Then and Now

Part Five: UW Ranks Among Top 15 Public Universities for Undergrad Program

With all these changes, one factor that has remained consistent is the quality of teaching, says advising veteran Simkins. "You can't say that it's much better today. We had great teachers back then like Giovanni Costigan and Henry Buechel," he declares. "But there is more emphasis on teaching today, more of an effort to help people with their teaching skills, and more acceptance of the idea that when you come here as a faculty member, you need to pay attention to your teaching."

Internships, research activities, technology, diversity, FIGS—compared to her dad and mom, Alex's learning opportunities have exploded. "Today there are more choices," says Campbell. "Every year the number of courses goes up. We've developed whole new fields since the 1970s related to the vast explosion of knowledge."

He also feels the students are up to the challenge. "The level of accomplishment that our best undergraduates achieve today is far beyond what most students were able to achieve in our classrooms in the 1960s and '70s," he maintains. Much of that achievement goes back to the power of technology, he adds. "You just couldn't work with students as easily back then. Now you have computing power and equipment at your fingertips."

Campbell retires this summer after spending 35 years at the University. He is not afraid to admit there is more to do. "We are going to have a period of change even more rapid than the last 35 years," he warns. "We've got to continue to revise and reinvigorate undergraduate education."

As part of that continuing process, the UW held three forums this spring on academic excellence, including a session led by Regent William Gates titled, "Do We Challenge UW Students?" Campbell doesn't see any slowdown in such dialogues. "As long as society keeps changing and knowledge keeps growing, what we need to teach will change, too," he says.

Yet Campbell is proud of what has been accomplished. "I feel we stand up very well compared to any other school," he declares. For example, the UW was among the top 15 public universities when U.S News & World Report released its 2001 undergraduate rankings. And UW alumni agree. In a survey of former students taken five and 10 years after they graduated, 82 percent said they were satisfied with the UW's quality of instruction in their field.

"The UW is amazing," Alex declares. "I am definitely getting a valuable education. I am also learning people skills, communication skills, how to live with others."

Which is not so different from what Lee and Teddie Gibbon got out of their UW education as well. "I feel very fortunate to have attended the University of Washington," says Lee. "And I am very excited for Alex. I just feel great about her being at the University."

Tom Griffin is editor of Columns.

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