UW Pipeline Project

Bobby Chien

Bobby Chien

“This type of experience really broadens ones view of the American experience.” 

ASB Participant 2006-2009

1. How and how long were you involved in the Pipeline Project?  (What year? Staff, intern, ASB, tutor/seminar, volunteer?)

I started my involvement with the Pipeline Project’s Alternative Spring Break during my freshman year at UW in 2006. I began as a participant, but the subsequent three years in college, I led the teams to Forks twice and Tonasket once.

2. What are you currently involved with or working on?

I received my Bachelor’s degree in both economics and sociology because of my interest in economics and it’s intersection with social justice. After college, I went straight into law school to acquire the necessary skills and credentials to better my community. During law school, I started to become very disenchanted with the usual process for societal betterment. I didn’t want to constantly battle bureaucrats and politicians just to bring a modicum of positive change to this world. During law school, I decided that I would fall back onto what I do best — write and draw. In some ways, art and literature can be a much more powerful mechanism for change than legislation. It can inspire and shape lives in an intangible yet impactful way.

I began my children’s book back in 2011, and it’s still a work in progress, but it’s at the point where I have received feedback from a publisher and I’m working on incorporating that advice before I release it back into the universe of agents and publishers. My goal in writing this book is to affect young readers by giving them hope and life guidance through a fable-like adventure story. The characters possess a diversity of personalities, but somehow they are able to collaborate and overcome hardships in order to achieve a common goal. I want to expose young readers to encouragement at an early age so that they can grow up with an idea that in spite of life’s challenges, we are able to conquer such difficulties.

3. How has Pipeline lead you to this position or chapter in your life?

Without the Pipeline Project, I might not have settled on children’s books as my vehicle for societal change. I recall struggling to reconcile my passion for creating art with my desire to do productive work. Now, I have come to the conclusion that if my art is strong, I can turn children who otherwise might be disinterested in reading, onto the art of language and story telling. Literacy is the first step to long term success. It would be truly incredible if I could create work to encourage literacy.

In writing my story and illustrating the book, I frequently think back to my experience in ASB. I think about what sort of stories draw in readers, which kind of art they are attracted to. The insights gathered while participating in the Pipeline Project are truly invaluable in my endeavor.

4. What is your favorite memory about Pipeline?

Although we travel to rural Washington schools as guest teachers, my favorite memory is always about the things I learn while I’m working at the schools. I have seen a cow giving birth, learned about the logging industry, and about the common hobby of hunting. This type of experience really broadens ones view of the American experience. I would never have had much exposure to such things, if not for ASB. I love that even though I was supposed to be exposing the school children to the themes of diversity, inclusion, and compassion, the lesson was in actuality, being reciprocated.