The Seed Field

Reflect, Act, Repeat. How Cycles of Inquiry Help Us Challenge Dominant Narratives

Episode Summary

Mapmaking? Birdwatching? Political activism? Dr. Sue Woehrlin sees in each of these activities the importance of narrative—and she teaches her students to see and master these narratives. Stories are the way we make sense of the world, so it’s important for us to understand the stories of our cultures, our communities, and ourselves. Dr. Woehrlin joins the Seed Field Podcast for the final episode of our first season to discuss ways of studying and questioning the stories around us. Through a fascinating conversation about maps, birds, and narrative, we explore ways that changemakers can take back control of the stories being told, reimagining the world, and work to make it more just.

Episode Notes

Mapmaking? Birdwatching? Political activism? Dr. Sue Woehrlin sees in each of these activities the importance of narrative—and she teaches her students to see and master these narratives. Stories are the way we make sense of the world, so it’s important for us to understand the stories of our cultures, our communities, and ourselves. Dr. Woehrlin joins the Seed Field Podcast for the final episode of our first season to discuss ways of studying and questioning the stories around us. Through a fascinating conversation about maps, birds, and narrative, we explore ways that changemakers can take back control of the stories being told, reimagining the world and work to make it more just.

Dr. Sue Woehrlin teaches in the Undergraduate Program at Antioch University Seattle. Learn about Antioch University’s Undergraduate offerings here

Learn more about Dr. Sue Woehrlin.

Recorded July 12, 2021 via Released August 4, 2021. 

The Seed Field Podcast is produced by Antioch University.

The Seed Field Podcast’s host is Jasper Nighthawk, and its editor is Lauren Instenes. Special thanks for this episode goes to Melissa Batalin, Karen Hamilton, and Melinda Garland for their contributions.

For information about this and past episodes, and to access a full transcript, visit To get updates and be notified about future episodes, follow Antioch University on Facebook.

Episode Transcription

[intro music]

[00:00:06] Jasper Nighthawk: Welcome, and thank you for joining us. You're listening to The Seed Field Podcast presented to you by Antioch University.


With every episode of The Seed Field, we celebrate and share stories of those who embody the spirit of our founder, Horace Mann, as they win victories for humanity. I'm your host, Jasper Nighthawk. Today, we're going to be talking about the importance of narrative in social movements and the ways that we can take control of these narratives and use them thoughtfully. I'm especially excited to have this conversation because our guest, Sue Woehrlin, teaches not just a course in narrating change but also another course looking closely at how maps affect our understanding of the world, and yet another, looking at birds in the imagination and out in the field.

I want to explore how these subjects fit together, how they inform each other, and why they're important today. Sue really is the perfect person to talk about this. She's the Chair of Undergraduate Studies at Antioch University, Seattle. Her active areas of inquiry include participatory design, group facilitation, collaborative team leadership, reflective professional practice, community-based consultation, and large-scale strategies for whole systems learning and change. She holds a PhD in participatory design from the Union Institute & University in Cincinnati, Ohio. Welcome to The Seed Field Podcast, Sue.

[00:01:38] Sue Woehrlin: Thank you, Jasper. I'm glad to be here speaking with you today.

[00:01:41] Jasper: Oh, we're so happy to have you here. We're going to be talking a lot about narrative. I thought a really great place for us to start would be if you could tell us some of your own narrative. What do we and our listeners need to know to understand why you teach and study these subjects?

[00:01:58] Sue: Great place to start. Well, there are so many ways that one can frame one's narrative, but I was thinking about my own history as a learner because we're really talking about who I am as a teacher and how I engage in Antioch with learners. I'd say that I come from a family that highly invested in learning, both formal learning, and informal learning, and recognized that learning happened well beyond the classroom. I also came from a family of privilege that had the means to afford education like my grandmother, great grandmother, and great great grandmother went to college, which is very unusual back in those days.

I recognize that a lot of my education has been about what am I most excited about and exploring it and in a liberal arts context. It's been very interdisciplinary. When you're in the liberal arts, you don't have to justify what you take. You can study a number of different fields. I went from one college to another in search of one and I ended up at a place called College of the Atlantic in Bar Harbor, Maine, where everyone got a degree in human ecology. It was very interdisciplinary.

