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

Anyone would be hard-pressed to find a pastime more emblematic of the western spirit than fly-fishing. Liberating, poetic, wild, soothing and inspiring, it pushes the boundaries of the mind. In essays ranging from introspective to ironic, angler authors Chadd VanZanten and Russ Beck distill the purest truths of fly-fishing into essential, often humorous rules of thumb. With kernels like "always tell the truth sometimes" and "all the fish are underwater," wade into the blue ribbon waters of Montana, Idaho, Wyoming and Utah to reflect metaphysically on these lines of practical wisdom. 

Join local authors, Chadd Vanzanten and Russ Beck, for a reading and signing of their new book at King's English, Thursday, August 20, 2015 at 7:00 pm. 

Photo by Rudi Petschek

  In the spring of 1983, a massive snowmelt sent runoff racing down the Colorado River toward the Glen Canyon Dam. Worried federal officials desperately scrambled to avoid a worst-case scenario: one of the most dramatic dam failures in history. In the midst of this crisis, a trio of river guides secretly launched a small, hand-built wooden boat, a dory named the Emerald Mile, into the Colorado just below the dam’s base. The captain of the dory, Kenton Grua, aimed to use the flood as a hydraulic slingshot that would hurl him and two companions through 277 miles of some of the most ferocious white water in North America and, if everything went as planned, catapult the Emerald Mile into legend as the fastest boat ever propelled through the heart of the Grand Canyon.


Journalist, advocate, and teacher, Michael frome has spent decades engaged with conversation and America’s national parks. From this experience and knowledge he understands what challenges remain and what momentum must be recovered to revitalize and preserve these special places. Part memoir, part history, and part broadside against those who would diminish our natural heritage, Rediscovering National Parks in the Spirit of John Muir bears witness through reflection and rumination to the grandeur of our parks, to the need for a renewed sense of appreciation, and to individual responsibility for their care.

Jamie Bianchini needed a lift. A big one. After a series of spectacular business flops drove him into bankruptcy and the love of his life kissed him goodbye, Bianchini knew he needed a world of help. But instead of seeking assistance from a counselor or support group, he sought comfort where he’d always found it…on his bicycle. As his world hit rock bottom, Bianchini hatched a crazy plan that just might make everything right. His life lacked purpose, passion, and connection with his fellow man. So Bianchini decided to go for a bicycle ride…around the world…on a tandem…solo…inviting everyone he met to join him for a spin. “A Bicycle Built for Two Billion” is the story of an audacious optimist who tried to change the world – while hoping the world would change him – one rider at a time.


McGraw Hill

  Gina Barnett has coached C-suite executives and leaders worldwide from Fortune 500 companies to start-ups, small businesses and non-profits. She has been speaker coach for TED TAlks for the past five years. In her new book, “Play the Part: Master Body Signals to Connect and Communicate for Business Success, Barnett is distinguished from other communication experts with her understanding of embodiment: how the body affects our thoughts and emotions and, in turn, how we engage and are perceived.

On March 12, 1990, activists with disabilities pulled themselves up the 83 stone steps at the Capitol Building to demand equal rights. “The Capitol Crawl” symbolized the barriers confronting people with disabilities and helped propel the Americans with Disabilities Act into law. The bill passed on July 26, 1990.

For the 25th anniversary of the ADA, we’ll review the history and look to the future where problems remain: One in five Americans has a disability, and less than 20 percent of people with disabilities were employed in 2014, compared with 68 percent of those without disabilities. 31 percent of people with disabilities live below the poverty line.

Today, August 10th, marks the debut of many new programs on Utah Public Radio. Bringing more news, talk and culture to the station, we sit down with Utah Public Radio Station Manager Peg Arnold, to discuss the programming changes, and the exciting new content you can now find on UPR.

