The Department of Anthropology offers a special topics course taught by Professor Bettina Shell Duncan on health disparities in King County with a focus on the Somali refugee and immigrant communities. This is a service learning course, in which students are required to volunteer at a local organization focused on serving refugee and immigrant populations in King County. This type of experiential learning exposes students to unique perspectives while providing partner organizations with engaged volunteers.
Signe Burchim, a graduating senior double majoring in Medical Anthropology and Global Health and Political Science, took this course in Autumn Quarter 2015. For the service learning component, she volunteered at the Refugee Women’s Alliance in their job readiness training classes, which are aimed at breaking down barriers to employment. Some of these barriers to employment for parents, such as being English language learners and having non-transferable skills, can affect the nutritional status and health of children. Burchim decided to continue volunteering at the Refugee Women’s Alliance after completing her service learning requirement in order to better understand the health disparities that face Seattle’s growing Somali refugee and immigrant communities. She is comparing her observations in South Seattle with a previous study on social determinants of health, nutritional status, and food insecurity of Somali refugee and immigrant children living in Lewiston, Maine.
This service and research experience has inspired Burchim to find innovative ways to use public policy to positively impact the immigration system in the United States. She hopes to continue working toward health and equity for all people by joining the Community HealthCorps, the largest health-focused AmeriCorps program, after graduation.
Burchim will be presenting her research at the UW Undergraduate Research Symposium on May 20 along with over 20 other students majoring or minoring in anthropology. These impressive research projects were conducted under the direct mentorship of 13 faculty members from the Department of Anthropology.