I am grouping Honors 100 with classes that taught me it is okay to "color outside the lines" because my honors experience, which began here, has given me an interdisciplinary lens on life; it has somewhat destroyed the lines between disciplines altogether for me. When I am in English courses, I am thinking about how to incorporate my scientific knowledge, when I am in science courses, I am thinking about how the language we use shapes the "objective" concepts we talk about. I have explored about so many topics that would never have crossed my mind had I not entered into this interdisciplinary style of learning, It is a framework for learning from which I hope to never stray.
Who Am I, and How Did I Get Here?
Up until 2015, I was convinced that the University of Washington would be the last college I would choose to attend throughout my undergraduate education. Despite the fantastic campus and research opportunities, I had always wanted to leave Seattle behind in order to explore a new city, culture, and lifestyle. However, in tenth grade I learned about the UW Robinson Center and eagerly applied to be accepted into college after my sophomore year of high school. I have always enjoyed pushing myself, so I felt prepared to take on the challenges of university life. I had also discovered a passion for studying Psychology and English and was excited by the opportunity to begin exploring both subjects in depth under the guidance of specialized professors. After many informational sessions, making it through the SAT, and touring the campus, which surprisingly I had never visited in my sixteen and some years as a local, I was thankfully accepted into the Robinson Center’s next class of “Acad Students.”
Autumn Quarter of Freshman year is somewhat a blur. I most clearly remember entering my English 111 class at 8:30 the first Wednesday morning with a bright smile and exiting the final Friday in December with bags under my eyes, swearing to never take a class before 9:30 again. However, in addition to confirming that I am definitely not an early bird, I was also amazed by the breadth and depth of knowledge we covered in only ten weeks. All of my professors were passionate about the subjects they taught, and this passion translated into an engaging learning environment.
In the middle of Fall Quarter, I learned that the Honors Program was working with the Robinson Center to offer first year students the chance to try out an interdisciplinary class during Winter Quarter. Shortly after, I signed up to take a class on Russian crime literature with Professor Galya Diment. At first I was nervous that amongst so many other intelligent, enthusiastic students, who had already been accepted into the program, I would fall behind, but the interactive nature of the class allowed us to all progress together. I loved the community and applied for second-year admission to Interdisciplinary Honors as soon as possible. During Spring Quarter, I was also able to take a course on human trafficking with Professor Kirsten Foot during which we participated in experiential learning by volunteering with the organization Seattle Against Slavery. This was an eye-opening, transformative course, which solidified my hope to be accepted into Honors.
After learning that I would be able to continue with this interdisciplinary program, I began to think about what I would do with this opportunity. Immediately I began to look into international engagement and am planning to apply to the four week summer study abroad trip in Rome. When selecting classes, I first determine which topics interest me and then try to choose the one which I know the least about. Being outside of my comfort zone has pushed me to work hard, be attentive, be curious, and to think critically about different aspects of the world and how they came to be. I have also loved being able to travel off campus during classes to participate in service, and most recently, to observe different forms of archives with visiting Professor Eirik Johnson. Throughout the next three years, I plan to continue diversifying my education and hopefully to also pursue Departmental Honors if I am admitted to a Psychology and English major.
After a year at the UW, and now living on campus, I have discovered how truly amazing this University is and am incredibly grateful to be studying here with many wonderful peers. And as I savor my time here as an undergraduate student, I will also look forward to earning a diploma and continuing on to grad school in a new state, perhaps even out of country. I want to see, to learn, travel, and experience as much as I can, and taking diverse courses offered through Interdisciplinary Honors is the first step in being able to achieve this goal.
I greatly enjoyed creating a plan for my next three years here at the University of Washington. I have always had a vague idea of what I want to study, which experiences I want to explore, but this assignment has helped me solidify a path to achieving these goals.
When researching courses, I looked for options which would fulfill Honors requirements, a Psychology major, an English major, and an English major with a writing focus. I used the "audit your degree" section on My Plan in order to ensure that the classes I selected would allow me to complete all of these programs. Although I will definitely be busy, I was relieved to learn that barring complications, I will be able to graduate at the end of my fourth year.
Additionally, I included a study abroad opportunity during the Summer Quarter of 2017. After looking through the options typically offered by Honors, I was drawn to the opportunity to study in Rome. The subject matter seems fascinating, and I have been able to converse with other students who went on this trip. All raved about the experience and encouraged me to pursue this path.
I would also like to participate in research on campus. As part of a Psychology major, it is necessary to earn three credits, but I am hoping to join a team for a longer period of time. In the comments section of the plan, I remind myself to speak with advisors about different research going on this Spring or Summer.
Lastly, I am involved in service this quarter (volunteering at the food bank), which will fulfill the first experiential learning requirement. I am greatly enjoying this activity and hope to continue even after this quarter is over. I am also happy with my job as a TA and will look for more opportunities to take on small teaching roles.
