined the Army as a combat medic and was assigned to the Tripler Army Medical Center in Hawaii. It’s a big and busy place; it’s the largest military hospital in the Pacific Basin and serves a military jurisdiction encompassing 52 percent of the earth’s surface.

I joined the TAMC basketball team, and this time, I could dunk. Our team was sick. We were the best team on the island, and there’s a lot of military on the island — Army, Navy, Marines. We won the Army tournament every year and got all the bragging rights that come with that win. Unit commanders take a lot of pride in three things: The discipline of their units, their basketball team and — kind of — their softball team.”

— Clarke Headlee, UIT account executive/facilities coordinator

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 ThisWeek@utah.edu.