News & Events


July 15, 2014

Student Assistants at IWRI Finish the Year

In the just recently concluded 2013 – 2014 academic year, IWRI was very fortunate to have had eight hard-working, motivated students work on numerous projects to further both personal academic learning, as well as achieving project goals. IWRI’s Research Training and Education Core hosted weekly Friday training sessions for students throughout the year, with guest speakers from several specialties explaining and tying together the theory and nuts-and-bolts of the research process. The sessions placed into proper perspective the critical importance of seemingly mundane or repetitive tasks within a broader research framework.
The following eight auto-biographies were written by the students and reflect their unique styles, interests and perspectives. IWRI’s hope is that their time here was educational and purposeful and that they will incorporate IWRI’s values in their future academic, research and/or clinical endeavors. Congratulations, students, on completing another successful academic year!

Alex Lynch
(White Ally)
Student photo-AlexHi all! My name is Alex Lynch and I am an undergraduate student in the Law, Societies, and Justice Department. In January 2014, I was fortunate to become a student volunteer at IWRI. I would like to think that my involvement at IWRI is merit-based, but in reality, my father and Bonnie Duran have been friends since working on their PhDs together at UC-Berkeley. I was initially drawn to my major by my penchant for social justice and human rights but always felt that my theoretical work was missing a tangible impact. This summer I will be traveling to Cambodia with the UW Law School to study and research global health and human rights for children with disabilities. I am grateful to everyone at IWRI for their mentorship and guidance and for the exposure to community-based participatory research practices. My involvement with IWRI has furthered my passion for tribal health and I am looking forward to returning in the fall to continue learning from such an incredible team.

Alicia Durkin
(Lower Brule Sioux)
Student photo-AliciaI received my undergraduate degree in psychology from a very small liberal arts college in Durango, Colorado. Fort Lewis College, better known as “Fort Leisure,” sits on top of a mesa looking out toward the beautiful San Juan Mountains. As a requirement toward graduation my senior seminar project focused on the effects of cortisol levels and Historical Trauma on indigenous communities. In this project I referenced research by authors with the last names of Duran, Evans-Campbell, and Walters. Never in a million years did I picture myself working in the very same office as these incredibly inspiring Native women. It still feels very surreal. Working at IWRI, I have learned more than I can imagine. As I work toward my Master in Social Work degree, IWRI has inspired me, as well as supported me through this journey. I am a member of the Kul Wicasa Oyate, Lower Brule Lakota Sioux tribe of South Dakota. I cannot wait to return home one day. I long for the prairie, and I am often very homesick here in Seattle. Working at IWRI, I have come to the realization that we are not so alone out here; we have family who care about us here in the Pacific Northwest, and it is my goal to bridge these gaps among tribal communities across the world. Thank you. Mitakuye Oyasin.

Cassie Halls
(white ally)
Student photo-CassieMy name is Cassie and I am a new student assistant at IWRI, working with Polly Olsen to develop this year’s curriculum for the Native Youth Enrichment Program’s Summer Institute. I grew up in Portland, Oregon and have been living in Seattle for about five years. I am currently a junior at the University of Washington studying Comparative History of Ideas. For the Summer Institute here at the UW, I will be developing a research project related to my work at IWRI and my academic studies.

Jennifer Bethune
(Turtle Mountain Chippewa)
Student photo-JenniferI am a descendant of the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa. I am also a mixture of French, Danish, and Irish…with some Scottish somewhere in there. My grandfather was born and raised on the reservation in Belcourt, North Dakota. He moved out West and started a family here in Seattle, so my family has been here in the Northwest ever since. I am graduating with a Bachelor of Science degree in Public Health and I would like to continue on with graduate school after I take a couple of years off to engage in other ways of learning. This includes learning my family’s traditional Ojibwe language. I would also like to focus on my artistic side by taking music and dance lessons.
Being a research assistant at IWRI has been an incredible learning experience. I have been able to volunteer on one of its research projects and it has helped me to develop both personally and professionally. I feel so blessed to have been invested in and mentored by the staff and faculty here at IWRI.

