Serin D. Houston


  • Associate Professor of Geography and International Relations
  • On leave, academic year 2023-2024
Serin Houston, assistant professor of geography and international relations, will be speaking in Seattle on January 5 at the Beacon Library. 

Serin D. Houston’s research draws on qualitative methods and a geographic perspective to examine questions of equity and justice from the individual to the global scale. Her book, Imagining Seattle: Social Values in Urban Governance (2019), uses Seattle as a lens to analyze the translation of sustainability, creativity, and social justice from theory into praxis. Studying not only what policies and programs say, but also how they work in practice, Houston finds that racism and classism, matched with market-driven mandates, constrain the realization of these social values within the urban governance of Seattle, Washington.

With research assistants from Mount Holyoke, Houston investigates sanctuary policies and social movements in the United States. This research has resulted in publications about sanctuary as a process rather than a place designation, the impacts of neoliberalism on sanctuary policies, and the framing of noncitizens as either extraordinary or ordinary in sanctuary social movements.

A more recent research project focuses on climate change and human migration. In collaboration with Kiana London, Houston considers the geopolitics of climate change and migration in the Pacific region and the meaning and modes of knowledge production in such spaces. Finally, Houston’s interest in pedagogy and high impact learning has led to collaborations with colleagues at Mount Holyoke and publications about global/local community engagement and scholarship.

At Mount Holyoke, Houston mentors independent studies and teaches the following courses: Cities in a Global Context; Climate Migration; Global Movements: Migrations, Refugees, and Diasporas; Research Methods; Sense of Place, Sense of Planet; and World Regional Geography.

Areas of Expertise

Urban, Political, and Social Geography; Refugee and Migration Studies; Qualitative Methods


  • Ph.D., Syracuse University
  • M.A., University of Washington
  • A.B., Dartmouth College

Happening at Mount Holyoke

Recent Campus News

Mount Holyoke’s Serin Houston, human geographer, talks about the perceptions and practices of Seattle as a progressive, creative and sustainable city.

Recent Publications

Serin Houston and Charlotte Morse ’15, "The Ordinary and Extraordinary: Producing Migrant Inclusion and Exclusion in US Sanctuary Movements," Studies in Social Justice 11:1 (2017); 27-47.

Serin Houston. (2019). Imagining Seattle: Social Values in Urban Governance. Lincoln, NE: University of Nebraska Press – Our Sustainable Future series.

Serin Houston. (2019). Conceptualizing Sanctuary as a Process in the United States. Geographical Review.

Recent Honors

Serin D. Houston's book, Imagining Seattle: Social Values in Urban Governance, was honored at the American Association of Geographers conference in April 2021 at a book celebration event and an "Author Meets her Readers" session. 

Serin D. Houston gave a talk on March 25, 2021 for the Zube Lecture Series at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst Department of Landscape Architecture and Regional Planning. Her talk was titled, 'Unsettling Whiteness in Neighborhood Planning: Social Justice Efforts in Seattle, WA." 

Imagining Seattle: Social Values in Urban Governance, by Serin D. Houston, is one of three featured books in Seattle University's 2020-2021 "Arts and Leadership" book series. This year's series focuses on anti-racist and decolonial arts in Seattle. During a two day event in December 2020, Houston gave a virtual talk and participated in a mapping workshop based on her book and participants' experiences in Seattle. 

Serin Houston’s book, Imagining Seattle: Social Values in Urban Governance, was profiled in the Maxwell Perspective Publication.

Serin D. Houston was interviewed about her book, Imagining Seattle: Social Values in Urban Governance, for the American West channel of the New Books Network podcast (2019). Listen to the interview.

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