They also required that you go out into the world and learn by doing. For instance, in my early seeds of my leadership interest in collaborative change, I spent a summer working with a lesbian feminist carpentry collective in Minneapolis. It was just phenomenal because I got to learn at a grassroots level what it meant to really be part of a team where there was no designated leader and that seeded in a lot of my thinking. I also spent a summer with NOLS, the National Outdoor Leadership School in the wilderness in Alaska, climbing mountains and learning about ecology and glaciology.

I'll never forget, one evening after dinner, we were sitting on a glacial moraine having a lesson about a phenomenon called valley fog, which forms when the cool air of the evening captures the warmer air of the day in the valley and fog forms and moves up the valley. Literally, as the instructor was speaking, valley fog formed and came up and engulfed us. You couldn't see more than 15 feet, whereas we'd been seeing 20, 30 miles down the valley. I've always loved that learning.

[00:04:07] Jasper: Oh my gosh. That's such a perfect encapsulation of the type of learning that can be really grounded in place and that seems to run through all of your work. You brought up interdisciplinarity. What does it mean for something to be interdisciplinary?

[00:04:23] Sue: Well, I think, the formal academy divides learning into fields. That can be very valuable, like what is a historian and what does she do? What are the methods that are used and stuff? How is that different than someone who's studying the arts or literature or something? As a colleague of mine, Mary Lou Finlay, who's a faculty emeritus at Antioch, Seattle said, the world's problems don't come in disciplines. The world problems, by definition, are interdisciplinary. When you're trying to look at something like climate change or world hunger or world peace, it's like you need to bring a lot of different perspectives to bear.

The classic way of doing Interdisciplinary Studies is to have a historian and a literature person and an ecologist teach a class together. They literally weave their three disciplines together. I grew up in a meta or outside of disciplinary studies so I just love to bring in different perspectives. Like, when it's appropriate, bring in literature and be reading literature as in novels, poetry, and stuff. When it's appropriate to bring in science perspectives, bring that in. When you need to bring in leadership, bring that in.

It's like you just build something out of different components. It gives you the fluidity to take different perspectives. Of course, that fits perfectly with Antioch where you tend to have learners who are multimodal. You may be studying to become a therapist but you're also a closet poet or you're also an artist or a writer or something. Our students tend to be very interdisciplinary anyway, so it's a good fit.

[00:05:57] Jasper: I love that. I think especially at the undergraduate level, it makes so much sense not to wall yourself into one discipline. I want to bring this around to talking about narrative, and you teach this course, Narrating Change: Stories for Collective Action that is itself deeply interdisciplinary. How does narrative and leadership and then all of these different disciplines that you bring to bear on it, where is the intersection there?

[00:06:24] Sue: Well, maybe this is a route in but I first started teaching a class called Research Methods for Practitioners and Activists. I'm really interested in the qualitative research where you really bring people together in dialogue versus other kinds that are very quantitative and not many people would take it. I started to look at what was at the core of the class and I realized narrative was. All these methods really had narrative or story at it.

When I renamed it Narrating Change: Stories for Collective Action, tons of people wanted to take the class because people have this instinctual connection with stories. I realized it cuts across disciplines and it's really, it's because stories are just who we are. They're how we make sense of our lives, they're what inspires us. It's how we come together in a collective and figure out who we are and where we want to go. Changing our stories can help us heal individually. It can help groups be inspired to be in a different way and to affect change.

I realized that as a leader, if you had an understanding of story and how to work with story, that it gave you an incredibly powerful tool. Actually, if you study leaders, you will see that they're very good either in their oratory telling stories or even better yet in terms of participatory change, evoking people to choose and grow a story together that they want to enact.

[00:07:43] Jasper: I love the way you put that, This collective telling of stories. That leadership is to some degree, this quality of being able to identify stories and to rally others to it and to create a space where you can engage in telling that story together. I love, in your syllabus for that course, you describe this narrative work as having cycles of reflection and action. Can you tell us a little bit more about how these cycles are important?

