SOAN Students and Faculty Win Major Research Awards at PSA’s 2017 Conference

SOAN students and faculty have for many years presented their research at the Pacific Sociological Association’s (PSA) Annual Meeting. This year’s meeting, held in Portland, April 6-9, 2017, was no exception. Besides four SOAN faculty participating in the conference, five SOAN students presented their original senior thesis research, including Kylie Young, Lizzy Chao, Annie Krepack, Leonard Henderson, and Allison Nasson, with each receiving in-depth feedback from faculty discussants and participants at their roundtables. We are proud of each of our SOAN students, who presented fascinating research on topics as diverse as “farmwives” and changing gender identities in rural communities, parental control over school lunches, hip-hop in global and local settings, and more.

This year we are also pleased to share the exciting news that SOAN major Allison Nasson and SOAN Associate Professor of Sociology Jennifer Utrata won two major research awards announced at PSA. These awards are significant given that the PSA, the oldest of sociology’s regional associations, includes sociology departments from the entire Pacific region of North America, including California, Washington, Oregon, British Columbia and Alberta in Canada, Nevada, Utah, Arizona, New Mexico, Alaska, Wyoming, and more, with only one recipient in each award category.

At the Presidential Address and Awards Ceremony on Friday evening, Allison Nasson, a senior SOAN student, won the 2017 Distinguished Undergraduate Student Paper Award for her paper entitled “Donor-Friendly Victimhood: Narrative Construction as a Fundraising Strategy.” The paper, lauded for its high professional quality, and building on her summer research award work, examines how personal narratives have become a key fundraising tool for nonprofits as they compete for attention and funding. It argues that studying the selection, manipulation, and circulation of these stories provides insight into which identities are being privileged, whose stories are going untold, and the potential ramifications of these trends.


SOAN senior Allison Nasson receiving the 2017 PSA Undergraduate Student Paper Award from Dr. Kposowa, Awards Committee Chair and Professor of Sociology, UC-Riverside.

We are impressed by Allison’s achievement, and cannot help but feel some SOAN pride more generally given that this is the second consecutive year and the fifth time in the past decade that a Puget Sound SOAN student has won one of these highly competitive undergraduate student paper awards.

At the same awards ceremony, Jennifer Utrata, Associate Professor of Sociology in the SOAN Department, was awarded the 2017 PSA Distinguished Scholarship Award for her book, Women without Men: Single Mothers and Family Change in the New Russia (Cornell, 2015). The award recognizes major intellectual contributions embodied in a recently published book or a series of at least three articles on a common theme.


Prof. Jennifer Utrata receiving the PSA Distinguished Scholarship Award from Dr. Judith Hennessy, Central Washington University.

Utrata’s book illuminates Russia’s “quiet revolution” in family life through examining the puzzle of how single motherhood, frequently seen as a social problem in other contexts, became taken for granted in Russia. The ambitious book uses the Russian case of growing single motherhood during the transition to capitalism to think theoretically and critically about assumptions in U.S.-focused scholarship on family change, poverty, and gender relations. Last year her book won the other coast’s major award, the Eastern Sociological Society’s Mirra Komarovsky Book Award.

Traditionally SOAN faculty presenting research, organizing sessions, or serving as discussants on panels gather together with student presenters over dinner. This year we had plenty of celebratory toasts and discussions, and we look forward to gathering together in future years with students presenting their original research.


SOAN Sociology Professors and students gathered for dinner at PSA: Jason Struna (and adorable son!), Kylie Young, Lizzy Chao, Annie Krepack, Jennifer Utrata, Ben Lewin, John Parker (Arizona State), and Leonard Henderson.

Would you like to join us at next year’s PSA? Are you interested in learning more about the SOAN major and its opportunities for conducting, and presenting, independent research? Then be sure to drop by the SOAN Research Symposium, to be held this Friday, April 21st from 3:30-5:30 in the Tahoma Room…all are welcome, refreshments provided.

Congratulations to Allison Nasson, Prof. Utrata, and all of the students and faculty who participated in this year’s PSA!


Visiting Historical Anthropologist talk on Ethnicity & Colonialism in Southeast Asia, Monday 4/4 @ 5pm


Interested in Southeast Asia, historical anthropology, colonialism, and/or ethnicity? Please come to this talk on Monday! Here are the details:

When & Where? April 4th at 5pm in Wyatt 109 

Who? Oliver Tappe, from the University of Cologne

What? Upland Encounters: Colonialism and sociopolitical transformations in the Lao-Vietnamese borderlands. 

Will refreshments be served? Refreshments WILL be served

At the turn of the 20th century, upland Indochina was an arena of political friction and complex intercultural dynamics. Once a contested frontier region between the lowland realms of the Vietnamese and Thai/Lao courts, the ethnically heterogeneous province of Houaphan (today NE Laos) constitutes an illustrative case study to investigate modern state formation and sociopolitical transformations. The presentation will focus especially on the interplay between the establishment of French colonial administration and local processes of resistance, adaptation, and mimetic appropriation.

