Category Archives: Faculty Interview

Profile in Research: Global Honors Undergraduate Theses

by Justin Wadland

Global Honors Word Cloud

A word cloud generated from the abstracts of all the Global Honors capstone papers submitted to Digital Commons.

Students in the Global Honors Program have submitted over 40 undergraduate theses and many of these titles appear in the list of the most downloaded papers in UW Tacoma Digital Commons. At the end of each year, all students who achieve a 3.7 GPA or higher are automatically invited to add their papers to the collection.

When the collection was created in 2012, Global Honors was the first program on the UW Tacoma campus to begin systematically providing online access to student work. Executive Director Divya McMillin and Program Administrator Paul Carrington discussed some of the unexpected ways that students have benefited from sharing their work through Digital Commons.

Justin Wadland: How does sharing the Global Honors Capstones through Digital Commons support the goals of your program?

Paul Carrington and Divya McMillin

Paul Carrington and Divya McMillin

Divya McMillin: With the capstone project, we want students to explore an issue in-depth that has global implications. The global aspect of the project focuses on the dynamics of interdependencies and interconnections, and the students investigate questions that are compelling to communities locally and across the world, grounding their work in specific cultural contexts and locations. The capstone demonstrates an understanding of these global dynamics and has academic rigor through the breadth and quality of the research.

In a broader view, we also want our students to be public intellectuals. The important question for us is: What is the impact and value of the work? Often the capstones investigate a line of inquiry down to a specific action. We’re looking for transformation in the students themselves and transformation in communities that they’re writing about.

In 2012, we were considering the legacy of these projects and how they fit into the larger academic community. We initially explored creating a Global Honors journal, but after doing extensive research, we realized the complexity of such an undertaking. Around that same time, Digital Commons became available, and we were impressed with it.  It’s a simple, high value way for getting our students’ work out there.

How has putting the Global Honors Theses into Digital Commons changed the students’ relationship to their own work?

Divya McMillin: We really encourage the students to see their work as having an impact beyond the classroom. It’s a supportive process, but we want to challenge the students as scholars. By the time they are ready to write their theses, the students see what the value of the capstone is to them. Once it’s available in Digital Commons, it becomes a credential that can help them in applying for graduate school or in any professional career.

Even when their work is eligible for submission, the process isn’t over because they get extensive feedback from us before it goes online. This is important to us because it’s not just their name on the paper but the names of the program and the faculty advisors.

Digital Commons is one representative of a thoughtful, collaborative community process, and it shows not just the students but all of those involved what goes into knowledge production. We really want to make sure that everything that’s out there is valid and substantiated.

What have been some of the unexpected outcomes of having the projects available in Digital Commons?

Paul Carrington: One of our students was recruited to a doctoral program at University of Chicago after a professor there found her paper in Digital Commons. I got the call early one morning.  Because the student had developed considerable expertise in her subject area, the professor saw her as a candidate for a research assistant and wanted to get in touch. I connected the student with the professor. She ultimately turned down the opportunity because she was already settling into a very successful career path here, but this wouldn’t have happened if the paper wasn’t online. This is a remarkable example, but it demonstrates how making the work more widely available enables students to make connections through their outstanding work.

Divya McMillin: Also, I should mention a new way we are using these capstones. We are building a Directed Research Program and want to be more deliberate about guiding students to grounded and community-relevant research questions that arise from both global contexts as well as the global port city of Tacoma. The members of our Advisory Board are asked to engage in conversations with representatives from various professional areas in the community to identify questions or topics that would be valuable to them and their organizations. In that process, one Board member is sweeping Digital Commons to see what’s been explored in Global Honors theses already. We’ve identified two sets of questions, one from the community and another from the past theses. Through this, we’re offering current students both a starting point for their own projects as well as opening up for them, areas where their research will have a direct impact. This front-end guidance provides deeper support for the student research journey and paves the way for mentor-relationships and various experiential learning opportunities based on the question or questions picked up.

Additional information

Profile in Research: Belinda Louie

Keywords: Children’s and Young Adult Literature; English Language Learning; Online Instruction; Faculty Teaching Development; Reading Instruction

Belinda Louie is a professor in the Education Program and has taught at the University of Washington Tacoma for over twenty years. An avid reader and collector of children’s and young adult literature, she and her husband established an endowed collection of juvenile literature in the UW Tacoma Library. Her research has often focused on the role of reading and language in primary education.

