We’re ready to think with you.

Hey, cool students!

I’m Kathryn Stockton — Dean for the School of Cultural and Social Transformation.

I hope you feel the joy I can’t help but exude. You’re back! We’re gonna be together. Somewhat in person, mostly online, but the point is we’re gonna be thinking together again. We’ll be engaging each other. We will be plotting and planning action.

In our last address to you, in a format like this, it was last spring — April. The pandemic had really just begun. We were already missing you like crazy, which was why I reached out to you. I think I remember saying that — something along the lines of — “the virus has revealed what we know to be true.”

Sad to say, we were not surprised that racial inequality and income inequality have produced disproportionate health disparities for communities of color. We have seen that with Navajo Nation and other indigenous groups in our state. We have seen that now for Black communities, Latinx communities, immigrant communities. We were not surprised, but we were deeply saddened, about new outbreaks of anti-Asian racism. Again, we knew these things to be true. And the virus has revealed what we know to be true.

But something else has happened since I last addressed you. Our country has embarked on what we can only hope can become a true, massive, racial reckoning. The murder of George Floyd by police has felt for so many like a culminating moment. Of course there have been so many people before him. We’ve talked about such folks. There have been people after him. So many people now in this country can name their names.

George Floyd

Sandra Bland

Brianna Taylor

Ahmaud Arbery

Rayshard Brooks

and the list goes on.

There is no time — so sorry to say — to be able to list all the names that we know in our hearts and that we can repeat. And then, there’s so many people whose names we don’t even know. People from Indigenous, Black and Brown communities who have lost their lives, not just for racist violence, but to racist policies.

Slow death is taking place all around us. We talk about that. We teach that.

And let’s be clear, something that we know very much in our hearts, this is the moment when we’re feeling great amount of fatigue. And I can only say that our beloved colleague Dr. William Smith, who has spent his career forging, researching, teaching the concept of racial battle fatigue, has given us a phrase for it. I don’t know a phrase more fitting for this moment and what we feel.

In fact, as you may know, I wrote a letter to you called, “Heartbreak and Reckoning.” Just as the country was embarking upon this moment after George Floyd’s murder. And I wanted to convey to you at that moment our collective heartbreak in Transform and to say that we had reached an unbearable point of breaking. It feels that this unbearableness will remain with us. And indeed we will not let it go! We are not going to let our anger go! It is righteous anger, and we continue to feel it strongly. It is urgent. It was urgent before George Floyd’s murder, and it evermore urgent now.

It is also the case — and it needs to be said — we do not feel this all the same. We may feel a sense of urgency. But it is Black friends, Black staff, Black students, Black faculty who feel the force and pain of anti-Blackness in a way that cannot be felt unless you have the experience of being Black in this country.

That is something we will have to reckon with.

The other thing I want to say so strongly is we in Transform will never reduce communities of color to their suffering. We will never be caught out in that particular thought. And our wonderful colleague. Dr. Darius Bost is constantly teaching and writing on creative expressions of Black existence. That is that threat of joy that cannot be lost, and I think we know it is not odd to carry anger and joy in the same heart. It is what we do. It is what pushes us on.

So let me do express some joyful things that will be taking place in the School for Cultural and Social Transformation in the coming years.

One thing that was a great priority before the pandemic, before George Floyd, was expanding Black studies in our school. We will be doing a search for a new colleague in the fall of 2021, and we couldn’t be more excited.

This new colleague will be jointly appointed in Ethnic Studies and Gender Studies, and it will help us to start building out as we are — our connections to other colleagues on this campus doing African American studies — to come together in thought and collectivity, to share strength and to share joy.

A second thing that is happening this very semester — very happy making — is the launch of our new certificate in Pacific Islands Studies. Please think of taking this new certificate. It’s available to you. Can’t wait to see how it unfolds!

The third thing will be fostering and nurturing Disability Studies. We are so proud and so happy to be the new home for relaunching Disability Studies on this campus. We have remarkable colleagues doing work, and indeed, I believe our minors have already doubled in a very short time.

A fourth thing — a little too early to say but I’m very hopeful — I think it’s possible that our campus may come together around a grand challenge, or call it what you will, to come together to think about environmental anti-racism. I’ve had some wonderful conversations with the Dean of the College of Science, the Dean of the College of Mines and Earth Science. I believe in the College of Social and Behavioral Science, and the College of Education, and, very profoundly, the College of Humanities — where they’ve just received a new MellonGrant for environmental humanities. I think we’ll have partners all across this campus. These are the two big issues of our time: our environment/climate change, on the one hand, and of course, racism on the other. Environmental anti-racism weds them because we know they go together. Very sadly, environmental racism is one of the reigning issues of our time.

