Winter 2019

Hello again from Masterly Musings! In this edition we congratulate our Winter Quarter graduates, they are certain to make a profound impact with their newly minted degrees!  We also hear from our Graduate Merit Top Scholar recipient and Husky 100 member for 2019, Mira Farrow.  Also, MAIS alum Russell Hansen (Class of 2018) discusses life as a Ph.D. student on the Seattle campus.  Finally, Ruth Bernstein describes how an article in the New York Times inspired her to change careers after many years of success in an entirely different area of study.  Please continue onward to learn more about what’s happening in the world of the MAIS!

MAIS Winter Graduates – Ready for Anything!

Congratulations are in order for our first MAIS graduates of 2019!  Best wishes for Karin, Lucas, Tye and Gabriel, we know you’ll put your degree to good work!

Karin Crelling with her Faculty Advisor Dr. Mike Allen
Thesis: The Confederate Battle Flag: Why is it Perceived so Differently in the U.S. and Europe/Germany?
Thesis Committee: Mike Allen (Chair), Libi (Elizabeth) Sundermann 

Lucas Dambergs
Degree Project: Father Bix: Nonviolence in Action (Film/Documentary)
Project Committee:  Mike Honey (Chair), Joanne Clark Dillman

Tye Jones (right) with MAIS alum  Jordan Woolston (MAIS, Class of 2018)
Nonprofit Practicum: The Union Innovation Hub
Practicum Supervisor: Ruth Bernstein

Gabriel Roberts
Degree Project: Deja La: Foucault and LSD  (Film)
Project Committee: Asao Inoue (Chair), Ingrid Walker

Once more, congratulations to all Winter Quarter graduates, we couldn’t be more proud of your hard work and contributions to the MAIS program.

Win/Win – MAIS Graduate Merit Scholarship and Husky 100 Winner Mira Farrow

MAIS student Mira Farrow was the lucky recipient of both the MAIS Graduate Merit Scholarship, and was named one of the very prestigious Husky 100.  Each year, the Husky 100 recognizes 100 UW undergraduate and graduate students from Bothell, Seattle and Tacoma in all areas of study who are making the most of their time at the UW, and we are very proud that Mira was selected for this honor.  She relays more about how she arrived here.

Mira Farrow

I am honored and humbled to be chosen to receive the MAIS Top Scholar Award. I am grateful to my fellow MAIS students and alumni, and particularly Karin Dalesky and Rebecca Disrud in the TLC for the advice, advising, and patience, as well as my professors here at UWT who have made the last five quarters such an intellectually rich and rewarding experience. As a native Washingtonian, first-generation returning student, I’m proud to be at my home states best tier 1 research university, to win this award is beyond words.

I’ve had so many amazing experiences as a result of my time here it would hard to list them all. It has stimulated me to go deeper, be more assiduous in my studies, and to work well outside my comfort zone. In Winter Quarter 2018, I was given the opportunity to co-lead with Dr. Knopp several sections of TGEOG 420. This past summer I presented my research at Stanford University for the West Coast Graduate Liberal Studies Symposium (WCGLSS). This led me to having my first ever peer reviewed academic article, “Gender outlaws in non-binary space” published just before Christmas in Western Tributaries. This past Fall I had the opportunity to return to Queer I Am, a statewide undergraduate queer conference that had a tremendous impact upon my development as an undergrad, this time as a presenter. These experiences have given me a deeper appreciation and understanding of community activism, compassion, and leadership; these lessons have stayed with me and continue to have impact in my daily life and inform my work.

Outside of the classroom, within the fifteen months I’ve been in the program here at UWT I have had the honor of leading campus and community discussions around pressing social issues like #MeToo, gun control, environmental sustainability, and possible futures for the queer community. Through my work in the Center for Equity and Inclusion I took part in co-organizing UWT’s first ever LGBTQIA pride event, leading UWT’s presence at Tacoma Pride, as well as bringing the local Transgender Day of Remembrance ceremony here to campus. Personally, when I started here I had a different legal name and gender. My research has not only enriched my academic and intellectual life, it has had a tremendously positive effect upon my personal life, again beyond words.

I am currently researching the day-to-day lives of transgender people and how that can shine a light on the myriad ways we are excluded, marginalized and all too often fall victim to violence. I hope this work can help create a more complete understanding of how often simple taken for granted life experiences, like getting an ID, using public transit or accommodations are often problematic for gender variant people and frequently become vectors for violence. I can’t thank the UWT community enough for this opportunity to grow and learn with you! 

