June 6, 2013

Another year of impressive accomplishments

By University of Washington

Dear Members of the University of Washington Community:

My favorite time of the year is nearly upon us—the time to celebrate with all those students who have completed the rigors of their degree programs and are about to “commence” the next chapter of their lives. It is exciting and gratifying to share the moment when our students reach their educational goals. To all who are graduating, congratulations. I hope your time at the UW has been challenging and invigorating, and I hope your next stop along the journey is equally so. Congratulations, too, to the many members of the community who helped these students reach these milestones.

I had hoped by this time of the year that my message might include good news about the University’s budget, including funding for our many outstanding programs and for the people who make them so special. As of today, however, our state legislature is still in special session, leaving us uncertain about our budget, our programs, and even our tuition rates. This delay makes it hard for everyone to plan. I can only assure you that as soon as a state budget is passed, we will work feverishly to translate it into a detailed University budget. Stay tuned.

Despite the present uncertainty, this has been an exceptional year for the University. Our incoming students are as good or better than they have ever been, as shown in the continuous rise in entrance qualifications. Once they get here, our students do astonishing things, as we saw recently at our annual Undergraduate Research Symposium in Mary Gates Hall. The level of work exhibited there was impressive, both in its originality and its expertise. Meanwhile, our faculty continue to lead the nation in attracting funding for innovative research, which simultaneously increases human knowledge and helps drive the insatiable curiosity of our undergraduate and graduate students. We’ve seen more UW faculty elected to the rosters of the National Academy of Sciences, to its Institute of Medicine, and to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. The chair of our Department of Global Health, Dr. King Holmes, received the prestigious Gairdner Award, one of the top scientific awards in the world. As impressive as these individual accolades are, we also know that thousands of other UW faculty members are doing amazing work every day in our classrooms and laboratories, working with students and mentoring them along their ambitious intellectual paths. It is always worthwhile to reflect on the great enterprise we are part of. Even for those of us who have been at it awhile, it never loses its luster.

Besides their teaching and research, our faculty also help govern this institution, and I want to say a special word of appreciation for the elected leadership of our faculty this past year. Faculty Senate Chair Jim Gregory and Vice Chair Jack Lee have been remarkable partners. They, along with many others in the Senate, have helped shape institutional policy and approved a number of important innovations, including new online degree completion programs and a new diversity requirement for undergraduates. These were difficult, complicated issues, with important principles at stake. The questions, criticisms, and ideas the faculty brought to bear on these proposals made the policies stronger and more sustainable for the long-term. Their contributions also reinforced the critical importance of shared governance at this or any university. Similarly, the elected and appointed leaders of our student organizations have consistently presented ideas and solutions, rather than just identifying problems.

I also want to express a special thanks to the staff who work with such diligence and dedication at their many and various jobs throughout the University. We would not be able to educate our students or conduct our research without you. You play a vital role in the life of the UW and, as a result of reductions in our budget, you have been asked to do more than ever. We’ve found some ways to streamline and gain efficiencies, but there is simply no question the staff of this University have stepped up and done superb work in the face of diminishing resources.

Like few other endeavors, university life follows an annual rhythm that creates seasonal moments to record achievements, take stock, and refresh plans. I hope you can take these opportunities, even if the coming weeks find you back in the classroom, the lab, or the office. And to those who may be temporarily dispersing for the summer, I wish you a happy and productive time away. It is a good chance to recharge those batteries and come back in the fall for another great year of discovery and growth.

Sincerely,

Michael K. Young

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