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Simpson Center for the Humanities

Scholars at Work

Black and White photo of Rebecca Taylor and Joe Wilson

By Rebecca Taylor and Joe Wilson

July 14, 2021

As former English instructors in overseas contexts ranging from Indonesia to Kazakhstan, both of us have cultivated experiences working with multilingual students who want to leverage their diverse linguistic repertoires to engage new publics. This shared investment has motivated our collaborative work at multiple points in our graduate program, including through our current Mellon Collaborative Fellowship for Reaching New Publics. We both also teach composition courses at UW specifically tailored for multilingual students, and this year, we have enjoyed the privilege of teaching the uniquely positioned studio courses (English 115) designed to center topics in TESOL and translation studies with the goal of helping students revise and rethink their current writing. These elective, 2-credit courses are advertised by students’ advisors, the Myplan catalogue, and the English Department’s website to attract international as well as resident multilingual writers. Students who take the class often report their gratitude for the opportunity to share community with other students from diverse linguistic and cultural backgrounds. 

This sense of transnational community keeps both of us excited to return to these courses as instructors, especially given the isolating context of the global pandemic. This year, however, both of us were surprised to find a new kind of student self-select to join these communities: students well beyond their first year of study, many of whom had already earned their required composition (C) course credit. These transfer students enrolled in ENGL 115 despite a catalog description that specifically articulated the course as intended for first-year students concomitantly enrolled in a first-year writing course. Moreover, they had little experience using a language other than English, despite 115’s advertising as specifically for “international and multilingual” students. 

We of course reiterated the translational and linguistic aspects of the class from the first week of the quarter, yet these transfer students expressed interest in remaining enrolled. As instructors, we both agreed that the transfer students would benefit from the course topics if they were willing to use the studio to address their writing occurring in other courses. We even witnessed many of our multilingual students gain greater confidence in their writing and linguistic abilities by working collaboratively with the transfer students. Previously insecure in their academic English usage, multilingual students in the studio gained confidence by engaging as peers with these local transfer students. Still, we couldn’t help but wonder what might motivate this latter group of students to initially enroll, even as we were encouraged by their growth as writers and participation in conversations about antiracist, translational praxis. In a course that continues to fly under the radar of many...

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Photos of Maral Atayeva (top left), Jessica Bachman (top right), Katia Chaterji (bottom left), and Yara Musad (bottom right). They are each smiling at the camera on a Zoom call.

By Katia Chaterji and Jessica Bachman

June 16, 2021

In 2019, Shoreline Community College in Washington State became the first 2-year college in the United States to award international students a #youarewelcomehere scholarship. As part of the nationwide #youarewelcomehere campaign, which aims to combat xenophobia and affirm diversity on U.S. college campuses, the scholarship provides selected international students with a 50 percent tuition reduction for two years of study. In the inaugural year of the scholarship, Shoreline Community College’s International Education office extended scholarship offers to Maral Atayeva from Turkmenistan and Yara Ibrahim Abdalla Musad from Sudan. Maral Atayeva grew up in the Mary province of Turkmenistan where she attended a Turkmen-medium high school and worked for American Councils for International Education before applying to study at Shoreline. Sudanese Yara Musad was born in Malaysia and completed her high school education in Saudi Arabia before arriving in Washington State. 

As 2020-21 Collaborative Mellon Fellows for Reaching New Publics, we are invested in learning how higher education institutions can better meet the evolving needs of a diverse student body, and in identifying what institutional supports exist to meaningfully reduce barriers to academic success. The #youarewelcomehere scholarship seemed to us to be an excellent example. International students are confronted with a set of unique challenges and systemic barriers: they must pay for an external agency to evaluate their transcripts and diplomas in order to establish credit equivalency in terms of U.S. educational standards; they must search for institutions that offer financial aid and scholarships to non-U.S. citizens; they must find local guarantors or co-signers to secure housing in tight rental markets; and finally, they must perform rigorous educational financial planning that takes into account their inability to work anywhere off campus while on a student visa.

Last year, Maral and Yara spoke to Shoreline’s International Education department about how they learned about the #youarewelcomehere scholarship, why they chose to study at Shoreline College, and what their academic plans and goals for the years ahead were. You can view the filmed interview on YouTube. But we wanted to glean their insights at the close of the community college experience—and to learn how the shifting social, political, and educational lanscape may have shaped their experience since the outset of their college journey. Here are some highlights from our conversation.

Last March, shortly after you arrived in the U.S. to study at Shoreline College, the COVID-19 pandemic hit the United States....

