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Community focus

The University of Washington cares deeply about the neighborhoods in which it operates. Learning with and from our communities is embedded in the UW’s public service mission and is a significant part of the Husky Experience for students, faculty and staff members. The Office of Regional & Community Relations supports or partners with the following community focused projects.

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Othello-UW Commons

The Othello-UW Commons is a learning and collaboration space in Southeast Seattle for faculty, staff, students and community partners. Located approximately nine miles south of the UW’s Seattle campus, the Othello-UW Commons is next to the Othello Link light rail station. This accessible 2,200-square-foot facility includes room for meetings, teaching, learning, leadership and community, and professional development.

The Commons is both a physical space and a place-based initiative that builds on the University of Washington’s long-standing engagement with and commitment to the greater Southeast Seattle communities. The Commons:

  • Engages University of Washington faculty, staff, and students to increase the impact of community-based research, teaching, and learning in Southeast Seattle communities in the areas of education, health, and economic development.
  • Builds capacity of residents and community organizing efforts in Southeast Seattle to address equity issues in education, health, and economic development.
  • Advances the field of campus-community engagement by contributing to the collective knowledge and practice of place-based efforts in campus-community engagement.

University District Partnership

The U District Partnership (UDP) works to improve safety, cleanliness, and vitality in the University District. The UDP improves the livability and business climate through its work in the following areas:

Clean and Safe: Programs in this category include daily cleaning of the Ave and regular cleaning of the entire neighborhood, graffiti removal, community clean-ups, and coordination with Seattle Public Utilities. The Ambassador Program provides regular security presence and visitor assistance along the Ave. The UDP also supports a REACH outreach worker to connect unhoused people in the U District with a range of services and housing.

Economic Development: This program helps businesses thrive in the U District, many of which are BIPOC-owned. They convene small business owners to discuss issues and advocate on their behalf with the City. During the pandemic, the UDP connected businesses with support and resources to sustain them through mandated shutdowns. The UDP also tracks commercial space availability and connects those opportunities with businesses looking to locate in the U District or expand.

Urban Vitality: Programs in this area seeks to improve the physical condition and environment of the U District. Examples include tree lighting, building murals, design advocacy, construction coordination, and work to improve arts & culture in the neighborhood.

Events & Marketing: This program area promotes the U District through social media, advertisements, and special events. Special events include the annual U District Street Fair, Cherry Blossom Festival, Bobba-Fest, and many more. This program works to improve the U District brand and cultivate its social media presence.

The University of Washington is a strong supporter of UDP’s efforts with both financial and volunteer support.

North of 45th

The University works with neighbors, students, and the city to improve safety, cleanliness, and civility in the neighborhoods north of campus. This effort includes regular UWPD patrols in the neighborhood with an emphasis on party monitoring and noise. The University also partners with SPU to collect extra trash, bulky items, recyclables, and reusables generated during student moves. Past projects have included neighborhood cleanup events, food drives, tree planting, student renter education, neighborhood interns, newsletters, and community meetings. To learn more about UW’s strategy in this neighborhood, read the North of 45th Work Group Final Report.

Carnegie Community Engagement classification

The University of Washington’s three campuses in Seattle, Bothell and Tacoma received the Carnegie Community Engagement classification, an elective designation that indicates an institutional commitment to community engagement. The Carnegie Community Engagement classification has been the leading framework for institutional assessment and recognition of community engagement in U.S. higher education. Receiving this classification puts into focus that the work of a public research university begins at home, in neighborhoods, the state and the region.

This important classification is awarded following a process of self-study by each institution, which is then assessed by a national review committee led by the Swearer Center for Public Engagement at Brown University, the administrative and research home for the Carnegie Community Engagement Classification. The UW joins other Washington universities in achieving the distinction, including Washington State University, Western Washington University, Gonzaga University, Whitworth University and Seattle University. There are only 359 campuses across the nation that hold this classification.

The assessments across each of the three campuses identified hundreds of examples of partnerships that embody the definition of community engagement that the Carnegie Foundation puts forth. The UW already is capitalizing on the assessments to build on its community-engaged research, teaching and service, paving the way for greater impact in the years to come.