Elyse GordonI’m a connector and community builder. I think deeply about the relationship between philanthropy, poverty and politics. I encourage learning through formal classroom education and informal conversations, facilitated discussions and critical thinking.  My best work occurs when I am able to synthesize many of these interests: teaching, discussing, writing, collaborating celebrating and building community.

Primarily, I am a doctoral student at the University of Washington Geography department, under advisement of Sarah Elwood (chair), Vicky Lawson and Steve Herbert (committee members). I am an active member of the Relational Poverty Network, and currently serve as a co-director with Imagining America’s Publicly Active Graduate Education network. Finally, am a pre-doctoral lecturer at the University of Washington Bothell for the 2015-16 academic year as a Project in Interdisciplinary Pedagogy Fellow.

As an urban political geographer, my work concerns social and spatial inequalities. I explore these questions through the nonprofit sector, specifically through contemporary forms of philanthropy. My dissertation research takes a deep dive on social justice philanthropy, seeking to understand the limits and possibilities for transformation throughout the philanthropic process. I am interested in the types of poverty knowledges expressed through philanthropy; the ways that philanthropy reflects material and cultural beliefs about class; and whether/how philanthropy encourages meaningful encounter across social, spatial and economic difference.

I am affiliated with the Simpson Center for the Humanities, and participated as a fellow in their Certificate in Public Scholarship program since Fall 2011. Under the advisement of Candice Rai, I have come to see public scholarship  through the notion of “lived experience”. In trying to move away from false dichotomies of “the university” and “the public”, I see my own scholarship as defined through the multiple ways I live my life: through community involvement, activism, making music and food, and, of course, in the university. This couldn’t be more true as I build out my interests beyond the academy into the world of creative philanthropy and social justice activism.

This site is an artifact of my projects at this moment. Some of these are more wholly academic, while others blend my academic and activist interests through my lived experiences. My CV highlights more of my traditional scholastic involvements and achievements. The ‘Collaborations’ has a cross section of different projects with local organizations.

When not in school, I am most likely cooking, probably for friends. I spend a great deal of time trying to develop contemplative practice through reading, walking, cooking, yoga, meditation, and meaningful conversation with my chosen family in Seattle.

I strive to connect people and build community. Increasingly, this is through catalyzing conversations around creative philanthropy, small-scale giving, conversations about privilege and activism, and, always, through food. I hope our paths can cross either in Seattle or in the twittersphere.

egordon4 [at] uw [dot] edu


For most up-to-date reflections, see the home page of this website.

One response to “About

  1. Pingback: On Doing Development. Or, what I learned from Heifer International | Elyse Gordon - University of Washington Geography

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