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Fellow Profiles

 

Sonia Gomez

 

“A Gendered Diaspora: Intimacy and Empire in the Making of Japanese America, 1908-1952.” This book project explores the complicated and changing race and gender logics that alternately excluded and included Japanese women in the United States. It demonstrates how intimacy (marriage) and empire (immigration policies) intersect in the making of Japanese America in the Twentieth Century, and discusses how marriage -- as a contested mode of immigrant incorporation -- shaped the process of immigration and settlement for women and their families.

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Why did you decide to become a professor of history?

I once read that every historian is in search of their past. While that might not, actually, be true for every historian, it certainly is true for me. I majored in history as an undergraduate largely because I was trying to make sense of my place in the world and studying history helped me do that. Then, I had the opportunity to conduct my own independent research and I traveled to the Library of Congress and National Archives in College Park, Maryland. That experience was thrilling. I am kind of a nosy person which worked well in the archive and, as they say, the rest is history!

 

How do your personal identity and background inform your teaching and scholarship?

My personal background is foundational to who I am as a teacher-scholar. My scholarship trajectory began when I wrote an undergraduate research paper on women like my maternal grandmother, so-called Japanese war brides who married non-white men. I was interested in learning more about their migration experience and telling their stories since so much of the literature had focused on the relationships between Japanese women and white men. My thesis led me to my dissertation topic, which led me to my (first) book and so on. My next project builds off of everything I learned and didn't learn with the first book.
I am a first-generation college student/graduate who started at community college. That experience has made me sensitive to issues of inequity both in the classroom and within the university at large. Like many of my colleagues I am committed to inclusive teaching practices. As a U.S. historian, I try to expose my students to diverse voices.

 

How did you become interested in the CAH project you are working on this year?

As I mentioned earlier, my book project began as an undergraduate paper about my grandmother. Of course, it has evolved and expanded over time. Throughout the years, I became more and more interested in exploring how gender shapes immigration policies and the experience of immigrants. My CAH project is the culmination of that work. In the book, I explore how gender and intimacy, in this case marriage, facilitated the migration of Japanese women during periods when the Japanese were legally excluded on the basis of race. Largely, I am interested in troubling binary conceptions of inclusion and exclusion and calling attention to the ways in which gender shapes migration.

 

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Sophie Wink

 

“Women and Eugenics at the Maine School for the Feeble Minded” Sophie Wink is researching the topic of women and eugenics at the Maine School For the Feeble Minded. Her project will provide an in-depth investigation of the eugenics practices carried out at the school, specifically the sterilization and segregation of the "feeble minded," the vast majority of whom were women, to discourage them from reproducing. Using state archival materials and newspapers, Sophie will write a senior honors history thesis that will illuminate this largely ignored chapter of Maine’s history as well as the importance of gender and eugenics in the national history of the United States.

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Why did you decide to become a student of history?

I have always loved history. As a child, when prompted to tell someone what my favorite genre of book was, I would respond “histories and mysteries!” and I was always eager to share the latest fact that I’d learned from Little House on the Prairie or the Magic Treehouse. This is a love that carried me through my elementary, middle, and high school educations. As I entered college, I knew I wanted to continue taking history classes because they were what I loved the most, but I was hesitant to pursue a history degree because I worried that I wouldn’t be able to use it. As I settled on the desire to become a lawyer, however, it became clear to me that an education in history, supplemented by my political science and Spanish minors, would in fact prepare me extremely well for a career in law. The intensive reading, writing, and critical thinking that I’ve had to do to earn a history degree will certainly serve me very well as I enter law school in the next few years.

More than reading and writing, though, history has given me a unique insight into the world. By examining the past—what’s gone right, what’s gone wrong, who’s been forgotten—I feel that I have developed a complex and nuanced picture of our society. I hope to pursue a career in public interest law. In order to fully understand the world around us, I am a strong believer that we must understand the past, and for this reason I believe that my education in history allows me to look at the world with a unique lens.

 

How do your personal identity and background inform your studies?

Like many people, I find myself drawn to topics that relate to my identity. For this reason, I often find myself interested in topics like women and gender studies, American studies in general, and the history of the American northeast specifically. I also believe strongly that when one studies history, they must look closely at their identity and work to understand the ways that it colors their perception of the past. For this reason, I work hard to see the whole picture and understand identities other than my own.

 

How did you become interested in the CAH project you are working on this year? What are the outcomes/results you are hoping for?

