Blog #4: Grant Granted, Matthews Received

Warning: the following blog mentions suicide and other subjects pertaining to suicide.

Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-TALK (8255) or

New Grant and Face on Campus

Death by suicide has always been an issue in Wyoming, so the University of Wyoming took an initiative to get funding for better mental health programs and hired on Amanda Matthews, the new Campus Suicide Prevention Coordinator.

Matthews’s madness.
Campus Suicide Prevention Coordinator, Amanda Matthews is already making large strides in her position with upstream prevention, multiple presentations and working with various groups on campus.

At the end of November of last year, UW was among 19 colleges and universities in the country that was awarded the Garrett Lee Smith Campus Suicide Prevention grant after Lena Newlin, Assistant Director of the Wellness Center, wrote the grant and submitted it to the federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. UW’s Lifesavers Initiative, a comprehensive suicide prevention program, received nearly $102,000 per year for three years.

However, this isn’t the first time UW has received a grant regarding this subject. Newlin said this is UW’s third grant, with the first two being funded about 10 years ago. After the second grant, the university was no longer eligible to apply for that funding, but some requirements changed the past year with the eligibility. Due to their newfound qualification and still having a significant need to address suicide prevention, UW applied once again.  

The master mind of it all.
Assistant Director of the Wellness Center, Lena Newlin wrote the grant to give UW and the broader community a public health approach to address suicide, suicide prevention and mental health.

“This grant is really to promote upstream suicide prevention, host a plethora of different help seeking opportunities for students, creating programming around mental health awareness and ending stigma, and ensuring that all of our students and vulnerable populations have the resources they need,” Matthews said.

Beginning work in June, Matthews says her position is always growing and changing because of how new it is to campus, but with the grant coming up on its first year and only lasting for two more, it poses some questions and concerns for the program and Matthews’ position. Both Matthews and Newlin commented that it’s a lot of front loading and figuring out how to sustain programming and the new position and showing the need to keep the position.

The Suicide Epidemic in Wyoming

The need for suicide prevention is there and relevant on campus. A “traditional” college-aged student is under 25, and in Wyoming, the first leading cause of death is suicide for ages 15-24 according to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (ASFP). For the state as a whole, suicide is the seventh leading cause of death and three times as many people died by suicide in Wyoming in 2017 than in alcohol related motor vehicle accidents.

Being in and coming into a rural community, there’s perceptions and stigmatization of the “cowboy mentality” and not reaching out for help or other resources. A lot of Matthews’ marketing campaign has to do with ending the stigma and show that being “cowboy tough” means taking care of each other and reaching out. However, that’s not the only reason people in Wyoming, or the Mountain West choose to end their life through suicide.

 “There are several explanations [for someone choosing suicide],” psychology professor and suicide in the Mountain West researcher Carolyn Pepper said. “One is isolation, we don’t have that many people around, another is who is attracted to live in this part of the country, being a frontier area, people have always moved here who see themselves as self-sufficient, able to solve their own problems and they can pull themselves up by their bootstraps, so that doesn’t lend itself for asking for help.”

The university offers and offered a number or programs before Matthews position, including all of the Wellness Center programming and the Counseling Center, but many people aren’t even aware of these resources or what steps are best for them. This is where Matthews comes in.

Not the “traditional” counseling setting.
The Zen Den Relaxation Lounge provides students with a place to relax, listen to music, put their feet in foot massage machines and enjoy the sun.

Not only did UW create the Suicide Prevention Coordinator position to triangulate and streamline services while keeping initiatives going, Matthews also provides a safe space to go to. A new program available is that any student can make an appointment with Matthews to do a mental health screening, talk to her about the resources on campus, what their options are without going directly to the Counseling Center and asses what they want to do with her. It’s a conversational area and not a counseling situation.

Moving Forward

The goal and plan is to sustain what is happening during the grant and continuing to give the UW community more personalized resources. Matthews is already making steps in the right direction and dedicating her time to mental health and suicide prevention.

 On top of Matthews position being created, the Laramie community just hired a Community Suicide Prevention Coordinator and a Community Substance Abuse Prevention Coordinator, and Matthews has been working closely with those individuals. The athletics department is also working towards hiring a welfare coordinator.