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Thursday on Access Utah we revisit a conversation from March of 2011 with singer-songwriter Janis Ian.  Her song “Society’s Child” about an interracial romance placed her right at the flash point of the racial tensions of the sixties.  She writes in her autobiography about at least one experience performing the song: “I was having a hit record. I was singing for people who wanted me dead.  I was fifteen years old.”  Janis Ian’s songs including “At Seventeen” still resonate with audiences.  We’ll talk with her about her autobiography, Society’s Child, her love of science fiction, and her current work.  Janis Ian on Thursday's Access Utah. 

I’ve had conversations with scientists that go like this: I say: “A significant percentage of Americans/Utahns don’t believe in human-caused climate change.” They say: “But they should, the science is overwhelming.” “But they don’t, and if effective political action is going to happen, they’ll need to be convinced.” “Well they should.” “But they don’t.” “But they should.” And etc. While it’s not scientists’ primary job to convince non-believers, I sense frustration on the part of those who see climate change as a significant problem. On Wednesday’s AU we talk with two marketing expert about how to effectively sell climate change, or reframe the discussion. How should we talk about climate change and sustainability?

Tuesday's interview with James Anderson is an encore presentation.

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." 


Today's broadcast of AU is an Encore presentation which originally aired earlier this year.

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? 


“This summer Congress finds itself once again driving full-speed toward the ‘highway cliff,’ the moment when our transportation law expires and Washington suddenly can't meet its promises to help states build highways, fix their bridges, and keep the nation's cars and trucks moving.”

That’s Politico’s introduction to the latest issue of their new magazine “The Agenda.”

We’ll talk about the possible future of transportation with Politico contributor Boer Deng in the first half of the program. Her article is titled:  “When do we get hover cars?” We’ll talk about Mini-copters, Driverless pods, Vacuum tubes, and Supertrains.

In the second half our guest is Michael Grunwald, a senior staff writer for POLITICO Magazine and editor-at-large of The Agenda. We’ll talk about Milwaukee’s expensive new interchanges,    Roads v. Public Transit, New roads v. repairing old ones, The gas tax, Potential new ways to fund transportation (Pay as you go plans) and other topics.


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.

Should Spanking Children Be Forbidden in the U.S.? Renowned criminologist Christian Pfeiffer from University of Hannover, Germany recently presented the European experience as a of the USU Provost’s Series on Instructional Excellence, and he joined us for AU. We’ll revisit that conversation today.

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.


Warm2wardU publishing

On Tuesday’s AU we’ll look at the problem of homelessness with author Elaine Taylor, who writes in her new book "Karma Deception and a Pair of Red Ferraris" of how she came to find her self dedicated to helping the homeless. Previously Taylor wrote on her blog, “the best of my life is behind me. I’m entering the period of throat wattles and colonoscopies every five years … and uselessness. Irrelevance.”

A comment which her daughter replied, “Ya know, someone who feels as sorry for herself as you do ought to go out and do something for someone who’s got real problems.” That was the beginning of Elaine Taylor's work with Raphael House, a shelter for the homeless San Francisco families. We'll also speak with Lloyd Pendelton, former director of the Utah Homeless Task Force.



University of Utah Press

From their earliest days on the American frontier through their growth into a worldwide church, the spatially expansive Mormons made maps to help them create idealized communities, migrate to and colonize large parts of the American West, visualize the stories in their sacred texts, and spread their message internationally through a well-organized missionary system. This book identifies many Mormon mapmakers who played an important but heretofore unsung role in charting the course of Latter-day Saint history. For Mormons, maps had and continue to have both practical and spiritual significance. In addition to using maps to help build their new Zion and to explore the Intermountain West, Latter-day Saint mapmakers used them to depict locations and events described in the Book of Mormon. 

“Many scientists say it’s impossible to study thought and emotion in non-humans. Animals, they say, don’t communicate their inner turmoil through spoken word, which is why any attempt to understand their psyche is typically sneered at as ‘anthropomorphism’ (transferring your own experiences and emotions onto the animals you study) and deemed ‘unscientific,’” writes Becca Cudmore on Marine Biologist Carl Safina says that scientists who watch wild animals realize the absurdity of not addressing an animal’s inner life. In his new book “Beyond Words: What Animals Think and Feel” he takes us inside the lives and minds of animals, witnessing their profound capacity for perception, thought and emotion.