My thesis is an exploration of a former mental hospital (Pineland) located in New Gloucester, Maine, just down the road from the house where my grandparents raised my dad and his siblings and the house I grew up in. The institution began the shift to the vibrant farm and community center that it is today in the late 90s, and the campus’ past has been pretty thoroughly erased from the local historical narrative. The first I remember hearing anything about what the institution used to be was at my grandfather’s 70th birthday party when my dad told a funny story about my grandfather being dragged off by the police, red, panting, and wearing a Superman shirt on a run, because they thought he had escaped from the hospital. It is a funny anecdote, but it echoes of a darker past than I had known Pineland held.

When I was told I could write about anything I wanted for a class in the spring of 2021, I knew that I wanted to write about Maine because of its place in my heart and because less had been written about it than some of the other topics I considered. I came back to that campus that had been the place where I had spent summers at camp, Easters hunting for eggs, Halloweens picking my pumpkin from the patch. I learned about the dark history of the institution’s abuse and, specifically, its eugenics, and I was shocked to learn that nothing had been written about the fact that among the “feeble minded” sterilized in Maine, there were a higher percentage of women than those who faced compulsory sterilization in any other state. This project has been a labor of love that has connected me more closely than ever to my home state. I hope to tell the stories of these women who were sterilized against their will and beyond the thesis paper that I’m writing, I hope to get the attention of Maine’s legislators and educators to help get this story told.

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Juan Velasco-Moreno

 


Juan Velasco (English), “A Film Treatment/Screenplay Based on Salaria Kea’s Biography.” This project will tell the story of Salaria Kea, an African American woman -- and the only African American nurse -- who served in the fight against fascism during the Spanish Civil War (1936-1939). Kea joined the Abraham Lincoln Brigade, the first truly integrated American fighting force in military history, composed of volunteer anti-fascist soldiers, technicians, medical personnel, and others. This screenplay about Salaria Kea will allow for a recounting of not only her story but also the contributions of other women and African-American men who risked their lives to serve in Spain. By sharing the screenplay with national and international scholars and organizations, the hope is that the screenplay will attract the interest of funders, film producers, and filmmakers.

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Why did you decide to become a professor of creative writing and Latinx literature?

Since I was in high school, in the midst of protest, and a relentless struggle for freedom, I recognized how important it was to have a voice, and teach others to discover their own voices. I found mine in the literature of magical realism from Latin America. One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez was my favorite book as I was growing up. The beauty and the freedom of that book inspired me to try to write my own books. I have combined creative writing and academic writing since then, and in the balance of both of them I found great fulfillment. 

 

How do your personal identity and background inform your teaching and scholarship?

The call to social justice, and the importance of solidarity with the poor and the oppressed, informs both my teaching and my scholarship. I was able to put those principles into work through my involvement with Casa de la Solidaridad Program, a Jesuit study abroad program offering healing and justice in El Salvador, and in 2007 I created the non-profit Programa Velasco, whose mission is to cultivate opportunities for children’s education in El Salvador. I was able to bring my experience in Latin America to the classroom and vice versa, and both theory and praxis have informed my personal identity, as I have been evolving and learning, living in between languages and borders.

 

How did you become interested in the CAH project you are working on this year?

My father's family was destroyed by the dictatorship of Francisco Franco. My uncles were incarcerated for fighting for democracy, and it was a truly traumatic experience that has affected many generations in my family. As I was reading more and more about the Americans that volunteered to fight for democracy in Spain, I discovered the fascinating history of the Abraham Lincoln Brigade. Among those heroes, I encountered the story of Salaria Kea, the only African-American nurse that participated in the war. Her story is a wonderful narrative full of courage, passion and love, in the midst of a tragic war. I would love to be able to write her story and put it into the screen so many others can find the same inspiration and admiration I felt when I read about her life.

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Maggie Levantovskaya

 

 

Maggie Levantovskaya (English), “Writing Illness and Disability.” This project creates and examines narratives about people who are living with chronic illness and disabilities, but who are under-funded, under-researched and under-represented in mainstream media. It focuses on the ethical, social, and aesthetic issues of representing these voices, focusing in particular on lupus patients but also situating their stories in a broader discussion about women and nonbinary individuals and chronic illness, disability activism, and the field of Disability Studies.

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Why did you decide to become a professor of English?

