CHSS Western Today News

Restoring pandemic losses will require major changes in schools and classrooms, superintendents say

1 week 6 days ago
Restoring pandemic losses will require major changes in schools and classrooms, superintendents say fraleyz Friday, May 13, 2022 - 12:54pm

Though kids are learning this year, many have fallen even further behind grade level. Our new report—which draws from a national survey of school districts—reveals how good intentions have collided with vexing realities. As new COVID-19 outbreaks and anxiety over health concerns kept kids and teachers home, and as politics roiled small-town and suburban schools, district leaders found themselves squeezed by the conflicting pressures set by new state mandates and parent demands.

Top leaders of six school systems spoke about their specific challenges as part of in-depth interviews conducted for the report. Under promises of anonymity, superintendents and other district leaders were eager to speak about the struggles they could see in schools and classrooms, as well as their concerns about the welfare of children, teachers, and principals. They were also forthright about the need for changes in how schools operate, including new ways to use time, money, and teacher skills; to identify and help kids who struggle; and to make greater use of community resources for learning and student support.

Co-authored by WWU Associate Professor of Political Science Kate Destler.

Friday, May 13, 2022 - 12:54pm

Research Recap: Linguistics article, biology research and a student panel at an interdisciplinary humanities conference

3 weeks 2 days ago
Research Recap: Linguistics article, biology research and a student panel at an interdisciplinary humanities conference fraleyz Tuesday, May 3, 2022 - 4:39pm

Western’s faculty and students are engaged in exciting research and scholarship across a variety of fields. Each week, Western Today will share short summaries of the latest developments in scholarly work at the University. Interested in reading in-depth stories about science and research at Western? Go to Gaia, the university's online journal of research, discovery and scholarship, and subscribe (it's free) to that site by clicking the "Follow" button. Want more research news? Follow @WWUResearch on Twitter.

Virginia Dawson

A new article from Assistant Professor of Linguistics Virginia Dawson was published in the journal Linguistic Inquiry in January.

 In the article, titled "Outscoping the Directive Force of Imperatives," Dawson explores the interpretation of disjunction ("or" statements) in imperative sentences in Tiwa, a Tibeto-Burman language of Assam, India. She shows that the meanings these sentences can have differ quite radically from the meanings available to similar sentences in English, and further argues that the interpretation of the Tiwa sentences provides evidence in favor of a theory of imperative meaning which is located directly in the grammar, rather than being inferred from context. Exploring the semantics of Tiwa, she shows, allows us to mediate between two competing theories of imperative meaning in a way that only exploring English and similar languages cannot.

This article is part of Dawson's larger research and teaching interests, which focus on semantic theory by examining data in languages that have historically received less attention from theorists. The majority of this work draws on data from Tiwa, as part of a larger language documentation project she has worked on with Tiwa speakers in India since 2012.

Heino Hulsey-Vincent

Heino Hulsey-Vincent (he/him/his) is a first-year graduate student of biology and recipient of the WWU Graduate Research Award for his thesis titled, “Cell Specific ERAD Rescue in Caenorhabditis Elegans.” Under the direction of his graduate research advisor, Associate Professor of Biology Lina Dahlberg, Heino studies protein quality control in neurons. More specifically, he focuses on the proteins that are responsible for marking misshapen proteins to be destroyed.  

Proteins misfold all the time. But misshapen proteins, if not corrected, must be destroyed so they don’t become harmful to our cells. If the degradation process suffers, protein build-up can lead to diseases such as cystic fibrosis, ALS, Parkinson’s disease, and Alzheimer’s disease. Because mammalian nervous systems are difficult to work with, Heino uses roundworms as a model organism for his research.   

Heino started at Western as an undergrad and continued on to Western’s master's program in biology.

“I’d encourage undergrads to join a lab immediately if you have any interest in research,” he says of the advice he’d pass on to other students.

