Lutes Take Back The Night

70 students marched, yelled and brandished signs to raise awareness of sexual assault. Led by Yadira Avendano and Marisol Espinosa, the group rallied for an hour around campus.

This piece was originally published through The Mast and at
Around 70 students, staff and faculty met in Red Square for Take Back the Night, an annual rally to raise awareness of sexual assaultm on April 21.

     “We here at PLU [Pacific Lutheran University] want to be heard loud tonight. It’s an opportunity for survivors, for friends, for allies, to stand up and take back what’s theirs,” said Jennifer Childres, the women’s basketball coach, who emceed the event with Harstad’s Resident Director Melissa Williams. “This night is about our empowerment.”

Melissa Williams (left) and Jennifer Childres (right) shared stories as they emceed the event.

     The group marched its way around the campus for about an hour, yelling chants of solidarity at full volume, led by cheerleaders junior Yadira Avendano and sophomore Marisol Espinosa: “I wish I may! I wish I might! Free our lives! Take back the night!” “Wherever we go, however we dress, no means no and yes means yes!”

     Before they marched, survivors and allies shared stories and anecdotes of sexual assault. Vice President of Student Life Joanna Royce-Davis shared her story.

      “I belong to a group of student-first educators who’ve experienced sexual assault. Somehow, we have a hard time naming it,” Royce-Davis spoke to the crowd. “The group recognizes that our stories open the doors to action, along with the stories of our students and our communities. We begin to disclose, to remove the protective covers, to shine the light.”

      Not only sexual assault survivors spoke in front of the crowd, but also allies. Assistant Professor of Religion Seth Dowland addressed the crowd as an ally, bystander and supporter.

     Finally, Associated Students of Pacific Lutheran University President Ellie Lapp spoke. She addressed the question of “If these acts of violence haven’t affected you, why should you care?”

     “My answer […] always has been ‘Actually, I have been. We all have’ This space is full of people who have had experiences where their gender, sexuality, race, class, ability or other aspects of their identity have been used against them, used to maintain systems of power and oppression,” Lapp said. “These acts of aggression don’t have to be grand or severe.”

      After all the speakers, the attendees started off around campus to the tune of “Respect! Equality! That’s the way it’s gotta be!”


Nate Hansen on working at OMM

IMG_0602-copy1-620x264“Its great to see your friends all the time. I live off-campus, so I don’t get to interact with students on-campus as much anymore, especially first-years and sophomores,” Nate Hansen, a senior this year, said. “You can see what gets them going and have those conversations you don’t often get to have.

Nate Hansen’s extroverted personality makes working at Old Main Market a breeze.

“I’ve had a couple on-campus jobs, I’ve been an RA, I’ve worked in the music hall as an usher and I’ve been a note-taker, but this has been one of my favorite on-campus jobs by far.”

Nate found his vocation as an Economics major with a Women’s and Gender Studies minor.

“I’m a feminist economist,” he said. He thinks the way the two disciplines intersect is very important to the world right now.

“A lot of the issues that face our world right now are deeply rooted in economic inequalities and some of those are deeply rooted in gender issues,” Hansen said. “I think the interplay of the two disciplines is really interesting, especially in developing countries.”

Focusing back on his job, I asked Hansen which drink he absolutely hates making for people.

“No! I love it when people order anything!” he responded, loud enough for his boss to hear from the other side of the market.

Besides his classes and on-campus work, Hansen also competes for PLU’s Track and Field team. He runs the 200 meter and said he’s “trying” to be a sprinter.

With all this on his plate, Hanson had to learn the hard lesson of time management.

“That’s something I learned in my first year. It’s something you’ll have to learn. Being a student-athlete and holding a job on campus teaches you a lot of skills you can use in your life outside of college.”

Hansen also took time in our interview to reflect on his years here at PLU.

“It’s crazy how the time flies, next thing you know you’re a senior, you wonder ‘what did I do that was meaningful to me and to other people?’”

I asked him why he loves his major, and he told me he loves the way others are inspired by Economics.

