Spotlight Newsletter

Issue 3

The Grapes of Change

Wine-Making Expert, Now Graduate Student Starts Peer Mentorship Project With UW Bothell Students

By Andrew Nguyen

An undergraduate degree often comes with midterms, extracurricular activities, and lifelong friends. At the end of the day, what sticks? For Cora Thomas it was peers and faculty members who played decisive roles in her development as a thinker, activist and person.

Thomas knew after graduating from Western Washington University (WWU) that graduate school was the next step. This makes sense for a person who loves being in an environment where people engage in solving problems, asking questions, and building knowledge.

Now a second year student in the Master of Arts in Cultural Studies program, Thomas brings to UW Bothell the belief that learning from peers is a cornerstone in the undergraduate experience. This belief manifests itself in her development of the Peer Mentorship Pilot Project.

Thomas and a small team of UW Bothell students are creating the curriculum for a course where sophomores are matched with upperclassmen to share experience and counsel. Here they can discuss growing and achieving as an undergraduate through group activities.

Cora Thomas (left) and fellow student discuss mentorship curriculumn
Cora Thomas (left) and fellow student discuss mentorship curriculumn

"The definition of mentor and mentee creates a problem, the dichotomy assumes that wisdom and knowledge flows in one direction. Mentors learn and grow just as much from a partnership as mentees," says Thomas.

Cora Thomas (left) and fellow student discuss mentorship curriculumn

It took several years before Thomas could apply her passion for peer mentorship as a graduate student. After graduating from WWU she spent several years absorbed in the winemaking industry. Her face lights up when asked about making wine. Her favorite part is tasting the wine right before it goes to bottling.

"It tastes different at every stage of production because wine is a living creature, from its start as a grape to the moment it reaches your mouth, wine is always changing chemically. Every batch is unique."

Laughing, she continues, "Oxygen is both its best friend and its demise. When you open a bottle the wine reacts with the air, changing its taste. That's why you leave it out to aerate before drinking and why after 3 days it no longer tastes fresh."

She pauses and smiles, saying "There is a metaphor here ... somewhere ... about making wine and the mentoring process." Fumbling for a quotable line, one can tell she is a writer.

Students interesting in involvement with the UW Bothell Mentorship Pilot Project should contact Cora Thomas.

UW Bothell Peer Mentorship Pilot Project team
UW Bothell Peer Mentorship Pilot Project team


Evolving Revelations

Empowering Women Spiritually Through Poetry and Performance

By Nate Stout

Christa Bell Photo of Christa Bell

Upon meeting Christa Bell, it is no surprise that she comes from a lineage of preachers. Gregarious, kind, and somewhat other-worldly, the first year Master of Arts in Cultural Studies student exudes a commanding presence that can turn any room into a stage.

While this energy might be the first thing one notices, it is Bell's voice as a poet and performer that leaves a lasting impression, as evidenced by an ever growing list of national and international accolades. Bell has performed at more than 200 universities, has had her work featured on National Public Radio, and has been the National Poetry Slam Champion among other achievements.

Bell earned her undergraduate degree at San Francisco State University, and started her career as a poet in her hometown of Seattle in 2003 at an open mic held at the now defunct Sit & Spin. "My father always said everyone has a ministry. I've always written poetry, but I didn't realize my calling until I started performing it."

While poetry and performance are at the heart of her work, Bell yields her creations for the aim of social and cultural change. Stemming from concerns for what she calls the spiritual self-esteem of women whose only access to spiritual tradition is through patriarchal religious models, Bell has developed a spiritual practice called She-ism.

"She-ism focuses on the revelations that women experience in their own bodies," Bell explains. "Moving away from the external, institutionalized practices that rely on the male form for salvation or spiritual wisdom, She-ism gives women the freedom to engage the spiritual as they are. My poetry, for example, becomes my scripture. I meditate and recite on the words that come through me, and they inform my spiritual growth. This is an evolving revelation, certain scriptures carry more or less weight at different times, and it is my hope that I can model and encourage women to look for the divine in themselves."

Bell's interest in continuing her education was rooted in the desire to systematize the knowledge of her life experience, and to expand her vocabulary in order to better engage social and cultural issues. "I see it as a two-year vocabulary lesson," she jokes.

Bell is currently working on an installation which recently premiered at the Seattle Art Museum called 1001 Holy Names for Coochie, which is a collection of terms for the female body that she has collected from all over the world. The premier consisted of a three-hour recitation of the names; Bell's goal is to work her way up to a 24-hour performance by adding three-hour increments to her upcoming installations.

In addition to her current installation, Bell will be participating in a TED Talk at Barnard College in New York on December 1st, as well as continuing to travel and perform around the world.


Chasing Dreams

Small Town Girl Uses Adversity as a Tool for Success

By Marlene Manzo

Catti Alvarez is a natural born leader, but two years ago she would not have said so. Growing up in the Lower Yakima Valley -- land of large agricultural fields, cows, and farms -- Catti was living in a world with limited opportunity. While attending Yakima Valley Community College (YVCC) she was faced with balancing her education, the constraints of small town living and taking care of her year old son Julian. Catti was ready to quit on the one thing that mattered most to her father: her education.

When Catti's father, Alejandro Alvarez Jr., passed away unexpectedly, her whole life spun right before her eyes.

Catti Alvarez

Alejandro's purpose in migrating from Mexico to the U.S. was to provide Catti's family a better life. He believed in the power of education, and constantly reminded Catti that she was expected to continue with higher education. Her father dedicated his life to providing Catti with all the opportunities necessary for her to live a fulfilling life. His passing kindled a renewed sense of perseverance and strength for Catti. She would continue her education, enrolling at UW Bothell in 2011.

Anyone who sees Catti today would find it hard to believe she ever considered leaving higher education behind. She is the president of the Latino Student Union (LSU) and devotes her time and efforts to the Making Access to College Happen (M.A.T.C.H) experience (formerly known as the Dream Project). Catti is also ASUWB Student of the Month. Among other things, she sacrifices her limited amount of free time to empower minority students into higher education. Catti believes, "life isn't about getting. You have to be able to give back and do things you're passionate about. I know long term that I am going to be paid in smiles, not money".

Catti graduates Spring 2014 and plans to attend the University of Texas Austin to pursue her graduate degree in education.


UW Bothell Day of Respect

Celebrate how Students Define and Exercise Respect in the Community

This academic year's UW Common Book is Respect: An Exploration, by Sara Lawrence-Lightfoot. Explore the ways respect creates empathy and connection in all types of relationships by celebrating UW Bothell Day of Respect. Check out our video, then join other students on Wednesday, November 28, 2012 at the UW Bothell Promenade to share what respect means to you!

Wednesday, November 28, 2012 | UW Bothell Promenade