Newlin said it best, “Ultimately we want to save lives, prevent suffering, connect people to resources and help people feel a greater sense of belonging.”


Blog #3: An Awkward Gal Taking Pictures

Bike light not Daylight (Donuts).
Sergeant Chad Bade (left) and Officer Melinda Chamberlain (right) talk among themselves during Bike to UW Day on Sep. 25 outside the Union while they registered bikes.

For this general news photo, I stumbled upon the Bike to UW Day event. Sergeant Chad Bade and Officer Melinda Chamberlain oversaw bike registration and handed out free bike lights to everyone who registered. They were super nice about me taking pictures and continued their conversation while I moved around them.

This photo uses good focus because even though the male officer is the larger subject in the picture, we’re still focused on the female officer. Rule of thirds is also seen in this picture because the eyes go from the female officer, to the male officer, to the banner behind that says, “Bike to UW Day!”

Strong 4th touchdown.
On a chilly September evening two players of the Laramie Maroon team tried to take down #22 of the Laramie White team but were unsuccessful as he ran it in for a touchdown.

I didn’t want to use a UW team for sports, so I went to a 4th grade football game instead. I found out about this game through my boyfriend because he’s a referee (his leg is not the leg pictured).

It was a little awkward shooting the event because I was sitting on the field in front of a bunch of parents that didn’t really understand why I was there. However, I had a lot of fun and was so excited my sport-action photo didn’t end up blurry.

I got lucky with framing because the traffic lights are almost perfectly framing the boys making the play. I was going to crop the ref out of the picture, but his action adds to the photo and gives the eye more to look at.

Chillin’ with no shoes on.
After his morning classes on Sep. 18, biology major Triston Schwab enjoys the sunshine outside Half Acre with no shoes, no worries and a lot of Vitamin D.

This feature photo captures biology major Triston Schwab sitting in the grass while the weather is still nice. He had all of his stuff sprawled out around him and he even took his shoes off to enjoy the moment a little more. There was picture that displayed just how scattered his things were, but I chose this one because it shows off his face more.

Even though I probably disturbed his peace and quiet, he was nice about me taking photos of him. He was super easy to take pictures of and the scene made it effortless to get a good picture. Texture is very prominent here with the grass being very detailed and the brick behind Schwab gives a good texture for the background.

“We’re not that good at climbing, though.”
Friends Peyton Valentine (pictured) and Grace McCartney (not pictured) utilized Half Acre’s rock climbing wall late one evening instead of using a lame bench press to workout.

I was just working out at Half Acre when I decided to take some pictures of people climbing. Peyton Valentine and Grace McCartney were more than willing to let me shoot them even though they said they weren’t “very good.”

It was difficult to get a good shot of them because they were moving so fast that something always turned out blurry. In this photo, Valentine’s hair is blurry, but I liked it here because it shows the movement in an elegant way. The creative device of color is also evident in this picture with the different steps on the wall being very bright against the darker brown “cliff” they’re attached to.

Checking the field.
Loren Engel, Marcus Nolan and Preston Wardell make a game plan while they wait for the football teams to finish warming up.

At the same 4th grade football game, I captured this sports-feature photo of the referees talking about what position they would ref at before the game started. This was my first time meeting these guys and going to a game because my boyfriend just stared reffing a couple weeks ago. They liked that they didn’t have to be posed and could just continue their duties.

Color is great in this photograph with the blue sky covering most of the background. Pattern is also seen here with their striped referee shirts and the sun peaking in from the right makes the photo have more to offer.

While I’m very proud of the photos I got, I wish I was braver to do more photo shoots to get more variety and experience shooting people. I was surprised about how shy I was and how difficult it is to make other people uncomfortable. Regardless, I loved the photographs I took.

Blog #2: Living out my Childhood Dream

I had multiple lenses in my sticky kid hands since I can remember. I begged my mom to buy me a disposable camera every time we went to a gas station, I did mini-photo shoots with my parents’ digital camera in the backyard and when my best friend and I got Nintendo DSI’s, we filled the camera storage the first day we got them.

