November/December 2017

Welcome to our latest edition of Masterly Musings!

In this issue, we congratulate our first recipient of the MAIS Top Scholar Award and learn about her summer research adventure. We also will share publicly-engaged scholarship by MAIS alumi and faculty who have been making news in the local media. Finally, as an extension of our first Coffee with the Director held in December, we discuss venues for MAIS students to present their research and avenues to find funding.

Student Spotlight: MAIS Top Scholar Award

Congratulations are in order for our first MAIS Top Scholar, Jordan Woolston!  Jordan completed her Bachelor of Arts in History at UW Tacoma (Class of 2015) and is currently a student pursuing the Nonprofit Option within the MAIS program.  She is also a committee member of The Living Breath of wǝɫǝbʔaltxʷ: Indigenous Foods and Ecological Knowledge Symposium and is planning to graduate this spring.  We are thrilled to honor her accomplishments through this new MAIS scholarship that is awarded through the UW Graduate Merit Scholarship Fund.  Read more about Jordan’s educational journey below:

Jordan holding her dog

Jordan Woolston – MAIS 2017 Top Scholar

First, it is an honor to receive the MAIS Top Scholar Award; thank you so much to my peers, advisors, and professors who have made the last five years at UWT so enjoyable and enriching.

As a first-generation, non-traditional student, I did not know what to expect when I came to UWT as an undergraduate, but the supportive and inclusive environment on this campus made all the difference in my studies. After receiving my B.A. from UWT in 2015, I took a year off to work and volunteer in the nonprofit sector in and around Tacoma. The experience I gained from working in the community taught me many things, most importantly, how diverse the concept of “community” can be. I desired to do more for each of my respective communities but was lacking the tools necessary to make any significant impact. That realization is what prompted me to continue my education at UWT within the MAIS/Nonprofit Studies Program.


I am so grateful for UWT’s dedication to interdisciplinary learning; it has pushed me to do more, to try harder, and to step outside of my comfort zone. With the support of my professors, advisors, and family, I took part in a study abroad to Canada this past summer. The program, sponsored by UW Seattle, followed the annual Tribal Canoe Journey from Washington all the way to Campbell River, British Columbia. We traveled over 1000 miles alongside the Journey’s participants in a moving village of tents and canoes. We took part in daily cultural protocols, learned about regional ethnobotany, historical trauma, and the varied ways that cultural revitalization is taking place throughout the Pacific Northwest. I returned home with a deeper understanding of leadership, compassion, and community; lessons I continue to apply in my everyday life and in my research.

Currently, I am exploring the unique relationship between funders and organizations that advocate for culture-based programs in and around Washington State. I hope to provide a better understanding of how impactful culture-based philanthropy can be through qualitative measures such as interviews and oral histories. My research would be impossible without the help and support of my professors, advisors, peers, family, and UW community. Thank you so much for the opportunity to learn and grow alongside you!

Making News through Publicly-Engaged Scholarship

MAIS alum William Towey (Class of 2017)  was featured on the front page of the Tacoma News Tribune in early November. The article, “People are being priced out of housing on the Hilltop. Will light rail make it worse?”  includes observations from William’s MAIS thesis, which was titled The Battle of Gentrification and Centrification: The Role of Nonprofits Way to go, William!

William Towey

After participating in the “Write to Change the World” workshop through the OpEd Project,  Dr. Riki Thompson, Graduate Program Director and faculty member in MAIS, published an op-ed article in the Seattle Times entitled “College Campuses are Vital for Critical Conversations.”  As a result, Riki was invited to discuss the issue with John Carlson on KVI Talk Radio/570 AM. You can listen to the interview 30 minutes into the Nov 22–7am podcast.

Riki Thompson sitting in front of book shelves

Riki Thompson

Venues for Presenting Graduate Research

Scholarship of Teaching and Learning (SoTL)

MAIS students are invited to present their work at the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning (SoTL), which will take place at the 2018 Teaching & Learning Symposium on Tuesday, April 17, 2018 (2:00 – 4:30 p.m.) in the HUB Ballroom, UW Seattle.

The Symposium is designed for interactive presentations and discussion with participants on innovative strategies in teaching, whether it is work done in the past, in the process of implementing, or have envisioned for the future. Presentations are in poster format, but handouts or other media that will help demonstrate one’s work to the tri-campus community are welcome.

For complete information and to submit an application, visit the Call for Proposals.

• Monday, February 5, 2018: Deadline for proposal submissions. No late submissions after 5:00 p.m.
• Monday, February 26, 2018: Notification of the outcome of the review process.
• Monday, March 5, 2018: Deadline for applicants to confirm their participation.
• Tuesday, April 17: Symposium (presenters arrive 1:35-1:45 p.m.; doors open to public 2:00 p.m.).

By participating in the Symposium, students showcase their contribution to teaching innovation and excellence, broaden their network of colleagues actively engaged in instructional development and pedagogy, and foster collaboration among instructors at all three campuses of the University of Washington.

We hope MAIS student will submit a proposal and participate in the symposium.

West Coast Liberal Studies Symposium

MAIS and UWT hosted the last West Coast Liberal Studies Symposium (WCLSS) in June. Symposium will be moving to California next, with Stanford University hosting the graduate studies conference on June 22-24, 2018. MAIS and UWT will be creating opportunities for students to develop proposals and presentations for the symposium, and will provide funding for a number of students to attend the conference and present their research.

Watch for the call for papers in the coming months!

Western Tributaries

Western Tributaries is an annual refereed journal intended to showcase graduate student research, writing, and creative work presented at the annual West Coast Liberal Studies Symposium (WCLSS). This open access, refereed journal, started in 2014, is an outgrowth of the annual GLS Symposium started in 2007 by Stanford University and Dominican University as a way to bring together graduate students in Liberal Studies, along with alumni and staff for a weekend of social and intellectual interaction. Since its inception, the GLS Symposium has grown to include other west coast institutions as well as Maastricht University in the Netherlands. Western Tributaries is generously hosted online by Simon Fraser University.

Volume 4 of Western Tributaries represents the best of interdisciplinary scholarship from the June 2017 West Coast Liberal Studies Symposium. The essays included reflect the diversity of thinking encouraged in the different programs, and collectively make for an engaging read. We hope that Volume 4 reflects the excitement and engagement with diverse ideas found at the annual June Symposium.

Students who present research at the WCLSS are encouraged to submit their paper for publication in Western Tributaries after the conference proceedings.


Confluence: The Journal of Graduate Liberal Studies is a national, peer-reviewed, interdisciplinary journal published by the Association of Graduate Liberal Studies Programs (AGLSP) that reflects the best scholarly and creative work produced within and beyond AGLSP member institutions. Publishing scholarly essays and creative work such as short stories, poetry, creative nonfiction, and visual art, Confluence stands as a demonstration of and an inspiration to the kind of interdisciplinary engagement that is constitutive of a liberal education, while emphasizing the fundamental relations that transcend the boundaries of discipline and form that must be engaged and explored.

Submissions are welcome year-round, and will be reviewed promptly after receipt. Authors will generally be notified of the verdict on their work within four to six weeks, with publication often soon thereafter. For complete submission instructions, please visit the Instructions for Authors page.

In addition to publishing graduate student research, Confluence also recognizes student excellence through student writing awards for creative writing and interdisciplinary writing. Check out the list of previous award winners and their work.

We encourage MAIS students to consider submitting their work to Confluence.

Avenues for Funding

In response to requests for more information about funding, we have begun to collect and post materials, including a few opportunities listed below. See the MAIS Graduate Student Resources web page to stay apprised of new funding opportunities.

Carol Van Natta Scholarship

MAIS allocates a pool of money annually to support graduate student scholarship.  Funds may be used to support expenses related to student research, travel, or related activities (including tuition costs, equipment, software, hardware, and other supplies). Application deadline is February 15, 2018. Apply here


The UW Graduate School provides funding for graduate student conference participation to be used for transportation, and will cover up to $300 for domestic travel, and up to $500 internationally. Students can apply for this once every other year, and priority is given to students who have never received the award.  Funding is awarded on a first come, first serve basis. Apply here.

Conference and Training Fund (CTF)

UWT provides funding for any UWT student that has been accepted to a conference. Funding is available yearly and is awarded on a first come, first serve basis. Apply here and apply early!

As 2017 comes to an end

Finally, on behalf of the School of Interdisciplinary Arts and Sciences, and particularly the MAIS program, Riki and Karin would like to extend their wishes for the happiest of holiday seasons!  Have a fabulous holiday break and we look forward to seeing you next year!

