Tom Williams

Program Director | Access Utah Host

Tom Williams worked as a part-time UPR announcer for a few years and joined Utah Public Radio full-time in 1996.  He is a proud graduate of Uintah High School in Vernal and Utah State University (B. A. in Liberal Arts and Master of Business Administration.)  He grew up in a family that regularly discussed everything from opera to religion to politics. He is interested in just about everything and loves to engage people in conversation, so you could say he has found the perfect job as host “Access Utah” and “Opera Saturday.”  He and his wife Becky, live in Logan.

Ways To Connect

USU Philosophy Professor Charlie Huenemann, writing for says that "we all seek to capture the world with a net of language. Yet it is in the nature of nets to capture some things and let others slip away, and that goes for languages too...What is left unsaid speaks volumes. We might resign ourselves to this fact - the inescapable limits of what's sayable - but in fact a great many minds have sought to construct the perfect language." 

Graywolf Press

In "Ongoingness: The End of a Diary" Sarah Manguso confronts a meticulous diary that she has kept for twenty-five years. She says she wanted to end each day with a record of everything that had ever happened. But she was terrified that she might forget something, she might miss something important. Maintaining that diary, now 800,000 words, had become, until recently, a kind of spiritual practice. Then Manguso became pregnant and had a child, and these two Copernican events generated an amnesia that put her into a different relationship with the need to document herself amid ongoing time. "Ongoingness" is a spare, meditative work standing in stark contrast to the volubility of the diary. In this collection of essays, Manguso confronts issues of mortality and impermanence, of how we struggle to find clarity in the chaos of time that rushes around and over and through us. 


The recent excommunications of prominent members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints got us wondering about the practice of excommunication, and related practices like shunning and ostracizing. Does excommunication have different meanings across various religions and cultures? Why are some individuals cut off and others not? How should religious institutions respond to unorthodox opinions and beliefs among their members? 

University Press of Colorado

In 2005, historian James Whiteside bought a Harley Davidson Heritage Softail, christened it "Old Blue," and set off on a series of motorcycle adventures. Over six years he traveled more than 15,000 miles. In his new book "Old Blue's Road" Whiteside recounts his travels to the Pacific Northwest, Yellowstone, Dodge City, Santa Fe, Wounded Knee, and many other places and considers the ongoing struggle between Indian and mainstream American culture, the meaning of community, the sustainability of the West's hydraulic society, the creation of the national parks system, the Mormon experience in Utah, the internment of Japanese Americans during World War II, and more. Whiteside reflects on the processes of change that made the American West what it is today and the complex ways in which the West's past and present come together. 

Our Kitchen Table/LaDonna Redmond

LaDonna Redmond became a food justice advocate after her son developed food allergies and she found that the healthy food she wanted to feed him wasn't available in her Chicago neighborhood. She says that fair and equal access to healthy foods affects the health and well-being of the community and that food justice is tied to social justice, to issues of violence, poverty, and immigration. She advocates for dismantling the "food industrial complex" and returning to the "tables of our ancestors" to make our own food. 

(Cybele Knowles / Graywolf Press)

Readers of physical books leave traces: marginalia, slips of paper, fingerprints, highlighting, inscriptions. All books have histories, and libraries are not just collections of books and databases, but a medium of long-distance communication with other writers and readers.

"Letter to a Future Lover" is a collection several dozen brief pieces written by Ander Monson in response to library ephemera-with "library" defined broadly, ranging from university institutions to friends' shelves, from a seed library to a KGB prison library-and addressed to readers past, present, and future.

Nancy McHugh, professor of philosophy at Wittenberg University in Ohio, says the fear of bacteria, hormones, and antibiotics is rampant in our society. She is interested in the ways we go about making knowledge and ignorance about food and its relationship to health and argues that these practices have led to a new food movement, "clean eating," which in turn has generated a new eating disorder, orthorexia, or righteous eating.


Washington State University

Sociologist and Mormon scholar Armand Mauss says that as a relatively new religious movement, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has followed a developmental trajectory similar to many other such movements. In the next few years, however, as the church enters its third century it is likely to face many new and unprecedented challenges. Mauss will consider how the church and its members might cope with these challenges, including the definition of gender in church life, and navigating issues of faith vs. doubt, in a lecture, “Mormonism’s Third Century: Coping with the Contingencies,” sponsored by USU’s Religious Studies Program this afternoon at 4:00 in Old Main 121 on the Utah State University campus. 

Kara Richardson Whitely knew she could reach the summit of Mt. Kilimanjaro. She had done it once before. But she failed in a second attempt, struggled with food addiction and looked for ways to cope with feelings of failure and shame. Her weight shot to more than 300 pounds. Deep in her personal gorge, Whitely decided the only way out was up. She resolved to climb the mountain again-and this time, she would reach the summit. And she would do it without waiting for her plus-sized status to disappear. "Gorge: My Journey Up Kilimanjaro at 300 Pounds" is the story of her ascent from the depths of self-doubt to the top of the world.

