Summer Intern Alex Pitts ’17 teaches screen printing at the Boys & Girls Club of Bellevue, WA


Alex at a screen printing workshop.

My name is Alex Pitts and I’m currently interning at the Boys & Girls Club of Bellevue working on arts education and all-ages screen printing. Primarily, the Bellevue Boys & Girls Club provides resources to adolescents and teens in the community, such as mentorship, academic aid and summertime lunches. In addition to these services, the center organizes creative and career building programs; this is where arts education and screen printing fits in. A few times a week, the studio is open to youth in the community to ‘drop-in’ and have a safe, positive place to do creative work such as drawing, painting or sculpture. Other times during the week, there is a structured screen printing program that allows youth to learn the craft, improve their skills, and work on independent projects.

My internship role helps facilitate both programs during their operation hours, as well as work together with my supervisor to develop future curriculum for the screen printing program. This means helping kids work on their art, providing help with techniques specific to each craft, and providing mentorship while talking with them. Drop-in hours change from one day to the next depending on what the people who show up are interested in. Some days everyone working in the studio is very self-motivated and just needs help finding particular materials. Other days, we all work on projects together and I am just as involved with the art making as I am with the facilitating.

When the studio isn’t open, my supervisor and I talk about what went well and what could be improved about recent drop-in times. We also brainstorm ideas for improving the space, finding what supplies need to be replenished and thinking of what we could add to the studio that would help everyone work better.

IMG_8907My favorite parts of the week are when we hold screen printing meetings. This is when I meet with teenagers in order to improve printing craft and complete projects together as a team. During a typical meeting, we usually split the group into two parts: one for the beginners who want to learn how to print and work on their skills, and a second for those who know their way around the press. My supervisor and I both facilitate these meetings, meaning that I get a chance to work with all skill levels of teens. When I work with the more novice people, my role becomes that of a teacher; we practice techniques together, while I provide tips and instruction on the process. Conversely, when I work with the more intermediate group we all work together to design, develop and print the project on either paper or textile. Both roles are great to work as, I especially love getting to teach something I am passionate about in a ‘hands on’ way.

Working with the Boys & Girls Club has been a great mix of community building and teaching art thus far. I’m very excited to keep finding new projects to work on alongside such talented and creative youth.


Summer Inter Yuli Buckley ’18 creates “artificial muscles” at Western Washington University’s Chemistry Lab

Making a chloroform solutionThis summer I have the privilege of working in Western Washington University’s Chemistry lab under the supervision of Dr. Amanda Murphy. Her research involves creating silk-conducting polymer (CP) composites that can act as artificial muscle; these films are more flexible in vivo than current conducting polymers which are brittle and do not last long. When a silk film is chemically modified so that one side is active, ions diffuse across the film, causing expansion during oxidation and contraction during reduction. Dr. Murphy hopes to create silk-CPs that have increased durability, electrical conductivity, and stability.

Dr. Murphy’s lab has been experimenting with three CPs: poly(pyrrole) (Ppy), poly(3,4-ethylenedioxythiphene) (PEDOT), and poly(hydroxymethyl-3,4-ethylenedioxythiophene) (PEDOT-OH). The first layer of CP is chemically deposited onto the surface of the silk films, and an additional layer of CP is deposited using either electropolymerization or chemical polymerization. Electropolymerization techniques yield better results in regards to conductivity and occur in a dopant-monomer solution; the dopant (NaDBS or pTSA) allows for cation exchange. The chemical deposition of CPs onto silk films creates an interpenetrating network (IPN) which prevents delamination. After creating silk-CP IPNs between the conducting polymer and silk fibroin (from cocoons), her research students test the electrochemical properties of the silk-CP composites by performing cyclic voltammetry and four-point probe conductivity measurements to test resistivity.

There are many different aspects to this “artificial muscle” project, and I will be working on repelling proteins from accumulating on the surface of the silk-CP composites in vivo; protein accumulation hinders the ion exchange of the silk-CP composites. The first week in the lab, I was trained in every procedure relevant to my experiment.

Casting silk films

Casting silk films.

I isolated and purified silk fibers from cocoons to make a silk solution. I cast this onto silicon sheets to create films. Once I acid-modified the films, I was able to deposit polymerized Ppy onto them. This produced a silk-Ppy composite that was electrically conducting. I prepared the silk films for electropolymerization by making them into electrodes. I electropolymerized these electrodes in a dopant-monomer solution (NaDBS as the dopant; Ppy, EDOT, or EDOT-OH as the monomer) and performed four-point probe conductivity tests to ensure that the resistivities were within the appropriate range. I repeated this procedure with the two other CPs.

To prevent protein-binding on the silk devices, I synthesized an oligo- or polyethylene glycol monomer, EDOT-EG4, or more specifically, EDOT-O-PEG; the literature shows that this monomer repels proteins. Currently, I am waiting to perform Nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy (NMR) to determine how pure the EDOT-O-PEG is. I will be synthesizing silk-EDOT-O-PEG composites and measuring their impact on protein accumulation and will be performing tests to determine a ratio of EDOT-EG4 to EDOT-OH for optimal conductivity and protein repulsion.

I am excited about working on a project that is so important; the thought that I am directly contributing to scientific progress drives me every day in the lab. Through this internship, I have seen instruments and techniques I have never engaged with in a chemistry lab. I believe my work has a purpose, and I am looking forward to everything I will learn in the next few weeks.



