Dear Alumni and Friends,
Higher education has been under intense scrutiny this past year. To the question of “Is a liberal arts education valuable in the 21st century?” I give an emphatic “YES.”
You only have to look within this newsletter to see the benefits of what we teach and how we teach it. Professor Jennifer Schulz, who received her M.A. in Psychology in 2003 after receiving her doctorate in English, took service learning to a new level in her American literature course. Danielle Poole built on her photography degree to pilot a therapeutic approach with orphans in Africa. Nancy Walton-House has strengthened her foundation in sociology by addressing the challenges faced by complex organizations undergoing rapid change.
It is with this backdrop that I look forward to another exciting year. In the spirit of a liberal arts education that propels lifelong learning, I invite you to join us for an outstanding alumni seminars series, performances and exhibits by our Fine Arts department, and the many lectures and seminars that inspire as well as education. And don’t forget to mark January 24 on your calendar for our annual College of Arts and Sciences Night at Key Arena for men’s basketball.
For the most recent information about all things Arts and Sciences, join our Facebook page.
I look forward to seeing you soon!
David V. Powers
Professor Tanya Hayes received a 3-year National Science Foundation Research Grant to continue her research in community forestry in Ecuador. Joining Hayes as principal investigators are Arts and Sciences Professor Felipe Murtinho and Hendrik Wolff of the University of Washington. The project, “Influence of Economic Incentives on Common-Property Forest Management,” builds on faculty-student research conducted in 2011. That first study was funded by a Dean’s Research Fellowship grant.
Deforestation accelerates climate change and results in tracts of infertile land. In recent years, economic incentives have been used to promote forest conservation. However, the impacts of such policies are largely unknown, particularly with respect to indigenous and peasant communities. In 2011, Hayes and students Sarah McHugh, Environmental Studies major, and David Salmeron, Public Affairs major, examined the Ecuadoran government policy of providing financial incentives to local groups to plant pine forests in the Andes. They researched the ecological impacts of pine trees on soil and water supply, the economic viability of pine plantations and the financial incentives involved. They also examined the social impacts of the long-term contracts with the government to maintain the pine plantations.
Initial results indicated that the plantations were not economically viable. The pine trees did not grow well, and the farmers had minimal access to markets for the lumber.
With the NSF grant, Hayes and colleagues will focus on the impacts of another incentive program to conserve the Ecuadorian forests. Peasant and indigenous communities will be paid not to clear the land. In addition to paying the farmers, the government plans incentives around community improvements, like new schools.
“We understand the reasons why rural peoples deforest their land, but we don’t understand how to change this behavior,” Hayes said. “We will examine the degree to which financial incentives can move people to change and critically assess the impact of such payments on individuals and their communities.”
Beginning in July 2012, Hayes, Murtinho, and Wolff will spend at least two months each year in Ecuador. Their research will determine who participates in the incentive program and will assess the impacts on individual behavior, livelihoods, and community governance. Their regional partner is Condesan, a consortium of 50 organizations working in the Andes of Venezuela, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia, and Argentina. The Condesan network focuses on natural resource management, land use, and rural poverty.
Hayes noted that the government in Ecuador supports this independent review as it did of the pine plantation policy.
Hayes received her Ph.D. from Indiana University. She joined the faculty in the College of Arts and Sciences in 2006 and teaches in the Environmental Studies and Public Affairs departments. Her scholarship focuses on international environmental politics, sustainable development, and research design, with particular emphasis on forest policy implementation in Latin America.
English Professor Dr. Jennifer Schulz, MAP ’03, has a new approach to teaching literature. She introduces her students to “The Arts of Reading and Walking in the City” by requiring 20 hours of service learning with organizations serving Seattle’s low-income and homeless population.
“The figure of homelessness, not necessarily poverty, is powerful in American literature – people always on the move, migrating, ungrounded,” she said. “It is liberating and constraining at the same time. I wanted my students to engage with the city and explore urban living, both as literature depicts it and as we inhabitants experience it. ”
In her course, students read classic American literature, like Hawthorne’s “My Kinsman, Major Molineux,” Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Man of the Crowd,” F. Scott Fitzgerald’s “The Great Gatsby” and Nella Larsen’s “Passing.” They also learn from low-income and homeless adults, children, and teens at Seattle’s Compass Housing Alliance, Hilltop House, YouthCare’s Orion Center Overnight Shelter, and YWCA’s School Age Program.
