Viewpoint | Spring 2023

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Preston Wadley wants to change our view

The story of OMA&D p.3 Instructional Center helps thousands p.9

Telling the Story of Diversity at the University of Washington | Spring 2023

Supporting Student Spaces

Welcome to the spring 2023 issue of Viewpoint. This time of year, the campus transforms in many ways. The iconic landscape fills with flowers, the cherry trees bloom and graduating students are picking up their caps and gowns and preparing for commencement. Few things are as rewarding as receiving a hard-earned degree. As graduating students reflect on their time and experiences on campus, they often talk about the spaces where they felt seen, heard and valued. Current students and alumni tell us time and again about the importance of not just what they studied, but where they spent their time. This is particularly true for American Indian/Alaska Native, underrepresented, low-income and first-generation students and students formerly in foster care.

This issue of Viewpoint highlights some of the spaces at the UW where students can find a home away from home, be supported and find belonging. From the OMA&D Instructional Center, where students access academic support and community, to

the Family Room at UW Tacoma, with its focus on space for Indigenous members of the campus community, to the new walkin location on the Seattle campus for the Brotherhood and Sisterhood Initiatives. In addition, we welcome new staff and faculty, honor exceptional MAP scholars and learn more about the celebrated work of local artist Preston Wadley.

Finally, I invite you to join OMA&D and the Friends of the Educational Opportunity Program on May 17 for our annual Celebration. We will recognize exceptional students and honor the 2023 Odegaard Award recipient Dr. Norma Zavala (’80, ’02, ‘07). Find out more about Dr. Zavala’s lifelong dedication to advancing diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging in education, and how to register for OMA&D’s signature event on the back of the magazine. We hope to see you there.


4333 Brooklyn Ave. NE, Box 359559 Seattle, WA 98195-9559

Phone: 206-543-0540

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Email: vwpoint@

Viewpoint on the Web:


Paul Rucker, ’95, ’02 PUBLISHER

Hannelore Sudermann, ’96 EDITOR

Ken Shafer


Caitlin Klask WRITER


Nancy Joseph, Eric Moss, Shamaar Thomas, ’22 CONTRIBUTING WRITERS


Rickey Hall

Vice President for Minority Affairs & Diversity University Diversity Officer

Tamara Leonard

Associate Director Center for Global Studies

Henry M. Jackson School of International Studies

Eric Moss Director of Communications

Office of Minority Affairs & Diversity

VIEWPOINT :: 2 FOUNDED 2004 Telling the Story of Diversity at the University of Washington
Published by the UW Alumni Association in partnership with the UW Office of Minority Affairs & Diversity

Making the Past Work for the Future

THE NEW BOOK, “Revolution to Evolution,” is a thoroughly researched and richly detailed history of the Office of Minority Affairs & Diversity. Author Emile Pitre, ’69, covers more than 50 years of stories of innovation and tenacity. In 1968, a courageous group of students risked expulsion and arrest to draw attention to their cause of making the University of Wahsington a more diverse and inclusive campus. They presented a letter describing the institutional racism they encountered on campus and listed demands that included developing a Black studies program and recruiting and tutoring non-white students. Their public demonstrations culminated in the occupation of the president's office. And then, to the surprise of many, the University’s leaders—who had been working to address some of these issues for years—capitulated. Within weeks, the school was developing a Spe-

cial Education Program dedicated to serving minority and economically disadvantaged students. By that summer, six Black and two Native American students were hired to recruit nonwhite students from around the state. And by June 1970, the UW had its first Vice President for Minority Affairs, Samuel E. Kelly, making advocacy and support for underrepresented students a priority for the UW as a whole. The book features profiles of the original activists, the driven and dedicated staff and the decades of students who not only survived, but thrived on campus.

the story of diversity at the UW 3 ABOUT THE COVER “The Astounding Eyes of Rita,” a photo-driven object in book form by Preston Wadley. IN THIS ISSUE 4 NEWS 6 COVER STORY Preston Wadley 9 FEATURE Instructional Center 12 MEDIA 13 IN MEMORY Garry Owens Malik Davis 16 ODEGAARD AWARDEE Norma Zavala UNIVERSITY OF WASHINGTON PRESS

Better Hustle

Over the past two years, dance MFA candidate Abdiel Jacobsen, right, has brought their love of hustle to the UW and transformed their classroom into a club for a course titled “Special �opics in Street and Club Dance.” Hustle developed in the Black and Latino communities of the South Bronx in the early 1970s, Jacobsen says. It came from dance traditions like mambo and Lindy that were rooted in the African diaspora. It also broke the norms of partner dancing by empowering women and queer people. “It is so dynamic, it is so fierce, and there are so many characters and so much originality,” Jacobsen says. By bringing dancers of all levels of experience to interact on the dance floor, Jacobsen wants to study and preserve the dance as well as continue breaking norms.

�hey noted that in the Eurocentric dance classroom, “there’s a ballet barre and a grand piano … but why isn’t there a disco ball?” Jacobsen graduates in June and will start as an assistant professor at Scripps College in January.


Ballmer Group is investing more than $43 million to build and diversify Washington’s early childhood education workforce. The funding, which was announced in March, includes a $38 million anchor gift over eight years to the College of Education to support more than 1,500 scholarships. It will cover tuition and expenses for students pursuing bachelor’s degrees, master’s degrees and high school internships in early childhood education. “Ensuring access to high-quality early childhood education requires a deep, diverse field of excellent early learning educators and services,” Ballmer Group noted in its announcement of the gift, which includes $5 million for advocacy for the workforce and to elevate diverse leadership. The goal is reduce or remove financial barriers for students pursuing careers in early childhood education while attracting a more diverse workforce. Studies show that diversity among teachers results in better outcomes for all students, and especially those from historically marginalized communities.


