Empowering underrepresented voices through journalism
Over the past 3 years, I have written over 100 articles on topics ranging from the challenges faced by undocumented students to research about innate immunology in a host organism. I’ve realized that I won’t always read empowering stories about people that look like me, which means I have to write them. Now, I write articles that serve as counternarratives highlighting the achievements and vibrancy of communities that are often overlooked in traditional media coverage.
In this work, I believe that I can learn from anybody I meet. I am inspired by the computer science major in UW Leaders who want to see more engineers at the table and value communication and soft skills and interdisciplinary communication. I am inspired by the student who dances hula and finds solidarity in her community and strength in storytelling and is willing to take risks and be vulnerable in the process. I am thankful for the people who care deeply about their projects and their co-workers and want to be more than they’ve even been every single day – and I want that too.
Although I put my heart into every article, I believe the following four stories highlight my ability to conduct robust research and integrate information from sources into a cohesive narrative (while leveraging my values of empowering underrepresented voices and letting people have ownership of their own stories).
Ultimately, we all need to validate and listen and see other clearly. If we don’t, our stories might end when we do, and our ancestors did not cross rivers and valleys and oceans just for us to let all of that go.
Published in Feb. 2017 for the Center for Sensorimotor Neural Engineering (CSNE), this article focused on the Women's Career-Mentoring lunch series strives to create a safe space for authentic conversation among women in science, engineering, technology, and mathematics fields to leaders in the field. This event serves as a platform for successful women in engineering to share their experiences and challenges.
My Process: I wrote this story through collaboration with my supervisor at the CSNE. I started by interviewing Katherine Pratt, a past attendee and former research fellow at the CSNE, to understand the purpose of the mentoring lunch series and how it could be a valuable source of support for current and rising female-identifying engineers. Then, I interviewed Dr. Kristi Morgansen, current full associate professor and associate chair for academics in the University of Washington Department of Aerospace & Astronautics, who was speaking at the event. By chatting with her, I began to understand the challenge of making engineering more diverse - her department in particular only has 2 female faculty members. This helped me craft my lede, which highlighted the current gender disparity in STEM fields, particularly physics, engineering, and computer science fields. Finally, I attended one session of the mentoring lunch series and interviewed a participant to understand how the event informed her own long-term career goals and interest in computational biology, which was inspired in part by having a female professor in this field.
Ultimately, I was able to craft a narrative centered around this event that highlighted:
- The need for a dedicated space to highlight inspiring female leaders in STEM
- The impact of this event on current and rising engineers
- A place for women in STEM to see their challenges and experiences represented in an article.
Doing an interview-driven article ensured that I was capturing the voices and experiences of female engineers in the field and highlighting their community.
This article highlights the goals of UW Washington State Academic RedShirt (STARS) program which strives to provide academic support, community, and advising for economically disadvantaged and educationally underserved students who want to pursue an engineering major. This program is underpinned by the idea that every student should be given the opportunity to thrive in higher education, regardless of their background.
My Process: For this story, I focused on getting 3 distinct perspectives:
- Students in the STARS program
- A professor who works with engineering students
- An academic advisor for the program.
I started by interviewing the director of the STARS program, who gave me the heart of the story: when you are a first-generation or low-income student, there aren’t many opportunities to make mistakes.There are so many ways to be taken out of the race as a pre-engineering student. particularly at a large school like the University of Washington. Her actions were governed by the sentiment, “everybody deserves access to a quality education.” Then, I interviewed a current student in the program so I could understand how STARS was helping him achieve his career goals. Through our conversation, I found out that he was an aspiring computer science student, and STARS created a supportive community of people who were trying to achieve the same career goal. Ultimately, the program provides students with access to academic support resources, exposure to all engineering disciplines, and the opportunity to fulfill their dreams of becoming engineers.
Hosted by the Foundation for International Understanding Through Students (FIUTS), the CulturalFest Performance Showcase is an opportunity for students on campus to share their cultural identity through the performing arts.
This event highlighted the value of performing arts as an outlet to share culture and start conversations about people's origin stories.
This story centers around Take Back the Night, a storytelling event for victims and survivors of sexual assault and relationship violence. This event taught me a powerful notion,
When someone tells you their story, believe them.