Current Students

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

2015 Cohort

Jeonghee Churches

Jeonghee is an artist (teacher), interpreter for Korean/English, and Art Committee member for the City of Maple Valley. She especially enjoys being challenged working with individuals from different cultures through her work. She has had opportunities teaching students in different cultures and levels while teaching art courses in Korea, the USA, and Singapore, and as an artist-in-residence at invited solo exhibitions. These experiences naturally led her to focus on art and culture. She is currently an interpreter (Korean/English) as well. The power of language is reflected by culture. She has discovered that her interpreting skills have given her opportunities to increase her language skills and opportunities to understand different cultures through language. The experience of interpreting provides her with greater insights into other cultures.

Since 2013, Jeonghee has served as a member of the Art Committee of Maple Valley City. This position brought her to focus more on the value of public arts (visual culture), what public arts can become, and how they function in the community. She believes that we become educated and enrich our lives by exposure to the arts. She also believes that public arts make our community richer. Studying in this program, she expects to become part of a critical, dynamic educational environment, and, she believes that this will provide opportunities to assist her community with renewed confidence.

Research Interests: Culture, communication and media studies, the Energy (Power) of public arts (visual culture), visual arts therapy with cultural studies, arts leadership, curriculum development and learning through the visual culture, public scholarship in the visual arts, arts administration. Portfolio Advisor: Ron Krabill. Capstone Advisor: TBD.

Academic Background: National University of Technology, Seoul, Korea; BFA degree in Ceramic Arts; Sookmyung Women’s University Graduate School of Design, Seoul, Korea; MFA degree in Ceramic Design

Kelly George

Kelly resided in the Midwest (St. Louis & Chicago) for her first 29 years but feels she has found her true home in the Pacific Northwest.  She has a deep passion for all things related to environmental/social justice and the art of conscious living.  She enjoys live music, communing with nature, practicing yoga and guiding her 2 pre-teen children.    

Research Interests: Eco-localism, Alternative/Gift Economies, Deep Ecology, EcoVillages, Spirituality/Consciousness as a catalyst for change, Traditional Ecological Knowledge (TEK), Intentional Communities. Portfolio Advisor: Amoshaun Toft. Capstone Advisor: Amy Lambert.

Academic Background: University of Washington Bothell; degree in Environmental Studies, minor in Human Rights

Hung Yu "Mitch" Lai

Mitch was born and raised in Taiwan before coming to the United States as a high school student. He attended Edmonds Community College before transferring to UWB. Recently, he graduated from IAS, majoring in Community Psychology. Mitch considers cultural studies indispensable for his future career to form a cultural “bridge” between various cultures. The bridge is his personal vision of intercultural connection which allows him to be aware of the essential disparities and similarities between cultures.

Research Interests: Social Justice VS Social Inequalities, cultural conflict/war between Taiwan and China”, LGBT civil rights, globalization. Portfolio Advisor: Christian Anderson. Capstone Advisor: Amoshaun Toft.

Academic Background: University of Washington Bothell; degree in Community Psychology

Shana McDonald

Shana’s biggest pride and joy is her family. She and her husband have been married for over 20 years and their daughter recently turned 18. Having been a working mother from the age of 24 to 36, working mainly in the accounting field as a necessity for their 2-income family, she is thrilled to be at a stage in life where she can pursue and complete her academic goals which include commencing the MA in Cultural Studies at UW Bothell. It has taken Shana over twenty years to pick up where she left off at UCLA in 1993, and although she did not know it then, she would not have traded her life experiences over the past two decades for anything as these are what fuel her desire to learn, experiment, challenge, and engage on both personal and professional levels.

Research Interests: Activist art with an emphasis on youth and experiential learning; researching cultural histories and historical societal constructs through multiple and expanding methodologies, particularly when analyzing historical artifacts and literature through many lenses in an effort to bridge the gap between what is "known" as fact and what is yet to be discovered as verifiable and accurate truths. Portfolio Advisor: Lauren Berliner. Capstone Advisor: Minda Martin.

Academic Background: University of Washington Seattle; degree in Visual Arts; Everett Community College; AFA in photography

Namita Paul

Namita is a mixed media visual artist, fashion designer, illustrator, and educator. Her most recent degree is in Interdisciplinary Visual Arts from the University of Washington, Seattle. Namita is hoping to craft new artistic pathways through the confluence of art, fashion, feminism and cultural production…outcomes yet unknown! Some of Namita’s other love interests are psychology, neuroscience, philosophy, yoga, and gardening.

