This week, Provost Ana Mari Cauce and I are boarding the bus for the annual UW Faculty Field Tour, a five-day trek that explores the UW’s reach across Washington state. The tour is designed for faculty members who are new to Washington and new to the university. It’s an opportunity to learn about their newly adopted home state — its geography and topography, the foundations of its economy and some of its history — as well as to see where their students come from, learn about those communities and meet colleagues from a variety of the university’s rich array of disciplines.
The tour covers roughly 1,000 miles, and we’ll be making stops along the way to visit key UW partners, including high-tech manufacturers like Boeing, UW startup MicroGREEN Polymers and the Microsoft Data Center; local vineyards and orchards; environmental gems like Mount St. Helens; and even the great Grand Coulee Dam. The tour allows our 31 participating new faculty members to get a bird’s-eye view of our state and experience firsthand the rich tapestry of culture, economics and geography in Washington.
Today was a great start to the tour. We visited the Boeing composite manufacturing plant in Frederickson, where Boeing makes the tail sections for the 777 and 787. We had an exceptional tour guide who fielded a barrage of questions from a very inquisitive group of faculty. It is amazing to see the ingenuity and creativity that goes into the manufacturing process of this very complex airplane component. The faculty was duly impressed, like I was.
We then drove to the Johnston Ridge observatory to get a bird’s-eye view of Mount St. Helens. What an amazing example of the awesome power of nature — quite a contrast to the high-tech manufacturing plant. It was interesting to note that some of our younger faculty had yet to be born by May 18, 1980, the day the mountain erupted.
The conversations on the bus were lively and robust as people are getting to know one another. Looks like another terrific group of faculty setting out to learn more about Washington.