June is always a wonderful time to celebrate and reflect on the year. I continue to be proud and amazed at the work of our students and recent graduates. In this issue, we feature Jennifer Cruz, a graduating senior who received a Fulbright to work on a cancer-prevention project in India, and junior Rian Williams whose filmmaking is drawing national attention. We highlight recent graduate Cervante Burrell, who has given new meaning to the phrase give back, and Lindsey Wasson, who is making her mark as a photojournalist.
In spring our thoughts also turn to gardening, picnics, and gatherings with friends and family. Read the article and watch the video about Anthropology Professor Rob Efird, who, working with junior Taylor Burmer, developed the exhibit about the unique aspects of the Danny Woo Community Garden at the Wing Luke Museum. Located in Seattle’s historic Chinatown-International District just blocks from campus, the garden has been used for decades as a welcoming, sustainable garden for immigrants from Asia in addition to providing numerous opportunities for our students to engage with them.
We are already planning exciting arts, lectures, and events for this fall, including the inaugural Peter L. Lee Endowed Lectureship in East Asian Culture and Civilization. For now, keep informed about all the Arts and Sciences by joining our college Facebook page.
All my best for a pleasant summer,
The Danny Woo Community Garden in Seattle’s historic Chinatown-International District has welcomed immigrants from Asia for more than 40 years. Professor Rob Efird enlisted the aid of student Taylor Burmer to prepare an exhibit about the unique aspects of the garden for the Wing Luke Museum. The exhibit, which opened in March, runs through March 2017.
Efird, chair of the Department of Anthropology, Sociology and Social Work, has been taking his Cultural Ecology and Geography classes to the Danny Woo garden since 2006. Interested in providing hands-on experiences for students, Efird soon developed a relationship with InterIm Community Development Association, the agency that manages the 1.5-acre site of community gardening space, public art, walking trails, and educational programs for children.
“Each year, hundreds of volunteers help improve the garden for everyone to enjoy,” said Efird. “Our students help InterIm beyond maintenance to grantwriting and assisting with children’s programming.”
In addition to the rich diversity of the gardeners, the garden offers an important history lesson in civic activism.
In the early 1970s, the community faced a major challenge as the county moved ahead with developing the Kingdome arena in the area. Concerned about impacts to the neighborhood, local residents successfully advocated to go beyond meeting the basic needs of adequate housing, social services, and health care.
“Their civic activism included a place to garden, someplace in the midst of this concrete jungle, one of the most green-starved communities in Seattle, where they could garden and grow produce that wasn’t available in Seattle at that time,” Efird noted.
From that humble beginning of 40 garden plots, the garden grew and became a model of sustainable urban gardening. Today’s gardeners, all International District residents, are predominantly low-income, elders originally from Asia. They grow fruits and vegetables and bring their families to share in community meals and cultural programs for children. Efird, a cultural anthropologist who speaks fluent Chinese, began interviewing the gardeners to document their experiences and perspectives. He soon developed a proposal to the Wing Luke Museum to do an exhibit on the garden, its history, and its contemporary significance.
“Researchers publish in scholarly venues that are read by academics but rarely seen by the public,” he said. “What better way to engage the public than to situate my research in a museum?”
As a junior Environmental Studies major Taylor Burmer jumped at the chance to be involved in the research.
“I’m really interested in exploring the relationship people have to the land and the environment around them,” she said. “The garden is where a largely immigrant population can stay in touch with their culture and their roots through growing vegetables and cooking food. It’s a chance for them to be at home in their new home. “
During the 12 months she worked on the project, Burmer examined more than 40 years of archival information, interviewed key people involved in the development of the garden, gathered images, met with the museum’s curator and advisors to shape the exhibit, and built the website that accompanies the exhibit. When the exhibit closes in March 2017, the website will be turned over to the InterIm to be housed in perpetuity.
“What makes the Danny Woo garden different is that it is truly a community garden,” she said. “It was started because of the demands of the people in the community, and it was built by the community for the community and continues to be maintained that way.”
Efird sees many benefits from the university’s work with the garden, community, and InterIm: “The exhibit and our relationship with the garden and gardeners are excellent examples of the kind of community-based learning that we prioritize in cultural anthropology--the kind of experience we want to give our students, the way we like to keep it real to make sure that their education at SU is connected to the world beyond our campus, the world they are going to go into after graduation.”
Watch the video:
Jennifer Cruz is headed to India on a Fulbright to work on a cancer-prevention project. The Psychology major has focused her academic learning and service on helping people cope with the life-altering diagnosis of cancer.