[00:08:12] Sue: Sure. There's both what's happening in the real world, how the stories affect change, and then how does one learn how to do that? Of course, my belief is that you learn it in a way that reflects how it actually happens in the world, and then you're going to best be able to work with it. If you think about it, in the world, we don't suddenly figure out who we are in one moment, usually. It's an iterative process. We have a sense of, oh, maybe this is what I'm called to do or maybe this is a significant part of my identity. Then we start to live it and then in that living, it either gets refined or gets refuted and then you realize it's something else and it grows and evolves.

It makes sense to me that if you're working with learners who are trying to learn about story and how to work with it in the world, you need to go through these alternating cycles where you both reflect on what you're seeing or what you're hearing, try to make sense, pull it together into something, and then figure out, how can I put that into practice and then see what happens. In a classic research model, you're not supposed to affect the situation. You're supposed to control it and just see what happens so you can really study it. In an action research or participatory action research, the whole point is to affect change.

What you're wanting to do is to figure out a meaningful way that you might poke the system or introduce something new or perturbate it or whatever words you want to use, and then start to see if it's starting to go the way you're wanting it to evolve. Then you can tweak your approach. If it's not working, you try something else, or if it is, you do more of that. Then you start to bring more people in and more dimensions. To me, the learning and living is so much about alternating between doing and being and thinking about it that I can't even imagine separating them.

[00:09:56] Jasper: Yes. I love that you use the word perturbate, which is just a great one for- a good $10 word -but for upsetting these more rigid ways that we go about thinking. Could you tell us a little bit more about action research and how that differs from a more traditional type of scientific method research?

[00:10:15] Sue: Well, specifically, action research was developed by change practitioners. Leaders in the field, not academics who were wanting to study an answer, an abstract question, but people who wanted to answer the general question of how do we actually create the kind of organizations we want or whatever it is that you were working in. Specifically, by design, you're including the subjects become actors and you're working with them to figure out what is it they envision happening and how might it go about, and then you try something and you literally get together with a group of people. It may be a whole organization of representatives of it or a team and you say, okay, you want better working relationships across gender lines because you've had troubles in the past. Where has it worked well and what things contribute to that? How could you imagine implementing that more here?

You come up with some strategies and then you give them a week or a few months or something and you come back and you say, well, what did you notice? What did you try? How did it work now? Now, what ideas do you have? You literally, it's the "researcher" is really more of a facilitator of learning and action in these cycles. You're working with a team to try things and see what works in practice. The writing up and the publishing of it is all kind of secondary. You can still do that and share with the world what you've discovered from your situation but it's really about trying to enact the change in the moment. 

[00:11:44] Jasper: I love how you described that as, as having these cycles and coming back to these moments of reflection and reiteration. It seems to me that in asking students to do this, you're asking them in some ways to be teachers and to engage in the process not just of being receptors of knowledge, but also in going out and generating knowledge and sharing it and guiding others to learn things about themselves.

[00:12:10] Sue: Yes, absolutely.

[00:12:11] Jasper: I would love to turn now and talk about maps and I think this might be a good opportunity for me to share a little bit of background about myself. Part of why I was so excited to talk with you is because my father is a cartographer among other things. I grew up in a house full of maps. Because I grew up with so many maps around, I really knew, I think from a young age that maps were things that were made. Somebody was making decisions about what to represent, what not to represent.

When I look at a map I'm always asking, what is it making visible and what is it hiding? But in my own educational experience, I've learned that not everybody has this critical relationship with maps. It seems like a lot of what you're teaching in this class is encouraging to develop that faculty and a feeling of ownership over mapping and deciding what they want to see and what they want to notice. Why is it important that students develop this critical faculty?

[00:13:11] Sue: First I just want to say, thanks for sharing your story. I always start every class with people telling the story about their relationship to the content. I could just see you in a circle of students sharing that story, and that's where you build together, why are we so passionate about something? That's wonderful. Then let's remember the context we're talking about undergraduate education at Antioch, and all undergraduate education, a lot of it's about critical thinking, not entirely, but learning how to think.