Jessyca Murphy
(Cherokee, Iroquois, Irish)
Student photo-JessycaOsiyo! I am a mixed urban Indian of Cherokee, Iroquois and Irish descent. I am a fairly new member of the IWRI team, working as a writer since October of 2013. Currently, I am a graduate student in the Media Studies Department at the New School for Public Engagement. My scholarship spans many different fields, but I concentrate primarily on the intersections among feminist/queer theory, subcultural studies, fashion studies and indigenous studies. My thesis will explore both the visual appropriation of indigenous culture among music-based subcultures and the negotiations made by indigenous people who participate in these subcultures. My most recent publication, appearing in the e-book anthology “Unsettling Whiteness” by Inter-Disciplinary Press, explores historical and theoretical explanations for Native appropriation within hipster fashions Working at IWRI has given me an excellent opportunity to expand my academic purview beyond discourse and semiotics into more science-based approaches. It’s been an honor to contribute to such important and necessary research.


Judith Pierce
(white ally)
Student photo-JudithMy name is Judith and I just completed my first year of my Master in Public Health program in the Community Oriented Public Health Practice. Working for IWRI has been a fascinating and great way to learn about community health. I have had a variety of tasks at IWRI, but most recently I have worked on the TCU Alcohol, Drug and Mental Health Epidemiology study and the TCU Behavioral Health Adaptation of an Evidence-Based Intervention (BASICS) study. As a white ally, working at IWRI has been a great way to learn the ins-and-outs of a community-based participatory research projects in AI/AN communities. Working at IWRI, I have been privileged to attend a variety of meetings and lectures that focus on improving health disparities in AI/AN communities. Additionally, I have really enjoyed working with the Center for Indigenous Health Research team within IWRI: They are a fun group of hard working people, and I look forward to seeing the results of their work on the BASICS project. After graduate school, I hope to continue working for communities, either within a local public health department leading interventions, or as a health educator. In my spare time, I enjoy biking, baking and playing with my

Kara Bensley
(white ally)
Student photo-KaraKara Bensley is a first year PhD student in Health Services Research. She is interested in behavioral health issues in diverse rural communities and how social determinants of health can influence behavioral health. After finishing her PhD, she hopes to be a professor and to continue working with communities to improve wellness. She is originally from Michigan, but received her Master in Medical Anthropology from University College London in London, UK and has also studied in South Africa. She enjoys traveling, running, camping, skiing, and exploring Seattle. She also has two cats that keep life exciting. She has really enjoyed working on the TCU projects for the past few months. niece and nephew.


Melissa Watkinson
(Chickasaw and Choctaw)
Student photo-Melissa-olderI am a citizen of the Chickasaw Nation and of Choctaw Nation and of partial Scandinavian descent. I’ve lived most of my life in the beautiful Pacific Northwest. I moved to Seattle from Puyallup to attend community college and went on to UW Bothell where I received my undergraduate degree that focused on international affairs and human rights. After graduating in 2011, I served as an AmeriCorps VISTA at UWB where I supported partners who engaged students in community-based learning and research projects. I’ve been volunteering with the Seattle Oxfam Action Corps to work towards climate and food justice. School and volunteer experiences have given me the opportunity to travel internationally and within the U.S., including four visits to Washington, D.C., a study abroad program in Ireland and The Hague, Netherlands, and most recently to Haiti to support capacity-building through evaluations with the sport-for-development organization, GOALS Haiti.
Currently, I am attending UWB earning a Master of Arts in Policy Studies. My broader research interests are to address issues faced by climate refugees, and my specific interests are in policy research related to vulnerability of communities, international and community development, indigenous resiliency, and human rights. Working with IWRI has been both a personal and professional privilege. It has given me the confidence and inspiration to do the important work so necessary in Indian Country, and I hope to continue focusing my efforts on research that can influence and change policies that affect American Indian communities.