About Us

Current Students

Read about some of our dynamic Cultural Studies students, their educational backgrounds, and research interests.

2013 Cohort

Ryan Blanco

Ryan has a deep interest in studying people and places. He enjoys taking solo trips across America by car or train and getting lost in obscure towns and diners talking to local people. His passion for exploring cultures has taken him abroad to Iraq, Thailand, Kuwait and Japan. He recently returned from living in rural Uganda working with the local government, military and non-governmental organizations in improving cultural relations with the Karamojong tribe in the region. Their efforts worked toward bringing awareness to policy makers on human rights and female genital mutilation. He spends most of his days reading, driving to the ocean, visiting libraries or watching Bill Murray and Coen Brothers films.

Portfolio Advisor: Lauren Berliner. Research interests: Interested in exploring the many ideas of American identity. What has been the cultural influence of early broadcast media (television, radio and internet) on the development of American socio-cultural values, past and present? He’s interested in exploring American perceptions of sexual identities and practices. Further, the rise and influence of suburban sprawl and its effect on ecology, social capital, race and public policy. What have been the influences of American social movements on contemporary American culture? Semiotic theory, American social movements, American sexual values/ perceptions, decline of social capital, Marx theory, violence in American culture, religion and American identity, American materialism and consumer studies. Academic background: Saint Martin's University; degree in Sociology and Cultural Anthropology.

Suzanne Cohen

With more than 20 years of nonprofit arts experience, Suzanne has performed, directed, designed, and administrated at theatre companies across the country, as well as internationally. She is the Managing Artistic Director of Mirror Stage, and has broad connections with contemporary theatre and the development of new work. She earned a BA in Humanities/Drama from University of Southern California with a minor in Creative Writing, and a Master of Not-for-Profit Leadership from Seattle University.

Portfolio Advisor: Miriam Bartha. Research interests: Theatre as a form of communication to build understanding among diverse groups; social justice and inequality; intergroup dialogue and cross-cultural communication; race, ethnicity, gender and class studies; public scholarship in the arts. Academic background: University of Southern California; Seattle University; degrees in Humanities, emphasis in Drama, (BA); Nonprofit Management (MNPL).

Janelle Davis

Janelle is currently working on research pertaining to the performativity of funerary rituals and assisting with the Linfield College Forensics program, building on her dedication to the educational value of debate, public speaking, and performance.

Portfolio Advisor: Julie Shayne. Research interests: Cultural performance of death and bereavement, communities built around sexuality and marginalization, gamer culture, linguistic minorities, performance as inquiry and pedagogical method, race and protest rhetoric. Academic background: Linfield College; degree in Intercultural Communications and Religious Studies.

Stephanie Driessel

Stephanie is an avid fiction reader (to the detriment of her sleep schedule) and enjoys taking photographs of pretty much everything. She served 5 years in the US Army, spent another year and a half as a Corrections Officer, and currently works for the City of Seattle. She has two amazing sons with her husband Jacob and a ridiculous dog named Molly.

Portfolio Advisor: Dan Berger. Research interests: Intersectionality in feminism; social perceptions and reintegration of women veterans; social inequity in the criminal justice system. Academic background: American Military University; degree in Security Management.

Nafasi Ferrell

Nafasi has a deep passion for understanding the world around us and how we can better relate to one another. She believes that by breaking the taboo around race, understanding this new era of globalization and using the modes of poetry and visual arts to guide education, we can direct ourselves towards a better tomorrow. If she is not at home relaxing you will usually find her traveling, eating great foods, listening to music or salsa dancing.

Portfolio Advisor: Sarah Dowling. Research interests: Globalization, Critical Race Theory, reforming education around the modes of poetry and visual arts. Academic background: Holy Names University; degree in History and International Relations.

Dominique Garcia

Dominique graduated with a degree in Physiology from Seattle Pacific University. With plans to attend medical school and become a doctor, she wants to work in community health, serving Latino populations as a primary care physician. She is interested in the intersection of culture, religion, and medicine, and plans to utilize a master’s in Cultural Studies to better equip her to become a physician of cultural competence. A California native, Dominique loves the beach and goes to Golden Gardens every chance she gets.

Portfolio Advisor: Johanna Crane. Research interests: Ethnic, racial, and gendered healthcare disparities, underserved populations in medicine, feminism and women's studies. Academic background: Seattle Pacific University; degree in Physiology.