September/October 2017

Welcome Back!

Welcome to our first edition of Masterly Musings for the 2017-2018 academic year. We hope you had a fabulous summer!

In this issue, to introduce you to some new faces, we feature our Graduate Program Director, Dr. Riki Thompson, along with the entering class for Autumn 2017. You will also find news from current MAIS students who traveled to the United Kingdom in July to present their research. Finally, our MAIS alum give back to the program by presenting in our IAS Seminars, and Margaret Lundberg discusses her next exciting new journey.  Please read further to find out what’s been transpiring over the summer in the MAIS!

The New Graduate Program Director of MAIS

Please join us in welcoming Dr. Riki Thompson to her returning role as Director of the MAIS. Dr. Thompson returns after serving in various leadership roles in SIAS, including Vice-Chair of Culture, Arts, & Communication Division, and Associate Dean of Curriculum & Academic Initiatives. One of the big projects on Dr. Thompson’s agenda this year is an assessment of the program. In addition to leading graduate studies, Dr. Thompson dedicates her energy to the program through teaching and mentoring students. Over the years she has taught TIAS 513: Graduate Research & Writing as well as TIAS 505: M.A. Capstone. This year you will find her teaching another one of our foundational courses: TIAS 501 Models and Critical Inquiry with the cohort of 2017. You can find out more about Dr. Thompson here.

Our New Students

Please join us in welcoming our new 2017 MAIS Cohort to the UW Tacoma family! They are a terrifically diverse group, and we are thrilled they have chosen the MAIS at UW Tacoma for continuing their graduate education!

Heather Asbell

Bachelor of Arts, Psychology – University of Washington Tacoma

Patricia Conway

Bachelor of Arts, History – University of Washington Tacoma

Tye Jones

Hello all, my name is Tye Jones. I am a UW Tacoma graduate student of Interdisciplinary Studies. I graduated with a Bachelors in IAS in 2016. During my undergrad I majored in Communications and Ethnic, Gender, and Labor studies. It was through these studies I felt it was important for me to continue my studies in social justice and solidarity. Therefore, choosing UW Tacoma’s MAIS program in Nonprofit Studies seems to be a great fit for my career direction.

My focus today is the sustainability of nonprofit organizations that promote artistic expression through art. I was told by one of UW Tacoma’s amazing educators, Dr. Claudia Gorbman, to be an activist in my career. She stressed the importance of being an active participant in the society we live in. I took her words and decided to get involved in Western Washington’s art world that serves our community’s youth through art and education. I’m looking to be in a place where I can be most effective. I look forward to the MAIS program at UW Tacoma because it will give me an chance to be successful in the nonprofit sector. And I thank the university for the opportunity to thrive in the future.

Shadyar Omrani

I earned my BA in English-Persian Translation and Interpretation from Islamic Azad University, Central Tehran, Faculty of Foreign Languages. I have also been a freelance journalist for about 2 decades. My area of research is on minority groups in the Middle East, including the Christian minorities (Assyrians and Chaldeans) as well as Kurds and Arabs in Iran. I am better known for my featured articles on the Middle East turmoils, specifically in Iraq, Syria, Yemen, and Turkey. I am also a social-political activist in causes against the systematic violation of LGBTQI rights, women rights and workers’ rights in Iran. As a graduate student in UWT, I pursue the chance to study and do more research on the Middle Eastern crisis, regarding Political Islam and the implementation of Sharia Law in Iran and how it has been defended by the Iranian authorities against the international criticism of the violation of human rights in Iran, and a closer look at how the political trends, as well as the foreign policies of the Middle Eastern countries, specifically Iran, Turkey and Saudi Arabia, can affect their domestic policies, regarding human rights and minority rights.

Rebecca Ring

I earned my Bachelor of Arts in political science, social justice, and creative writing from The Evergreen State College-Tacoma, 2017. At Evergreen, I connected with colleagues by participating in campus life as a communications liaison, writing tutor, and event coordinator.  I remain involved in the community as a Pierce County low-income and homeless housing advocate, and a Rainbow Center volunteer and LGBTQIA advocate. I stay balanced and inspired by climbing mountains and backpacking across the northwest region. My passion is to help others achieve their life goals by fostering access to outdoor activities.

Robert Tacker

I earned my Bachelor of Arts in Liberal Studies at the Evergreen State College Tacoma specializing in gender and sexuality studies. I am a paralegal and have a background in nonprofit management. I will be studying how administrative law systems unfairly impacts life chances for transgender people, and the history of laws about gender in the U.S. My ideal job description reads: qualitative researcher and storyteller.

Lilian Vasquez

Originally from California, Lilian graduated from California State University Northridge with a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science and Chicana/o Studies in 2011. In 2012, she moved to Washington to pursue a career opportunity. Lilian also earned a Paralegal Preferred Pro Certificate from Tacoma Community College in 2015 while working at Tacoma Municipal Court. She currently works for the Pierce County Prosecuters Office in the Family Support Division as a Legal Assistant. In her free time, Lilian enjoys traveling and spending time with her nephews. While in the MAIS program she hopes to focus on the Latino community and the issue of immigration.

Kris Workman

I graduated from UW Tacoma with my bachelors in Arts, Media, and Culture with my main influence being literature. I am entering the MAIS program and am interested in the various factors that contribute to the literature that is produced.

 Current Student News

MAIS Students Cross the Pond to Leicester, England

In July, Dr. Ellen Moore, along with MAIS students Katie Jennison, Erica Tucker and Rachael Williamson traveled to the United Kingdom to present their research papers at the 2017 Conference on Communication and Environment (COCE) in Leicester, England.  Ellen Moore, who accompanied our students to attend this conference, tells us “It was the highlight of my year to see our great MAIS graduate students present their research to an international audience!  Their work was well-informed, thoughtful and very well received.  I’m impressed with them and am proud of their work.

Left to right: Rachael Williamson, Ellen Moore, Erica Tucker and Katie Jennison

Second year student Katie Jennison (below) was greatly impacted by her experience in the U.K.:

The best part of England was, without a doubt, the people. Everywhere we went people wanted to know where we were from and what our research was about and they were incredibly accommodating throughout the entire trip. We were able to spend time in Oxford and Birmingham before attending the conference in Leicester, U.K. The University of Leicester was welcoming and they hosted a wonderful conference. Leicester is also home to the King Richard III exhibit, which is by far one of the best exhibits I’ve been to in a while. On our way back, we stopped at the University of Cambridge and finally spent a few days in London touring some of the major sites. This incredible experience was only possible because Dr. Ellen Moore encouraged us to submit our research to conferences. I’m an so grateful for the support of our UWT faculty!”

Rachael Willliamson (above), also in her second year as a MAIS student, tells us:

“Traveling to England was certainly one of the highlights of my summer. It was my first time outside the United States and I am ever so grateful to Ellen Moore, Karin Dalesky, and the MAIS program for making the journey possible. The COCE conference we presented at was amazing in itself, there were so many brilliant talks about climate change, communication, and democracy, but the fact that we had extra days to explore was incredible. We were able to visit Oxford, Birmingham, Leicester, Cambridge, and London. I absolutely loved the gothic architecture that seemed to weave its way through every city and walking through Westminster Abby was an awe inspiring experience, although by that point, I’m pretty sure my feet had fallen off from so much walking. We met so many fabulous and genuine people who all seemed thrilled to be talking with us Americans. It’s an adventure I will carry with me always. If you ever have the chance to submit your work to an overseas conference, do it! Amazing adventures await you, too!”

Congraulations to Katie, Rachael and Erica, and to Dr. Moore as well!  We’re very proud of you!

Alumni News

MAIS Alum Margaret Lundberg (Class of 2014) has exciting news, she is beginning a PhD program at the University of Washington this autumn!  She tells us in greater detail how her MAIS degree assisted in preparing her for this next phase of her educaiton:

“As of September 27, I am an official pre-doctoral student in the English department at UW Seattle, focusing on rhetoric and composition. But I am also working here at UW Tacoma as a professional staff writing consultant in the UW Tacoma Teaching and Learning Center and editor of a new TLC-based student journal—ACCESS*: Interdisciplinary Journal for Student Research and Scholarship. (Our first issue is now viewable on UW Tacoma Digital Commons!) I have no doubt that the next few years will keep me busy, but I feel up to the challenge. I even get to ride the Sounder to Seattle twice a week (I love trains!), which both keeps me out of traffic and gives me a lot of time to get my reading done. Definitely a win-win!