Serbian inventor Nikola Tesla produced hundreds of inventions and ideas which have changed our lives in profound ways, ranging from alternating current to wireless communication to remote control. Tesla's AC defeated Thomas Edison's DC, but Edison is celebrated in America and Tesla is largely unknown. Where he is remembered, Tesla is known as the man who invented the twentieth century, but also as an early archetype of the mad scientist.

American Radio Works

Today on Access Utah, an American Radio Works documentary explores the best ways to learn, developed and observed by researchers. "The Science of Smart," featuring Utah Senator Howard Stevenson's statewide language immersion initiative, deciphers education and its impact on our next generation's learning. 

Researchers have long been searching for better ways to learn. In recent decades, experts working in cognitive science, psychology, and neuroscience have opened new windows into how the brain works, and how we can learn to learn better. 


"The Arts and STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, & Math) fields share a necessity for undertaking imaginative inquiry of what we perceive as truth and beauty...So many attempts to integrate art and science simply involve creating art at the end of a scientific breakthrough. With ARTsySTEM, we're merging the disciplines at the very inception of the process." That's USU Assistant Professor of Art Mark Lee Koven, who along with USU Ecology Center Director Nancy Huntly, is spearheading the ARTsySTEM project at Utah State University.

Last July 4 on an outing to Long Island, when shots were fired in the vicinity, ProPublica reporter Nikole Hannah-Jones says that "between the four adults [in the group] we hold six degrees. Three of us are journalists. And not one of us ... thought to call the police. We had not even considered it.  We also are all black. And without realizing it, in that moment, each of us had made a set of calculations, an instantaneous weighing of the pros and cons." In "A Letter From Black America," (recently published by ProPublica and Politico Magazine) Hannah-Jones says "to a very real extent, you have grown up in a different country than I have."

B. Lynn Ingram is Professor of Earth and Planetary Science and Geography at the University of California, Berkeley and co-author of "The West Without Water: What Past Floods, Droughts, and other Climatic Clues Tell Us About Tomorrow." She'll join us for Tuesday's AU to answer such questions as: What is "normal" climate in the West and how do we know what's normal? What do we learn from megafloods and megadroughts during the past 2,000 years, including most disastrous flood in the history of California and the West, which occurred in 1861-62?  Why is climate so variable in the West? What does the past tell us about tomorrow?

"The brain can change itself. It is a plastic, living organ that can actually change its own structure and function, even into old age. Arguably the most important breakthrough in neuroscience since scientists first sketched out the brain's basic anatomy, this revolutionary discovery, called neuroplasticity, promises to overthrow the centuries-old notion that the brain is fixed and unchanging." So says psychiatrist and researcher Norman Doidge, MD.

In his book "The Brain That Changes Itself" Dr. Doidge examines the cases of a woman born with half a brain that rewired itself to work as a whole, a woman labeled retarded who cured her deficits with brain exercises and now cures those of others, blind people learning to see, learning disorders cured, IQs raised, aging brains rejuvenated, painful phantom limbs erased, stroke patients recovering their faculties, children with cerebral palsy learning to move more gracefully, entrenched depression and anxiety disappearing, and lifelong character traits altered.

The 2015 session of the Utah Legislature reached the end of its constitutionally-mandated 45 days Thursday night. This year’s highlights included debates over Medicaid expansion, prison relocation, pay raises for teachers and state employees, the gas tax, anti-discrimination protections for the LGBT community, religious freedom guarantees, the right to die, Utah’s caucus and convention system, medical marijuana, cock fighting and seat belts, among other issues.

On Friday’s AU we’ll recap the 2015 legislative session with Deseret News commentators Frank Pignanelli & LaVarr Webb. We’ll feature comments from Governor Gary Herbert. And we’ll talk with Jason Stevenson, Education & Communications Director with the Utah Health Policy Project and Dan Bammes, Communications Director with the Utah Foundation.

HB 391, the “Utah Death with Dignity Act,” would allow physicians to prescribe lethal doses of medication to terminally ill persons, under certain circumstances. Rep. Rebecca Chavez-Houck, D-Salt Lake City says she sponsored the bill in response to the recent plight of Brittany Maynard, a California woman with a terminal brain tumor who moved to Oregon (which has had such a law in place since 1994) so she could die on her own terms. A poll by shows that 63% of Utahns support such legislation. On Wednesday’s AU we’ll ask you what you think.


