Author Archives: tshs

Alumni Profile: Mercedi Benien

Ethnic, Gender, and Labor Studies graduate Mercedi Benien has decided to stay in the world of academia, accepting a position as the Budget and Administrative Specialist for Pacific Lutheran University’s Music Department. “My major supported by personal growth, and has prepared me to work in diverse communities, and has made me more passionate about working in an education setting,” says Benien. For now, Benien is focusing on her new position, but one day she hopes to return to UW Tacoma and enroll in the Master of Arts in Interdisciplinary Studies Community and Social Change program.

Deciding to major in EGL was a no-brainer for Benien as it encompassed everything she aspires to be and helped prepare her for her new job. “Inclusivity, intersectionality, feminism, history, compassion, etch. are all frameworks of how I already viewed the world before my undergrad, and getting to expand on that understanding was invaluable,” she says, adding that education is an opportunity for career advancement, as well as personal growth.

Benien reports that her favorite classes at UW were taught by Associate Professor Dr. Luther Adams, specifically African American History and African American Religious History. “He has a unique teaching style that is based on in class dialogue and really helps us understand history from the perspectives of the people the history was about. He brought to life so many stories, and I loved learning in those courses,” she elaborated.

More than anything else, Benien will miss her friends and the experiences they had together at UW Tacoma. Although she wasn’t expecting to form such close bonds, she says she will “most remember the strong women that became my school community, helped me be successful, supported me through difficult times, and made me laugh every day.”

We wish her the best of luck in her new position and hope to see her in the MAIS program soon!

2017 – 2018 Academic Year in Review

2017 – 2018 was an exciting academic year for Social and Historical Studies. Here are some highlights:


  • In May, SHS hosted the History Major Spring Social to recognize inductees to Phi Alpha Theta and celebrate the 2018 History Paper Award winners. Recent grad Josiah Pollock was this year’s first place winner and Robbie Wood received second place. Michael Chavez Jr. and Maggie Crelling both received honorable mentions.
  • Assistant Professor Michelle Montgomery brought four guest speakers to campus for the Indigenous Knowledge and Community Conversation series. Topics included “Engineering & Indigenuity: How NASA Views Tribal Resourcefulness,” “The Story of a Tribal Liaison – Teaching STEM Indigenous Knowledge,” “Rising Together: Collaborative Support for Tribal Climate Decision-Making,” and “Indigenous Feminisms and Environmentalism: Re/Claiming Relationships and Responsibilities.”
  • Assistant Professor Stephanie Hinnershitz traveled from Cleveland State University in May to visit UW Tacoma campus, as well as give a lecture at the Washington State History Museum titled “Asian Student Labor Activism in the Early 20th Century Pacific Northwest.”
  • On May 2nd, SHS co-sponsored a presentation by University of Florida Professor Paul Ortiz, which focused on the African American and Latinx history of the U.S.
  • Fall and winter quarter, the SHS division co-sponsored 6th, 7th, and 8th grade AVID students from Jason Lee Middle School who participated in co-curricular activities with UWT students enrolled in Urban Studies and Sociology courses. Coordinated by Lecturer Tanya Velasquez, students practiced seminar skills while discussing common reading assignments about racism and the school-to-prison pipeline.

Faculty Highlights

  • Associate Professor Michael Kucher took over the role of Social and Historical Studies Division Chair. Many thanks to Associate Professor Johann Reusch for his service!
  • Tanya Velasquez and Cynthia Howson both received promotions to Senior Lecturer.
  • Assistant Professor Danica Miller was awarded the 2017 – 2018 Distinguished Teaching Award.
  • Professor Michael Honey published his book “To the Promised Land: 
    Martin Luther King and the Fight for Economic Justice.” Professor Honey also travelled a national lecture and media circuit from Atlanta and Memphis to Seattle and Tacoma before ending in Japan, 50 years after King’s assassination in Memphis.
  • The book “Identity Politics of Difference: The Mixed-Race American Indian Experience” was published by Assistant Professor Michelle Montgomery. Professor Montgomery was also invited to interview for Voice of America News and The Native STEM Research Study by the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research and National Center for Atmospheric Research.