Lacey Grove

Lacey is from Moses Lake Washington and went to school at Western Washington University for her BA in Cultural Anthropology. She has a passion for people and nature, exploring the ways that people fit into the natural world in harmonious ways. She loves to travel and Asia holds a special place in her heart. She enjoys sitting down with an IPA and talking to new people about what gets them excited about life, scuba diving, and spends a lot of her time at the dog park with her furry buddy.

Portfolio Advisor: Amoshaun Toft. Research interests: Lacey’s main interests are international development with a focus on marginalized communities, globalization, sustainable agriculture and balancing community wellbeing with modernization. Other interests include: Thai sex workers and sex tourism; how technology is augmenting reality and changing the way people communicate, socialize and view the world; and consumption in western culture. Academic background: Western Washington University; degree in Cultural Anthropology.

Alexandra Holien

Alexandra has lived in Seattle since her family moved here from Louisiana when she was young.  With deep roots in the South and a west coast upbringing she hopes to bring a well-rounded and grounded viewpoint to arguments involving race relations and power.  She hopes to apply her knowledge in Cultural Studies to a career in activisms and ongoing research.

Portfolio Advisor: Ron Krabill. Research interests: Critical Race Theory, curriculum reform, racial identity formation, institutionalized racism having to do with its historical roots and its lasting effects, racial caste system in American, mass incarceration of black youth, social inequality. Academic background: University of Washington Seattle; degree in American Ethnic Studies, minor in Diversity.

Julie Hurst

Julie has worked in the field of Student Affairs within Housing and Residential Life, and most recently, Study Abroad. She values storytelling as a means for getting to know the people she encounters through her work, volunteer and life experiences. She is passionate about music, travel, dance, spending time with family and friends, and having her mind expanded.

Portfolio Advisor: Ben Gardner. Research interests: Study Abroad: exploring the history of class, privilege, and ethnicity with regard to travel and study abroad; best methods for supporting historically underrepresented and under-resourced students before, during and after the abroad experience. Academic background: University of California Irvine; degree in Psychology.

Heather Kosaka

Heather is a University of Washington graduate who earned her BA in English with a minor in Art History. She works at a nonprofit advocating for DD adults and coaches children at a rock climbing training center. She is an avid climber, amateur mycologist and explorer. She volunteers for Seattle Mountain Rescue and leads climbing and backpacking trips in the North Cascades. You will find her ice climbing frozen pillars in the winter and warming toes and fingers at venues around the local music scene and art galleries.

Portfolio Advisor: Christian Anderson. Research interests: Capitalism and the urban environment, land and resource allocation in a cultural context, global economy and the global city, nonprofit work, productivity of power, semiotics and linguistics in a Cultural Studies context, evolutionary culture, education and the interplay of power structures and the changing global environment. Academic background: University of Washington Seattle; degree in English, minor in Art History.

Concetta Leggio

Concetta has lived in Washington for most of her life. She spent eight years in the Marine Corps Reserves before going to University of Washington (Bothell campus). She seeks to use her military experience and education to work with the veteran population.

Portfolio Advisor: S. Charusheela. Research interests: Post traumatic stress disorder in combat troops, females in combat, feminist studies. Academic background: University of Washington Bothell; degree in Community Psychology, minor in Human Rights.

Mahala Lettvin

Mahala graduated from the UWB School of Interdisciplinary Arts and Science program in Autumn 2012, with a degree in American Studies. Mahala hopes to be a student for as long as possible, although for now she holds a variety of positions including: paralegal, house cleaner, UWB Writing and Communication Center consultant, author, indexer, and mother. When not working, Mahala enjoys anything to do with writing and word play, exploring local parks, and attempting to ignite meaningful, philosophical debates with her two young children.

Portfolio Advisor: Yolanda Padilla. Research interests: Latin American studies; diaspora & displacement; identity formation; collective memory; feminism; borderlands theory; sex work in the Americas. Academic background: University of Washington Bothell; degree in American Studies.

Lisa Mackie

Lisa has been developing her skills as a teaching artist through her long standing work with youth and believes it is vital for young minds curiosity to be sparked by exploring various abilities and interests. She has been an assistant teaching artist at Arts Corps for the past year and recently started teaching classes of her own through Allied Arts of Whatcom County. She has also worked with art related non-profits in an administrative capacity and hopes to develop both her interests in teaching as well as be involved with the broader conversation of policy, implementation, and equality of arts education.