It’s been nearly three years since I finished my MAIS degree, so although I feel a little rusty when it comes to sitting in a classroom discussing theory, I can honestly say that it wasn’t more than an hour into my first class session before I realized (with tremendous gratitude) just how well trained I had been by the MAIS program.  Honestly, I wanted to send all my former professors thank you notes! I think particularly of Ariana Ochoa Camacho and all the deeply theoretical reading she assigned, and all the writing she required from us to as a way to think critically about that theory and how it applied to our work—it all made such a difference for me in that moment! And when Karen Barad’s name came up in one of our first class readings, I was thrilled to not only know who she was, but to be able to say I had read some of her work. I felt like the universe truly had met me halfway (a little MAIS inside joke there).

Although I am currently taking an introductory to contemporary literary theory course—required for those who arrived without an MA in English, and something I knew little about before this summer—it truly feels more like taking a refresher course than an introduction. Although much of the material is new to me, authors we read in 501 and 503 are on my reading list, and the interdisciplinarity of my previous graduate studies has honestly given me insight that I’m not convinced my classmates share (please don’t tell them I said that). Concepts that should probably be new to me are not—even if the context is different. I won’t go so far as to say this will be easy, but I will say… I’m ready for whatever comes!

As far as what’s on the other end of my educational journey. I’m not sure. I’d like to teach writing at the university level, but I also truly love working one-on-one with students in the TLC. I am also excited about discovering potential research possibilities, so that in itself was a huge attraction to taking on a PhD program. I’m not really sure what’s ahead, but I know I’ll enjoy the ride!”.

Congratulations Margaret!  We’re very happy that your education was so positively impacted by the MAIS program!

Finally, in other alumni news, several of our MAIS alumni have been invited to present their research in Dr. Larry Knopp’s TIAS 305 Seminar in IAS course this autumn.  Former MAIS students Kyle Chapman, Omari Amili and Leah Montange have given scholarly presentations that have drawn from the research they engaged in when they were students in the MAIS program.  Well done, Kyle, Omari and Leah!


June/July 2017

Welcome to the June edition of Masterly Musings! In this issue we features stories on MAIS Hooding Ceremony and Commencement, the West Coast Liberal Studies Symposium that was hosted by MAIS and UW Tacoma, and a “faculty spotlight” feature on the program’s founding faculty coordinator, Dr. Sam Parker.  In current student news we check in with three MAIS students who are currently abroad – whatever are they up to?!?   We also offer some preliminary information about the new cohort of students who will begin the program in Autumn 2017.  Finally, our Graduate Program Coordinator Dr. Larry Knopp wraps up the year with a review of recent program accomplishments and some personal thoughts.   Please continue to discover what we’ve been up to these past several weeks!

 MAIS Hooding and Commencement

Congratulations are in order for the MAIS Class of 2017!  This year’s MAIS graduates completed theses, projects and practicums addressing the gentrification of Tacoma, nonprofits and education, HIV and art, education as a human right, structural racism and prisons, museum studies, and gender issues in sports and competition.  On behalf of the MAIS program, we’d like to wish our recent graduates every success as they embark upon their new adventures.  Keep reading here as well for any updates they may share.  Well done, everyone, and again, congratulations!


From left to right: Courtney Choi, William Towey,                        Scarlett and Liz-Wren-Staples                           Madison Gridley,  Liz Wren-Staples and Jessica Warner.
William Towey and Maddy Gridley at UW Tacoma’s 2017 Commencement Ceremony, June 14, 2017.  Photo courtesy of William Towey.

West Coast Liberal Studies Symposium

During the weekend of June 16-June 18th, the MAIS program and UW Tacoma hosted the West Coast Liberal Studies Symposium, which featured students and alumni of graduate liberal studies/interdisciplinary programs from noted universities along the west coast, including Stanford University, Reed College, Dominican University of California, Simon Fraser University, Mount St. Mary’s University, St. John’s College Santa Fe, and the University of Washington Tacoma.  Over the course of the weekend nearly forty people presented their research, which ranged in a diversity of topics from environmental policy and politics in relation to the Dakota Pipeline, averting prison recidivism through education, the gentrification of New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina,  gendered citizenship and abolitionism, and art, women and feminism from the 1960s, to name a few.  UW Tacoma was well represented with six current and former MAIS students showcasing their research.  These included current student Katie Jennison and MAIS alumni Jessica Warner, Omari Amili, Ben Warner, Star Murray and Karin Dalesky.   Thanks to all of the universities, colleges and presenters who participated in this event, to SIAS faculty Riki Thompson, Emily Ignacio, Michael Berry, Cynthia Howson, and LeAnne Laux-Bechand along with MAIS  student Courtney Choi for assisting with the welcoming attendees and moderating sessions.

Clockwise, from left to right:  Jessica Warner, University of Washington Tacoma; Omari Amili, University of Washington Tacoma; Elzabeth O’Neil, Reed College (photos courtesy of Karin Dalesky); Taina Brown, Mount St. Mary’s University (photo courtesy of Riki Thompson).

Faculty Spotlight – Dr. Sam Parker

Dr. Sam Parker was on of nine original faculty that began here at UW Tacoma in 1990.  He was also the Graduate Faculty Coordinator for the MAIS program from its inception in 2000 until 2013, and has interacted with many students over the years.  Sam has been an invaluable presence here on our campus, and he shares some of his more recent research with us below:

Sam is a cultural anthropologist who started out doing graduate work in the art history of India before shifting over to studying the same material through the methods of anthropology. He has done extensive fieldwork on Hindu temple construction and image making in India and Bali.
Part of his participant observation methodology entails annual visits to an ashram in North India where he has been working on refining a mentally challenging daily yoga practice for several decades. This practice has profoundly transformed his entire understanding of what the visual culture of ancient India was all about. And it has made him deeply skeptical of modern practices of documenting, cataloging, collecting and exhibiting it under the auspices of a tacitly economic art system, through which the significance of ancient objects is projected into the past, as if they are static tokens of a falsely universalized, private intellectual property system, which Sam summarizes as an author/authority/authenticity model of creativity and meaning. With this unintended slight of hand, a misleading commercial conception of fixed, essential “meanings”—abstracted from living traditions of actual practice—is made to seem normal.

By contrast, ancient Indian conceptions of creativity and meaning presume the reality of brahman, from the Sanskrit root brih, meaning ‘to evolve,’ or ‘to grow.’ In this worldview creativity is a phenomenon that grows out of a complex relational system, which, in turn, arises out of an underlying cosmogonic unity. The author/authenticity/authority model and brahman are both creation myths (the map is never the territory), but it is misleading to assume that ours is simply realistic and that of the ‘other’ is necessarily fictional. Rather they articulate two very different ‘realistic’ contexts of value and correlated practices.

The institutionalization of economic norms in the modern art world has consequently resulted in the radical re-classifying and re-framing of ancient Indian material culture. Ancient objects are now misleadingly deployed as high-end commodities, collected, studied, documented and exhibited as a universalized category of aesthetic fetishes in the modern art market. The holistic reality represented by the natural forces of growth and evolution (brahman) in ancient Indian art is thereby displaced–represented as mythical fiction—meanwhile the narrow presuppositions of modern economic realism and possessive individualism are elevated to the status of universal reality. This happens not only in the pragmatic contexts of private collecting and museum collecting, but also increasingly at museumized archaeological sites in India where a similar kind of commercial collecting is promoted at the level of a middle-class price-range, in which we’re being urged to seek fulfillment through the accumulation of fetishized touristic experiences sold by an ever-ravenous tourism industry. A clear example of this is the popularity of filling up a ‘bucket list’ of destinations, which cynically turns life experiences into a kind of closet, garage, or storage locker to be jam-packed with a class of commodities that don’t take up physical space–something that lots of middle class people don’t have much of anymore. By feeding ancient Indian monuments and art objects into this kind of system we may be able to look at them, but we may not really be seeing them.

This line of research developed out of Sam’s work on the rituals of Hindu temple construction and renovation in Bali in 1999-2000 where the monetizing practices and values of international cultural tourism reign supreme. Because it was impractical to do this fieldwork in an uninterrupted span of time, he completed this work in India during two sabbaticals in 2007-8 and 2015-16 combined with annual visits to India during the winter breaks. He is presently writing up the results of this research in a book titled Dharmavision: Reading Reality through the Art of Ancient India, in a Delusional Age of Cultural Tourism.