If I could sum up my experience here it would be two pictures. One is just three hands, all with various shades of purple nail polish taken while at Stanford for WCGLSS, the other is one taken outside the Swiss of my partner in crime with the biggest smile as we skip class to review each other’s work and yea, drink beer. Sometimes you have to go with the flow… Cheers!

MAIS Alum Russell Hansen

Russell Hansen

Russell Hansen (MAIS, Class of 2018) was so inspired by his work in the MAIS program that he decided to continue onward, and is currently pursuing his Ph.D. in Communications at the University of Washington.  His MAIS thesis, The Structure of Deliberation in the Networked Public Sphere, was a catalyst for his current research interests.  Russell reflect on the time he spent in the MAIS, and his transition into his new role as a Ph.D student:

I am currently a first year PhD student in the Communication department at the University of Washington’s Seattle campus. I study political communication and communication technology, researching the character of online discussions about politics and the role those conversations have on the development of political opinions. More specifically, I look at the discourses surrounding civility, seeking to understand how it functions to both support and suppress open dialogue.

My interdisciplinary training in the MAIS program has endowed me with diverse methodological fluency that crosses multiple disciplines, including Sociology, Psychology, and Political Science, permitting me to investigate social phenomena from multiple perspectives. In addition, a strong focus on epistemological and axiological commitments has guided me in applying social scientific methods while maintaining a critical orientation, which is deeply important to me. The Interdisciplinary Studies program fosters curiosity, engagement, and freedom of scholarship, providing an environment that has contributed significantly to my development as a scholar.

Congratulations, Russell, we look forward to hearing more about your research!

Faculty Spotlight – Ruth Bernstein

Dr. Ruth Bernstein

Dr. Ruth Bernstein (Assistant Professor, MAIS Nonprofit Studies) was featured on the UW Tacoma website, discussing her past research as a geologist, and  her current work as Nonprofit Management instructor for both our undergraduates and our MAIS/Nonprofit Studies students.  Dr. Bernstein also oversees the minor and post-baccalaureate certificate in Nonprofit Studies.  Tacoma is the only UW campus that offers a minor in Nonprofit Management. The program sets students up with a 120-hour internship, which puts them behind the scenes at local museums, food banks, co-ops, and established organizations, such as the United Way and the YMCA.

Along with her work with graduate and undergraduate students, Dr. Bernstein, in conjunction with her Nonprofit course Philanthropy and Social Change and the Kitsap Community Foundation, was able to award three nonprofit groups in the Tacoma region with funding.  More details can be found here, and we’re excited to see such terrific work transpiring beyond the UWT campus as a result of our Nonprofit curriculum.

Finally, Dr. Bernstein was also the recipient of the Best Paper Award  through the professional association the Academy of Management.  The organization focuses on inspiring  scholars and researchers that work within the realm of teaching and scholarship in relation to organizations and management.  The paper, entitled The Impact of Leadership Diversity Among Nonprofit Organizations, was co-authored  by Chris Fredette.  Well done, Ruth!


Autumn 2018

Welcome back, everyone!  In the Autumn Quarter issue of Masterly Musings, we’ll introduce our new MAIS students for the 2018-2019 academic year.  Our current students have also been busy over the summer break, and we’ll hear from two that attended conferences.  We also have a new MAIS Steering Committee Student Representative; who could it be? Please continue reading for more!

New Students for 2018-2019

Please welcome our 2018 MAIS Cohort for Autumn 2018!  They are a terrific group of students, and we’re excited that they’ve joined us to further their educational goals.

Emmiyan Ferro

Bachelor of Arts in Psychology; Bachelor of Arts in Ethnic, Gender and Labor Studies (double major), cum laude, August 2018.  First generation college graduate.

Current focus: Latinos studies.

Kelsey Horne

“I am a 2010 Pacific Lutheran University alumna with degrees in ‘Responses to International Violence and Conflict Management’ and ‘Public Relations’ and a minor in Spanish. I am originally from Alaska but have found my home in Washington where my husband and I explore the mountains and ocean. I’ve worked in the non-profit sector since graduation and have found a passion for working with underserved and underrepresented youth. I am excited to join the MAIS team and hope it allows me to garner the skills, knowledge, and foundation necessary to create positive change in our region.”