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Photo of the author, a white woman with dark hair.

by Anna Bates

June 1, 2021

As one of the Mellon Fellows for Reaching New Publics, I’ve been researching the experience of UW graduate students in the humanities who chose to teach at two-year institutions during their graduate studies. My fellow cohort member, Joe Wilson, has also written about graduate students teaching at community colleges on the Reimagining the Humanities PhD Blog. He argues that departments should “compensate and otherwise support the cross-institutional labor of graduate students working as community college instructors,” which is an area of exploration I elaborate in this post.   

My discussions with current and former graduate students in the Department of Philosophy at the University of Washington haven’t uncovered anything surprising. Teaching classes at a different institution turns the already demanding schedule of a graduate student into a nearly impossible balancing act. Committee members frown on the “extra” or “distracting” work of community college teaching. Fellow graduate students may be more sympathetic, but still view community college teaching as, if financially driven, professionally unnecessary—even unwise, in that it amounts to time spent teaching that should be spent writing the dissertation or preparing a paper for publication. 

Yet if graduate students are expected and encouraged to spend time on professional development, shouldn’t that extend to teaching at two-year colleges? We present at conferences, we publish in journals, we work as teaching assistants, and we apply to fellowships, summer institutes, and so forth. All of this labor is recognized as commendable rather than distracting. If the career goals of a graduate student include teaching at a community college, then gaining the opportunity to teach at a community college during graduate school is a good thing. But few people undergoing or advising doctoral training think this way.

Interpellation is powerful: even I have hesitated to pursue community college teaching, though I hope to teach at a two-year institution someday. My faculty mentors know about and support this plan. Even so, I’ve absorbed the message that I probably shouldn’t talk about it too much around the department. I’m fortunate that I am receiving instructive and affirming mentorship from community college professors as a Mellon Fellow for Reaching New Publics. However, this fellowship will no longer be available after this year, and, ultimately, a limited opportunity like a fellowship is not able to structure graduate education to include community college career pathways. If teaching at a two-year institution is a meaningful and commendable professional...

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outdoor photo of James Gregory: short white hair and facial hair, glasses, smiling with closed lips at the camera and a blurred city backdrop

May 25, 2021

In 2005, James Gregory (History) began research into racial discrimination in housing covenants with support from the Simpson Center. Within a year, the project findings led to a law, passed by the Washington State legislature, that enables neighborhoods to remove discriminatory language from these documents.

The Simpson Center recognized Gregory’s exceptional work on this and related public history projects by awarding him the inaugural Barclay Simpson Prize for Scholarship in Public in 2014. Now, this research will continue with support from a bill directing researchers to examine statewide housing records and notify property owners whose homes are affected.

Jonathan Hiskes, who previously served as the Simpson Center’s Communications Director, wrote an article in 2015 about Gregory winning the Barclay Simpson Prize for Scholarship in Public. Hiskes describes how the start of Gregory's work in 2005 "demonstrates his drive to bring scholarship out of the academy and into the grit of the real world." Hiskes article highlights how this work did not "begin" in 2005, so much as it was an outgrowth of ongoing historical inquiry. He quotes a salient reminder from Gregory in 2002, for example, that continues to underscore the relationship between history, pubilc scholarship, and policy: “The past cannot be erased. But it does need to be addressed.” The transformations possible through the new bill demonstrate what this understanding of historical research can mean in practice.

We encourage you to read more about the scope of Gregory's work in the article by Hiskes, as well as read about the new and ongoing development...

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Author Katia Chaterji wearing orange and red standing in front of green flora

by Katia Chaterji

May 19, 2021

A few years ago, dance scholar Dr. Ratna Roy (Ratna mashi, as I called her in dance practice) told me that she was co-teaching a class with a brain scientist at Evergreen College, and I swallowed my gulp of water a little too fast. Imagining a course in which students simultaneously learn the anatomy of the brain and classical Indian dance movement evoked an exciting picture in my mind of progressive pedagogy. At that time, I had recently joined the University of Washington’s graduate program in History with an expressed interest in interdisciplinary research, but my encounters with interdisciplinarity in the classroom were notably slim. I wanted to ask Ratna mashi more, but after several hours of dance practice, the tightening of my tired quadriceps and the ache in my rotator cuff were driving me down the steps of Velocity Studio on Broadway toward home—my curiosity stayed for the time being by the promise of a hot shower.

When I applied for the Mellon Fellowship for Reaching New Publics last year, it was the potential for new encounters with interdisciplinary teaching and learning that inspired me most. Since starting my fellowship last autumn, I have explored interdisciplinary approaches to teaching at the Seattle Colleges, especially through the Integrated Studies program. As an educational philosophy, integrated studies (sometimes called interdisciplinary or coordinated studies) encourages dynamic classroom learning in which students approach a specified theme from the perspective of different disciplines. This pedagogical model emerged as a K-12 curricular innovation around the turn of the century. Because society is not neatly divided into distinct subjects, connectivity across disciplines in the classroom was believed to better prepare students for the problems they would encounter in the future (replicating “authentic” real life scenarios).[i] A well-known 1997 report by Sandra Mathison and Melissa Freeman, “The Logic of Interdisciplinary Studies,” details the many “positive educational outcomes” for both students and teachers in K-12 integrated studies programs.[ii] Despite the significant research and the attention of K-12 educators, however, integrated studies has not become a leading model for most schools in the United States.

