Whatever your role on campus, learning never ends

It was the end of an interview this summer when an Amazon interviewer lobbed one final question to a friend: “If you could take any class at the UW, what would you take?”

Every one would likely have been my answer. Or, like the beachgoer who finds the bottle with the genie inside and asks for three more wishes, I would have found the class that was a class inside a class inside a class. One that kept prompting me to go back for more.

What really intrigued me, though, was the fact that one of the state’s most notable employers has the UW so top of mind. Regardless of my personal feelings about higher education, or the fact that my career keeps pointing back to the UW—in part because it allows me to be around learning all day—when you hear such questions posed by people outside our campus, you realize just what an impact this institution has. It fuels the economy, helps us get jobs, provides health care.

And, it expands our minds. Which seems so obvious to say, but while editing this issue of Columns I realized how the kernels of knowledge we are exposed to here—even sometimes seemingly minute nubs of knowledge—can sprout as we go through life. Take, for example, the Slavic Languages and Literature class “Love and Literature, East and West” I took on a whim several years ago and which has permeated my life since. It taught me something about image and deep metaphorical meaning in books, which later fueled a master’s thesis, which led to a teaching residency at an arts high school that in turn created in me a voracious appetite for world literature. All because professor Gordana Crnkovic taught me to see what was buried in the imagery in Yasunari Kawabata’s Beauty and Sadness.

Learning without end, the way the mind expands to the size of every new idea—that’s what makes a great university so special.

And what makes my job so exceptional. Truth is, it’s one of the best imaginable. With every issue, I get to learn something new—be that about the importance of oral health for children or how to read a newborn’s mind; how librarians at Suzzallo spend their time, or what it feels like to be a 21-year-old football player who’s about to make millions but spends his free time taking a little boy bowling. Or how Buddhist monks turn the outward gaze on themselves, inspecting their inner thoughts and weaknesses in such fine detail that in the end, they hope to defuel the world’s troubles.

Science to monasticism: All thanks to deep thinking, and one singular university.