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From the Dean

A Time of Change

Story by
Robert Stacey, Dean

Perhaps it is just a sign that I am getting older (my 64th birthday is now firmly in the rear-view mirror), but as I begin my seventh year as Dean, the pace of change in the College of Arts and Sciences seems to be accelerating.  Faculty colleagues whom I regarded as “my age” when I came to the UW 30 years ago are now beginning to retire; new buildings are going up; and curricular changes are afoot across the College. It is truly an exciting moment for our faculty, staff, and students.

Robert Stacey, Dean of the UW College of Arts & Sciences

After 30 years during which the demographic profile of university faculties across the country and at the UW became progressively older, we are about to enter into a decade in which that trend will be reversed.  Hiring the new faculty members who will shape the future of the College for the next 30 years is the most important challenge we face in the years ahead.  We are still in the midst of “hiring season,” but this year’s new faculty cohort is shaping up to be an outstanding one, and I look forward eagerly to welcoming the new arrivals.

The campus is also changing physically. In spring 2018, we will take possession of the new Burke Museum building that is rising along 15th Avenue NE, to the west of the existing Burke Museum. Because it will then take a full year to transport the 15 million objects in the Burke’s collection from the old building to the new one, the museum will open to the public in the spring of 2019. The New Burke will not only allow us to display more of the collection, but also, for the first time, preserve the objects in a temperature- and humidity-controlled environment. Most excitingly, the new building will “turn the museum inside out” by allowing visitors to see the work of the museum curators as it is happening. As a result, every visit will be a new experience. Funding for the new building is coming jointly from the Legislature and the Burke’s large community of donors. We are grateful to all of them for making this project possible.

 

Hiring the new faculty members who will shape the future of the College...is the most important challenge we face in the years ahead. 

Construction of the new Life Sciences Building, visible on the north side of Pacific Avenue across form the Medical School, will be completed in summer 2018.  Like the New Burke, this project too has been long-planned and eagerly awaited.  Its state-of-the-art laboratories and classrooms will put UW life sciences at the forefront of twenty-first century research and teaching.  We are already seeing its positive impact in our faculty recruitment efforts, and by winter quarter 2019 the positive impact will also be felt by our students. Half of all UW students take at least one course in the life sciences, and more than 600 per year graduate from the Biology Department alone. All these students will benefit from the new teaching laboratories, the new greenhouse, and of course from the café!  We are, after all, in Seattle, where caffeine is as much an educational technology as are laptops.

We are not just changing where we teach.  We are also changing how we teach.  Faculty in all four of our divisions (Arts, Humanities, Natural Sciences, and Social Sciences) are actively redesigning their curricula and their majors to appeal to a new generation of students.  Further changes are coming, as we study ways to increase the total number of students who can graduate with a degree from the College of Arts and Sciences.  Meanwhile, our College to Careers program is working with community partners such as Amazon to make sure that the students we graduate are well-prepared to make the transition from their Arts and Sciences education to the world of work.

It is all enough to make a dean just a little bit dizzy, but also very proud of the work the people of this College are doing to prepare our students for the world that lies before them.