Cultural Studies


Graduate Student Representatives (GSR)

GSRs facilitate mechanisms and spaces by which students in the program can contribute to discussions about the program and degree. In this capacity they serve as a resource to other students and the program director.

  • GSR for the 2020 and 2021 entry cohorts: TBD.

Current Students by Cohort

Read about some of our dynamic Cultural Studies students and their interests.

2021 Cohort

Cynthia AndersonCynthia Anderson

Cynthia Anderson was born in Sheikhupura, Pakistan, orphaned at the age of two and adopted by a white American family and raised in Sequim, Washington. She is a first- generation graduate student. The personal is the political for her. Cynthia's personal story has profoundly impacted her work as a community activist and advocate as well as in her undergraduate academic studies and later professional work in the Comparative History of Ideas (CHID) at the UW Seattle, where she is currently the Director of Learning Communities. She places a high value on storytelling and enjoys examining the theoretical work of negotiating differences and cultural issues through the medium of storytelling, while focusing on new ways to identify and creatively address the most critical needs in the emerging field of diversity, equity, and inclusion.

Cynthia hopes to combine her work in interdisciplinary studies into a focused consideration of cultural identity formation. She has a keen interest in connecting theory and practice, and is looking forward to learning more about the history of cultural studies overall and how it plays out in society locally and globally. She is also interested in exploring methodologies, for example performance theory and literary and film studies.

In the short term, she hopes her work in MACS will help inform the way she helps undergraduate students think critically about institutional systems of power from which many prosper at the hands of others. Ultimately, her long-term goal is to prepare herself for a career in diversity, equity, and inclusion, so that she may work more effectively across communities and institutions.

Research Interests

Cultural identity formation; Institutional systems of power; Community intersections; Storytelling, Cultural Studies history; BIPOC activism; Mixed-race identity, Structural systems of power; The U.S. Criminal Justice system; School to prison pipeline; Transformative Justice

Academic Background

BA in Comparative History of Ideas (CHID) from the University of Washington, Seattle; Academic Advisory and Director of Learning Communities, CHID, University of Washington; Associate of Arts from Seattle Central College

Beza AyeleBeza Ayele

Beza Ayele, born and raised in Seattle, Washington, is interested in the path to learning and unlearning socialized beliefs and attitudes. She acknowledges that when socially constructed concepts are seen as normal, treated as fact, and then used to police others in regards to their appearance, identity, or desires, it is violent. She understands that at the hands of the law and social constructs, marginalized people die every day. Beza recognized the arbitrariness of these laws and did not feel compelled to uphold the process that validates the death of Black people. ​Rather than partake in these laws, she criticizes and questions these actions rather than accepting them. Although Beza knows violent structures are normalized, she does not believe that it is the end result. While there is room for abolition, it creates space for reimagination in any sector. She states that amidst the pandemic people have realized that if major changes are needed, major changes can be done.

Beza enjoys working along with the arts while engaging with policies and initiatives. Becoming an educator is her ultimate goal, and she hopes the Cultural Studies MA program will strengthen her ability to push the boundaries of thought and practice while expanding education for Black students dealing with mental health.

Research Interests

Law as a racist social construct, Womanism, Education, Disability, Black mental health, Shame, Vulnerability, Misogynoir, Political Education, Structural Systems, Criminalization, Abolition, Reimagination, Literary Arts, Transformative Justice

Academic Background

BA in Law, Economics & Public Policy with a minor in Gender, Women & Sexuality Studies from the University of Washington Bothell

Darchelle BurnettDarchelle D. Burnett

Darchelle Burnett(she/her/hers) is a Southern Californian raised in Corona, California. She graduated from California State University Monterey Bay in May 2021, with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Social and Behavioral Sciences with a concentration in Anthropology and a minor in Peace Studies. Within her intersectionalities, she identifies as Black/African American and Native American (Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma) and is actively working towards reconnecting to her tribal history. During her undergraduate career, Darchelle has enjoyed various student leadership experiences that has introduced her to institutional politics, diversity and inclusion, and organizational frameworks, also allowing her to envision careers that involve fostering Diversity and Inclusion initiatives.