Almost a year ago, the UW Tacoma campus opened a convening space for Indigenous members of the campus community in the West Coast Grocery building. Gabe Minthorn, the campus tribal liaison, designed it to be a place where students, staff and faculty could meet and share cultures. The room, which officially opened late last summer, is named , a Lushootseed word that roughly translates into “family room.” While geared toward UW Tacoma’s Native community, everyone is welcome, says Minthorn. “Part of what I’m looking to do is build community, to get folks on campus and provide a space where they can spend time together and establish those relationships.”

The newly re-formed student club, the Cedar Circle, recently hosted a screening of the movie “Powwow Highway.”

HONG (2)

Full Circle

Alum Sherri Berdine leads the University’s new Office of Tribal Relations

Sherri Berdine, who became director of tribal relations for the UW in 2022, supports and strengthens the University’s relationships with nearly 40 tribal nations in the Pacific Northwest. She facilitates sharing knowledge, supporting research opportunities and promoting educational opportunities for tribal members and descendents.

SHERRI BERDINE, ’08, had a rocky start as a University of Washington undergraduate. She was the first in her family to attend college, and it took her a while to find her community on campus. All that changed when she joined First Nations @ UW, a student organization that focuses on cultural traditions and concerns in the Native community. Berdine also found a faculty mentor in the Department of American Indian Studies who encouraged her to pursue classes that interested and engaged her. “I really think those things led me to where I am now,” she says.

Now a year into her current role as the UW’s director of tribal relations, she reports directly to the UW’s president and to the vice president for external affairs. Her duties include managing the relationships between the UW and the American Indian tribes throughout the Pacific Northwest.

Berdine was raised in Washington with Indigenous values and traditions. Her heritage is Alaska Native (Aleut & CIRI Descendent). She met Professor Dian Million, also of Alaska Native heritage (Tanana), at a low point during her first year on campus. “She sensed that I was struggling,” Berdine says of Million. “She saw something in me that I didn’t see in myself. I think it was really because of her guidance and patience and humility that I was able

to quickly get back on track and feel confident in my abilities to complete my degree.”

Long intrigued by policy, Berdine took classes in sociology, American Indian Studies and political science without considering a major. When she finally met with a UW adviser about declaring a major, she was told she had already completed all the requirements for a sociology degree. By the time she graduated, determined to work with Native communities, she was just one course shy of a second major in American Indian Studies.

Volunteering in Sen. Patty Murray’s office let to a permanent job. Over two years, Berdine worked her way up from staff assistant to constituent services representative to intern coordinator. She was involved with tribal affairs as well, attending tribal events where she sometimes spoke on Murray’s behalf. “I was 21 or 22 at the time, so this was really big and exciting for me,” she says.

Next came a job in Washington, D.C. with Kauffman & Associates, one of the oldest and largest Native women-owned government consultancy firms. Again, Berdine quickly moved up the ranks. Her focus was managing government projects on behalf of tribes, serving as the intermediary between the tribal governments and U.S. government stakeholders.

Berdine stayed seven years, completing a Master of Jurisprudence in Indian law from the University of Tulsa College of Law while working full time. After establishing a Seattle office for Kauffman & Associates, she decided it was time for a new challenge—but it had to be the right fit.

Then she heard about the job at the UW.

Director of tribal relations is a new position developed by the UW in collaboration with tribal leadership. It was envisioned as the primary point of contact for tribes in relation to the University, with responsibilities that include coordinating visits with University leaders, providing access to UW programs, and helping UW faculty and staff build relationships and partnerships with Indigenous communities.

“When I saw the job description, I thought, ‘If I could draft my own job description, this is what it would be,’ ” says Berdine. “It included all the pieces that I liked from my last job and left out everything I didn’t like. It was really incredible.”

Berdine started in her new role in March 2022. She spent her first few months talking with departments and units across campus to understand their relationships with tribes and to identify opportunities for future collaboration.

“I’ve met with almost every college and department and learned about so many intersections and collaborations with Indigenous communities,” she says. “Based on what I’ve seen, we have decent relationships with a lot of tribes. But there’s also room for improvement. Relationship building is at the core of this position.”

Berdine notes other promising developments at the UW since her time as a student, including the adoption of land acknowledgments across campus, the appointment of the first Native American to the Board of Regents, and the opening of —Intellectual House, a learning and gathering space for American Indian and Alaskan Native students, faculty and staff. She is part of an effort to realize a long-planned phase 2 for —Intellectual House—a student-centered building adjacent to the current one. And she is involved in efforts to establish tuition waivers in Washington state for members of federally recognized tribes, similar to a program adopted by the University of California system.

There’s a lot on Berdine’s plate—and that suits her. “As an Alaska Native woman, I was always trying to figure out where I could find my place as a leader in my community,” she says. “It turns out that I found it here at the UW. As a UW undergraduate, I immersed myself in policy and tribal affairs, and that shaped my whole worldview and what was possible to me. Taking on this role now, it feels like I’ve come full circle.”

the story of diversity at the UW 5

A Source of

The Instructional Center helps more than 2,000 students a year succeed,


even in their most challenging classes. More could use its resources.

In 2018, Michael Sanchez reluctantly turned to the Instructional Center for help with a tough physics class. After realizing that there was no shame in seeking support, and learning how resilient he could be, Sanchez became a student mentor and now helps other students succeed in their most challenging classes.

MICHAEL SANCHEZ needed help with physics. A first-year student who arrived at the UW in the fall of 2018 with running-start credits from Bellevue College, he took pride in excelling on his own. But “I was overwhelmed,” he says. “It was just such a big class, and they packed a lot of stuff into a relatively short period of time.”