I always wanted to take pictures when I was younger and being a photographer was what I wanted to be when I grew up. As I got older, that childhood hobby of mine dwindled as I found other hobbies and focused on writing. However, I got to exercise an old love and take pictures for my Multimedia Production class.

Here are my best five photos from the week and the creative devices they represent:

When backyard parties meet photography.
Who knew one of my favorite photos would be of the ground outside my apartment? I got lucky the horseshoe and bottle cap were the same shade of blue to make an interesting photo.

Color is the most prominent creative device we see in the first photograph. The first aspect the eyes notice are the bright royal blue of the horse shoe and bottle cap. The grays of the concrete and shovel compliment the blue hues nicely to make this photo a very two-colored picture, that’s very pleasing to look at.

There’s also some interesting focus going on here. The horse shoe is the object most focused on in the photograph, but we aren’t losing the bottle cap completely. The shovel is the object most out of focus and the texture of the cement and gravel is emphasized as well to give viewers many aspects to look at after losing focus on the blue objects.

I spilled the soil, not the tea.
The University of Wyoming Conservatory has the cutest, brightest and most quaint pots and decorative pieces all around to make for some gorgeous shots. This simple little tea cup made for a great shot among the giant plants it was surrounded by.

The main creative device for photograph two is focus. An iPhone camera doesn’t particularly blur the background of a photo very dramatically, but we still get the effect of the cacti being blurred behind our main focus of the frame, the tea cup.

We also get a little color in this picture with the different shades of green in the background and the maroon leaf sticking out from the white tea cup.

A rather disturbed line contributing to UW students’ terrible parking.
While I was waiting for a bus to roll into the East Parking lot, I had my camera open looking for an opportunity to shoot a picture I liked. I looked down at this bright white line flashed on my screen and snapped the picture.

There are two very dominant creative devices that make up my third photograph. However, the superior one is symmetry. I wanted to take this picture in the first place because of the white parking line sitting right in the middle of my mobile device. The line isn’t solid or the same all the way through, nor is the cement on each side of the line, but it’s a pleasing symmetry photograph that looks very similar if you were to fold it in half.

There’s a lot of texture in this picture as well. After admiring the symmetry on my phone, my eyes were drawn to the texture of the concrete surrounding the line and the ruggedness of the chipped line as well. It’s so interesting there’s more breakage and less “smooth” cement on the right side of the line than the left, especially in the upper right corner.

A thirsty thirds photograph.
This water fountain was the first thing that caught my eye in the UW Conservatory. I went back to this shot throughout my time there because I was destined to get a gorgeous shot I liked out of this small but beautiful fountain.

Rule of thirds is prominent is this picture. The wooden fountain is one, the rocky water bottom is another and the background of leaves is the last. You almost follow the water from the spout to the water and then you move your eyes to the background of the main feature, being the spout.

There’s a lot of movement in this photograph because of the water flowing out of the spout to the water ripples in the pool below. Each third also has its own unique texture. We see a light-colored wood, very dark and very light rocks and green leaves and stems in the background. This is a very earthy toned and earthy photo.

I’m no plant expert, but this is a pretty one.
I’m not sure if this is a type of cactus or not, but this plant made for a very pretty, balanced picture.

Texture is the main creative device of this photo. When I see this picture, I want to go through the screen and touch the plant shown. The white fuzz looks soft while the red spikes don’t look sharp, making me curious as to what they feel like. I really do wish I would’ve squished one of those stocks.

There’s also a little bit of symmetry going on here. It’s not perfectly aligned, but the two main stocks in the middle of the picture appear to have smaller stocks poking out of them with another stock being shared between the both of them.

Taking pictures this past week was probably the highlight of my week. I was disappointed with the majority of my photographs, but the five I chose and a few others were actually good for a person that has a rather small creative bone. If I did this assignment again, I would spend more time with the small objects and plants in the conservatory and would’ve dove deeper into pictures I was taking outside of it. I was a little shy taking pictures out in public, so I do wish I would’ve been a little more bold with my angles. I’m a harsh critic of my work and seeing something relatively creative that I did myself that I actually liked, was fun.

Blog #1: A Space to Get Uncomfortable

A comfort zone is a comfort zone for a reason and if you don’t think you have one, you definitely do. And if you voluntarily are more willing to break those boundaries, you are a weirdo.

