Dear members of the University of Washington community:
Last June, right after our spectacular commencement ceremony on a scintillating day at CenturyLink Field, I boarded a bus with 35 new first- and second- year UW faculty from all three of our campuses and representing a wide array of disciplines for a week-long bus tour of the State of Washington. Known as the Faculty Field Tour, this trek acquainted faculty who are new to the UW with their newly adopted home state to orient them to its history, economy, geography and cultures and to give them a sense of where many of their students come from. It was my first time participating in such a trip, for which I got a very fancy baseball hat emblazoned with the words: “Faculty Field Tour.” Both the hat and the tour were exceptionally useful. I learned a great deal about the state I had not known before, but more importantly, I got a chance to spend time with our new faculty. And I can report to you that from this relatively small sampling, the future of the University looks very, very bright. They were a remarkable group of teachers and scholars, and I am proud that our students will be learning with them in the years to come.
The mood on the bus was upbeat for a variety of reasons—including the fact that a challenging academic year had come to an end—but mostly because in a second special session last June, the Washington legislature made a dramatic statement by reinvesting $40 million in our biennial budget, allowing us to hold undergraduate tuition at its current levels for the next two years. After four years of declining budgets, the turnaround was welcome and important. It was a statement of how important this University and higher education in general are to our state, and it enabled us for the first time in four years to provide merit pay increases to our faculty and staff and for the first time in decades to not increase tuition. These were ample reasons to celebrate.
The start of a new academic year reminds me a bit of some of the inveterate optimism associated with the start of baseball’s spring training. All of the players head either to Florida or Arizona, seeing a world of limitless possibilities, where no one has any losses and everyone has pennant fever. I’ll stop the analogy there, since once the season begins, it is quite clear that some optimism was unwarranted. That is distinctly not the case here. Each fall represents unlimited horizons and is met with enthusiasm and optimism only the promise of learning and accomplishment can supply. I hope all of you will embrace the start—or continuation—of your academic year with the excitement and desire to expand your horizons and perspectives and open your mind to new ideas, new problems, new solutions, new challenges, and new concepts. That is what makes it all so exciting and ultimately, so rewarding.
Many new people are joining—and reinvigorating—our University community this fall, most notably the thousands of new freshmen, transfer, graduate and professional students who are starting their time here. To each of you, a warm welcome. I hope and trust we meet and exceed your expectations of us, and if for some reason we do not, I hope you will let us know—gently. We also welcome new leadership this fall: in Engineering Dean Michael Bragg, who comes to us by way of the University of Illinois. Mike, I’m glad we won the game. Dean Azita Emami comes to us from Seattle University to lead our No. 1 in the nation School of Nursing. Wolf Yeigh is our new Chancellor of UW Bothell. He comes to us from the State University of New York Institute of Technology. Also joining us this fall are Vice President for Student Life Denzil Suite, previously at USC, and Vice Provost for Global Affairs Jeff Riedinger, who is returning to his native Seattle from Michigan State University. I hope you will welcome these new leaders and make them feel at home here.
We begin the 2013–14 academic year in a world filled with turmoil and violence, displacement, hunger and disease. Many dedicated people throughout the world are working in thousands of ways to address these problems and are making progress, though at times it appears hardly discernible. One of the areas we are very good at studying here at the UW are the various parts of the world where these problems persist, and we try to comprehend what their root causes might be and how life for people in these regions might be improved. I hope students will seek out courses to learn about these regions, or find a study abroad opportunity to look at the world from a somewhat different perspective. It is a world all of you are part of and one someday it will be your turn to try to fix. There is no better time than the present to begin that process.
Have a great year!
Michael K. Young