Current Student News

MAIS Students Abroad


University of Oxford, photos courtesy of Rachael Williamson.

In the February edition of Masterly Musings we were thrilled to announce that three of our MAIS students, Katie Jennison, Erica Tucker and Rachael Williamson had been accepted to present their research papers at the 2017 Conference on Communication and Environment (COCE) in Leicester, England.  All were students enrolled in Professor Ellen Moore’s TIAS 502 Culture and Public Problems class in Autumn Quarter 2016, in which the topic for the class was environmental issues in relation to the Dakota Access Pipeline.  They are currently in England preparing for the conference which occurs this weekend, and we’ll provide more details of their trip in our next issue.  For now, we thought readers might enjoy seeing some of the grandeur they are encountering as they make their way to Leicester.  Congratulations to Katie, Erica and Rachael, we couldn’t be more proud of you!

New MAIS Students

In May, the MAIS Admissions Committee met to review our potential news students for the Autumn Quarter incoming class.  We’re extremely pleased to announce that we’ve admitted 11 new students for next year!  These incoming students’ interests span a wide range, including public policy, literature, Native-American history, administrative law as it relates to transgender issues and people, nonprofit studies, the politics of U.S. immigration policy, Middle Eastern politics, and more.  More information about them, including detailed student biographies, will appear in our next issue.  Congratulations to our new incoming students!  For anyone interested in exploring options for admission to the MAIS program, please contact Karin Dalesky, MAIS Program Administrator and Advisor, at

A Message from the MAIS Graduate Faculty Coordinator 

For the past three years it has been my privilege to lead the Master of Arts in Interdisciplinary Studies as Graduate Program Coordinator (GPC). During this time the program has matured in a number of ways, including:

  • Formally launching the Community & Social Change and Nonprofit Studies options.
  • Revamping the program’s administrative infrastructure and processes to be consistent with the
    School of Interdisciplinary Arts & Sciences’ Divisional structure and to include regular student
  • Developing a long-needed online application and admission process.
  • Updating curriculum, including broadening the range of courses available to fulfill elective
  • Securing a stable budget for the program and expanding the pool of small one-time funding
    resources for students.
  • Sending students to local, regional, national, and international conferences, some of whom have won awards or had their work published in conference proceedings as a result.
  • Graduated over two dozen students, all of whom have been successful in their post-MAIS lives,
    including becoming authors, activists, filmmakers, educators, doctoral students, and more.
  • Raising the program’s profile regionally and nationally through faculty and student participation in the Association of Graduate Liberal Studies Programs’ annual conferences, my own participation in that organization’s Board of Directors for a year, and the MAIS’s hosting of the 2017 West Coast Liberal Studies Symposium.
  • Launching the MAIS online newsletter Masterly Musings.
  • Revamping and relaunching the MAIS Facebook page.
  • Hiring a new, highly experienced permanent Administrator/Advisor, Karin Dalesky, to replace the previous Administrator/Advisor, who retired after over a decade in 2014.

These are just some of the more “sexy” things the program has accomplished in recent years! I fully anticipate that this success will continue as the program moves forward. However my personal leadership of the program will end on June 30, 2017. It is time now for a new leader and I am happy to announce that Associate Professor of Writing Studies (and current Associate Dean for Curriculum and Academic Initiatives of the School of Interdisciplinary Arts & Sciences) Dr. Riki Thompson will assume the GPC role effective July 1. Dr. Thompson knows the program well, having taught the Graduate Research and Writing course (TIAS 513) multiple times and having served as the MAIS’s Interim GPC during the 2013-2014 academic year. Please join me in welcoming Dr. Thompson and wishing her and the program continued success over the coming years!

For my part, while I am leaving the GPC role I will continue to serve the program as a faculty member and mentor to students. I want to thank Karin Dalesky (without whom the program would come to a crashing halt!), the many faculty colleagues who have served the program over the years (including serving as advisors, chairs, and readers for students, members of the Steering and Admissions Committees, and of course my predecessors in the GPC role – most notably Dr. Sam Parker, profiled above), and most of all the many wonderful students I have had the privilege to serve. Your passion, dedication, and hard work have made this job a joy!  THANK YOU!!

March/April/May 2017

Welcome to spring, and to the latest edition of Masterly Musings.  This issue features MAIS faculty member Sushil Oswal, who provides us with an overview of his research and contributions to UW Tacoma.  We also have an update from MAIS alum Leah Montange, in addition to an op-ed piece from recent MAIS graduate Omari Amili.  Finally, there’s new information about the West Coast Liberal Studies Symposium, which will be hosted by the MAIS program here at UW Tacoma.  Do read further for more about what’s happening in the MAIS program!

MAIS Faculty Research Spotlight:  Sushil K. Oswal

Dr. Sushil K. Oswal is an Associate Professor in the School of Interdisciplinary Arts & Sciences (SIAS) and a member of the Graduate Faculty in the MAIS program.  He is also a faculty member in the Disability Studies Program on the University of Washington’s Seattle campus.

Dr. Oswal came to UWT in 2008 having previously developed and directed an undergraduate Technical Communication Program on the east coast and a university-wide First Year Portfolios Program at Middle Tennessee State University. Immediately after his arrival here at UWT, he developed the first Postcolonial Theory course for the School of Interdisciplinary Arts and Sciences.  He then went on to develop the Technical Communication Track of the School’s Writing Studies major, which had existed on paper up to that point. He developed and taught the first course in Technical Communication, which now serves as the gateway course for the Technical Communication Track in the Writing Studies major and is also required of students in UWT’s Institute of Technology. Other Technical Communication courses he developed include Writing in the Natural Sciences, Cross-Cultural Communication Design, Accessible Design, and Advance Technical Communication. More recently he was instrumental in designing an intersectional course on race, disability, and gender/class which he appropriately named “Power, Privilege, and Bias in Technology Design”. With his long-term scholarly and teaching connections with portfolio pedagogy, he made crucial interventions in shaping a proposed SIAS course on Portfolios while disrupting the ableistic tendencies in curricular design. Dr. Oswal is presently working on a Disability Studies pedagogy project supported by a Harlan Hahn grant awarded in 2016. He is looking forward to teaching his first MAIS course this fall which looks at disability as an embodied phenomenon from the perspectives of religion, modern medicine, Social Work, and disability rights.

Dr. Oswal’s Ph.D. research focused on Environmental Science, technology, and R&D communication in a Japanese Corporation and this work earn him the 1995 C. R. Anderson Award. While his previous academic work had engaged accessibility and disability, he was the recipient of a major technology grant for designing a fully-accessible design and communication lab in 2002 from the United Technologies corporation.  Since coming to UWT he has focused his research solely on issues of technology and accessibility . His current research intersects the fields of Accessible Design, Technology, and Critical Disability. Dr. Oswal actualizes his personal zeal for accessibility through participatory action design which brings together users, designers, and industry on a shared platform for conceptualizing products and interfaces that meet everyone’s needs. His ongoing technology and accessibility work pertains to reconceptualizing the designs of self-service digital kiosks and learning management systems. In his latest project, Dr. Oswal is embarking on work in the area of climate change, disability, and access that combines his scholarship in disability and accessibility with his expertise in Environmental Studies.

Dr. Oswal sat on the Online Writing Instruction Committee of the College Composition and Communication Conference from 2007 to 2016 and he was the architect of accessibility in the national policy adopted by this organization in 2013. He is also a member of the national committee on disability for the Council for Writing Program Administration. His research has appeared in such journals as Work, Kairos, ACM Communication Design Quarterly, Composition Studies, Journal of Business and Technical Communication, Business Communication Quarterly, and in several scholarly collections. He received the 2014 Computers and Composition Press Award for his interdisciplinary work published in Kairos: a Journal of Rhetoric, Technology, and Pedagogy. He was also the recipient of the 2015 Association for Business Communication Research Award for work on the accessibility of online Business and Technical Communication.  We are thrilled that he will be teaching one of the core courses in our program this coming Autumn Quarter!

