Columns Magazine


New Award Salutes Efforts Across Traditional Boundaries

Three UW units have won a new award that recognizes collaboration across department lines to improve undergraduate education. Named after UW Regent Jeffrey Brotman, '64, '67, and his wife, Susan, the 1999 Brotman Awards honor the Community and Environmental Planning Program, the Department of Geography and the Department of Computer Science and Engineering. Each unit receives $15,000. The Brotmans started the initiative with a $250,000 gift. Jeffrey Brotman earned his undergraduate and law degrees at the UW and was a founder of Costco.

One of this year's winners, the Community and Environmental Planning Program, established a unique, student-based experience. Students create their own two-year, 90-credit plan of study, govern themselves—and even help decide who gets admitted to the program. Undergraduates belong to a set group and must take one class each quarter with their peers, where they learn from—and teach—each other.

The award to the Department of Geography recognizes the department's efforts to make it more responsive to undergraduates. Each major is matched with a faculty mentor to map out classes and skills needed to get students the careers they want. Students hear from each faculty member about their work and research, and they see internships and job lists continually. Another part of the program is service learning, an experience in the community that is brought back into the classroom.

The 1999 Brotman Award also goes to the Department of Computer Science and Engineering. “Capstone design courses” are a feature of the department's two undergraduate major programs. In these courses, teams of students complete their undergraduate studies by tackling design and implementation challenges. They work under the guidance of faculty and outside professionals in areas such as computer animation, mobile computing and distributed video games.

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