“Other than loving the subject material –  when you meet people in your discipline that are really excited about what they do, it makes it so much more easy and a lot more fun, and that’s what I found in the Economics department. Get in contact with the professors. They’re more than willing to help you. Everyone’s really nice in the departments and it’s a great choice,” he said, not forgetting to add: “Pick it over science.”

Mollie Parce on Philosophy & Opera

mollie-620x264Note: This piece was originally published in Mast Magazine, Pacific Lutheran University’s monthly student magazine.

J-Term is a time of transition for Lutes and junior Mollie Parce is no exception. Her last two J-Terms were dominated by Pacific Lutheran University’s annual opera performances. This year, the opera class was held during the fall, freeing up Mollie’s January to fulfill her Philosophy credit by taking Ethics and the Good Life with Professor Mike Rings.

“I feel like [Ethics and the Good Life] makes me question my own opinions and views, which is weird because I am really passionate about what I believe in,” Parce said. GURs, or general university requirements, such as the philosophy course Parce is taking, offer a unique opportunity to gain perspective.

“I usually am pretty stubborn about my opinions,  I can talk to other people about it but usually don’t change my mind,” she said. “This class makes me see things from a different point of view.”

“It makes me use a different type of thinking,” Parce continued. “Opera is more of a habitual thing and I can pick up the material a lot faster because it’s what I’m good at. But when I have a different class it challenges me a bit more. Last year I did both a J-Term class and opera and it was awful just because I had a hard timemasksbalancing both. This year I’m having an easier time in my GUR because it’s really the only thing I have to focus on.”

Comparing this year’s opera to the last two she’s performed in, Parce preferred performing during January. Last year, the opera class performed “Alcina” by Handel. The year before that, they performed an adaptation of Shakespeare’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.”

“I thought it would be better during the fall because we had more time, but I think J-Term is a better setting for it. It’s intensive, and you do it for five hours a day, every single day, Monday through Friday. It’s harder because you have to memorize your music quicker, but I think it’s better because it keeps you more focused on that specific thing because it’s your J-Term class.”

“During the regular semester you have all these other classes going on, so it doesn’t feel like as much of a priority as it really should be, especially for people who are vocal performance majors.”

It takes a special kind of crazy to become a music major, especially with a focus in vocal performance. It’s a lot of hard work and dedication to produce those kinds of results. The results they produce speak for themselves, though. All that great music follows naturally from the amount of work they’ll put in to honing their craft.

“It’s a cliche, but you are your biggest critic. It’s hard because your body is your instrument, so when you get sick or you’re tired you can feel it and hear it in your voice. Even if you’re fatigued from carrying boxes all day you can feel it in your voice.”

“I question it almost every day; ‘is this the right major for me?’ The difference is it’s me saying that and not my vocal teacher or a professor.”

Wang Center hosts bi-annual symposium for resilience in education

Note: This piece was originally published in The Mast, Pacific Lutheran University’s student newspaper

For 14 years, the Wang Center for Global Education has hosted a symposium every other year with wide variance of topics. This year, Director Tamara Williams focused on the topic of “resilience,” and what that looks like in different scholarly fields.

“The idea of the symposium from the very beginning was that we have a major event on campus that focused on a world issue that would bring together people from many different disciplines to think about something from a broader holistic perspective,” Williams said.

Pacific Lutheran University is widely recognized for it’s many study away programs where students can learn to participate in a global discussion. Through the symposium, the Wang center brings those global discussions to campus.

The last symposium, called Legacies of the Shoah, focused on the horrors of genocide. In attendance were psychologists, political scientists and survivors of genocides.

“From that, the question was raised; ‘How do these people bounce back from these experiences?” Williams said. “We broadened it to not just political devastation, but also natural disasters […] What is in human nature that gives us the ability to bounce back?”

Enter: Resilience, from the Latin resilire, meaning to rebound or recoil. The word was first used in the 17th century to describe the ability of materials such as wood, iron and bronze to withstand severe loads without breaking. Now, it comes to PLU in the form of selected panels and speakers covering a wide range of topics.

