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

The producers of the new documentary film "The True Cost" note that there has been a 500% increase in clothing consumption in the past two decades, and that the U.S. has gone from producing more than 90% of its clothing in the 1960s to just three percent today. They say that the price of clothing has been decreasing for decades, while the human and environmental costs have grown dramatically.

National Association of Music Merchants

We'll dive into some great Mariachi music and learn its history on Thursday's AU. We'll talk about how Mariachi music conveys Mexican culture, in Mexico and around the world, and we'll hear music performed by Lila Downs, Selena, and Vicente and Alejandro Fernandez, among others. 


Our guide to the music and culture is Maria Spicer-Escalante, USU Associate Professor of Linguistics and Spanish, who grew up in Mexico and continues to love this music. She says the art form is alive and well and being picked up by young people and by all-women groups such as the Mariachi Divas.

Oxford University Press

Homesickness today is dismissed as a sign of immaturity: It's what children feel at summer camp. But in the nineteenth century it was recognized as a powerful emotion. When gold miners in California heard the tune "Home, Sweet Home," they sobbed. When Civil War soldiers became homesick, army doctors sent them home, lest they die. Such images don't fit with our national mythology, which celebrates the restless individualism of immigrants who supposedly left home and never looked back. 

Susan Matt, author of "Homesickness: An American History" says that iconic symbols of the undaunted, forward-looking American spirit were often homesick, hesitant, and reluctant voyagers. Even today, in a global society that prizes movement and that condemns homesickness as a childish emotion, colleges counsel young adults and their families on how to manage the transition away from home, suburbanites pine for their old neighborhoods, and companies take seriously the emotional toll borne by relocated executives and road warriors. By highlighting how Americans have reacted to moving farther and farther from their roots, Matt revises long-held assumptions about home, mobility, and our national identity.

American Folklife Center

 A joint initiative of Utah State University and the American Folklife Center of the Library of Congress will conduct a field-school project, beginning next week, for a field project called Voices: Refugees in Cache Valley. Designed to collect the stories and life experiences of refugees, the project will seek voices from Karen, Burmese, Eritrean, and other refugee communities in Cache Valley, Utah. We'll talk about the project and hear stories of refugees who've settled in Utah on Tuesday's Access Utah.

During the program, Chit Moe, a USU student and Karen Refugee, describes a traditional dance of the Karen people. You can watch a performance of this dance here. 

What does it mean to feel? The study of emotions has emerged as a central topic in the new discipline of affective neuroscience. In their new book, "The Feeling Brain," Elizabeth Johnston and Leah Olson trace how work in this rapidly expanding field speaks to fundamental questions: What is the function of emotions? What is the role of the body in emotions? What are "feelings," and how do they relate to emotions? Why are emotions so difficult to control? Is there an emotional brain?


G. P. Putnam's Sons

Before launching her popular blog, "One Good Thing by Jillee," Heber City resident Jill Nystul was a newscaster battling a long list of demons. Suffering from postpartum anxiety and struggling to care for her four children, including a young son with celiac disease and diabetes, Nystul turned to food and alcohol for comfort. Her alcohol consumption eventually spiraled into an addiction that nearly cost her her family. Finally, after a yearlong marital separation and a hard look at herself in rehab, she realized that she needed to turn her life around. She began simply: blogging about one good thing each day. 

CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform

In the eighteenth century, Catherine the Great enticed German farmers to settle in Russia. The German communities remained distinct from the Russians linguistically and culturally. Julie Mangano is descended from such German settlers in Russia, as is the modern-day protagonist, Linden St. Clair, of her new novel “Braha.” The contemporary side of the novel revolves around Linden trying to uncover the truth behind the death of her beloved grandfather, Franklin, a wealthy rancher in rural Somerville, California. The second story comes from the memoirs of Linden’s great-great grandmother, Leena Lagerlöf, née Weiss, an ethnic German born in Russia, who fled in the last days of the czars. Both tales speak of lost loves and of truths dangerous and hidden. 

New Yorker

Recently, tens of thousands of workers protested across the U.S. demanding a $15.00 per hour national minimum wage. Many say that even working full time or more they can't provide for their families. We'll examine income inequality on Tuesday's AU. 

UPR listeners are curious about everything. We're always wanting to learn something fascinating. That's why we're avid readers. Periodically we come together on Access Utah to build a UPR Book List, and we're going to do it again on Monday. So we're asking: What are you reading? We're looking for everything from fiction, non-fiction, and classic literature to young adult and children's books. It might even be a textbook or manual that you can recommend. You can email your list to us right now at

After nine years of keeping his prostate cancer at bay, the drugs were no longer working. The doctors told him his time was nearly up. So Jeff Metcalf dove deep into writing, tasking himself with writing one essay each week for a year. His book "Requiem for the Living" features the best of the resulting fifty-two essays by an author who continues to defy his medical prognosis. The essays form a memoir of sorts, recounting good times and critical moments from Metcalf's life. He doesn't describe a life defined by cancer but writes to discover what his life has been, who he has become, and what he has learned along the way. 

It's an Earth Day tradition on Access Utah: we invite Utah writers to reflect on the environment. This year, Stephen Trimble, whose books include "Bargaining for Eden: The Fight for the Last Open Spaces in America," says he's been thinking about climate change and the moral responsibility of the writer to speak up for our relationship with each other and with the earth.

Speaking to Neural magazine, artist Paul Vanouse said "I think in the next couple years there will be lots more scientific research that undermines DNA determinism. For instance, theorist Hanna Landecker...describe[s] varied large-scale "Relational Biology" research projects that examine things such as epigenetics, stem-cell differentiation, bidirectional signaling, etc. - things that I think may dethrone the reductive idea that DNA is the dictator of all things and may loosen the metaphor of life as code." Paul Vanouse is visiting USU as a part of the ARTsySTEM project. Tuesday on Access Utah we'll discuss Race and DNA, the CSI Effect, the Human Genome Project, and related topics.

