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From the Dean

Inspired in Spain

Story by
Robert Stacey, Dean
September 2014Perspectives Newsletter

In late July I spent a week with a group of sixty entering UW freshmen in León, Spain as they began their transition from high school to university life. The students were participants in an unusual three-week study abroad program offered by the College’s C21 program. (See “Launching in León.") For me, León was an exhilarating experience, a reminder not only of how much I enjoy being in the classroom with bright and engaging students but also of what truly remarkable students we have in the College of Arts and Sciences. I can vaguely remember being eighteen years old, but I cannot remember being nearly as self-possessed and ready to tackle new challenges as were the students who participated in this program.

Bob Stacey in Leon

Dean Bob Stacey talking with UW students during his stay in León. Photo by Isaiah Brookshire.

Thanks to the support of generous Arts and Sciences donors, we were able to admit students to the León program regardless of their ability to pay for the trip. As a result, we had a wonderfully representative mixture of students—a real cross-section of the diversity that makes our College such an exciting place to learn and live. And because we were in Spain, our students saw first-hand how important it is to be able to speak a language other than English. The dozen or so students who were fluent in Spanish quickly emerged as leaders within the group, and even students who had studied languages other than Spanish in high school came away with a newfound appreciation for the opportunities that foreign language study can make possible. This was an unexpected but very welcome outcome of being in León that we could not have achieved had we stayed on more familiar ground.

They made new friends and found a community that will be a continuing part of their lives for the rest of their freshman year and beyond.

The College had several educational goals for participants in this program: to welcome them into a community dedicated to liberal learning; to encourage them to make conscious, purposeful choices about their educational pathways over the next four years and beyond; and to challenge them to find connections between disparate bodies of knowledge and different ways of knowing. These are lifelong goals that certainly could not be fully realized during the limited time in Spain, but as a result of their time in León, I believe these students are already well-launched on all of these goals. They will continue to build on them during their time at the UW and throughout their lives.

In León the students also learned something about the history of Spain, the history and structure of higher education in Europe and America, the city of León and its people, how to look at a Gothic cathedral, and how to find your way around an unfamiliar town with a map. Most importantly, they learned a lot about themselves. They made new friends and found a community that will be a continuing part of their lives for the rest of their freshman year and beyond. They also discovered in themselves strengths of adaptability and resilience that I suspect many did not know they possessed. All these discoveries will stand them in very good stead this fall as they enter the University of Washington, this remarkable scholarly community of which it is such a privilege to be a part.

Robert Stacey
Dean, College of Arts and Sciences