In research, community, and university involvements, Darchelle thrives the most when engaging in transformative dialogue with her peers and other scholars. And she believes that one of the beauties of storytelling is the power that also comes with it. In remembrance of her favorite poet please enjoy one of Darchelle’s favorite quotes:

“There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.”

― Maya Angelou, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings

Research Interests

African American Studies; Native American Studies; Intersectional Studies; Institutional Remodeling; Multiculturalism; Diversity and Inclusion; Organizational Studies

Academic Background

Bachelor of Arts in Social and Behavioral Science-Anthropology; Minor in Peace Studies, California State University Monterey Bay

Ozge Demirci-RichardsonÖzge Demirci-Richardson

I was born and raised in Zonguldak, Turkey and have been living in Washington state since 2016. My curiosity for different cultures, their rituals, practices, languages, family relations, etc. has evolved in the past few years. I have become interested in the systems within cultures and how these systems are formed and affect people as well as the environment. I currently work in higher education which provides me the opportunity to support students with diverse backgrounds. It is very rewarding to be able to advocate for and assist them in their educational career.

I enjoy travelling, biking, paddle boarding and spending time outdoors. To keep myself motivated and inspired, especially during pandemic, I have been following solution-based resources as it can be very discouraging to hear about only the negative news from mainstream media.

Research Interests: Food Culture, Linguistics/Accents, Consumerism, Sustainability, Gender Studies, Urbanization, Women in men-dominated sports

Academic Background: Bachelor of Arts in English Translation and Interpreting, Hacettepe Universitesi (Ankara, Turkey)

Hannah MendroHannah Mendro

Born and raised in Washington, Hannah has always been an avid reader, writer, and storytelling enthusiast. Her academic interests have followed suit, and her undergraduate studies at Quest University Canada followed the Question (self-designed major), “How does language shape story?” focusing on literary translation and reader response theory. Since her graduation in 2018, Hannah’s work in libraries has expanded her interests to include broader information systems, media, and dialogue. If she were to come up with a new Question today, it would be, “How do we read?” She is fascinated by the way literature, media, and information systems both shape and are shaped by cultural narratives, as well as the role story can play in creating community.

Research Interests

Media Studies, Information Studies, Literature, Reader Response Theory, Translation Studies, Storytelling

Academic Background

Bachelor of Arts & Sciences from Quest University Canada

Shannon MeyerShannon Meyer

From her early life on a non-working farm in rural Ohio, Shannon (she/her) has used her tendency for anti-authoritarianism to push back against prescriptive cultural narratives. Shaped by her experiences with poverty, homelessness, intimate partner violence, Shannon discovered her voice in ethnographic writing.

Shannon uses her deep passion for disability justice to contextualize her work. Her research focuses on medical ableism & disability justice in the context of Western medical practice. From autonomy and decision making to bioethics and the functional violence of medical ableism, Shannon’s hope is to shine a bright light on how disabled, mentally ill and neurodiverse folks are perceived by society and treated by the medical community with the goal of interrupting and challenging current narratives which directly harm these groups.

In her free time, Shannon enjoys reading true crime, pickling all the vegetables, spending time with her polycule, listening to punk and metal and crafting.

Research Interests

Medical Anthropology, Disability Studies, Gender Studies, Eugenics, Medical Ableism, Bioethics, Reproductive Access, Ethnographic Research Methods, Accessibility, Mental Health, Neurodiversity, Equity, Western Medical Education Practices & Medical Ethics in Historical Contexts