Portfolio Advisor: JoLynn Edwards. Research interests: Social justice and empowerment through arts education, education policy in relation to the arts, social entrepreneurship, arts leadership, curriculum development and learning through the arts. Academic background: Western Washington University; degree in Interdisciplinary Studies, minor in American Indian Cultural Studies.

Joyce Mwangi

Joyce is a Kenyan and has for many years worked with non-profit organizations in her country. Her recent position was Country Manager with Save the Children Sweden. She moved to America in November 2012 and is very excited that she will be able to learn and share with others of diverse cultural backgrounds. She enjoys traveling, reading and supporting vulnerable groups.

Portfolio Advisor: Bruce Kochis. Research interests: Cross-cultural impact on Refugee and Immigrant communities with focus on the Africa to America groups; non-profit work and its impact in empowering communities/giving community groups a “voice”; community based mechanisms that support/protect the welfare of vulnerable groups of women/youth/ children; community participation in policy development; global policies and their effect on communities in conflict areas; community and participatory research; inter-sectoral collaboration in Advocacy for the promotion of the rights of marginalized and minority groups. Academic background: University of Nairobi; degree in Sociology and Philosophy of Religious Studies.

Chrysta Storm

Chrysta is from Northern California and has just completed two terms as an AmeriCorps member.  She is excited to be in the Northwest and can’t wait to explore Seattle and its art and music scenes.  Chrysta also enjoys playing soccer, biking, going to thrift stores, and getting lost in new places. 

Portfolio Advisor: Kari Lerum. Research interests: Community development, sociology, women, culture, social impact, policy, interracial dynamics, identity, race, gender, masculinity, poverty, whiteness, social movements, social interactions, child welfare. Academic background: University of California Davis; degree in Women and Gender Studies, minor in Sociology.

Avery Viehmann

West coast native who grew up in the Midwest and is informed by both experiences. Author and owner of a small speculative fiction publishing company. Newbie MMO gamer. Queer. Loves smoothies, documentaries, photography, views of Mt. Rainier, and long walks on Alki Beach.

Portfolio Advisor: Bruce Burgett. Research interests: queer theory, intersectionalities of oppression, how storytelling can teach critical thinking. Academic background: Kent State University, Missouri State University; degrees in English (BA), Creative Writing and Composition & Rhetoric (MA).

Mollie Wolf

Mollie has worked with social justice movements that span a diversity of issues (and the globe). She spent many years working with a small nonprofit that does diversity education with elementary school students in Oakland, and works hard to create spaces where folks having each others’ backs is the norm, not the exception. She is a martial artist and a passionate believer in the wisdom of The Phantom Tollbooth.

Portfolio Advisor: Susan Harewood. Research interests: Nonprofit fundraising and the nonprofit industrial complex, critical race theory, whiteness, queer theory, school-based diversity and antiracism curriculum, outdoor education, spirituality as an entry point to cultural and social transformation. Academic background: University of California Berkeley; degree in Comparative Ethnic Studies.

2012 Cohort


Christa Bell

Christa is a Seattle native who earned her BA in English, with an emphasis in Creative Writing, from San Francisco State University. She is a performance artist and cultural activist.

Portfolio Advisor: Bruce Burgett. Capstone Advisor: Susan Harewood. Research interests: feminist cultural production, feminist theology, trauma studies, literary criticism, visual (representational) studies and performance studies. Academic background: San Francisco State University; degree in English.

Jun Chen

Jun has a passion for getting to know different people and how they make sense of their world. That's the primary reason for her to study culture. She believes that her happiness lies in meditating for life , and also in learning Tibetan Buddhism in the future. She hopes to apply her knowledge in culture to her future career in media sector.

Portfolio Advisor: Ron Krabill.Capstone Advisor: S. Charusheela. Research interests: The cultural impact of mass media, global cultural flows and hybridity, Latin American studies, non-profit work. Academic background: Wuhan University; degree in Journalism.

Lisa Herriott

Lisa is a healthcare planner and interior designer at Harborview Medical Center. She has been creating welcoming healthcare environments most of her career and has a strong passion for creating spaces that contribute to the healing process and serve a culturally rich population. She has lived in Seattle for 17 years with her husband and two dogs and enjoys traveling and discovering new creative outlets.

