Global Scholar

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Elsa Muñoz Garcia, a Ph.D. student at the Universitat de Barcelona, is working with Dr. Ariana Ochoa Camacho and incubating her dissertation at UW Tacoma.

Elsa Muñoz Garcia needed a little perspective. Muñoz Garcia is from Catalonia, a region in northeastern Spain, and attends the Universitat de Barcelona where she is working toward a Ph.D. in gender studies. “My dissertation explores the philosophy and activism of Kurdish women who grew up in Europe,” said Muñoz Garcia. “I’m interested in how they adapt to the country where they live while also retaining their ideology and culture.”

Catalonia made headlines back in 2017 when it declared independence from Spain. The effort fell short but the situation helps explain Muñoz Garcia’s interest in Kurdish people. Kurds living in Syria established an autonomous region within that country called Rojava. “They started their own political project and after that happened the Kurdish movement became popular for us as Catalans,” said Muñoz Garcia.

Muñoz Garcia is a global scholar in the most literal sense of the word. She holds a bachelor’s degree in applied language and has earned two masters—one in international relations, the other in the culture of peace. Muñoz Garcia is fluent in six languages. She has lived in different European countries and once did a study-abroad in Russia.

So, how exactly did Muñoz Garcia come to UW Tacoma? “I met someone while in Barcelona who told me they were from Seattle,” she said. “Later, I learned they were from a nearby city called Tacoma.” Muñoz Garcia knew she wanted to get out of Europe for a while. “I was looking for opportunities in gender and feminist studies,” she said. “I needed to get far away so I could begin to see things differently.”

Muñoz Garcia did some research and ended up learning about UW Tacoma Assistant Professor Ariana Ochoa Camacho. “Dr. Ochoa Camacho does research about the Colombian community in New York City and her work is also related to transnational feminism,” said Muñoz Garcia. The pair connected over the phone. Later, Muñoz Garcia flew out to the area. “I perceived there was this kind of environment that I liked in terms of social movements,” she said.

Muñoz Garcia officially began her life at UW Tacoma in January of 2019. Most of her campus time is devoted to organizing her dissertation. “I’m figuring out how to incorporate my field notes and interviews into a larger ethnographic study,” said Muñoz Garcia. “I’m getting help with this from Dr. Ochoa Camacho who is showing me how she does her research.” The visiting scholar is also getting to know students through classroom visits. “I’ve done guest lectures here and at UW Seattle about intersectionality,” she said. “I presented for the first time about a month ago and I think the students learned a lot.”

This isn’t Muñoz Garcia’s first visit to the United States. She’s been to Washington State twice previously and to Vermont. This trip, she’s been in the Northwest a few months and already notices some similarities between here and Catalonia. “I come from the other side of the world but I’m finding people here have similar concerns as they do back home,” said Muñoz Garcia.

Written by: 
Eric Wilson-Edge / April 5, 2019
Photos by: 
Ryan Moriarty
Media contact: 

John Burkhardt, UW Tacoma Communications, 253-692-4536 or