Heino has presented his now published research at a number of conferences, including the Seattle Cell Science Symposium and the American Society for Cell Biology in Washington, D.C., and notes that most people in his group who went to D.C. got their travel and registration fees paid for by Western.

“The travel and conference funding is a great example of what doors open when you join a lab,” he says. “Our research mentors are very supportive, and in the lab, there’s no competitiveness. It’s collaborative—we all help each other out.” 

After graduation, Heino plans to join a lab where he can either model disease or explore neurons more and is interested in understanding more about learning and memory on a cellular level. Heino recently joined Giving What We Can, an effective altruism organization, and pledged 10% of his pre-tax income to charity from now until his retirement so that wherever his lab research takes him, he’ll still have firm footing in reducing climate change and improving human well-being.  

Interdisciplinary Humanities Conference

Western students Itzel Olivera, Kendra Sutton, Sylvia Cohen, and Alessandro Tomasi participated in the 2nd Annual Undergraduate Students Conference, Celebrating the Interdisciplinary Humanities, organized by Rockford University in Illinois, on April 29-30.  

The Western students' panel was titled “Nosotros los de entonces: Continuidades culturales, sociales y lingüísticas en América Latina” (We the Then: Cultural, Social and Linguistic Continuities in Latin America). The panel, which the students presented virtually, included topics on feminism, language and culture preservation policies, popular indigenous religiosity, and aimed to highlight the relevance of multidisciplinary approaches to debates in and out of the classroom. At the same time, the four papers that made up the panel had in common the relationship between the past and the present, to highlight the relevance of knowing the past as a starting point for understanding, studying and analyzing the present. Another very relevant element is that three of the papers were presented in English and three in Spanish, which is the second language that these students have learned and study; in this way the relevance of bilingualism was also demonstrated when the speakers and attendees were able to navigate the topics presented in both languages.  

The panel was organized and moderated by Hugo García González, Associate Professor of Spanish and Latin American Literatures and Cultures in Western’s Department of Modern and Classical Languages. 

Here are the papers presented as part of the students’ panel:  

Kendra Sutton: “Concordancia feminista entre Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz y Rosario Castellanos.” (Feminist Concordance between Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz and Rosario Castellanos). 

Alessandro Tomasi: “El retorno de los dioses: la intersección entre la religiosidad, historia y globalización en “Chac Mool.” (The return of the gods: the intersection of religiosity, history, and globalization in "Chac Mool") 

Sylvia Cohen: “Rarámuri Language Conservation and the Rural School System in Chihuahua Mexico: When Bilingual Education Isn't Enough.” 

Itzel Olivera: “La suciedad dentro de la Sociedad: la abyección frente a la pandemia y la sexualidad.” (Dirt within society: Abjection in the face of pandemic and sexuality) 


Tuesday, May 3, 2022 - 4:39pm

WWU’s Caitlin Bannister is Western’s first Behavioral Neuroscience student to receive a coveted Goldwater Scholarship

4 weeks 1 day ago
WWU’s Caitlin Bannister is Western’s first Behavioral Neuroscience student to receive a coveted Goldwater Scholarship thomps94 Wednesday, April 27, 2022 - 11:38am

WWU junior Caitlin Bannister’s interest and research efforts into the mysteries of the nervous system have allowed her to be Western’s first behavioral neuroscience student to receive a prestigious Barry Goldwater Scholarship from the Barry Goldwater Scholarship and Excellence in Education Foundation.

With an award of up to $7,500, the scholarship invites junior and senior STEM majors across the country to apply. The highly competitive scholarship is specifically geared toward students wanting to land a research job in natural sciences, engineering and mathematics. About 300 are given out each year out  of a typical applicant pool of 5,000 or more students.

Bannister said she applied to the scholarship last year, but because it was highly research-focused, she was not a strong candidate as she was not involved in research on campus yet. Since then she was able to find perfect research mentors in Kameron Harris, an assistant professor of Computer Science, and Jeff Carroll, an associate professor of Psychology.