Cruz brings first-hand knowledge of the impact of cancer not only on the patients but their families. Her mother died of the disease when Cruz was 13, the youngest of four children. Growing up in Wapato, WA, she came to Seattle University to major in Psychology. Her goal has always been to help people work through trauma.
Cruz immediately took advantage of campus of life. She joined the rowing team in her first year and became captain in her senior year. Under the auspices of the student-led Kolkata Club, she participated in a service abroad program in India where she assisted Mother Theresa’s Missionaries of Charity in the care of destitute and dying adults in hospice.
“I wanted to know how I would handle that type of situation,” she said. “I needed to confront attachment issues. It helped me focus on how to use my degree.”
When she returned to campus, Cruz chose go into the B.S. degree program in Psychology, which brings a research component into the curriculum with its focus on biopsychology, statistics, and experimental design.
With the help of Professor Kathleen Cook, she received an internship at Fred Hutch working with cancer patients and their families. The Hutch, one of the leading cancer research centers in the world, was analyzing quantitative and qualitative data from health providers in the Yakima Valley to determine the best ways to improve outcomes and reduce stress for cancer patients.
“Minorities and low-income populations tend to have more relapses of cancer,” Cruz said. “Getting to an appointment can be difficult if work, child care, and transportation create barriers. Sometimes there is a language barrier between the medical staff and the patients and their families. We wanted to see if increased access to resources and support groups would be helpful.”
Many people in the Yakima Valley are Spanish speakers or low income. The project focused on providing post-treatment cancer education, including nutrition, exercise, and body image, the importance of keeping appointments, maintaining contact with their providers, and staying on drug regimens.
During her 10-month internship, Cruz conducted research and compiled data from surveys and interviews with health care professionals and patients. The final report is due out later this year.
For her Fulbright in India, Cruz will conduct research with the Institute of Cytology and Preventive Oncology (ICPO), an autonomous institution within the Ministry of Family and Health Welfare as well as RTI International, an independent, nonprofit institute that provides research, development, and technical services to governments and commercial clients.
“Cancer rates are skyrocketing in India,” she said. “ICPO and RTI have developed a phone app and website to help rural doctors access critical information about cancer and cancer prevention. The research will determine its effectiveness.”
A first generation college student and Costco and Naef Scholar, Cruz leaves Seattle University with the strong support of the faculty and her coaches: “They have all inspired me, and I am so thankful.”
Lindsey Wasson, class of 2013, chose Seattle University for its photography program, directed by Professor Claire Garoutte, and for its liberal arts classes that inform the way she approaches her photography. Garoutte had stressed the importance of seizing opportunities as they came along, and Wasson interned with the seattlepi.com and with the university’s photographer, Chris Kalinko. She also worked for the Spectator, the student newspaper. Her first assignment was to photograph a student protest.
“I had grown up in the suburbs, and people in the suburbs didn’t protest,” she said. “When I was in this crowd and feeling the energy, I realized that photography would open me up to experiences and meeting people I wouldn’t have otherwise.”
Now a staff photographer for the Seattle Times, Wasson experiences the demands of a 24-hour news cycle and a robust online as well as hard-copy presence. Not only do the photographers have deadlines to meet, but they also deal with joy and tragedy, sometimes in the same day. Saturday, March 22, 2014, was such a day.
“I was covering some basketball practice when I saw something on Twitter about a landslide,” Wasson said. “I thought it was something small, but when I got to the office, we learned more about it. Because I was only one of a few people in the office, I asked to be sent over.”
The Oso landslide closed the highway between Arlington and Darrington, and Wasson was stationed out of Arlington for two weeks. The devastation was total. Forty-three people died; a community had vanished. Hundreds of volunteers joined first responders to find survivors, clear debris, and help those who had lost family and homes.
“I met so many people who were encouraging examples of humanity,” she said. “One family was opening their home to volunteers who kept coming through, they’d search in the mud, got them food, took a shower, and then went back. It was great to see not just the tragedy of the event but so many people willing to help.”
The Oso landslide was covered by news media from throughout the country. The Times put several of Wasson’s photos on the AP wire, and they were picked up by the Wall Street Journal, New York Times, and other news outlets. The Seattle Times staff received the Pulitzer Prize for Breaking News Reporting for their Oso coverage. Wasson went to New York City to receive the award with the group.
Wasson loves the variety of photojournalism. In any given day, she may be chronicling a news event, taking a portrait, and covering a sport: “The job has given me so many life experiences that are really special to me that I’d never have thought would have been possible.”
When a colleague was injured in a car accident, Wasson got the chance to join the team of Times photographers, runners, and editors at the 2015 Super Bowl.
