Dear Alumni and Friends,
It is hard to believe, but the College is now entering the last year of its five-year strategic plan. As I reviewed the plan last month, I saw how much we have accomplished: a new master’s degree in social work, new graduate certificates in sport sustainability and fundraising, new undergraduate degrees in arts leadership, K-8 education and writing studies, more opportunities for our students to work directly with faculty on research, a new project with the men’s soccer team that you can read about here, a revised Core Curriculum, faculty-staff shared governance, several nationally ranked programs and more. We can all be proud of what we have done together, but this is no time to rest on our laurels.
The world of higher education faces new challenges in providing high-quality holistic education, keeping costs in check, and assisting our students in using thoughtful discernment and real-world engagement to lead full and productive lives. Our new Director of Development, Jaime Jamison, is a great addition to the team and will be instrumental in helping us succeed in turning our vision and plans into reality. He will join me in engaging with faculty, students, and alumni as we plan for and move into the future with your support. All of these great things happen through all of us working together.
This Winter newsletter shows just some of the amazing things going on in Arts & Sciences right now. In addition to the article and video about the new research project with the soccer team to improve athletic performance and prevent injury, you will find our interview with Sociology Professor Rachel Luft who was teaching in New Orleans when Hurricane Katrina hit the Gulf Coast, taught there for several years after, and worked closely with community groups as the city worked to rebuild. You will also read about MPA alum Jorji Knickrehm’s research on how Sweden is integrating immigrants and its implications for Washington state.
As always, take a look at our upcoming events and follow us on Facebook to stay up-to-date on all things Arts and Sciences. Look in your inbox for our winter-spring events calendar coming next month.
David V. Powers
The Center for the Study of Sport and Exercise joined forces with the men’s soccer program to use state-of-the-art technology to improve player performance, coaching, and training. Gathering data in real time, not just in the center’s Human Performance Lab, provides students in the degree program, the student athletes, and the coaches with information typically available only in professional sports.
“This goes beyond a one-size-fits-all approach when it comes to maximizing student- athlete performance,” said Professor Eric Dugan, director of the Center for the Study of Sport and Exercise. “We can identify the strengths and weaknesses of each player. We can monitor performance during practices and during games. We can give the coach and his staff a level of specificity that can be used to individualize training for each player.”
The Center for the Study of Sport and Exercise houses the Sport and Exercise Science undergraduate degree program and the Human Performance Lab. The academic degree opens opportunities for employment in a wide range of health and fitness programs such as community, medical or corporate health and fitness centers. Students may choose to work in athletic performance-related professions or in the sales and marketing departments of fitness and medical equipment companies. The degree also paves the way for students to continue their studies at the graduate level in kinesiology-related fields or allied health programs such as physical or occupational therapy.
Before the fall soccer season started, Dugan and Human Performance Lab Supervisor Sean Machak enlisted the aid of students to conduct a battery of tests on the soccer players. For his internship, junior Julian Rimm joined the lab team. Using specialized hardware and software similar to what is used for Olympic athletes, he collected data directly from the student athletes including resting and active heart rate, ventilation rate, and aerobic capacity. He quantified agility, quickness, and stamina.
“The data tells us how aerobically fit the athlete is,” Rimm said, “and can help the coach and the training staff make adjustments to the training regimen on an individual basis.”
On game day, Machak and the students fit the athletes with high-end computer monitors. They begin with gathering data as the athletes go through a series of relaxation exercises. Once the game starts, Machak and his students collect the data in real time. They can tell when a player is tired, how hard each player is working, and where there is room for improvement.
Soccer Coach Pete Fewing, a former professional soccer player, knows how valuable that data is. Athletes thrive on competition and want to be as fit and agile as they can be, for themselves and for the team.
“It’s exciting for them and for me because technology is opening up the door to allow us to get into athlete-specific training,” Fewing said. “We can look at the specific athlete rather than the whole team in general. It allows us to optimize their performance and keep them safe.”
Senior Hamza Haddadi, a business management major, is a top scorer on the team. He knows that professional soccer players have access to this type of data, and he’s excited to see how he and his coaches can use the data to improve his performance.