What aspects of your research are you most passionate about?Photo of Belinda Louie

My area of specialty is children’s and young adult literature, and I use it as a platform to go into language learning and reading instruction. One area that I focus on is online instruction and another is faculty development. I’m a bit of hybrid, like an English faculty member who is housed in Education.

I originally got my bachelor’s degrees as a double major in English and History, then, went on to get my Ph.D. in Education with focus on K-8 and bilingual and bi-cultural education. I came to juvenile literature as something that could be used in my classes. Ultimately, I believe teaching reading is not just teaching a skill. A lot of Americans are aliterate. They can read, but they don’t choose to read, and they don’t love books. The alumni magazine once quoted me as saying, “Books will get offended if you use them without loving them.” I still believe that.

You’re currently doing grant-funded research into English Learners in elementary schools. What are some of your findings about Washington State?

I’m so deep into that research that it’s hard for me to comment right now. In Washington State, 9.8% of students are English Learners or EL, meaning that English is not the primary language spoken at home. If you look across the country, other states beat us in the overall number of EL students, but we have distinct honor of having the poorest record in preparing teachers to work with EL students. Currently, there is one trained EL teacher to 250 learners. This seemed like a perfect opportunity to apply for a grant, and we initially received funding to develop a program for training teachers.

After collecting data and reviewing the literature, however, we saw that if you want to have big impact on EL academic achievement, you must train the principals. Leadership matters in creating an environment that supports EL students. The principals may not work with students, but they are the instructional leaders of the school. Ultimately, they decide what kinds of professional development opportunities are available for teachers. Our current grant proposal establishes a partnership with the Association of Washington State Principals, and I’m collaborating with Rich Knuth, who is a former principal himself and well-respected in the field.

You published an article the ways that historical fiction can be used to teach a perspectives on a complex topic. How can this literature be used by educators?

I looked at the ways Pacific Front during World War II was presented in literature from various Asian countries and found that each side was focused on its own suffering. For instance, the Korean literature tells of the pain caused by the Japanese, and the Japanese literature speaks of the pain caused by the Americans. Yet they each present very different perspectives of the war and create opportunities for discussions.

It was a very difficult topic for me to bring up, but I tend to have a global perspective. I am forever international because I am an immigrant. As a Chinese person, I always remember the Japanese occupation of Hong Kong. People who read my article appreciated my critical analysis. Because I have a degree in history, I bring the cultural historical perspective into the story, as well.

I tend not to read individual books but a collection of them, looking at how similar titles are to their neighbors. I do not want acknowledge it, but I’m very systematic in my reading habits.

Name one work or author that has had a significant influence on you.

My husband, Douglass Louie, is my mentor and has influenced me in so many ways. He tends to read widely and deeply when he approaches a topic—I don’t know how many doctorates has: he’s an M.D. with a J.D., a Ph.D. in Pyschology, among others. He prefers to get a much more comprehensive view on a particular point. Also, during some periods of my life, I was very sick, and he would go to the university library and bring half of an entire bookshelf home for me to read. He once ordered the whole archive of a journal so I could read the key articles without going to the library. That was the time before digital collections, when we could only read journal articles in the library.

Learn more about Belinda Louie’s research.

Profile in Research: Jeff Cohen

Keywords: Gender; Masculinities; Integral Theory; Restorative Justice; Bullying

Jeff Cohen is a professor in the UW Tacoma Social Work and Criminal Justice program. His recent book  Confronting School Bulling: Kids, Culture, and the Making of Social Problem investigates media representations of bullying and the implications for criminalizing this behavior. Drawing upon Integral Theory, his work also more broadly examines masculinity in a variety of contexts.

What aspects of your research are you most passionate about?

Photo of Jeff CohenI’d say that I’m most passionate about uncovering the complexities of the lived experience of people who find themselves in the criminal justice system. Also, I’m interested in understanding how men’s lives and perspectives are shaped by their experiences of gender.

In my research I use Integral Theory, which is a trans-disciplinary model that looks at human phenomenon from multiple perspectives and provides a deeper, more complex view of the situation. We tend to think of things in essentialist terms—you behave in particular way because of sex—but the reality is that we are much more than our biology. Men experience the social construction of gender, for instance.

How has your research into bullying changed your view of news coverage of this issue?

What I see is that adults are often blind to the way that news coverage and analysis reinforce the very problems they want to uncover or address. For example, I saw a show where Dr. Drew was interviewing a young woman who had experienced bullying. He said to her something like, “You’re a beautiful young woman. Why would anyone bully you?” This comment assumes that people who don’t look good would be bullied. Adults often adopt stereotypes as they try to influence things.