Several years after writing her English doctoral dissertation on the Harlem Renaissance and teaching literature, Schulz enrolled in the M.A. in Psychology program (class of 2003). She did her practicum at the Pike Market Medical Clinic, which serves very low-income and homeless adults. The clients had fascinating stories to tell, and Schulz found real-life comparisons to the fictional characters she had studied and taught.
She returned to teaching and today conducts classes in the English, liberal studies and psychology departments. Combining her creative writing and literary interests with the phenomenological approach learned in the psychology program serves her well. Her experiences at the Pike Market Clinic and in private practice with homeless and low-income adults led her to include a service learning component in the introduction to American literature course.
Schulz added the service learning component to her syllabus in 2010. She required all students to reflect on the relationship between what they learn in the classroom and what they experience in the city. She asked provocative questions: Why do the figures not only of providence but of homelessness, detection, experimentation, and performance arise again and again in literature of the city? How do your interactions with other city-dwellers re-construct (or help you to re-interpret) the literature? In what ways do literature and lived experience reflect and create each other?
Some students had never lived in a city or seen people living on the streets. They found their experiences in the community to be transformative.
“The students heard things that they never would have believed were true,” Schulz noted. “They learned to go deeper than the facts—to recognize fear and pain in the stories they heard.”
At the end of the course, each student wrote a self-reflective essay that considered the different narrative, theoretical, and experiential lenses through which they looked at the city. Schulz specifically asked that they critically reflect on the ways in which they have altered their encounters with the city and how their service learning experiences informed their readings and interpretations of the literature.
“Students gain more than an understanding of course content and a broader appreciation of the discipline,” Schulz emphasized. “They enhance their personal development and the leadership skills needed to work for social justice.”
“What I learned in sociology, I have used throughout my entire life,” said Nancy Walton-House, class of 1964. Originally focused on theater, debate, and political science when she transferred to Seattle University for her sophomore year, she took a sociology class taught By Professor Anita Yourglich. She found her assumptions challenged, learned to think systemically about social issues, and decided to change her major to sociology.
With increased understanding of the forces that shape individuals, including their participation in groups, Walton-House went on to receive a master’s degree in Counseling Psychology. She did research at Johns Hopkins Medical Center and Seattle Children’s Hospital as a psychometrician and was the volunteer leader of group counseling sessions at the Monroe Correctional Complex. She taught at three universities including SU, and worked predominantly in multiple healthcare systems on professional development and organizational change.
“In major, complex healthcare systems, leadership at the top changes every 18 months on average,” she said. “The process of change requires time for implementation. With rapid turnover in leadership, organizations don’t have much time to stabilize change initiatives. Innovation, organizational improvement and productivity are directly challenged and impacted.”
While at the University of Washington Academic Medical Center at Harborview, the only level one trauma center in the Northwest, Walton-House addressed challenges faced by the large assistant nurse manager staff. Nurses typically work in three shifts around the clock, with limited opportunity to collaborate with colleagues and avoid duplication of effort. Walton-House organized events that allowed nurses to discuss their issues as well as best practices.
“The nurses had limited time to look at what they had in common across shifts and units,” Walton-House said. “After meeting together, they came up with creative solutions to common problems and followed up with small committees to monitor and implement. This was an important cultural shift at Harborview, and it positively impacted patient care.”
Now semi-retired, Walton-House participates in the JustFaith leadership team for Western Washington and chaired the Justice and Peace Commission of Our Lady of Sorrows Parish in Snoqualmie and the Parish Pastoral Council. She facilitates Aging Well learning communities for older adults and retirees who meet monthly through Magis and the King County Library System. In addition, she consults with individuals, organizations, and communities on related opportunities and challenges.
“Older adults in our society face challenges associated with loss of identity and meaningful work, aging well, and fear, especially in these difficult economic times,” she said. “I help them reflect on their own lives and how to age with consciousness, courage, and contribution.”
Walton-House, a strong proponent of liberal arts education, also serves on the Arts and Sciences Leadership Council.