Amy Klippert

Amy Klippert has worked in the non-profit sector for the last eight years and is thrilled to learn more about systems, best practices, and much more in the MAIS program. A native of Houston, TX, she attended Southern Nazarene University in Bethany, OK for her undergrad and moved to Tacoma a few years after graduating. The majority of her professional experience has been spent working with youth and children’s programs with a focus on meeting basic needs. She is passionate about social justice and currently sits as Chair of the Tacoma Coalition to End Youth Homelessness. In her free time, she likes to spend quality time with friends, grow her urban jungle, obsess over her cats (Spike and Linus), and play music with her husband.

Ryan Moriarty

“My name is Ryan Moriarty. I attended the University of Montevallo in Alabama where I got my undergraduate degree in Mass Communication: Broadcasting with minors in Biology and Deaf Studies. I moved out to Washington two years ago and have come to love Tacoma and the Northwest! I currently work at UW Tacoma as the photographer and videographer for the marketing department and also spend time volunteering at the Giving Garden on campus. I will be pursuing a MAIS graduate degree along the Non-Profit Management track and am excited to get started! I hope to learn more about empowering non-profits and those who work with them with a focus on housing, transportation, education, and food justice.”

Christopher Oliver

“My name is Christopher Oliver, and I received my BA in Ethnic, Gender and Labor Studies from the University of Washington Tacoma. My focus for the MAIS program is to investigate the reasons why troubled inner city youth find themselves as members of gangs, and to explore the similarities and differences in the ways that ethnicity and gender may play a role in gang membership. The goal is to find positive ways to provide these children with life choices other than those offered through gang membership and to find other options that prevent them from selecting this course of life.”

Sharon Rivera

“I earned my B.S. in chemistry from SUNY Purchase College in New York in 2003 and my Ph.D. in physical chemistry from Syracuse University in 2008. After a NSF postdoctoral fellowship in Sydney, Australia at the University of New South Wales in materials science, I shifted scientific focus to work at Columbia University researching the cancer niche, hematopoietic stem cells and acute myeloid leukemia. I have taught chemistry at universities and community colleges, written scientific and educational grants, and designed and managed STEM education programs. Currently, I am the Mathematics, Engineering, Science Achievement (MESA) Program Director at Tacoma Community College in Tacoma, Washington.

My passion is advocating for diversity, inclusion, opportunity and access in science and education, and changing the focus and dialogue that often surrounds underrepresented and underserved students in the STEM field. My current academic interests include STEM education, policy, language and student success. I am super excited to see how all these pieces work together, learn about topics I never imagined I would pursue and grow with all of you!”

Nora White

Nora grew up in Tenino, WA and has been farming in one way or another with her family since 2001. She attended Warren Wilson College in Asheville, NC for her undergraduate degree in Sociology/Anthropology and Traditional American Music and made her way back to the PNW two years ago. Currently, she works for the Thurston Conservation District as an Education & Outreach Specialist assisting landowners in managing their property for the benefit of working lands and a healthy natural ecosystem. In addition, she continues to work on her family’s farm, Hercules Farm, growing pasture raised turkeys, wool, and lamb. In her studies in the MAIS program Nora is excited to weave her professional and personal lives together to study food – from growing to eating – as a tool for community growth, communication, and prosperity.

Current Student News

Students on the Move

Rachael Williamson (right) at the Performing the World Conference

Rachael Williamson, who is about to finish her master’s thesis, recently traveled to New York City to present her research at the 2018 Performing the World Conference.  Her Research Advisor, Tony Perone,  had this to say about Rachael and her trip:

For nearly 15 years, I have been a builder of the international performance movement. One of the highlights of building the movement has been to organize, attend, and present at the biennial event, Performing the World (PTW), held in New York City. This event, co-convened by the East Side Institute (where I serve as one of its associates) and the All Stars Project, is an enriching and powerful opportunity for hundreds of play and performance activists, academics, therapists, community organizers, and artists from all over the world to come together and share/support/develop the activities that we are doing to co-create life-span human development and social and community transformation via play and performance. While our 2018 gathering was amazing overall, three activities stand out for me. First, along with fellow play and performance activists from Canada, Costa Rica, and the United States, I facilitated a workshop called “Clowning and Caring: Join the Love/Play Revolution” that was based on our ethnographic scholarship with and community engagement as humanitarian clowns. Second, I promoted my new book co-edited with Carrie Lobman: Big Ideas and Revolutionary Activity: Selected Talks, Essays, and Articles by Lois Holzman (on Amazon, East Side Institute). To close, I was so honored to share and create PTW 2018 with current MAIS student Rachael Williamson. Rachael presented a fabulously revolutionary workshop “Diagnosis: Performing Our Way Out of the Box” based on her MAIS thesis and work as a Registered Behavior Technician.

