The Dean’s Lecture Series takes faculty expertise and knowledge from the College of Humanities and Social Sciences into the community in an ongoing effort to foster closer connections, share intriguing and timely information, and inspire conversation.

Cracking the Cannabis Code: How Advances in Cannabis Research Can Improve Medicine and Limit Harm

Dr. Josh Kaplan, Assistant Professor, Department of Psychology

Spring 2019

In his talk, Dr. Kaplan discusses how the cannabis landscape is evolving, leading to more choices for consumers trying to meet their recreational and medicinal needs. He breaks down how cannabis’ different chemicals affect the nervous system and can be optimized for therapeutic purposes. The talk provides research-based insight into strategies for increasing the therapeutic efficacy and reducing adverse effects from cannabis-based treatment approaches.

Dr. Joshua Kaplan is an assistant professor in the Department of Psychology at Western Washington University in Bellingham, Washington. His postdoctoral research at the University of Washington provided empirical and mechanistic support for the use of cannabis-based therapies in epilepsy and introduced its potential for treating severe forms of autism. He runs a laboratory studying developmental consequences and therapeutic benefits of cannabis. Dr. Kaplan is a prolific writer and was named to High Time’s 100 Most Influential People in Cannabis in 2018. The lecture was recorded by and shown on Bellingham TV Channel 10.

Dr. Douglas Sladen, Assistant Professor, Communication Sciences & Disorders

Fall 2018

Dr. Sladen's talk reviews the underlying causes of age-related hearing loss. Dr. Sladen shares new findings from the United States and worldwide that demonstrate the devastating effects of hearing loss. He also shares exciting data that are important for managing cases of severe hearing loss.

Dr. Sladen has worked as a clinician, researcher, and professor in Audiology for the past 23 years. He finished an M.A. in Audiology from WWU in 1994, and then worked as a Pediatric Audiologist at the Vanderbilt Bill Wilkerson Center in Nashville, TN. He spent the following three years working as a clinic specialist with Advanced Bionic Corporation before heading back to Vanderbilt University for his Ph.D. He completed his doctoral work at Vanderbilt University in 2006, where he stayed on as a Research Assistant Professor for two years. He then joined the faculty at UT Austin for three years. From 2011 to 2017, he was the Director of the Mayo Clinic Cochlear Implant Program. Currently, he is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders. His research is centered on the speech perception abilities of children and adults with cochlear implants; an auditory prosthetic used to manage severe hearing loss. Specifically, Dr. Sladen’s work examines outcomes following cochlear implantation and methods that can be used to improve overall hearing performance.

Dr. Steve Bennett, Lecturer, Community Health Program, Health & Human Development Department

Spring 2018

An analysis of the impact of climate change on the emergence and spread of infectious disease. From vector borne disease to water borne disease, the climate can be a major driver of disease ecology. Will there be another new pandemic simply because of the impacts of climate change? Has the epidemiology and ecology of infectious diseases already changed?

Dr. Steve Bennett’s expertise is in the epidemiology and ecology of infectious disease. His interest in infectious disease began as a Peace Corps volunteer working on public health programs in Kenya. Dr. Bennett received his Master’s in Tropical Medicine and Parasitology from Tulane University School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine. Afterward, Dr. Bennett worked in South Sudan on President Carter’s Guinea Worm Eradication Program and then returned to the States to complete his PhD in Environmental Infectious Disease at the University of Minnesota. He has taught courses in Public and Environmental Health, Global Health, Disease Ecology and Environmental Sustainability. His previous research has focused on the spread of tick borne disease in Minnesota. Currently, he is a lecturer in the Community Health Program in the Department of Health & Human Development at Western Washington University.

Dr. Hugo Garcia, Associate Professor, Department of Modern & Classical Languages

Winter 2018

The Regla de Ocha-Ifá, better known as Santería, is a religious system that emerged in Cuba as a result of the survival of the religions and cultures brought with the African Yoruba groups as they intertwined with Spanish Catholicism. It is common nowadays to find the word ‘syncretism’ used to refer to the hybrid collection of this religious system. But how does one achieve a syncretic religion? How can religious beliefs of two dissimilar worlds be combined and merged? These are the questions Professor García will try to answer.

In the 18th century Cuba became an important producer and exporter of cane sugar. The large number of sugar cane plantations and mills that supported this new role for the small colonial island was an agro-industrial reality that demanded a great deal of slave labor. The slave trade that sugar generated brought to Cuba hundreds of thousands of enslaved Africans who, against the odds, managed to negotiate the survival of their cultural and religious beliefs and practices. The contribution of these slaves to the Cuban culture is essential and impossible to understate even today. Professor García will propose a methodology to decode and understand the different ways in which religious elements of African origin, especially Yoruba, merge with the Catholic religion and the symbolic colonial world.