I think that what you talked about some people being given a map and not told about all the questions one really needs to ask about it, it's like you're given a book or a textbook, and most of us are not originally taught that you should be asking questions about it and that's just so important. In one way, it doesn't even matter that the content is maps because what we're really learning is how to inquire into something and how to take what you're looking at and understand, why was it created, by whom, for what purpose? Of course, maps are fun as you know. They're beautiful, they're fun, they're interesting. It just provides a playground if you will, for exploring those questions.

I a little bit worry about this digital world because although there are wonderful opportunities for interactive maps and maps that people participate in making, I'm a little wondering what's going to happen. We don't have as many of those beautiful visual maps on the wall, because in some ways I think it'll obscure even more who made it.

When you're in a car driving and there's a voice just telling you, turn left at the next stoplight in 50 feet, it's like, that's practical, but there's still people making choices. Like they often route me on the freeway and I don't want to always go on the freeway. If I don't have a physical map to look at or a map that- I may not know that there's a beautiful back road that may take a little longer but will bring me somewhere that I'd really love having gone.

[00:15:06] Jasper: That's so interesting to think about the difference between digital maps and a physical paper map that you might get. Paper maps often are physically bounded. They have an edge, and they're also usually signed by their makers and the good ones are also dated so that you have a sense of when this comes from. I think the digital realm can erase and we end up in this eternal present that is also a little bit ahistorical. That said, Sue, can you share with us some examples of the sorts of maps that you look at with your students?

[00:15:42] Sue: Wow, I have like two boxes of examples of maps, there are so many different kinds. The way I structure the class is I talk a little bit about different kinds of maps. There are certain conventions, like a transportation map, whether it's a bus schedule or Metro schedule or something or map is going to look a certain way, or a roadmap. But then there are other kinds of maps like star maps or geological formation maps or something. There's that but then we also look at different issues that come up around mapping, and I like to frame my assignments that way.

For instance, one of my assignments is to partly get at what you were raising earlier about the power dynamics about who's making a map for what purpose and what it reveals, what it hides. Some maps, intentionally lie. I heard about there were some Soviet maps, I don't have copies of them, but they'd make a map and they'd put their nuclear power plant in a different place than it really was. It's not just purposely lying like that and deceiving, let alone countries that want to feel like they've annexed another country, so they create a map where it shows that that territory is part of their country.

There are some that I have physical copies of, some that I use, but for the assignment that I ask people to do a map that shows power dynamics, and there are just so many ways to get at this. Some of them are political maps like this that would show annexations that not everyone in the world concurs with, let alone the people that feel like they've been claimed by another country. It could be a battle map that again, shows who's got which territory and what the kind of plan is, but there are also different kinds.

There are maps where you have to get underneath to know, but like there used to be maps, it was some state in the east, maybe it's Tennessee, where there were two different state maps done, one for drivers of automobiles who might be going around. It was presumed that they would be white. Then a whole different map was made at the state for people going by bus, and it was presumed they were more likely to be Black. They showed very different things like the white travelers in the car, the presumption was, oh, you'd want to go to the state park. You'd want to stop at this restaurant. For Black travelers, it was different restaurants, different things that you might need.

To understand that, if you just looked at one map, that wouldn't be obvious, but sometimes you have to look at comparisons and show, oh, wow, this is supposedly the same territory, but it's been approached in a very different way.

[00:18:09] Jasper: That's so interesting. I feel like it captures a way that maps can reveal the underlying prejudices in society. But I also want to talk about maps that are explicitly used to enforce racial hierarchy or, in other ways, perpetuate injustice. I think of maybe the most famous example in the US is there was this government agency, the Home Owners' Loan Corporation, and they would estimate the riskiness of mortgages in different neighborhoods.

They would literally draw a red line often around these majority-Black neighborhoods. If you happened to own a house or want to buy a house within those lines, you had no access to credit because of this map that was locked away somewhere and that you probably had seen in your whole life. Even today, redlining is I believe explicitly outlawed after the work of some journalists who really got a hold of these maps and revealed what had happened, but there are still exclusionary zoning laws.