We are going to come together to bring in community partners. There are so many incredible people in the community during activism, so many community researchers who have the type of wisdom and knowledge we need here at the U. I think these partnerships are ready to be forged, so look for that coming your way.

But again, at heart, in many ways this message is to say: a reunion with you matters all the world to us. If you encounter me, you will feel this joy. And we thank you for coming back! We don’t take it lightly, and we’re ready to embrace your presence here.

Get ready to think with us.

We’re ready to think with you. 

Walk-in Advising is Virtual

Fall 2020 Walk-In Advising is virtual. All appointments are 15 minutes or less to address quick questions about fall schedules, classes and registration. Fill out the form below to save your place in the walk-in advising queue, and the advisor will contact you when you are next. Depending on if you select a phone or video appointment, you will either receive a Zoom link or call from our advisor.

Monday, August 24
1 – 4 PM
Tuesday, August 25
9 AM – 12 PM
Wednesday, August 26
9 AM – 12 PM
1 – 4 PM
Thursday, August 27
9 AM – 12 PM
1 – 4 PM
Friday, August 28
9 AM – 12 PM

If you are seeking appointments for declaring a major/minor, planning for graduation, petitions or internship advising, you will need to make a longer, 45-minute appointment. Appointment blocks will be added on Wednesday, August 25 for the first week of September and can be found here.

Need Another Elective?

Transform still has courses with available seats that you can use to round out your degree! Confused, stressed, or needing help planning your degree path? Make an appointment with our advisor at transform.utah.edu/advising

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the University of Utah is offering five types of class instruction for the Fall 2020 Semester and has modified its academic schedule based on the input from health and infectious disease experts.

ETHNC 3150: Indian Law & Policy

» Counts as Ethnic Studies Elective

» Meets Tuesdays at 4:35-7:05 PM in BU C 210

» This is a Hybrid course, which uses a mixture of online, face-to-face, and technology-enhanced instruction.

This course will examine the specialized body of law affecting American Indians including the legal status of American Indians in relation to federal, state, and tribal government.

ETHNC 3150 is taught by:

Thomas Swensen

Assistant Professor, Ethnic Studies

Learn about Thomas

­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­ETHNC 4940: Race & Gender in Ethnic American Theater

» Counts as Ethnic Studies Elective

» This is an online course, which does not have a specific meeting time or location throughout the semester.

Students in this course will read and discuss a variety of dramatic literature and critical theories by and about ethnic American theatre artists and theorists, paying close attention to gendered, historical, and social contexts. Through the study of these works, the class aims to open a dialogue about how race and gender are perceived and constructed among diverse ethnic American cultural contexts, including African American, Latinx, Asian American, and indigenous communities. As this is a theatre class, students will also examine the plays as performance texts to better understand how race and gender are constructed on stage.

ETHNC 4940 is taught by:

Kimberly Jew

Associate Professor, Ethnic Studies & Theatre

Learn about Kimberly

ETHNC 5430: Asian Pacific American Politics

» Counts as Ethnic Studies Elective

» Fulfills DV requirement

» This is an online course, which does not have a specific meeting time or location throughout the semester.

This course provides an overview of the historical and contemporary political experiences of Asian Americans and their pursuits of rights, justice, and opportunities in the U.S.

ETHNC 5430 is taught by:

Annie Fukushima

Assistant Professor, Ethnic Studies

Learn about Annie

ETHNC 5800: Inequality & Justice

» Counts as Ethnic Studies Theory or Elective

» This is an online course, which does not have a specific meeting time or location throughout the semester.

This course offers a discussion of social justice and inequality based on three dimensions. The first is a theoretical treatment of collective ideas on social justice and equality. The debates on distributive justice and American pluralism, in particular, will be introduced. Second, the empirical findings on major measurements of social justice and the distribution of social goods will be systematically examined. The focus is on how inequality has taken place along the racial, ethnic and religious lines in U.S. history. Finally, the contemporary public policies on distribution principles and practices, such as affirmative actions and symbolic representation, will be scrutinized.

ETHNC 5800 is taught by:

Baodong Liu

Professor, Ethnic Studies & Political Science

Learn about Baodong

GNDR 3671: Gender & Colonialism in the Pacific

» Counts as Gender Studies Advanced Course/Elective

» Counts as Ethnic Studies Elective

» Fulfills Pacific Islands Studies Certificate Core Requirement

» This is an online course, which does not have a specific meeting time or location throughout the semester.

