Andrea Smardon | KUER 90.1

Andrea Smardon

Ways to Connect

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Picture this: People are gathered around in the living room talking about politics. Or religion. You know, the big stuff that it seems like nobody agrees on. The people in the room don’t agree either, but they aren’t fighting. Believe it or not, this scene is taking place in living rooms across the country.

In this episode, Andrea explores how and why people are voluntarily getting out of their comfort zones by engaging people with different viewpoints. Joan Blades, a co-founder of Living Room Conversations, explains how to host one of these gatherings on your own. We’ll even give you a blueprint for how you can make yourself uncomfortable too.

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It’s become an all too familiar story: a conservative firebrand is invited to speak at a college campus known for embracing free speech and contrasting views, a place like UC-Berkeley or NYU. Then, the campus erupts in protests. It some cases, it ends up being more like a fight than an exchange of ideas. Sometimes the protests turn violent or events are canceled altogether. Enter Respect & Rebellion — a new project to help students and the rest of us figure out how to disagree better. They’re testing out their methods on college campuses … and organizers say it starts with relationships.

4: Shadow Work

Dec 4, 2018

Common beliefs are what hold many groups together. So it’s no surprise that differing viewpoints within a group often cause fear or threaten the status quo. Episode 4 focuses on Maxine Hanks, a Mormon feminist who was excommunicated from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in 1993. Years later, she returned to the church that rejected her. Andrea talks with Maxine about what she’s learned about facing our differences, correcting injustices and healing wounds.

3. Impossibly United

Nov 27, 2018
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There’s a place where we all start to figure out which tribes we belong to. The decisions we make there feel like life or death. And, in a way, it is — those choices really will affect us for years to come, as we continue to decide where we belong and where we don’t. This place is, of course … high school. In this episode, we ask: “Can you unite an entire high school?” Seems impossible, right? But that didn’t stop one group of students.

Andrea talks to teacher Bonnie O’Brien and students from East High School in Salt Lake City about cliques, divisions, unequal opportunities and the solutions they come up with.

Next Door Strangers Episode 2.
Renee Bright / KUER

We’ve covered how tribalism is wreaking havoc in our lives, but tribes are also a source of strength. They’re how humans have organized themselves to survive for thousands of years. We explore the idea that maybe better, stronger tribes are what we really need to repair the social fabric.

This story gets personal for Andrea as she grapples with feeling tribeless as a transplant in Salt Lake City. She talks with a spiritual leader from the Northern Utes, Lacee Harris, about being part of a Native tribe and what it does for him. And we hear from military vet Jason Comstock about war, unity and how he learned to create the tribe he needed with a group called Team Red, White & Blue.

Renee Bright / KUER

People on the left and right may disagree on many things, but they generally agree that tribalism is bad for our country. This episode looks at how we are affected by tribalism in our modern lives and whether there is any hope of getting beyond it.

Andrea talks with LaVonne Maloney, a friend she first met while working as a reporter at KUER. Lavonne hasn’t talked to her sister in nearly two years following an argument about politics. Also, a recent late-night tweet from Utah Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox goes viral when hecalls out political tribalism in the searing debate over family separation at the US-Mexico border. Later, anthropologist Elizabeth Crouch Zelman explains that tribalism is part of all of us, but also threatens our survival.

0: Coming Soon

Nov 5, 2018
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Renee Bright / KUER

Maybe you’ve heard that we are a divided country. Maybe you experience it in your life. Over the course of six episodes, Next Door Strangers is going to peer into people’s lives, getting to the bottom of what divides us and more important, finding ways to connect. We don’t know what we’ll find, but we hope you will join us. Subscribe wherever you get your podcasts.

Courtesy photo

A comedy troupe is coming to Salt Lake City, and all four members have Asperger’s syndrome, a form of autism.

An Ogden man serving a life sentence on drug-related charges was granted clemency Wednesday by President Obama. The former judge who sentenced him is pleased with the President’s decision, but he says more needs to be done to reform the criminal justice system.

Courtesy photo: University of Utah.

Many of the US athletes arriving in Rio are not only participating in the Olympic games, they’re taking part in a research study about the Zika virus. A professor at the University of Utah is heading up that effort.

A state lawmaker is working on new legislation to curb pain pill addiction in Utah. This one starts at the doctor’s office.

Courtesy Draper Police Department

The city of Draper has received a $10,000 grant to provide youth suicide prevention programs to the community.

Andrea Smardon / KUER

Latinos in Action is holding its first annual leadership boot camp this week at Mill Creek Canyon. It’s aimed at preparing Latino youth to be leaders in their communities.

Utah health officials are trying to raise awareness about the risks of Zika for pregnant women and babies in utero. Of the eight known cases in the state, four were pregnant at the time of infection.

Andrea Smardon / KUER

Utah law enforcement officials held a meeting with faith leaders this week to talk about protecting houses of worship from security threats.

This week, the Utah Attorney General’s Office announced the sentencing of a man who attempted to recruit a 15-year-old girl to work in a commercial sex operation. This comes in the wake of a series of investigations and arrests into human trafficking and Internet crimes against children.

Andrea Smardon / KUER

Local health officials confirmed Monday a new case of Zika in Utah, but they don’t know how the infection occurred.

Andrea Smardon / KUER

The first Nitro World Games are taking place in Salt Lake City at Rice-Eccles Stadium.

Andrea Smardon / KUER

A new organization launched in Utah Thursday aimed at getting more millennials to the voting booth.

Andrea Smardon / KUER

A committee of Utah lawmakers considered end of life options on Wednesday. Democratic Representative Rebecca Chavez-Houck submitted draft legislation that would allow terminally ill Utahns to end their lives with medical assistance.

Republican delegates will vote next week at their national convention on whether or not to declare pornography a public health crisis. The proposed amendment to the party platform sounds very similar to a resolution passed in Utah this year.

Andrea Smardon / KUER

A federal appeals court is ordering Utah to continue sending money to the state branch of Planned Parenthood.

Andrea Smardon / KUER

Salt Lake City’s police chief called for peace Friday after five police officers were shot and killed in Dallas. Meanwhile, a protest is scheduled to proceed as planned on Saturday at police headquarters.

Andrea Smardon / KUER

Utah's amateur radio community is holding the 2016 Great Salt Lake Hamfest this weekend. A Hamfest has not been held in this area for several decades. Smart

Members of Congress met in conference Wednesday to hash out an agreement on comprehensive legislation to address the opioid epidemic. While the parties disagree about funding, Utah advocates say the need for help is urgent.

Courtesy Utah Office of Medical Examiner

Utah’s chief medical examiner Dr. Todd Grey retired on July 1st. After 30 years in the office, he’s performed nearly 9000 autopsies. In that time, Dr. Grey says the most significant issue that he’s seen is the epidemic of drug-related overdose deaths. He spoke with us in studio.

Andrea Smardon / KUER

On Wednesday, more than 130 immigrants became U-S citizens at a naturalization ceremony at the Utah State Capitol. Some of them told KUER that it changes the way they feel about the July 4th holiday.

Andrea Smardon / KUER

The National Veterans Wheelchair Games continued Thursday in Salt Lake City with multiple events including air rifles, basketball, and wheelchair obstacle courses. But it was also Kids Day – a chance for veterans to mentor children with disabilities in competitive sports.

Brian Grimmett / KUER

A Utah lawmaker is once again proposing legislation that would give terminally ill people the “right to die” with a prescription from their doctor.

Courtesy Orbital ATK

Orbital ATK conducted a final ground test for NASA's Space Launch System boosters this morning at its Promontory, Utah facility. NASA is calling it a key milestone in the agency’s journey to Mars.