My mother's an urban planner so I've seen these zoning maps that say this is single-family, low density. That's such a big part of the cause of the housing crisis that just keeps millions of people homeless are in cramped and unsafe conditions. How do we resist the ways that maps get used to impede justice?

[00:19:34] Sue: Well, you've probably just given the seeds of that answer in your story there and that example, because journalists surface and you make visible what's going on, and then you challenge it. That's one of the problems with this system where you have structural racism and you have a white supremacy mindset because, even though something's technically outlawed, you still have so many other things built in around it that you have to keep peeling it back.

It's a constant. This is about what social justice and social change is all about. You have to keep figuring out what's the frontline now, what can we make visible? What can we challenge? How can we advocate for something else? This is where it gets very complicated and very interdisciplinary too because you're not just talking about people in real estate and you're not just talking about policymakers, you're talking about planners. You're just talking about so many different groups that you need to raise awareness with and see if you can push to get commitments to create a different vision and a different reality.

[00:20:37] Jasper: Yes. Once you recognize that this map is reflecting a flawed idea or something that you find unjust, then you can push against it. In your course, you also have your students make a number of different maps of their own. Sometimes they're mapping their personal geography, their background, sometimes, maybe their own imagination. I know personally when I was younger and even too today, I love reading books that have a map on the front page and that maybe that map of a world that is entirely of the author's imagining.

Why is it important that students, as they're learning about maps, as they're looking through your boxes of maps, why is it important that they also generate their own maps?

[00:21:22] Sue: Well, this loops back to the action-reflection cycles that it's so much in my blood. I believe that you're going to learn best by doing and reflecting on that and letting that inform. I think that students, by making their own maps, first of all, you realize how challenging it can be and how many different decisions go into it, but you're experientially bumping up into all those choices you have to make. What are you going to include? What are you not? What is it you're really trying to convey here and then how best to do that? I think that's it.

Then also, well, this is Antioch, and it's a creative way because some of the map-making you use different skills. You may be playing with color, you may be playing with shapes. It's working a different part of the brain. Even though we've been doing a lot of analyzing of maps and deconstructing, there's a place where you want to be generative and create. That gets into the class is about critique and underlying social justice critique, but it's also about feeding the imagination or nourishing our sense of what do we want. Because we can too easily get stuck in saying everything that's wrong with the system, but what do we want to replace it with?

To ask someone to create a map of their imaginary world, it can be just a place where you dance with fairies or get to surf all day long or whatever it is you like, but people are grappling with what do they want their ideal world to look like? What would it look like if we solved these housing discrimination issues and everyone was housed and whatever other questions they have? I think it's really good to educate the imagination as well.

[00:23:03] Jasper: Yes. It seems to me like this also ties back into your Narrating For Change class. In a way, maps are non-verbal but also they're not- it's not like you're making a movie. They're a way of constructing a narrative and exploring a narrative. When I was thinking about having the chance to interview you, I saw that you teach a book of maps made by the writer, Rebecca Solnit, who I really admire. She says in the preface to one of her books, "Each of us is an atlas of sorts, already knowing how to navigate some portion of the world, containing innumerable versions of place as experience and desire and fear, as route and landmark and memory. A city and its citizens constitute a living library."

It seems to me that when you ask your students to create maps of their own lives and their own imaginations, you're opening up that library and you're ennobling it. You're allowing them to see that they're the map of their own life has this meaning. I'm curious, what have you seen your students do with these maps afterwards?

[00:24:17] Sue: I want to answer that by saying, I've just found a connection between the narrating change and the stories and the maps, so I just want to share that because maps would be an incredible tool for working with the community. Just as you're saying Solnit does when she has a collection of books all around the Bay Area, where a lot of different kinds of maps by different people, with different things that they want to highlight, you look at all of them and it starts to give you a more dimensional sense of the city.

If you were working, like I've seen this in really good, rural development projects, where instead of some outsider deciding what the community needs, you ask the community members to map their experience of living in this village or area. You have them put on the maps, the important things. You start to see like the well they're still walking to is a long ways away from some people. You start to get a sense, oh, do we need to put in another well, and would you like one that's closer, and you start to see what things people might want to have next to each other.