A winding road brought me to an English department. As a graduate student I focused on contemporary immigrant literature by Jewish authors from the former Soviet Union. After receiving my PhD, I taught courses that ranged from Russian language to Jewish-American literature. I couldn’t find a secure faculty position in these subjects due to cuts to academic programs across the country, but I was lucky to find a home in the English department at SCU. Here, I get to teach a broad range of subjects, from social media to chronic illness, with the unifying goal of helping students use writing to explore the issues that move them. 

 

How do your personal identity and background inform your teaching and scholarship?

I’m a first generation immigrant, a labor organizer, a person living with a chronic illness, and a lover of narrative. All these elements continue to shape my identity and make their way into my writing and teaching. For example, when I write a personal essay about getting a tattoo to commemorate a decade of surviving with a chronic illness, I meditate on what tattoos have meant in Soviet, Jewish and Jewish- American cultures and how those meanings shaped my understanding of this form of body modification.

 

How did you become interested in the CAH project you are working on this year?

My project stems from years of living with and learning about chronic illness. “Interest” may even be too mild of a word. After years of living with an incurable disease, I felt the need to use writing to explore my experience for the purposes of discovering, externalizing and connecting with people. The chronic illness narratives of other writers have played an important role in my life and my attempt to write about my own illness immediately became a way to be in conversation with those writers.

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Chris Bacon

 

 

Chris Bacon (Environmental Studies and Sciences), “Framing Food Justice: Diverse Perspectives towards Building Back Post-COVID Food Systems with Equity and Resilience.” This project engages narrative to address the role of regional food production and expanding food justice networking to scale up urban agriculture. During the fellowship period, the plan is to conduct and analyze interviews with diverse participants in a food justice collaborative that aims to use agroecology, action-research, and strategic planning to expand resilient and equitable food systems in Santa Clara County.

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Why did you decide to become a professor of Environmental Studies and Sciences?

I wanted to search for truth and thought that science and university-based work offered the combination of flexibility and discipline that could help me learn, discover, and share the many situated truths and several unifying principles that I continue finding. I believe that “the aim of all knowledge is service.” In addition to the possibility of meaningful work that could help sustain a family, while engaging my head and hands, my heart also started to hear the call of northern California’s coastlines threatened by offshore oil drilling and redwood forests falling fast as indiscriminate logging accelerated in the 1980s. Growing up in remote rural communities of California and Maine, and working with farmers while living in Central America highlighted the paradox of rich lands and economically poor people and cemented my commitment to work towards integrated responses, like food sovereignty, that address both justice and sustainability. Teachers in grade school, high school, and universities as well as the wise old friends helped foster my love of research and mentored me toward a focus on climate and food systems change, agroecology, and the process of becoming a professor of Environmental Studies.

 

How do your personal identity and background inform your teaching and scholarship?

Several different dimensions of my personal identity contribute to informing my approaches to teaching and scholarship. As a white, cis/gender, hetrosexual male growing up as a son of alternative, low-income, parents and grandson of prominent feminist Quakers, I have benefited from unearned privileges and sometimes been blind to the unintended consequences of this. In addition to education in public high school and universities, my early years in Waldorf school cultivated an ability to find common ground across cultural and religious differences. My experiences living seven of the last 20 years in Central America, marriage to an indigenous Nicaraguan woman, and role as a dad to a bi-cultural daughter growing-up in California, who is simultaneously developing her indigenous and Latinx identities, also informs my scholarship, teaching and advocacy. I continue learning how, when, and if to intentionally incorporate my background into my teaching and research, often relying on self-introspection and a reflexive practice that includes listening deeply to people facing injustices based on their race, ethnicity, zip code, or other dimensions of their identities. These aspects of my identity and a commitment to allyship inform my use of the community-based participatory action approach, interculturality, and partnership with community-based groups to co-produce actionable knowledge and learning experiences for food justice and the common good.

 

How did you become interested in the CAH project you are working on this year?

Soon after the COVID-19 pandemic started, the evidence showed that lower income residents and people of color suffered disproportionate health impacts, more economic insecurity, and more hunger. A study by University of California San Francisco found that Latinx population has not only suffered more COVID cases, but also experienced more food insecurity when compared to whites living in the Bay Area. Simultaneously, several community-based groups.