Research Interests: Contemporary art: east and west; women in visual and literary arts; feminism across cultures; intersections of art and fashion; fashion and art education; future of fashion; fashion in film; arts, fashion and technology; sustainable textiles and fashion; fashion and geography; culture, age and aging; arts and mental health; intaglio and woodcut printmaking; surface design. Portfolio Advisor: S.Charusheela. Capstone Advisor: micha cárdenas.

Academic Background: University of Washington Seattle; Interdisciplinary Visual Arts; National Institute of Fashion Technology, New Delhi; diploma in Fashion Design

Asaya Plumly

Asaya Plumly is an aging basketball wannabe. He is also known to be mixed race (Okinawa, white). He proclaims that he is an anarchist and does not deny living with many contradictions as he tries to navigate a world rooted in inequality while carrying heavy amounts of privilege. He enjoys spending time with his ebbing and flowing family and listening to his friends speak. A fan of music and art, he is certainly looking forward to re-immersing himself in an academic atmosphere that stretches into the community.

Research Interests: Anti-patriarchy thru sports, transformative coaching, early childhood development, anti-oppression curriculum, redefining masculinity, how race is awesome and how race is the worst, confronting and recovering from the white supremacist capitalist patriarchy. Portfolio Advisor: Jed Murr. Capstone Advisor: Susan Harewood.

Academic Background: The Evergreen State College; degree in Political Economy and Social Movements

Krystal Reed

Moving between towns, cities, small communities and reservations since childhood, Krystal has developed relationships with people from many different backgrounds. Her passion lies in acts of service and understanding the cultural history behind individuals so that she may better understand them. Her work includes teaching young children and families, conducting research with children, administering educational programs in rural communities to support positive and effective parenting, and working with American Indian tribes. At home Krystal loves spending time with her dog and other animals, being outside, reading, cooking (not baking) and building relationships. 

Research Interests: Understanding cultural disparities to bring about change, environmental racism that affects American Indian communities, and abuse as a form of power and coping.  Recently Krystal traveled to Eastern Europe where she continued to see a disparity in rights and resources based on skin color and culture and the role religion has played in this throughout the world interests her. Portfolio Advisor: Julie Shayne. Capstone Advisor: Christian Anderson.

Academic Background: Washington State University; degree in Human Development Through the Life Span, concentration in Early Childhood Development and Care, minor in American Indian Studies

Claire Sandoval

Claire was born and raised in Peru. She is the mother of two amazing kids and returned school in 2012. She is an avid fan of traveling and learning about various cultures and languages. She teaches Spanish and math to students in her spare time and takes great pride in sharing in the joy of academia and teaching.

Research Interests: Indigenous studies in Latin America and South America with a focus on Peru, traditional and contemporary folklore, Cultural and Ethnic Studies of Latin American and Peruvian tribes, indigenous communities, gender and their intersections. Portfolio Advisor: Julie Shayne. Capstone Advisor: Ben Gardner.

Academic Background: University of Washington Seattle; degree in Anthropology, minor in American Indian Studies; Universidad Nacional de Ucayali, Pucallpa, Peru, degree in Agricultural Engineering

Huda Sarhan

Huda has grown up living between two countries (Seattle, WA and Beirut, Lebanon). It has been an eye opening experience of witnessing what it feels like to be an outsider in both home countries which has inspired her to look into what she has placed as her research interest. She comes from a large family, though is the first to graduate with a Bachelor’s degree. She is constantly concerned with news reports here at home and across the world. Huda wants to make a difference in her life; unfortunately she hasn’t decided exactly how. She just knows that there are stories that are not being told and needs to find a way to tell them.

Research Interests: Race and Racism in media and news: What does it mean to be racist? Why is it a huge issue in every society around the globe, yet many deny the truth? Furthermore and consequently why is the American media deciding what is racist and what is not? Ethnicity and Cultural Meaning: What does it mean to live in a society that is different from one’s ethnicity? What identifies a person's ethnicity? How does identity play a role in ethnicity within society? Middle Eastern Studies: Is orientalism taking a huge role for many American's today? How are Middle Easterners affected by race and racism? Portfolio Advisor: Susan Harewood. Capstone Advisor: Karam Dana.

Academic Background: University of Washington Bothell; degree in Community Psychology, minor in Philosophy

Ruth Sawyer

Ruth is thrilled to be a part of the MACS program! They grew up in Sacramento, CA - a small city in a large floodplain. Ruth graduated from Vassar College with a degree in Geography and moved to Seattle shortly after. Professionally, Ruth has mostly worked in experiential education - teaching topics as varied as boat-building, trail construction, and marine science.