In higher education, on the other hand, integrated studies has gained significant traction as a pedagogical movement since the 1980s. At its core, integrated instruction is about cultivating connections across traditionally separated disciplines in order to work towards answering a question using a wide variety of tools. And it’s about learning how to learn, rather than achieving rote memorization. Students participate in a learning community, where the topics, skills, and assignments from two (or more) classes...

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Portrait of James Tweedie. Photo Credit: Sasha Welland

James Tweedie (Professor, Cinema & Media Studies) has received a Guggenheim Fellowship for his work on artificial settings designed and constructed in the classical Hollywood studios. Tweedie is the author of Moving Pictures, Still Lives: Film, New Media, and the Late Twentieth Century (Oxford, 2018) and The Age of New Waves: Art Cinema and the Staging of Globalization (Oxford, 2013), which received the Katherine Singer Kovács Book Award from the Society for Cinema and Media Studies.

In Tweedie's research and writing he explores the relationship between cinematic images and the material world. His current project focuses on the artificial settings designed and constructed in the classical Hollywood studios. As art director Rudolph Sternad said in 1952, making movies on sound stages and backlots was “90 percent physical.” For that reason, Tweedie reframes the history of Hollywood cinema by foregrounding the role of design and fabrication in the studio system, the factory that conjured up and engineered dream after dream. 

Tweedie launched this project while studying design with the support of a New Directions Fellowship from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, and conducted archival research on studio art departments with a grant from the Academy Film Scholars program at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. Read more about the project and award announcement on the Guggenheim “Fellow Spotlight” page.

Tweedie has been part of the Simpson Center in a variety of roles: he was an organizer of the Moving Images Research Group (MIRG), a former member of the Simpson Center Executive Board, and a 2011-2012 fellow of the Society of Scholars. Learn more about Tweedie at Cinema & Media Studies.

Blue, empty Simpson Center conference room chairs lined up against an empty blackboard.

The Simpson Center for the Humanities announces our fellowship awards for 2021-2022 after receiving many strong proposals from University of Washington faculty and graduate students during our most recent fall funding round. We expect to make an announcement about our pilot initiative of First Book Fellowships in late April or early May.

Generally speaking, the Simpson Center Executive Board makes awards decisions twice during each academic year. During the spring funding round, the Simpson Center welcomes proposals for collaborative projects and graduate research clusters. Check back for announcements on upcoming funding round dates, instructions, and deadlines.

Congratulations to our award recipients and our warm thanks to all who applied.

2021-2022 Fellowships

Barclay Simpson Scholars in Public

Kaitlyn Boulding (PhD Candidate, Classics)
The Death and Afterlife of Cleopatra, a Radical Audio Guide

Sarah Choi (PhD Student, Cinema & Media Studies)
Exploring Elevated Dance Enjoyment through the Hybridity of the Lights Dance Festival

Sarah Inman (PhD Candidate, Human Centered Design & Engineering)
COASSToryLines: Weaving Narratives of Public Science and Attachment to Place

Barbara Krystal (PhD Candidate, Comparative Literature)
Knowing Water

Caitlin Postal (PhD Candidate, English)
Stitching Time: A Making Project

Society of Scholars Fellows

Mika Ahuvia (Assistant Professor, Jackson School of International Studies)
Beyond the Rabbis: An Inclusive History of Ancient Jews

José Alaniz (Professor, Slavic Languages & Literatures)
Comics and Chicanx Art (1960-1980)

Jessica Bachman (PhD Candidate, History)
Reading Soviet Books in Postcolonial India, 1951-1991

Dan Berger (Associate Professor, School of Interdisciplinary Arts & Sciences, UW Bothell)
Stayed on Freedom: One Family's Journey in the Black Freedom Struggle

Sarah Brucia Breitenfeld (PhD Candidate, Classics)
‘Someone Get a Whip!’ Enslaved Women and Violence in Athenian Oratory, Comedy and Curses

Stephanie Clare (Associate Professor, English)
Non-Binary/Woman: An Auto-Theory

Hajin Jun (Assistant Professor, Jackson School of International Studies)
Protestantism and the Politics of Ritual Change in Colonial Korea

Louisa Mackenzie (Associate Professor,...

