Shawn Plascencia

1. Why politics? 

I have been following my curiosity. I started my college experience at Rio Hondo Community College in Southern California. I learned about Western from a weeklong summer speech and debate tournament on campus. That summer, I spent a week in Bellingham debating, learning, and making friends. I loved all the trees, the proximity to the water, and the people, so I decided to attend Western and study Political Science and Philosophy.

I wanted to know what compelled us to behave a certain way. My studies at Western helped me answer many of my heart's wonders. In each class, I discovered new questions to ask, learned more about the legal field, and developed different lenses to view the world.  

Western allowed me to blend theory and practice. My time studying western philosophers, globalization, and critically engaging with students across the country made me realize that I cannot understand Political Science and the criminal legal system as separate areas of study; the two are inextricably linked. While competing on the Western collegiate debate team, I often quoted and referenced all my assigned readings from Political Science courses. In my final year at Western, I entertained attending law school.

2. What did you like most about the political science department at WWU or about being a political science major.  OR  What area of political science do you like most?  OR What classes/subfield of political science did you enjoy most?

I loved three experiences. First, the Political Science program allowed me to enroll in Professor Paul Chen's Intro to Law and the Legal System. Professor Chen's class exposed me to legal jargon and simulated a law school classroom. Excellent preparation for any student who wants to pursue a graduate education. I enrolled in a bar prep course on campus. The bar prep course was informative and invaluable. 

Second, as an attorney, I still use the excel skills I learned in Cynthia Horne's political science courses. I use excel to organize my court calendars and to scrutinize tests that police officers use to detect Driving Under the Influence. Third, I was introduced to and read a lot of cool books. The authors and knowledge I acquired during these seminal years continue to guide me personally and professionally.

3. What are you doing now (this can include what have you done since graduating).

I am a staff attorney at Snohomish County Public Defenders Association (SCPDA). I entered law school in 2019 when I joined Seattle University School of Law. I was admitted through the Access Resource Center and devoted my second and third-year studies to criminal defense. The summer after my first year of law school, I interned with Chelan County Public Defense. That same year I externed with the Seattle Clemency Project. I worked towards fighting injustices in the criminal legal system by emphasizing each petitioner's humanity and the toll that overly harsh sentences can take.

In spring 2021, I externed with the Washington Defender Association Legislative and Policy Advocacy program. I tracked bills, helped create one-page policy papers, and researched and contributed arguments for amicus briefs. In the Summer of 2021, I accepted a clerkship position for Honorable Tulalip Chief Judge Theresa M. Pouley. I volunteered for API Chaya and was part of Interrupting Criminalization's Solidarity Postcard Project. Today, I coach and mentor students on the Cascade High School Mock Trial Team.

Understanding the disproportionate harsh effect misguided laws can have on communities, I have dedicated myself to a career in public defense. Located in Everett, Washington, SCPDA provides legal representation to people who are facing a loss of liberty and cannot afford an attorney. SCPDA's mantra of "brave advocacy and no judgment" perfectly aligns with my fighting and caring Spirit.