Research Interests: Class Cultures, U.S. Social Movements, Queer Theory, Social Justice Philanthropy, Religion/Spirituality and Social Movements. Portfolio Advisor: Kari Lerum. Capstone Advisor: Christian Anderson.

Academic Background: Vassar College; degree in Geography

Alison Schmidt

Alison has lived in Washington state her whole life. She grew up in Port Angeles on the Olympic Peninsula camping, hiking and being outside exploring nature as much as possible. Her connection to the environment has been shaped by those experiences. She has lived in Seattle for sixteen years and will always consider it home but her life goal is to travel the world and see as much of it as she can. She went back to school after a decade of working full time to finish her undergraduate degree and discovered new interests and ways of doing research that have led her to the MA in Cultural Studies program. Last year Alison was lucky to participate in a three week study abroad in Peru. This summer she spent two months driving across the country visiting family and friends while camping along the 12,000 miles through 30 states. She learned so much about her family history and made connections with people that she hadn’t seen in a long time or was meeting for the first time.

Research Interests: Ecological restoration and environmental policy with a focus on indigenous populations; socioeconomic status of populations most impacted by extractive and polluting industries; interdependence between environment and culture and how place can influence art and spirituality using ethnographic research methods; organic and local agriculture with a focus on recycling, composting and waste reduction through grade school education and community outreach. Portfolio Advisor: Amoshaun Toft. Capstone Advisor: Shannon Cram.

Academic Background: University of Washington Bothell; degree in Environmental Studies

A. Noir Soulkin

A. "Noir" Soulkin is an emerging Social Justice Activist/Scholar from Los Angeles by way of Oakland, California. Principally, his research interests lie in the realm of ethnoracial identity formation and the performance of (the Western notion of) normalcy. Noir is currently completing his first book, "The Illusion of Normal: Life Begins After Discovering You've Never Met Yourself," (Release Date: Late 2015). As an Activist/Scholar, Noir's primary goal is to launch an African American Cultural Center designed to "activate" and educate socially conscious, intellectually hungry African American Young Adults (18-25).

Research Interests: Black & LGBT Identity Formations; Black Transmale Masculinities; Womanist Thought; LGBT Humanity; Ultra-Progressive Black Christian Thought;  Anti-Fundamentalism; Consumerism/Materialism; Minority Media Representation; The "Race Card";  Popularity & Fame; Post-Capitalist Futures; and Art as Activism/Scholarship; website: Portfolio Advisor: Bruce Burgett. Capstone Advisor: Lauren Berliner.

Academic Background: California State University Los Angeles; degree in African American Studies

Meshell Sturgis

Meshell was born and raised in the Puget Sound area and currently lives in Bothell, WA. She loves being present in the moment, learning and growing, and leaning into the discomfort that comes with change. She enjoys running, yoga, reading, playing Catan, anything related to creative expression, and watching childhood Disney movies on VHS. You can find her in nature, on a road trip, or spending time with the loves of her life. She is a sister of Theta Nu Xi Multicultural Sorority, Inc.

Research Interests: Mixed race identities, organization, and representation; the era of the cyborg/ cyberpunk theory, and cyberspace identities; feminist theory; spirituality and the body; Gaia and collective consciousness; Literary Theory surrounding but not limited to comics, children's literature, and the sci-fi genre; philosophical approaches to religion, culture, and being; Media Studies; Conspiracy Theory culture; American Studies. Portfolio Advisor: Susan Harewood. Capstone Advisor: Naomi Bragin.

Academic Background: University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill; degree in English, minor in Creative Writing

Mary Jane Topash

Mary Jane is a member of the Tulalip Tribes where she works and resides. Her love for her culture and knowledge brought her to the University of Washington, where she received her Bachelor of Arts in Anthropology and a Minor in American Indian Studies in 2011. Upon graduating from UW, Mary Jane began working for Tulalip Tribes’ Hibulb Cultural Center and Natural History Preserve. At the museum, she channels her passion for Native American history and educating the public. You will find Mary Jane with music on, doodling, traveling, reading, watching any and all nature documentaries, or all of the above.

Research Interests: Opening communication about diverse cultures; using traditional knowledge/histories and combining them with modern methods; exploring the concept of identity; misconstrued concepts about specific groups or races; critical race theory; racial stereotypes, where they stem from, the history, etc., specifically Native American issues. Portfolio Advisor: Yolanda Padilla. Capstone Advisor: Nicole Robert.