Portfolio Advisor: Christian Anderson. Capstone Advisor: Johanna Crane. Research interests: Public health and how to provide social, economic, environmental design to the underserved communities through a participatory community design process. Academic background: University of Georgia; degree in Interior Design.

Vanessa Hooper

Vanessa graduated from the University of Washington in 2009, majoring in Comparative History of Ideas with a focus on conflict resolution and social justice. For the last couple years she has volunteered in the King County juvenile detention center, using poetry as a form of writing therapy for incarcerated youth. She is passionate about travel, writing and new experiences. Vanessa also represents the Cultural Studies program as a Student Ambassador.

Portfolio Advisor: Crispin Thurlow. Capstone Advisor: Dan Berger. Research interests: Sexual exploitation and sex trafficking, inequalities and discrimination in education, writing therapy, hip-hop culture and multi-cultural education. Academic background: University of Washington Seattle; degree in Comparative History of Ideas.

Gina Hutter

Gina spent her childhood in Florida, but has lived in the Seattle area for most of her life.  Traveling the world is a personal interest and she feels fortunate to have visited many unique destinations.  She is looking forward to studying abroad in the future or incorporating her research into her travels.  Gina's educational journey has been a long tedious task as she balances full time work as a bartender to pay for school.  This has increased her appreciation for dedicated professors who display a passion for learning.  She finds herself to be very motivated and genuinely interested in helping others.

Portfolio Advisor: Crispin Thurlow. Capstone Advisor: Sarah Dowling. Research interests: Migration patterns of healthcare workers in conjuncture with the ‘Brain Drain’ theory, globalization and the political economy, education methodologies and pedagogical theories, effects of modern society’s dependence on technology, human health and adequate access to healthcare, how U.S. policies affect the human rights of vulnerable populations. Academic background: University of Washington Bothell; degree in Global Studies, minor in Business and Human Rights.

Nora Johnson

Nora Karena Johnson is a Family Advocate for YWCA Seattle/King/Snohomish. She lives with her partner, four dogs, three cats, and two birds, and is a kick-ass cook.

Portfolio Advisor: Kari Lerum. Capstone Advisor: Carrie Lanza. Research interests: Feminist models of empowerment, anti-racist white culture, emerging constructions of gender, the push-me-pull-you tensions between individuals and their communities in American society, and youth counter-culture movements. Academic background: Linfield College; degree in Social and Behavioral Sciences.

Judith Kuleta

Currently Judith works as adjunct faculty and advisor for the fire science program at Bellevue College. She teaches a variety of fire science courses. In the winter she teaches skiing at Stevens Pass. Interests include good food, wine, gardening, biking, spending time with her children.

Portfolio Advisor: Bruce Burgett. Capstone Advisor: Kari Lerum. Research interests: American fire service evolving from a trade to a profession. How similar professions (nursing) evolved from a trade into a profession requiring higher education. What benchmarks occurred along the way. Academic background: Marylhurst University; degree in Interdisciplinary Studies, Communications, Management, Cultural Historical Studies.

Bogdana Manole

Bogdana is the mother of two teenage boys, owns a Montessori School in South Seattle, and is a student. She has two Aussie dogs, a bunny and a beautiful garden.  She treasures her family and friends. Words that describe her: world traveler, scuba-diver, kayaker, mountaineer, dreamer,idealist. Sometimes funny. She advocates for  environmental conservation  through teaching, parenting and activism. Always up for  something new.

Portfolio Advisor: Johanna Crane. Capstone Advisor: Gwen Ottinger. Research interests: Marine conservation, communication/social media power in small communities vs. corporate world, discourse formation. Academic background: University of Washington Seattle; degree in Social Studies.

Sofia Piel

Sofia is a New England kid at heart, but loves to explore new places. She lived in Sweden for 5 years, and has worked as a photographer, journalist, and special education teacher. She is happiest when collaborating creatively, helping people see their strength and beauty, and walking in the woods.

Portfolio Advisor: Julie Shayne. Capstone Advisor: Christian Anderson. Research interests: Education and empowerment of immigrant cultures through the arts; photography, multimedia storytelling, holistic education. Academic background: University of New Hampshire; degree in English Literature with focus on African American Literature, minor in Studio Art.

Amber Rozier

Amber briefly worked as a residential counselor for incarcerated teenage boys in a minimum security facility that was focused on reintroducing them to live in the community at large while they finished up their sentences upon graduating from Western. She spent the last four years working as a case manager in a supportive housing facility developed for homeless men and women affected by HIV/AIDS, mental illness, and addiction. She enjoys going to concerts, boardgames, reading, writing, watching television and movies, and spending as much time as possible with loved ones and her cat.