Summer Intern Caity Varian ’17 promotes philanthropy at UniversalGiving in San Francisco, CA

Team orientation

Team orientation for summer interns at UniversalGiving.

This summer I am working at UniversalGiving®, an award winning nonprofit allowing people to donate and volunteer with top performing, vetted organizations all over the world. What first got me excited about UniversalGiving was the organization’s vision to “Create a World Where Giving and Volunteering Are a Natural Part of Everyday Life.”® This belief that giving and volunteering should be a fundamental part of not only one’s life but also one’s everyday inspired me.

I’ve only been working as a marketing intern at UniversalGiving for a few weeks now but I’ve already learned a lot about how to research and outreach to develop critical marketing partnerships, how to maintain important relationships and communications history in Salesforce, as well as how to prepare for speaking engagements, conferences and events. But the one thing I’ve learned that will stick with me the most is that philanthropy is not just about money; it’s about building relationships.

Philanthropy may come in the form of a financial gift, a volunteer trip, or a charitable donation to a noteworthy cause, but it can also be as simple as a kind word in a day-to-day interaction or giving a warm smile to someone you pass by on the street.

People need help everywhere. You don’t need to travel the world to give back (though if you have the opportunity to do so, by all means do it!) and the people you are serving don’t need to be the most impoverished. Volunteering and helping wherever you are and whenever you can will have an impact.

Another thing I’ve learned is the importance of giving your time and/or your money to a cause that you are truly passionate about. It’s amazing all of the ways the world needs support – whatever you are passionate about will provide an opportunity for you to contribute to society.

I am passionate about gleaning. What is gleaning you may ask? Gleaning is a form of food rescue that works to address issues of hunger and food insecurity. Gleaning can be done anywhere, including at grocery stores, supermarkets, farmer’s markets, restaurants, community gardens and local farms. Gleaning works to reduce food waste and promote community-based food systems, while also reducing the environmental impacts of agriculture.

I believe that healthy, local foods should be accessible to all and that more people should become educated about where their food comes from, where their food waste goes and how they can become involved in their local community to address hunger and inequalities in the food system. Although there is a lot more that needs to be done to address issues of poverty and food insecurity, gleaning is one way to make a difference and is one of the main ways I engage in giving.

Want to make a difference but don’t know how? Check out UniversalGiving’s public website. Give a gift, fund a project or volunteer. It’s never too late to make giving and volunteering a part of your everyday life!


Summer Intern Adam Bruns ’19 builds community at Sisters Of The Road in Portland, OR

Writing grants to support Sisters Of The Roads’ community programs.

This summer, I’ve been an intern at the Portland nonprofit Sisters Of The Road. We’re located in Old Town, the neighborhood with the highest rate of homelessness in the city, where Sisters has been making a difference since 1979. We serve low cost meals in our Cafe that can be paid for by bartering work, run a community garden, and seek systemic change through politics and activism. More importantly, Sisters is a vibrant community. Our space is safe, inviting, and inclusive of all people. For many of our customers, access to a welcoming and comfortable space is desperately needed, even if it’s just for a meal. The ongoing relationships that Sisters staff builds with community members keep people coming back. Working at Sisters has allowed me to be part of this community, and has been a key part of what I’ve learned so far in my internship. My time working in the Cafe has taught me that even when it seems easy to make assumptions about someone based on how they look or act, you’ll be wrong a hundred times before you’re right. People who come to Sisters come from truly all walks of life, and to share in part of their story is a privilege.

When not in the Cafe, I’ve been engaged in grant research, writing, and editing. It isn’t easy to fund the large volume of programming that Sisters manages to accomplish, and the development team spends much of its time actively seeking out new sources of funding from individual donors and foundations. Grants are a strange art, and I’ve had to learn the language that comes along with them. It’s an inconvenient truth that no matter how worthy your programs are, if you can’t present them in a way that makes a foundation executive’s jaw drop, you’re not getting funded. We spend a lot of time determining not just who might be willing to fund us, but how we’re going to tailor a presentation of the work we do to suit the target perfectly. Tinkering with language is one of my passions, and I’ve been able to dive into our grant work smoothly. The best part of the day is the “take,” when we take stock of incoming funds. A recent webinar said that to motivate your grant team you should ring a bell when a grant is successful, but somehow we’ve made do with yelling “DING DING DING” instead. We manage to not take ourselves too seriously here.

Sisters has been a place where I can help to accomplish great work, but it has also welcomed me into its community with open arms. I’m incredibly grateful to have been invited to intern here, and I’m looking forward to the weeks to come!

A Year in Review – Whitman School Outreach 2015-2016

Partnership.  Collaboration.  A win-win.   What does it really mean and what does it look like through the lens of community outreach?  I believe the healthy, long-standing relationship between Whitman College and the Walla Walla Public Schools is a realistic picture of these buzzwords and phrases we like to use in our daily work.  Because WWPS has opened its doors to bright, committed, passionate and talented young students who have chosen to make Walla Walla their community of choice for four years, experiential learning is at an all-time high for these students who desire to get off campus, test their interests and passions, and connect with community members.

The Student Engagement Center (the SEC), the InterCultural Center (the IC) and Science Outreach are robust entities at the College that exist to keep the momentum thriving in this arena of civic engagement and community outreach.  2015-2016 was another exceptional academic year where Whitties were leading, teaching and engaging with K-12 students from around the Walla Walla Valley.

Please take 5 minutes to read the 2015-2016 school outreach newsletter to better understand why Whitman’s educational outreach programs are a strong partnership, a healthy collaboration, and a win-win for all involved.