MAIS Alumni News

Leah Montange – MAIS Class of 2015

MAIS Alum Leah Montange is currently pursuing her Ph.D. in Geography at the University of Toronto.  Leah recently took a few moments to update us on her current status, in addition to reflecting on her time as a MAIS student:     

My time in the MAIS program was transformative. Together with my classmates, I built a foundational understanding of the logic of inquiry, academic reading and writing; I was also able to access excellent supervision from my Masters committee (Larry Knopp and Charles Williams) and a fascinating site for fieldwork, the Tacoma Housing Authority.  Most importantly, my self-direction was nurtured. These experiences have served me well as I continue to pursue an academic career. Now, as a PhD student in Geography at the University of Toronto, I have been able to very efficiently make my way through course work and comprehensive exams—I do not think this would have been possible without the self-discipline I developed at UW Tacoma, or the training I received in TIAS 501 and TIAS 503 at UW Tacoma. This summer I will embark upon my dissertation study, supported by a Vanier Canada Graduate Scholarship. I will conduct research on the links between border control and labor control, with a focus on immigration detention and its articulation with prisons in the US and Spain. I will return to Tacoma for this research, as well as field sites in Spain.

Congratulations, Leah! We look forward to seeing your research in the future!

In other news from our alumni, Omari Amili wrote an op-ed piece that was featured in the Seattle Times on March 17, 2017.  Entitled From jail to a master’s degree: the power of education, Omari reflects on his educational journey beginning with his relase from prison and culminating in the completion of his master’s degree in December 2016.  The article can be accessed here:

Omari is also working with various community colleges in the area to support formerly incarerated indiviuals in their quest to pursue a college education.  Well done, Omari!

Other MAIS News

The MAIS program cordially invites you to attend this year’s West Coast Liberal Studies Symposium, on the UW Tacoma campus, on June 17th and 18th.  We’ll be hosting over 40 presenters and attendees from seven different  institutions, including Stanford University, Reed College, Simon Fraser University, Dominican University, St. John’s College, Mt. Saint Mary’s University, and UW Tacoma.  We encourgage you to register as an attendee, as attendance is free to members of our greater UWT community.

January/February 2017

Welcome to Winter Quarter, and to the latest edition of Masterly Musings!  This edition features news about one of our recent graduates, our upcoming MAIS Information Session, exciting news about three of our current students, and photos from around the globe from participants in the Women’s March on January 21.  Please continue reading for more details!

Alumni News

Omari Amili, MAIS Class of 2016

Recent MAIS graduate Omari Amili (Bachelor of Arts in Psychology and Self and Society, UW Tacoma, Class of 2014; Master of Arts in Interdisciplinary Studies, UW Tacoma, Class of 2016) will be speaking at the Seattle Times Annual Ignite Education Lab Speakers event on Wednesday, February 8, at Town Hall in Seattle.  Omari will candidly address his own personal challenges and struggles as he began the process of entering college after serving time in federal prison. His presentation, entitled “The Transformative Nature of Post-Secondary Education”  is derived from research he completed as part of his degree project for the MAIS program.  Omari recently shared with us:

“My time in the MAIS program allowed me to find an area of focus that pertains directly to me and my life experiences and I don’t know that this would have been possible in other programs. Being in this program has not only allowed me to earn a degree but also to make connections that can help me transition into the professional re-entry community. When I share with people that I have earned a Master’s degree from UW Tacoma despite all I have been through in my life their responses always remind me that I am on the right path. I could have easily ended up elsewhere but I am a strong believer that everything happens for a reason and the time I have spent at UW Tacoma has played a great role in my personal transformation.”

Omari’s presentation at the Graduate Student Showcase/TacTalks event in May 2016, titled Preventing Recidivism through Post-Secondary Education: A College Prep Workshop for the Formerly Incarcerated, can be viewed here.  He has also set up a gofundme site to offset the cost of his educational loans and expenses.  Congratulations to Omari, he is truly a fabulous example of resilience and creativity, and we are very proud of him!

Current Student News

Three MAIS students have submitted proposals and been accepted to present their research papers at the 2017 Conference on Communication and Environment (COCE) in Leicester, England (see top photo, from left to right: Dr. Ellen Moore, Rachael Williamson, Erica Tucker and Katie Jennison).  All three were students enrolled in Professor Ellen Moore’s TIAS 502 Culture and Public Problems class in Autumn Quarter 2016, where the focus was environmental issues in relation to the Dakota Access Pipeline.  MAIS Faculty members Dr. Ellen Moore and Dr. Alex Nutter Smith will also be attending this conference. The three students that will be presenting their research are:

Katie Jennison:  “The Dakota Access Pipeline: Why Is Access to Clean Water Still Up For Negotiation?”

Erica Tucker:   “Bad” Indians versus good business: Media colonialism in news coverage of the Dakota Access Pipeline protest.”

Rachael Williamson: “Fighting the Black Snake: Big Oil, Censorship, and Democracy” 

We’ll update with other news about this conference and the presenters as it becomes available, and in the meantime, congratulations to Katie, Erica and Rachael!

MAIS Program News

For those of you who would like to know more about our students such as Omari, Rachael, Katie or Erica, or for anyone interested in pursuing a graduate degree, the MAIS program will be hosting an Information Session on Tuesday, February 7 at 6PM in the Dawn Lucien Boardroom. Graduate Program Coordinator Dr. Larry Knopp and MAIS Administrator and Advisor Karin Dalesky will be on hand to answer your questions about admissions, the program curriculum, and anything else that pertains to our program. Please join us!

Other News

Much has transpired since President Trump has been sworn in to office, and many students, staff and faculty from the University of Washington Tacoma have been evoking their First Amendment right as American citizens to engage in peaceful protest. Below are photos from the Women’s Marches that occurred on January 21 2017, from around the area and beyond, taken by members and friends of the UWT community.


                         Photos above by Russell Hansen, MAIS student, Seattle, WA.


Photos above by Carly Johnson, MAIS student, Olympia, WA.


SIAS Dean Anne Bartlett and friends, Washington D.C.                  MAIS faculty Dr. Ellen Moore, Hawaii.

MAIS faculty Dr. Peter Selkin, Dr. Bonnie Becker and family, Patagonia, South America.
Photos above taken by MAIS Faculty Randy Nichols, Seattle, WA.
MAIS Graduate Faculty Coordinator Dr. Larry Knopp and MAIS Administrator/Advisor Karin Dalesky, with friends, Seattle, WA.

December 2016 – Special Holiday Edition

Welcome to a special holiday edition of Masterly Musings!  This special issue features MAIS students in Dr. Ellen Moore’s TIAS 502 Culture and Public Problems class, along with an update about our Autumn Quarter graduates.  Enjoy!

Current Student News


Dr. Ellen Moore

Dr. Ellen Moore and her students in  TIAS 502 Culture and Public Problems investigated the many controversies surrounding the Dakota Access Pipeline in Standing Rock, North Dakota.  The $3.78 billion project was confirmed in June 2014, and construction of the pipeline has been contentious.  Several Native American Tribes throughout the Midwest and beyond have opposed the pipeline, which is over 1,100 miles long and extends through four states. The heart of the battle has centered upon the portion of the pipeline in North Dakota that would cross the Missouri River, near the Standing Rock Indian Reservation.   The showdown that has erupted between the protestors and law enforcement agencies has captured worldwide attention. Thousands of people, including Native American Elders, citizens concerned about the environmental impact caused by the construction and maintenance of the pipeline, and more recently, veterans were among the protestors opposed to the pipeline.

In the spirit of an interdisciplinary analysis the cultural dimensions of public problems, three students from TIAS 502 examined the Dakota Access Pipeline and the protests at Standing Rock from different perspectives.


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Rachael Williamson Standing up to Big Oil: the Time is Now

Rachael Williamson’s presentation focused on activism as it pertains to regional tribes and the environment.  Here’s is an abstract of Rachael’s paper:

Abstract: The Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) is America’s newest large scale oil project. The 1,172 mile, 30-inch diameter pipeline will connect production areas in North Dakota to Patoka, Illinois. Recently, there has been a standoff between hundreds of indigenous tribes and the big oil companies that have begun construction of the pipeline, set to be installed directly under Lake Oahe, the Sioux’s main source of drinking water. The prospect set forth by Obama to redirect the pipeline seems an adequate solution for most people. What is astounding is the lack of concern from the vast majority of Americans over the potentially devastating effects on the biodiversity surrounding such a pipeline, regardless of where it is constructed. Using an interdisciplinary approach, this essay aims to highlight the different ways in which Americans assign meaning and value to their environment in order to understand why so many Americans choose to look away.

