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2023 Faculty Field Tour gives faculty members a window into Washington

By Julia Park

New colleagues, new students, new weather – there’s a lot to adjust to for the UW’s newest faculty. With hometowns in places ranging from California to Georgia, Canada to Australia, many are new to the state. Others hail from cities closer by, but went to universities across the country for their education.

To deepen their understanding of the communities and landscapes of Washington, 26 of the UW’s newest professors went straight from grading finals to the UW Faculty Field Tour. The five-day, 1,000-mile bus tour of Washington state gives new faculty an opportunity to see the UW’s impact on families and communities while learning more about the state’s unique culture, history and geography.

Faculty members on this year’s trip created lasting memories with their colleagues while gaining a better understanding of the UW’s mission to improve the lives of Washingtonians through research and discovery. They left with a head start on finding their place at the UW and in the state that 73% of the UW’s undergraduates call home.

Participants of the 2023 Faculty Field Tour gather around the tour bus at the Burke Museum in Seattle before departing for a tour of Washington state on June 12.

Starting their journey from the Burke Museum of Natural History and Culture in Seattle, the tour group traveled to the Port of Tacoma and then to the state Capitol in Olympia, where they met with Lt. Gov. Denny Heck. They went on to visit the Mount St. Helens Visitor Center and sites in the Yakima River Valley, Spokane, the Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation, the North Cascades and more.

“I completed my Ph.D. at the University of Washington and have considered myself a local for some time. Outside the campus, I saw the hopes and needs of the state’s residents, gorgeous lakes and imminent environmental catastrophes, and an urgent need for dialogue among groups, communities and sectors. As a result of this five-day trip, Washington became a ‘real’ place for me that I can call home, moving beyond the image of a picturesque state with a beautiful campus.”

Canan BolelAssistant Professor, UW Department of Middle Eastern Languages and Cultures

“The Faculty Field Tour was an amazing experience,” said Sebastian Tong, an assistant professor in the UW Department of Family Medicine. “I learned about the breadth of cultures and ethnicities in Washington state, experienced the various industries that support the Washington economy and met other faculty from across the University in a plethora of disciplines. The Faculty Field Tour made Washington state and the UW feel like home.”

Lt. Gov. Denny Heck speaks to the group in the gallery of the Washington Senate in Olympia on June 12. Heck has presided over the state Senate since he was first elected in 2020.

“Aside from learning from community members, I loved getting to know all of my colleagues across the campuses,” added Nathanie Lee, an assistant teaching professor in the School of Educational Studies at UW Bothell. “It was so refreshing to see how diverse our disciplines were, but also the interconnectedness across our work and our lives. I am forever grateful for the opportunity because even though I have lived in Washington for a while, I never got to appreciate its geological features, history and peoples until now.”

Faculty members had numerous opportunities to learn about the state’s natural history. At the Mount St. Helens Visitor Center, they discussed the lasting effects of volcanic eruption, and at other stops they learned about the way water – or the lack thereof – has shaped different parts of the state. Another stop explored farther reaches of the universe. Faculty members listened to scientists explain gravitational waves detected from outer space at the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO) in Richland, Washington.

Physicist and UW graduate Jenne Driggers leads the tour of the LIGO, which detects gravitational waves using a 6.25-square-mile observatory. She said a UW professor mentioned the observatory when she was in class,  which set her on the path to her current role as the observatory’s detection lead scientist.

Visits to places like the Yakima Valley Farm Workers Clinic (YVFWC), which is a rotation site for pediatric residents from the UW School of Medicine, gave faculty members a front-seat view of how the UW and communities come together to support local needs. They also learned about the connections between the UW and other institutions of higher education, including Heritage University in Toppenish and Gonzaga University in Spokane, where the UW School of Medicine – GU Health Partnership celebrated the opening of a new building in 2022.

The trip gave faculty members a chance to make connections with their colleagues, as well as with students on their home turf. At the UW Spokane Center, faculty members celebrated incoming Huskies from high schools and community colleges in Spokane at the UW Alumni Association’s Welcome to Washington event.

“The Faculty Field Tour imparted knowledge about the UW and the state of Washington and created a sense of belonging to both. The opportunity to meet and create memories with other new faculty was invaluable. I hope future new faculty jump at the chance to be part of this amazing experience. Thank you to all the great people at the UW who make this unique program possible.”

Stefania FatoneProsthetist, Orthotist and Professor in the UW Department of Rehabilitation Medicine

“As a new faculty member to the UW, the Faculty Field Tour is an essential part of onboarding and was a transformative trip,” said Monica R. McLemore, a professor in the UW’s Child, Family and Population Health Department and the interim director of Manning Price-Spratlen Center for Anti-Racism and Equity at the UW School of Nursing. “Although I’m not new to academia, but new to Washington state, the tour further solidified for me that I made the right decision to leave California after 30 years of living and working as faculty there. I am deeply appreciative of the experience.”

The YVFWC is one of the largest community health centers in the nation and provides comprehensive medical, dental and social services to local agricultural workers.

Hilary Godwin, the dean of the UW School of Public Health and a professor in the UW Department of Environmental & Occupational Health Sciences, and Ed Taylor, the vice provost and dean of Undergraduate Academic Affairs and a professor in the College of Education, were field team members on the tour and anticipated how it would enrich participants’ teaching in a recent op-ed.

“Together, through this trip, and the connections it will form, we will open ourselves to perspectives different from our own. We will learn how the UW is both the University of Washington and the University for Washington — working for every community, every student,” Godwin and Taylor wrote. “[W]hen these professors are back on campus and step into their classrooms for the first day of classes this fall, they do so with an even better appreciation of what makes our state — and our students — so special.”

To learn more about the Faculty Field Tour, visit

See more photos from the tour below.