Kathryn Stutz ’17 Presentation Today

Junior Kathryn Stutz will be delivering a presentation about her AHSS Summer Research Project this afternoon as part of the Collins Library’s Behind the Archives Door series. Kathryn’s fascinating project employed methods and approaches she developed in SOAN, but successfully found a rich interdisciplinary vein to explore — one that is very much about Puget Sound’s early environmental work. Key Information:

What: Murray Johnson collection on the Cape Thompson Environmental Impact Report, 1946-1978
When: Tuesday, March 1, 4:00 to 5:00
Where: Collins Library, Archives and Special Collections, 2nd floor
More: light refreshments will be provided

More information: Kathryn received a 2015 AHSS Summer Research Award to work on the archival material transferred from the Slater Museum of Natural History to the Archives & Special Collections. These letters, biological records, and other historical documents center around a significant event in the history of the modern environmental movement: the development and eventual rejection of ‘Project Chariot,’ a proposal by the Atomic Energy Commission (AEC) to use nuclear blasts to create a harbor in northern Alaska. Kathryn arranged and described the Murray Johnson collection on the Cape Thompson Environmental Impact Report, 1946-1978, as well as conducted research in Alaska this past summer. Join us as Kathryn discusses the collection and her research.

Hope to see you there!


Dean Jackson speaks on Food Sovereignty, Justice

On Thursday November 12, students from Devparna Roy’s Connections 335 course, Race & Multiculturalism in the American Context, had the opportunity to attend a lecture given by Dean Jackson, local activist and founder of the Hilltop Urban Gardens.  Jackson began Hilltop Urban Gardens (HUG) in 2010 in attempt to develop the prospects of food sovereignty and combat racial and economic issues in Tacoma.


Dean Jackson pictured outside Hilltop Urban Gardens

Jackson highlighted six principles that define food sovereignty.  Focus on food for the people, valuation of food providers, localization of food systems, making decisions on the local level, building communities’ knowledge and skill, and working with nature.  According to the World Health Organization, food sovereignty is attained when “all people at all times have access to safe, nutritious food to maintain a healthy lifestyle”.

As Jackson explained, there is a devastating food crisis going on in the United States.  In many communities of color issues of food justice and sovereignty are rising concerns.  HUG strives to foster meaningful discussions on these issues, while developing options for residents to pursue.  Jackson posits that, “everyone deserves access and the ability to produce and distribute fresh, affordable, healthy, clean, sustainable, safe, and culturally appropriate food”.

Currently, food charity groups feed approximately 220,000 of the 820,000 residents in Pierce County through food banks and food stamps.  According to Jackson, if the Pacific Northwest were to be cut off from the rest of the US, say by a disaster, it would take grocery stores three days to run out of food.  This is a troubling prospect; one food sovereignty would combat.


Community members gardening at HUG

Our reliance on food charity and national chains makes an alternative hard to imagine, Jackson said.  However, a shift towards alternative models must be implemented to confront the crisis currently faced.  Food sovereignty does not just concern the matter of obtaining food, it also is meant to address the power dynamics within the food industry.

In their five years of operation, HUG has come a long way.  One current focus surrounds the creation of the Black Lives Matter Memorial Gardens.  Jackson is combining efforts with the UPS Black Student Union to commemorate Black lives lost due to police brutality.  In addition, Jackson hopes to expand their gardens in the future.  Soon, HUG will be participating in Tacoma’s “Healthy Homes, Healthy Neighborhoods” initiative.

SOAN Brownbag Today!

atwillHi all,

Historian David Atwill, from Pennsylvania State University, is lecturing tonight about his research, but the SOAN Student Club has arranged an informal brownbag conversation earlier today. He’ll be generally speaking about ethnography, the discipline of history, and research more broadly. It promises to be an illuminating conversation.

Where: Northwest Lounge, Commencement Hall
When: Wednesday, Nov. 18, 1:00 – 2:00 PM

We hope to see you there!


SSI Classes Take Trip to Swan Creek Food Forest

Eli samples an ant

Eli samples an ant

A few weeks ago, Professor Denise Glover’s two seminar classes (SSI 117 People, Plants, and Animals) took a field trip to the Swan Creek Food Forest (SCFF) here in Tacoma. The purpose of the trip was to learn more about local urban foraging and the connections between land and people in the area. Our guide was Puget Sound alumna Renee Meschi (’15), who now works for the Pierce Conservation District in Tacoma, and is Program Specialist for SCFF activities. She explained to us the layers of social history on the land (which included the land as traditional Puyallup foraging grounds) that was designated as the Swan Creek Food Forest in 2012.

Students listen to Renee explain the history of the land at SCFF

Students listen to Renee explain the history of the land at SCFF

Erin taking an extracted blackberry plant to the dumping zone

Erin taking an extracted blackberry plant to the dumping zone

In our class, we had just finished up a unit on traditional foraging and were transitioning into a section about contemporary issues involving people, plants, and animals (such as industrial farming, non-human animal legal rights, urban edible landscapes, the centrality of pets in the lives of urban Americans, and related topics), so the field trip was well timed—and offered students the opportunity to see the ideas we had been discussing in action. As one student wrote: “While reading the articles for class, I didn’t fully grasp how examples of traditional ecological knowledge (TEK) in indigenous communities were relevant to me. Seeing the food forest helped me tie all the readings together, as I drew from the ideas of Agrawal and Turner to put TEK in the perspective of my position—a suburban, western educated white boy.”

In addition to an introduction to the SCFF, we toured the grounds and Renee pointed out important areas of foraging and the natural kinds foraged there, such as bracken fern (Pteridium), hawthorn (Crataegus), St. John’s Wort (Hypericum perforatum), and ground ants (some of the students even sampled ants during our walk through the food forest—see photo). Lastly, students lent their human labor to the task of removing invasive blackberries.

Students listen to Renee explain the history of the land at SCFF

Blake, Sarah, and Andy (behind Sarah) dig up blackberries while Chloe looks on.