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A busload of faculty and 1,000 miles: An inside look at the 2022 UW Faculty Field Tour

By Danica Wood

The UW’s Faculty Field Tour — a 25-year tradition — was put on pause amid the COVID-19 pandemic. After a two-year break, the tradition resumed this year.

Beginning on June 11, 34 new faculty from across the UW’s campuses boarded a charter bus to experience a 1,000-mile tour of Washington state. Starting in Seattle, going south to Olympia, east to Yakima and Spokane, on to the Grand Coulee Dam and back home, this tour provided insight into the communities, culture and beauty within our state.New UW Faculty visit the the Diablo Lake

“Volcanoes and basalt rocks, black holes and neutron stars, bees and wildflowers! During the Faculty Field Tour, I had a blast learning about the wild state that we inhabit and was reminded that we are infinitesimally small — in the very best way,” said Rawan Arar, assistant professor of Law, Societies & Justice. “It was impactful to meet with leaders from the Colville Reservation, who reminded us that, as teachers, we not only have a responsibility to our students but also to our students’ families and communities that entrust us with their children’s education.”

Throughout the five-day tour, faculty met with community members, local residents and collaborators to gain insight into the people, economy and scenery of the Pacific Northwest.

“We serve the entire state, and we wanted to make sure from the outset that faculty had the opportunity to experience some of our regions that are more rural, or have different economic drivers, different cultures or different feelings and expectations about the purpose and experience of higher education,” said UW President Ana Mari Cauce.

“It’s also a way of introducing residents from across the state to the excellent faculty we have at the UW who might serve as teachers or mentors for their students if they were to attend the UW, or who might be good collaborators on community or research projects,” said Provost Mark Richards.

Experiences on the tour included stopping at the Yakima Valley Farm Workers Clinic, which provides services to local agriculture workers in collaboration with the UW, and a visit to Heritage University, which partners with the University of Washington that aims to make law degrees more accessible to students from historically excluded communities — including Latino/Latina/Latinx and Indigenous students.

The tour stopped next at the Hanford Site to tour the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO) — where UW professors have been instrumental in some of the key findings of a gravitational-wave astrophysics experiment — as well as a visit to Sen. Mark Schoesler’s wheat farm. Last, the group stopped at the Grand Coulee Dam and the Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation.

“By better understanding the history and culture that shapes our region, we can be better partners in telling the story of our state,” said Ed Taylor, vice provost and dean of Undergraduate Academic Affairs, who has been deeply involved in the program since the mid-2000s. “By taking this tour, we are able to learn about and honor the past, present and future of our state so that we may deepen our appreciation for how we as educators can thoughtfully care for our region.”

“This was an eye-opening experience that made me realize what an honor it is to hold the position that I have,” said Chirag Shah, associate professor in the Information School. “Being a faculty member at a public university is not just a job or a career — it’s a calling. It’s a privilege to be at the forefront of world-class research and education while also serving our local community.”

For those who joined the UW during the pandemic, the tour also provided an opportunity to build community and explore the region.

“The Faculty Field Tour was an unbelievably enriching opportunity to learn about the remarkable state of Washington,” said Annie Downey, associate dean of University Libraries and director of the UW Tacoma Library. “I spent the week in awe of how inspired I felt while traveling in a packed bus up and down mountains, across open land, and alongside flourishing farms and flowing rivers. All the while, I had the pleasure of learning with and about an amazing group of kind, curious, brilliant and fun new colleagues.”

To learn more about the Faculty Field Tour, visit