Cover Image: Confront School BullyingAlso, I don’t think bullying is something that can be stopped. It’s an unfortunate but natural part of the development of young people. Kids are drawn to conformity, and generally any difference, good or bad, can lead to kids being a target for bullying. The reality is that roles fluctuate, and kids are often friends with those that do the bullying. The problem is that we don’t do enough to acknowledge young people’s own awareness of what’s happening, and when we respond, it makes the situation worse.

I tend to take a restorative rather than a punitive approach. When I speak to young people about bullying, I usually start with the academic definition, but then move to asking whether the definition makes sense. Have they seen examples of bullying? What have they seen? The discussion then moves to the reasons why kids bully or get bullied and what are appropriate ways to respond. What I find is that kids are much more open to this kind of conversation.

How has your work influenced how others see bullying?

I didn’t initially go into my research on bullying to influence policy and practice. Adults are not in a position to make effective change without engaging young people. There’s no way we address this from a top down approach. In many ways, we’re speaking a different language.

There is a relationship between disciplinary policies and the bystander. Adults say we need harsh penalties, but the effect of these policies is that kids are less likely to turn in peers. Kids don’t want to be snitches, which makes it harder to recognize when bullying is happening. By silencing them, we do them a disservice.

The restorative approach, on the other hand, has been proven to work because it engages youth in ways that don’t alienate and shame them. It expands the scope beyond adult ideas of what’s right. These programs are working really well and are having an impact on the school-to-prison pipeline.

Name one work or scholar that has had significant influence on you.

Intellectually, the author that had most effect on me is Ken Wilber, who developed Integral Theory and perhaps described it best in his book The Marriage of Sense and Soul. His work suggests that science and eastern and western approaches to spirituality can and should be integrated. My dissertation was the first to apply Integral Theory in the Criminal Justice field. Many of my works have been applications of his model.

Learn more about Jeff Cohen’s research.

Profile in Research: Anaid Yerena

Keywords: Affordable housing, advocacy organizations, resident participation, e-governance, energy efficient design

Anaid Yerena is a professor in the University of Washington Urban Studies Program. As an architect, planner, and researcher, she is interested in the public participation processes and activities related to housing and community development.

Justin Wadland: What aspects of your research are you most passionate about?

Yerena 93015Anaid Yerena: Improving the lives of others around the issue of people in need of affordable
housing —that’s what gets me going. We all need affordable housing, so this is a topic that touches us all.

My research studies how advocacy organization promote policies at the local level to encourage the creation of affordable housing. For example, I looked at how many years particular organizations had worked in a community, and I found that they got better at influencing policymakers. They know who to call, who to reach out to, who their allies are. They also have a recognition or standing in the community. People see that they’re not going away. In many cases, these organizations learn more than decision-makers and become experts in policy issues. My goal is to be an advocate for the advocates, to make planers and decision-makers aware that advocacy organizations are their partners and contributors to the solution.

How does your research affect your view of what’s happening in the Puget Sound region?

I recently attended two meetings, and I saw advocates being misunderstood and mistreated. Everybody in those meetings was concerned about the issue of homelessness, but the advocates and community members were divided into groups. During the community input portion of the meeting, these groups were pitted against each other. I felt that the passion and anger that people brought to the meeting was unfairly directed at the advocates. Everyone—decision-makers, advocate, residents—was there to help reduce homelessness in that city. The way neighborhood leaders were approaching the issue is making it more difficult to move forward.

By the way, I use advocacy organization broadly; when I use this term I include non-profit organizations as well as service providers. The service providers were there to speak for the community they serve. If the city council decided to fund a project for homeless services, they were seen as deciding against neighbors. I don’t envy the council’s position. What I wish had been acknowledged was that everybody was on the same side. We all wanted a solution: to improve the current conditions of homeless people in that city.

What has been one of the unexpected outcomes of your research?

There’s an article I have coming out that has created a lot of opportunities for community engagement, especially in my work around homelessness. I developed a tool that gives organizations the ability to do process evaluations. It is a research project that has direct practical applications.

Funding for these organization is often tied to how they perform and how the community sees them. Most of organizations evaluate their outcomes but rarely complete a process evaluation. This type of evaluation looks at the inner workings of the organization. It considers the priorities of an organization and evaluates them against policies and practices. For example, if your priority is helping program participants find resources for mental health, why are you dedicating so many resources on job skills training?