Academic Background: University of Washington Seattle; degree in Anthropology, minor American Indian Studies

Katie Waller

Katie is originally from the central coast of California but has lived all over the west coast and also spent the most recent school year teaching English in Spain. Katie is currently teaching preschool for a non-profit organization in the Central District. She is passionate about empowering youth with an education in cultural and media literacy. In her free time she enjoys eating her way through Seattle, traveling, netflixing, yoga and recording and producing her podcast.

Research Interests: Race, gender and feminism, media theory, representation, media literacy, global studies, early childhood education, effects of access to quality education and youth programs, body positivity, identity. Portfolio Advisor: Kristin Gustafson. Capstone Advisor: S. Charusheela.

Academic Background: Fort Lewis College; degree in English with an emphasis in Communications

Lakim Washington

Lakim originates from the South Bay of San Jose, California. Within his education, training and life experience, he has watched children, young and older adults fall into the trap that society perpetuates through subordination in the classrooms, stereotypes, and other social stigmas. As he is intimately involved with urban communities, it has allowed him to recognize that the very fabric and quality of our education depends on the representation and interplay of diverse experiences and perspectives. He wants to contribute to the research and practice in the field of education and social services for untapped urban communities with action oriented prospective. Lakim reaches to build our communities with support that is designed to help construct a consciousness that focuses on the future and provide a better assessment of today needs in marginalized communities.

Research Interests: Lakim’s research interests include critical race theory and social theory with a social interest in issues of race, class, and gender. Lakim has continued to grow fascinated with the ideology of the abolition of whiteness. Portfolio Advisor: Dan Berger. Capstone Advisor: TBD.

Academic Background: San Jose State University; Bachelors of Political and Social Consciousness and African American Studies; University of Washington Seattle; Masters of Social Work

Victoria Wettmarshausen

Victoria was born in Hamburg in 1992 and lived in and around town until recently. She started to play the violin when she was five years old and developed an early inclination towards foreign languages, because her relatives from the States used to send Christmas packages with computer games in English, which she picked up on quickly. In high school she specialized in English and History. After studying two semesters of Environmental Science Victoria decided to focus once again on her initial interest in languages and began to study English and Turkish. During her time at university she got quite involved in queer politics. Also she lived and studied in Istanbul for a semester. She enjoys discovering new places and old records.

Research Interests: Immigration / integration, as major questions of social inequality (race, class, gender...) and globalization intersections, multilingualism, utopia, the significance and future of work as well as the role of the museum in public education and post colonial discourse. Portfolio Advisor: Eric Stewart. Capstone Advisor: micha cárdenas.

Academic Background: Hamburg University; degree in English and American Studies, minor Turkish Studies

2014 Cohort


Originally from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania by way of Oakland, California, Shayna is a youth educator, community organizer, activist, writer, and multimedia visual artist. She is on a path to develop the tactical skills and historical memory necessary to wage and bridge multiple global and local justice movements through the arts and education. In her (minimal) free time, she enjoys cooking with family, hiking, learning traditional medicinal practices, and swimming.

Research Interests:The Arts in Social Movements; Community & Transnational Organizing; Labor History; U.S. Third World Feminisms; Identity Formation; Whiteness Studies; Diaspora, Migration, & Displacement; Healing Justice; Hybridized Cultures & Spiritualities; Urban Geography & History; Restorative Justice; Radical Social Justice Education; Engaged Critical Pedagogy. Portfolio Advisor: S. Charusheela. Capstone Advisor: Becky Aanerud.

Academic Background: University of California, Berkeley; degree in Comparative Ethnic Studies.

Josefina Garcia-Turner

Josie is from a rural farming community in the Central Valley of California. She has a fascination with the macabre, and spends a lot of time reading old anatomical texts. She enjoys writing music, and spends countless hours a day messing around with new instruments.

Research Interests: Critical race theory, visual culture and representations of violence, transgender studies, histories of anatomy and medicine, latin American studies, commodity fetishism and late capitalism. Portfolio Advisor: Sarah Dowling. Capstone Advisor: micha cárdenas.

Academic Background: University of California, Santa Cruz; degree in Feminist Studies.