Alumni Profile: Carly Gliva

After being unable to find the right fit with the degree programs offered, UWT alumni Carly Gliva decided to build a customized degree in Nonprofit Development and Management. Now, just a few weeks after graduation, Carly has already found employment in the nonprofit sector as the Development Program Coordinator at Habitat for Humanity Seattle King County. “I designed my degree in Nonprofit Development and Management specifically because I wanted to find a job in the nonprofit sector, and it worked,” says Carly.

She says that she will always remember the students and professors she worked with. By participating in internships and mentorship her final year, Carly felt “well oriented to the strategy and practices commonly used in the fundraising profession; something that wouldn’t have happened without [her] unique course plan…”

Referring to the internships and mentoring she received as a senior, Carly says, “I’ve had the privilege to learn from some amazing and inspirational women with those opportunities, and I am so excited to continue learning from the accomplished women in leadership here at Habitat SKC.”

Congratulations on your new job Carly!


Alumni Profile: Josh Scullin

Social and Historical Studies grad Josh Scullin is moving on to big things after receiving his degree in June. He recently accepted a position as the new Museum Manager for the Tacoma Historical Society, something he feels well prepared for thanks to his History major.  “I don’t doubt that my writing and analytical skills gained at UWT were instrumental to being offered the position,” says Josh. “Those same skills also earned me a place in the University of Washington’s Masters of Library and Information Science Program.”

Reflecting on his time at UW Tacoma, Josh will fondly remember his instructors’ willingness to be challenged by different ideas, as well as his favorite classes, the History Methods Research and Writing Seminar and History Capstone. “Having two full quarters to really dig into a personally significant research project while refining your writing and research skills in preparation of an academic presentation is an exceptionally rewarding way to culminate your time as an undergrad,” he says of the two part class.

Josh has this advice for other students: “…explore classes outside your concentration—you may be surprised at what you find interesting—and get to know your professors as building such relationships can be beneficial far beyond your four years as an undergrad.”

Congratulations to Josh on his new position! We wish him the best of luck in his future endeavors.

Shaquita Humphrey-Pressley and the source of her fire

Shaquita Humphrey-Pressley

Shaquita Humphrey-Pressley was born and raised in Tacoma, Washington. She graduated this past spring from the University of Washington Tacoma with a double-major in Psychology and Ethnic, Gender, and Labor Studies with a focus in Ethnic Studies. She also is a recipient of the 2015 Outstanding Woman Award. Humphrey-Pressley will soon begin the University of Southern California’s Master’s program of Postsecondary Administration and Student Affairs. I was fortunate enough to be able to ask her questions about her academic career before she travelled across two state borders into California with her three year-old daughter. Continue reading

Graduate Honors and Dean’s List Recipients

The Social and Historical Studies (SHS) Division would like to recognize those students who received honors in the Spring 2015 Commencement program and those students who received Dean’s List recognition any quarter during the 2014-15 academic year. We are so proud of our graduates and Dean’s List recipients!

Only students who have authorized the release of Student Directory Information and whose grades were posted by April 30, 2015, are included on the Dean’s List.  


History Honors
Kaylyn Renee Brown
Jordan Woolston

Magna Cum Laude
Terra R. Curley, Ethnic, Gender, and Labor Studies
Ross Fairbrother, Ethnic, Gender, and Labor Studies
Wes McIntosh, Ethnic, Gender, and Labor Studies
Ashley A. Westerland, Ethnic, Gender, and Labor Studies
Andrew M. Wilson, History
Alana B. Zautner, Global Studies

Cum Laude
Kaylyn Renee Brown, History
Reese Cole Hentges, History
Michael John Maratas, Global Studies
Jordan Lee Woolston, History