“It’s been a very hot topic in the global development arena,” Williams said.

On the agenda to speak is Juan Villoro, a prize-winning author and political commentator from Mexico.
“We have people coming from different disciplines talking about how a country bounces back after a devastating period of violence,” Williams continued. [Villoro is] a major public intellectual speaking about how people continue to live in a country like Mexico where over 75,000 people have been victims of the drug war.”

Another panel, titled “Resilience in Disaster Relief Practice,” will feature Dan Lee, Vice President of Advancement at PLU. Lee is a former executive at Lutheran World Relief, a disaster relief organization.

Lee will frame that session under the lens of Lutheran commitment to disaster relief, and why disaster relief is an important topic to PLU.

In addition to the professional speakers, there will also be a panel led by current and former Lutes entitled “Lutes in the World: PLU Students and Alumni Reflect on their Research and Work on Resilience.” Senior Courtney Lee and junior Angelica Maria Martinez Estrada will be on the panel, among other Lute graduates from previous years.

The 7th Biennial Wang Center Symposium will take place in the Anderson University Center on Feb. 25-26. A full schedule of the event, and it’s associated panels and lectures, can be found on the Wang Center’s website,

Women’s Center opens ballot for name change

Note: This piece was originally published in The Mast, Pacific Lutheran University’s student newspaper

A ballot to change the name of the Women’s Center will go live on their website from Feb. 22 until March 4.

“We’ve been thinking about it for several years,” said Jen Smith, the current director of the Women’s Center. “We just felt like it was a time to think about how we can revise our name so that it more accurately encapsulates the work that we do.”

The ballot will include a few names the Women’s Center has come up with, including “The Gender Equity Center,” “The Gender Justice Center,” “The Center for Women and Gender Equity” and “The Center for Gender, Sexuality and Justice.” Voters will also have the option to write in any suggestions, an option that Smith said could reveal interesting options to consider.

“We wanted to move away from something that was strictly identity-based, to something that was more mission-focused and concept-focused, so that people could find themselves in the work that we do,” Smith said.

The Women’s Center’s mission is to “empower women and their allies to become advocates for gender equity and social justice.” Even though their mission statement has the word “women” in it, the Women’s Center wants the name change to more clearly communicate the gender equity and social justice part.

“We have found (and this isn’t unique to [PLU’s] Women’s center) that if people don’t automatically resonate with the category of ‘woman,’ then they don’t see themselves here,” Smith said. “While we would love for people to see themselves in gender equity work even if we’re named the Women’s Center, we wanted something that more people could see themselves being involved in immediately.”

“Unfortunately, it creates a hurdle for some people to be involved in the work,” she said. “We want to be in a position that we can more readily engage them.”

Smith hopes that the name change will draw more people to engage with the Women’s Center in the events and programs it runs, like “The Monologues,” an annual reimagining of Eve Enslers’ “The Vagina Monologues.”

Smith hopes the Women’s Center can take more of a leadership role on issues of intersectionality at PLU.

“I think for us, [intersectionality] is looking at gender through the matrix of other identities, thinking about how race impacts gender, or class, or sexuality, or ability, or nationality […] we look at all of these things with gender as an anchor,” Smith said.

Currently, the Women’s Center engages mostly with students who strongly identify as feminist. The hope is, though, that with the name change comes a new wave of students are interested in feminism not as a “women’s rights” issue and as an issue of human rights and social justice.

“We’re hoping to bring more people into the conversation that have social justice as a foundational frame and not solely feminism,” Smith said.

The voting will be live on the Women’s Center website from Feb. 22 through Mar. 4. The new name will be announced on March 17, at the Annual Celebration for Inspirational Women.

Lutes Show Silent Solidarity

Note: This piece was originally published as breaking news on

Several dozen Pacific Lutheran University students and faculty stood outside the steps of the Karen Hille Phillips Center in silent solidarity with the University of Missouri during Chapel break Friday.