Sanchez didn’t think he should need the extra help. But sitting in a classroom with several hundred students, next to different people every day, he grew more and more anxious. He wondered if he belonged at the UW at all.

Then, one afternoon, Sanchez walked up the concrete ramp of a former industrial building on the west side of campus. He stepped into a warm and well-worn entryway that led to a large room packed with tables and chairs and buzzing with students working diligently on hard science problems.

He noticed the instructors who were strolling around the room and dropping down into chairs to help someone through a tough question or assignment. Many of them had master’s degrees and doctorates in their fields. He also found student tutors who had recently navigated the same difficult classes he was now facing. Over the next few weeks, they taught him not to be daunted by the challenges he encountered in class, and not to be embarrassed to ask for help.

“I found such a great learning environment,” Sanchez says. “I know that’s a bit of a cliche, but as far as instructors who care and who really want to walk you step by step through material, I have found no equal.”

Making his way into the crowded study room several nights a week, he went from dreading physics to loving it. Thanks to the resources he found at the IC, he decided to major in biophysics—one of the most notoriously difficult fields of undergraduate study. Sanchez plans to graduate in June, and like many students who have used the IC and its earlier iterations over the decades, he has set his sights on graduate school.

the story of diversity at the UW 7

Rainier Fox, left, is an Instructional Center regular. Like many of the students around them, they are there every week, and sometimes every day, for instruction, tutoring and often simply moral support. �oday more than 2,000 students enrolled at the UW through the Educational Opportunity Program regularly use the center. Another 4,000-plus are eligible, but the center is already stretching to meet the demand.

THE INSTRUCTIONAL CENTER —which serves first-generation, low-income and underrepresented minority students and students formerly in foster care—owes its existence to the student activism of the 1960s. On a list of demands presented to UW President Charles Odegaard in spring 1968, the Black Student Union-led activists cited the need and demanded funding for academic support in the form of tutoring. In the immediate wake of a season of protests, the administration set up a tutoring center and reading study skills center specifically for the students in the Educational Opportunity Program. EOP is an Office of Minority Affairs & Diversity program to provide students from underrepresented communities with recruitment, financial and social support along with services that include tutoring and instruction.

By 1971, the new Office of Minority Affairs had hired two discipline-specific instructors to teach. That quickly evolved to include more instructors and drop-in opportunities, making it even easier for students to get help when they needed it. It was the first such student support center on campus and one of the first designed to serve underrepresented minority and first-generation students in the country.

ENERGY AND OPTIMISM have served Therese Mar, ’88, ’91, ’98, in her nine years as director and 11 years as instructor at the Instructional Center. She describes her team, many of whom have worked at the center for years, as a dedicated group of experts in

their fields. They are deeply invested in promoting academic success and nurturing a community of learners, she says.

Today about 2,000 students regularly use the IC. Often, they come from backgrounds where they may not have had access to the teaching or the academic preparation that would help them thrive in certain college courses, Mar says. The IC bridges that gap by helping them develop study skills, resilience and confidence. “This is a place where we prepare them to be academically successful and increase their chances of getting admitted to their desired majors and graduate,” Mar says. “For our students, the IC is more than just a place to get academic support. It is a safe and affirming place to learn and engage with peers and teachers. It is a community.”

The center provides drop-in tutoring for over 200 courses in biological sciences, chemistry, math, statistics, computer science, economics, accounting, physics, engineering, psychology and social sciences. And it helps with writing for any class as well as academic workshops and review sessions for math, physics, biology and chemistry—gateway classes for many of the STEM fields.

Based on data collected over years, the EOP students who use the IC are 36% more likely to graduate. With that in mind, the University is looking to scale up the number of students the center serves from more than 2,000 to 7,000, with hopes of raising $25 million in private donations to meet their instructional and tutoring needs.

Emile Pitre, who has a UW master’s degree in chemistry, has


pushed for those things since he started as an IC instructor in 1978. Then, he was translating his own techniques for mastering chemistry into useful tools for students. In 1989, he became director of the center, a position he held for 13 years. He watched funding for the IC grow and diminish over the decades. And he still worries about students who might be discouraged if they can’t easily get help with their classes or have to stand in line to attend a workshop or an exam prep—a regular scene at the IC. “Lack of space and shortage of staffing” have always been his two biggest concerns for the center, he says.

Most of the IC’s work is done in a building with only two classrooms and two restrooms. The aging structure is difficult to maintain and has recurring issues with heating, ventilation, power and plumbing. “Our students are our priority,” says Mar. “They need more spaces for workshops, and spaces for tutoring and studying.”

Rainier Fox, who goes by the pronouns they and them, discovered they needed all those things when they first walked in the IC’s doors seeking help with an economics class. As they explored the warren of rooms, they found both mentors and friends. They leaned on the IC team for help with math, a class that left them in tears almost every day. “I just wanted to get through it, to get out of there,” they say. “I was uncomfortable. But the team at the IC taught me how to be uncomfortable and grow with that.” Now Fox signs up for the next challenging course and uses the IC almost every day. And they extol the center to their classmates, urging them to at least stop by and check it out.

Pitre can cite thousands of success stories from the students he encountered at the IC. “They may have been a B-plus student, but we could take them to an A,” Pitre says. He saw the IC help many first- and second-year students through the “gatekeeper” courses that could have thrown them off the path to medical

school—about 250 have gone on to earn medical degrees—or other graduate studies.

“I would not be where I am today without the IC,” says Anisa Ibrahim, ’09, ’13, who came to Seattle as a child refugee from Somalia and today is a pediatrician at Harborview Medical Center. “I have never seen a more dedicated group of educators. They not only cared about our success as students but also cared about us as individuals.”

