Danielle Burch: Designing for Good

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Ethnic, Gender, and Labor Studies changes the most fundamental ways you think about and relate to the world around you—it becomes a huge part of your life.

Born and raised in Tacoma to a family descended from Polish and Finnish immigrants, first generation college student Danielle Burch has lived in Tacoma her whole life.

“My mom’s dad [was] a talented craftsman within the door and millwork industry,” she explains. “My mom followed in his footsteps and has worked at door companies for 30 years on the sales side of things, while my dad was a ‘jack-of-all-trades’ groundskeeper at apartment complexes before he passed away in 2011.” Danielle recognizes and appreciates the sacrifices her parents made to ensure she had the opportunity to go to college.Danielle Burch at work at Tacoma Community House. Photo by Meridith Hatch.

Danielle planned to study psychology or social work at UW Tacoma. “I’d spent all of high school telling everyone and their mother I wanted to be counselor,” she says. An Introductory Sociology course broadened her perspective, helping Danielle find her passion for anti-racism and intersectional feminist praxis, which draws insight from diverse social movements to enrich complex understandings of how power works and can be resisted in different contexts.[1]

“I like taking conversations beyond the individual to systems and structures to understand oppressions X, Y, and Z,” Danielle explains. “Once I heard Ethnic, Gender, and Labor Studies was a thing, I decided to take a risk and study issues I cared deeply about, trusting that future employers would understand the degree’s worth.”

“EGL changes the most fundamental ways you think about and relate to the world around you—it becomes a huge part of your life.”

For those who wish to learn more about the EGL program, Danielle highly recommends “Women, Race, and Class” taught by Tanya Velasquez and “Tribal Critical Race Theory” led by Dr. Michelle Montgomery. She also recommends courses taught by Luther Adams and Ed Chamberlain, explaining how all four influenced and taught with passion, humor and grit.

“I was scared I would have a hard time finding a job with my disjointed combination of education and skills,” Danielle admits. “I’m an EGL grad with an Ethnic/Race Studies focus, but spent all four years with UWT’s newspaper, The Ledger, in illustrative and design roles.” Her fears were unfounded, as shortly after graduation Danielle was hired by Tacoma Community House, a nonprofit in Hilltop Tacoma. There, she manages the website, social media and branded materials, capturing client stories through video, photography and written stories.

Danielle says “I still get ‘oh, what’s that?’ with a small, polite smile when I tell most people what I studied. But I will never regret it. The program smashed and rebuilt how I understand U.S. history, systems of inequity, and my own social world. I have a lifetime of learning ahead of me, but I can honestly say I have never felt more whole.”

Learn more about the Ethnic, Gender, and Labor Studies major.

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[1] Naples, Nancy A. from Case, K. (2017). Intersectional pedagogy : Complicating identity and social justice. New York, NY: Routledge. p.124

Written by: 
Meridith Hatch / January 31, 2017