Congratulations Mary Gates Research Scholarship Winners!

Every year the University of Washington offers several Mary Gates Research Scholarships to enhance the educational experiences of undergraduate students engaged in research with faculty. In 2012-2013 the University offered two rounds of these competitive scholarships, one in the Autumn Quarter and one this Winter Quarter. The Department of Geography is proud to announce that four of its students won the scholarship across these two periods. A big congratulations goes out to winners Katy Lundgren, Sam Nowak, Helen Olsen, and Zak Lee! Learn a bit about their research below:



Katy Lundgren
Katy is working with Dr. Lucy Jarosz on her Mary Gates Research project. She will be doing qualitative research consisting of interviews and participant observation on two faith-based organizations addressing homelessness in Seattle. She came to do this research because, as a person of faith, a Comparative Religions minor, and a background in social justice, she was curious about intersections between faith, geography, and care. She is considering the possibility of attending seminary or divinity school a few years down the road, and hopes that this research will shape the way she chooses to be involved with ministry in the future.




Sam Nowak
Sam will be working with Dr. Lucy Jarosz on his project, but has also received a great deal of support and advising from Dr. Sarah Elwood along the way. Sam describes his project in the following abstract, which will become a part of his presentation at the UW Undergraduate Research Symposium:

On October 29th, 2012, King County Metro of Washington State implemented a set of congestion reduction policies, including the elimination of the Ride Free Area (RFA) in downtown Seattle, which was once an area in which any individual could ride a Metro bus without charge. The elimination of such a service stands to have a disproportionate impact on low-income and homeless individuals as many once used the RFA to reach social service agencies and other vital services in the downtown area and will now have to pay to reach those destinations. This research works to understand how different groups in the city have reacted and adapted to the end of the RFA (including activists, social service agencies, bus drivers, and low-income or no-income individuals) in order to theorize around (im)mobilities of homelessness in the city. I draw on qualitative interviews, participant observation, and archival research in order to build an inductive, exploratory analysis of how homeless individuals are adapting to this policy implementation. In doing so, I call attention to the need for further research on the intersections of homelessness, mobility studies, public transportation policy in human geography.

Sam became involved in the project after working downtown in Pioneer Square as a volunteer at Real Change, Seattle’s street paper. While he was volunteering there the cuts had just gone through King County Council and he spoke to staff and vendors of the paper who were worried about how those cuts would impact how their vendors would reach the offices to buy papers as well as the vital services that they need that are spread out over downtown. The project has felt timely to Sam because public transportation is in such a crisis right now and in times of post-recession austerity. He is very interested in how the most transit dependent were adapting to austerity in the practices of their everyday lives. The elimination of the Ride Free Area gave him a focal point to approach those practices. Academically, the project pulls together urban geography and political geographies of homelessness, two bodies of research that have been enormously important to him throughout his undergraduate education. He finds the project even more exciting in that it allows him to explore mobilities and geographies of transportation which he hadn’t delved into prior to this project. Professionally, the process of designing, implementing, and writing up a project of this scope has been enormously beneficial for Sam. As he moves forward in his education he believes having those experiences will be invaluable.

helen plenum shot


Helen Olsen

Helen will be performing her research with Drs. Lucy Jarosz, Sarah Elwood, and Vicky Lawson. Her project looks to explore the emergence of public-private partnerships in response to widening disparities and cutbacks in women’s reproductive health care access and provisioning within Washington State. Using an NGO based in King County as a case study, she hopes to demonstrate that these partnerships constitute new models of public health provisioning, which are working to fill the void left by the rollback of state-sponsored public health programs. This project, and especially questions of health governance, is somewhat of a transitional moment for Helen. She is in the process of applying to graduate school and her proposed research hinges on questions of health, governance, and gendered inequality in post-conflict West Africa. Her research this year will expose her to literature that she hopes she will continue to work within for the foreseeable future. It will also offer her a great opportunity to engage in independent, primary research.