You can have people tell their story about what they do, and then you can be mapping it collectively for the group, or you could have them individually draw their maps and that could help. That's sometimes how things are discovered is by collecting data that then you put into a map and it helps people see. I don't know if this is really answering your question, but that's where I went.

[00:25:32] Jasper: No, I love that. I assume you see that with your students too, as they explore their own worlds. They turn up things that they might not have seen before. Is that right?

[00:25:42] Sue: Absolutely. I'm just trying to think of an example. Oh someone responded to the assignment to do a power dynamic maps is he mapped the territory of his apartment and how it was shared with his roommate. Honestly, I think he was just thinking of something that would be simple. I don't know if I'd even given a hint of that that could be a way to go but he realized in doing that he gave his roommate very little space. He started to realize, "Oh, I keep my guitar over here and this is where I play the music. I commandeer this couch and my cat's over here."

He started to realize that he actually had it very prescribed where his roommate could freely do things. It's not like he put up a wall or drew a line on the floor, but it just really opened his eyes. He started to reevaluate his relationship and like, well, what am I doing here? I think they had some interesting conversations after that.

[00:26:32] Jasper: That's such a funny example, but that's so beautiful the way that making explicit or being in some way, proactive in exploring the relationship allowed a room then for reflection and revision, I guess in this case.

[00:26:48] Sue: Yes. Absolutely.


[00:26:56] Jasper: Hi, I'm going to cut away from the interview for a second, because I want to let that The Seed Field Podcast is produced by Antioch University. Let's make the world better together. Complete your bachelor's or your master's or study for a doctoral degree with us here at Antioch University and join our community with a 160 year-long commitment to social justice. Win one for humanity. Learn more at


[00:27:33] Jasper: You teach this course called Birds in the Imagination and in the Field. One of the major components of the course is that students spend I think 20 or 30 hours actually out in the field, observing birds and just spending that time. It's totally up to them whether they do it in three 10-hour day intensives, or whether they get up every morning over the course of like two months and spend 30 minutes in a sit spot getting to know the rhythms and the birds of that specific piece of location. Why is this hands-on purely observational time so important when it comes to this birding class?

[00:28:15] Sue: Well, beyond my general answer or my typical answer of you have to do it to learn it, there's something about birds that there's just such a deep emotional or soulful, spiritual connection that people have. You can watch movies and see dramatic things about birds. You can read about things and look at these incredible pictures and notice their beauty in detail, but there's nothing like being outside and you see a bird and it's like you just watch a Heron first being really still. It's so still you hardly even realize it's alive, and then it might suddenly dart down to fish, or it might suddenly lift its wings and take off.

It's just like people are just awe-struck. I love reading the journals for this class because people get lost into these moments. You're just not going to get that if you're not outside so you just have to be out in the world.

[00:29:09] Jasper: It sounds like by forcing your students into spending this time in the field, of course, they're electing to take this course, but you're really opening up the possibility of transforming something that might just be a category, birds, into something so much bigger and richer. It seems to me like that ties into your idea around maps. It almost doesn't matter what the subject is, that if you spend enough time closely observing one thing that it reveals the secrets.

[00:29:39] Sue: Absolutely. That's why I've loved Antioch so much and why I've stayed here for so many decades because Antioch has not made me stay within my leadership boundaries. Partly because I'm in an undergraduate studies program and we're a small faculty and we get to be inventive. I've been able to come up with these thematically-oriented classes where I can still teach the kinds of skills and the outcomes that we want our students to have, but I can do it through all these fascinating subjects like maps and birds.

[00:30:06] Jasper: One of the other things that I think ties into Antioch is not just the freedom to study these things thematically but also the emphasis that Antioch places throughout its curriculum on looking at the social justice impacts of these subjects. We talked a little bit about how if you look long enough at maps, you can notice there are these maps that are used to perpetuate injustice and I love you bring this into your birding course as well, looking at how birding can intersect with white supremacy or colonization.

