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Master’s student blends overseas research, local outreach

Amanda TheilPassionate about plants and nearing graduation with a master’s in cultural anthropology, Amanda Thiel has traveled overseas for her research and educated elementary school children about botany.

Thiel went to rural Guatemala in the summer of 2016 to research ethnobotany, the study of how people use plants in their region. During her two-month stay, she interviewed Q’eqchi’ Maya villagers about the type of plants growing in their gardens, and used the information » More …

Distinguished sociology professor brings expertise in health disparities

Denney portrait, outsideWhen Justin Denney was still an aspiring, young sociologist, he strove to understand the dynamic forces that shape and perpetuate social inequality. Then, in graduate school, he came across the signal texts of renowned sociologist and Washington State University alumnus William Julius Wilson.

“Those classic works illuminated a central tenet and contribution of sociological inquiry that had eluded me to some degree,” Denney said. “It was an important moment for me and has influenced my career in a profound way.” » More …

2017 Wilson Award and Symposium

William Julius Wilson Symposium with Elijah AndersonWSU created the William Julius Wilson Award for the Advancement of Social Justice in 2009 to recognize individuals who promote social inclusiveness and diversity in social policies and strive to reduce joblessness. Wilson received his doctorate in sociology from WSU in 1966 and is widely considered one of the nation’s most influential sociologists. He is the Lewis P. and Linda L. Geyser University Professor at Harvard University.

The biennial award is presented during a symposium held on the Pullman campus. The 2017 recipient is Elijah Anderson, one of the nation’s leading urban ethnographers and the William K. Lanman Jr. professor of sociology at Yale University. » More …

China Town Hall to focus on state, local impact

China Town Hall“The annual CHINA Town Hall aims to help people nationwide understand the challenges and opportunities of what has been characterized as the most important bilateral relationship of the twenty-first century,” said Lydia Gerber, clinical associate professor of history and director of the WSU Asia Program, the local event sponsor.

As the top U.S. state exporter to China, Washington has an enormous stake in U.S.-China relations. From wheat to apples and Microsoft to Boeing, businesses and industries statewide are directly affected by America’s political and economic strategy regarding China. » More …

Sociology department newsletter, October 2017

Screen shot image of sociology newsletterFall is here—and WSU sociology has seen some exciting changes. We begin this issue with a letter from new department chair Monica Kirkpatrick Johnson. She shares her goals for the department, including implementation of a new strategic plan.

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Affordable Learning Grants save WSU students thousands

drawing, computer and booksWashington State University faculty members are passing on more than $250,000 in savings to WSU students this fall, using funds from five Affordable Learning Grants and another funded through Academic Outreach and Innovation to develop open-source classroom materials, or OERs.

The University funded the grants over the summer, and the faculty members worked to develop their respective education resources. Most developed their own online textbooks building on existing open-source material. Because open-source OERs are licensed for free distribution and reuse, they allow professors like this summer’s grant recipients to customize course materials for their own classrooms. » More …

Resilience topic of Asia Program ‘East Meets West’ lecture series

Taj Mahal at sunriseThemes of resilience from multiple regional and disciplinary perspectives will be explored as the WSU Asia Program’s “East Meets West” lecture series continues Sept. 19–Oct. 24 on the WSU Pullman campus.

The 2017 series features seven lectures and one documentary film. All events are free and open to the public.

“We chose the theme of resilience to inspire our students to explore the values of flexibility and courage in response to challenges on both a personal level and through historical and contemporary examples—from the documentary about civil rights » More …

The people’s plants

hat woven from long leavesThe Dominican boy had a leaf draped over his head, secured with a length of vine. Anthropologist Marsha Quinlan was intrigued.

“I asked him, ‘Is that a hat?’” she recalls. “And he explained that, no, he woke up with a headache and the leaf makes your head feel better. And I thought that was so cool!”

Quinlan was a graduate student at the time, on her first trip to the Caribbean island of Dominica (not to be confused with the Dominican Republic). And that was the moment she realized she had to delve further into ethnobotany. » More …

Where the trouble began

book cover and author portrait image“Fiction is a document of trouble,” says novelist James Thayer ’71. The trouble began for Thayer as a teenager reading Bram Stoker’s Dracula on his father’s wheat farm in Almira.

“The narrator sees the Count leap to a window frame—and then crawl down the exterior of the castle wall like a lizard!” Thayer exclaims. “That scene scared me to death! It was a revelation as to the power of fiction.”

Now, decades later, the Seattle-based author of 14 novels teaches fiction writing through the University of Washington’s continuing education program. » More …

Innovative WSU approach ignites survey industry, earns national award

Winners holding plaqueWSU researchers received a national award for designing a new survey method that is now used in censuses around the world.

WSU Regents Professor Don Dillman and a team of former graduate students were honored with the Warren J. Mitofsky Innovators Award from the American Association for Public Opinion Research. The last award was granted in 2015 to Nate Silver, creator of FiveThirtyEight , the statistics-based news site.

The WSU team’s innovation is overcoming the negative effects that modern communication trends have on public opinion survey results by turning to an old-school source: postal mail.  » More …