Category Archives: Author Bios

Steve Guardi

August 28, 2017

After completing an associates degree in my home state of Illinois at McHenry County College, I chose to serve for three year with Americorps. AmeriCorps is a civil society program supported by the U.S. federal government, foundations, corporations, and other donors engaging adults in public service work with a goal of “helping others and meeting critical needs in the community.” First as a tutor and mentor for eight grade students in the Watts neighborhood of Los Angeles with City Year, second as an environmental restoration crew member working alongside a diverse cohort from around the globe, and finally as a volunteer specialist with Earthcorps in Seattle where my team lead over 10,000 volunteers in Puget Sound parks and natural areas.

Here I can be seen leading a youth group at a special event where the 51st United States Secretary of the Interior, Sally Jewel serving in the administration of President Barack Obama, was digging in the dirt alongside us.

Currently, I am completing my first bachelors degree in Conservation Science and Resource Management and this study abroad course will allow me to see how environmental justice and Sovereignty is managed with indigenous cultures in another part of the world. The Maori people of New Zealand have produced environmentally charged and intimately mystical novels that had inspired me to visit their world for many years. So far, I cannot formulate words to express the deep gratitude and sense of awe as I participate in culturally immersive events both ancient and inspiring.

I hope to bring the knowledge I gain back to North America where I will be better equipped to build bridges between the US government and tribal nations, ultimately protecting human rights and preserving functional ecosystems and sacred ground. Following this experience, I will act as a UW Bothell Study Abroad Ambassador.

In my spare time I enjoy riding my bike, hiking, and playing video games. I am also a musician with roots in the Chicago-land underground music scene where basements, roller rinks, and youth centers were venues for expression, community building, and hearing loss in the sprawling rural/suburban McHenry County.

Senita Lavulavu

A photo taken during my study abroad trip in Papeete, Tahiti.

A Tongan American senior at the University of Washington, I am majoring in Medical Anthropology and Global Health. My academic interests revolve mainly around indigenous culture studies along with health research studies. My most recent studies have been involved within the South Pacific region, specifically within the Polynesian, Micronesian, and Melanesian islands. For the past few years, I have been involved with Research Sisters with Professor Holly Barker at the University of Washington, doing extensive research on indigenous artifacts within the Burke Museum. During my years at the University of Washington, I have also been a member of the Polynesian Student Alliance Club on campus. Polynesian Student Alliance (PSA) has become my tight knit community within University of Washington’s large campus. Overall, I am excited to use the knowledge I’ve gained at the University of Washington to give back to those who have given so much of themselves to others.

My first study abroad trip consisted of studying abroad to Papeete, Tahiti. During this study abroad trip, we compared and contrasted indigenous Tahitian knowledge about medicine with Western ways of medicine. This New Zealand study abroad trip focuses on sovereignty, environment, and representation within Maori culture.  I hope to learn a lot more about the environment from the indigenous Maori culture perspective versus the Western society perspective. The land is a very important aspect amongst all of Oceania. Although most of our Pacific Islands have been colonized, the mana amongst Oceania remains constant and strong.  The land and ocean make up a large piece of what Oceania is as an identity. Thus far, we have already learned so much during this trip. We have already been exposed to so many traditional Maori customs and traditions. I’m excited to see what the rest of this trip has in store. I know this experience will be life changing for each and every one of us students. I am honored to have this privilege!


Nikki Rise

Originally from Kirkland, Washington, and a graduate of Seattle Preparatory School, I am currently a Senior at the University of Washington. My declared major is Environmental Science and Terrestrial Resource Management, or ESRM, and I am also pursuing a minor in Quantitative Science. My specific interests within Environmental Science are marine biology and conservation, as well as renewable energy and renewable resource sciences.  My hope is to take my degree in Environmental Science and go into the fields of sustainable business and renewable energy. With a Quantitative Science minor, I hope to gain a broader understanding of statistics and quantitative analysis, and be able to merge that knowledge with my knowledge of environmental science to become a more successful sustainable businessperson. At the UW, I am also a member of the Pi Beta Phi sorority, where I served for a time as our Green Greek Representative, working with other members of the Greek community to improve our community’s carbon footprint and environmental impact.

