Irene Maya Ota earned her BA in Cultural Anthropology, MPA, and is a graduate student in the Ph.D. program in Education, Culture, and Society — all at the University of Utah. She is currently working in the College of Social Work as a Development Officer and Diversity Coordinator/Instructor. She has taught diversity classes for over ten years, and her passions and interests are focused on identity, social justice issues, advocacy and change. Currently she teaches the required diversity class for the Bachelor's of Social Work (BSW) program.
Using the knowledge she has gained from her instructors, mentors, cohorts, and friends, she strives to instill a sense of critical consciousness and awareness in students that will then move them to advocacy, personal responsibility and accountability. This critical consciousness and awareness includes looking at and unpacking one's own biases and ideologies. She realizes that cultural competency is not a destination; it is a continuous and difficult journey that requires constant diligence. The challenge is to keep on studying, researching, and questioning.
As the Diversity Coordinator for the College of Social Work, Irene is the coordinator and advisor to a social justice student group, Voices of Diversity (VOD). VOD has been instrumental in facilitating a social justice series which has provided presentations and panel discussions on a myriad of social justice issues. Irene also facilitates many diversity training seminars and workshops for various organizations in the community, such as the Y.W.C.A, Utah AIDS Foundation, Big Brother and Sister, Unitarian Church, etc. She is a certified trainer in Antidiscrimination Response Training (A.R.T.), and was privileged to be trained and certified by its creator, Dr. Ishu Ishiyama from the University of British Columbia.
Irene is a “lifer” at the University of Utah. She has worked here for 31 years. She received the Equity and Diversity Award in 2008 and Outstanding Staff Award for 2009-2010 from the BSW students. She enjoys working on University committees, such as Women's Week and MLK. “I can't think of a better place to be. I have been able to pursue my educational goals, enjoy a stimulating atmosphere, and be part of a place that strives to educate others, improving lives and society.”