This class examines the significance of gender and sexuality in the Pacific Islands and its diaspora. It explores how instilling Western norms of gender and sexuality has been key ­­­to various forms of colonialism, imperialism, and militarism across Oceania. It also investigates how revitalizing Indigenous Pacific Islander epistemologies about gender and sexuality have also been central to decolonizing movements in the Pacific. The class provides students with tools to critically analyze and go beyond the popular idea of the Pacific as a feminized tropical paradise, and consider the importance of gender and sexuality to Indigenous knowledges and political movements. Readings and topics are drawn from interdisciplinary sources, including History, Literature, Pacific Island Studies, Gender and Sexuality Studies, and Indigenous Studies.

GNDR 3671 is taught by:

Maile Arvin

Assistant Professor, History & Gender Studies

Learn about Maile

GNDR 3960-05: Special Topic
Oral History

» Counts as Gender Studies Advanced Course/Elective

» This is an online course, which does not have a specific meeting time or location throughout the semester.

This course will teach you the practice of oral history, a profoundly democratic methodology focused on recovering the stories of people, communities, events, and movements often left out of national narratives. After learning the fundamentals of interviewing and the theory behind oral history, students will have the opportunity to pursue an oral history project assigned by the instructor or to pursue their own projects. Ask yourself: what topic have I wanted to investigate more deeply? What do I not know about my own family’s history? What community stories do I wish I could really research? What people and movements are missing from the histories I have learned? Your answers to these questions will determine our research objectives for this course. As we work to meet those objectives you will learn skills that will be of use to you in whatever career you choose to pursue and whatever causes you make your own.

You are also likely to have some of the richest most moving conversations of your life with the remarkable people that become your interviewees. This course is open to all students – and is especially ideal for those interested in building a research base for capstone projects, theses, or the URSD designation.

GNDR 3960-05 is taught by:

Matt Basso

Associate Professor, History & Gender Studies

Learn about Matt

GNDR 3960-06: Special Topic
Community Based Research

» Counts as Gender Studies Advanced Course/Elective

» Meets Thursdays at 2-5 PM on Canvas

» This is an IVC (Interactive Video Conferencing) course, which is a fully digital class that uses same-time delivery using web video technology.

Do you want to work with a community-based organization? Do you want to learn how to use research to advance its mission?

In this course, you will work alongside staff of local community organizations, learning how to:

  • Collaborate with community organizations
  • Design a research project
  • Collect and analyze data
  • Share findings with funders, partners, media, etc.
  • Use your research to take action in your community

GNDR 3960-06 is taught by:

Anna Antunes

Assistant Professor, Gender Studies

Learn about Anna

GNDR 5660: Gender Theory & Community Organizing

» Counts as Gender Studies Advanced Course/Elective

» Meets on Thursdays at 2-5 PM in GC 5490

» This is a Hybrid course, which uses a mixture of online, face-to-face, and technology-enhanced instruction.

Community organizing rests at the heart of structural change. If you are interested in applying social justice theories to art of community organizing then join Gender Theory and Community Organizing. This semester will be a special edition focusing on local and national elections. Image influencing the social justice outcomes of elections and being a part of the change that challenges the structural sexism, racism, and classism that has existed in this country for the last 400 years. You will both develop your own community organizing project and help with collective class project.

GNDR 5660 is taught by:

Kilo Zamora

Instructor, Gender Studies

Learn about Kilo

Transformative Research

Dr. Claudia Geist was appointed as our first Associate Dean for Research this January. She has spent much of her first six months consulting and assessing how to best support our faculty’s research endeavors, while jumping on board to support ongoing and upcoming research projects. Here, Dr. Geist tells us the most recent happenings in Transform faculty research:

Pandemic-related campus closures and transitions to online-everything have certainly affected the rhythm of everyone’s work. Both before and through these uncertain times, however, Transformers are not only actively engaging with students in the [virtual] classroom, contributing to our local communities, mentoring students, all while contributing to their respective fields through their research.  

While, many Transform faculty members’ summer research plans have been disrupted, we are redistributing our time and effort to continue advancing our scholarship agendas. Dr. Darius Bost (Ethnic Studies), for example, was recently awarded an Eccles Centre – The British Library fellowship, which included time in London. Though he is unable to travel to London, he continues to research for his next book on black queer visual cultures in the anglophone black diaspora from Utah, as part of a (remote) fellowship with Harvard.  

