About Us

Current Students

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

2014 Cohort

Shayna Elbling

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.

Portfolio Advisor: S. Charusheela. Capstone Advisor: Becky Aanerud. 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. 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.

Portfolio Advisor: Sarah Dowling. Capstone Advisor: micha c├írdenas. 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. 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. 

Portfolio Advisor: Yolanda Padilla. Capstone Advisor: Dan Berger. 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. 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. 

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

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

Portfolio Advisor: Jed Murr. Capstone Advisor: Susan Harewood. 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. 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.

Portfolio Advisor: Bruce Burgett. Capstone Advisor: Linda Watts. 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. Academic Background: Spelman College; degree in English.

Maya Zaidenstadt

Born and raised in Tel aviv, Israel, Maya is an avid traveller 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.

Portfolio Advisor: S. Charusheela. Capstone Advisor: Kari Lerum. 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. Academic Background: Tel Aviv University; degree in Psychology and the Multidisciplinary Program in the Humanities.

2013 Cohort

Ryan Blanco

Ryan has a deep interest in studying people and places. He enjoys taking solo trips across America by car or train and getting lost in obscure towns and diners talking to local people. His passion for exploring cultures has taken him abroad to Iraq, Thailand, Kuwait and Japan. He recently returned from living in rural Uganda working with the local government, military and non-governmental organizations in improving cultural relations with the Karamojong tribe in the region. Their efforts worked toward bringing awareness to policy makers on human rights and female genital mutilation. He spends most of his days reading, driving to the ocean, visiting libraries or watching Bill Murray and Coen Brothers films.

Portfolio Advisor: Lauren Berliner. Capstone Advisor: Eric Stewart. Research interests: Interested in exploring the many ideas of American identity. What has been the cultural influence of early broadcast media (television, radio and internet) on the development of American socio-cultural values, past and present? He’s interested in exploring American perceptions of sexual identities and practices. Further, the rise and influence of suburban sprawl and its effect on ecology, social capital, race and public policy. What have been the influences of American social movements on contemporary American culture? Semiotic theory, American social movements, American sexual values/ perceptions, decline of social capital, Marx theory, violence in American culture, religion and American identity, American materialism and consumer studies. Academic background: Saint Martin's University; degree in Sociology and Cultural Anthropology.

Suzanne Cohen

With more than 20 years of nonprofit arts experience, Suzanne has performed, directed, designed, and administrated at theatre companies across the country, as well as internationally. She is the Managing Artistic Director of Mirror Stage, and has broad connections with contemporary theatre and the development of new work. She earned a BA in Humanities/Drama from University of Southern California with a minor in Creative Writing, and a Master of Not-for-Profit Leadership from Seattle University.

Portfolio Advisor: Miriam Bartha. Capstone Advisor: Becky Aanerud. Research interests: Theatre as a form of communication to build understanding among diverse groups; social justice and inequality; intergroup dialogue and cross-cultural communication; race, ethnicity, gender and class studies; public scholarship in the arts. Academic background: University of Southern California; Seattle University; degrees in Humanities, emphasis in Drama, (BA); Nonprofit Management (MNPL).

Janelle Davis

Janelle is currently working on research pertaining to the performativity of funerary rituals and assisting with the Linfield College Forensics program, building on her dedication to the educational value of debate, public speaking, and performance.

Portfolio Advisor: Julie Shayne. Capstone Advisor: Johanna Crane. Research interests: Cultural performance of death and bereavement, communities built around sexuality and marginalization, gamer culture, linguistic minorities, performance as inquiry and pedagogical method, race and protest rhetoric. Academic background: Linfield College; degree in Intercultural Communications and Religious Studies.

Stephanie Driessel

Stephanie is an avid fiction reader (to the detriment of her sleep schedule) and enjoys taking photographs of pretty much everything. She served 5 years in the US Army, spent another year and a half as a Corrections Officer, and currently works as a graduate staff assistant for the IAS grad office. She has two amazing sons with her husband Jacob and a ridiculous dog named Molly.

Portfolio Advisor: Dan Berger. Capstone Advisor: Kari Lerum. Research interests: Intersectionality in feminism; social perceptions and reintegration of women veterans; social inequity in the criminal justice system. Academic background: American Military University; degree in Security Management.

Nafasi Ferrell

Nafasi has a deep passion for understanding the world around us and how we can better relate to one another. She believes that by breaking the taboo around race, understanding this new era of globalization and using the modes of poetry and visual arts to guide education, we can direct ourselves towards a better tomorrow. If she is not at home relaxing you will usually find her traveling, eating great foods, listening to music or salsa dancing.

