Emulating My Hero- Once Lost, Now Found

Submitted by Sasha Duttchoudhury on
Jasmine Stork, CHID grad

I got to experience CHID hospitality for the first time in Autumn 2006. As a new member of the Husky Marching Band, I was on campus nearly two weeks before the start of the term, I didn’t know any of the good spots on campus, and there wasn’t much student activity on campus yet. I had taken to wandering campus to scope out possible majors and hang-out spots, and I found out very quickly that Padelford Hall was…a maze.

After peeking in dozens of offices without seeing people and taking what seemed like a dozen flights of stairs because I couldn’t find the elevator, I nearly tripped in surprise as I passed the CHID office. It was open, and bright, and there were people! And couches!

While I stared in, trying to figure out if I had an excuse to step inside (was this one of the majors I was considering?) a smiling woman stepped out of her office and spotted me. She asked if I was lost (which I found out later was a pretty common experience in Padelford), and when I said I was just looking around she immediately invited me in to take a seat on one of the couches. She started chatting with me about the department and how I felt being on campus so early, and every time a CHID faculty member walked into the office she introduced us and told me about their work and personalities. I knew then that I wanted to be a part of this community. It felt like home.

I spent a lot of time in the CHID office those first two weeks. Listening to conversations about upcoming classes, meeting TAs and faculty as they came through, and chatting with Cynthia about finding coursework that would be engaging and compliment the coursework that I had taken through the Running Start program. By the end of those two weeks I was enrolled in CHID courses, enamored with Cynthia’s professionalism and kindness, and felt prepared to be a UW student.

I loved my experience at UW and had the opportunity to participate in number of unique activities that have helped me succeed as a graduate student. After identifying a lack of attention in a number of courses to the experiences of mixed race people, I began working with a small group of other undergraduate students to propose readings and lessons that instructors could adopt to improve the representation and conversation around mixed race experiences in the US. When we reached out to our departments with the resource we had developed, we were encouraged to develop a full course and take on the challenge of facilitating these conversations. Working in collaboration with CHID and Gender, Women & Sexuality Studies (GWSS), we developed and then taught the “Mixed Identities and Racialized Bodies” class for the first time in 2009. I got to participate in the planning and facilitation of the Mixed Class for three years, and this experience was not only an experience that helped me get in to my graduate program but was also vital to my easy transition to teaching as a graduate student.

I also participated in two CHID study abroad programs—the first instantiation of the Iceland study abroad program, and the New Zealand program. These programs were personally and intellectually challenging, and they taught me a lot about the kind of person and global citizen I wanted to be. I not only gained experience participating in group study and volunteering internationally, but also had time alone before and after my programs where I practiced traveling on my own, staying in hostels with strangers, and building short term but influential relationships with other travelers and locals alike. I am now working as a graduate assistant in the undergraduate fellowship office at my university while I finish my PhD, and my study abroad experiences give me much greater insight and skill in advising students who are applying for scholarships and fellowships that take them abroad. I work with these students to help them develop strong applications and find ways to demonstrate the talents they have that make them excellent candidates for their chosen fellowships. Part of that advising involves talking to students who have never left the country (some who have never left the state) and discussing the challenges of international study and travel and tools for their success.

I have revisited my CHID experiences and skills repeatedly over the course of my graduate career as I have juggled a Master’s in Public Health, and MA/PhD program, teaching, dissertation, leading graduate student groups, and encouraging the grad students in my program to join me for weekly Buffalo Wing happy hours (my nod to the Taco Tuesdays we had when I worked in the CHID office). From CHID 101 and learning the importance of meeting colleagues and faculty confidently and ready to learn, to training to think and read critically and with empathy, my time as a CHIDdie has made it possible for me to thrive even during the hardest parts of studying for a PhD. I love the advising work that I am doing with students, and the ways that I get to bring elements of CHID into the lives of the students I work with (basically emulating my hero Cynthia), and I hope to transition to a full time advising position after I complete my dissertation in the spring.