Catching Up With Ned Sherry, Class of ’13

We asked Ned Sherry to tell us a bit about what he’s up to, and with his graduate studies in mind, we asked him to describe how useful our department’s curriculum was in preparing him for his program. Here’s his reply.

Ned travels by train

Ned travels by train

It’s pretty incredible how often the tools I learned in the CSOC SOAN department come up in graduate school. I just finished my first semester as a Master of Public Health candidate at the University of Minnesota. I am concentrating in environmental infectious diseases, with an eye towards global health. I cannot say enough great things about the hard skills learned, like actually knowing what an ethnography is, how to write one, and mastering SAS. However, there’s another aspect from these four years that stands out. This piece was not taught in one class, but learned from years of practice in the department — a hanging motif throughout the SOAN curriculum that I was unaware of at the time. What I’m talking about is cultural competency and an energy for curiosity.

This is the drive that pushes us toward unknown exploration; while giving us the tools to know how to function once we are there. It is being aware of the constellation of factors that influence life, from political instability, socio-economic influences and even to individual relationships.

I have seen humanitarian international development groups that lack this competency and curiosity while studying global health. So often humanitarian health groups move into an area with mindset that they are the change that will improve an area’s health — operating with a paternalistic mindset, plowing through a people’s way of life, ignoring needs that do not fit the health group’s paradigm. But to really improve health, to create sustainable change, requires cultural competency.

What I am referencing goes beyond being open-minded and unprejudiced; it means anticipating your own biases and closed-mindedness, even when you’re not aware of them. It’s one thing to say and be open to new and diverse perspectives, but it is a different level to be able to recognize your own hidden judgments below your consciousness. This is the key that is driven home in SOAN department, a skill that I did not see surface until I had already graduated.

In the example of global health, cultural competency is being aware that your comprehension of a people is limited and ,in fact, probably wrong. This means listening to the individuals whose lives you are there to improve, working with them, not over them. When you are able to release your inner compass, borrowing one from the lives you are surrounded by, it is possible to achieve sustainable global health change.

These learned skills are not restricted to global health. Regardless if you take this skill abroad or utilize it in a new setting here in the United States, this training prepares you to problem-solve in situations where others feel uncomfortable and unprepared. As current members and alumni of this department we are individuals that are primed for curiosity and trained to thrive in new surroundings. The key is recognizing we possess the tools, using them in careers, relationships and everyday life.

That’s really great to hear, Ned. We hope to hear from you again in the coming years, and let us know if you ever return to this neck of the woods.

Dr. Denise Glover’s Band Releases New Album

Just before the end of fall semester, my band (Rosin in the Aire) and I welcomed our newest creation into the world: our second CD! It was a long project, having started (with recording) in July 2014; with five band members (that work full time) and a busy recording studio engineer (UPS alum and accordionist for the band Pearl Django, David Lange), it was challenging to coordinate schedules. The title of the album is Good Times in the Homeland, named after the two original cuts on the CD (our banjo player Allan Walton’s “Good Times in C” and my song, “The Homeland”).

As an anthropologist, I recognize the power of music in the cultural, social, and political lives of human communities. Music can convey powerful messages, and provide an important venue for various types of expression. As a musician, I feel grounded as a cultural being in the music that I create. And I use music to tell important stories about experiences that might resonate with others. I wrote the song “The Homeland” telling my great grandmother’s story of immigration, from Italy to the USA in 1914, and then the extended connections between my life (and my family here) and those of my relatives in Italy. Most of my life I wondered what it was like for my great grandmother (who I grew up with as my grandmother, since my actual grandmother—her daughter—had died before I was born) being an immigrant in New York. She was of southern European origin and a decade after she arrived immigration from southern and eastern European (among other places) was significantly restricted, by the Johnson-Reed Act of 1924. She was never able to return to her natal Italy and to see her family (most heart-wrenching, for me, her mother) again; such extravagant travel was not possible, and I suppose after a while became harder and harder to imagine as immigrants in the USA tried more and more to leave the “old world” behind, due to strong American expectations of assimilation. I wrote the song with all of that in mind, and with the line “I can’t go back to the way it used to be” to have multiple layers of meaning. I also wrote this song before I went to Italy to meet my relatives there for the first time, imagining our “reuniting” as a sort of family healing of the rupture that had occurred. I sing the chorus once in Italian, and dedicate the song to all immigrants who miss their homelands.

