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Alumni Spotlight

Mariela Frias

In May of 2020, Mariela graduated cum laude with a BA in Comparative Ethnic Studies and a minor in Women’s Gender and Sexuality Studies. During her time at WSU, she earned the President’s Leadership Award, an Academic Excellence Award, and the Women’s Gender and Sexuality Studies Celia Fores Honorable Mention Scholarship. She served in various student-led organizations from Black Student Union, ASWSU, to RHA and is an alumni sister of Alpha Nu Multicultural Sorority, Inc. Since graduating from WSU, Mariela has worked as a Nonprofit Racial Justice Fellow for the Silicon Valley Council of Nonprofits in the San Francisco Bay Area. She works to advance racial equity, diversity, and inclusion learning opportunities for nonprofits across Silicon Valley. Mariela currently lives in San Jose, CA, however, she will be moving this fall to Sacramento, where she will begin her Jesse M. Unruh Assembly Fellowship with the California State Assembly while receiving a graduate certificate in Applied Policy and Government from California State University – Sacramento. In this fellowship, she will have the amazing opportunity to work alongside California’s legislature and help guide policy through a racial equity, inclusion, and intersectional feminist lens. Mariela is excited to continue learning, growing, and advocating for policies that improve the lives of those often left out of the policy-making process.

Mariela FriasIn this spirit, she would like to share some words from Elizabet Acevedo, an Afro Latina poet:

How quickly we forget / where we come from.

So remind me, / remind me

that I come from / the Taínos of the río

the Aztec, / the Mayan,

Los Incas, / los Españoles

con sus fincas / buscando oro,

and the Yoruba Africanos / que con sus manos

built a mundo / nunca imaginado.

I know I come / from stolen gold.

From cocoa, / from sugarcane,

the children / of slaves / and slave masters.

A beautifully tragic mixture, / a sancocho / of a race history.

Michael Graise

Since graduating with his degree in Humanities/Social Science, Michael was able to pursue his career in coaching. Since 2009, he has been coaching football at Pullman High School. The education he received from WSU also gave him the opportunity to not only coach but help children in the classroom with school projects and homework. This degree and the relationships he has made with WSU faculty and mentors have opened up various avenues for him.

Krista Brutman

During her undergraduate education, Krista Brutman decided to take a few introductory German classes because she had a passing interest in German music.  While her other classes were interesting, she found the German professors were by far the most engaging and kind. Their enthusiasm for their subject is what solidified her interest in learning the German language and culture. Because of this, she decided to continue taking as many German classes as possible. Krista found a love for communication and cultural exploration through the WSU language programs. She graduated from WSU in May of 2021 with a bachelor’s degree in mathematics and a professional major in German.

Immediately after graduating, Krista enrolled in the WSU Master in Teaching program because she enjoys working with children and helping them investigate their own interests. In this program, she completed her student teaching in a 6th-grade classroom in Colfax, WA. As a bonus activity one day, she offered to read her students a children’s book in German. The students loved the book and rapidly started trying to decode the text using pictures and context. Krista felt an immediate connection to teaching German after seeing how involved her students became. However, there were not many schools with German programs. Regardless, she listed her German education on her résumé. While attending a career fair, a school noticed and asked her to apply for their German teaching position. Krista knew it would be a great opportunity and was ecstatic. Currently, she has been hired to teach high school-level German classes, as well as a college-readiness program, at Hanford High School in Richland, WA. She hopes to pass on her love for the German language, and she hopes her students will be emboldened to explore and engage with other people and cultures.

Cheris Brewer Current

Cheris Brewer Current graduated in 2007 with a PhD in American Studies. She then accepted a tenure-track position at Walla Walla University in the Social Work and Sociology department. She earned tenure in 2014 and the rank of full professor in 2016. She has used her American Studies degree and her on-the-job training as a TA in the Ethnic Studies department to infuse the curriculum with critical examinations of intersectional identity in classes such as “Privilege and Oppression” and “Immigration and Identity.”

She has held numerous leadership roles and is actively involved in the governance system, serving as vice-chair of the University Senate (2013–14) and chair of the faculty (2016–18). She has also served twice as interim dean of the School of Social Work and Sociology. Her current leadership duties on campus include serving as a member of the Executive Committee for Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Belonging and as director of the Donald Blake Center for the Study of Race, Ethnicity, and Culture. In this role she, consulted on the adoption of a campus-wide “diversity” requirement for the General Studies program, writing the objective and setting the criteria for vetting new classes. She also organizes the Center’s yearly academic conference, inviting speakers and providing students and professors from the inland Northwest with opportunities to present their research on race and ethnicity. Her leadership is not confined to campus, she has held board positions on several non-profits in the Walla Walla Valley. She is currently wrapping up her 11th year on the Blue Mountain Action Council Board, serving as chair of the board for the last two years.

While most of her time is spent in the classroom or in committee meetings, she does have a few recent publications, namely “Hipster racism and sexism in charity date auctions: Individualism, privilege blindness and irony in the academy” in Gender and Education. And a co-authored article,We are what we read: Assessing bias in the implicit curriculum of a social work program” in Advances in Social Work.

When not at work, she loves to travel with her husband and daughter. Since this was not possible during the pandemic, she spent her leisure time working on a master’s degree in social work and is set to graduate in the spring of 2023.