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Natalie Henriquez

 

 

Natalie Henriquez ’22 (History and Philosophy) for “Frankenstein and Artificial Intelligence Technology Today” (advised by Naomi Andrews, History) Henriquez is exploring the ethical ramifications of emerging Artificial Intelligence Technology through a close analysis of Mary Shelley’s novel, Frankenstein. The intellectual history surrounding Frankenstein is ripe with metaphors and archetypes surrounding the ethics of science and technology, as well as questions about the nature of life itself. Her project will explore parallels between Dr. Frankenstein and AI programmers, and similarly, between Dr. Frankenstein’s unnamed monster and AI programs to analyze the relationship between humanity and scientific and/or technological innovation, and what is ethically salient about human innovation as manifest in AI.

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Why did you decide to become a student of History and Philosophy?

I chose to major in History and Philosophy because I wanted to learn more about the origins of inequalities today, and then cultivate the necessary skills to combat such inequalities as a future attorney. Finding that the vision of a more just and equitable future rests upon the ability to incorporate diverse perspectives, I found it necessary to learn about the experiences of disenfranchised groups. My studies in History have equipped me with this knowledge, while my studies in philosophy have challenged me to think about the world through myriad analytical lenses.

 

How do your personal identity and background inform your studies?

In second grade, a classmate told me to “go back to where I came from.” Feeling bewildered, I asked my father for clarification. After we cooked arroz con pollo and danced bachata, my father spoke fondly of individuals who helped him navigate the hardships he faced as an immigrant. It was not until a professor in college observed him filling out a worksheet backwards that my father learned he was dyslexic. But for this support, my father may never have been able to become a naturalized American citizen. Learning about the stigmatization and impediments migrants face and also the pivotal role that allies play motivated me to learn more about how I can be an advocate and ally for disenfranchised groups. At SCU, I am the co-chair for the Undocumented Allies and Students Association and am excited to now continue my efforts in supporting undocumented grounds by practicing immigration and criminal law.

 

How did you become interested in the CAH project you are working on this year? What are the outcomes/results you are hoping for it, including active political, cultural, educational, or social changes?

I fell in love with Mary Shelley's Frankenstein my junior year of high school. Shelley critiques the hubris of science through constructing a mad scientist who remains steadfast to his self-proclaimed glorious pursuit of discovery and innovation, regardless of the ensuing death and chaos. I grew angry at the ways in which Dr. Frankenstein disparaged the humanities and found science to be the ultimate medium for knowledge. However, by the end of the book, this frustration spurred insight and introspection. I remained curious about the epistemic framework of science and how that bears weight on the ethical ramifications associated with scientific discovery moving into college. I then found myself returning to Shelley's text as an aid to explore the themes I learned about in my Philosophy courses at SCU. Ultimately, I decided to re-read Frankenstein to see if my glorious opinion of it was still salient. In no surprise, Frankenstein remains today, and arguably might always be, the most vital contribution to discourse on ethics in technology. Frankenstein tells the story of a crazed scientist whose refusal to develop and provide adequate paternal support to the creature he brought into the world only led to the birth of a monstrosity. After reading about the horrors that unfold by virtue of Dr. Frankenstein's gross negligence and hubris, the reader is left with only one conclusion: but for Dr. Frankenstein's failures, there would be no monster, but a mere creature. If we adopt the argument Shelley offers in Frankenstein, we must necessarily explore the ways in which a creator’s subjective biases and prejudices can manifest in their work, in order to avoid the monstrosity. My project will explore the ramifications of the question, "how do we create monsters,” as it pertains to embodiment in diabetic technology with Continuous Glucose Monitors and Closed-Loop Insulin Delivery Pumps. As a Type 1 Diabetic, I can personally pay testament to the successes and shortcomings of diabetic technology in diabetes management. I will ultimately end my project with a comprehensive proposal list of the most pressing ethical issues stymying the development of embodied diabetic technology today.

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Emma Kuli

 

 

Emma Kuli ’22 (English) for “Cultivating Creative Storytelling” (advised by Kirk Glaser, English/Creative Writing) Kuli is working on an educational and writing project, “Cultivating Creative Storytelling.” Her goal is to develop a creative writing curriculum for underserved elementary school students that uplifts diverse narrative imaginaries and is actively anti-racist in its structure, which would then be implemented in the spring quarter. Her plan is for SCU undergraduates to work one-on-one with 15-20 elementary school students over a period of 6 sessions to foster their voices and passion for storytelling, and ultimately, to help them produce their own digital books. These young authors would then be celebrated by publishing their books online in both a Book Creator library, accessible to them and their families, and as a section on the Santa Clara Review website.