Rachael with her Research Advisor, Dr. Tony Perone

Rachael revels more about her experience at the conference:

In September, I had the opportunity to travel to New York and present my research on play and performance pedagogy at the 2018 Performing the World Conference. It was hands down one of the most exhilarating conference I have ever been to. The connection, collaboration, inclusion, and genuine caring put forth by everyone I came in to contact with is something unlike I have ever experienced. The workshops, and performances brought me to tears on more than one occasion. It was so deeply moving to witness so many different people from all around the world embracing play and performance as powerful pedagogical tools—tools that have the power to transform and revolutionize communities, cultures, industry, medicine, education, and everything in between.

During my presentation, I used the opportunity to collaborate/build with my current research, and the results were nothing short of magical. So many fantastic ideas on how to utilize play and performance within the neurodiverse community and how I might alter my current practices to be even more inclusive and developmental. It was such an honor to have so many passionate attendees offer their insights and wonders. It was by far the most engaging and enjoying presentation I have ever done. The fact that we spent most of the session playing/performing how learning can lead development (which interestingly enough is accomplished through play and performance) was such a joy to behold. I’m still buzzing from the experience.

Out of all the workshops I attended, my favorite was one put on by our very own Dr. Perone on humanitarian clowning. After a short and deeply inspirational opening, we were encouraged to put on clown noses and wander the streets of Midtown clowning around with the locals and spreading a bit of cheer/love. I hugged three strangers, got several high fives, numerous confused/terrified looks, and watched Patch Adams moon the police station. I’m not sure an afternoon in NY City can get much better than that. I made amazing connections, met many new friends, and clowned around in ways that have forever changed who I am. If you would like to know more about this amazing conference, feel free to email me at for more information. The next Performing the World takes place in 2020 and we’d love to see you there!

Alyssa Urish also attended the National Race and Pedagogy Conference  September 27-29th, which was held at the University of Puget Sound here in Tacoma.

Alyssa Urish and friends as the National Race and Pedagogy Conference in September 2018

In this project I aim to understand the consequences of desegregation policies in Tacoma Public Schools when they first were implemented and in present day, through a two part-study. First, I will be applying a CRT lens to a historical analysis of educational policies and programs passed in Tacoma between 1960 and the mid-1990s. Second, I will be implementing a youth participatory action research (YPAR) project with 4-7 youth of color, with whom I have worked in my capacities as community center program director at one of the first desegregated schools in Tacoma. My project will be aimed at addressing two questions: “What does a critical race lens tell us about Tacoma’s desegregation program from the early 1960s until the mid-1990s?” And, “How does the history of the district’s desegregation connect to the reality for today’s youth of color?” This research aims to center students’ experiences and utilize a youth participatory action approach to support students’ to build knowledge, a collective understanding and to take action that they define. The SCRA mini-grant fund will allow me to pursue a more equitable approach towards the third goal of this study by offering a stipend to student participant-researchers and providing a supportive space for our research offering supplies, nourishment and transportation assistance to our meetings.

The SCRA Community Mini-Grants Program was designed by the Community Psychology Practice Council in 2010. With the support of the Executive Committee, the grant program began awarding funds in the summer of 2011.

The purpose of this program is to support and help catalyze small scale, time-sensitive community interventions, whether action or research-based, which are consistent with the SCRA vision, mission, principles and goals. The grant program is intended to encourage meaningful work that SCRA members (and their community partners) are doing in their communities around the world. It is a fast decision-cycle mini-grant program.

Closer to Home

In one of our closest elections for Student Representative to the MAIS Steering Committee, Shadyar Omrani was this year’s elected candidate.  She will be one of two students that serve on the Steering Committee, and will serve a two-year term.  Congratulations to Shadyar, we know she will make fabulous contributions to the Steering Committee and the MAIS program!

Spring/Summer 2018

Welcome again to  Masterly Musings!

