Emily Clouse: Relentless Curiosity

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Emily Clouse, '18 Psychology, relates her experience in the U.S. military to her desire to improve the outlook for formerly incarcerated people and her interest in the moral foundations of war.

Ten year-old Emily Clouse used to sneak out of her house and make her way to the bus stop. From there she’d ride into downtown Olympia, some ten miles from her home. “I was looking for my dad,” said Clouse. “I had a notepad, and would go around to different homeless shelters asking about him.”

Clouse is 23 now. In a few days she’ll graduate from UW Tacoma with a degree in psychology. The story about her search for her father touches on something about Clouse. She has a relentless curiosity, one that pushes against boundaries and asks hard questions.

Clouse had an atypical start to life. Her biological mother gave her up for adoption—to her parents. “I was raised by grandparents,” she said. “There’s a mother-in-law suite on their property and that’s where my birth mom (Jennifer) lived.” Clouse says she enjoys a sisterly relationship with Jennifer and that her family is unique. “I’ve never met anyone with the same situation,” said Clouse. “I feel I have a lot of family support because I have all of these different people and different little groups of family members.”

It’s a little surprising that someone so inquisitive had no interest in college. “I struggled in high school,” said Clouse. “I never wanted to go to school again.” Instead, Clouse joined the U.S. Army and became an intelligence analyst. She was deployed to the Middle East and spent time in Kuwait and Saudi Arabia. “I was assigned to an armored brigade and there weren’t a lot of other women,” said Clouse.

Clouse’s eventual decision to study psychology stems from her experience in the military. “I kept running up against all these boundaries because I’m a woman,” she said. “I wanted to know why people think the way they do and the reasons why people might judge others.”

On the last day of deployment Clouse fainted and hit her head. “We were in Kuwait and it was something like 120 degrees outside,” she said. “We were in full gear and I just collapsed.” The injury Clouse sustained caused lasting health issues and was a factor in her early discharge from the Army.

Out of the military and without a plan, Clouse decided to enroll at South Puget Sound Community College (SPSCC). “I knew I had to go back to school because I had to do something,” she said. It was there that she took her first psychology course. “It opened my eyes to all the questions I had while in the Army about my identity,” said Clouse.

Clouse came to UW Tacoma in the fall of 2016. She paired her psychology major with a minor in global engagement. Clouse took an adult development course with Dr. Tony Perone in the spring of 2017. “We heard stories from formerly incarcerated people and the challenges they faced,” she said. Clouse decided to start Collaborative Association for Reintegration and Education (CARE). The registered student organization works to address discrimination faced by formerly incarcerated individuals at both an individual and policy level.

During the past year Clouse has also been working on a research project with Dr. Rachel Hershberg. The project is supported by The Bamford Fellowship in Global Engagement. “We wanted to find out what variables make a person support war and support hierarchical social structures, said Clouse. The pair conducted over 100 surveys and recently presented their findings at the Global Engagement Conference on campus. “The results suggest that there are some significant associations between people’s mindsets, moral foundations and their support for war and militarism,” said Clouse.

Clouse, who is one of UW's 2018 Husky 100, has a love for research and statistics. She worked as a research assistant in a lab at UW in Seattle and is now part of Hershberg’s Community Psychology Research Group. This drive to dig, to find answers led Clouse to graduate school. She’s been accepted to a Ph.D. program in social psychology at Claremont Graduate College in California. “My dream is to be a professor at a university while researching things I’m most passionate about,” she said.

Clouse eventually found her biological father, though it wasn’t during one of her clandestine excursions. They met at a music store as the then-13-year-old Clouse finished her music lesson. “It took a while but we’ve slowly been able to build a relationship,” she said.

Clouse will soon leave home again (she owns her house) but this time in won’t be by bus. She and her husband will be driving to Southern California. “I’m going to be a psychologist,” she said. “That sounds really exciting to me!”

Return to 2018 Commencement: 1,850 Change Makers

Written by: 
Eric Wilson-Edge / June 6, 2018
Media contact: 

John Burkhardt, UW Tacoma Communications, 253-692-4536 or johnbjr@uw.edu