All three work together in a computational neuroscience research collaboration on Huntington’s disease. Their research involves behavioral analysis using computational analysis methods.

Harris researches computational neuroscience, which is the combination of modeling and utilizing computers to study the brain. His team uses programming to analyze neural data along with mathematics to create models of brain networks.

“Data analysis is Caitlin’s project. She works with a data set of videos of mice and uses artificial neural networks to put dots on the mouse to label its parts,” Harris said.

It helps his work as it tracks their behavior.

Carroll’s main area of research involves trying to develop better drugs for neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease.

“I specifically work on a genetic form of a neurodegenerative disease called Huntington’s disease,” Carroll said. “My lab uses genetic mouse models of that disease to try to develop better treatments for people who have it.”

Carroll said Caitlin’s portion of their research involves a new high-tech way of looking at the behavior of mice that are using the treatments.

This ongoing research allowed her to promote herself as a strong candidate for the scholarship.

“She has this incredible organizational ability that serves her well,” Carroll said. “Caitlin is succeeding in a uniquely driven and personal way, and although she’s at the beginning of a very long academic career, this prestigious recognition shows her potential.”

What makes Bannister unique is her dedication to returning to school more than a decade after finishing high school. Before college, Bannister worked a full-time job as a caregiver for 10 years. During this time, she thought about going into nursing, but then decided that it would be more beneficial to study neuroscience because it worked on a lot of neurogenerative diseases.

“I thought maybe I could go do something where I work on treatments and cures instead of taking care of people, so that maybe fewer people would need caregiving,” Bannister said.

She restarted her educational career by enrolling at Everett Community College, and later transferring to Western Washington University to work towards a bachelor’s degree in behavioral neuroscience.

After receiving the award notification, Bannister expressed many emotions, from happiness to shock.

“Being a student returning to university so long after high school can sometimes feel a little bit isolating, and like I’m at a disadvantage,” she said. “Figuring out how to return to school was challenging.”

She said she was filled with the excitement of not only the award notification but also proving to herself she could be successful in the university setting.

“There was a little voice in my head shouting, ‘I did it!’”

Alongside her research collaboration with Harris and Carroll, Bannister is currently enrolled in the Honors College and is double minoring in political science and economics in addition to her major in behavioral neuroscience. She is the on-campus coordinator for the Neuroscience Research-Driven Students (NeRDS) club and the secretary for Psi Chi, the International Psychology Honors Society.

With one year left at Western, Bannister said she plans to continue her research in graduate school and obtain a doctorate in neuroscience, eventually researching mechanisms to develop treatments for damaged and dysfunctional nervous systems.

“There was a little voice in my head shouting, ‘I did it!’”

“I’m interested in the mechanisms of nervous system repair and the way they can apply therapeutically to a variety of conditions,” she said.

With her future goals focused on the graduate program at The University of Washington, Bannister said she will always appreciate her time and opportunity at Western.

“Western provides smaller class sizes and one-on-one time with professors, which has allowed me the opportunity to receive important advice from them,” Bannister said. “The faculty at Western have expressed a genuine interest and willingness to invest time and energy into my future and education.”

Wednesday, April 27, 2022 - 11:38am

Brad Johnson Named WWU’s New Provost and Executive Vice President  

1 month ago
Brad Johnson Named WWU’s New Provost and Executive Vice President   thomps94 Tuesday, April 26, 2022 - 12:20pm

Western Washington University President Sabah Randhawa has announced that Brad Johnson will serve as the new provost and executive vice president for WWU effective Aug. 1.  

Johnson has served as the Dean of the College of Science & Engineering since 2017 and has been a professor of Physics at Western since 1997.   

“Brad is a friend and colleague to many in the Western community, and I am honored to be able to move him into the central role of leadership and oversight of the academic operations of the University,” said Randhawa. 