Attendees wore all black and stood in the near-freezing morning air for an hour, just as students left their 9:15 a.m. classes and walked through Red Square to the University Commons.

“Here, we worry about the cold. In Missouri, they worry about safety,” said senior Jonathan Adams.

The silent protest caught passing Lutes’ attention, and some dropped their things to stand with the group.

“Silence is powerful, silence gives space and it gives time for reflection and to think,” Adams said. “We can speak all day but critical reflection is key to any movement.”

“It was a great turnout,” said sophomore Quenessa Long. “Literally we started organizing it at twelve yesterday, so for not even 24 hours [of planning] it was an excellent turnout.”

The University of Missouri has been the site of several protests this year, beginning in September and happening fairly regularly until black football players at the university announced Nov. 8 they would not practice or play until the university’s president, Timothy Wolfe, resigned. The following day, Wolfe resigned.

If you missed the protest but still want to be involved, a meeting is being held on Monday, Nov. 23 in the Diversity Center at 10:30 a.m., where the Diversity Center team will be discussing representation on campus, and creating a list of goals and ideas they plan to pitch to President Krise and the Board of Regents.

In addition to the meeting, students can be involved in their daily lives by “not staying silent,” said sophomore Yadira Avendano. “This was a silent protest, and that’s how we chose to convey the message, but there’s also situations where we need people to speak up.”

“We want to hear other people’s voices and what they’re coming up with and how we can implement that into a strategy of making PLU a better place for everybody,” Avendano said.

“There is power when communities who share the same passion, dream, and goal come together to make a stand,” Adams said after the protest. “There is power in student voices.”12273566_10153075350871891_5803103123029402540_o-620x264

PLU pioneers for inclusive classrooms

Every student coming to Pacific Lutheran University listens to a mandatory lecture on diversity and inclusivity. Staff and faculty, though, have no required training in dealing with what’s termed “microaggressions.”

The Diversity Center defines microaggressions as “the everyday verbal, nonverbal and environmental insults, whether intentional or unintentional, that communicate hostile, derogatory or negative messages to target persons based solely on their marginalized group status.”

That doesn’t mean there aren’t any options available. Faculty and staff attending their summer orientation had the option to attend a workshop on microaggressions led by Galen Ciscell (a visiting sociology professor) and Nicole Juliano (assistant director of the D-Center).

“[During the conference] we explored the taxonomy of microaggressions,” Juliano said. “We talked about how microaggressions play out in our everyday lives and in the classroom.”

Eliminating microaggressions is all about creating a safe space in the classroom, Ciscell said. In their workshop, they gave attendees the tools they’d need to identify the biases that everyone has.

“We’re living in a world where we all have these preconceived perceptions and biases, and many of those biases we don’t know about until we discover that we have them,” Juliano said. The workshop focused on educating people to find their biases and eliminate them.

Additionally, PLU’s Bias Incident Response Team is operational now and accessible via the Diversity Center’s website. The BIRT’s mission is to “strengthen and sustain an environment of respect, justice, and care for all members of the PLU community.” It serves as a way for students and staff to report incidents of explicit and implicit bias, and can respond accordingly to each incident.

“At the very minimum, I think its consciousness-raising.” Juliano said. “We’re beginning to create dialogue between students and the staff and faculty.”

Jenny James is an English professor, and currently teaches a course on American literature where one of the major themes is displacement within a community. She attended Ciscell and Juliano’s workshop at orientation.

“If there’s a microaggression raised in the classroom, [the workshop] taught us to create a conversation of self-reflection,” said James. “[The training] is a key step in all of us being a part of this diverse community that’s working for a just world.”

There will be more workshops available to staff and faculty at the beginning of the spring semester on Feb. 3 at 8:30 a.m. in the Anderson University Center.

“It’s a lofty goal to eliminate bias and microaggressions in the world,” Juliano said. “But we do hope to provide skills to our students, faculty and staff to engage in those difficult conversations”