This year’s Odegaard Awardee, Norma Zavala, ’80, ’02, ’07, credits the academic support she found at the IC with helping her graduate, and the diversity of the students she met there as influencing her decision to focus on cultural relevancy and different ways of learning as a doctoral student, teacher and principal. “I come from a town that is brown and white,” she says. “And at the Instructional Center and the ECC, I’m surrounded by students of all ethnicities: Asian, Black, Latino, white and Native American. I’m learning with them and about them. … That has contributed to my advocacy for children, for education and for my wanting to learn more about diversity.”

Because the center had done so much for him, Sanchez, now a senior, decided to become a student tutor. He was surprised and delighted with the human connection within the center that he didn’t find in his STEM classes. Now he works alongside the very teachers and tutors who helped him to begin with. He emulates their way of teaching, an approach that helped him build his confidence in his hard science studies.

“Being a tutor at the IC helped me realize that we’re all just sort of making our own way and we all need help sometimes,” he says. “To be able to provide that to other people has really made me feel like part of the UW community,” he says. “One thing is scraping by. It is another to flourish in your major because of resources like the IC.”

�herese Mar, ’88, ’91, ’98, has a bachelor’s degree in mathematics, a master’s in applied mathematics and a Ph.D. in occupational and environmental health sciences. In her 20 years at the Instructional Center and the last nine as director, she has helped students turn their B’s into A’s and guided others through their most difficult courses and on to graduate school. She can solve all kinds of problems. One she is still working on: the IC’s struggle for resources including room for studying.

the story of diversity at the UW 9
Students who use the Instructional Center are 36% more likely to graduate than those who don’t. With that in mind, the University is looking to scale up the number the center serves from more than 2,000 a year to 7,000.

Not Quite By the Book

FOR THE PAST FEW YEARS, Preston Wadley has been thinking about those people who visit a museum or gallery and spend—at most—15 seconds looking at a work of art. How could he keep them longer, he wondered. How could he change their views? His answer to that question is now on display at the Bellevue Arts Museum in an exhibition titled “Abstract Truth.”

Playing on themes that include code switching, colonialism and Black community, Wadley, ’75, ’77, bases his latest sculptures on books that he has opened and rusticated to look like aging iron and copper. It is both a book and not a book, he notes. On the pages, he pairs vintage black and white photos with intriguing found objects like an abacus, a large fishhook or a model Millennium Falcon. Finally, he titles them with words like “The Astounding Eyes of Rita,” “Pelotero” and “The Most Dangerous Man in America,” nudging the viewer into another dimension of understanding.

The works look like they were rescued from a sea floor or forgotten in an attic. While compelling, they are both familiar and strange. Wadley wants to disorient you.

“All objects are something, but they’re also something else,” he says. “That something else is dependent on your life experience.” He wants these works to help visitors realize that their personal truth can be different than others’. He is also seeking to normalize the Black experience by bringing it forward and showing it in new context.

Wadley’s opus is BAM’s first exhibition for 2023, and the show’s grand opening was the museum’s first public event in three years.

Here in the wake of a turnover in the museum’s leadership and efforts to invest more deeply in diversity, equity and inclusion work, Wadley’s alluring and insightful works may help further the museum’s goals.


and describes coming of age at a time of creative innovation and political activism. Vietnam, feminism and the civil rights movements were unfolding around him. Grappling with the news and events like the assassinations of Martin Luther King Jr. and Robert Kennedy, the LA artists and musicians were using their talents to draw attention to the causes. “Everybody I hung out with was looking for some way to contribute to the effort,” he says. Under that influence, he shaped his approach. “My work sort of skates around the edges of folk art, assemblage and sculpture,” he says. “All that stuff was prevalent around Los Angeles at that time.”

Wadley also noted that many significant events and people—like the 1968 Olympic athletes who gave the Black Power salute during the awards ceremony—were tied to the area’s colleges and universities. He also saw activists from higher education like Angela Davis and Maulana Karenga, who created Kwanzaa. As Wadley started exploring the world as an artist and photographer, the activism of the day convinced him that a college or university campus would be a good place to grow.

Wadley found his path to the UW after a conversation with Charles White, an artist celebrated for his powerful images of African Americans who strongly believed that art should further social good. Their talk turned to Jacob Lawrence, another Black artist and teacher of national renown. White said to Wadley, ‘you should go study with him,’ and noted that Lawrence was on the faculty at the University of Washington. “I looked at the school with the largest art department west of the Mississippi, and it had Jacob Lawrence,” Wadley says. “I figured I couldn’t go wrong.”

Wadley arrived in Seattle in the early 1970s. “It was a really rich time,” he says. His teachers included nationally recognized artists Lawrence, Mike Spafford and Patti Warashina. “The bonus was this group of really talented students who all descended on the university at the same time,” he says. Among them, Michael Lucero, Mary Ann Peters, Barbara Earl Thomas, Sherry Markovitz, David Kane and Art Wolfe, who have gone on to become big names in the Northwest art scene. The students were learning from each other, says Wadley. “We had this just wonderfully rich and engaging and peer-led and peer-motivated group of students who learned a lot through osmosis, through each other,” he says. “We didn’t need anybody to tell us we needed to make stuff. We

A selection of photographs and mixedmedia sculptures is now on view in “Preston Wadley: Abstract �ruth,” through Oct. 8 at the Bellevue Arts Museum. In his new Bellevue exhibition, Preston Wadley renders new truths from old objects

had 24-hour access to this wonderful facility, so we were just in this creative nirvana.”

Classmate Gene Gentry McMahon, ’78, remembers how the students playfully pushed each other to try new things. “We’d go into each other’s studios and tell each other what to do,” she says. “Were we mimicking our faculty? I don’t know. But we did it for real. It was totally silly, but it was great fun.”

