From the UW president: Working together, we can rebuild trust, grace and shared ambition
This fall marks the second year of welcoming students back to campus since the start of the pandemic. And while we were overjoyed to reopen most of our classrooms, labs, offices and communal spaces last year, we were nevertheless cautious about the return to on-campus life. Vaccines were still not available for teens or younger children, and treatments for those with COVID-19 were much more limited.
Communities and campuses everywhere grappled with uncertainty: Was it OK to meet in groups? Take public transportation? For many of us, even our sense of how to be in community felt off-kilter, our social skills and sense of belonging weakened by the many months of social distancing.
As the academic year begins, we strive to be back in full swing, reunited as a community and ready to resume the shared experiences and togetherness that enrich our lives. Crucially, in the face of our profoundly fractured and polarized society, we need to rebuild the ties that connect us to each other, to regain our belief in our common humanity, and to seek out common ground and common purpose. Our great public University is well-suited to fostering these kinds of connections and creating physical and spiritual spaces to allow them to flourish.
Our Seattle campus is now served to the north and south by light rail stations, connecting thousands of students, faculty and staff to neighborhoods and destinations throughout the city, from the UW Medical Center-Northwest to the Rainier Valley home of the Othello-UW Commons, a learning and collaboration space. Light rail also improves public access to our beautiful grounds, performing arts centers, sports venues, museums, public events and community spaces. We welcome this increased fluidity and the new points of connection between the University and the public we serve.
Together, we can work to rebuild trust, grace and shared ambition for a more equitable, vibrant and thriving world.
In Bothell and Tacoma, our campuses enter their second years with dynamic new leaders: Chancellor Kristin Esterberg and Chancellor Sheila Edwards Lange. Both are prioritizing strengthening community ties and engagement, and the Greater Seattle Business Association recently named Tacoma’s Lange “Community Leader of the Year.” From the “Paint the Park Purple” night to root for the Tacoma Rainiers in Cheney Stadium to the new residential village under construction at UW Bothell, all three UW campuses are focused on ways of creating community around academic, social and cultural events.
As the Puget Sound region continues to recover from the economic and civic impacts of the pandemic, the UW is poised to be a key partner in bringing hope to our communities. A campaign now underway to restore the historic ASUW Shell House reminds us what those of us who live and work here can accomplish together. In that space, the storied “Boys in the Boat” trained under the leadership of George Pocock to become 1936 Olympic rowing champions. Through the shell house, the Burke Museum of Natural History and Culture, — Intellectual House, the Rose collection of Native Art at UW Bothell and UW Tacoma’s first doctoral program on tribal lands, we are creating connections to the history of the land and the Indigenous people of the Pacific Northwest. On these and many other projects, we work closely with communities to help steward these precious gifts and programs.
Each of us, in one way or another, has felt the losses of the pandemic compounded by the alienating effects of a polarized and splintering society. Together, we can work to rebuild trust, grace and shared ambition for a more equitable, vibrant and thriving world. Our University holds the capacity to bolster that rebuilding, creating spaces for all people of good faith to seek each other and the solutions to the challenges that affect us all.