CHID Alumni Advisory Board Updates from Marie Shimada

Submitted by Alexandra Erin Furness on

I was a chiddie from day one. Seriously, the first class of the first day of my first year at UW, I walked into Prof. Christina Wygant’s class on feminism in literature. I knew within a few weeks that I wanted to be a part of whatever Christina was a part of, and anyone else who has ever had the pleasure of being her student knows the exact care and passion she teaches with. Thankfully, she’s not the only one. Anyone who has ever taken a CHID class at all knows that there’s something unique and inspiring in our CHID educators.

For me, the distinguishing feature of CHID faculty and staff is that, even while they are so busy being amazing mentors to their students, they are simultaneously pursuing their students. Stacey Moran once sat me down after grading my paper and said, “Marie, these are good ideas, but you need to develop the confidence to claim them as your own ideas. Stop using passive voice.” Months later, my thesis advisor, Prof. Phillip Thurtle listened intently to my thesis ideas, and then he gave me more materials to enhance my research. We would then repeat this same scenario for 10 weeks straight! That’s what you get with CHID. The faculty here listen to their students, they hear their students, and then they help guide their students on a learning path with no constraints. The staff don’t just tell students what and how to learn, they cultivate ideas together with their students.

I could go on for this entire article about how beautiful CHID and its staff are, but I am instead writing to announce the amazing new outcomes from the CHID Alumni Advisory Board. Eventually, the time comes when CHID students graduate and enter (usually) either the working world or the world of graduate school. For most of those grads, which is all you alumni out there reading this, CHID turns into a cozy memory of a once-in-a-lifetime educational experience. (Trust me, I went to law school. I learned a lot, but it was not a beautiful education.)

As a student, you’re drawn to CHID for a variety of reasons: the snacks in the lounge, Cynthia’s joyous smile, or gripping curricula. But every student must navigate the flood of questions about what you’re going to do with that degree. While you’re a student, those faculty mentors come in handy by giving you the tools to answer that burning question of how to use your education and the life skills you developed to navigate an ever-so-complex world. Then you graduate, and you aren’t entirely sure anymore. Phillip Thurtle is no longer sitting next to you encouraging your thoughts on applying French theory to human-subject research. The support system you had in those faculty mentors is now left behind, right? Perhaps not.

Okay, so what are CHID alumni even doing? I will tell you what I did. I graduated in 2014 and took a year off to co-found the new Alumni Board, study for the LSAT, and make some money teaching in elementary classrooms. Then, I incurred a lot of debt pursuing my law degree. I wasn’t just pursuing a degree, though, I was using everything I gained in CHID to pursue my passions in working with other people. I conducted research for an amicus brief for the ACLU, I helped create a free legal service clinic for trans* individuals who were petitioning the CA court system to change their gender marker on their licenses, I monitored and reported on the activities of a state regulatory board, I did my best to bring diversity and equity initiatives into the legal profession, I met with countless attorneys, politicians, and judges in an attempt to help fund students’ educations through philanthropic giving. That’s almost where my story ends. After 7 years of higher education and my Juris Doctor degree, I ultimately took my seat in the world of philanthropy as an entrepreneurial fundraiser.

With no surprise, I am also back in CHID. When I moved back to the PNW to continue professionally fundraising in the nonprofit sector, I took on the role of chairing the current CHID Alumni Advisory Board. One of my first moves in this position was to assist in the creation of a CHID alumni-student mentorship program. You can bet we dubbed this program “Rhizome.” From my view, this program helps bridge the gap after chiddies graduate and bid farewell to their faculty mentors. We are going to pair those students with current CHID alumni employed in a diverse work world. I hope that this increases the visibility of CHID majors and graduates on a local and global scale.

It is no mistake that the Board timed this program to launch around the same time that CHID receives its official departmentalization at UW. This is the launch of a new era for CHID. I invite you to be a part of this new era by taking on the role of being an alumni mentor. Please share your experiences regarding the ways in which CHID prepared you to thrive in your professional environment with current students seeking a similar positive outcome. Let us celebrate the last 40 years of CHID as we prepare to kick-off the next 40 years of CHID.

Become a mentor today by emailing Marie Shimada at