Anastasia Prentiss, PhD, assistant professor in communication studies at HNU, has been awarded the Irene Woodward Endowment in the School of Liberal Arts. The endowment was initiated by the Class of 1970 in honor of Irene Woodward ’55, PhD, professor emerita of philosophy and president of Holy Names College from 1972 to 1982. The award provides an HNU faculty member six units of release credit to pursue scholarly or creative interests. Former recipients have used the award to work on research and writing.
The award has a special significance for Dr. Prentiss—Dr. Woodward was a beloved mentor and guide in the study of women’s issues and women’s spirituality. Dr. Prentiss is the sixth recipient of the endowment, other recipients include Sophia Park, SNJM, PhD (2013–2014), Martivón Galindo, PhD (2014–2015), Ann Alderman, PhD (2015-2016), Nina Handler, MA (2016-2017), and Rick Patrick, MA (2017-2018).
A gifted educator, Dr. Prentiss has taught at HNU since 2001. She participated in the creation and development of HNU’s First-Year Experience Program and the Committee for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion. She created and coordinates the popular Communication Studies major, teaches in ISAC, and is the current club advisor for Dance Force. She also recently completed a yoga, mindfulness and wellness teacher training and expects to share those lessons with her students. Her love of teaching is evident to her colleagues and students.
“Her students call her ‘insightful’ and ‘understanding’ and—high praise—"relatable," and she always finds time to mentor them. Faculty know her to be a generous and caring colleague—she mentors us, too!” said Ann Alderman, Dean of the School of Liberal Arts.
Dr. Prentiss will use the endowment for an ethnographic and organic inquiry into the important issue of human trafficking in Oakland—the East Bay is one of the most 10 most trafficked areas in the U.S. She will explore the intersectionality between human trafficking, homelessness, immigration, and the challenges of making transformational change in a hostile (costly) environment.
“I am an ethnographer, performer, and storyteller. Sharing people’s stories through performance is my product. I may not produce a paper, but I know the Sisters understand and are behind what I do. I believe strongly in the vision and tenets of the Sisters’ charism,” said Dr. Prentiss. “the SNJMs are actively fighting human trafficking, one of their three Corporate Stands is against trafficking in women and children.
As a participatory action researcher, Dr. Prentiss invests in and reflects on people’s stories as she seeks to become an accomplice and ally to create change. She sees this project as an extension of a lifelong process of figuring out how to make meaningful, transformational change.