We love our dogs and cats, but their behavior can be baffling. (Maybe they have the same thoughts about us!) On Tuesday's AU, our guest is veterinarian Gary Weitzman, President and CEO of the San Diego Humane Society and SPCA, and author of "How to Speak Cat: A Guide to Decoding Cat Language" (published by National Geographic.). Dr. Weitzman is also author of "How to Speak Dog," and "Everything Dogs." We'll answer your dog and cat questions, and talk about the San Diego Humane Society's current effort called "Getting to Zero:" a comprehensive plan to save the life of every healthy and treatable animal in San Diego Animal Welfare Coalition shelters. 

Climate change has been a hard sell among some communities of faith. Katharine Hayhoe is a Climate Scientist and an Evangelical Christian. She has spent years trying to convince other Christians that climate change is real. She told NPR that "the people we trust, the people we respect, the people whose values we share, in the conservative community, in the Christian community, those people are telling us, many of them, that this isn't a real problem - that it's a hoax. Even worse, that you can't be a Christian and think that climate change is real. You can't be a conservative and agree with the science." Hayhoe says that caring about climate change is one of the most Christian things you can do. 

The Pentagon has said that climate change poses immediate risks to our national security. U.S. intelligence and security leaders predict that resource scarcity will be our next big threat. The World Wildlife Fund's new initiative "In Pursuit of Prosperity" seeks to make sustainability a core component of U.S. foreign policy.

WWF says that scarcities in one country can spill over into relations with neighboring countries as governments try to access natural resources-such as timber, water and energy-through legal and illegal means. Tensions among neighbors, ranging from the US.-Mexico border to India and Pakistan, are on the rise. California, America's fruit and food basket, is currently experiencing one of the most severe droughts in over a century. The result is higher food prices and declining water stocks.

Penguin Books

The grid is everywhere, sending power to the light switch on the wall and water to the faucet in the kitchen. But is it essential? Must we depend on it and the corporate and government infrastructure behind it? Wednesday’s AU we’ll revisit our conversation, from August, with Nick Rosen, who has traveled the United States, spending time with all kinds of individuals and families striving to live their lives free from dependence on municipal power and amenities, and free from dependence on the government and its far-reaching tentacles.

Rosen’s book "Off the Grid: Inside the Movement for More Space, Less Government, and True Independence in Modern America" profiles millionaires and foreclosure victims, survivalists and environmentalists, retirees and marijuana growers, and ordinary families--all chasing their off-grid dreams.

The firing squad, discontinued in Utah in 2004, would return as a method of execution under a bill (HB11) which has passed Utah's House of Representatives. The sponsor, Rep. Paul Ray R-Clearfield, says (according to the Associated Press) that "a team of trained marksmen is faster and more humane than the drawn-out deaths that have occurred in botched lethal injections." NPR reports that manufacturers of the drugs used in lethal injection executions, under increasing pressure from critics of the practice, have ceased making the toxic chemicals. James Clark writing on Amnesty International USA's "Human Rights Now" blog says this bill makes Utah appear willing to do just about anything to continue executions. 

As wildlife populations increase, so does the potential for human-wildlife conflicts, which can be seen in in economic losses, regulatory conflicts, and sometimes, physical encounters. Terry Messmer, Director of the Berryman Institute at USU, says that wildlife managers may need to change their traditional emphasis from sustaining or increasing wildlife populations to mitigating conflicts. On Monday's AU we'll talk about potential effects of listing the Sage-grouse as an endangered species and of delisting the wolf. We'll also consider the phenomenon of urban deer and the management of wild horses and burros. We'll ask you what you think about these issues and we'd also like to know if you've had an encounter with, say, a mountain lion or a bear. Joining the discussion today is Terry Messmer and Michael Wolfe, Emeritus professor of Wildlife Ecology and Management at Utah State University.

Francisco Kjolseth | The Salt Lake Tribune

State Department of Corrections Executive Director Rollin Cook said Utah's "tough on crime approach" has been costly and has led to mass incarceration, overcrowded prisons and unacceptable recidivism rates. Rep. Eric Hutchings, R-Kearns, said his criminal justice reform bill (HB 348) will result in an "epic shift" in how the state treats offenders.  The Salt Lake Tribune reports that under HB 348, drug offenses would carry a smaller penalty, probation officers could reward as well as punish, and whenever possible, the mentally ill and drug addicted would be shuttled into treatment rather than to jail. Prosecutors worry that reducing charges and sentences would be counterproductive. 

Utah State University

Every year about this time "Evening in Brazil" presents concerts in Salt Lake City and Logan; this year's concerts are on Thursday and Friday. And each year, we gather members of the musical group in UPR's studio C to enjoy some great Bossa Nova and Samba on Access Utah. Linda Ferreira Linford, Christopher Neale, Mike Christiansen & Eric Nelson will join us for Wednesday's AU and we hope you will too, beginning at 9:00 a.m.