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Katie Jennison Dakota Access Pipeline: The Hegemony of Water and Native American Sovereignty

Katie Jennison approached her research from a legal standpoint, exploring several historical environmental law cases that are relevant to the Dakota Access Pipeline and Standing Rock protests.  Here is an abstract of Katie’s paper:

Abstract: This presentation describes the complex interconnection of environmental devastation, politics, communication, and power through an examination of the Dakota Access Pipeline controversy. In the name of capitalism and human freedom, the massive Energy Transfer Corporation pushed forward on a massive pipeline project to connect oil and gas reserves from North Dakota to Illinois. In the Anthropocene, the voices of people most at risk for devastation by the very companies that foster the burning of fossil fuels are lost when government, major corporations, and mass media minimize the threat of ecological devastation. Companies often are unburdened by permitting processes to lay thousands of miles of pipe for oil and gas. That an elite corporate few continue to drive the fossil-fuel industry, even in the face of catastrophic climate change, government reports like the IPCC (2014), and social outrage, speaks to undue influence that should be addressed.

This presentation will focus on the communication between Energy Transfer, the United States Army Corp of Engineers and the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe. Although the pipeline would run no more than 1.5 miles from the nearest Standing Rock Sioux resident, no immediate or proven attempts were made to notify the tribe prior to the environmental review assessment or archaeological surveys. Throughout the environmental assessment, the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe cites, on multiple accounts, the failure of the Army Corp of Engineers to address specific requirements, conditions and details of the project. It is evident that minimal communication, or silence as Energy Transfer’s strategy appears to be, is only successful when people do not pay attention or the powerless cannot be heard. In the case for Standing Rock, it is clear that poor communication between all parties can elevate general concern to massive protests, which endangered the lives of many tribal citizens and forced the world to finally focus on their conflict.

The conflict at Standing Rock is one small battle in the war against ongoing systematic oppression by government and massive corporations against Native American people and their way of life. Water, aside from breathable air, is the most crucial natural resource for humanity. Historically in the United States, the federal government granted final authority on water resources to states and even went as far as ruling that “each and every owner along a given water course, including the United States, must be amenable to the law of the State…” (438 U.S. 645). This research will demonstrate how the hegemony of state water law is meeting its greatest threat to date: global warming. In the twenty-first century, why is access to clean water still up for negotiation?


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Erica Tucker “Bad” Indians versus good business: Media colonialism in news coverage of the Dakota Acess Pipeline protest

Erica Tucker focused on media coverage of the pipeline controversy (or lack thereof) and its role in reproducing racism and privileging corporate interests over the safety and well-being of underprivileged and underrepresented indigenous communities.  Here is an abstract of Erica’s paper:

Abstract: The media have strong influence over public awareness and perceptions of anthropogenic climate change. Commercial media coverage of the Dakota Access Pipeline has thus far been minimal at best, tending to focus on the protest rather than environmental impacts of the pipeline itself, perpetuating a stereotype-laden and polarizing “clash of cultures” narrative as a diversion. Examining the cultural politics surrounding the pipeline and analyzing media representations of Native Americans and the environment, the connections between political and corporate stakeholders in both the pipeline and major news media outlets are exposed. In exploring the relationship between Native Americans, environmental justice, and the news media, this paper will examine how the commercial media largely ignore historical and social contexts when reporting on instances of environmental racism, uphold racial stereotypes of Native American people, and reinforce dominant economic frames which privilege corporate interests over the safety and well-being of underprivileged and underrepresented indigenous communities.

Congratulations to Rachael, Katie and Erica, for terrific research and presentations!

Recent Graduates

We are delighted that three more students graduated at the end of Autumn Quarter.  Congratulations!  We are very proud of you!


Frelimo “Omari” Amili – Degree Project:

Progression: Preventing Recidivism through Post-Secondary Education



Miguel Douglas – Thesis

The Casino Economy: Indian Gaming, Tribal Sovereignty, and Economic Independence for the Puyallup Tribe of Indians

Congratulations again to all of our recent graduates!

Finally, on behalf of the MAIS program, Larry and Karin wish everyone a joyous holiday season. We’ll see you next year!


November/December 2016

Welcome to the latest edition of Masterly Musings!  This issue features news about this year’s  Association of Graduate Liberal Studies Conference (AGLSP) and our three student participants.  We also have an update from one  of our MAIS students that is profiling the Syrian refugee crisis through his film, the results from our MAIS student elections,  and some exciting news about our Graduate Faculty Coordinator.  Please read further for more details!

Current Student News

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Graduate Faculty Coordinator Dr. Larry Knopp and Program Administrator and Advisor Karin Dalesky traveled with three students to this year’s Associate of Graduate Liberal Studies Conference in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma in October. Russell Hansen, William Towey and Erica Tucker all gave tremendous presentations, and William Towey won an award for Best Student Presentation!  Congratulations William!

Descriptions of all three students and their presentations are below:


MAIS at the AGLSP Conference

Erica Tucker is in her second year in the MAIS program, and Lead Academic Advisor in the Academic Advising Center at the University of Washington Tacoma. She also completed her undergraduate studies at the University of Washington Tacoma, majoring in Arts, Media and Culture. In her AGLSP presentation, titled Gender, Race, Sexuality, and Space in Nicki Minaj’s “Anaconda”, Erica argued that that particular constructions of sexual subjectivity and agency are produced through a place-based persona that is enacted for and through the music video. She also considered the implications of her analysis for the study of the cultural politics of femininity as played out in popular culture more generally.


Erica Tucker

Russell Hansen is a second year student in the MAIS program. He earned his bachelor’s degree in Philosophy at the University of Washington in Spring 2015. His presentation at the AGLSP Conference, Digital Digitally Mediated Communication: From Deliberation to Democracy in the Networked Public Sphere, focused on the “networked public sphere” and how contentious politics can be used to understand how we ought to assess the “health” of such a sphere.


Russell Hansen

William Towey is also a second year student in the MAIS program, focusing on Nonprofit Studies. He earned his undergraduate degree in Politics, Philosophy and Economics from the University of Washington Tacoma in June 2015. His AGLSP presentation, Natural Economy in an Unnatural World, won Best Student Presentation at the conference this year. The presentation considered the impacts of neoliberal globalization and distorted economic systems on communities and examines transformative reconfigurations of local economy. William also works for the Tacoma Urban League.


William Towey

William shared his feelings about winning this award:  “I’m very grateful for the opportunity to attend and present at the AGLSP 16 conference and tremendously excited to have been recognized for an award. It was a really interesting and informative experience that I will remember as a highlight of my time in the MAIS program. The MAIS program at UW Tacoma continues to offer me access to nationally recognized programs and opportunities that allow me to experience the full measure of graduate liberal studies in ways that are personally and professionally fulfilling and rewarding.”


William Towey, front left, with the two other winners of the best Student Presentation Award at the AGLSP Conference, AGLSP outgoing President Deborah Finkel (Indiana University Southeast), and Awards Committee Chair Dr. Christopher Pastore (University of Pennsylvania).

Congratulations to William, Erica and Russell, we are tremendously proud of you!

Other student news

Current MAIS student  Gabriel Roberts has been in Europe for the past three months, and along with fellow film maker Zeb Ringer, is shooting footage for their film project, Refuge.  From the film’s website:

We have seen the headlines in the news and footage of refugees in boats, crossing the Mediterranean and were stirred by the images we saw. But how much of what we heard and saw was really giving us the story of one of the greatest mass movements of people in history? We began this film with one simple question: How is Europe assimilating this influx of refugees? This question led to many more, and so far our investigation has opened up many other channels of query. We are looking to the stories of individual refugees and those who are helping them ease their transition to the many nations of Europe. We are also trying to understand how the rise of nationalism and outright racism in these nations is affecting refugee and European citizens alike.

We are Zeb Ringer and Gabe Roberts, filmmakers from Brooklyn, NY. We are now heading to Greece and Turkey for the next leg of film production, where the most important interviews awaits.

A preview of the film can be found here, and the film’s web site can be accessed by following this link:

Congratulations Gabe!  We’ll be anxiously waiting for the film’s completion, and very well done!

