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Whiteley Scholar LeiLani Nishime, Professor of Communication at the University of Washington

Often, scholars at the Whiteley Center spend their time working on projects in relative isolation. And that’s no surprise, as many are looking for a quiet place to distill their thoughts and dive deep into their work, be it artistry, writing manuscripts or hatching new ideas for future projects.

But the Center is also a haven for those who wish to retreat with others, spending time with one another to build community and partnership around a common set of interests. That’s exactly how the group WIRED—Women Investigating Race, Ethnicity and Difference—uses the space. Visiting the Center is an opportunity to gather, explore and share new ideas, work on projects both individually and together, give each other feedback, and spend time away from the daily demands of life in Seattle.

“Being able to have that dedicated time to work, get together in a space at the Center to workshop ideas, then go back to your cabins and work on those new ideas is so unique,” says LeiLani Nishime, a professor of communications at UW and co-leader of WIRED. “Everyone who is part of the group has not only academic responsibilities, but personal and social responsibilities. This is a time where people can step away and focus on something different.”

Nishime’s work centers on multiracial and interracial studies, and explores Asian American media representations and subcultural production. She has written two books, Undercover Asian: Multiracial Asian Americans in Visual Culture and Racial Ecologies. Her work with WIRED, whose makeup are all female identified faculty at UW, allows connections to be made between race and gender scholars to critically reflect upon and reframe ways to approach teaching, research and professionalization.

“Retreats are focused on people that need to spend time on their research,” she says. “There are usually about six of us at a time, and we book between a week and two weeks. People sign up for chunks of days, and rotate in and out. Some work alone, some gather to bounce ideas off one another. We eat every meal together, and when everyone is there we get together and present our work and get feedback. It’s a pretty strong workshop.”

While Nishime gains a lot by interacting with her colleagues in the moment, she is always surprised at how long those benefits last. “It’s so productive. The concentrated time kick starts my work in a way that lasts far beyond the time I spend there.”

A typical day for the WIRED group looks different for everyone, but usually includes eating all their meals together in the dining hall, writing until midday, gathering in groups for a walk on the campus, some more writing, then dinner and connecting with one another. When time allows, they also explore the shoreline, take the rowboats for a spin in the harbor and, on their last night together, head into town for a celebratory meal.

One of the biggest benefits to Nishime is being able to step away and let her guard down a bit. “I need to defend my work a lot in my day-to-day life, and I need to have some of my defenses about my work at the ready,” she says. “But at the Whiteley Center and with WIRED, I feel understood and am with a group where I don’t have to explain myself. Being at the Center feels like something magical, like a fairy story or something. The impact lasts so much longer than I expect, and clarifies my thinking and my attachment to WIRED.”

Learn more about Nishime on her UW webpage, and read about her books Undercover Asian: Multiracial Asian Americans in Visual Culture and Racial Ecologies.

Return to Whiteley Center webpage.