The Interim Dean 1.0

For the last 6 months I’ve been serving as our interim dean. It is an amazing experience and creating opportunities for me to speak to our college in ways that I’ve never spoken before. The next few “thinking out loud” posts are from my emails to our faculty and staff. These were my way of thinking about equity and change.

August 27, 2020

Subject: Creating the World We Want to Live In

Good morning CHASS Colleagues,

As I near the end of my first month serving as your Interim Dean I am inspired and challenged. This first month I had short meetings with all of the Department Chairs. It was a moment to listen and learn what aspirations the Departments have for the future, their challenges, and needs necessary to achieving their goals. I am grateful for their wisdom. These conversations along with the many, many other meetings informed what I have come to think of as weekly themes for my steep learning curve as Interim Dean. The first week revealed our need to be more inclusive in all our decision-making processes. Often times things “just happen” and no one knows why or even sometimes what happened. We need to be more collaborative in our decision-making processes. Even if we cannot make the decision that an individual or group is hoping for, to know that they were an integral part of how that decision was achieved is a value of shared governance and a process that keeps us on a good path for being honest and responsible to each other.

The second week revealed an increased need to ensure we keep people in the loop. Was a decision made that didn’t work? And then what happened? Were processes followed? And then what happened? Did we say we were going to do something? Did we do it? Did we make a mistake that affects others and neglected to tell the people it impacted? “Closing the loop” is an extension of week one’s theme but with a clearer intention to be responsible to each other.

Week three was the hardest. It was filled with reminders that we are a land grant institution that has its history, processes, and procedures that can constrain our ability to be agile in meeting our needs and obligations. This, makes it hard to meet the challenges of the moment.

For the past few years I have been collaborating with Riverside/San Bernardino Counties Indian Health Inc. (RSBCIHI). As a community-engaged researcher, all of our processes were inclusive beginning with the design of the questions we asked and data collection, to data analysis and dissemination. I value this work more than anything. What I learned about RSBCIHI is that they are not a health system that was started by Indian Health Services (IHS). They are a system that was started by the consortium of tribes, on whose land UCR occupies. When the U.S. government decided they would not abide by their legal agreements with the tribes to provide health care, the tribes of the Southern California Indian Agency gathered and decided to pool their resources and create their own health services system. RSBCIHI celebrated their 50th anniversary in 2019. The tribes knew that they needed health care, that they were responsible for each other’s well-being, and that together they could meet the challenge in front of them. Importantly the tribes hold the collaborative power and decision-making for the direction and maintenance of RSBCIHI. They are a critical part of creating the world they want to live in. The tribes and their decision to share resources to create RSBCIHI represent one path with a clear vision and values.

As we face continuing challenges with the global pandemic, the economic crisis, a contentious upcoming election, and our solidarity with Black Lives Matter and institutional accountability, what are our values as we walk this path? How will our decisions today impact the direction of our college, campus, and university in the future? This is a moment of world-building and a moment of increased responsibility for each other. As we continue, I invite you to ponder these questions of how we create the world we want to live in and the things we need to do to be collaborative, creative, and agile. I invite you to consider what we can learn from RSBCIHI and how we might shift our institutional processes and individual actions to more acutely reflect on the values of the world we are reshaping.

In this next month, I will continue being open to new ideas and learning the responsibilities of the Interim Dean. Specific actions that we are taking in the Dean’s office include a rededication to engagement with our CHASS community and keeping people in the loop. We also have a few new initiatives that we are taking on, the most exciting of which is our Black Studies Initiative. We anticipate this initiative getting underway mid to late September with the guidance of a committee that will be developed in consultation with the Blackness Unbound Collective, Department Chairs, Students, and community. In addition, we will be developing detailed statements around interdisciplinary and community engaged research as CHASS value for merits and promotions and restarting CHASS’s faculty mentorship program.

As you reflect on all that has been shared, I look forward to hearing your innovative ideas on how we can meet our upcoming challenges and how to collaboratively create the world we want to live in.

With respect and gratitude,


CHASS, Interim Dean


On my 5? birthday, my friends I gathered to celebrate being in this world together. Of course this was pre-covid. I gave them each a packet of tobacco seeds in acknowledgment of our friendship and how we help and guide each other. We were to plant the seeds this spring. Spring came and I planted mine as did my friend. I waited. Sadly my seeds never sprouted. With great joy, my friend’s seeds grew with enthusiasm. She shared the generosity of the growth with me. We are growing tobacco. With gratitude to my friends, our plants, and the opportunity to share with others.