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Author photo of Joe Wilson. He is close up smiling at the camera and has short blonde hair.

by Joe Wilson

Mar. 24, 2021

For many graduate students in the humanities, teaching is the primary way to secure funding and gain valuable experience for the competitive academic job market. The pedagogical training graduate students receive varies widely, but at the University of Washington, I’ve benefitted from the robust instructor training offered by the Expository Writing Program, which prepares incoming graduate students to teach the department’s bread-and-butter courses, i.e., first-year composition. Even so, the first message many new graduate students receive about their funding and teaching appointments generally includes a clause like this one (drawn from orientation materials provided by my former institution, a large research university in the American Southeast):

Permission of the Director of Graduate Studies is required for any employment, whether in the university or outside it, beyond the duties of the associateship.”

In the vast majority of cases, this permission is not granted. The underlying assumption here is that graduate students should be focused on research and teaching at their own institution—work that  amounts to (and often exceeds) the labor of a full-time job. This message was actually deemed so critical by my former institution that it was the only clause delineated twice in the handbook, highlighted in bold at each iteration to ensure that incoming teaching assistants would recognize the seriousness of their contractional obligations to the department. Yet these same graduate students are still encouraged to join professional organizations on campus, to serve on graduate student committees, to apply for research grants, and the like: they just cannot receive compensation. My current department recommends rather than enforces such regulations, but it has become standard practice in humanities graduate programs across the country to circumscribe the extra-institutional labor of graduate teaching assistants.

To examine the pool of adjunct labor for community college humanities programs—particularly those in areas geographically close to larger public or research institutions— is to understand that the target of such policies is community college teaching. Indeed, community college teaching on the part of graduate students is a common practice, understood to serve under-resourced institutions dependent on adjunct labor to account for budgetary constraints. Graduate instructors, for their part, cite inadequate graduate stipends and the need to make ends meet as their underlying motivation for taking on the herculean task of teaching upwards of 80 students across multiple campuses while pursuing graduate study.

As part of my research for the Mellon Collaborative Fellowship for Reaching New Publics in the Community Colleges, I’ve interviewed multiple community college instructors and found the story to be more complicated. Almost every instructor recalls...

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Adrien Kane Close-Up Author Photo on the Left. Jorge Bayona Close-Up Author Photo on the Right.

by Jorge Bayona and Adrian Kane-Galbraith

Mar. 2, 2021

The University of Washington’s Department of History, like the majority of History departments across the country, trains its graduate students as specialists in specific geographically-defined fields. For instance, we were admitted to the program not so much as “History” students but as an historian of Britain and the British Empire (Adrian) and as an historian of Southeast Asia and Latin America (Jorge). As transnational historians, we embarked on our Reaching New Publics fellowship with the thought that, on reaching the end of our program, we might apply to community colleges as specialists in world history and other non-U.S. regional courses. One of our main goals, then, was to learn more about the landscape of world history teaching in access-based institutions.

However, as we met with mentors in the history and humanities departments of Seattle Central, North Seattle, and Centralia Colleges during autumn 2019 and winter 2020, we quickly learned that historians at these colleges are asked to teach U.S. history much more frequently than they teach histories of other regions. Several professors with whom we spoke surmised that this trend was influenced in part by the Running Start program—a system through which Washington State high school students can dual-enroll in community college courses for both high school and 4-year transfer credit—which encourages students to take U.S. history courses rather than world and non-U.S. regional histories. Given that the total number of Running Start students has increased by 56% in the last decade and continues to grow, this regionalizing effect may become even more pronounced.[1]

We wondered, however, to what extent these perceptions reflect the reality across Washington state, as evidenced by the data on the number and regional focus of history courses offered at access-based institutions. We also wanted to draw more informed conclusions about how History departments are, or are not, preparing their graduate students for the reality of teaching outside 4-year research institutions. To answer these questions, we collected information from the 34 community and technical colleges in Washington state, taking note of both the courses that appear in their catalogues and the classes that were offered during the 2019-2020 academic year.[2] We then grouped these courses into two geographic categories: U.S. history and non-U.S. history.[3] We omitted methodological classes and classes with a geographic scope that could not be determined. While the move to online classes in the spring and summer may have skewed data in...

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Meshell Sturgis, Doctoral Candidate in the Department of Communication and 2019 Mellon Summer Fellow for Public Projects in the Humanities, was selected as a 2021 recipient for the prestigious K. Patricia Cross Future Leaders Award by AAC&U. This award recognizes graduate students who show exemplary promise as future leaders of higher education and who are committed to academic innovation in the areas of equity, community engagement, and teaching and learning. Sturgis will be presented with the award as part of the virtual 2021 Annual Meeting, which will take place from January 20-23. The AAC&U Annual Meeting also includes two UW panels: “Interrupting Privilege: Building Anti-Racist Spaces of Dialogue and Critique in the Classroom and in the Community” and “International Education: Reciprocity and Equity in a Post-Pandemic World.”