Academic Background

BA, University of Washington, Seattle; AA, North Seattle College

Flor ReyesFlor Reyes

As a first generation graduate, I have learned the value of education and its importance for the next generation. ​In high school, I was fortunate to be a member of the TRiO Upward Bound program (a college preparatory program), through this program I found a second family, creating a community of successful educators who influenced my leadership and educational path. This transformative experience developed my passion for student success and advocacy for first generation students. Since then I’ve dedicated most of my career mentoring students on academic, social, and college/career objectives. Along with education, I also have a deep passion for music. In college, I was motivated to share and educate others about my culture through my passion for music. Establishing a Mariachi club at Western Washington University in order to sustain, and promote an interest and awareness of Mariachi music within the university and the community at large.​

Research Interests

Student Success and Advocacy, Education, Equity, & Society, Critical Race Theory, Ethnomusicology, Music Knowledge Production, Folklore

Academic Background

Bachelor of Arts in Ethnomusicology, Education, and Resistance, Western Washington University

2020 Cohort

Passia AbrahamPassia Abraham

Passia (she/they) is a PNW native born and raised in Tacoma, Washington. Passia graduated from The Evergreen State College in 2020 where her scholarship was focused on social justice, African American studies, and gender, women, and sexuality studies. As a Community Outreach Educator for Planned Parenthood, Passia's true passion is centering the experiences of BIPOC youth in sexual health education. She sees the power of culturally responsive, sex-positive, and medically accurate sex education as a mechanism for liberation and social change. Passia is also deeply involved in her community as a community organizer and trauma informed yoga teacher.

Research Interests

African American Studies, Social Movements, Black Liberation, Queer of Color Critique, Gender, Women and Sexuality Studies, Critical Race Theory

Academic Background

Associate of Arts, Tacoma Community College; Bachelor of Arts, The Evergreen State College

Cat HuberCat Huber

Born and raised in St. Louis, MO, Cat has been rooted in Washington state since beginning her undergraduate career at University of Puget Sound in Tacoma in 2013. An interest in media studies since she was a teen led her to learn more about and develop a passion for broad cultural studies during her time as a Communication Studies student.

Many experiences after graduating from Puget Sound in 2017, particularly her work as an AmeriCorps member, have reinforced her strong interest in public scholarship. She is excited to explore this interest further as a graduate student. Cat looks forward to learning more about how to effectively bridge the gaps between theory and praxis in her work during her time with the MA in Cultural Studies program.

In her free time, Cat likes to experiment with new vegan recipes, collect comix and zines, and look for new opportunities to learn and transform outside of academia.

Research Interests

(New) Media Studies; Critical Cultural Studies; Social Movements; Critical Pedagogy; American Studies; Critical Race Theory; Postcolonial Studies; Gender/Queer Studies

Academic Background

University of Puget Sound, BA in Communication Studies, Minor in Gender & Queer Studies

Yangzhaoming (Cecilia) JiaoYangzhaoming (Cecilia) Jiao

Yangzhaoming Jiao also goes by Cecilia. Cecilia was born and raised in Kunming, Yunnan, China. She came to study in America as an International student in 2016. Her parents are from different ethnic groups in China, her father is Yi, and her mother is Naxi. She has always been interested in the mutual influence and role of different cultures. She is also curious about the cultural identity of different people. She also believes that cultural studies can become a solution to many difficult social problems.

Research Interests

Education, Cultural Identities, Asian Culture, Media and Communication, Screenwriting, Intercultural Communication, Globalization

Academic Background

Media Communication Studies, University of Washington Bothell

Sandy LamSandy Lam

Sandy (she/they) is a storyteller, writer, performer, and community organizer based out of Austin, Texas. Originally from Houston, Texas, she is the child of two immigrant parents. Sandy currently works as the Associate Director of Programs at a college access organization where she oversees a near-peer mentorship program that supports first generation students to and through their postsecondary journeys. She is also the founder of a budding creative arts organization that put on their first production So Lucky in March 2020. Sandy wrote, produced, and performed in the show.

In her community work as well as in her art, she likes to explore cultural identity, leadership development for students of color, community building, mental health + illness, increasing access for communities of color, and how society interacts with art.