Dr. Hōkūlani Aikau’s (Gender Studies and Ethnic Studies) study on the cultural and climatic impact of taro farming in Belau (also known as Palau) is also on hold. However, Dr. Aikau is using the summer months to collaborate with scholars from the Santa Clara University. Together they will apply for a National Science Foundation (NSF) planning grant which will study how minoritized students overcome barriers for success.

Meanwhile, Drs. Annie Isabel Fukushima (Ethnic Studies) and Sarita Gaytàn (Gender Studies), with Dr. Leticia Alvarez Gutiérrez of the ECS department, are tackling urgent current events and shed light on the disproportionate impact of Covid-19 on Latinx communities, including Latinx educators and students. At the same time, Dr. Fukushima is collaborating in a project to depict Gender Based violence in Utah, as part of a 1U4U campus grant. This interdisciplinary project brings together expertise from the School of Medicine, College of Social and Behavioral Science, the School of Business, and the School Dentistry. Yet another example of how Transform faculty play a vital role in interdisciplinary effort to both uncover and combat violence, and injustice.

Dr. Ella Myers’ (Gender Studies) current research is an urgent reminder for anyone who doubts the important role of theory in addressing current events. This fall, Dr. Myers is working on her next book, Gratifications of Whiteness: W.E.B. Du Bois and the Enduring Rewards of Antiblackness (under contract with Oxford University Press). This work draws on Du Bois’  to explore the multiple racialized rewards of whiteness, but also addresses strategies that can disrupt white supremacy and the racial capitalism that sustains it.

Our faculty, like our communities, are adjusting and shifting. We know that despite the uncertainty, Transformers will continue to push groundbreaking research.

Dr. William Smith

William Smith

Department Chair & Professor, Education, Culture & Society

Professor, Ethnic Studies

There is no questioning it: Dr. William Smith is a rock-star researcher, educator, administrator, social justice academic and mentor. This year alone, two separate committees awarded him mentorship awards: the Graduate School presented him the Graduate Student and Postdoctoral Scholar Distinguished Mentor Award, while the American Educational Research Association named him as a recipient of the Spencer Foundation’s Spencer Mentor Award.

In addition to his numerous accolades, Dr. Smith is also recognized for his research on racial battle fatigue and role as a co-founder of the African American Doctoral Scholars Initiative Program, which seeks to nurture, mentor, and graduate more Black scholars from every graduate program at the university.

Dr. Smith professor and chair in the department of Education, Culture & Society and holds a joint appointment in the division of Ethnic Studies. Read more about Dr. Smith’s recent mentorship awards here.

Jen Wozab: Award-Winning Advisor

On May 27, the U’s Academic Advising Community (UAAC) declared Jen Wozab to be the winner of the 2020 Outstanding Experienced Advisor Award. The conferral of this award confirms what so many of our Transform students already know: Jen is an amazing and indispensable advisor!

Jen joined Transform as our Student Support Coordinator in July of 2017 and from the beginning immersed herself in the development of our brand-new School. From curriculum and infrastructure, to creating opportunities for community-building, Jen is integral to ensuring student-perspective is central to our growth as a school.

On an individual level, Jen is astute in building class schedules that fit logistically, but also feel exciting to the students. She connects students to campus resources such as scholarships and financial aid, mental-wellness support, and opportunities to build skills. She is efficient, but also takes the time to get to know students and their individual goals and needs.

One of the student nominators for the award said: “Jen has worked tirelessly to help us build a community in Transform. This effort is bringing students and faculty together outside a classroom context which helps students develop relationships with the faculty and staff, which also helps us feel more confident talking to our professors when we have issues in class.” For students who often find themselves marginalized by institutions, this sense of empowerment is invaluable.

Jen’s work also has wide-reaching effects. Recently, her work with the U’s Graduation Office on behalf of Transform helped to create a process for all university graduating students to have their preferred names printed on their diplomas and on all convocation materials. Furthermore, Jen’s keen attention to student needs – and particularly the needs of underserved and non-traditional students – has been crucial for Transform and campus leadership as we navigate campus closure during the pandemic. Words of praise fall short in capturing the range and depth of Jen’s passion for her work in supporting our students. As the winner of the 2013 UAAC New Academic Advisor Award and as the current Outstanding Experienced Advisor awardee, Jen becomes the University of Utah’s nominee for the 2021 NACADA National Outstanding Advising Award. We can’t wait to find out if the nation is ready to also recognize Jen’s awesomeness!

