Paw'd Defiance: The UW Tacoma Podcast

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Paw'd Defiance Podcast

The title of our show is more than just a clever play on words. The name reflects a philosophy, one that is committed to telling interesting stories about the people, research, initiatives, community partnerships and other issues related to UW Tacoma and higher education. It also speaks to our interest in the greater Tacoma community. Point Defiance is inexorably linked to the Grit City. Also, “defiance” is a fun word and, either intentionally or not, speaks to Tacoma's history as the “other” city in the Puget Sound region.

This podcast is made possible by funding from the UW Tacoma Strategic Initiative Fund and the generous help of Doug Mackey at Moon Yard Recording Studio.

You can find Paw'd Defiance on iTunes, Stitcher, Google Podcasts, Pocket Casts and Spotify. You can also click here to listen: Paw'd Defiance



Speak Lushootseed sign


Learning Lushootseed

The Lushootseed Language Institute (LLI) is a collaboration between the Puyallup Tribe of Indians and UW Tacoma's Professional Development Center. The LLI is one part of the Puyallup Tribe's larger effort to revitalize Lushootseed. Up until the early 1800s, Lushootseed was the only language spoken by indigenous peoples living in an area from present day Olympia in the south to Skagit Valley in the north. The Puget Sound and the Cascade Mountains provided the eastern and western borders. In this episode we hand over the microphone to UW Tacoma student and Puyallup Tribe member Shelby Cross as she works her way through the LLI. We'll hear her struggles and successes as well as her personal reasons for wanting to learn Lushootseed.  (Running time: 14:48)

Math Science Leadership Program logo


Water is Life

On this special episode of Paw'd Defiance we hand over the microphone as students and staff in UW Tacoma's Math Science Leadership program explore Mt. Rainier. MSL serves youth in grades 7-12 that are historically underrepresented in STEM. The program works to connect students to different STEM fields through activities and field work. MSL is traditionally held over a three-week period in the summer. This year is a bit different. Students spent a week on campus and at different locations around the area exploring the idea that "water is life." They will return to this idea during two day sessions in the winter and spring. Note: this is a field recording so expect to hear some wind and other natural sounds in the background.  (Running time: 11:23)

Tamandua pup from Point Defiance Zoo


It's All Happening at the Zoo

Point Defiance Zoo and Aquarium's Alan Varsik and Karen Povey stop by the show to talk about conservation and sustainability. Varsik and Povey also discuss misconceptions people have about zoos. Varsik weighs in on recent changes to the Endangered Species Act and Povey provides background information the Grit City Carnivore Project. The project is a collaboration with UW Tacoma Assistant Professor Chris Schell.   (Running time: 43:37)

Bonus material: Read about Assistant Professor Christopher Schell's research on urban wildlife

Altaf Merchant and Katherine Felts


A Green Cookie Monster

Think back to your childhood or a time in your life you really enjoyed. What do you see? Chances are your memories of that particular time are attached to a song, movie, product, etc. Nostalgia can be a powerful feeling which is why companies use it in their advertising. UW Tacoma Assistant Professor Altaf Merchant studies nostalgia. He'll discuss how it works and how study participants responded to the idea of a green Cookie Monster.   (Running time: 35:05)

Bonus material: Should Cookie Monster adopt a healthy lifestyle or continue to indulge? Insights into brand icons

Ben Meiches


Room for Debate

A conversation about debate with UW Tacoma Assistant Professor Ben Meiches. Meiches is a former national debate champion. Meiches along with UW Tacoma junior Zaira Rojas and UW Tacoma alumnus Eric Ballentine talk about the importance of debate in terms of skill development and how they're working to break down barriers in a space that has historically excluded people of color. Rojas and Ballentine will also the settle the age old argument about which is better: dogs or cats.   (Running time: 32:41)

Bonus material: Assistant Professor Meiches talks about his new book which discusses how the defintion of the word genocide has changed over time

Kim Davenport


Grit City Music History

UW Tacoma Lecturer Kim Davenport takes us on a magical history tour of music in the City of Destiny. Davenport is a professional musician who has written articles and books about different aspects of Tacoma's history, including music. We'll hear some original recordings of Tacoma booster songs which were designed to bring people to the city. Davenport will also discuss different artists who lived in Tacoma as well as famous artists who played here.   (Running time: 31:57)

Bonus material: Read more about Tacoma music history

Lori Tharps


Hair That Won't Be Quiet

The history of Black hair in the United States with Temple University Associate Professor Lori Tharps. Tharps co-wrote the book Hair Story: Untangling the Roots of Black Hair in America with Ayana Byrd. Tharps' work has been featured in the New York Times,, The Columbia Journalism Review and Time Magazine. She also hosts the podcast My American Meltingpot. Tharps and guest host Katherine Felts discuss the importance of hair in African communities prior to contact with Europeans. Slavery and institutional racism in the United States transformed what it meant to have Black hair. The cultural revolution of the 1960s ushered in a new era of pride in Black hair. Tharps and Felts discuss this and the current natural hair movement.   (Running time: 57:56)