After completing his master of fine arts, Wadley took a job with Children’s Hospital as a scientific photographer. While it wasn’t as inventive as his fine arts work, it was work he found both technically demanding and meaningful, he says. His 10 years of clinical and surgery photography was an important contribution to teaching and research. He also taught scientific photography at Bellevue Community College. Still, he missed his creative work.

When Gentry McMahon invited him to take over her drawing classes at BCC while she was on sabbatical, Wadley gave himself over to teaching and creating art full time.

In this new capacity, he helped shape and influence new generations of Northwest artists. In the mid-1990s, he joined the faculty at the Cornish College of the Arts. He loved teaching, he says, but more so, he loved enabling his students in their creative pursuits. The students appreciated how invested he was in their work and how knowledgeable he was about different forms of art. He encouraged them to pursue their own

projects instead of just completing assignments. These days, as a professor emeritus, Wadley spends much of his creative time in his studio, an old portable classroom from Nathan Hale High School that was long ago craned into his back yard. Inside, tall south-facing windows bring in light from the early spring sun. One morning this spring, jazz was playing softly on the radio while Wadley set out a recent project, a series of landscape photographs that he took in parks around Seattle in the social-distancing days of the COVID-19 outbreak. Their quiet beauty, made more solemn by the blacks, whites and warm grays in the image, showed the city as both stoic and wild. Retirement and the isolation freed him up to be even more creative. That’s why, when the Bellevue Art Museum came calling, he was ready to develop and curate the current show. In addition to his book sculptures, several of which are on loan from private collections, he has included a series of black-and-white portraits produced over the last decade. Now his friends and fans are celebrating a chance to see what Wadley has been up to lately. “I loved his show,” says Gentry McMahon. “The degree of craftsmanship is breathtaking, really.”

While represented by two galleries and one who often showed his work in faculty shows at Cornish or as part of ensemble exhibits around the Northwest, a full show like this one is a treasure, and a treat.

During the months of COVID-19 isolation and with the time afforded by retirement, Wadley has spent more hours exploring and experimenting with his art. Here he looks through a collection of black-and-white photographs he made in empty city parks.

the story of diversity at the UW 11 MATT HAGEN

Awkward Conversations

having one more interaction [about accessibility].”

Stephanie Kerschbaum

explores how we notice, and sometimes don’t notice, disability

Stephanie Kerschbaum thinks a lot about what it means to behave in a way that opens up space for others. As a deaf woman, she knows what it is like to be in spaces that are limiting. Her new book, “Signs of Disability,” explores experiences of disability in public spaces.

When I scheduled an interview with Stephanie Kerschbaum, an associate professor of English who is deaf, I made a mistake. I wrongly assumed she was tired of being asked about accomodations for her disability. I proceeded as I would with any other professor, asking her to meet me in-person.

But Kerschbaum isn’t just any other professor; for one thing, she specializes in rhetoric and recognizes the complexity of conversation. “No form of communication is natural,” she says. “They’re always sort of created and negotiated.” She graciously accommodated our visit by bringing a sign language interpreter.

Speaking of negotiated conversation, interviewing someone can be awkward, in that one person generally asks questions and the other person has all the answers. And at the time of our interview, Kerschbaum—whose second book, “Signs of Disability,” had recently been published by NYU Press—was tired of having all the answers. She references Annika Konrad’s concept of “access fatigue.”

“She built this concept out of interviewing blind and lowvision people about their experiences,” Kerschbaum says. “They talked about how they might just choose not to do things or not to go places because they just didn’t feel like

I asked Kerschbaum for reading recommendations. She offered Sami Shalk’s “Black Disability Politics,” which shows how Black activism and disability justice have been intertwined for at least 50 years. And “Academic Ableism,” which tackles structural inequities in colleges and universities and the benefits of inclusive education for all students. And of course, her own books.

Her co-edited collection, “Negotiating Disability: Disclosure and Higher Education,” digs into the rhetoric of diversity and how disability affects the way a student may be perceived by their peers. For “Signs of Disability,” Kerschbaum compiled research on disability disclosure. She examines signs and symbols like the yellow, diamond-shaped road signs that alert drivers about a “deaf person in area,” “autistic child” or even “deer crossing.” Through interviews with disabled faculty members, she considers how we notice disability in our everyday lives.

“This sign went up in my neighborhood [in Delaware] that said, ‘Deaf person in area,’ and I was like, ‘Who put that sign there? Who’s the deaf person? Oh! Good thing I live in the area! Maybe

it’s me—maybe I’m the deaf person in the area!’” She and her husband laughed about it. But other people weren’t sure it was amusing. They weren’t sure how to respond. “I just kind of looked at people who said these things like, ‘What exactly do you think the sign is doing?’ ” she says.

As Kerschbaum was considering the act of revealing or disclosing disability, she used the sign as an example. “People think that’s what you do, you just kind of announce, ‘Deaf person in area’! But then no one knows what to do. Do you stop? Do you go faster? Do you honk your horn? Do you flash your lights?

“I was thinking about how disability makes itself available for noticing … you’re reading it off of people’s bodies. It really depends on how the other person is perceiving, what they’re pre-

“No one knows what to do. Do you stop? Do you go faster? Do you honk your horn? Do you flash your lights?”

pared to notice, what kind of perceptual apparatuses,” she says, using a term from her book that describes the way we can choose to observe certain things (assuming a person’s gender using their hairstyle, for example) but not others (perhaps they’re wearing hearing aids). “It’s not the straightforward thing that people tend to think it is.”

