Drawing upon the Power of Stories to Connect Utah

By Reneé Leta

This month, the Utah Division of Multicultural Affairs launched Magnify Utah, a website and resource inviting Utahns to find more unity and connection. The aim is to spotlight stories that shape our state’s present and future. We asked Claudia Loayza, the division’s planning policy and engagement coordinator, to share more about Magnify Utah invites people to “be a part of our statewide story.”

How can reading individual stories enable Utahns to connect with others?

Research shows that as you hear or read a story, your brain waves actually start to synchronize with those of the storyteller. A group at Princeton University found that when two people engage in a story, one person telling a story and the other listening, their brain patterns start to mirror each other. While the stories found in Magnify Utah are online and may not allow for real-time storytelling, it is founded on this same principle. When we learn more about each other and what our journeys have to offer, we start to find common ground and alignment that can in turn help us shape a more unified and thriving connection to others. Storytelling is a way that people can relate to each other, it is a way for us to cope in hard times, and it is how we remember that there is much more that brings us together than what drives us apart. 

Magnify Utah is organized in three different sections: “My Family Diary Stories,” “Homegrown Stories,” and “Chosen Home Stories.” Why is each group important to shaping Utah?

With our Magnify Utahns pages, we hope to expand the understanding behind people of various backgrounds, callings, and experiences through three different profile segments. The Utahns highlighted are powerful story ambassadors who remind us that our experience is enriched by our ability to connect on an individual level. 

We created these three individual groups because they cover a wide range of journeys. They were inspired by conversations with stakeholders who emphasized the importance of telling a more complete Utah story. For example, we learned from friends and partners in local military branches that families stationed here needed a gateway, a hub, to be able to better understand all that Utah has to offer as a welcoming place. That’s so they could adjust to living in Utah, and embrace it. Several families came from other places across the country where finding connection, community and belonging came a bit easier. And this is what Magnify Utah is meant to do through featuring the most powerful thing about Utah — our people. 

The “My Family Diary” section showcases dedication and connection to families, as Utah’s demographics continually rank as the youngest state in the nation. We feature first-generation Utah families, including immigrant, new transplant, refugee, asylee — anyone who has a new Utahn experience from a family perspective. This aims to remind us that Utahns often seek opportunity and growth because of our goals and desires for our families. It’s a common story that’s rooted in legacy and Utah history, as well as our future. 

With “Homegrown” stories, we feature people who have been born or raised in Utah and are laying down roots to continue to invest here. Their connection to Utah can be several generations long or may start with them, but the commitment and calling for home runs deep in Utah and this is something we seek to celebrate. 

“Chosen Home” stories feature people who chose to come to Utah and continue to choose this state as the place to build out their future. We have [told the stories of] stationed service members and veterans, immigrants and New Americans, and transplants who were drawn by something special to Utah and decided to stay and contribute to it.

What do you hope Utahns will learn from the Magnify Communities section of the website?

Magnify Utah is the starting point, but we hope it’s not the end point. By streamlining statewide information and resources to support individuals both looking to establish connections to their community, as well as those starting a new chapter, we are magnifying the impact of our local organizations and groups that work hard to create a welcoming and thriving environment in our state. As we continue to grow and build upon the community pages we currently have and add even more stories, we hope that people understand that we are better together. We are eager to celebrate all who make Utah a thriving place. 

How can community organizations get involved in providing deeper connections to their constituents through Magnify Utah? 

In many ways the nation and world has its eyes on Utah, not only for its fast-paced growth and industry, but also for how we thrive on connections and seeing each other as neighbors. As we welcome new faces, families, and businesses every day, it is important to understand that our future is bright when opportunities and social capital abound for everyone. 

Our hope is that organizations, individuals and leaders can use this tool to celebrate Utah’s growing and expansive story, and appeal to talent and industries looking to make Utah their chosen home. While our differences are unique, they should not divide us, and we are eager to start this journey together.

Explore Magnify Utah stories here.