Prior to becoming Dean, Johnson was the associate dean of CSE for three years, and chair of the Department of Physics and Astronomy at Western for 13 years, overseeing a transformation that saw the establishment of focused research specialties in Astronomy, Condensed Matter and Materials Physics, and Physics Education Research.  Johnson earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees in Physics from the University of Colorado, Colorado Springs, and a doctorate in Physics from the University of Colorado at Boulder. 

Throughout his 25-year career, Johnson has been committed to academic excellence with 50 peer-reviewed publications in major journals, a commitment to mentoring undergraduate researchers, and he has taught almost every course in the Physics curriculum, from Introductory Physics and Astronomy to senior theory courses in Quantum Mechanics and Mathematical Methods.  He has developed significant curriculum at all levels and has had consistently strong student and peer evaluations. 

Johnson has long experience with shared governance including multi-term service on the WWU Faculty Senate and University Planning and Resource Council (UPRC), as well as recent experience serving on institutional strategic budget planning committees.   

“Brad’s career in numerical modeling and quantitative analysis, and his quest to understand the various components of our budget structure, accounting and implementation will serve him well in this new role,” said Randhawa. 

Johnson has also led significant progress in building a culture of philanthropy within CSE.  Working in collaboration with the WWU Foundation, the college has attracted roughly $2 million per year over the last five years, on top of his engagement in helping to secure the University’s largest-ever private gift of $10 million toward the construction of the new electrical engineering and computer science building.  He has worked with leadership from major regional industrial partners to establish both student pipelines as well as research partnerships and philanthropic gifts.   

Randhawa noted that Johnson has championed a college-wide Accessibility, Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (ADEI) integrated structure and lifted up ADEI work within the college, leading to increased professional development for faculty and staff focused on awareness, culture and climate analysis and change; identifying bias in policy and process; recruiting diverse candidates for faculty and staff positions; and community building. 

“Having earned the admiration of students and colleagues for his excellence as a teacher, researcher, department chair and dean, Brad is an ideal choice to succeed Provost Brent Carbajal, whom I thank again for his tremendous contributions to the University over his 26-year career at Western,” said Randhawa. “I also want to thank search committee co-chairs, Joyce Lopes and Brian Burton, and all the members of the committee for their care and insights in the process leading to this new appointment, and to members of our community for their active participation in the search process.” 

I am honored and humbled to be selected for this role at Western.

Johnson said he was excited about his new position and for the opportunities to advance Western’s mission moving forward. 

“I am honored and humbled to be selected for this role at Western. I would first like to express my sincere gratitude to my many staff and faculty colleagues in the College of Science and Engineering. I would not have the myriad positive experiences that I have had over the past eight years in the Dean’s office without their time and talents; they have been an extraordinary group to work with,” said Johnson. “I would also like to say a heartfelt thank you to Provost Carbajal and to Associate Provost Burton, for their collaboration and guidance, and for their remarkable service to the institution.  I look forward to working with President Randhawa and the broader community, both on campus and off, to foster and further a shared vision of Western’s next chapter.” 

Carbajal expressed his support for the choice of Johnson as the new provost. 

“During his tenure as Dean of the College of Science and Engineering, Brad Johnson has been an effective, innovative, and thoughtful leader at many levels of governance.  I have appreciated his engagement in the Council of Deans, his work on many important university initiatives, and his commitment to student access and success,” said Carbajal. “I’m excited for Western as Brad moves into this new leadership position as provost, and I’m pleased for Brad since I know he will value working with all the Western constituents and communities.”  

The University will name an interim dean for the College of Science & Engineering for the 2022-23 academic year and commence a nationwide search for a permanent appointment in Fall 2023. 

Tuesday, April 26, 2022 - 12:20pm

This drag show grant for Whatcom Middle School draws criticism on conservative media

1 month 1 week ago
This drag show grant for Whatcom Middle School draws criticism on conservative media fraleyz Tuesday, April 19, 2022 - 9:28am

National conservative media is again targeting Bellingham Public Schools over its efforts to foster equity, diversity and inclusion in its teaching — this time over a proposed drag show at Whatcom Middle School.