There is a variety of songs on the CD, from bluegrass classics like “Blue Night” to the traditional Mexican “La Llorona” to John Prine’s “Angel from Montgomery” to a rag, a waltz, and a jazz standard (“Sunny Side of the Street”). So, there is a track or two sure to please. It was a fun project, and so delightful to see/hear as a finished work.


More info:

Tristan Burger (SOAN ’09) and an Orphanage in Africa

Tristan Burger, a SOAN alumnus, and her partner are celebrating the one year anniversary of the orphanage they’ve established in the Eastern Democratic Republic of Congo. They’ve just missed their fundraising goal, and as you can imagine, even small donations go a long way in the lives of the children they help. I’m pasting her request below.

Dear Friends,

fe9c3bd9-9786-4983-836f-0ba2073b6f4bI am proud to announce that Fred Gato has successfully established the Assured Future Orphanage in the Eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo! Fred and I have been working together since 2011 to see his dream become reality. As of January 20th of this year, we will celebrate our year anniversary as a home to thirteen orphaned children in Bunagana, DRC.

AFO needs your support as we undertake the next step in our work to provide for these children. Please consider making a donation today and help us meet our goal of sustaining this remarkable haven in a war-torn area of the world. You will be providing a crucial financial endowment that will directly impact children’s lives within the DRC. You will be helping a people who, for over a decade, have been devastated by a war which has claimed more than 6 million lives.

An investment of just $25 helps to feed our 13 children for 1 month and $150 covers the rental cost of the AFO home for 6 months! Your gift at any level makes a difference. Please join us in achieving not just our goals, but in helping these children define and exceed theirs. Help us meet our fundraising goal of $1,500 by January 20th.
I should also remark that, despite my best efforts, we were unable to achieve 501(c)(3) tax-exemption status. Therefore, if you donate, your contribution will unfortunately not be tax-deductible.

Please send donations in my name
(Tristan Burger) to:

2857 Shadow Creek Dr
Apt 304
Boulder, CO 80303
with “AFO donation” in the memo line

If you would like more information on AFO, please visit our website at (you can make donations here, as well). And please ‘like’
our Facebook page at

We are grateful for your support of Assured Future Orphanage and our efforts to transform the DRC and beyond.


Tristan Burger and Fred Gato

P.s. If you know of anyone who might take an interest in our project, please feel free to forward this email along. Many thanks!

Green Corps paid positions for college graduates

We recently received this information from Green Corps. Note that the Winter application deadline is February 1, 2015. More information is available at the links below.


Green Corps is looking for college graduates who are ready to take on the biggest environmental challenges of our day. 

In Green Corps’ yearlong paid program, you’ll get intensive training in the skills you need to make a difference in the world. You’ll get hands-on experience fighting to solve urgent environmental problems — global warming, deforestation, water pollution, factory farming and many others — with groups like Sierra Club and Food & Water Watch. And when you graduate from Green Corps, we’ll help you find a career with one of the nation’s leading environmental and social change groups. 

For more information, read on or visit .

In your year with Green Corps: 

Be trained by the best: Green Corps organizers take part in trainings with leading figures in the environmental and social change movements: people like Adam Ruben, former political director and current board president of, and Bill McKibben, author and founder of

Gain experience across the country: Green Corps sends organizers to jumpstart campaigns for groups such as Rainforest Action Network, Power Shift, and Environment America in San Francisco, Chicago, Boston and dozens of other places in between. 

Make an impact on today’s environmental challenges: Green Corps organizers have built the campaigns that helped keep the Arctic safe from drilling; led to new laws to support clean, renewable energy; convinced major corporations to stop dumping in our oceans; and much, much more. 

Get paid! Green Corps organizers earn a salary of $25,000. Organizers also have a chance to opt into our health care program with a pre-tax monthly salary deferral. We offer paid sick days and holidays, two weeks paid vacation and a student loan repayment program for those who qualify. 