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Why did you decide to become a student of English?

I love stories. Stories have kind of always been my thing. I wanted to read and I wanted to write, so majoring in English was an easy choice. When I was deciding between colleges, I read through a library of different university literary magazines. The stories in the poetry, prose, and art of the Santa Clara Review had a vibrancy and potency that stuck out to me. It was reading old issues of the Review that I knew I wanted to study English at SCU. I knew I loved storytelling, writing and reading literature of all mediums, so I followed that passion to the palm tree lined paths of Santa Clara University.

 

How do your personal identity and background inform your studies?

Early encouragement of the little poems I scribbled on the back of kid’s menus and the plays I put on for my parents inspired my early love for creative writing. It was through hearing the fables, folklore, and fairytales of my family history that I learned how to reflect on my experience through narrative. Community storytelling is a tool any young writer can use to see the magic in their surroundings and the heroism in their persistence, and those stories don’t follow strict structural rules. However, in my work in the creative writing classroom as a student and a teacher, I again and again saw how creative writing curricula cast student writing in a matrix of western storytelling. The conventions of the classical arc were familiar to students immersed in the hegemony of western media and the patterns of canonized works. Emphasis on a hero’s journey beginning, middle, and end standardized the writing process. That standardization made the teacher’s job and the student’s job easier, but the innovative storytelling, the stories worth telling, aren’t necessarily easy to tell. The academic adventure of my four years at Santa Clara University has continually reasserted the importance of art’s role in expression of and reflections on the human experience as well as the ways in which the most powerful stories–fiction, nonfiction, poetry, film, plays–transgress standardization and convention.

 

How did you become interested in the CAH project you are working on this year? What are the outcomes/results you are hoping for it, including active political, cultural, educational, or social changes?

It was reflecting on my own journey with creative writing that I felt inspired to create a project that would aim to uplift young writing voices. I was frustrated by the ways in which early learning of creative writing reinforced western narrative conventions and linguistic hierarchy. I wanted to work towards a pilot program that would encourage storytelling that was not restricted to dominant language habits or standardized story structure. I also hope that this pilot program will create meaningful ties between Santa Clara University students and the young writers of the surrounding community. I want to encourage the powerful voices of the future to see the value in how their experiences and language transcend the restrictive borders set by universalized standards of narrative structure.

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Teresa Contino

 

Teresa Contino ’24 (English and Psychology), DH student fellow, for “Composing Collaborative Feminist Recovery Projects with Scalar” (advised by Amy Lueck, English) Contino is the inaugural Digital Humanities undergraduate student fellow in the CAH. She is researching and writing a digital article inspired by an English course that recovered works of women’s writing from SCU Library’s archives and presented them in an anthology using Scalar, a digital storytelling tool. Teresa’s article examines how our own interpretive analyses and reflections can widen understanding of women’s writing--both within the historical context of the writers and our own context as readers and students. Her project contributes to conversations buzzing in the Digital Humanities field, including circulation, reception, preservation, and intersectionality. 

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Why did you decide to become a student of English and Psychology?

I decided to become an English major because I love language, whether it be in essays, poetry, books, short stories, and everywhere else! I am interested in how people process words and how our experience reveals itself in our writing, hence my Psychology major. Finally, I chose an Art History minor, because I have a passion for going to art museums and continuing to educate myself about various cultural experiences!

 

How do your personal identity and background inform your studies?

Growing up in a house full of books, I am fortunate to have been a voracious reader as a kid, reading science fiction, mystery, and many coming-of-age novels. I am also fortunate to have two English professors as parents who raised me to always carry a book or notepad wherever I go. More recently, studying as a college student during the pandemic has shaped my interest in digital practices and behavior.

 

How did you become interested in the CAH project you are working on this year? What are the outcomes/results you are hoping for it, including active political, cultural, educational, or social changes?

After taking ENGL 168PW: Women Writers and Literature in my sophomore year with Dr. Lueck, I fell in love with the interrogation of capital-L literature and (anti)anthologiziation. I am hoping that future recovery work approaches listening with what Romeo García calls "friction as that which gets in the way of ‘smooth’ hegemonic flows" by way of publishing silenced voices and making multi-directional connections. I hope that the design of our website on Scalar enables a radical departure from linear argument structures to inspire a departure from rigid anthologization processes.

 

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