On Tuesday's Access Utah we're airing interviews conducted in Vernal, while the Utah Public Radio team visited the Utah StoryCorps Booth. Vernal, and much of the Uintah Basin, are a community very much tied to oil and gas development, so we talk about the issues the area faces as their economy depends on oil industry. We speak with Vernal City Council member JoAnn Cowan, Vernal City Manager Ken Bassett about the future of Vernal and the Uintah Basin. Then later in the program we hear from Danielle Anderson, from StoryCorps. 

In Lucy Sana's newest novel, "The Cherry Harvest," she outlines a memorable coming-of-age story which explores a hidden side of the home front during World War II, when German POWs were put to work in a Wisconsin farm community. In the novel, the war has taken a toll on the Christiansen family. With food rationed and money scarce, the protagonist Charlotte, struggles to keep her family well fed. When their upcoming cherry harvest is threatened, strong-willed Charlotte helps persuade local authorities to allow German war prisoners from a nearby camp to pick the fruit.

This broadcast of "Access Utah" is an encore presentation. Our interview with Paul Vanouse originally aired in April, 2015 on Utah Public Radio.

Artist 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, DNA Fingerprints, the Human Genome Project, and related topics.Vanouse is an artist working in Emerging Media forms.  His artwork addresses complex issues raised by varied new techno-sciences using these very techno-sciences as a medium.  His artworks have included data collection devices that examine the ramifications of polling and categorization, genetic experiments that undermine scientific constructions of race and identity, and temporary organizations that playfully critique institutionalization and corporatization.

This broadcast of "Access Utah" is an encore presentation. Our interview with Dr. Katharine Hayhoe originally aired in March, 2015 on Utah Public Radio.


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.



We waste 2.8 trillion pounds of food every year, worldwide. Meanwhile, 805 million people don’t have enough to eat. There is no one simple solution, but Dr. Eric Handler, Orange County Public Health Officer, is trying something new–Using Yellow Cabs deliver the food. Dr. HAndler proposes using cabs to connect the dots between gathering extra food, identifying those in need, getting it to them, making it easy for food service folks to participate. He’s the co-chair of the Waste Not OC Coalition (WNOC), which he hopes can serve as a model elsewhere. He was recently featured in National Geographic’s “The Plate,” where he discussed his work with using cabs to help the hungry. Later in the program we speak with Matt Whitaker, Director of the Cache Valley Food Pantry.

National Geographic

Today's broadcast of "Access Utah" was an encore presentation. Our interview with Dr. Gary Weitzman originally aired in March, 2015 on Utah Public Radio.

We love our dogs and cats, but their behavior can be baffling. (Maybe they’re thinking the same thing 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.

University of Utah Press

In 1859 Brigham Young sent two Mormon missionaries to live among the Hopi, "reduce their dialect to a written language," and then teach it to the Hopi so that they would be able to read the Book of Mormon in their own tongue. Young also instructed the men to teach the Hopi the Deseret alphabet, a phonemic system that he was promoting in place of the traditional Latin alphabet. While the Deseret alphabet faded out of use in just over twenty years, the manuscript penned by one of the missionaries has remained in existence. For decades it sat unidentified in the archives of the Church of Jesus Christ of the Latter-day Saints-a mystery document having no title, author, or date. Computational linguist Kenneth Beesley and Dirk Elzinga, an Associate Professor in the Department of Linguistics and English Language at Brigham Young University, have now traced the manuscript's origin to those missionaries of 1859 and decoded its Hopi-English vocabulary written in the short-lived Deseret alphabet. Their new book, "An 1860 English-Hopi Vocabulary Written in the Deseret Alphabet" (from University of Utah Press) is a fascinating mix of linguistics, Mormon history, and Native American studies. 

Serbian Embassy, US

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 relatively 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.