New T.I.E.S. Program Brings Study Away Even Closer

TACOMA, Wash (Sept. 29, 2015) – Pacific Lutheran University prides itself on global education—it was the first university with a Study Away student on every continent at once, and nearly 50 percent of students study away, compared to the national average of 10 percent—but its newest semester-long Study Away program puts students just a few miles away.

The Tacoma Immersion Experience Semester (T.I.E.S.), offered for the first time in Spring 2016, aims to “promote a deep and nuanced understanding of how thoughtful inquiry, service, leadership and care foster collaborative engagement” toward a more “diverse, just and sustainable community.”

“(T.I.E.S.) provides an opportunity for students to dive deeper into the local community with the same focus, interest and love that they have for places around the world,” said PLU Associate Professor of Art and Design and T.I.E.S. Program Director JP Avila.

Joel Zylstra, Director of the Center for Community Engagement and Service at PLU, helped plan and launch T.I.E.S. He says the program connects “global influence with local concerns and opportunities.”

“Tacoma offers an incredible window in seeing how globalization continues to influence how local communities function,” Zylstra said. “While PLU’s international Gateway programs continue to thrive, we are at a place where we can craft a local experience that challenges students to learn in contexts that they may be unfamiliar with.”

In the inaugural program, six students will live in a house in the Hilltop neighborhood, take classes and work in the community through volunteering and internships with public services (like community organizations, government/public institutions and businesses).

The 16-credit program includes four courses from three disciplines:

  • Religion 393, “Topics in Comparative Religion: Buddhism and Asian Immigration in Tacoma,” taught by Assistant Professor of Religion Erik Hammerstrom, examines how the intersection of race and Buddhism Affect the Puget Sound community;
  • Sociology 387, “Case Study: Tacoma, A Critique of Education in the U.S.,” taught by Visiting Assistant Professor of Sociology Galen Ciscell, puts the American education system under a critical lens, especially “educational inequalities and opportunities” in Tacoma;
  • Global Studies 387, “Indigenous Tacoma and the Pedagogy of Place,” taught by Associate Professor of Norwegian and Scandinavian Studies Troy Storfjell, explores the history and present of Tacoma as an indigenous place.
  •  Global Studies 301, “Tacoma: The Power of Place and Identity,” taught by Associate Professor of Art & Design Jp Avila, which explore the cultural intersections, identities and issues that define the city.

“We anticipate students falling in love with Tacoma and wanting to stay engaged in the city after they graduate,” Zylstra said. “That being said, the goal is not only for students to immerse themselves in Tacoma, but also to learn to participate in and navigate whatever communities they find themselves in beyond their time at PLU.”

Avila is looking forward to how the T.I.E.S. program may grow.

“This program can become an incubator for students to gain amazing contacts throughout the city and find their vocation in civic service, nonprofit support or many of the businesses that make up the City of Destiny,” he said.

The T.I.E.S. program will be accepting applications until Nov. 1.  For more information visit or contact Tanya Ulsted at the Wang Center, Program Coordinator Rachel Haxtema or Program Director JP Avila.

Originally written for PLU Marketing & Communications, available here.

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