Releasing Voices

I’ve often thought about what to do with all the printouts of interviews and conversations that I’ve been a part of over the years. IRB always asks us when our data will be destroyed? I always tell them that “As is standard anthropological practice, the data will be kept indefinitely.” We do not “destroy” things that were shared with us. Right? But then, once everything has been digitized, what do we do with the boxes and boxes of paper? We could shred the “data”. But that feels like a violence to the words, the voices, that people so generously shared. Knives ripping through the life of the paper, ink, and meaning. How do we release the voices from the paper and allow them to become the air that first brought them into being? How do we honor the gift that was shared?

So my friends who helped me collect stories, who collected stories of their own, and I secured a firepit at the local beach. We cleansed the pit with sage and a blessing. Then we released the voices from the ink and paper. The voices in Samoan, Tongan, Spanish, English, and Italian whispered to us again, kept us warm, and stirred our memories.



Sharing with the Beloved Foundation

On Friday, February 2, 2017, I had the honor of sharing work from my Creating Comics Project at the Beloved Foundation’s REACH Oncology Social Worker’s Symposium.  The mission of the Beloved Foundation is “to ease the burden of families who are struggling financially as a result of caring for a loved one with terminal cancer.” It was a terrific day learning from co-presenters on current research on fertility and sexuality for cancer patients by Dr. Mehdi Kebria and laws and regulations for work accommodations by Joseph Richardson. The day was organized by CEO Jennifer Talbert-Miller, the joyful person in the picture with me. It was terrific time to meet so many people from The CARE Project, Michelle’s Place, American Cancer Society, Riverside, The Cancer Legal Resource Center, and more. I learned so much about the people and organizations supporting people living with cancer, their families, and each other. It was an inspiring day. They work together in the toughest moments of life to make a difference in how we care for each other.

Our Stories in Biosketches: Research Opportunities and Agendas

Our Stories in Biosketches: Research Opportunities and Agendas
Juliet McMullin
in preparation for
Office of Minority Health Resource Center,
Higher Education Technical Assistance Program.
San Francisco State University.
September 24, 2015

Thank you for the invitation to share with you today and for the opportunity to think through my research journey. As noted in my introduction I’ve worked on a number of projects and have all sorts of stories about the trials and joys of working with community, so if you have questions about those projects please ask.

But for this presentation, my research journey presentation, I kind of have a bone to pick about grant applications and the biosketch section we have to fill out. As I was preparing this presentation I got an email from our grants assistant telling me I needed to update my bio-sketch – so let’s have a talk about these documents that are supposed to track our research journeys.

Part I

So you all know about the NIH biosketch??

When you apply for funding the Biographical Sketch or “biosketch,” as it is more commonly referred to, is a document that you are asked to supply with your application. The first time, in the early 2000s I had to fill one out it requested my employment record, publications, and previous and current funding within the past 3 years. The format of that first biosketch was an evaluation of my productivity, what had I done in my career that was relevant to the funding I was asking for. But it was just a sketch, the barest of outlines.

The funny thing is that it also makes it appear as if you always knew that this is what you wanted, this was the path I was on and I always knew where I wanted to go.

I didn’t know I was going to be a medical anthropologist. I thought I was going to graduate school to study sociology of art, I was intrigued by the representation of bodies and their meanings in comics. Before arriving at graduate school, I had taken a lot of methods and data analysis classes as an undergraduate. I don’t know why, maybe because I had my preschool aged daughter at the time, and I was trying to figure out how we come to know the world. Whatever the reason I took a lot of methods courses as an undergraduate.

When I arrived at graduate school, Leo Chavez, who would eventually become my dissertation chair had just received an R01 with his colleague in the medical school to study Latina’s knowledge and preventive practices related to breast and cervical cancer. It was the early 1990s before the effort to really engage community in the research process. Interestingly this was among the first study to actually ask Latina women what they thought caused breast and cervical cancer. Up until that time the standard was to ask people if they knew what science said were the causes, a knowledge deficit approach. Continue reading

Interview with Katy Avila for Antioch University’s Journal Lunch Ticket

KA: It’s kind of an art just to have a body, isn’t it?

JM: And who gets to have a body? Right? I think—for me—a lot of this has been around questions of diversity and whose voices we get to hear. I would love to hear and see so many more comics. I’m looking for Pacific Islander texts around this genre and all of the autobiographical illness narratives, and there are so many other cultural reasons why you don’t tell certain stories. Ta-Nehisi Coates’s Between the World and Me is amazing. He says these things about who gets to have a body, and who gets to tell the story.