Marcus Johnson

IAS student Marcus Johnson won a prestigious Mary Gates Scholarship for the summer of 2012, winter and spring quarters of 2013. Expanding on his accomplishments as a Global Studies major, and Human Rights minor, Johnson has worked with IAS faculty member Benjamin Gardner on “The Multi Dimensions of Blackness: Cultural Hegemony in the United States and Abroad.” Johnson’s research stems from a “disquieting” encounter he had while visiting family in the Dominican Republic that catalyzed his interest in different formations of “blackness” in the Dominican Republic, Haiti, and the United States. Johnson's comparative project will situate issues of race within the domestic dynamics of the United States and the international aspects that contribute to Dominican life today. As a Mary Gates Scholar, Johnson looks forward to continuing his research on key issues in the Dominican Republic. 

Research Interests: Local and transnational histories of race in the Dominican Republic and United States; tourism, land conflict, and trophy hunting in Tanzania; ideologies of borderlands shaped by globalization, legacies of colonial dominance and expansion. Portfolio Advisor: Yolanda Padilla. Capstone Advisor: Dan Berger.

Academic Background: University of Washington Bothell; degree in Global Studies.

Shannon Leigh

After years of working with dialysis patients and those preparing for a kidney transplant, Shannon completely changed directions in her career and is now working with people who struggle with drug addiction to assist them in understanding and achieving sobriety. Shannon has a strong connection to veterans and their community, and after losing friends and a parent to the recent surge in military suicides, she is also interested in research regarding why it has increased and how to address it effectively.  She feels that time spent working toward improving the lives of those around us is time well spent.  She spends  time “off” with friends, family and doing volunteer work, including working with Leah Shelton (Program manager, Student Engagement and Activities) to further develop the Safe Space program right here on the UWB campus. 

Research Interests: Availability and access (including barriers) to drug treatment programs that serve low income populations; suicide among veterans. Portfolio Advisor: Ron Krabill. Capstone Advisor: Eric Stewart.

Academic Background: University of Washington Bothell; degree in Community Psychology.

Ryland Monson

Ryland has lived in Seattle his entire life. In 2010 he graduated from the University of Washington with a BA in Communications with two minors in Diversity and Women's Studies. Loves to learn by listening to others stories.

Research Interests: Immigration (children border crossing), discrimination in the work place, LGBTQ experiences, social inequality, and Seattle culture. Portfolio Advisor: Christian Anderson. Capstone Advisor: S. Charusheela.

Academic Background: University of Washington Seattle; degree in Communications.

Amadanyo Oguara

Amadanyo is a native of Nembe Nigeria, who now resides in Seattle, Washington. Amadanyo is a musician, writer, and a playwright keen on sharing and educating people about cultural elements that can bridge our societies via music, theater, and writing.

Research Interests: Cultural Bridge - creating cultural understanding through music using cultural elements from Nembe, Nigeria. Creative Arts and the economy - using creative arts as a tool for economic growth. Portfolio Advisor: Jed Murr. Capstone Advisor: Susan Harewood.

Academic Background: University of Washington Seattle; degree in Political Science.

Helen Thomas

A native of Seattle, Helen has most recently worked in the world of arts & culture and communications, her favorite professional arenas thus far. Helen enjoys reading, writing, theater and binge watching her latest obsession on Netflix.

Research Interests: Arts administration and increasing the accessibility of live theater to underprivileged audiences, contemporary women’s literature, the Black Arts movement, intercultural communications, Black Feminism, Womanism, internalized discrimination, sociocultural traditions of West Africa, magic realism in literature, gentrification, identity formation, and diversity and representations of protagonists of color in Young Adult literature. Portfolio Advisor: Bruce Burgett. Capstone Advisor: Linda Watts.

Academic Background: Spelman College; degree in English.

Maya Zaidenstadt

Born and raised in Tel-Aviv, Israel, Maya is an avid traveler with a constant desire to see the world. Her latest solo trip with a motor-home named Jebediah led her to Seattle and she fell in love with the city and its people. Maya has lived a vagabond life for three years, following her two-year military service in the IDF. By joining the Cultural Studies program, Maya is hoping to find a way to better our sexual education system and at the same time to bring more positive, capable and strong female role models to our media. When she is not dreaming of a better future for our children, Maya spends her time cooking, eating, taking pictures, practicing Yoga, finding new lakes and making new friends.

Research Interests: Cultural criticism through a feminist perspective, gender and feminism, the portrayal of women in media, sex (positive) education, child and youth culture, ways of knowing and opposing culture. Portfolio Advisor: S. Charusheela. Capstone Advisor: Becky Aanerud.

Academic Background: Tel Aviv University; degree in Psychology and the Multidisciplinary Program in the Humanities.

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