I am a person who does NOT like to get out of my comfort zone. I like having the same routine, being around people I’m stable with, doing tasks I’ve done before/are familiar with and, just, I like things that are the same. However, I know that’s not what helps me grow.

Since my sophomore year of high school, the only “journalism” I’ve dove really deep into was writing/reporting. I dabbled here and there with layout on Publisher and took photographs on rare occasions, but other than that, it’s been strictly writing. That’s what I’m comfortable with, that’s what editors and employers have assigned me to, so I’ve just stuck with that. 

I live my life like an office, so please schedule with me weeks in advance, so I can pencil you in.

My Multimedia Production class is not going to be just writing. I anticipate we are going to cover ALL “journalism” realms and test my boundaries. I suspect photography is going to be huge. No one wants to read a story without pictures, so we are going to have to pick the right picture or take our own for assignments and our blog posts.

I also know I’m going to have to think more creatively when it comes to social media posts, blog design, video and, of course, photography. I’m used to being very technical and to the point, so I’m glad this class is going to make me uncomfortable and push me to be more creative while learning these skills I need as a journalist.

In the long run, getting out of comfort zone in this class is going to help me when finding a career in the future because I will be able to say I have at least a little experience in just about every category journalism has to offer.

As much as I hate doing it, I truly believe personal barriers are meant to be broken in order to really grow. This class is going to be frustrating at times, but that’s a normal human function. These anecdotes need to be said and people need to be inspired through successes and failures and I’m sure I’ll have enough of both during my Multimedia Production class.

I Worked for the USGA Without Knowing Golf (and it was okay)

This summer I got the privilege of working as a United States Golf Association (USGA) P.J. Boatwright intern at the Nebraska Golf Association despite having little golf knowledge.

The whole experience began with me taking a trip to the USGA Headquarters in New Jersey at the end of May. Here, all the Boatwright interns went through an “orientation” where each section of the USGA came and spoke along with a few other speakers that weren’t part of the USGA. We also got to have a putting tournament out on the USGA putting green and explore the Testing Center, but for the most part, we were in a room learning about an internship that I quickly found out I wasn’t ready for.

A fun little snap of the Research and Test Center I took on my tip-toes.

I knew not to be a maniac on the golf course, what a par 3 meant, a few golf clubs and their uses and how to drive a golf cart, but the last time I actually played golf at a golf course was when I was 10 during junior golf. And we only played 2 holes because who wants to count 20+ strokes each hole?

Nonetheless, in New Jersey I was asked the question I was dreading: “Do you play golf?” Which was answered honestly and followed by, “Then why are you here?”

I was already anxious enough coming into these three days and being called out by dudes wearing $500 watches their parents bought them didn’t exactly help. But I grinded on because I had A LOT of golf to learn before I went to Omaha for the summer.  

My anxiety started to lessen when I found out I wasn’t the only person who knew almost nothing about golf. There were people there that hadn’t even picked up a golf club in their life. They were on square one and probably more confused during the lectures than I was.

That’s when I got to thinking: who cares if I know close to nothing about golf? I wouldn’t have been hired if my employers didn’t think I could do the job. They liked what I said during my interview, saw my past work and thought my resume was good enough to work for them. Just because I wasn’t an expert about the rules of golf didn’t mean I was any less qualified.

Just chillin’ in Arnie’s Place with the U.S. Open Championship Trophy.

It was normal for me to be nervous about my first real internship. It was normal for me to think my bosses were going to throw me into a task I didn’t know how to do even though that wasn’t going to happen. It was normal for me to doubt myself. It was normal to be scared.

I didn’t know at the time but going to the East Coast led me to understand it’s okay to start off a job with “no knowledge,” because you have skills and attributes that made your employer hire you. If the person that hired me didn’t see my potential, I would have been spending my summer at home.

When I finally made it to Omaha for the summer, the other interns at the Nebraska Golf Association weren’t golf experts themselves and our bosses didn’t expect us to be. An internship is an opportunity to learn and grow. If I knew everything I needed to know, I would’ve been sitting at a full-timers desks. Everyone has to start somewhere and it took me a trip to New Jersey to begin to understand that.

Create your website at
Get started