“For our coaches to be involved in a project like this shows they have a lot of respect for the players and they care for the players,” he said. “They are ready to do what it takes for the players to be at the next level. It’s great for all of us because we want to know what we’re doing, what we can improve, and this is the technology to help us get the upper hand on our opponents and help us improve as a person for the sport that we love.”
Dugan hopes to provide more opportunities for his students through projects like this one. Students not only experience how their classroom and lab work are applied and benefit real people, they also witness how the information they collect is used by others, in this case the coaching staff, the sports medicine team, and the strength and conditioning coaches. “To be able to come in, see how this information is used, and learn how to discuss this information with a variety of professionals is a great experience for our students,” Dugan said. “It provides students with the opportunity to develop a well-rounded skill set as they move into their own professional careers.”
For Dugan, the short-term goal of the project is to provide real-time information to soccer staff to make training plans that maximize student athlete performance. Coach Fewing hopes that data will provide insight into individual athletic performance that will propel the team toward winning a national championship.
Dugan sees this project as just the first step in developing a database that can provide researchers with the ability to better identify players at higher risk for injury and enable individuals and teams to maximize their performance.
Watch the video:
Professor Rachel E. Luft joined the faculty in the College of Arts and Sciences in 2013 and teaches and writes about the intersection of race, gender, and poverty, with an emphasis on social movements. She came to Seattle from New Orleans, where she had been teaching at the University of New Orleans since the year before Hurricane Katrina hit the Gulf Coast in 2005. We interviewed Rachel on her experience and the lessons learned on the 10th anniversary of the disaster.
Q. You evacuated before the levees broke in New Orleans. What was it like to leave and return home?
A. I evacuated New Orleans from Hurricane Katrina in the middle of the night with a duffel bag containing a yoga mat, a summer dress, my toiletry bag and some apples. We all thought we’d be returning shortly. Forty-eight hours later, the unimaginable happened when the levees ruptured and 6 feet of water swept through my neighborhood. I returned the following month to drag every sodden, moldy thing I owned into a massive heap of personal belongings already piled high in the street by my neighbors.
As a recent transplant to Louisiana, I soon learned that what was unimaginable to me had been quite predictable — natural and social scientists had been warning about just such a catastrophic event for years.
Q. You were one among many, but how was your situation different?
A. I shared this disaster with hundreds of thousands of people. And while we were bonded by something non-locals could not understand, I was under no illusion that we had experienced the same crisis. I had what I needed to self-evacuate — good credit, a car and friends with extra rooms all across the country. I had what I needed to rebuild — good credit, savings and a stable job that paid a living wage. These were available to me by the conditions of my birth — being born white and middle class in a society deeply stratified by race and class.
Q. How did this experience influence you?
A. The same week that I returned to New Orleans from evacuation I joined the grassroots movement for a just recovery. It was the only way to cope with what had been a profoundly social and moral violation. “There’s no such thing as a natural disaster” became the rallying cry of activists and social scientists alike who explained that wind and water interact with social environments to produce social outcomes. What happened to the people of the Gulf Coast was a betrayal of the social contract, and, as the activists say, the disaster began a long time before the hurricane.
New Orleans was 67 percent Black before Katrina struck and had twice the national poverty rate. Factors that make all the difference in a so-called natural disaster — home elevation or fortification, health, good credit and others — are directly correlated to race, class and gender.
Q. What were some of the lessons learned?
A. Hurricane Katrina helped to demonstrate the nature of crisis. And I mean ‘nature’ figuratively! Through climate change we are actually raising air and water temperatures, and water levels, literally increasing the conditions for more and more serious hurricanes. Through ongoing institutional racial, economic, and gender inequality we are ensuring that some of us won’t survive what are otherwise largely preventable impacts of disaster. But the most important lesson of Katrina is that, as dramatic as a so-called natural disaster can be, many people in this country are living with ongoing, chronic crisis all the time—the crisis of economic insecurity, of healthcare, of overcriminalization, of violence. Hurricane Katrina revealed the enduring disasters linked to racism, capitalism, and sexism in the United States. While every region in this country faces different ‘natural’ hazards, each has social inequality that turns these predictable risks into catastrophic injustice.