Portfolio Advisor: Sarah Dowling. Capstone Advisor: Janelle Silva. Research interests: Globalization, Critical Race Theory, reforming education around the modes of poetry and visual arts. Academic background: Holy Names University; degree in History and International Relations.

Dominique GarciaDominique Garcia

Dominique graduated with a degree in Physiology from Seattle Pacific University. With plans to attend medical school and become a doctor, she wants to work in community health, serving Latino populations as a primary care physician. Dominique’s current research interests include healthcare disparities, structural inequalities, and power dynamics in  medicine. Her capstone project, Patient-Held Stigma in Primary Care, focuses on the patient perspective in a clinical setting and how biases affect healthcare outcomes in underserved communities. 

Portfolio Advisor: Johanna Crane. Capstone Advisor: Julie Shayne. Research interests: Social, economic, and cultural healthcare disparities, underserved populations in medicine, medical education development. Academic background: Seattle Pacific University; degree in Physiology.

Lacey Grove

Lacey is from Moses Lake Washington and went to school at Western Washington University for her BA in Cultural Anthropology. She has a passion for people and nature, exploring the ways that people fit into the natural world in harmonious ways. She loves to travel and Asia holds a special place in her heart. She enjoys sitting down with an IPA and talking to new people about what gets them excited about life, scuba diving, and spends a lot of her time at the dog park with her furry buddy.

Portfolio Advisor: Amoshaun Toft. Capstone Advisor: Jed Murr. Research interests: Lacey’s main interests are international development with a focus on marginalized communities, globalization, sustainable agriculture and balancing community wellbeing with modernization. Other interests include: Thai sex workers and sex tourism; how technology is augmenting reality and changing the way people communicate, socialize and view the world; and consumption in western culture. Academic background: Western Washington University; degree in Cultural Anthropology.

Alexandra Holien

With a background in American Ethnic Studies, Alexandra’s interest have always been centered around a genealogical approach when attempting to find cracks in the dominant ideologies that make up our common sense, and the world we live in today. With a strong and passionate focus around affordable housing, gentrification and identity production, Alexandra uses the disciple of Cultural Studies to ask questions around power, structural inequality as it relates to group agency and the embodied experience of being Black in the very white city of Seattle.  Currently, her research is focused on identifying links between the Central District in Seattle (a historically Black neighborhood), and the identity production that occurs within African American community who reside there. 

Portfolio Advisor: Ron Krabill. Capstone Advisor: Christian Anderson. Research interests: Critical Race Theory, curriculum reform, racial identity formation, institutionalized racism having to do with its historical roots and its lasting effects, racial caste system in American, mass incarceration of black youth, social inequality. Academic background: University of Washington Seattle; degree in American Ethnic Studies, minor in Diversity.

Julie Hurst

Julie has worked in the field of Student Affairs within Housing and Residential Life, and most recently, Study Abroad. She values storytelling as a means for getting to know the people she encounters through her work, volunteer and life experiences. She is passionate about music, travel, dance, spending time with family and friends, and having her mind expanded.

Portfolio Advisor: Ben Gardner. Capstone Advisor: Ron Krabill. Research interests: Study Abroad: exploring the history of class, privilege, and ethnicity with regard to travel and study abroad; best methods for supporting historically underrepresented and under-resourced students before, during and after the abroad experience. Academic background: University of California Irvine; degree in Psychology.

Heather Kosaka

Heather is a University of Washington graduate who earned her BA in English with a minor in Art History. She works at a nonprofit advocating for DD adults and coaches children at a rock climbing training center. She is an avid climber, amateur mycologist and explorer. She volunteers for Seattle Mountain Rescue and leads climbing and backpacking trips in the North Cascades. You will find her ice climbing frozen pillars in the winter and warming toes and fingers at venues around the local music scene and art galleries.

Portfolio Advisor: Christian Anderson. Capstone Advisor: Amoshaun Toft. Research interests: Capitalism and the urban environment, land and resource allocation in a cultural context, global economy and the global city, nonprofit work, productivity of power, semiotics and linguistics in a Cultural Studies context, evolutionary culture, education and the interplay of power structures and the changing global environment. Academic background: University of Washington Seattle; degree in English, minor in Art History.

Concetta Leggio

Concetta has lived in Washington for most of her life. She spent eight years in the Marine Corps Reserves before going to University of Washington (Bothell campus). She seeks to use her military experience and education to work with the veteran population.

