Summer of Transitions: Stories that Matter

Written by Scott Macklin, Comm Lead Associate Director.  

The past summer has been beset with a series of traumatic and dramatic events that has shaken the very core of our humanity and put us on a pathway towards cultural confusion and a paralyzing skepticism. Not only are we moving away from relationships with institutions that we have heretofore trusted, we are becoming increasingly fearful of them. These tragic happenings have created an existential and collective questioning that compels us to think differently about what we all must learn in terms of social justice, race, and equity.

Questions such as – What do we care about? Where do we stand and with whom? When is it necessary to step back? Whose interests are being served through our actions? – are creating a transitional environment where a re-evaluation of one’s inherited values is at hand.

During this transition, communication, creativity, and collaboration become key, both at a personal and collective level. Individuals, as well as organizations, must shift to a collective growth and learning mindset if they are to become agile enough to simultaneously pursue social responsiveness and maintain organizational integrity.

In her book, Mindset: The New Psychology of Success, Carol Dweck states, “Mindset change is not about picking up a few pointers here and there. It’s about seeing things in a new way. When people…change to a growth mindset, they change from a judge-and-be-judged framework to a learn-and-help-learn framework. Their commitment is to growth, and growth takes plenty of time, effort, and mutual support.”

The ability to move to a growth mindset is rooted in story. Story creates the opportunity to move from a fixed mindset to a growth mindset. Through listening and entering into another’s story one has the opportunity to experience a realm beyond their own particular world-and-life lens, and thus develop eyes that may see and ears that may hear in new ways.

The hope is that we begin to think of story as a means to open up the realm of the possible, a way to transform our world-and-life views. Central to this transitional work is the notion of storytelling where stories are forged in the process of deep hanging out – where a story is made in collaboration with a community of practice, where one engages in the act of making a story with people from a particular community not just about them.

What follows are some recent examples of story work produced by the students and faculty of the Communication Leadership graduate program at the University of Washington. These examples are meant to serve as a demonstration of our commitment to listen actively, and then build off of the reservoirs of our particular world-and-life views and values in order to develop repertoires of collective action.



#BlackLivesMatter: The Urgency of Racial Justice Activism in Our Time

Black. Lives. Matter. These three words have given voice to a new era of activism, responding to the litany of African-American shooting deaths at the hands of police and vigilantes in recent years, and more broadly to the anti-black racism that has pervaded U.S. society since slavery. At this day-long teach-in, we foregrounded the vital work that activists do to promote racial justice across a variety of arenas. Our hope is that everyone — from those who’ve never given much thought to activism to those who are on the front lines of the Black Lives Matter movement — came away with a renewed commitment to be a proactive advocate for black life.


Speak Your Truth at Living Future

Living Future unConference attendees speak their truth and share their visions for creating a living future for all. Living Future is the forum for leading minds in the green building movement seeking solutions to the most daunting global issues of our time. Out-of-the-ordinary learning and networking formats lend to the design strategies and cutting-edge technical information that abounds at Living Future. This film was created by Communication Leadership’s Ala’ Khan, Ashley Johnson and Scott Macklin.

Associate Director Scott Macklin and students Ashley Johnson and Ala' Khan man the camera at the Living Future unConference.

Associate Director Scott Macklin and students Ashley Johnson and Ala’ Khan man the camera at the Living Future unConference.



Creative Advantage: Media Arts for All Classrooms

The “Media Arts for All Classrooms” series builds teachers’ capacities to integrate digital literacy into all content areas, providing skills and teaching strategies in film, graphic design, and podcasting.


Cristina Orbé: Complex Exchange | Collaboration | Connectivity

Presented in partnership with the Seattle Art Museum, Complex Exchange pairs Seattle community members from varying disciplines in a series of conversations related to issues of race, power, and politics of representation. Artists, technologists, activists, writers, and community builders tackle themes inspired by the exhibition, “Kehinde Wiley: A New Republic,” on view at the Seattle Art Museum, and The Harmon & Harriet Kelley Collection of African American Art: Works on Paper at the Northwest African American Museum (NAAM).