Dr. Johann Neem, Chair and Professor, Department of History

Fall 2017

At a time when state and national policy makers are debating the future of public education, Professor Neem draws on his new book, Democracy’s Schools: The Rise of Public Education in America, to examine the contested visions that led Americans to develop public schools in the first place. By returning to our roots, perhaps we can seek guidance about how to reform our schools for the future.

Dr. Judith M.S. Pine, Associate Professor, Department of Anthropology

Spring 2017

In the presentation, Professor Pine will explore the consequences of the widespread claim that children in poverty struggle in school because they are exposed to fewer words in their homes. Often falling under the heading of the “word gap” or “language gap”, these claims have been reported in the national press and have become the basis for programs aimed at reducing equity in K-12 education. Professor Pine will argue that the word gap claim is at best an oversimplification of a serious situation, misrecognizing crucial elements of the problem. However, this myth fits well into an existing structure of ideas shared by many of those with influence in education and in government. Solutions based on “language gap” theory may, by playing into a shared set of stereotypes, reinforce rather than reduce the inequity experienced by poor children in the K-12 school.

Dr. Bidisha Biswas, Professor, Department of Political Science

Winter 2017

Bidisha Biswas presents perspectives from her recent, co-authored book Indian Immigrant Women and Work: The American Experience. The book challenges dominant narratives about women immigrants to the United States, which portray women as being either dependent migrants following the path chosen by men, or victims of desperation, forced into the migrant path due to economic pressures. Biswas’s research looks at the experiences of Indian women who have chosen their own migratory pathways in the U.S. Based on historical research and interviews with about thirty women, the book widens our understanding of immigration, race, class, and gender by focusing on the trials, tribulations, and triumphs of independent, high-skilled women immigrants.

Dr. Todd Donovan, Professor, Department of Political Science

Fall 2017

Donald Trump has been cast as an 'outsider,' populist, anti-establishment figure. His victory in the 2016 Republican primaries, his campaign style, and his rhetoric surprised many political observers. This discussion considers how, or if, Trump's campaigns and the 2016 elections represent a fundamental change in the Republican Party, the American electorate, and American politics.

Todd Donovan is a professor in the Department of Political Science at Western Washington University in Bellingham, Washington. He is co-author or co-editor of several books on elections and representation, and is past president of the Pacific Northwest Political Science Association. His research areas include public opinion, elections, electoral rules, representation, and direct democracy. He studies elections in the US, UK, Australia, Canada, and New Zealand, and has worked as an expert witness on election matters in state and federal courts in Alaska, California, Montana, Tennessee, and Washington.

Presented by Dr. Hud Hudson, Professor of Philosophy at Western Washington University

The fine-tuning argument for the existence of God has been generating a great deal of attention over recent years. In this talk, Dr. Hudson will sketch one of the more promising versions of that argument, explaining and motivating its various premises. He will then briefly note several potential critiques of that line of reasoning, and finally he will examine in some depth one underexplored criticism, which (in his judgment) is a powerful obstacle to the success of the argument.

Presented by Dr. Holly Folk, Associate Professor of Liberal Studies at Western Washington University

February 29th is the historic birthday of Mother Ann Lee, founder of the United Society of Believer’s in Christ’s Second Appearing. In the mid-19th century, more than 4000 people lived in 19 Shaker settlements. Today that number has fallen to three living members, who are sustained in worship by a community of supporters. Though commonly remembered for their contributions to American music, architecture, and furniture design, the Shakers proposed radical alternatives for how to be human. Developed over time, the Shaker “Order” became a system for regimenting the physical body, personal conduct, and social interaction. Come learn a bit about the Shakers and efforts to preserve their history, and that of other planned societies. The talk will discuss the inter-disciplinarity of communal studies, and the practical lessons communes offer for the humanities and general education.

Presented by Dr. Jay Teachman, Professor of Sociology at Western Washington University

Currently more than 21 million veterans live in the United States, which equates to about 10 percent of the population age 17 and older. These veterans have served during times of peace and during times of war, but they have all dedicated a portion of their lives to the service of their country. A growing body of literature has begun to outline the consequences of military service for the lives of veterans, yet our knowledge remains fragmented. In particular, it is difficult to understand the scope of effects of military service and how these effects may have changed over time.