Portfolio Advisor: S. Charusheela. Capstone Advisor: Lauren Berliner. Research interests: Post traumatic stress disorder in combat troops, females in combat, feminist studies. Academic background: University of Washington Bothell; degree in Community Psychology, minor in Human Rights.

Mahala Lettvin

Mahala graduated from the UWB School of Interdisciplinary Arts and Science program in Autumn 2012, with a degree in American Studies. Mahala hopes to be a student for as long as possible, although for now she holds a variety of positions including: paralegal, house cleaner, UWB Writing and Communication Center consultant, author, indexer, and mother. When not working, Mahala enjoys anything to do with writing and word play, exploring local parks, and attempting to ignite meaningful, philosophical debates with her two young children.

Portfolio Advisor: Yolanda Padilla. Capstone Advisor: Kari Lerum. Research interests: Latin American studies; diaspora & displacement; identity formation; collective memory; feminism; borderlands theory; sex work in the Americas. Academic background: University of Washington Bothell; degree in American Studies.

Lisa Mackie

Lisa has been developing her skills as a teaching artist through her long standing work with youth and believes it is vital for young minds curiosity to be sparked by exploring various abilities and interests. She has been an assistant teaching artist at Arts Corps for the past year and recently started teaching classes of her own through Allied Arts of Whatcom County. She has also worked with art related non-profits in an administrative capacity and hopes to develop both her interests in teaching as well as be involved with the broader conversation of policy, implementation, and equality of arts education.

Portfolio Advisor: Rebecca Aanerud. Capstone Advisor: Amy Lambert. Research interests: Social justice and empowerment through arts education, education policy in relation to the arts, social entrepreneurship, arts leadership, curriculum development and learning through the arts. Academic background: Western Washington University; degree in Interdisciplinary Studies, minor in American Indian Cultural Studies.

Joyce Mwangi

Joyce is a Kenyan and has for many years worked with non-profit organizations in her country. Her recent position was Country Manager with Save the Children Sweden. She moved to America in November 2012 and is very excited that she will be able to learn and share with others of diverse cultural backgrounds. She enjoys traveling, reading and supporting vulnerable groups.

Portfolio Advisor: Bruce Kochis. Capstone Advisor: Ben Gardner. Research interests: Cross-cultural impact on Refugee and Immigrant communities with focus on the Africa to America groups; non-profit work and its impact in empowering communities/giving community groups a “voice”; community based mechanisms that support/protect the welfare of vulnerable groups of women/youth/ children; community participation in policy development; global policies and their effect on communities in conflict areas; community and participatory research; inter-sectoral collaboration in Advocacy for the promotion of the rights of marginalized and minority groups. Academic background: University of Nairobi; degree in Sociology and Philosophy of Religious Studies.

Chrysta Storm

Chrysta is from Northern California and has just completed two terms as an AmeriCorps member.  She is excited to be in the Northwest and can’t wait to explore Seattle and its art and music scenes.  Chrysta also enjoys playing soccer, biking, going to thrift stores, and getting lost in new places. 

Portfolio Advisor: Kari Lerum. Capstone Advisor: Carrie Lanza. Research interests: Community development, sociology, women, culture, social impact, policy, interracial dynamics, identity, race, gender, masculinity, poverty, whiteness, social movements, social interactions, child welfare. Academic background: University of California Davis; degree in Women and Gender Studies, minor in Sociology.

Avery Viehmann

West coast native who grew up in the Midwest and is informed by both experiences. Author and owner of a small speculative fiction publishing company. Newbie MMO gamer. Queer. Loves smoothies, documentaries, photography, views of Mt. Rainier, and long walks on Alki Beach.

Portfolio Advisor: Bruce Burgett. Research interests: queer theory, intersectionalities of oppression, how storytelling can teach critical thinking. Academic background: Kent State University, Missouri State University; degrees in English (BA), Creative Writing and Composition & Rhetoric (MA).

Mollie Wolf

Mollie has worked with social justice movements that span a diversity of issues (and the globe). She spent many years working with a small nonprofit that does diversity education with elementary school students in Oakland, and works hard to create spaces where folks having each others’ backs is the norm, not the exception. She is a martial artist and a passionate believer in the wisdom of The Phantom Tollbooth.

Portfolio Advisor: Miriam Bartha. Capstone Advisor: Dan Berger. Research interests: Nonprofit fundraising and the nonprofit industrial complex, critical race theory, whiteness, queer theory, school-based diversity and antiracism curriculum, outdoor education, spirituality as an entry point to cultural and social transformation. Academic background: University of California Berkeley; degree in Comparative Ethnic Studies.