For this assignment, my partner Sharda and I met up in Cafe Parnassus to discuss our interests in Experiential Learning opportunities. She explained that her current academic interests were scientifically-oriented and that she was intending to major in Neurobiology and minor in Chemistry. At the moment, she participates in undergraduate research with a neuroscience lab and is an editor for the journal Grey Matters. She is hoping to begin writing for them in the upcoming quarters.
Although Sharda is already doing research in neurobiology, she would also like to gain experience by working in a chemistry research lab. She feels that she is not familiar enough with the field yet so as to be able to narrow down her interest to a specific subtopic. For this reason, I believe that looking at the different opportunities offered in CHEM 199 or CHEM 299 research projects may be beneficial. Juniors and seniors may also participate in higher level labs, which are shown on the same website [http://depts.washington.edu/chem/undergrad/ugresearch.html]. Topics being studied range from malaria to inorganic molecules to the malfunctioning of chemical signaling between cells in different diseases. Therefore, there are plenty of options, with varying time commitments, that she would be able to choose from.
In addition to undergraduate research, Sharda is hoping to find a service learning opportunity related to neurobiology and psychology. The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) immediately came to mind. This is a grassroots organization, which relies heavily on volunteers to help raise awareness and educate members of the local community about mental health challenges and stigma. It also works to provide referrals and support to those suffering. Even if she is unable to commit to a weekly volunteering time slot, there are individual events such as NAMIWALKS, which she could talk part in, although they would not qualify as an Experiential Learning activity. [http://www.nami-greaterseattle.org]
Lastly, Sharda expressed interest in going on a study abroad trip to Europe. The greatest challenge she faces when considering this opportunity is the time commitment because completing a major in Neurobiology and a minor in Chemistry doesn’t leave her with much wiggle room in terms of required courses. In order to accommodate this busy schedule, I think the four week summer trip to Rome would be a great option. It is a way to fulfill many Honors credits, experience a new country and culture, and to do so while not interfering with mandatory classes, often offered only autumn through spring quarter. Additionally, there are Honors classes offered during summer B-term, which she could take if she is looking to tackle even more courses in July and August. A description of the 2017 trip to Rome is not yet available, but this is the link to that of the 2016 study abroad, which is likely similar in nature [https://depts.washington.edu/uwhonors/international/rome-summer/].
I enjoyed conversing with Sharda, and during the process of researching opportunities she might enjoy, I also stumbled upon a couple that I would love to participate in. It was a productive interview.
Global Climate Change
Growing up, my parents always encouraged me to live by Ghandi’s mantra: “You must be the change you wish to see in the world.” Passionate about combatting the issue of global warming, I chose to take the bus rather than driving, transitioned to a vegan lifestyle partially due to hearing about how the meat and dairy industry contributes to greenhouse gas emissions, and after turning eighteen, have voted in favor of measures increasing protection of the environment from human activity. However, learning about global climate change at the recent panel reminded me that I have become somewhat complacent in my efforts to make a positive impact. While, as a child, acting on a personal level was critical to instilling values and motivation, this event has shown me that it is time to go a step further.
I found the perspectives on climate change elucidated by David Battisti, Jean Dennison, and Hanson Hosein to be enlightening and thought-provoking. For instance, I had never considered the difficulty researchers face when deciding how to approach informing a government about drastic, approaching changes in climate. I was shocked to hear that, in response to learning of a nearing drought, many Brazilian farmworkers were laid off, a latent consequence of the information scientists passed along when intending to help. Similarly, I was unaware of the extent to which climate change has a disproportionate impact on indigenous populations. Just as these people and their culture have been marginalized throughout history, their voices and struggles against such adverse effects are silenced by capitalist endeavors to maximize profit and individuals, like myself, ignorant of the unfair burden these groups are faced with.
In terms of the personal choices and actions I will take to address this challenge in my own life, I intend to start by further educating myself about all domains, which affect this phenomenon. Although I fully believe in the scientific studies published and am aware of the general trends and barriers to reversing them, I am not confident in my ability to fully explain the interdisciplinary aspects of global warming. As David Battisti explained, many activists have admirable values and good intentions, but nevertheless, they often lack an understanding regarding the breadth and depth of factors contributing to global climate change. Therefore, before I dive in and perhaps write articles or become a stronger voice in this movement, I intend to have the necessary knowledge.
Additionally, as future activist, I want to make sure that I portray the issue of climate change as urgent while avoiding fear mongering rhetoric. The world seems to be changing, becoming more complex with every breath we take, and this can feel overwhelming. With challenges as huge as global warming, modern slavery, mental illness, etc… I think it is easy to start feeling helpless. This vulnerable mindset is only further exacerbated by articles shouting that we have gone beyond the tipping point, and there is no coming back from the destruction we have caused, the cycle that humans have set in motion. Consequently, it is critical to reframe the general mindset regarding climate change in order to focus on concrete, practical changes that together we can work towards.
Overall, the moment which struck me most that evening was when the panelists explained that, although it will take international policies and cooperation to truly combat global climate change, the actions of individuals and grassroots organizations send a message, and many of these messages, these dedicated citizens, may be the catalysts for much larger change in the future.