UW News

November 15, 2007

Linda Hanlon smoothly blends communication and creativity

UW News

Editor’s Note:  Uniquely Washington is a column featuring one of the University’s most valuable resources its people.

Linda Hanlon might be exaggerating when she says that working at the UW saved her life — but she’s certainly not joking, though humor does come easily to this multitalented staffer.

Like when she refers to the Visitors Information Center, which she runs, as the “Center of the Univers-ity” (with apologies to Fremont for borrowing its phrase), or when she talks about redirecting people “who can’t find their way out of the garage.”

Hanlon has been with the center only since May but has worked for the UW for about four years. She has a powerful combination of skills, with a background in both communications and graphic design. Before this job she was a public information officer for Parking Services, and her resume shows a blend of creativity and leadership in several positions over many years. Her work-study assistant, Natalie Lindner, pronounced her an “awesome” boss.

What’s your all-time favorite book?

“I love many books, especially handmade art books and children’s books because they plant the seeds of possibility that stay with us our whole lives — like Dr. Suess’ book The Lorax, which is definitely one of my favorites.


Name a pet peeve, please.

When bicyclists and motorists can’t get along, especially when either or both are on a cell phone or wearing ear buds.


What album do you tend to listen to the most?

“I love a variety of music, but rarely Billboard hits. I like several Putumayo compilation CDS and I’ve been a big fan of Richard Thompson’s work, especially when he had his big band in the ’80s and produced work like Shoot Out the Lights.


What fictional character would you most like to meet and talk with?

Captain Jack Sparrow. What could be more fun than time with a clever pirate whose character is based on a Disney ride? Or Indiana Jones.


If you could pass a law, what would it require?

A combination of affordable housing and health care for everyone, respect for veterans, housing and health care for everyone, an end to imperialism (especially when it’s over oil and other limited natural resources and involves violence), and it would have to recognize the limited carrying capacity for life on Earth, that’s all.


Where do you volunteer?

I like variety, so I switch between supporting environmental organizations and the arts. Currently I volunteer at the Henry and at the Woodland Park Zoo.

Blonde and bespectacled, with a manner both lighthearted and smartly professional, Hanlon seems well chosen for her job as program coordinator for the center, located on the lower level of the Odegaard Undergraduate Library.

“I think the Visitors Information Center is a good crossing point,” she said. “It’s one place where everyone is welcome.” She added in an e-mail, “You never know what kind of question you’ll have to field, from ‘Which motels allow dogs in rooms?’ to ‘Can you help me with directions to (fill in the blank with the most obscure location or program you can think of)?'”

Hanlon answers walk-in and phone inquiries all day, from people both on and off campus. “A lot of what we see are students, faculty and staff who either need more information about campus or are looking for literature to provide to the other people in their department.” She also gets inquiries from campus people who will be hosting visiting family or friends.

The center features maps of Washington state, the United States and the world, with push-pins added to show the origin of different visitors. A campus map is posted outside, and Hanlon takes note every time she sees someone consulting it.

Saying “I’m here to make a difference,” Hanlon has several ideas for improving the center and its environment. Among these, she’d like to see the lobby outside the center made more welcoming, and would like there to be more “you are here” signs and maps across campus. She also is looking for more student help at the center.

One plan in particular blends her communications and commercial graphics work. “I want to create a new brochure for the UW,” she said, offering the title: Who We Are, Where We Are and Why the UW.

And as for the UW saving her life? In her prior job, Hanlon said, she had not been feeling well for most of a year. One day it became clear to co-workers — if not yet to herself — that she needed medical help, and quickly.

“I ended up at the emergency room. We walked there in the rain, down the Burke-Gilman Trail.” It turned out she had pulmonary emboli, or clots in her lungs. The co-worker’s help “probably saved my life,” she said. She feels well these days but maintains a healthy respect for the dangers of blood clots, saying they kill people “who are unaware they are ill at all.”

Hanlon incorporates creativity into her personal life as well as her professional one. She throws pots and creates her own intricate, paper holiday cards that double as tree decorations. She also has a somewhat secret plan to someday travel the world, blogging as she goes.

Asked why she likes working at the UW, Hanlon replied in an e-mail: “I’m interested in many things, and I have always approached life in a renaissance sort of way, so it makes sense for me to work here, surrounded by emerging ideas, experts, libraries, art and history.”