SIC Design Swarm: Hackathon for the Homeless

The Seattle Interactive Conference partnered with Mary’s Place, an organization dedicated to helping homeless women, to debut a unique format that brought together design teams to work on the homeless crisis. Design Swarming is a collaborative innovation technique that brings together the empathy of design thinking and agility of hack-a-thons to create disruptive solutions to social and business problems.


Content Strategy: Beyond the Screen

On June 4, 2016, the Communication Leadership graduate program hosted an intimate, participative masterclass, titled “Content Strategy Beyond the Screen: How VR and IoT will change storytelling” to explore these very themes. Guided by the program’s director, Hanson Hosein, attendees learned about the history and current state of media-evoked experiences from Charlie Sutton, VR Designer for Facebook, and about voice-enhanced applications and development platforms from Noelle LaCharite, Solutions Architect and Evangelist for Amazon Alexa and Echo. The second half of the day was devoted to immersive learning and modeling via interactive workshops led by industry content strategy experts.



Four Peaks: Making of the Opening Sequence

Four Peaks is a current affairs show that taps into the Pacific Northwest’s rich endowment of idea generators, influential activists, business visionaries and inspired storytellers. For this new season, now in 4K, we have turned over the production to the students in the Communication Leadership program. The students (Scott Morris, Sebastian Sanchez and Scott Wilson) developed the show’s new opening sequence and filmed it with a Red camera, using a DJI Ronin camera-stabilizing rig. To check out the entire set of episodes, please see:

Comm Lead Director Hanson Hosein grins as students (from left) Scott Morris, Sebastian Sanchez and Scott Wilson handle the camera rig during Four Peaks filming.

Comm Lead Director Hanson Hosein grins as students (from left) Scott Morris, Sebastian Sanchez and Scott Wilson handle the camera rig during Four Peaks filming.


Muslims Defend the Sacred – Solidarity with Standing Rock

Directed and edited by Communication Leadership student Ala’ Khan, “Muslims Defend the Sacred – Solidarity with Standing Rock” is a video message “sending greetings of peace to our American Indian sisters and brothers in these times of great violence and destruction. The struggle of the Standing Rock Sioux and the incredible unity on display right now by American Indian tribes from across the land is inspiring the world. We stand with you for the sacred, for the water, for the Earth, and for human dignity.”

Solidarity is also actionable: This video message is part of a series of expressions of solidarity from the Muslim community to the Water Protectors including a crowd-funding campaign and a delegation going to Sacred Stone Camp in North Dakota to deliver Zam Zam (holy water) as a sign of sacredness and solidarity.


Odegaard Award – Colleen Fukui-Sketchley

Colleen Fukui-Sketchley, diversity affairs director for Nordstrom, is the 2015 recipient of the University of Washington Charles E. Odegaard Award. This honor is regarded as the highest achievement in diversity at the UW.


Muckleshoot Tribe – Cultural Heritage: Sla-Hal (Trailer)

The Muckleshoot Tribe are descendants of the native people who inhabited the Duwamish and Upper Puyallup watersheds of central Puget Sound for thousands of years before non-Indian settlement. They are hosts to this year’s Sla-Hal tournament. Sla-Hal is a guessing game…a game of chance. This is a game of strategy and skill. There is now a re-emergence of the ancient sticks Sla-Hal, which reminds families of their tribal heritage and cultural unity.


Multicultural Alumni Partnership Scholars

Founded in 1994, the Multicultural Alumni Partnership is dedicated to promoting diversity at the UW and in the UW alumni community. MAP’s signature event is the annual “Bridging the Gap” Breakfast, held annually on Homecoming Saturday. The morning celebration recognizes the recipients of the MAP scholarship and the service of alumni and friends who have made a difference for diversity at the UW.

Ilona IdlisSummer of Transitions: Stories that Matter
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