“It is our deep conviction at the Jackson School, that to understand the world, you have to start from a specific place in that world: you have to understand its history, its culture, and how it is related to other regions in the world,” Jackson School Director Reşat Kasaba told over 1,000 Jackson School students, their families and friends, as well as faculty and staff, gathered for the School’s Convocation on June 10, 2016 at the Center for Spiritual Living, an event space near the University of Washington. “It is only then that you can properly identify problems, and from there, solutions.”
This year also represented a milestone: for the first time in the 107-year history of the School, Ph.D. degrees were awarded, following the start of the doctoral program in international studies in 2014.
Over 300 students received either an undergraduate or graduate degree for Spring Convocation 2016.
Kasaba underscored the diversity of global research undertaken by students and faculty during the year, from China’s defense industry, mega-churches in the U.S., religions in India, slave labor in colonial South Asia, to conspiracy theories in the Caucuses to the Arctic and international relations in outer space.
He further highlighted the value of deep knowledge, noting the work of Sasha Prevost (M.A., Comparative Religion, 2016) about an Iranian Jewish poet who came to India in the 17th century, and how Prevost used her language skills in Persian, Hindi, Urdu and Hebrew that she learned at the Jackson School.
“Be involved in more than just your direct job”
The two-hour ceremony featured a keynote address by a distinguished alumna Ann Burkhart (B.A., International Studies, 1990), who currently serves as a manager for global responsibility on ethical sourcing at Starbucks, and is president of the board of directors for EarthCorps.
She emphasized that most people take a meandering path in their careers. When she graduated, she herself only knew she “wanted to be part of the broader world, and make a difference if I could.”
In speaking about how she developed her career, whether working for an NGO in Latin America to getting a master’s in business administration, she urged the crowd “to be more involved than only your direct job, to know and trust yourself and be comfortable with discomfort.”
This allowed her to take risks in life, “where you don’t know what you’re going to be doing, or even if you will a have a friend in that journey.”
She emphasized that most people in her sector of sustainability started out in other fields and worked their way to their current jobs by making their interests known, and getting to know people.
“Putting yourself out there, talking to people when there isn’t a direct reason to … and volunteering … should be your lifelong discipline,” she told the audience. “I want to say this meandering path is not only okay, but recommended,” she said.
“This speech, from beginning to end, was actually not in English”
As the recipient of the annual Jackson Leadership Award for leadership and scholarship, graduating senior Elizabeth Castro spoke to the audience about her journey growing up on farmland in Mexico to her passion for rural education policy.
“My name is Elizabeth Castro. In Spanish, I identify as Xicana Rural. I am Xicana because I was born here in Washington and both my parents are Mexican. I am rural because I come from a long line of farmworkers [campesinos],” she noted in introducing herself and the influence of her background on her interests.
She talked about her research on social justice and identity in rural teacher colleges in Mexico that serve young men and women who are from low-income families, many of them farmworking families.
“In September 2014, 43 students from the Ayotzinapa college were victims of enforced disappearance with complicity of local police,” she explained. “During my final year at the Jackson School, I collaborated with a student who survived the massacre, and who continues his studies at the Ayotzinapa college. I wanted to understand what was affecting students … the day to day [of their lives].”
At the end of her speech, she revealed to the audience that her speech, from beginning to end, was actually not in English but Spanish. “Tonight is a performance,” she said. “It’s an act of language interpretation.”
“As undergraduate students, we study, at minimum, a second language. Many of us carry a double-consciousness. Tonight, I am inspired because we will continue to serve others…in more than a dozen languages. I think that is beautiful. I think that is something to celebrate,” she said. “I am thankful I had a space here in the Jackson School with support from my peers and faculty.”
Castro heads to Mexico on a Fulbright to teach English for 2016-2017. The Jackson School Leadership Award, which comes with a prize of $3,000, will allow her to stay in Mexico a little longer to continue her work with rural teacher colleges.
In fall 2017, she will enter Harvard University for a master’s degree in education policy and management.
Doing good in the world
Other students honored during the ceremony included:
- Graduate Book Award Winner Sasha Prevost (M.A., Comparative Religion)
- Undergraduate Book Award Winner Diane Bolme (B.A., International Studies)
- High Honors Award Winner Lauren Moses (B.A., International Studies)
- Kela Keiko Wong (B.A., International Studies), recipient of the senior thesis grand prize by UW’s Library Research Awards competition
- Zachary Reshovsky (B.A. International Studies), recipient of the prestigious Yenching Scholarship to student for a year at Peking University
Jackson School Director Kasaba also recognized the five Jackson School students who received this year’s inaugural UW Husky 100 Award:
- Mayowa Aina, B.A. ’17 is a double major in International Studies and Informatics with interest areas in community organizing, information technology, digital & visual communications and writing
- Kevin Celustka B.A. ’17 is pursuing a major in International Studies with a focus on health care, international relations and public policy
- Chelsea Cooper, B.A. ’16 is a double major in Comparative Religion and History who will be pursuing a degree in Security Studies at Georgetown Universty in fall 2016
- Sarah Yu B.A. ’17 is a triple major in International Studies, Economics and Computer Science with a focus on engineering, finance, the non-profit sector and research
- Lindsay Zike ’16 is pursuing a master’s degree in International Studies
Jackson School Assistant Director for African Studies and Latin America & Caribbean Studies Monica Rojas-Stewart received the annual Jackson School Student Association Student Service Award in recognition of her outstanding service to students.