Portfolio Advisor: S. Charusheela. Capstone Advisor: Susan Harewood. Research interests: Racial identity formation of mixed race individuals, social inequality, race and ethnic relations, representations of people of color in pop culture, the culture of homelessness, the culture of chemical dependency, queer culture, the culture and history of HIV/AIDS, gang history and culture, colorism (racism within racial/ethnic groups). Academic background: Western Washington University; degree in Sociology, American Cultural Studies.

Lauren Russell

Lauren recently graduated from the UW (Seattle Campus) with departmental Honors in geography. Her senior thesis was about the urban agricultural efforts of residents and non profit organizations in Detroit, NYC and Oakland which merged her interests in these three cities with urban geography, culture and community gardens. She hopes to teach community college upon graduation. Lauren also enjoys traveling and she has a wonderful eight year old son named Mahdi. She also represents the Cultural Studies program as a Student Ambassador.

Portfolio Advisor: Crispin Thurlow. Capstone Advisor: Ben Gardner. Research interests: Urban geography, community gardens and urban agriculture, African American studies, as well as gender, women and sexuality studies. Academic background: University of Washington Seattle; degree in Geography.

Nate Stout

Nate is a fan of Joseph Campbell, Thomas Merton, and William Blake. He likes music too. Nate represents the Cultural Studies program as a Student Ambassador.

Portfolio Advisor: Dan Berger. Capstone Advisor: Joe Milutis. Research interests: Art & Dissent, Communal Creativity, Social Influence of the Avant-Garde, Marxist Practice Across Cultures, Representation & Collective Memory. Academic background: University of Washington Bothell; degree in Interdisciplinary Arts and Sciences: Culture, Literature and the Arts.

Ronnie Thibault

In addition to her research, Ronnie works for, and with, the culture of developmental difference. Her service includes volunteer special education advocacy and individual education planning, social skills programs for autistic youth and volunteer duties for a local nonprofit dedicated to enriching the lives of adults with developmental differences. Her efforts encompass community programs and facility research development, agency and partnership collaboration, and social activism. Married for 21 years, Ronnie lives in Monroe and has an eleven-year old son.

Portfolio Advisor: Ron Krabill. Capstone Advisor: Ben Gardner. Research interests: Critical cultural studies, cultural geographies, mapping the construction of cultural spaces and landscapes, embodiment and identity politics, and the study of historical and geographical struggles over meaning, value, and autonomy in society. Current Research: Can Autistics Redefine Autism? The Cultural Politics of Autistic Activism. While engaged with autism personally and professionally for seven years, Ronnie’s interests in critical and cultural research strategies merge social activism with rigorous cultural methodologies. Academic background: University of Washington Bothell; degree in Interdisciplinary Studies: Society, Ethics, and Human Behavior, summa cum laude.

Calvin Timmons

Calvin is a native of the PNW who has a fascination with Ireland, Asia, and his home area. He enjoys hiking, reading, and film criticism. He aspires to become a teacher after his graduate studies.

Portfolio Advisor: Sarah Dowling. Capstone Advisor: Amoshaun Toft. Research interests: Community and participatory research, public history, oral history, cross-cultural exchange, ethnic conflict, Northern Ireland, API diaspora, Irish language revitalization, representations of marginalized groups in mediums of 'nerd culture'. Academic background: Evergreen State College; degree in History.

Nicole Wilson

Nicole hails from the Pacific Northwest and has always been proud to call Seattle and the surrounding area her home. She is always willing to fight for a cause she believes in (after doing extensive research on which side she views as best) and aims for perfection in everything that she does. When she's not attempting to solve the world's problems, Nicole enjoys painting, exploring, being spontaneous, and spending time with her friends, family, and cats.

Portfolio Advisor: JoLynn Edwards. Capstone Advisor: Georgia Roberts. Research interests: LGBTQ experiences, how colleges can support or hinder their LGBTQ communities on their campuses by the resources they do or do not provide, identity, sexuality studies, community psychology oriented approaches to collecting and creating data, LGBTQ history and finding ways to teach different age groups about the vastness of different sexual diversities and how they all interact. Academic background: University of Washington Bothell; degree in Community Psychology; Society, Ethics, and Human Behavior.