Meet the VPA staff

Claire Matsunami – Confidential Survivor Advocate

Hi I’m Claire Matsunami (she/her).  I’m a fan of enthusiastic consent, all kinds of noodles, dancing, elephants, and waking up to watch the sunrise then going back to sleep. I received my Bachelor of Arts in Religions from Whitman College and Masters in Social Work from Columbia University in New York, and also studied at both Hebrew University of Jerusalem and Birzeit University.  I’ve worked in the social work field for over 10 years and am thrilled to be here working with UW. 

Sam Harkness – Prevention & Education Program Manager

Hi there! I’m Sam Harkness and prefer he/him pronouns. I’ve worked in the gender-based violence field in community non-profits for 5 years, and have worked in the broader field of social work around 14 years now. I’m Seattle born and raised, which I hear is rare to come by these days, so you can call me a towny if you want. I’m very passionate about violence prevention work and specifically like to focus on engaging young men (or folks who identify as being socialized as boys/men) in violence prevention work. I love a lot of the cliché PNW activities like hiking, camping and ultimate frisbee. I have a hard time sitting still, so you might catch me walking around all over campus or running sprint workouts on the soccer field during my lunch break. Feel free to stop by the VPA office and say hi!

Melissa Tumas – OVW Grant Project Director

Melissa Tumas (she/her) started her career as a peer educator and in community-based organizations doing HIV testing/counseling and outreach. She received her MPH from Oregon State University. She’s spent most of her career in higher education as a survivor advocate and prevention educator at UW Seattle and the University of Michigan. She brings the lens of anti-oppression and trauma-informed practices to her work while centering students’ voices. She takes a collective leadership approach and thrives when partnering with diverse communities across campus to dismantle the root causes of sex- and gender-based violence. In recent years, she’s added documentary filmmaker and videographer to her skill set and believes in the power of storytelling for social change. She enjoys hiking, travel, food, watching movies and time with family and friends.

Val Tovar – Director of Prevention, Health, & Wellness

Val Tovar (she/her) is a proud Chicana and 1st generation college graduate originally from the Los Angeles area. She brings a decade of experience working in prevention, advocacy and wellness. She holds a Bachelor of the Arts in Psychology and a Master of the Arts in Forensic Psychology. Val oversees the Violence Prevention & Advocacy office (VPA) and the Health and Wellness Resource Center (HaWRC). Prior to joining the Bothell campus, she lived in Washington DC for many years and work on multiple college campuses where she incorporated wellness practices into prevention work centering BIPOC and 1st generation students. When Val is not working, you can find her taking a nap, snuggling with her two cats, Nox and Cleo, or playing Mario Kart with her partner.

Link to Calendly booking system for the VPA.