From the 2021 Anthropology Department Newsletter, Volume 6, Issue 1.
WWU Medical Anthropology Group Update Sean Bruna, PhD.
Our 2021 Anthropology Department Newsletter is out. So great to learn research and teaching updates from colleagues, thank our donors, and read updates from alumni.
COVID-19 pandemic has brought so many challenges to our personal and academic lives. This 2020-2021 academic year I was planning to get married in Bellingham, live in Charleston, SC, where my wife is a biology professor, and travel to El Paso, Texas for research on my first book examining diabetes prevention practices on the US-Mexico border. But like so many others, I find myself homebound in Charleston (with weddings changed to elopements) and meetings held with community collaborators over Zoom.
Despite the many challenges this pandemic brings, my spirits have been lifted by the support and care from the faculty and staff in the department. Our faculty shifted courses online, our staff updated mentoring materials to new modalities, and our students adjusted to new ways of learning and researching. Though we have a long way to go before we can return to campus, I am encouraged by the efforts in our department.
I am particularly humbled by the ongoing commitment to timely and meaningful research, care and support shown by the students and scholars that are part of the WWU Medical Anthropology Group. As I prepared for my research leave this summer, I asked the group if they wanted to continue meeting or take a break for the year. The group unanimously agreed that meeting regularly was important for research and care. And so we continue to “check-in around the table” to support one another in an online format until that time when we can again meet in person.
Below I highlight some of the achievements from the group in the prior year. But I would first like to welcome some of our new and returning scholars. Dulce Facundo-Rodriguez (Senior, Archaeology Major) joined last spring to conduct online research and is now assisting Dr. Campbell with archaeological collections housed by the department. Bassma Al-Nighashi (4th Year, Sociology Major) and Awa Njie (1st Year, Undeclared), joined as research assistants working on two COVID-19 research projects, including one with departmental colleague, Dr. Yeon Yu. Tori Bianchi (BS, 2018, MSc, 2019) and Giselle Király (BA, 2018, MSc, 2020), returned to the group to assist with a research that critically examines the gender of editorial boards of anthropology journals.
Dr. G McGrew (Lecturer, Chemistry, WWU), joined as a collaborator on mentoring research, as did Dr. Cori Knight (Lecturer, University of California, Riverside). We anticipate that Dr. Knight will transition to a new role with the group in the coming year.
Cecilia Martin (MA, 2019) successfully defended her thesis, “The Amukura Water Project: Utilization of Photovoice to examine Water Use and Needs in Western Ken- ya.” Ms. Martin was also awarded the WWU Outstanding Graduate Award. As an underrepresented minority (URM) scholar and parent, Ms. Cecilia Martin exemplifies the current generation of scholars that seeks to examine research with and for diverse communities. Ms. Martin’s research examined limited water access in the daily lives of members of the Teso tribe (Iteso) living in Amukura, a small rural village locat- ed in Busia County in western Ken- ya. Her participatory action research was critical of international NGO practices and worked in partnership with members of the village to create local solutions to water access.
Matia Jones (MA, 2020) successfully defended their thesis, “An Ethnography of Urban Food Policy: In- creasing Food Sovereignty in Bellingham, Washington”. In addition to their thesis, Ms. Jones assisted with research and writing of the 2017 Whatcom Community Food Assessment. The food assessment sought to illuminate the current challenges and opportunities in Whatcom County’s food system, while also providing recommendations for increasing communication, coor- dination, and collaboration among the many organizations that provide food.
Peter Miterko (MA, 2017), with Dr. Bruna, published “Resident identified strengths and challenges of project-based permanent supportive housing program implementation
in a small metropolitan county” (2020) in the journal of Housing and Society. Utilizing a collaborative approach founded in the principles of participatory action research (PAR) to orientate research processes, the research critically examined resident-identified strengths and challenges of living at St. Mary’s House, a Project-Based PSH program in Whatcom County, Washington.
L.C. Osadchuk (MA, Candidate) was awarded the Graduate Research & Creative Opportunities Grant ($1,500) for their research “Care strategies in the disabled community during times of social isolation.” We look forward to learning more about this research later this spring.
Hoku Rivera (BA, 2020; AmeriCorps VISTA) graduated and received several awards in the previous year, including Outstanding Graduate
in Creative Writing; Outstanding Graduate of the Anthropology Department; the R. D. Brown Memorial Scholarship; the Associate Students Academic Scholar Award; and the Dr. Elena Pereyra Peace Award. Hoku also published poetry in Jeopardy #56 and in CEDAR for their Honors Capstone “H(u)ina”; Published poetry in Bamboo Ridge Press #118.
Congratulations to all of the scholars in the WWU Medical Anthropology Group! And thank you for the care and support you give to each other!