Our Spring/Summer edition is filled with our students’ most recent accomplishments, including their participation in UW Tacoma’s Graduate Student Showcase, this year’s MAIS Hooding and Commencement ceremonies, and their attendance at the West Coast Graduate Liberal Studies (GLS) Symposium.  We also have an update from current student Erica Tucker, who after receiving two prestigious awards, was able to fund a trip to New Mexico to conduct additional research for her thesis.  Please read on to learn more.

MAIS Students Highlight UWT’s Fifth Graduate Research Showcase


On May 25th MAIS students represented the MAIS program in terrific style and numbers at this year’s Fifth Annual Graduate Research Show.  With this year’s theme addressing Disruption,  seven of our students gave 5 minute lightning TacTalks showcasing their research, and six MAIS students presented their current research in a poster session that followed.  The event was a terrific success, and for those that want to see our students in action, all TacTalks are accessible in the Digital Commons.  Here’s the list of this year’s participants and their topics, and a special thanks to Dr. Larry Knopp for his photographic contributions:


Karin Crelling – TacTalk and Poster: Why is the perception of the Confederate Battle Flag perceived differently from the US in Europe/Germany?

Russell Hansen – TacTalk: Deliberative Democracy in the Networked Public Sphere: Using Social Media to Talk Politics

Tye Jones – Poster: The Socialization of the Word Nigga in Media

TeyAnjulee Leon – TacTalk: Pledging to a Club You Don’t Want to Be In: A Critical Analysis of Power Narratives and Experiences of Women of Color in Academia

Brian McQuay – TacTalk: A Call for an Intersectional Approach to Bias Harassment policies

Shadyar Omrani – Poster: Theocratic State and The Production of
Religious Sectarianism: The Impact of Iran on The Growth of Shiism in
The Middle East

Justi Pfutzenreuter – Poster: Narratives of Salishan: The Untold History

Jay Robinson – TacTalk: Living with Loss in the Anthropocene

Robert Tacker (now Mira Farrow) – Poster: Gender outlaw in nonbinary space

Erica Tucker – TacTalk: Perpetuating Colonization Through the Gaze of U.S. Media

Lilian Vasquez – Poster: The Forgotten Latinos and Immigration in
the United States

Rachael Williamson – TacTalk: Play and Performance: Creating Life-Spaces in which Learning Leads Development

Jordan Woolston – Poster: Decolonizing Foundation Funding

Many thanks to all student participants in this year’s Graduate Research Showcase this year, it was brilliant!  Thanks also to Dr. Larry Knopp and Dr. Riki Thompson,  the students from MAIS classes TIAS 505 and TIAS 513 were well prepared to present their research in this forum.  And finally, an extra special thanks to the staff of the UW Tacoma Library, especially Justin Wadland, Megan Saunders, Don Higgins, and Johanna Jacobsen Kiciman, who coordinated all of the arrangements for the Showcase.  It couldn’t have happened without you!

MAIS Hooding – Welcome the Class of 2018!

On June 6th the MAIS held their annual Hooding ceremony, where we recognize and celebrate our graduating students.

This year we added an exciting new feature to our program, as our graduates each created their own individual digital story which reflected on their time here in the MAIS program.  The stories were not only provocative from a research perspective, but they also revealed how diverse our students are, in addition to the range of research projects that they have produced.  The stories were wonderfully successful, and an element which will be incorporated into future Hooding ceremonies.  The stories can be accessed below, and each one is very different, which is reflective of the many different approaches of our students’ interests:

Karin Crelling – Thesis: Perception and Use of the Confederate Battle Flag in Europe and the United States 1985 – 2017

Karin with Thesis Chair Dr. Mike Allen
Russell Hansen – Thesis: Deliberative Democracy in the Networked Public Sphere: Using Social Media to Talk Politics

Russell with Thesis Co-Chair Dr. Emily Ignacio
Jay Robinson – Project: Living With Loss in the Anthropocene
Jay with Degree Project Reader and MAIS Director Riki Thompson
Rachael Williamson – Thesis: Play and Performance: Creating Life-Spaces in which Learning Leads Development

Rachael with Thesis Reader Dr. Tony Perone
Jordan Woolston – Practicum: Decolonizing Foundation Funding in the Nonprofit Sector

Jordan with Practicum Chair Dr. Ruth Bernstein

Congratulations to Karin, Russell, Jay, Rachael and Jordan!  We’re excited for you and your next adventures, and look forward to hearing about your future endeavors and pursuits!

