Day two of the Faculty Field Tour found our bus heading east along the Columbia River, that precious resource for our state. As we drove, we saw the gradual transition of the landscape from forested mountains to dry rolling hills and the broad expanses of the eastern part of the state. Along the way we passed hundreds of wind turbines that dot the landscape, generating energy from this relatively new alternative energy source.
With its rich, fertile soil and proximity to the Columbia River, the Yakima Valley is an important hub for both agriculture and transportation. It is responsible for about 75 percent of all hops grown in the United States and is recognized as one of the world leaders in apple production.
The valley is also an important center for community health. Our Faculty Field Tour saw this firsthand during a visit to the Yakima Valley Farm Workers Clinic (YVFWC), a comprehensive medical, dental and social services clinic that collaborates with the UW. Pediatric residents from the UW School of Medicine serve a rotation at the YVFWC to address the occupational and environmental health concerns of Hispanic farm workers and their families. As the area continues to grow, UW Medicine’s presence in the Yakima Valley has become vital to the health and well-being of patients from a diversity of backgrounds.
We visited Washington State University’s agricultural research center in Prosser, where they are doing innovative work in plant propagation and harvesting methods, among other things. It was impressive, and there were lots of questions from our faculty. We were given the crimson carpet treatment, with an actual Cougar carpet greeting us as we stepped off the bus.
Our last event of the day was a Welcome to Washington reception, organized by the UW Alumni Association. We invited Tri-Cities-area entering freshmen and their families to join other students and alumni at a dinner to welcome them to the UW. It was a wonderful event. Our new faculty introduced themselves to the gathering and did a fabulous job briefly describing their teaching and research interests. That was truly inspiring. And then our incoming freshmen told us a little about themselves. It was exciting to imagine them in the classrooms of the faculty they had just met.
The energy in the room was palpable. So much pent-up enthusiasm for learning that will have to wait until the fall to be unleashed.