W. W. Norton & Co.

Archetypal wild man Edward Abbey and proper, dedicated Wallace Stegner left their footprints all over the western landscape. Now, in his book “All The Wild That Remains,” nature writer David Gessner follows the ghosts of these remarkable men from Stegner's birthplace in Saskatchewan to the site of Abbey's pilgrimages to Arches National Park in Utah, interweaving their stories and asking how they speak to the issues that confront the West today.

In a region affected by droughts and fires, by fracking and drilling, and by an ever-growing population that may be loving the West to death, Gessner asks: how might these two far-seeing environmental thinkers have responded?

Should Spanking Children Be Forbidden in the U.S.? Renowned criminologist Christian Pfeiffer from University of Hannover, Germany will present the European experience on Thursday, as a part of the USU Provost's Series on Instructional Excellence, and will join us for Thursday's AU.

Dr. Pfeiffer's research interests include the role of religion and child rearing practices in the production of violence; the role of media in the lives of children and in the perception of crime and criminal policy; media consumption and violence; the implications of corporal punishment in politics; and extrajudicial dispute resolution. 

In her song "Flawless," the singer Beyonce samples Nigerian writer Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie: "We teach girls that they cannot be sexual beings in the way that boys are." On Wednesday's AU we'll ask: Can the message of female empowerment co-exist with a sexualized image? Do advertising messages of companies like Carl's Jr. and Sports Illustrated promote the objectification of women? If so, how should those messages be corrected? How should we frame the topic of sex in the media, in the classroom, in the family, in society? 

Carvel Books

Ben Jones, is a single, 38-year-old truck driver on the verge of losing his small trucking company. Ben's route takes him back and forth across one of the most desolate and beautiful regions of the Utah desert where he meets a mysterious cellist and the embittered owner of a small diner. That's the plot, in brief, of James Anderson's debut novel, "The Never-Open Desert Diner." 

In 2014 the citizens of Idaho and Montana celebrated the 50th anniversary of the Wilderness Act – the law that secured protection for eight million acres of wild forests and mountains in these two states. In his new book (from University of Utah Press) “Where Roads Will Never Reach” environmental historian Frederick Swanson tells the story of how, decades before the Wilderness Act, ordinary citizens halted the federal government’s resource development juggernaut of the 1950s and 1960s, safeguarding some of the last strongholds of grizzly bear, mountain goat, elk, trout, salmon and steelhead. Swanson says that from Idaho's Frank Church-River of No Return to Montana's Scapegoat and Great Bear, the wilderness areas of the Northern Rockies serve as a record of lasting public concern and as a model for citizens working to protect today's threatened landscapes.

Frederick Swanson says: “More than fifty years ago my family moved from the Midwest to the Pacific Northwest, where I became enthralled with its tall firs, glacier-carved mountains, and transparent rivers. Before long I was exploring the region's wilderness areas like so many of us did in the 1960s and 1970s. After twenty-five years working as an editor and publications designer, eleven of which were spent in the wonderful state of Montana, I decided to write full-time. I've been fortunate to be able to tell the story of some of the greatest wild lands in the western states and the men and women who knew and loved them.

On Friday's "Access Utah" we feature an episode from the series "BURN: An Energy Journal" hosted by Alex Chadwick and Flora Lichtman. "The Adaptors" looks at people from all walks of life who are working to counteract energy and climate crises. Adaptors are all around us: farmers and coastal-dwellers finding new ways to work and live; scientists thinking outside the box about energy; corporate leaders bringing new technologies to market; DIY inventors dreaming up the next big thing in green living. These stories provide a window into the essence of who we are as a species - and a measure of hope that we can muster the will to tackle perhaps the biggest challenges we've ever faced. 

Listen to "BURN: An Energy Journal" from "The Adaptors" at

Family Acceptance Project

What happens to a Mormon family in California when their teenage son tells them he's gay? How does the family navigate questions of faith and acceptance? The film "Families Are Forever" produced by the Family Acceptance Project and screened recently at Utah State University, tells the story of Tom and Wendy Montgomery and their five children, focusing on their son, Jordan. Participating in USU's Research Week, Wendy Montgomery joined Dr. Caitlin Ryan of San Francisco State University to discuss the Family Acceptance Project - a research, intervention, education and policy project founded by Dr. Ryan to help diverse families support their lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) children. The Family Acceptance Project seeks to prevent health risks like suicide and homelessness and to promote well-being in the context of families, cultures and faith communities. 


W. W. Norton & Co.

In 2005, David Roberts and two of his mountaineering friends caught sight of what appeared to be a granary beneath an overhanging cliff a thousand feet above a Utah ranch. After rappelling down the cliff, Roberts and his companions discovered a settlement--and a mystery. This enormous granary was large enough to hold fifty-seven bushels of corn, weighing a ton and a half. Yet Roberts and his friends--some of the most experienced climbers in the world--had enormous difficulty reaching the site. In fact, they were the first people to reach the remote site in more than seven hundred years. How could the ancient natives have managed to lug so much grain up this sheer cliff, especially considering there is no conclusive evidence that they possessed rope technology? For more than 5,000 years the Ancestral Puebloans occupied the Four Corners region. Just before 1300 AD, they abandoned their homeland in a migration that remains one of prehistory's greatest puzzles. Northern and southern neighbors of the Ancestral Puebloans, the Fremont and Mogollon likewise flourished for millennia before migrating or disappearing. Fortunately, the Old Ones, as some of their present-day descendants call them, left behind awe-inspiring ruins, dazzling rock art, and sophisticated artifacts ranging from painted pots to woven baskets.

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.