MAIS Captures Attention at the WCGLSS



Above, left to right: TeyAnjulee Leon, Alyssa Urish, Shadyar Omrani and Mira Farrow.

In the past, the MAIS program has had tremendous success at the West Coast Graduate Liberal Studies Symposium (WCGLSS), and this year was no exception.  A record number of six students were accepted to present,  and four were able to attend the Symposium, which took place at Stanford University in Palo Alto, CA during the weekend of June 22-24.

Mira Farrow (formerly Robert Tacker) – Gender Outlaws in Nonbinary Space

TeyAnjulee Leon – A Critical Analysis of the Experience of Women of Color in Academia
Shadyar Omrani – Theocratic State and the Production of Religious Sectarianism: The Impact of Iran on the Shiite Cultural Growth in the Middle East

Alyssa UrishConverging Interests: A Critical Race Theory Lens on Tacoma’s School Desegregation Program

Congratulations to Mira, TeyAnjulee, Shadyar and Alyssa!  Excellent job, all!

Erica Tucker Heads to the Southwest via Fellowship/Scholarship

In May we learned that MAIS student Erica Tucker was awarded not one but two prestigious awards to provide funding for travel to conduct research in New Mexico.  During her time here in the MAIS she served as a student representative to the MAIS Steering Committee, and has been a terrific resource of information and support for incoming and current students.  Erica has been diligently researching and writing what will become her final thesis, and provides us with more details about her trip:

This Spring I was one of two recipients of the Peter Mack and Jamie Mayerfeld Fellowship through the UW Center for Human Rights. This, along with the Carol Van Natta Scholarship through the School of IAS, allowed me to travel to New Mexico to do research for my thesis. My primary purpose was to talk with and interview elder family members in order to create a family archive, based on my family’s experiences and oral histories. My thesis consists of a discourse analysis of historical newspaper articles, centered around the Long Walk of the Diné (Navajo) in 1863-1864 and stories of my great-great grandparents, whose land in Canyon de Chelly, AZ was stolen when they were forced to walk hundreds of miles to an internment camp in eastern New Mexico.

I was able to gather a few stories from relatives, and gained access to documents, photographs, and other data. I also visited the Center for Southwest Research, located in the University of New Mexico’s library, where I met with one of the research librarians who helped me access databases containing a treasure-trove of information which will further enhance my research. Though the trip felt way too short, I feel amazing about what I was able to discover in a relatively short amount of time, on an academic level but also, more importantly, on a personal level. Connecting in a new way with my elder family members, and just being in the place where my family has lived for so long, was deeply meaningful. I look forward to honoring them in my research. I am also incredibly honored to have received both awards from the UW – it feels great to be supported in my academic pursuits. And now, back to writing!

Congratulations Erica!  We’re extremely proud of your many accomplishments during your time as a graduate student, and appreciate your contributions to the MAIS program.

We will see you again when we return in the Autumn quarter.

Enjoy your summer!

Winter Quarter 2018

Welcome to the Winter 2018 edition of Masterly Musings!

In this issue we feature School of IAS faculty member Chris Beasley, and learn more about his groundbreaking research with formerly incarcerated individuals and their quest to further their education.  Also, MAIS alum Corrie Hulse tells us about her newly-released book, and reflects on her time in the MAIS program. In a slight twist of fate, we have an update about the MAIS Top Scholar Award, and how two students are recognized for this honor.  Since it’s the season for funding and scholarships, we have an update about our two annual awards, which are the Carol Van Natta Scholarship and the MAIS Graduate Research Scholarship.  Finally, the Graduate Liberal Studies Symposium will be held at Stanford this year, and we’ll have updated information about this event in our June edition.  Until then, please read on, and discover what’s been happening with the MAIS program this quarter.

MAIS Faculty Spotlight: Chris Beasley

Assistant Professor Chris Beasley joins MAIS this year as the new division representative for Social, Behavioral, and Human Sciences and an incoming faculty mentor for Rebecca Ring. He has an A.A.S. in Psychology from Lincoln Trail College, a B.A.S. in Psychology from the University of Minnesota, Duluth, an M.A. in Clinical Psychology from Roosevelt University, and a Ph.D. in Community Psychology from DePaul University.  As a community psychologist, Dr. Beasley conducts community-engaged applied research to strengthen communities while participating in grassroots organizing to support such settings and helping students develop the capacity for this work.