Zak Lee
Zak will be working with Drs. Luke Bergmann and Lucy Jarosz. His research studies the relationship between public transit services and socioeconomic inequality in Seattle using mixed methods (qualitative and quantitative) GIScience techniques. He has always been fascinated by what makes cities work and why, and the courses he has taken in the Geography Department have pushed him to critical examine these interests. His research in the department has allowed him to explore his own questions that he feels are relevant to understanding the human condition in our urbanizing world. The positive, enlightening experience working on research projects has also factored into his decision to apply geography in a professional setting, and it has also contributed to a desire to ultimately continue on to graduate studies.

Congratulations to Drs. Elwood and Lawson for their Recent NSF Research Coordination Network Grant!

The Department of Geography would like to extend a big congratulations to Dr. Sarah Elwood and Dr. Vicky Lawson for being awarded a five year (2013-2018), $500,000 Research Coordination Network Grant from the NSF! They have been awarded the grant to develop a collaborative network of researchers from around the world whose members will generate conceptual and methodological innovations in poverty research. The Relational Poverty Network (RPN) will extend mainstream poverty research with a relational conceptualization of poverty–an approach which holds great promise for innovative poverty policy, but also significant conceptual and methodological challenges for achievement.

Sarah and Vicky will develop the RPN through a series of annual workshops and ongoing activities, through which participants will produce new ways of operationalizing relational poverty concepts, create resources to support robust mixed-methods research and ‘many sites to many sites’ comparison, and catalyze dialogue across mainstream and relational poverty research scholars. Network members will also create and share publically available educational materials for teaching about relational poverty approaches in multiple disciplinary contexts.

The members in attendance at the first meeting of the RPN in Argentina.

The members in attendance at the first meeting of the RPN in Argentina.

Over the past few years Sarah and Vicky have built a core group of 60 social scientists at 30 institutions, including human geographers, sociologists, political scientists, historians, economists, anthropologists, and philosophers from the U.S., Argentina, South Africa, India, Canada, and Thailand. Going forward the RPN will expand from this core group. According to Sarah and Vicky: “This grant comes after a long sustained effort of proposal submission, revision, and re-submission to various funders–we are extremely grateful for the many ways that Geography faculty, staff, and graduate students have helped in this process.” Congrats to both!

To find out more about the two faculty members’ work, check out their websites! Find Sarah’s here and Vicky’s here.

Geography PhD student founds social media lab, gets $997k grant from NSF

Our own Joe Eckert helped found SoMe Lab in collaboration with two other students from the iSchool (Jeff Hemsley and Shawn Walker).  SoMe Lab is a social media  laboratory at the University of Washington.  They’re building data collection and analysis services for “big” social media data.  Their ideas and work were used as the core of a successful NSF grant proposal (INSPIRE) for $997,000.  Congratulations to Joe and the rest of the SoMe Lab team!

(map image is raw counts of geolocated Occupy-related tweet data from Oct. 19 – Dec. 31 2011)
You can read more about the lab here:

You can read the NSF grant here:

And read the iSchool’s announcement here:

Geography’s Undergraduate Research Award Winners

Congratulations to undergraduates Alexandria Ferguson and Christine Woodward for winning  UW Library Research Award prizes.


Christine Woodward (Geography & Latin American Studies)
Faculty Advisor: Jose Antonio Lucero, Jackson School of International Studies
Senior Thesis: Viva a Revolução/Sent from my iPhone: Politics, culture, and the Fora PM movement





Alexandria Ferguson (International Studies)
Faculty Advisor: Tish Lopez, Geography
White Demon Sophistry: the Gates Foundation’s Control over the Production of Knowledge of Women of the Global South

In this paper I conduct a discourse analysis of the Development paradigm to understand how aid workers control the production of knowledge around women of the Global South. In exploring how the development apparatus depicts women, I analyze the representations of women in real marketing materials from the Seattle-based NGO, The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. This paper draws on critical development theory and post-colonial feminism to deconstruct how the discourse of the Gates Foundation functions as an important factor defining the relationship between the Global South and the Global North. I argue that the Gates Foundation constructs reductive images of women through their roles as mother and farmers, without specificity, credible evidence or historical context, thereby reducing the agency and the complexity of the everyday lives of women from the Global South. These simplistic interpretations have real effects by informing the policy of development workers on the ground.