“We have a lot at stake in higher education now. In a multi-dimensional, complex world that’s interconnected and global, a diverse educational background is increasingly important to make meaning out of complex, high-risk situations and create innovative, sustainable solutions. Decision-making must be for the common good,” she said. “Through the liberal arts—literature, philosophy, theology, history, social sciences—we learn about ourselves and others thus developing empathy. Ethics, empathy, and cultural competence are essential to effective leadership.”
Drawn to Seattle University for its emphasis on social justice, Danielle Poole, class of 2008, enrolled in a photography class as a transfer student. Working under the direction of Prof. Claire Garoutte, the Wisconsin native realized that documentary photography could impact social change. She enrolled in the International Development Internship Program and was on her way to Africa in her junior year.
“The photography class was pivotal to my education,” she said recently. “It opened doors to me that I hadn’t expected.”
For her internship through Catholic Relief Services, Poole spent one quarter in Bobete, Lesotho. Lesotho is a small impoverished country surrounded on all sides by South Africa. Forty percent of the nation’s 2 million people live below the international poverty line, and one in four has HIV/AIDS. Because of the HIV/AIDS epidemic, many children are orphans, and the number continues to rise. She taught photography to provide a means for the children to express themselves under a larger umbrella of empowerment activities carried out by Catholic Relief Services and Partners in Health. Most had never seen a camera before.
When in Bobete, Poole lived at the Partners in Health clinic with a site doctor, and after graduating from Seattle University with a degree in photography, she enrolled in a pre-med program in Boston. She returned to Africa as a research assistant with the Ragon Institute. The institute, a joint effort of MIT, Harvard, and Massachusetts General Hospital, seeks an HIV/AIDS vaccine and brings together scientists, engineers and clinicians in immunological research.
For 15 months, Poole worked at the Nelson Mandela Medical School in Durban, South Africa, doing basic science and clinical research. By July 2011, she was on her way to earning a Master’s in Public Health from Brown University and conducting her own research with orphans in KwaZulu/Natal, South Africa.
“I was interested in finding out if a therapeutic photography intervention can reduce mental health traumas among orphans and vulnerable children,” she said. “Orphans are especially vulnerable to mental health traumas because of their developmental vulnerability at the time of bereavement.”
Poole worked with children ages 6 – 10 who were experiencing anxiety, depression, and post-traumatic stress disorder. She guided them to produce photographic essays, documents of their experiences, and narratives which were presented to the community.
“We were at the very first stage of a pilot project, which showed that the intervention is feasible,” Poole said. “I’m hopeful that through photography, the children experienced increased social support and coping abilities.”
With her M.P.H. in hand, Poole joined the Kenya Research Group at the University of Washington in Seattle. She will return to Kenya in November for a human research study on HIV transmission.
She’ll definitely be bringing her camera to take photos representing the progress the country has made in its response to the HIV epidemic.
By David Chow, Director of Development
We have all heard about people living in their cars, trucks, or RVs, but it wasn’t until alum Donna Franklin (M.Ed. ’91) provided a $5000 research grant that we got a birds-eye view of the problem in our midst. The Vehicular Residency Research Project, given to the Center for Strategic Communications (CSC), Communication Department, set out to examine the extent to which people live in their vehicles. The pilot program focused on two areas of Seattle: Ballard and North Seattle.
Sociology majors Taylor Sheehan-Farley, class of 2012, and Sofia Locklear, class of 2014, received credit for the research directed by CSC Research Fellow Graham Pruss. Working in teams with volunteers, the students mapped “vehicle residences” in the afternoons and early mornings. They also examined city ordinances related to parking on city streets.
This primary research project gave our students understanding of the complexities of people living in their vehicles: How do they get food, cook, and take care of their personal hygiene? How do neighborhoods and the police respond to health and safety concerns? How does repeated observation over time, as opposed to a point-in-time count, enrich our understanding of the situation?
Pruss will present the findings in a report, which includes recommendations, to a Mayor’s taskforce looking into this issue as well as to the Seattle City Council and community later this fall.
When Dean Powers made research grants for students a top priority, this was exactly the type of academic-service learning program he envisioned. With your support, we can expand these meaningful opportunities for our students and enhance the values and traditions of their Jesuit education.