Chris is the principal investigator for the Post-Prison Education Research Lab (PERL), which seeks to better understand factors affecting prison to college transitions. He uses a collaborative model of inquiry called Community-Based Participatory Action Research. It is community-based in that it takes place in the community rather than in controlled settings that are controlled but artificial. In a sense, the community is the lab. This word is participatory in that it people closest to problems and opportunities are closely involved in the research process. For PERL, this is done through a community advisory board of community members and service provides involved in the prison-to-college transition process. The PERL community advisory board includes formerly incarcerated students and graduates, representatives from the WA State Board of Community and Technical Colleges, the WA Student Achievement council, the WA Department of Corrections, the WA Workforce Development Council, colleges and universities in Pierce County, and the social service sector. The research is action-oriented in that it is intended to answer questions most salient to communities of practice and, thus, provide scholarly insight into their development.

Chris has been leading UWT’s effort to build a Husky Post-Prison Pipeline. This work aims to address inequity related to higher education for formerly incarcerated people. Many universities like UWT prioritize access to education, particularly for those who have historically lacked such access. While universities have made considerable improvements to access for many marginalized groups, others such as formerly incarcerated people appear to be substantially underrepresented at institutions like UWT. In fact, even though about 3% of Americans have been to prison, Chris estimates that only 0.2% of UWT students have been to prison.  Chris has created a Husky Post-Prison Pipeline advisory council to guide UWT’s efforts to address this disparity. The council is comprised of formerly incarcerated students and graduates, half of whom are UWT students and alumni. Chris is currently assembling a Husky Post-Prison Pipeline steering committee comprised of UWT administrators who will create the program in coordination with the advisory council. He is also beginning to create an informal network of UWT faculty to provide support for this work. While supports are being developed, the UWT admissions and advising offices as well as students from the newly-formed UWT Collaborative Association for Reintegration and Education student group are providing support to incarcerated and formerly incarcerated applicants.

Chris is also a board director for Civil Survival–a nonprofit organization developing the civic capacity of people impacted by the justice system. Civil Survival organizes justice-involved people to build connections, gain knowledge, increase political participation, and effect policy changes in order to break cycles of incarceration and deepen community liberation. The non-partisan organization does this through statewide “Game Changer” groups that train people how to talk about the ways they’ve been impacted by the justice system as well as how to become involved in the legislative and political processes. Civil Survival board members instrumental in drafting and passage of the Fair Chance to Education Act, which restricts the use of criminal history in college admissions–a “ban the box” for college. You can see Chris’ testimony on this bill here.

Lastly, Chris is a co-founder of the national Formerly Incarcerated College Graduates Network. FICGN is a network of college graduates who have been to prison. It includes people from varied educational backgrounds– AA to JD/PhD/EdD as well as careers ranging from staff members to State and Federal Administrators, Executive Directors, Attorneys, Professors, and a College President. It envisions a society in which formerly incarcerated people of all races, genders, sexual orientations, and offense types pursue their dreams as educated and empowered citizens with valued experiences. We see a world in which we have the rights and opportunities needed to make important contributions to our communities and beyond. FICGN’s mission is to promote the education and empowerment of formerly incarcerated people through a collective community. It does so by (1) strengthening social networks of formerly incarcerated people, creating spaces for formerly incarcerated people to share and discuss ideas, changing social perceptions of incarcerated and formerly incarcerated people, changing incarcerated and formerly incarcerated people’s views of themselves, promoting and supporting prison and post-prison education, demonstrating the value of our lived experience, and advocating for criminal justice policy change.

As a formerly incarcerated scholar, Chris’ research, action, and teaching are informed by multiple ways of knowing. He always looks forward to connecting with formerly incarcerated students and graduates as well as others who are committed to better understanding the prison-to-college transition process and addressing this substantial inquiry. To learn more about Chris’ work or connect, send him an email at or visit

Alumni Spotlight: Corrie Hulse


We recently learned that MAIS alum Corrie Hulse (MAIS Class of 2010 ) was promoting her new book, When We Let People Die, and we contacted her to find out what she’s been doing.  She had many positive things to say about the MAIS program, and its influence on her current work:

“I can’t believe it’s been almost 10 years since I first walked onto campus at UW Tacoma. One of my first classes was Dr. Rob Crawford’s War and Culture. This meant I started my grad school experience reading Chris Hedge’s War is a Force That Gives Us Meaning and Judith Butler’s Precarious Life. For others in the MAIS program these might have just been interesting reads, but for me, these books were building what would become a lifelong passion.