I know that you were teaching this even before there was this very famous incident a year ago of a Black birder in New York’s Central Park who was asking a white woman who was walking her dog. He said, "Hey, can you put your dog on a leash? That's the rules around here," and she ended up calling the cops in an abjectly racist way, but there was some degree to which I think this woman didn't expect that there would be a Black man who was birding. That can be a space that there are strong gatekeepers and it really wilderness in the US is strongly-- There's a tradition of keeping those spaces for white people.

As you were saying earlier that if there were these maps in Tennessee that showed for white people driving by car, oh, you might want to go to the national park, but that wasn't the assumption for Black people, so how is it useful for students to see the ways that racism or colonization can impact on something as seemingly benign or where you wouldn't expect maybe to see it as birding?

[00:31:47] Sue: I think that's the point and that's the problem with especially for white people in a white supremacist context is to see what we don't see. A lot of us who are white and including me as a white birder, it's like I had just never thought about those issues and I'll confess that until George Floyd was murdered and we at Antioch re-galvanized ourselves to say okay there's still a long way. We really haven't done enough in the whole uprising. It's like we really need to re-look at everything, and I thought great, I'm teaching my bird's class next. Where am I going to take this?

I'm embarrassed to say that it didn't take more than five or 10 minutes to realize there was a wealth of stuff out there that I should have been including and paying attention to that I hadn't been. The one you just mentioned the how so many outdoor spaces are defined as white is one of them, but one of the interesting thing was that right after the Christian Cooper encounter and the publicity around that, Black birder s got together, and I don't know if you'd heard about this but they created a Black Birders Week and since we were all in the pandemic, they did this online.

They started connecting and sharing stories and there are some great little articles and pieces that were published out of that. In fact, just last week, they just had their second annual because I think now that's going to be a tradition so it'll always be pegged as the end of June for that. It's just incredible to read a story and you think it doesn't take very much to think about it, I just never had.

Okay, so you're in a rural place. You're walking on a road, you have binoculars and you're peering at a bird in a tree to figure out what it is or following it, and you happen to have a house in your sight. Well, how's that going to be perceived in this rural, maybe Southern state? You know, you're walking along, you're Black with binoculars and it's like, oh, so driving while Black, birding while Black, it's like it can be very dangerous and the assumptions people make.

[00:33:34] Jasper: I'm so glad that you talk about the way that even you trying to be conscious of these issues, that may be the way that white supremacy impacted birding had been invisible to you until you continued to teach this course and do the work and try and find your way into it. We are just about out of time here on this episode but we usually like to end our episodes by asking guests to share some action or activity that our listeners could take into their own days, their own lives and that could make some change in the world and make the world a better place.

A lot of your teaching really seems to me, through this conversation and through encountering your work, to be about intentionality and reflection. Is there some habit or exercise that you could suggest for our listeners to help them move through the world in a more conscious way?

[00:34:30] Sue: You know thinking back to narrative and the power of stories, I might suggest that in whatever way you make meaning of something, whether it was an encounter that happened in a relationship or some dynamic that's happening in your workplace or something or some movement that's happening socially, is to articulate what that story is and then ask yourself if there's a different way you could tell the story. To get there, you might need to ask other people how they understand it and hear their story but I think that it's good to make explicit what our stories are and also to understand that not everyone sees it the same way and to be willing to risk to see the world differently than we do.

[00:35:10] Jasper: What a beautiful note to end on. Thank you so much for joining us, Sue.

[00:35:14] Sue: Thank you, Jasper. It was great.


[00:35:24] Jasper: These classes we've been talking about are all offered in the undergraduate studies program at Antioch University, Seattle. If you're interested in Antioch's undergraduate degree programs, we have a link to more information in our show notes. We post these show notes on our website,, where you'll also find full episode transcripts, prior episodes, and more. The Seed Field Podcast is produced by Antioch University. Our editor is Lauren Instenes. A special thanks to Melissa Batalin, Karen Hamilton, and Melinda Garland.

This episode concludes Season 1 of The Seed Field Podcast. Thank you so much for joining us on this journey. We hope to see you when we return with Season 2 in September and don't forget to plant a seed, sow a cause, and win a victory for humanity. From Antioch University, this has been The Seed Field Podcast.


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