Kerschbaum arrived at the UW during the first quarter students returned to in-person learning after the pandemic. “It was a nerve-wracking time,” she says. “I was very worried about things like how am I going to teach in a room full of people wearing masks?” But she found the disability services office, specifically the deaf and hard-of-hearing coordinator, ready to help. They “have just been phenomenal with accommodations for me,” she says.

She emphasizes that her accommodation experience might not mirror others’, but it’s OK to stumble. “One of the things that I think really helps with inclusion practice is just recognizing that not everything needs to be super smooth and super uninterrupted,” she says. She coined the word dis-attention. “It’s intentionally clunky; you have to explain why it’s italicized and hyphenated,” she says. “I want people to trip over it a little bit, for that to be OK.”

Tripping a little bit, I’ve learned, is key to accessibility. Noticing disability not only helps us understand it but prevents us from erasing it.

“One of the things that gets in the way of inclusion is people feeling like, ‘I want to get it right, so I’m just going to make a bunch of assumptions and not have that awkward conversation,’” she says. “I wish that when people are planning for things, there is more upfront and interactive negotiation of what access will look like.”

MAP Awardees

Each year, the Multicultural Alumni Partnership reaches out to to historically underrepresented UW students with financial support. This year’s promising scholars range from early undergraduates who are still zeroing in on a major to those pursuing graduate and professional degrees.

Riley Olsen’s decision to major in psychology and pursue minors in disability studies and education, learning and societies was driven by her family experience with autism and neurodevelopment disorders.

Since 1994, alumni and friends in the Multicultural Alumni Partnership have worked together to promote diversity at the UW and address issues of equity and diversity on our campuses and in our community. �hey do this through mentoring, supporting lectures, networking in the community and providing scholarships.

“I have been given the opportunity to witness firsthand how applied behavior analysis therapy and occupational therapy have positively impacted their lives,” she says. “That has compelled me to pursue a similar career path [to those health professionals] so that I can also have a positive impact on others’ lives.” She is an enrolled member of the Makah Tribe in Neah Bay.

Esther Wanjiku Mwaniki is a senior pursuing a bachelor’s degree at the School of Nursing. She spent her childhood in a remote village in central Kenya. With limited finances, her family did not encourage her dream of becoming a nurse. “But I pursued my dreams relentlessly,” she says. She came to the U.S. in 2017. As a single mother coping with the challenges of full-time school, she made her way to the UW through Renton Technical College and Pierce College. She is on track to complete her degree in June. One day, she would like to open a free health clinic. “I want to be a part of the change in this world, and I believe that I can bring a positive influence on today’s healthcare crisis,” she says.

When Ivan Nolasco Hernandez was a kid, he joined a local Oaxacan band and fell in love with music. Today, he is in his second year of his master’s in music education and close to completing a teaching certificate. He was born and raised in Los Angeles in a family of Zapotec immigrants from Oaxaca, Mexico. While his parents always hoped he would attend college, that goal felt unreachable to him as a first-generation student who struggled in the American public school

system. But his passion for music carried him into college, which led him to explore the value of music in his own life and in the life of his community, especially for young people. As a music major, he offered free music lessons and coaching at a local high school. In graduate school he is inspired to further develop his craft with an emphasis on social justice and a global perspective. He hopes to use his talent and training to support and inspire young people as a publicschool music teacher.

UW senior Ethan Blanco is eager to finish his studies of Public HealthGlobal Health with a focus on health promotion and education so that he can work in public health and champion diversity, equity and inclusion efforts. “As someone who has faced many barriers because of different intersecting marginalized personal identities, I’ve witnessed a lack of inclusion in many spaces but especially within health-related fields,” he says. Tapping into his own experiences of feeling voiceless, he wants to commit himself to advocacy for marginalized identities within the healthcare field. He can envision more holistic linguistic services for those who do not speak English, fostering environments with proactive accessibility measures for those with disability or implementing queer-centric policies across the health care field.

Jen Ka-Ram Son, a doctor of pharmacy candidate, left South Korea at age 11. “Coming into a new country, I faced many challenges, including language barriers and cultural differences,” she says. She credits her success in school to her family’s support and the role models who encouraged her. She has been a volunteer and leader of school-based organizations like Bridges to Health at the UW and the International Club at Spokane Community College. Early in the COVID-19 outbreak, she volunteered to give vaccines at a Tulalip Reservation clinic. “My experiences have led me to believe that no individual can succeed without a strong community around them to support them,” she says.

the story of diversity at the UW 13

In Memory

Malik Davis, pictured left, built his life around people. He wove advocacy for youth, education and human rights into his work and family life.

Garry Owens

1945 - 2022

ONE NIGHT IN THE LATE 1960S, Garry Owens caught the attention of an English professor at the Coffee Corral, a popular hangout about a block from campus. Owens, who had been drafted during Vietnam, had recently returned from the Deep South to restart his civilian life.

He was drinking in the atmosphere and writing in his journal when the professor approached and asked Owens if he was a student. Though Owens said no, the man wondered if he could look at what he was writing. Then he gave Owens his card and invited him to visit campus. “I was in a daze,” Owens told an interviewer for the Seattle Civil Rights & Labor History Project in 2013. “Here I was fresh out of the service, and I didn’t know

Malik Davis

1970 - 2023

From his start as a student activist and member of the Seattle chapter of the Black Panthers, Garry Owens was a driven advocate for civil rights and social justice. Pictured right, he sits with his wife, community activist Cindy Domingo.

exactly what I was going to do.”

LONG AFTER HE GRADUATED, Malik Nkrumah Davis, ’94, was a familiar figure across campus.

He worked in fundraising for the College of Arts & Sciences and before that served on the staff of the UW Alumni Association as director of constituent relations. In those roles and as a UW alum interested in the well-being and success of the students who came after him, he was often on campus for celebrations and special events. He served as a chapter adviser for the Kappa Alpha Psi fraternity and for a time as an adviser for Viewpoint magazine.