Student elections

In other student news, the yearly election for student representatives to the MAIS Steering Committee was recently held. The Steering Committee discusses and decides on various important policy and administrative matters, including regarding the curriculum, academic standards and practices, and future direction of the program. It is comprised of faculty from across SIAS, the MAIS Administrator/Advisor, and two student representatives. One new MAIS student, TeyAnjulee Leon, was elected for a two year appointment, with Jordan Woolston selected as an alternate. Second year MAIS student Erica Tucker continues this year for the second year of her term.  These students’ insight and contributions will be invaluable to the program as it charts a path forward. Congratulations to our new committee members and THANK YOU for agreeing to serve!

tey_leon jordan_woolston

TeyAnjulee Leon                                                                 Jordan Wollston

Other MAIS News


In other news, SIAS Professor and MAIS Graduate Program Coordinator Larry Knopp was featured in an article published in ProPublica (a high-profile, independent national nonprofit investigative news outlet) on November 7, 2016 (the day before the Presidential election).  The article features  commentary and analysis by Dr. Knopp, along with faculty from The Ohio State University, Washington University (St. Louis), UW-Seattle, Georgetown University, University of Virginia, University of Massachusetts Amherst, and the University of Sheffield.  The featured article can be found here.  Well done Larry!




September/October 2016

On behalf of the MAIS program, we’d like to welcome everyone back to UW Tacoma, and  to a brand new academic year!  We hope you had a terrific summer, and we’re excited to return back to campus.  We have much to share with our readers.

This edition of Masterly Musings features news about our new Dean of the School Interdisciplinary Arts and Sciences. We’re also profiling our entering class of new students for Autumn 2016-2017, in addition to focusing on updates about the Association of Graduate Liberal Studies Programs 2016 national conference in October.   Please continue further for more details!

The New Dean of the School of Interdisciplinary Arts and Sciences


Please join us in welcoming the new Dean of the School of Interdisciplinary Arts and Sciences, Anne Barltett.  Coming to us from DePaul University in Chicago, Dr. Bartlett has been busy running retreats and meetings, organizing her administration, meeting with a wide range of faculty, staff, and students (including in the MAIS program), and otherwise taking charge of the School of Interdisiplinary Arts & Sciences.  You can find out more about Dr. Bartlett here.

Our New Students for 2016-2017!


Also new to UW Tacoma is our newly admitted group of students for Autumn Quarter 2016! Welcome new MAIS students!

Felicia Chang


I earned my Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of Washington Tacoma with majors in Communications and Arts, Media and Culture (Comparative Arts Track) in the summer of 2016.  I’m currently interested in pursuing a Master of Arts in Interdisciplinary Arts and Sciences (Nonprofit Management Option) to establish a career in nonprofit organizations. With a focus in art museums, I hope to be able to increase the diversity in artists represented in art museums.

Karin Crelling


I completed my Bachelors at UW Tacoma, focused on early US history. I am particularly fascinated with the photography of the Civil War. I plan on researching more deeply into the life of Alexander Gardner and his friendship with Allan Pinkerton.

Katie Jennison


I graduated from University of Nebraska at Omaha with my undergrad in History and a minor in Religion. I’m hoping to extend my history background at UWT by approaching the effects of poverty, racism, and inequalities in communities through a historic lenses. If we can identify key findings from the past, then our next steps can be effective and a positive change to our communities.

TeyAnjulee Leon


I earned my BFA in Studio Art, University of Nebraska-Lincoln, 2014.  My intended area of focus is race, class and the public education system.

Brian McQuay


I graduated from UW Tacoma last June with a Bachelor of Arts in Law and Policy, and minors in Gender Studies and Human Rights.  I plan on focusing my time and energy on gender, sexuality and the law in the MAIS oprogram. My plan is to continue looking at how we speak and shape the laws that affect different gender groups. I have not decided on the direct focus for my thesis yet.

Akiko Nojiry


I hold a Bachelor of Science in Bioresources Science, and a Master’s degree in International Development Studies.  My intended area of focus is  nonprofit organizational management, social welfare and individual well-being.

Justi Pfutzenreuter


I earned my Bachelor of Arts in Ethnic, Gender, and Labor Studies, along with a minor in Education, at the University of Washington Tacoma. I will be studying the lack of diversity within the current K-12 curriculum, and how it impacts the future.

Jay Robinson


Hello everyone. My name is Jaynetha Darnell Robinson. My first name is pronounced Ja-nay-tha. I go by Jay. I was born back in June of ‘59 on a military base in Kansas. I spent most of my pre-teen years on North Fort at Fort Lewis. I thought then that it was God’s country and still do. In ‘69, we moved east to a small rural community in central Ohio. I vowed to return to the Tacoma area as soon as I was able and when I was old enough to enlist in the military I did just that. I was stationed at McChord Air Force Base. I love it out here. I married a Tacoma girl. We bought a house and settled in. After the kids were grown I decided to go back to school. I had previously gotten a high school diploma from Tacoma Community College, as well as three associate degrees after my stint in the air force. I had dropped out of high school to enlist as early as possible. At age 52 I set out on an academic path to become a teacher. I attended the Tacoma branch of The Evergreen State College for my undergraduate studies. This summer I graduated the University of Washington’s education program with a Master of Education degree. My academic path to become a teacher has taken an unexpected turn. I applied and was accepted into the Master of Arts in Interdisciplinary Studies program here at University of Washington, Tacoma. I am excited! In the MAIS program my thesis project will involve ecological art and how it is not only therapeutic to the natural environment but also to human well-being. I look forward to meeting you all.

Alyssa Sheedy


I received my Bachelor of Arts degree in English with a minor in Music from Berry College in 2012. My intended area of focus is the portrayal of women in popular fiction.

Russell Ulrich-Strickland 


I earned my undergraduate degree in Interdisciplinary Studies with an emphasis in Sociology, History, and Psychology at Central Washington University. I am interested in nonprofit management and am currently working towards starting a nonprofit aimed at ending youth homelessness.  I have a “Go Fund Me” page where I am trying to raise enough to set up the 501c3 needed to apply for grants.

Alyssa Urish


I graduated from Northwestern University with a degree in Journalism and a minor in Spanish. I’m also is a certified teacher in WA State. I plan to study models and assessment measures of public school integration.

Rachael Williamson


Hi! My name is Rachael Williamson. I received my double BA in Psychology and Arts, Media and Culture in June of this year from the fabulous University of Washington Tacoma. I am super excited to be back for the MAIS program here at UWT. My ultimate intention is to create a series of workshops that build stronger communities through improv and the arts, whether these communities be employees at a large company or students in a classroom. I believe that art and improv provide us with a method of communication that is deeper and more vulnerable than ordinary vernacular and therefore makes longer lasting impressions. I’m looking forward to the next two years of my journey and to meeting those of you in my cohort.

Jordan Woolston


I earned my Bachelor of Arts in History from UWT in 2015. I currently work as the Operations Manager for Alchemy Skateboarding, a local nonprofit dedicated to empowering Tacoma’s youth through educational skateboard programs and mentorship. I am excited to join the MAIS program; the program’s Nonprofit Studies degree option fits well with my personal and career goals. I’m interested in researching how non-profit organizations partner with public and tribal schools and how those partnerships impact the communities they work in.

Current Student News

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Coming in October, MAIS Graduate Program Coordinator Larry Knopp and Program Administrator/Advisor Karin Dalesky will be traveling to Oklahoma City, Oklahoma for the 2016 Association of Graduate Liberal Studies National Conference (AGLSP).  Dr. Knopp was also appointed to the AGLSP Board of Directors over the summer, and will serve as a board member for the next two years.  From a very competitive pool of conference presentation submissions, three MAIS students submitted research proposals, and all three of our applicants were selected to present at the AGLSP Conference!  Heartiest congratulations to Russell Hansen (top left), William Towey (top right) and Erica Tucker; we couldn’t be more proud! Look for further updates about the upcoming AGLSP Conference and these three presenters, along with other news updates in our next edition of Masterly Musings.

July/August 2016

Happy Summer and welcome to the July/August edition of Masterly Musings!

This edition of Masterly Musings features news about our recent MAIS graduates, MAIS students who traveled to the West Coast Liberal Studies Symposium at Simon Fraser University in Vancouver, British Columbia, and MAIS students who presented at this year’s Graduate Student Showcase that occurred in late May.  Please read on for details!

Current Student News

Congratulations are in order for the newest MAIS graduates! This year’s Class of 2016 is a very Commencement_2016diverse group, featuring various areas of research including social media and activism, education, sexual assault within indigenous communities, animal rights and speciesism, casino economies and tribal sovereignty, countering the “Manchurian Candidate” narrative in web comic form, and environmental education and sustainability.

Here’s a closer look at our amazing graduates and their research!

We’re extremely proud of our MAIS Class of 2016, and wish them every success!