Faculty Honors
Sean William Beireis, History

Suzette Marengo, Ethnic, Gender, and Labor Studies
Hunter Blakney, History
Ashley Douthett, Global Studies
Ross Fairbrother, Ethnic, Gender, and Labor Studies
Christeanna Friend, Global Studies
Benjamin Gibbons, History
Anita Gorbun, Ethnic, Gender, and Labor Studies
Michael Hartman, History
Michael Maratas, Global Studies
Schynequa Mathis, Ethnic, Gender, and Labor Studies
Tyler Miller, History
Jennifer Nguyen, History
Alison Marie Perkins, Global Studies
Justi Pfutzenreuter, Ethnic, Gender, and Labor Studies
Jennielyn Serdenia, Ethnic, Gender, and Labor Studies
Ashley Westerland, Ethnic, Gender, and Labor Studies
Andrew Wilson, History
Kaylyn Renee Brown, History
Reese Hentges, History
Jordan Lee Woolston, History

Phi Alpha Theta: What to do with your $45

PAT symbolForty-five dollars these days can barely buy two movie tickets and a few snacks at the concession stand, and even then the movie might not be to your liking and the popcorn too salty. Instead, imagine spending a one-time forty-five dollars on a lifetime membership to a national historic society that offers scholarship and networking opportunities with historians and professors at universities all over the country.  Members of Phi Alpha Theta have those wonderful opportunities with their forty-five dollars.

Phi Alpha Theta is a historical national honors society. The qualifications for membership are obtaining a 3.1 GPA in History and a 3.0 cumulative GPA in addition to the forty-five dollar membership fee.  “We have a lot of History undergraduates who are earning high enough GPAs to be involved but I don’t think there is enough advertising for the society,” explains Jordan Woolston, Interim President of Phi Alpha Theta at UW Tacoma. She adds, “If you are into history and research, Phi Alpha Theta is a really beneficial organization to be a part of.” Continue reading

LibicollageLibi Sundermann has been teaching at UW Tacoma for seven years.  Her courses are Modern Europe and World History. She specializes in British History but also teaches topics on Empires and Imperialism. She resides in Olympia and commutes to campus, as a lot of students and faculty do. She participates in a lot of triathlons and loves to exercise.  I recently met with Libi to ask her questions regarding her recent award of Outstanding Woman and her nomination of the Distinguished Teaching Award. She says, “It’s really easy to be outstanding on this campus because of the faculty, staff, and students that we have.” Libi has recently accepted a full-time competitive lecturer position with the SHS division–let’s all welcome her back to campus for another three years!

Congratulations on receiving the “Outstanding Woman Award” and being nominated for the “2015 Distinguished Teaching Award.” How does it feel to be recognized?

It feels great. What I thought right away though is the reason I was able to get the “Outstanding Woman Award” is because I teach on an outstanding campus with outstanding faculty, students, and staff who all motivate me to work hard. But it did feel great, I have been working really hard the past couple of years particularly on lecturer issues—I know that’s one of the points Joanne Clarke Dillman made when she nominated me. It feels really good seeing that work being noticed by the faculty and by the campus. It makes me proud and makes me want to stay here at UW Tacoma even more.

Did you see the recognition coming?

I knew that Joanne was thinking about nominating me, but I didn’t know if I would get chosen or not since there are a number of outstanding women on our campus. But I was hoping.

What does being a woman mean to you?

I have a mixed bag of answers to that. One is, I do consider myself a feminist and I think women should take full part and equal responsibility in society and be allowed to do everything as well. At the same time, I recognize that women and men are not always considered equal. Women still take a lot of responsibility for family and the home life so I think women have to work really hard to balance things if they have both of them and even if you don’t have kids, women end up taking care of relatives, taking care of their parents, more often than men do, or so it seems. I think it’s great that we’re recognized for being outstanding because most of us do work really hard and do have facets of our life that we have to balance.

Can you recall an experience where because of your gender the situation played out the way it did? What was your reaction?