Born and raised in Seattle, Davis graduated from Garfield High School and enrolled at the UW to earn a degree in political science. He went on to complete a master’s degree in public administration at the Milano School of Policy, Management, and Environment in New York.

Returning to Seattle, he worked in city government and then as a client relationship specialist in the construction industry before returning to the UW as a member of the staff. In 2019, he became associate director of development for Mary’s Place, a nonprofit for women and children experiencing homelessness. At the time of his death, he was a Legislative Aide for Seattle Councilmember Alex Pedersen.

In March, the mayor and the Seattle City Council proclaimed Dec. 2 to be Malik Davis Day stating that “Malik Davis led with compassion and wisdom to fight racism, to increase public safety, to build community and to champion the city of Seattle.” Davis, who died of a heart attack on Feb. 21 at age 52, is survived by his wife, Colleen, and his daughters, Waverly and Quincy.

That encounter led to Owens’ enrolling at the UW to pursue a degree in anthropology. He ran into a few friends from his childhood in the Central District and South End of Seattle. With them and the few other Black students on campus, he found a community and discovered an outlet for his energy and intellect in activism.

Owens joined a group of students who caravanned down to the Bay Area in 1968. There they met the founders of the Black Panthers and attended a conference for Black students interested in organizing. Back home at the UW, they formed the Black Student Union and turned their efforts toward pushing the University to recruit and retain more non-white students.

He was among the students whose demonstrations prompted the administration to create the Office of Minority Affairs, start programs to recruit students of color from around the state and expand the curriculum to include Black studies.

Also, that year, Owens joined the newly formed Seattle chapter of the Black Panthers. In addition to leading and attending political protests, the Panthers established a free medical clinic and a free breakfast program for children, something for which Owens was especially proud.

Owens briefly left Washington to complete his anthropology degree in 1972 at Hampshire College in Massachusetts. He returned to Seattle to rejoin a community of activists, many of them UW alumni volunteering or in jobs where they worked on fair housing, school integration, employment and health. He directed minority outreach for the Central Area Motivation Program and later served as a manager in the city of Seattle’s Department of Neighborhoods on projects designed to decrease violence and empower neighborhoods.

Owens is survived by his wife, Cindy Domingo, and children Jamil, Malik and Ann Marie, as well as two grandchildren. He died on Sept. 30 at age 77.


Brotherhood in a Zoom Room

Even during a pandemic, a UW program connected young men of color

ON MY FIRST DAY of college at the UW, I woke up excited to attend my first class of the Brotherhood Initiative. The program seeks to increase the graduation rate of men of color by building strong bonds and fostering a tight-knit group of students. I was a part of Cohort 4. Since we started at the UW in 2020 in the thick of the COVID-19 pandemic, we had to experience our freshman year remotely.

Throwing on a white polo, I hopped on the Zoom call and scrolled through to see my new peers. At first, the 35 other students were strangers, but as I got to know each of them over the quarter, I felt comforted. Though I only saw their faces onscreen, I felt a sense of belonging.

Each year since 2016, the program, also known as the BI, has brought together first-year students to form a learning community and create a family that lasts beyond their first two years of college and hopefully long after graduation. My group, the one formed during the pandemic, missed out on key elements of the BI experience. Instead of meeting for pizza and pickup basketball, we had Netflix watch parties and virtual gaming. Instead of study halls, we interacted through online workshops and breakout rooms. And now, as many of us are graduating, we can’t help but wonder what might have been.

Joe Lott, an associate professor in the College of Education, launched the Brotherhood Initiative in 2016 to tackle racial disparities at the UW and to study and translate the experience of a program serving men of color to a national audience. Time has shown that the initiative works. BI students graduate at a higher rate than the general population of UW students. In addition, my cohort finished 2022 with a higher average GPA than men of color who were not in the program.

Although this is cause to celebrate, I wish the same could be said for higher education across the country. Recent reports from McKinsey & Company showed that marginalized racial and ethnic populations were significantly underrepresented in higher education, and those who did attend college completed their degrees at a lower rate than the overall student population. At the UW, the BI exists to change those numbers. Cohorts like mine are part of this vision. I’m proud to be a part of that.

But because of the pandemic, we didn’t get a traditional freshman experience of meeting friends and exploring campus. And we felt like our first two years flew by, stealing opportunities to meaningfully engage with one another at times when we needed it most. “My first year at UW was probably the most mentally draining year ever,” says Ethan Blanco, a member of Cohort 4 who is pursuing a degree in public health. “I can’t tell what happened during fall, winter or spring quarter because of how many things just all blended into each other.”

Still, the BI helped ease Ethan’s anxieties as a college freshman through in-class discussions. It was not until his sophomore and junior years that he started building relationships within the BI that would inspire him to study abroad in London and eventually become part of the BI’s new peer mentorship program.

Daniel Garcia, who is double-majoring in education and mathematics, also volunteered to be a peer mentor this year. “While I enjoy all of the advice that the BI staff provides us, it

is also nice to hear from someone currently going through the experience,” he says.

Because of the BI’s success, a growing number of participants and a new Sisterhood Initiative, the program recently moved to a new home in the Brooklyn Trail Building near campus. Now the BI and the SI have spaces for workshops and for hanging out between classes. Students can also come in for advice, encouragement or just a shoulder to lean on. “The BI having its own building has increased my sense of belonging to the campus and BI family,” Garcia says. “I know I have a place I can stop by and recharge whenever I have some downtime.”

