Catalyst Research and Scholarship Support Initiative
The Catalyst Research and Scholarship Support Initiative was created in 2022 in response to a need identified in a faculty survey for additional support for scholarship. Many thanks to Jim Gawel, Belinda Louie and John Finke who have led this effort over the last two years and brought it to fruition.
The grants for the 2022-23 academic year provide $20,000 each in support of the scholarship of five tenure-track assistant professors, one in each of the following themes: Social Justice, Social Science, Humanities, STEM, and Interdisciplinary.
Dr. Sonia De La Cruz, SIAS
Storytelling Project at UW Tacoma
This catalyst grant will support the development of a Storytelling project on the University of Washington Tacoma campus. More specifically, this grant would be used for a course buyout that will allow me to dedicate time and resources to conduct the necessary research to develop a strong foundation for a future Storytelling Center.
The initial idea for the Storytelling Center (SC), is to create a space where relationships between students, faculty, staff and the broader Tacoma community can be cultivated through the art of creating and sharing stories. The center can foment a deeper understanding of our community by fostering a space for listening, dialogue and reflection through creative practice.
Since one of the main goals of the center is to help bridge the UW community with our broader Tacoma community, this work requires we acknowledges and center the diversity of backgrounds and histories that are part of it. We must also do this work through a strong social justice orientation that can ensure serving historically marginalized communities, elevate traditionally invisible or silenced histories and stories (such as those related to BIPOC, LGBTQ+, or disability inclusion, etc.), and develop meaningful and reflexive practices for community building.
Social Justice Theme:
Dr. Ruben Casas, SIAS, and Dr. Anaid Yerena, Urban Studies
Decoding the Anti-Racist City
The Co-PIs seek to understand what civic leaders mean when announcing intentions to make a city “anti-racist.” This project will support University of Washington Tacoma (UWT) student learning, ongoing efforts to increase Diversity Equity and Inclusion (DEI), and elevate the anti-racist discourse on our campus and surrounding communities. This study uses content analysis to provide an account of the state of anti-racism work/initiatives led by mid-sized cities in the U.S. (population of 200,000 to 250,000) and how these efforts shape the discourse around anti-racism in the current moment. This research aims to clarify what those in city leadership positions mean by “anti-racism” as well as outline a role for universities, such as the University of Washington Tacoma, sited in the city’s center and which purport to be “urban-serving,” in anti-racist efforts.
The activities this award will support include: summer support for co-PIs, research experience for four undergraduate students, involvement of three faculty colleagues teaching DEI courses, several community and academic presentations, an OpEd publication, at least one peer-reviewed publication, and a Community Arts Festival. While we can locate the transformative work of making cities and urban built environments less racist among grassroots organizations, activists, and individuals and communities themselves, it is becoming common to hear or read elected city leaders making explicit calls to make their cities “anti-racist.” This research is motivated by pronouncements made by Tacoma’s mayor Victoria Woodards during her first term and again during her successful campaign for a second term. To be sure, this is a laudable goal, but is it plausible? To answer this question, we need to first decipher what city leaders mean by “anti-racist,” given that it’s not always clear that people who use the term understand that anti-racism describes a commitment and an orientation that is more active than simply not being racist (Kendi, 2019). Next, we must understand where city and civic leaders locate racism within cities—is it in policing? in the built form? in policymaking processes? Further, on whom do city leaders place the responsibility of making a city anti-racist—themselves and other elected officials? City managers, planners, designers? the police and/or their unions? residents of the city? Our research will offer an overview of the social and political landscape of “anti-racism” across mid-size U.S. cities.
Dr. Gordon Brobbey, School of Education, and Dr. Zaher Kmail, SIAS
Assessing Outcomes for Special Educators in the Teacher and Principal Evaluation Program (TPEP) in Washington State
The proposed project will explore special educator perceptions about the Teacher and Principal Evaluation Program (TPEP) adopted by Washington State’s Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI), and implemented by school districts to assess special educator effectiveness. The exploration will be done through a survey of special educators from six selected school districts in the Puget Sound area, two districts for each of the three approved teacher evaluation instruments – the Danielson, Marzano, and 5 Dimensions frameworks – as approved by OSPI to evaluate its teachers.
Social Sciences Theme:
Dr. Jinlan Ni, Milgard School of Business
Public Participation and Environment Improvement: Evidence from the River Chief System in China
Many developing countries suffer from various environmental damages in pursuit of economic development, and are eager to improve their ecological environment (Greenstone et al., 2014; Li et al., 2020). Among many environmental issues, the pollution of surface water is of particular importance due to its wide and far-reaching effects, and direct impact on human health through drinking water and agricultural production. China is no exception. Based on China’s river quality data seven major water systems are experiencing deterioration in water quality. Using 2015-16 data, we find that the proportion of polluted river section among seven major water systems ranges from 10.2% (the Pearl River system) to 62.7% (the Haihe River system), with downgraded classification of water quality in many river sections. This environmental degradation stands in stark contrast to steadily increasing public demand for improved water quality, along with a growing push towards sustainable economic development in recent decades.
This proposed work studies a new water pollution act called River Chief System (RCS) which has been comprehensively carried out in China since 2018 and provides a local solution to the global water pollution problem. The RCS system features substantial public participation in water management that shows much promise in improving water quality; However, little is known about the role of public participation in driving the effectiveness of environmental management programs such as RCS. This project is a timely investigation into whether public knowledge and participation in the RCS implementation positively impacts the sustainability of river management. The study will also provide a comprehensive assessment of the effects of RCS on water quality. Thus, this proposed work will generate the first large-scale hypothesis-driven study of public participation data to examine the internal mechanism of the effect of RCS on water quality control. Second, this project will provide new insights on the theory of public goods by extending understanding of the suboptimal outcome resulting from the “free-riders” problem. The study of RCS from China thus provides a new theoretical foundation and empirical evidence to expand knowledge that could be adopted by other existing global programs such as the Clean Water Act in US and others, with important implications for enhancing global water quality.
Dr. Angela Kitali, School of Engineering and Technology
Sustainability and Equity in Transportation: The Role of Micromobility in Tacoma
Supporting its commitment to sustainable and equitable transportation, the city of Tacoma has embraced shared micromobility as an alternative transportation option for trips that are too far to walk but too short to drive. Micromobility aligns with several of Tacoma’s goals and policies: it has the potential to capture a new market of active transportation users, address barriers that come with a bike or scooter ownership, help close the first/last mile gaps and connect people to transit.
This research aims to study the usage patterns of shared e-scooters in Tacoma. Specifically, we aim to answer the following questions: 1) Who is using e-scooters in Tacoma, and for what kinds of trips? 2) How effectively do the e-scooters integrate with other public transit modes? 3) Is the e-scooter system serving Tacoma equitably? 4) What temporal factors (i.e., weather, time of day, and gas prices) and time-invariant factors (sociodemographic, built-environment, and neighborhood characteristics) affect e-scooter ridership?