Jorji Knickrehm, MPA '15, got her master's degree because she was interested in systemwide change. Finding out how Sweden integrates tens of thousands of immigrants each year provided valuable lessons for Washington cities and counties.
Knickrehm spent more than 7 years working at Washington CASH (now called Ventures), a Seattle microlending organization. Recognizing that nonprofits could not provide the scale of opportunities and systemic changes that government policies could, she enrolled in the MPA program. After taking Comparative Social Policy from Professor Sven-Erik Svard, she decided to research how Sweden, with its large safety net and strong centralized government, met the challenges faced by the large numbers of immigrants entering the country each year.
Sweden and Washington state are similar in population size and foreign-born makeup. Sweden's population is 9.8 million, with approximately 17% foreign-born. Washington's population is 7.06 million with 13% foreign-born.
"OneAmerica, a Seattle-based nonprofit focused on immigrant, civil, and human rights, was interested in knowing the 'choke points' for integration in Sweden," she said. "What stops immigrants from getting jobs, learning the language, feeling accepted? That formed the basis of my research."
Sweden accepts immigrants for humanitarian reasons, and last year, 81,300 applied to enter the country mainly from war zones in the Middle East and Africa. They gain immediate access to housing and schools. Integrating into the economy has been more difficult.
Thanks to a Seattle University international research fellowship, Knickrehm spent 4 weeks in Sweden interviewing researchers, city officials, politicians, including the former Minister of Integration, and immigrants.
"While Sweden ranks very high in providing legal equality and cultural rights to immigrants, it also ranks very high in unemployment rates for immigrants," Knickrehm said. "Only 51% of non-European immigrants have a job compared with 84% of native Swedes."
Knickrehm found that the most significant challenges in Sweden for immigrants remain language barriers and underfunding of retraining and job programs. The most successful programs combine well-organized projects, individualized plans for clients, cooperation and collaboration between agencies, and a high focus on jobs.
"Sweden has a strong safety net, but it does not have a large religious and nonprofit sector that can provide support services," she noted. "In Washington, religious organizations and social service agencies fill a vital function in assisting immigrants to integrate into our communities and economy. They also have varied sources of funding and are not totally reliant on government funding."
In her report "Turning Outsiders into Insiders: Public Policies and Practices for Immigrant Success in Swedish," Knickrehm drew conclusions applicable to both Sweden and Washington.
"Implementing labor practices that build on the skills of immigrants, especially high-skilled, foreign-educated professionals who are moving to both countries in higher numbers, is an important first step," she emphasized. "That would allow both regions to take full advantage of the human capital offered by new immigrants."
Communication Professor Caitlin Ring Carlson received the Faculty of the Year award for academic year 2014-15. According to Mary Ellen Engman, who assisted student government leaders in conducting the survey, Carlson was the overwhelming winner based on votes cast by the graduating class of 2015. Carlson joined the faculty in the College of Arts and Sciences in 2013.
Carlson, who teaches strategic communications, media law, public affairs, research methods and social media management, uses her consultancy class like an internship. Students take on a project for a community agency and write communication plans, establish editorial calendars, conduct outreach, and evaluate the success of their campaigns.
The students are so willing to tackle projects head on that they push me to work harder,” Carlson said. “They are just as enthusiastic and passionate about the work as I am.”
Carlson focuses her research and scholarship on media law and policy as they relate to new media, freedom of expression, and social justice. Her most recent publications address digital ethics, hate speech, and the role of social media companies to manage content online.
“There are more than 20,000 problematic websites deciding to inciting hatred based on race, ethnicity, and sexual orientation,” she said. “The policies of social media sites are not transparent and vary from company to company. It’s like the Wild West, but they have legal and ethical responsibilities to manage content online.”
Carlson has also explored censoring hate speech from the user’s perspective. In a preliminary survey research project, she found that “unlike more traditional media companies, users saw social media organizations solely as for profit businesses whose terms of service absolved them of any democratic responsibility to protect free expression.”
Carlson expects to publish her findings later this year.