Research Interests

Asian American Studies, Media Studies, Women and Gender Studies, Organizational Development, Writing, Theatre, Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion

Academic Background

B.A. in English and B.A. Psychology, University of Texas at Austin

Maria MoralesMaria Morales

Maria Morales was born and raised in the state of Texas. She joined the military right after high school years to become a combat medic in the U.S. Army. Through civilian life, she continued working as a certified Medical Assistant until she decided to continue her path for higher education. In 2015, she graduated with her BA in Interdisciplinary Arts, Global Studies and a Minor in Human Rights through the University of Washington, Bothell Campus. Her interests remain in Emergency Medicine, but knows the importance of cultural education where she can advocate and become an source of agency for marginalized populations.

Research Interests

Impact of women roles in medicine and culture throughout history

Academic Background

Medical Assistant Certificate and BA, Interdisciplinary Arts and Global Studies, (Minor in Human Rights), University of Washington Bothell

Sam PrudenteSam Prudente

Sam (He/They) grew up in Guam, the Philippines & Papua New Guinea. He currently works full-time supporting the hospitality industry online.

Previous experience in performance, advertising, PR & marketing communications helps him create compelling narratives to liberate & transform oppressed cultures into cultures of agency. He is interested in exploring Critical Race/Cultural Studies; Environmental Justice & Social Change.

Their 2 fellowships for Poetry were for writing in 2 different languages - not English. They continue to be published; they also write screenplays, produce plays & films because the languages we speak transform within multiple media.

Sam's meditation practice stems from a Roman Catholic nun's mastery of Zen. They incorporate mindfulness, theatre, & practice groups in exploring the question: “How does Culture translate across borders?

”They will attempt to make this liminal "border" the site for their capstone.

Research Interests

Emergent/Media Studies; Poetry; Intersectional identities: Queer/Postcolonial/Diaspora; Futurism

Academic Background

B.A. in Culture, Literature & the Arts, University of Washington Bothell (Faculty Honors); Certificate MITx u.Lab: Leading from the Emerging Future

Amber TafoyaAmber Tafoya

Amber Tafoya centers her work on understanding how stories are shared and shaped across borders and cultures. Driven by her experience moving to several states with her family as a child and working for local newspapers in her career, she enjoys collaborating with organizations to create narratives that represent and serve BIPOC communities through writing, editing, and graphic art creation. Amber's research focuses on how Chicana and Latina stories are produced, framed, and consumed in the media: Who has the power to tell and see these stories and how do they impact women in Chicanx/Latinx communities?

Amber fell in love with the Pacific Northwest after moving to Seattle in 2006 from San Antonio, Texas. One of her favorite activities is exploring the outdoors with her two children and partner.

Research Interests

Media Representation and Culture, Chicana and Latina Narratives, Chicana Feminism, Critical Race Theory, Borderland Narratives, Postcolonial Media Studies, Food Culture and Sovereignty

Academic Background

A.A., San Antonio College; B.A. in Journalism, University of Texas at Arlington; B.A. in Chicana/Chicano Studies with a minor in Native American Studies, University of New Mexico; Social Media Strategy, Technologies and Implementation Certificate Program, University of Washington.

Turkan UrmuluTürkan Urmulu 

Türkan was born in Iran. She is an Azerbaijani poet and feminist. Azerbaijani people are one of the oppressed ethnic minority groups in Iran. Her mother language has been banned by the state. So Türkan never had any chance to be educated in her mother language in the home country. Persian is the only official language of the country.

Seven years before her birthdate, the Islamic revolution happened in Iran, a revolution which directly has targeted women’s life and freedom. Being in the intersection of ethnic discrimination and gender inequality pushed Türkan to think deeply about the reasons and possible solutions of these two major problems in the Iranian society.

Research Interests

Studying the interaction of gender and ethnic inequality

Academic Background

Bachelor's degree in law from Iran, MA degree in International Private Law from Ankara University of Turkey, and a Bachelor's degree in Gender, Women, and Sexuality Studies from UW, Seattle.