Eventually, I found myself in Dr. Michael Forman’s class, reading Immanuel Kant, Thomas Hobbes, and of course a little Niccolo Machiavelli. It was here that I gained a deeper understanding of the foundations of political thought and also challenged the political inclinations I already possessed. Dr. Forman encouraged a handful of us from his class to attend a summer peace operations conference called CERIUM in Montreal. This conference ended up being a major turning point for my educational and professional journey. It was at this conference that I was introduced to the Responsibility to Protect, which would become the focus of my master’s thesis, the catalyst for much of my writing post grad school, and ultimately the topic of the essay collection I recently published, When We Let People Die.

Thinking back, I could have gone to a graduate program specifically focused on international affairs; there are many of them. UW Seattle has quite a good program, for that matter. But I have always been drawn to interdisciplinary work, and something about the MAIS program at UWT just intrigued me, and I remain glad I made the choice to attend.

Today, I am the Managing Editor of The Mantle, an online magazine and publishing imprint that publishes emerging voices from around the world. Somehow I managed to make my editing interdisciplinary as well, as I spend my days editing articles on everything from Epicurus, to Blaxploitation in superhero movies, to questions of how to prosecute the women of ISIS. I often joke that editing is like getting a second master’s degree as I learn so much from my writers. My time in the MAIS program at UWT most definitely expanded my ability to work within multiple disciplines, and encouraged me to follow my curiosities wherever they happen to lead.

These days, beyond my editing work you can find me teaching writing at a local CUNY community college, and volunteering with an organization I love called iACT that brings soccer academies and preschools to refugee camps. I’m still so thankful for my time at UW Tacoma, the great cohort of classmates I graduated with that still encourage and inspire me, and the professors such as Dr. Forman who even today continue to push me in my academic and professional pursuits.”

MAIS Top Scholar(s)


       Jordan Woolston                                                                                                 Alyssa Urish

In our last edition of Masterly Musings we reported that Jordan Woolston was the winner of our first ever MAIS Top Scholar.  As timing would have it, Jordan was fortunate to also receive a graduate appointment in Seattle this year. We are thrilled to announce that we were able to provide our runner-up Alyssa Urish with the tuition award.  We’re very lucky to have such inspiring students who are so deserving of these awards.  Jordan’s practicum examines Native American history and nonprofits and is supervised by Ruth Bernstein (SHS) and Michelle Montgomery (SHS). Alyssa’s thesis focuses on diversity and education and is supervised by Rachel Herschberg (SBHS) and Chris Knaus (School of Education). Congratulations to Alyssa and Jordan; we’re very proud of both of you!

Scholarships and Funding

In February we had two opportunities to fund students for conference travel and resources to support students here in the MAIS program.  The Carol Van Natta Scholarship was created to assist graduate students in participating in conferences and gaining access to special opportunities that are important elements of the research and scholarship experiences that characterize graduate study.  This year we had some extra money for the Van Natta Scholarship so we’re able to pass the surplus funding along to our students.  Additionally, the MAIS Scholarship provides MAIS students with awards for three students of $500 each to attend the West Coast Graduate Liberal Studies Symposium where they will present their research.  We’ll announce our winners for both of these esteemed awards in the Spring 2018 version of Masterly Musings.

West Coast Graduate Liberal Studies Symposium

MAIS students and alumni are invited to participate in the West Coast Graduate Liberal Studies Symposium, hosted by Stanford University, June 22-24.  The twelfth annual Graduate Liberal Studies Symposium continues the tradition started by Stanford University and Dominican University of California in 2007 of developing our broader academic community through a weekend of intellectual exchange and conversation. This interdisciplinary Symposium provides the opportunity for students and alumni to present papers to an audience of their peers, to participate in lively discussions, and to meet fellow GLS students from other schools.  All students, alumni and faculty from our universities are welcome to attend the Symposium. Last year UW Tacoma hosted this event and it was a terrific success, with participants from seven different universities and colleges.  This year we have several students that have submitted proposals for this Symposium, and we’ll announce the attendees who were accepted to present their research in our next edition of Masterly Musings.  Stay tuned!

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!