Launch your career: Green Corps will help connect you to environmental and progressive groups that are looking for full-time staff to build their organizations and help them create social change and protect our environment.

Catching Up with Kendra Loebs, Class of ’06

Hi all,
A photograph from Kendra Loebs' Watson-project trip to India, 2006-2007.

A photograph from Kendra Loebs’ Watson-project trip to India, 2006-2007.

I asked Kendra Loebs, Puget Sound class of ’06, to tell me a little bit about what she’s been up to since graduating. Here’s a brief description of her interesting journey!

I graduated from Puget Sound in 2006 as a Biology major, but I dabbled heavily in the CSOC (now SOAN!) department, and Anthropology has always inspired me. Today I work as a Registered Nurse at the University of Washington specializing in stem cell transplant. Nursing is not a direction I had ever planned to go, but life is strange in that way and I couldn’t be happier with my career path!

I’ve always been particularly interested in medical anthropology and healthcare beliefs. My first year post-UPS found me traveling around the world (primarily to Morocco, India, and Thailand) as a Thomas J Watson fellow exploring this topic. I focused my Watson project around how traditional manual therapies such as massage fit into the larger healthcare landscapes of various countries. Once back in the US and after working in various medical settings, I decided to go back to school for a degree in nursing.

Cultural competence is a hugely important topic in the field of healthcare, and it’s growing ever more important as healthcare systems strive to make care more effective and relevant to diverse populations. I dove right into this world by working at Harborview as a nursing student. This hospital is well-known for serving a very diverse immigrant, homeless, psychiatric, and incarcerated population, in addition to being a top-notch trauma center. The experience was incredibly humbling and inspired me to learn more about culturally-sensitive care. With the support of my nursing professors, I performed a qualitative research project where I analyzed a program in which Harborview nurses follow the rigid rules of a diabetic lifestyle for just a few days to see how it influenced their understanding and perceptions of those who live with diabetes. Not surprisingly, standing in the shoes of individuals with a challenging chronic disease was an eye-opening and impactful experience for everyone who participated!

Being a nurse is similar in many ways to being an anthropologist, and I am grateful every day for my training in anthropology. Like anthropologists, nurses must quickly build trust and connection with those we serve. We often ask for very private information, sometimes from vulnerable people. We see the best and the worst of humanity. We are present for the most painful and joyful moments in the lives of strangers. We interact closely with people from all walks of life, and must consistently communicate effectively, professionally, personally, and sensitively with each of them.

Kendra at work at Harborview

Kendra at work at University of Washington Medical Center

As an RN at the UW I’ve had the opportunity to take graduate classes in public health and medical anthropology. One of the most relevant assignments I’ve completed was an investigation how nurses can most effectively support patients and families at the end of life using applied anthropological theory. I’ve also been able to utilize my skills as a volunteer RN for the Public Health Department’s Medical Reserve Corps. The most inspiring opportunities so far were working in a 2-day Veterans health fair and at the Seattle Remote Area Medical (RAM) Clinic, which was a huge 4-day event that provided thousands of people with free health care, dental care, and vision care.

One day I hope to officially continue my education and become an Advanced Practice Nurse. I’m also very interested in teaching and doing more qualitative research someday. Fortunately, there are many possibilities to do all of this because nursing as a field is increasingly robust with opportunities to make a meaningful difference in the world. Though my path may have been winding, I am exceedingly grateful for the broad liberal arts education that I received at Puget Sound. The close relationships with professors and the questions that my studies there inspired have allowed me to recognize and actively pursue many exciting opportunities in my work as a nurse.

 It’s really great to hear from you, Kendra, and good luck with the next steps you describe!

Andrew, Labor Migrants, Qatar, and Justice


Screen-Shot-2014-12-09-at-20.01.08-220x300As my students know, I snuck off to Qatar for the last week of class. I’m on my way back for finals, and with a lengthy layover in Amsterdam, I thought I’d write a little bit about how things went.