Me at the Colosseum in Rome, Italy this summer

Earlier this summer, I was lucky enough to travel to Europe on a month-long backpacking trip with a close friend. Over the course of about 33 days, we visited various parts of Greece, Italy, and Spain. This was my first time traveling any great distance without my family, and I learned quite a lot both about myself and about the differences in cultures around the world. During this time, I was able to visit numerous sites of cultural and historical significance, enjoy delicious food, and truly immerse myself in a new way of life. My time traveling in these places helped me prepare a great deal for this study abroad trip in New Zealand.

As my first true study abroad experience, I am very excited for our trip in Aotearoa, New Zealand. This will be my first time taking a college course about indigenous peoples, and I am interested to learn how issues of sovereignty, representation, and environment affect indigenous communities. I am especially eager to hear from Māori leaders and community members about how climate change has been affecting their ways of life, and listen to their fears or hopes for the future regarding the environment. I am also very excited to experience the cultural traditions of the Māori people, especially through art, religion, and storytelling. At the end of this trip, I hope to truly understand the struggles of the Māori peoples and connect with their communities to help bring the issues they face to light and address the challenges they face today, as well as for the future.

Nathan Vallejos

Me with the greatest of the birds: The Chicken.

Hi there! My name is Nathan and I am a current student at the University of Washington Bothell Campus, where I am working towards a degree in both Public Policy and Environmental Studies.  Along with going to school, I currently am a supervisor and trainer for Ezell’s Famous Chicken, a favorite local restaurant in Seattle. In my spare time, I like to volunteer at a homeless shelter in Downtown Seattle as a public relations and technological intern. I am super excited to be a part of this adventure and learn more about the Maori culture while I explore the wonderful country of New Zealand!

For me, this program is a way to look into how other indigenous peoples have dealt with colonization, and how they currently are represented in their country and throughout the world. New Zealand is of particular interest due to the unique way that the country’s government and native populace have addressed the issues that occurred in the past: through the Waitangi Tribunal, which hears cases where the Treaty of Waitangi was broken. I take a great interest in the Waitangi Tribunal as a potential way to address the United States own issues regarding treatment of the indigenous populations. My plans beyond college will likely lead me into a governmental agency, so I’m looking at bringing new ideas to help create policy that will be beneficial to the indigenous peoples of the United States.

Furthermore, this is an excellent travel opportunity for me to explore and experience new cultures as well. New Zealand will be the 14th country that I’ve gotten a chance to experience, and I look forward to the adventures that it will bring. I enjoy comparing and contrasting the various countries to see the cultural differences and to gain a better understanding of the world around me.

I am happy to be apart of this trip, and I am looking forward to the adventures that will be occurring on the trip!

Tyler Myers

University of Washington class of 2018, majoring in Environmental Science and Resource Management. I attended Wellesley High School just outside of Boston and graduated from Mountain View High School.

During my time as an undergraduate student at the University of Washington I have been lucky enough to participate in two different environmental research projects. The summer of 2016 I worked on sites across Oregon and Washington gathering data on the regeneration of trees from plots where they were harvested for commercial use. My junior year I worked in similar vein, studying the difference in carbon content between harvested an unharvested forest soil samples from Washington and Brazil in UW’s Biogeochemistry Laboratory. The health of our planet is an issue that I care about deeply, and it is impossible to look at the Earth’s condition without acknowledging humanity’s impact on it. This study abroad program paints a vivid picture of how industrialization and gentrification effects the landscape of beautiful Aotearoa, New Zealand and I am beyond excited to be a part of it.

Dana, Nikki and I sitting the remaining stump from a massive kauri tree during our tour of the Waitangi Treaty Grounds.