Office of the President

December 12, 2017

Forging a bright future together

Ana Mari Cauce

It was a year of peaks and valleys, the proverbial best of times and worst of times. But even at those moments of greatest uncertainty and fear, our community has risen to meet challenges with courage, ingenuity and empathy. While accepting the 2017 National Book Award, author Annie Proulx, this year’s keynote speaker at UW Libraries’ celebration of Literary Voices, acknowledged that while she is troubled by some of the trends and events of this year, she believes that, “We still have tender feelings for such outmoded notions as truth, respect for others, personal honor, justice, equitable sharing. We still hope for a happy ending.”

At the University of Washington, that hope lives in our promise to unite in service of a happier and better tomorrow. This year embodied that promise in many, many ways.

It has been a year of extraordinary investment in our students, faculty and staff through philanthropy. In support of our vision to create healthier lives for individuals and communities near and far, last week we launched the Brotman Baty Institute for Precision Medicine that holds the promise of creating therapies and cures targeted to an individual’s unique biology, lifestyle and environment. Through the generosity of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, we are expanding the power of our Institute of Health Metrics and Evaluation and building a state-of-the-art facility to serve as a hub for collaboration on population health across disciplines.

At a time when it has never been more important to champion the values of diversity and inclusion, our Office of Minority Affairs and Diversity prepares to celebrate its 50th anniversary, the Husky Promise is celebrating its 10th and the new UW Bothell Diversity Center opened its doors. Our vision of a happy future must include opportunities for everyone to reach their potential; we need all hands on deck to create a better world.

In June, just over 16,000 students across all three campuses earned UW degrees — our largest-ever cohort — including the first class to graduate from the Paul G. Allen School of Computer Science and Engineering. In fact, we had so many graduates that UW Tacoma required two ceremonies and UW Bothell moved its ceremony to Safeco Field to accommodate graduates and their families. And this fall, with the support of Microsoft, we opened a new facility in Bellevue to welcome the first two cohorts of the Global Innovation Exchange, and UW School of Medicine’s partnership with Gonzaga University welcomed its second class of students.

But among the biggest reasons I look to the future with optimism and confidence is that I have the privilege of working with the people — especially our students — who will forge that bright future. I think of our student and faculty team who won Amazon’s inaugural Alexa Prize for their invention of a revolutionary social bot and the ongoing work of the Dream Project, which is helping to create access for low-income and first-generation college students. And I think of the interdisciplinary team of UW students who were recognized by the New York Times for their environmental policy recommendation for protecting our fragile coastlines. In every field and discipline, across this great University, your passion has been matched by your energy and acumen.

I’m proud of how we nurture champions and trailblazers here, like the 11 UW students who were awarded Fulbright scholarships this year, our NCAA champion women’s rowing team, our Pac-12 champion men’s rowing team, and our women’s basketball team who made it to the Sweet 16 once more. And I was overjoyed to be able to hoist the Apple Cup in Husky Stadium once again and to now be headed to the Fiesta Bowl to cheer on the Huskies!

From the UW-led efforts to prevent suicide, to the exceptional art and music produced by our students, to alumnus Jeff Hall’s work on circadian rhythms that earned him a Nobel Prize, there are too many examples of our community’s positive impact on the world to fit in a single email. But the value and importance of each of them is real and recognized – it is truly a joy to be part of an institution that has such a positive impact on the world.

So thank you, all. You make our University a hopeful, inspiring place to work and learn, and together we improve our world in countless ways. I wish you all a joyful new year — I can’t wait to take on 2018 with you.