The Fifth Season

Winter, spring, summer, fire and fall. Wildfire season is here. During each of the past two summers a thick blanket of smoke from wildfires covered large parts of Western Washington. Thousands of wildfires in the American West and Canada burned millions of acres. UW Tacoma Assistant Professor Maureen Kennedy talks about how climate change has contributed to a prolonged fire season. She'll also talk about the role of fire in forests and how fire suppression practices that were created to protect forests lead to larger and more destructive wildfires.   (Running time: 29:57)



Using a Robot to Measure Stress in Teens

UW Tacoma Assistant Professor Emma Rose and UW Tacoma student Christina Nelson discuss Project EMAR, a social robot designed to help address teen stress. Project EMAR (Ecological Momentary Assessment Robot) is a cross campus partnership between UW Tacoma and UW Seattle. Rose and Nelson will talk about why they decided to use a robot to help with teen stress and how they are involving teens in the design process.   (Running time: 31:09)

Bonus material: Read more about EMAR and the research that is helping teens



Searching for Microplastics

UW Tacoma Senior Lecturer Julie Masura along with student researchers Tracie Barry and Abby Deaton talk about their work with microplastics in the waters of the Pacific Northwest. Masura's work in this area began a few years ago. She helped pioneer a method for collecting and analyzing microplastics that is used around the world. Masura also discusses the role students play in advancing research at UW Tacoma.  (Running time: 29:18)

Bonus material: Listen to Julie Masura talk about her love for jigsaw puzzles

Omari Amili


Building a Prison to College Pipeline

UW Tacoma Assistant Professor Chris Beasley and UW Tacoma alumnus Omari Amili talk about their experience with incarceration. Beasley and Amili turned their lives around and are now working to build a prison to college pipeline. They discuss the challenges formerly incarcerated people face. Beasley and Amili also talk about the challenge of making college more accessible to those who served time in jail or prison.  (Running time: 45:55)

Bonus material: Watch Omari's TacTalks presentation on how he turned his life around

Fence image


Credible Fear

UW Tacoma Professor Marian Harris and graduate student Zea Mendoza spent a week helping women and children at the family detention center in Dilley, Texas prepare for their credible fear hearings. Harris and Mendoza talk about their experience at the facility including what they saw and heard. They also talk about how the work impacted them on a personal level.  (Running time: 40:29)

Bonus material: Listen to a summary of this episode in Spanish.

Scales of justice image


Community Builders

During the past year a group of UW Tacoma students have worked to organize an immigration conference on campus. The result is "Our Tacoma Story: Education, Advocacy and Building Communities". Among other things, the two day event will feature a legal clinic where participants can speak with an immigration attorney. There will also be a panel featuring Washington State Supreme Court Justice Steven Gonzalez and Senator Claire Wilson. During this episode UW Tacoma student Karla Michelle Vargas will talk about her personal reasons for wanting to host this conference and what she hopes the community will take from it. Assistant Professor Sarah Hampson offers insight into the budding law community on campus.  (Running time: 18:33)

Bonus material: Listen to a summary of this episode en Espanõl.

UW Tacoma Assistant Professor Ellen Bayer running in the snow.


The Ultra-Marathon Educator

UW Tacoma Assistant Professor Ellen Bayer has a passion for the outdoors. Bayer's love of nature guides her work both in and out of the classroom. She teaches literature courses at UW Tacoma and leads her students on excursions into the natural world. Bayer recounts the story of a student who'd looked at Mt. Rainier her entire life but had never actually seen the mountain up close. This experience lead Bayer to include field trips in her curriculum. Finally, Bayer discusses why she took up running in her mid-thirties and recounts the difficulties she faced while competing in her first 100-mile ultra-marathon. (Running time: 34:48)

Photo: Glenn Tachiyama

Bonus material: Dr. Bayer explains the connection between Edgar Allan Poe and English Ivy.

T Rex is staring at you


A Podcast Episode 65 Million Years in the Making

UW Tacoma Assistant Professors Uba Backonja and Christopher Schell discuss their mutual love of the 1993 film Jurassic Park. Schell and Backonja credit the movie for cultivating their love of science. The pair also talk about their career paths and how students in college now can find inspiration in unlikely places. Oh, and there's at least one dinosaur impression.  (Running time: 30:19)

Bonus material: See Christopher's Jurassic Park sweater

First Gen Fellows graphic


Be the First

Amanda Figueroa, Director of Student Transition Programs, and Yanira Pacheco Ortiz, First Generation Student Initiatives Coordinator, talk about what it means to be a first-generation college student. Figueroa and Pacheco Ortiz relay their experiences as first-generation students and discuss ways in which universities can support students who are the first in their families to attend college.  (Running time: 35:54)

Bonus material: Meet some of our first-generation students, faculty and staff

Puyallup Tribe image


Generous and Welcoming

UW Tacoma Assistant Professor Danica Miller and her father, Puyallup Tribal Chairman Bill Sterud come to the studio to talk about the Indigenous history of the Tacoma area. Miller and Sterud provide context to our historical understanding of the area by discussing, among other things, the Medicine Creek Treaty and the Boldt decision. UW Tacoma sits on ancestral Puyallup land. Miller and Sterud talk about the campus' founding and how that revitalized the Downtown area.  (Running time: 54:11)

Bonus material: You can learn Lushootseed this summer and help keep the language alive

The opinions expressed in this podcast are those of the speakers. They do not necessarily reflect the opinions or views of the University of Washington or UW Tacoma.