The results of the evaluation encourage organization leaders to have a conversation about how their priorities align with what they’re actually doing. It also creates a record that can help inform future decisions and improve training for new members. Best of all, with this tool, organizations only need to allocate twenty-four hours divided among staff and leadership to complete the evaluation.

If you were going to recommend someone new to your work to read single book or article, what would it be? Why?

For a practitioner interested in affordable housing, I would recommend “Advocacy in Action,”  which summarizes the findings of my dissertation. My research has found that advocacy organizations do make a difference. Before my work, people agreed that advocacy organizations had an impact, but no one was able to measure it. My work operationalizes a very abstract concept. How do you quantify the ability to advocate, and see whether it had influence on spending?

Name one work or scholar that has had the biggest influence on you.

I’m going to go with Victoria Basolo. She conducted a comprehensive study that asked policymakers their impressions of advocates and the influence they had on furthering the policy agenda. Dr. Basolo is interested in the same policy issue as I am, and in fact, she was my adviser and is now a collaborator. With my work, I feel like I am picking up a baton and continuing where she and others had left off. They found evidence that the answer is, yes, organizations are perceived to influence decision-makers, but due to a lack of better measurement options that is where they stopped. With access to larger data sets, I can make more precise observations. The data had always existed, but it hadn’t been put in to a format that could be analyzed.

Learn more about Anaid Yerena’s research.

Profile in Research: Kima Cargill

Keywords: Consumerism, Marketing, Overeating, Well-being, Existentialism

Kima Cargill is a professor of clinical psychology at the University of Washington Tacoma. Her research examines how overeating is influenced by living in an affluent consumer culture. Librarian Justin Wadland interviewed her about her research.

Justin Wadland: What aspects of your research are you most passionate about?

Kima Cargill PortraitKima Cargill: I’m most about passionate understanding how consumer culture has taken over our psyche in many ways without us ever realizing it. I want to uncover how consumer products, marketing, and advertising take over identity.

My work for the past several years looks into the ways consumer culture and the food industry have created the tremendous public health crisis of overeating. A lot of people think my work is about food, but it’s not just that. I’m looking at how rampant consumerism affects us psychologically. More recently, I’ve been looking at how Psychology itself has been commercialized and made into a product that doesn’t necessarily improve our well-being or live up to promises it makes to people. In a lot of ways, it’s cheapened the discipline.

What impact has your research had on your daily life?

A lot of the time I tell people that I’m on a diet of spite. I get so angry when I learn about the tactics that food marketers — and the pharmaceutical companies, as well — use to get people to buy products. I’m so outraged that it makes me not want to give money to these companies. I think hard about where I put my dollar. We generally feel better when we spend money on experiences rather than consumer goods. My research makes me more careful about how I spend money.

What has been one of the unexpected outcomes of your research?

What has surprised me is that I wrote a book for an academic audience — and my talk at town hall was a synopsis of that book — and I’ve been surprised and touched by the random emails I’ve gotten from ordinary people who have read my book or watched the presentation. One person wrote this week that as a result of my work, the connection between the food and pharmaceutical industries finally clicked for him. The highest compliment is to have someone tell me I articulated something that they almost knew but hadn’t quite arrived at on their own.

If you were going to recommend someone new to your work to read single book or article, what would it be? Why?

Cover of Psychology of OvereatingI’d recommend my book because it was a real departure from my previous publications. Everything before it was more esoteric and full of jargon for insiders in the discipline, and I decided to do something different and have my natural voice come through. It’s more accessible and polemical, and it’s very timely to call out the health risks of our consumer culture, especially in light of the Occupy Movement and the discussions about income inequality.  It seems like there is much more global awareness of the effects of consumerism—even Pope Francis has made this central to his message.

Name one work—book, movie, song, anything—that has had a biggest influence on you.

This is not a model but an influence. One of the first articles I read in graduate school was “Why the Self is Empty” by Phillip Cushman. (By coincidence he lives out here and has taught for UW Tacoma.) That article really opened my eyes to the way our personal psychology develops within consumer culture, within what some people call the culture of narcissism. Also, it very honestly said the discipline of Psychology was complicit in the problem. That article had a profound effect on my understanding, and I think I cite that article in everything that I’ve written.  I’d call it a seminal work for me, and I’d credit Dr. Cushman in my intellectual development.

Learn more about Kima Cargill’s research.