Kyle_Commencement_2016+Credit_Brianna_Chapman MAIS_Hooding_2016

Above: Kyle Chapman celebrates after the 2016 UW Tacoma Commencement ceremony on June 10 (photo courtesy of Brianna Chapman).   Right: MAIS Hooding, June 2016. From left to right: Frelimo Omari Amili, Dan Smith, Miguel Douglas, Kyle Chapman, Tori Hill, Anna Johnson, Tori Olive and Gabriel Roberts . Not pictured: John Phillip Burns, Patrick Hardin.

Other Student News

Four MAIS students presented their research at this year’s West Coast Liberal Studies Symposium (WCLSS) at Simon Fraser University in Vancouver, British Columbia.  The students and their projects include:


Russell HansenDigitally Mediated Communication: From Deliberation to Democracy in the Networked Public Sphere   


Tori HillUncovering Inequalities: Addressing the (RE)Production of Power Relations within Financial Aid Processes through Institutional Ethnography 


Erica Tucker: Gender, Sexuality, Empowerment, and Place in Nicki Minaj’s “Anaconda”  


Jessica WarnerNo Lost Generations: Refugee Children and the Human Right to Education from the Holocaust to the Syrian Civil War

Congratulations to all of our MAIS  participants in the 2016 WCLSS!  And, in other news related to this symposium, UW Tacoma will be hosting the WCLSS conference next year!  Stay tuned for more details and information as it becomes available.


From left to right: Myr Hansen, Russell Hansen, Larry Knopp, Erica Tucker, Tori Hill, Becky Barta, Jessica Warner and Brad Warner.

Graduate Student Showcase/TacTalks

On Thursday, May 19th, MAIS students once again dominated at the annual TacTalks/Graduate Research Showcase.  Nine MAIS students participated in the third annual Graduate Student Showcase/TacTalks event in Carwein Auditorium.  Two students produced online and poster displays and seven others presented brief but comprehensive 5-minute presentations on their theses or projects .  The MAIS participants of the Graduate Student Showcase/TacTalks event and the titles of their presentations are:



Frelimo Omari AmiliPreventing Recidivism through Post-Secondary Education: A College Prep Workshop for the Formerly Incarcerated 





Kyle ChapmanDigital Activism: How Social Media Prevalence has Impacted Activism




Lucas Dambergs – Father Bix: Nonviolence in Action





Miguel DouglasThe Casino Economy: Indian Gaming, Tribal Sorvereignty, and Economic Independence in the Pacific Northwest




Patrick HardinBinary: A Counter Narrative to the Manchurian Candidate in Web Comic Form





Gabriel RobertsThe Three Waves of Psychedelic Literature






Daniel SmithSustainable Hub for Education and Demonstration





William ToweyNatural Economy in an Unnatural World





Jessica WarnerNo Lost Generations:  Refugee Children and Their Human Right to Education


15 New Students to Join MAIS Program in Autumn 2016!!

The MAIS program is excited to be welcoming 15 new students in Autumn 2016!  This is nearly double the number of students entering in each of the past two years, and the largest incoming class in recent history.  Stay tuned for profiles of these wonderful new students in our next issue.  In the meantime, enjoy the summer!

May/June 2016

Welcome to the May/June edition of Masterly Musings!

In this edition we have some exciting updates about several of our students, news about two of our alumni, and important updates about admissions and our upcoming hooding ceremony.  Onward we go!

Current Student News

We are please to announce that five MAIS students have had their proposals accepted to Symposium_draft3present at the West Coast Liberal Studies Symposium that will take place June 17-19 at Simon Fraser University in Vancouver, B.C. This interdisciplinary symposium provides a congenial and supportive opportunity for students and alumni to present papers to an audience of their peers, to participate in lively discussions, and to meet fellow graduate liberal studies/interdisciplinary studies students from other west coast schools (and one in the Netherlands!). The five students who will be representing UW Tacoma and the MAIS program are  Jessica Warner, Erica Tucker, Tori Hill, Russell Hansen, and Myralee Hansen.   Congratulations to you all!  We’ll have more about the conference and our student presentations in the next edition of Masterly Musings. Stay tuned!

In other current student news, Tori Hill will be presenting twice at the upcoming Twelfth International Congress of Qualitative Inquiry at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign May 18-21.  First, she will present her MAIS project research titled Uncovering Inequalities: Mapping Tori_IrelandOut the Reproduction of Power Relations Through an Institutional Ethnography of Financial Aid.  Second, she will co-present a paper titled Voice, Praxis, and Discovery: The Importance of Critical Pedagogy in Teaching (of) Methods with MAIS faculty member Emily Ignacio and MAIS alumnus Douglas Avella-Castro, currently a PhD student in Anthropology at the University of Washington Seattle.

Tori was also this year’s recipient of an award from the Carol Van Atta Graduate Research Fund, which will help pay for her participation in the conference.  The fund was established by former UWT Vice Chancellor for Advancement Carol Van Atta to assist graduate students participating in conferences and/or other special opportunities that characterize graduate study.  Congratulations, Tori, very well deserved!

As part of his final degree project, Patrick Hardin has created an online comic.  Patrick tells us: “Binary is a free web-comic ( that acts as a counter-narrative to mainstream dominant culture produced stories regarding veterans suffering from CoverPageJPEG (2)PTSD. Specifically, Binary combats the dangerous veteran narrative that depicts veterans as violent, unstable, and irreparable. Binary’s main character, Derek Anderson, is a veteran living a fairly commonplace life as reclusive and uncomfortable in social settings due to his symptoms – specifically he stays inside and become addicted to a MMORPG video game as a way of dealing with his issues. He gets struck by a car leaving his VA therapist’s office and wakes up in a real, breathing version of the game. From there he meets friendly and supportive natives of this fantasy world (a few dealing with their own mental health issues) which sets them off on an adventure.  This comic would literally not exist if I hadn’t been expected to produce some sort of concept or product by the time of graduation.  It also made me explore peer-reviewed journals that were saying what I was suspecting –  that these dangerous veteran narratives tie into false and negative stereotypes“.  Well done, Patrick, we’re excited to see your final and finished project!

Alumni News

Peter Benjamin (MAIS 2015) took time away from his busy schedule to send us an update about what he’s been doing this past year:

“During my MA, I wanted to gain a greater understanding of how community impacted the lives of everyday people. In the MAIS program, I was allowed the space to ask questions and write about subjects that resonated with my life experiences as a queer and working-class activist.  That further gave me the vocabulary and practical knowledge to address issues of belonging. Overall, the program encouraged me to stay passionate and engaged in a broader set of politics concerned with the material needs of those in the United States. So how did my studies translate into a career? I initially had a very limited plan as far as my short-term career. I Peter 2016knew the cultivation of people’s agency and their full potential was important to me, and that shelter, food and employment are often essential to that idea of wellness. Whereas in my academic work I focused extensively on labor studies, my career has progressed into providing housing services for those experiencing homelessness. As a Housing Advocate and Lifeline Specialist, I help support those transitioning from long or short term homelessness into varying degrees of housing, including the widely successful Housing First federally program and Permanent Supportive Housing. My current position allows me to bare witness to individual’s development of a sense of belonging closely associated with their new homes, and the strengthening of their positions in the broader community. I find being a Housing Advocate to be more than just fulfilling, as my duties have become vital to my personal growth as a community member and academic. In the long run, I am planning to go back to school. I have been seeking out Phd programs in American Studies, where I hope to continue my research in queer theory and ideas of belonging while simultaneously supporting peoples’ passion for learning as a professor and mentor.”  CongratulationsPeter!

Also, as noted above, Douglas Avella-Castro (MAIS 2014) is currently a PhD student in Anthropology at the UW-Seattle campus and will be co-presenting  a paper titled Voice, Praxis, and Discovery: The Importance of Critical Pedagogy in Teaching (of) Methods with MAIS faculty member Emily Ignacio and current MAIS student Tori Hill at the upcoming Twelfth International Congress of Qualitative Inquiry at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign May 18-21.  Congratulations Doug!


Other news


On June 8, at 6:00PM in Carwein Auditorium, the MAIS will honor this year’s graduate class at the Annual MAIS Hooding Ceremony.  Students, staff, faculty, alumni and families of our graduates are all invited and encouraged to attend.  Commencement ceremonies will follow on Friday, June 10th at 9:00AM at the Tacoma Dome.

Finally, the MAIS has received a record number of  new student applications for the 2016-2017 academic year.  We expect the number of admitted students  to almost double in size in comparison to the number of last year’s class.  Admissions review has just started and we hope to alert our candidates in early/mid- June. Check back then for more updates!