The one that sticks out in my mind is the when I made a conscious decision to have a baby while I was completing my Ph.D. My husband was ready to start a family and he would have been willing to wait but I realized I was in my thirties, and I didn’t know how long it was going to take to finish my dissertation. While I think my committee members in my department took my pregnancy pretty well, there is definitely a stigma against having children while in graduate school and going on to begin your career in academia. It’s something that a lot of women have tended to put off until later. But I don’t remember anyone coming straight out and saying, “You’re making a mistake,” or, “Why, why are you doing this, this is going to affect your work.” I was scared to tell my advisor, and after I told him that I was pregnant and I was going to take a year off, two other women in my program came to me and said they were also pregnant and were really worried. I will say getting your Ph.D. is hard enough without adding a newborn to the mix but all three of us did it and we had our babies and finished our Ph.D. and moved on with our family life and career. I think there are gender stereotypes against women and women who work. I still feel guilty sometimes when I have to miss work or miss a meeting because I have to pick my son up. That said, UW Tacoma is really good about that.

Have you ever experienced gender discrimination?

You know, I don’t think I have. At least I didn’t realize it because, I mean, I don’t take ‘no’ for an answer. Nothing overt that I can think of, honestly.

Will the recognition for these two awards impact your teaching? How?

I think it will just make me work harder just to maintain the standard I have set for myself for being outstanding.  And in terms of the nomination for the teaching award, I really appreciated that. I think I am a really good teacher, but I didn’t know that I had some of the special things that someone like Ellen Moore, who won, did. She has done some really good things with getting funding, tying her instruction to broader social issues and so that motivated me to think about some bigger projects that I could possibly do in the future. So in a nutshell, it motivated me to work even harder.

What experiences in the classroom have made teaching worth it for you? Can you describe any teaching moments recently?

I think the best thing, or what makes me the happiest, is when students come to me and say that they connected something we talked about in class with something in the world around them—so that could be in another class, that could be something they witnessed in a movie, a book they read that made them think about something we talked about in class.  I have my students go to the history museum pretty often and I love it. Sometimes people take their family members, their kids, brothers, sisters, aunts, uncles, parents with them and they’ve had a great experience and the student has actually taught their family member or their friend about some other things we’re talking about in class. I don’t just want people to learn the history of dates and names and things like that—I want them to see how history connects to the world around them. So that’s the number one thing.

What are a few rewards and challenges of teaching for you?

I think the rewards are the students. Watching students grow, watching them become successful, watching them gain confidence in themselves—which is definitely something that happens more often at UW Tacoma. We have so many non-traditional students, particularly women who have either come back to school or haven’t started school until later because they were raising their families as well as a lot of veterans, which tend to be men, who hadn’t gone to school or who had their schooling interrupted and they often feel like they aren’t up for it because they’re older. I’ve had them say things like, “My brain doesn’t work as fast as these young kids.” Or they don’t know the technology but most of them are actually incredibly talented and they just need to be given the reassurance and the confidence to do that in the classroom—so those are the rewards.

The challenges…there’s always that student who thinks your class is boring and lets you know in the teaching evaluation, and that’s always disappointing; there’s students who don’t do well in the course; and you’re forced to give them a grade that you know they aren’t going to like—I don’t like having to do that either. I think that’s the biggest challenge for me: I really want to reach every student and so when I don’t that is my challenge. And the best thing I can do is figure out how to engage more students. But I do think that it’s not something that could be one hundred percent. There are some students who are going to come take a course because it’s a requirement and they aren’t going to like it no matter what you do.  And that’s the ongoing challenge that most of us have. Also not taking that personally—you can’t be everybody’s cup of tea.

Can you give any specifics?

Yeah, so this is always my favorite story to talk about students connecting what we talked about in class to the world around them. I had a student probably four or five years ago now. She was one of these non-traditional women who had come back to school a little later in life. And we had been talking about griots in World History I. Griots are a type of African oral historian that we talk about when we talk about Mali and we talk about how important historians were to that culture, to that society and to preserving that history. One of the things I sometimes let students do for extra credit is to go to an event on campus or in the community and then relate the experience back to the things we’ve talked about in World History. This woman went to a U2 concert and she loves U2 and she wrote the most amazing essay talking about how U2 are modern-day griots, modern-day oral historians and how learning about oral historians in this older African culture had made her appreciate U2 and other musicians who are rock musicians but also have political messages.  And that’s one of my most favorite essays from a student.