UW Tacoma is at the heart of city’s renewal

The city that surrounds UW Tacoma is almost unrecognizable from 14 years ago, when the campus was established in its present location.

Over the past decade and a half, UW Tacoma has been at the core of the revitalization of downtown Tacoma. Today, with 3,600 students, it still holds the key to the city’s continued economic development. The beautiful campus—the result of transforming dilapidated, historic warehouses into state-of-the art university buildings—has created a commercial and public renaissance.

As Chancellor Debra Friedman, ’79, ’83, (pictured above) explains, UW Tacoma is an “urban-serving” university, one deeply integrated into its community through research that matters to the people who live here. It provides access to public higher education to a community that needs it while simultaneously serving as a catalyst for economic development and social change. And the relationship goes both ways. The community depends on the university’s economic and intellectual vitality, and the campus depends on the community for commitments of time, talent and gifts.

Evidence of this deep connection is everywhere. UW Tacoma students intern at congressional offices, the Pierce County public defender office, local museums and at St. Joseph Medical Center. UW Tacoma students volunteer to mentor younger students, collect food and baby items for shelters. A Who’s Who of community leaders sits on UW Tacoma advisory boards and serves as guest speakers in classes. Likewise, faculty members lend expertise to community boards and projects.

In conversations with community members, Chancellor Friedman is constantly reminded of the high expectations everyone has for UW Tacoma.

“Everyone I’ve met,” she says, “thinks the future of Tacoma and the South Sound depends in part upon what happens at UW Tacoma. We want to be the best urban university … in the United States. Our students and community members deserve it.”