So over the last two-plus years, I’ve been working on a research project with my colleagues Silvia Pessoa and Laura Harkness. We were asked by the Open Society Foundation to conduct a study of labor migrants’ experiences in the justice system in Qatar. We completed our report early in the Fall, and the report, entitled Labour Migrants and Access to Justice in Contemporary Qatar, was published days ago by the London School of EconomicsMiddle East Centre. I traveled to Qatar this week for the “report launch” event — a closed presentation to select ministry officials, scholar/researchers, policymakers, migrant activists, and a few select journalists. The event was hosted by Qatar University on December 9, 2014.

The presentation provided a brief overview of the project and report, with simultaneous translation for the audience. In short, over more than a year, we interviewed 25 labor migrants who, past or present, had active cases in the justice system provided to them by the Qatari state. Our analysis of those interviews and the experiences described therein, combined with another 24 interviews with judges, ministry officials, advocates, and community leaders, allowed us to make a series of policy recommendations to the involved ministries of the Qatari state.

Presentation at Qatar University

Presentation at Qatar University

For the launch event, that 30 minute presentation was followed by over an hour of sometimes heated discussion and comment, all of which was under “Chatham House rules” (which means no one can be quoted by name by the journalists present). Let me briefly describe why this conversation was so heated, as it was very interesting to me, and it speaks, I think, to the junction between academia and applied work focused on policymaking.

While there were a diversity of responses to the report, many of the comments and questions I fielded contended that the report didn’t go far enough with its indictment of the migration system and the governance of the Qatari state. Comments, mostly from academics, articulated a desire to address the “root problem” behind the injustices many migrants face. Others pondered the role of other stakeholders in this migration system: business owners, labor brokers, unconcerned government officials, oblivious citizens, and so forth. Many of the discussions that ensued reached for the deep ethical issues at stake in these migrants’ experiences. Interestingly, these various comments arrived from both the Qataris present and the foreign researchers/journalists/activists/consultants there as well.

Qatar University made this banner for the presentation!

Qatar University made this banner for the presentation!

I was fairly firm in my response to these topics and critique, however. While much of my previous work has been aligned or driven by these ideas, for this project our team had to put our blinders on. For this project, our concern was not with the underlying root problems, the causal forces at work, the ethical implications of this migration system, the other stakeholders involved, or with what an entirely new and better justice system might look like. Instead, in this report we stayed focused on what changes to the existing justice system in Qatar might improve its efficiency, help it better meet its own goals, and thereby improve its responsiveness to real migrants with real problems. The policy recommendations in the report reflect this: they are real, actionable changes that the Department of Labor Relations and the Labor Court can make, and while they may appear incremental, we assert that they will make a significant and discernible difference in the carriage of justice.

As an academic, anthropologist, and scholar, it felt odd to put those blinders on, and to consciously rebut comments and conversations pushing toward the larger issues at stake here. But in reflection, I think that’s part of the nature of applied work, and in retrospect, I feel more confident about our findings as a result of the event.

Regardless, you can read one journalist’s take on the event here.

And, of course, it was great to reconnect with my friends and colleagues at Qatar University!


Humanity in Action Fellowship

SOAN Students,

Humans taking a break from the action for a photo at the Humanity in Action program

Humans taking a break from the action for a photo at the Humanity in Action program

Here’s a fellowship you might consider for the coming summer. If you’re successful, you’d be traveling to Europe for the program. It looks great!

Here’s the information we received. Note that the deadline isn’t that far away (January 8, 2015). In fact, if you’re interested in applying, I’m told you should contact Sharon Chambers-Gordon at the Fellowships Office immediately! Here’s the information we received:

I am pleased to share that the application deadline for the 2015 Humanity in Action Fellowship is nearly one month away (January 8, 2015).

To support your outreach efforts in the remaining month, I have compiled some helpful information below, including links to the Humanity in action Fellowship presentation, promotional flyer, and 2015 essay questions.  

I am also making myself available to host online video info sessions with groups of students at your universities. These sessions are a terrific way for your students to learn more about the fellowship and to ask any questions they have. Please contact me if you are interested in this opportunity. 

Helpful Humanity in Action Links