We Stand with Our Communities

“Power concedes nothing without a demand.” So said Frederick Douglass in 1857, mere months after the infamous Dred Scott decision. We now face another moment of reckoning over the disregard shown to Black lives. The Division of Ethnic Studies in the School for Cultural and Social Transformation at the University of Utah kneels and grieves for the necessarily remembered names of all those killed with impunity. We stand with our Black, Brown, Native American, Asian, Pacific Island, and Indigenous communities– indeed all those who struggle against systems of racial oppression and settler colonial domination– to demand a just and enlivened future.

For an open letter to our Transform students from Dean Stockton, please read on here.

Pacific Islands Studies Certificate

It’s official! Starting in the Fall 2020 Semester, we will be offering an Interdisciplinary Certificate in Pacific Islands (PI) Studies.

“A certificate in Pacific Islander studies will enhance any major that we have at the U because it integrates political, social and cultural analysis of race, indigeneity and coloniality with other fields of study,” said Hokulani Aikau, director of Pacific Islands Studies. “The courses that comprise the certificate provide a critical lens for all students interested in fields such as public health, sustainability, climate change or engineering because the issues of concern in the Indigenous Pacific and the diaspora are relevant beyond the region or the single case study. Indeed, attention to these dimensions of power is essential in the political movement for black lives matter.”

If you’re interested in our new certificate, check out the curriculum on the General Catalog website and connect with our Transform advisor!

Heartbreak and Reckoning

Dearest Transform students— 

We know you are largely “away” from our campus, figuring out your lives in this pandemic.

We also know you are not at all away from what should be a national racial reckoning.

I know you join us when we say: ENOUGH.  It has always been horrendously, heartbreakingly enough.  

This is why our colleague, Dr. William Smith, has spent his career writing and teaching about what he calls “racial battle fatigue.”  His phrase has been raging in my head all these days.  It so captures this terrible moment and, then, the exhaustion that inevitably awaits beyond this outpouring.  The level of fatigue, joined by righteous anger, is at a new high—if that is possible.  The horrific murder of George Floyd—because a camera caught it—has indisputably revealed the anti-blackness always persistent in this country.  Fatigue results from being here, in maddening sorrow, over and over.  And then all over again.  

This at a time when Navajo Nation and other indigenous groups have suffered so dramatically during COVID, along with black, LatinX, and immigrant communities also hit so hard, and, lest we forget, at a moment when anti-Asian racism has shown itself anew.  You are Transform students: you know that five centuries of white supremacy have formed this country since 1492—with five centuries of accumulated pain, death, anger, and continuously vanquished hope. 

And so we say: ENOUGH.

But will it be enough?  Will this be the point when, finally, large numbers of people will no longer fail to find this living, lethal, sitting-in-plain-view history unbearable?  That must be the measure.  And then there must be action.

I can sense the depth of collective heartbreak in Transform.  As a group of connected hearts and minds, we say so fiercely: “this is the unbearable point of breaking.”  We cannot keep mourning—and at times forgetting—each black person murdered by police. We cannot stand by while other folx of color and indigenous people, whose names we may not know, lose their lives to racist policies and violent actions.  Slow death is taking place all around us.

And we can’t pretend that we feel this all the same.  To state the obvious, anti-black racism falls so differentially on black people, black families, black colleagues, black students, and black friends.  Together, we must reckon with this bald fact.  Also, as the scholarship of Dr. Darius Bost has taught us, scenes of such pain threaten to reduce black lives to suffering in the limited national scope of vision, instead of opening onto a full embrace of creative black existence.

Realistically, we must commit our lives to reckoning.  No swift fix is going to emerge.  What are we each prepared to do? 

We will be with you every step of the way inside this question.  We recommit to it with ever greater urgency and tenacity.  The work you’re doing couldn’t be more critical. 

Together, we must face this unbearable pass to which we’ve come.  

Yours always,

Dean, School for Cultural and Social Transformation

Transform Undergraduate Research Showcase

The Undergraduate Research Symposium provides an opportunity for students to present their work in a scholarly setting to students, faculty and other members of the University of Utah community. Undergraduate students from all disciplines are invited to present their research and creative work.

Students in Transform, and Students mentored by Transform faculty do amazing work. We are very proud of them and had hoped to celebrate them in person.

We hope you are intrigued, moved, or even inspired to do research yourself. Be in touch!