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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 social studies in Portland, Oregon, coached track and volleyball, worked in a credit-recovery program for pregnant and parenting teens, and was an advocate for at-risk students. Outside of the school, Julie worked with Portland Area Rethinking Schools and was an active member of the Portland Association of Teachers. Her union 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 with the Portland chapter of Nursing Mothers Counsel. During her term as president, the organization secured 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 academic passions were and continue to be focused on feminist activists within social justice movements. Her work with the University of Illinois Press after completing the PhD focused on expanding outreach and development programs across all three U of I campuses.


Julie has been deeply involved in community activism since moving to Urbana-Champaign in 2008. She organized alongside fellow grad students with children during the 2009 GEO strike. 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. She handed the pantry over to UUCUC in the fall of 2022. Julie also launched CU Lockdown Trivia (CULT) in March 2020, which has raised over $50,000 for non-profit organizations to date. 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, fundraising locally for organizations such as the Chicago Abortion Fund and Elevated Access. Julie founded Urbana-Champaign Reproductive Justice (UCRJ) in January 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," UCRJ's mission is to educate our community about the reproductive justice framework, elevate work being done locally, and provide ways each of us can act to ensure reproductive justice for all. Organizing UCRJ brings the whole of Julie's life experiences and activist interests full circle.

Julie lives in Urbana, Illinois, with her husband, Marc, and three dogs in an old brick home built in 1871. With both kids out of the house, Julie has turned her empty nest into a forest of fussed-over house plants. She loves to travel, reads voraciously, and can't resist zombie movies or anything from the BBC. Above all, she relishes every opportunity to gather with friends for laughter, conversation, and good food, which she firmly believes are the foundations of a life well lived.

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