But so far, school staff and officials aren’t seeing the same kind of harassment that followed a parent’s complaint last year about a picture book read in class that featured a transgender girl, a school official said.

“Like all events in our schools, policies and practices ensure the drag/talent show will be behaviorally appropriate,” Bellingham schools spokeswoman Dana Smith told The Bellingham Herald.

As a performance event, drag shows are closely associated with the gay-rights movement but not necessarily always queer or trans in nature, said Josh Cerretti, an associate professor of history at Western Washington University and interim director of the Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies program. Drag dates as far back as Shakespeare’s Globe Theater, when actors dressed in gender-bending attire, and it has gained popularity recently, mainly because of the TV series “RuPaul’s Drag Race.”

“By looking at the history of drag, we can look at the history of oppression against lesbians and gays,” Cerretti told The Herald.

So-called drag queens and drag kings were the vanguard of the gay-rights movement, challenging “suffocating norms” even before the famed Stonewall Riot, Cerretti said.

“Putting on a drag show at a middle school is no more inappropriate than putting on a Shakespeare show of ‘Romeo and Juliet,’ which is inherently about sexuality,” Cerretti said.


Tuesday, April 19, 2022 - 9:28am

Scholars Week returning to in-person format this year; registration opens April 25

1 month 1 week ago
Scholars Week returning to in-person format this year; registration opens April 25 thomps94 Thursday, April 14, 2022 - 10:06am

Scholars Week, an annual celebration showcasing the best of Western Washington University students’ research and creative work, returns to Western’s campus May 16 – May 20, 2022, after two years of virtual events.  

The Scholars Week Planning Committee invites students to register April 25 – 29, submit presentation materials by May 11, and present as part of the Scholars Showcase open to the campus and the public, highlighting student achievement and the significance of faculty and staff mentorship on student scholarship. In addition, participants are to upload their presentations to an online gallery, providing visitors from afar a means to view academic excellence at Western.   

This year’s Scholars Showcase features the return of the Poster Session — the centerpiece event held in Carver Gym on Wednesday, May 18 — highlighting outstanding scholarly research and creative works by graduate and undergraduate students across a wide range of disciplines, programs and departments. Three-Minute Thesis (3MT®) graduate student presentations, to be held Thursday, May 19 in SMATE library, will feature three-minute talks designed to explain discipline-specific research to an unfamiliar audience.  

Scholars Week 2022 marks the launch of new presentation category, Faculty/Student Group Collaborations, featuring collaborations involving research, creative work or other academic projects stemming from field work, lab work or some other collaborative setting or arrangement. These will be held in various classrooms in Carver on May 18.   

Associate Professor Maria McLeod, Scholars Week Planning Committee chair, said the committee was enthusiastic about the return to in-person events, while pleased to retain a virtual gallery that allows an opportunity to extend the viewing audience, as well as the capacity to incorporate multimedia presentation elements.  

“With the new presentation category, featuring faculty/student collaborations, the return of in-person events, and retaining our virtual galley, there are many opportunities to present,” McLeod said. “It’s set to be our best year yet, and I think the campus is ready to celebrate our return.”  

Scholars week events will be held in person and online May 16 through May 20, including activities and events hosted by colleges, departments and programs throughout the university. To register to participate, go to For more information about Scholars Week, contact


Scholars Week, an annual celebration of student research and creative activities at Western, was created by a unanimous resolution of the Faculty Senate in November 1999. Originally envisioned as “Scholars Day,” the event quickly transformed into “Scholars Week” to accommodate a diverse series of events highlighting the scholarship and creativity of Western students across a variety of disciplines. Financial support for Scholars Week is provided by the WWU President, Provost, Office of Undergraduate Education, Offices of Research and Sponsored Programs and the Graduate School, Foundation, and academic colleges and departments. 

Thursday, April 14, 2022 - 10:06am
29 minutes 7 seconds ago
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