The work was demanding. The team came to the stadium early and stayed late: setting up, scoping out the venue, photographing warm ups, covering fans as the came and left, and, of course, photographing during the game.
The Seattle Times has a large online presence, and readers demand up-to-the-minute details. Wasson’s experience at the Super Bowl was part choreography and part Keystone Kops: “I took photos and handed off the memory card to runners who literally ran to the editors in the photo workroom. The editors sifted through thousands of photos, wrote captions as fast as they could, and forwarded photos to editors in the Seattle office who put the photos online. An intricate, huge line of people got things from point A to point B.”
Later that year, Wasson returned to Oso for the emotional memorial. “It was an important event to cover but it was important for me personally to stay with these stories. I didn’t want to cover what was there initially and then leave. I wanted to see it through.”
Being a photojournalist has given Wasson opportunities she never thought possible: “It’s a great career if you want to have great life experiences. You won’t get rich, but you’ll have an interesting time.”
Cervante Burrell came to Seattle University to play basketball and figure out life after college. Now as the founder of The Unforeseen and dean of students at Sacramento Charter High School, he is making a difference in the lives of hundreds of students.
As a student athlete, Burrell had the advantage of mentors on the court and in the classroom.
“Coach Dollar was all about preparing us for basketball and for life,” he said from his office in Sacramento, “and my advisor Luci Masredjian helped me decide to major in Sociology. She showed me how to be a successful student.”
After graduation, Burrell was drafted into the NBA D League and traveled throughout Europe, Asia, and the Americas. He returned home in 2014 to become dean of students for 9th graders at Sacramento Charter High School and the assistant basketball coach. From his experiences as an athlete working with youth in basketball camps and tournaments, he found it easy to connect with teens and mentor them. His academic background in sociology gave him greater understanding in human interactions across cultures, classes, races and genders.
With more than 400 students in the 9th grade, Burrell regularly meets with parents, counselors, and students to keep students on track to graduate, but his day doesn’t end at 5 o’clock. Burrell is the director of The Unforeseen, a nonprofit organization that acknowledges the achievements of students who have experienced adversity.
“The Unforeseen starts with a full day experience created for high-achieving, high school students who generally go unrecognized for what they’ve accomplished in spite of tremendous adversity,” Burrell said. “We give them a day they will never forget, and after that day, they are given resources, mentors, and scholarships that last several years after high school graduation.”
Burrell has created web episodes of these adventures with the goal of motivating more kids to do well and to “touch students, keep them pushing. That’s what I’m here to do.”
With t-shirts emblazoned with “SEEN,” the students embark on a day of unforeseen adventures, like horseback riding or water skiing. They eat at top restaurants. They may meet with the mayor or a professional athlete. Throughout the day, Burrell serves as guide and mentor, bringing in other students to talk about the transition to college and beyond.
“I have a mantra: I want, I grind, I get,” he told one student. “Only with all three can you become the person you want to be and reach your goals.”
Burrell works with a small team of colleagues to enlist community support to make an extraordinary day happen for extraordinary students: “They are such good kids with such high grades, they deserve a reward for all they have accomplished in spite of adversity.”
You can visit website here theunforeseen.org to learn more about The Unforeseen and watch the web episodes.
Latest episode here.
Although writing scripts in elementary school, Rian Williams, class of 2017, is honing skills as a double major in psychology and criminal justice with a minor in film studies. Williams, scriptwriter, director, and actor, worked with fellow student Alyssa Bybee, assistant director, actor, and cinematographer, to produce Insurration for their film production class with Professor Georg Koszulinski. The 10-minute short film is a psychological horror drama about a young medical student, Nicole, who believes her sister is being possessed and is willing to go to any extreme to save her.
The film premiered at the Seattle University student film festival in the spring of 2015. This past fall, Insurration was part of an online independent film festival. That led to a feature spread in Cinewoman magazine.
Williams is the founder of Sanguinarium Productions, an independent film company that has already produced 10 short films and has plans for 2 features, including a full-length version of Insurration. In addition to classwork, film writing, and production schedule, Williams finds time to act in local productions, including Bye Bye Birdie this past spring.
Williams came to Seattle University for its outstanding Criminal Justice Department with its undergraduate specialization in forensic psychology and enjoys learning about the criminal mindset and behavior.
“Psychology and criminal justice give me good ideas,” she said. “Filmmaking is a secondary outlet for me but not a career choice.”
Williams plans to continue making independent films that “break reality and push people’s buttons” but hopes to go to graduate school in criminal justice. Eventually, Williams would like to pursue a doctorate in clinical psychology and focus on helping adolescents and young adults, especially those with eating disorders.
You can watch Insurration on YouTube here.