The new site is a place for growth without judgment, says Ella Harris, the BI’s new student success coordinator. “I really want to use my presence and influence to push the envelope around what a man is in the BI,” she adds. “There’s a lot of different ways to be male, there’s a lot of different ways to be a man of color, and they are all OK. They are all good. We are challenging our guys to think about the things society has taught them and how they’re showing up in the world.”

As I leave campus, I realize my cohort missed out on incredible aspects that the BI could only offer in person. However, I can’t help but smile knowing that I belonged to not only the UW but to the Brotherhood Initiative. With the support of my cohort and the program, I graduated early at the age of 21. I am the first in my family to graduate college. And I’m a little sad to leave it behind. I remember once saying to Assistant Director Paul Metellus that I wanted to visit the BI after my cohort’s time was over. Turning from his computer, he raised an eyebrow and wondered when I thought that would be. I thought I would move on after graduation, but now I find myself writing this article so I can use my skills to give something back.

Paul Metellus, assistant director for student success in the Brotherhood Initiative, visits with writer Shamaar �homas, ’22, in the BI’s new offices on Brooklyn Ave. �homas graduated in the fall of 2022 with a journalism major and a minor in diversity. He is now pursuing a fulltime writing position.

the story of diversity at the UW 15

Charles E. Odegaard Award Recipients

2022 Frank Irigon

2020 Emile Pitre

2019 Marvin Oliver

2018 Ricardo S. Martinez

2017 Joanne and Bruce Harrell

2016 Richard A. Jones

2015 Colleen Fukui-Sketchley

2014 Denny Hurtado

2013 Rogelio Riojas

2012 Gertrude Peoples

2011 Assunta Ng

2010 Nelson Del Rio

2009 W. Ron Allen

2008 1968 Black Student Union

2007 Alan T. Sugiyama

2006 Charles Mitchell

2005 Mike McGavick

2004 Jeff and Susan Brotman

2003 Herman McKinney

2002 Constance L. Proctor

2001 Ernest Dunston

2000 Vivian Lee

1999 Albert Black

1998 Bill Hilliard

1997 Andy Reynolds

1996 Hubert G. Locke

1995 Ron Moore

1994 Bernie Whitebear

1993 Ron Sims

1992 Sandra Madrid

1991 Ken Jacobsen

1990 Herman D. Lujan

1989 J. Ray Bowen

1988 Frank Byrdwell

1987 Andrew V. Smith

1986 Phyllis Kenney

1985 Norm Rice

1984 Nancy Weber

1983 William Irmscher

1982 Mark Cooper

1981 Millie Russell

1980 Minoru Masuda

1979 Toby Burton

1978 Vivian Kelly

1977 Sam and Joyce Kelly

1976 Leonie Piternick

1975 Larry Gossett

1974 Dalwyn Knight

Of Mind and Heart

Odegaard honoree Norma Zavala champions inclusive education

A few years after Norma Zavala was born, her parents decided to stop migrating between Washington and Texas for work and settled in Eastern Washington. It was the 1950s, and the Columbia Basin project was diverting water to farmland, creating jobs and expanding towns across the region.

Though Othello today is 75% Hispanic, Zavala’s family was among the first of Mexican descent to make their home there. While her school was predominantly white, Zavala had a rich Mexican-influenced life at home. She remembers conversations in Spanish as her mother cooked traditional foods and played Spanish-language music from old vinyl records. “I’ve always had both cultures going at the same time,” Zavala says.

Her intellectual journey was influenced by her Tia Magdalena. The first in her family to attend college, she introduced Zavala to the activism of Cesar Chavez and the United Farm Workers Union and encouraged in her a drive for social justice. While a teen, Zavala volunteered as recording secretary for an effort to open a health clinic for farm workers and migrants. Despite local opposition, the clinic opened in 1973 and is now the Columbia Basin Health Association.

With support from her parents and her aunt’s encouragement, Zavala set her sights on college. She visited the UW for Chicano week and found rhododendrons in bloom and potential classmates of similar backgrounds. National-level speakers talked about going to college, working for social good and being Chicana.

“A sense of pride started building in me,” she says.

As a UW student, Zavala lived in the Chicano House on the eighth floor of Lander Hall. “Being part of that group influenced my focus on Chicano issues,” she says. Studying chemistry at the Instructional Center alongside students from many different backgrounds showed her the value of culturally inclusive teaching.

After graduating in 1980, Zavala focused her energies on her family. She also helped her children’s preschool and K-12 schools be more aware of different ways of teaching and learning.

Later, as a public school teacher, Zavala joined the state’s Multi-Ethnic Think Tank, which advised state leaders in creating an equitable, culturally competent education system. She also helped write a call to action to change student discipline practices and require educators to have cultural competency training. Furthering her advocacy and education, Zavala completed an M.A. in educational leadership in 2002 and a Ph.D. in educational leadership and policy studies in 2007.

Though retired, Zavala still shares her expertise as an educational consultant and anti-racism researcher. “My work is not done,” she says. “I strive to see and create a public education system that is truly diverse—linguistically, ethnically, geographically, in gender orientation, and in every other aspect. And I want to be sure that students from disenfranchised backgrounds have access to quality education and to higher education.”

Zavala has served on OMA&D’s Friends of the Educational Opportunity Program board, the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Advisory Committee for the UW Regents and the President’s Minority Community Advisory Committee. She is also on Seattle Public Schools’ Equity Race Advisory Committee. “Dr. Zavala epitomizes courageous leadership,” says Rickey Hall, vice president for OMA&D. “We need more leaders like her.”

�he Charles E. Odegaard Award honors individuals whose leadership in the community exemplifies the former UW president’s work on behalf of diversity. �he awardee is recognized at the annual Celebration event.


Join faculty, students, alumni and staff for Celebration at 5:30 p.m., May 17, at the HUB. To register, visit

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