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About Dr. Julie Laut



Dr. Julie Laut has been a progressive community activist for nearly 30 years, guided at all times by a passion for learning and a desire to build strong, healthy communities.


After earning an undergrad degree at the University of Colorado,  Julie taught high school in Portland, OR, including work in a credit-recovery program for pregnant and parenting teens and as an advocate for at-risk students. Outside of school, Julie worked with Portland Area Rethinking Schools and was an active member of the teacher's union. Her work organizing new educators at the local level led her to co-found an annual state-wide Oregon Education Association (OEA) conference, for which she was awarded the OEA 1999 Presidential Citation for New Leadership.


After her first child was born in 2001, Julie worked in breastfeeding advocacy, helping secure a three-year grant from the U.S. Office of Women’s Health to expand lactation services to NICUs and low-income parents in the Portland area.


Julie entered graduate school after the birth of her second child, earning an MA in gender and women's history from Miami University in Ohio, and a PhD in transnational feminist history at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Her subsequent work with the University of Illinois Press primarily focused on expanding outreach and development programs.


Julie has been deeply involved in community organizing since moving to Urbana-Champaign. She organized with fellow grad students with children during the first GEO strike in 2009. During her time on the Unitarian Universalist Church of Urbana-Champaign Board of Trustees, culminating in a year as Board Chair, she helped raise over $70,000 to install solar panels, fostered increased building accessibility, and lead the congregation to commit to work on racial justice. Her work with UUCUC continues in the areas of lay ministry and reproductive justice. During a short tenure on the Urbana City Council in 2020, Julie led the City to embrace anti-racist work through membership in the Government Alliance on Race and Equity (GARE) and advocated for gender-neutral language in all ordinances and communications.


The pandemic led Julie to focus on hyper-local activism. In response to alarming levels of food insecurity, she established a Little Free Pantry at her home, which she handed over to UUCUC in the fall of 2022. Julie also launched CU Lockdown Trivia in March 2020, which raised over $18,000 for non-profit organizations in just 10 months. Her work in these areas was recognized by the UIUC International Students & Scholars Services with the 2020 Outstanding Community Partner award. Julie also spearheaded the creation of "Open Hearts: A COVID Memorial," a public memorial to all those lost to COVID in Champaign County. The memorial was dedicated on January 21, 2021, and is now maintained by the CU Public Health District.

Motivated by the issues facing individuals and communities in the post-Dobbs landscape, Julie has turned her activist energies to Reproductive Justice. In addition to fundraising for organizations such as the Chicago Abortion Fund and Elevated Access, Julie is curating an annual Urbana-Champaign Reproductive Justice Week. The inaugural week of events will take place in April 2023. Inspired by SisterSong's definition of reproductive justice as "the human right to maintain personal bodily autonomy, have children, not have children, and parent the children we have in safe and sustainable communities," Repro Justice Week's mission is to lift up and solidify the Urbana-Champaign area's commitment to achieving reproductive justice in all its forms for our community. Organizing this week of events brings Julie's activist interests and life experiences full circle.

Julie lives in Urbana, Illinois, with her husband, Marc and two sweet puppos in a crumbly brick home that just turned 150 years old. With both children away at college, Julie has quickly turned her empty nest into a forest of fussed-over house plants. Julie loves to travel (especially if waterfalls are involved), reads voraciously, builds jigsaw puzzles every winter, and can't resist zombie movies or anything from the BBC. Above all, she relishes every opportunity to gather with friends to share laughter, conversation, and good food, which she firmly believes are the foundations of a life well lived!

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