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25 Years of Transformation

As UW Tacoma celebrates its 25th anniversary, we look back at 25 milestones that have built and shaped the university. Scroll down to begin.

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Branching Out (1989)

Branching Out (1989)

In June 1989, Tacoma native, UW graduate and Washington state Governor Booth Gardner signed legislation establishing UW Tacoma and four other campuses of the UW and WSU. The legislation was designed to expand opportunities for higher education in the state, particularly those offering bachelor’s degrees. The idea of a public university in the South Sound had been floating around for quite a while, since state legislator Frank “Buster” Brouillet introduced a bill to create such a school in 1965. Brouillet would later serve as director of the UW Tacoma Education program from 1997 to 1999. 
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Lucky 13 (1989)

Lucky 13 (1989)

Thirteen university professors joined an exciting endeavor when they took jobs at UW Tacoma in 1990. These intrepid spirits came from across the country, from Ellensburg to Illinois, to create a university from scratch. 
 
The UW Tacoma founding faculty members offered classes in the initial Liberal Studies program, many of which crossed disciplines, like the courses Health, Illness and Culture or the Philosophy of Ecology. The founding faculty’s interdisciplinary spirit imbued their work and continues to be a guiding force in UW Tacoma’s educational philosophy. 
 
Many founding faculty are still in the area, while four are still teaching at UW Tacoma.
 
 
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Where It All Began (1990)

Where It All Began (1990)

UW Tacoma was originally housed in the Perkins Building, a former office building at 11th and A streets, placing the university in the heart of downtown Tacoma from the start. The Perkins Building was first constructed in 1903 and once housed the local newspapers the Tacoma Daily Ledger and the Tacoma Daily News.
 
In fact, the building was selected in part thanks to its load-bearing design, meant to support heavy printing presses; this construction was well suited to support the weight of the growing university library. However, other aspects of the office building’s design presented challenges. The computer lab, built without air conditioning, would overheat on hot days, sometimes causing computers to shut down mid-use.
 
In 2004, the Perkins Building was converted to condominiums.
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Boundless Education (1990)

Boundless Education (1990)

The first and only major offered by UW Tacoma was the interdisciplinary Liberal Studies. Students took courses in a variety of topics, and were required to demonstrate speaking and writing skills to graduate. 
 
That interdisciplinary spirit has characterized UW Tacoma throughout its 25 years. The school still celebrates cross-disciplinary collaborations like the master’s of cybersecurity and leadership (which features both technology and business classes). The School of Interdisciplinary Arts and Sciences remains the largest unit on campus, comprising 1,085 students. UW Tacoma graduates go on to think creatively and dynamically in a changing world not divided by traditional academic disciplines.
 
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Independent Spirit (1995)

Independent Spirit (1995)

The five-year-old UW Tacoma gained autonomy in 1995 when Vicky Carwein was hired as chancellor and dean. Before Carwein came on board, UW Tacoma had been led by a vice provost in Seattle responsible for both the Tacoma and Bothell campuses. The appointment of Carwein gave UW Tacoma autonomy and leadership that focused solely on Tacoma, allowing the university to begin developing its own mission and character.
 
Carwein strove to raise community support and significant funding for the university. She served from 1995 to 2004, and both the Vicky L. Carwein Auditorium and the Vicky L. Carwein Endowed Scholarship were named in her honor. 
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An Unlikely Location (1995)

An Unlikely Location (1995)

The Executive Council for a Greater Tacoma brought together movers and shakers from all over the city with a common goal: to revitalize the downtown. The group identified a underutilized section of downtown populated with rundown warehouses from the early 1900s and was instrumental in convincing the University to purchase 46 acres. Two other sites had been considered: one in Fife and one near Tacoma Community College. UW Tacoma's downtown location has help drive economic development and been a catalyst for new museums, businesses and other improvements.

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Did you know?

Did you know?

UW Tacoma has awarded 15,879 degrees and certificates since 1990.

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A New Home (1997)

A New Home (1997)

In September 1997, UW Tacoma moved out of the leased Perkins Building and into its permanent home, a set of renovated warehouses on Pacific Avenue, now Garretson Woodruff & Pratt, Birmingham Block, Birmingham Hay & Seed, West Coast Grocery, Walsh Gardner and Snoqualmie Building. The six buildings that opened that fall were a unique choice for a campus location. The Union Station Warehouse District, south of Tacoma’s commercial core, had been a run-down area, home to criminal activity. But the renovated warehouses proved a visionary choice for a learning environment and the campus revitalized the surrounding neighborhood. 
 
The 46-acre campus area now holds 22 university buildings, all but two of them innovative renovations of historic buildings and warehouses. The campus combines this forward-looking spirit with design that celebrates the past.
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Meet me on Pac Ave. (1997)

Meet me on Pac Ave. (1997)

UW Tacoma’s retail offerings on Pacific Avenue started small: a deli, a copy center and a branch of the University Book Store. Today, 26 retail tenants occupy almost 70,000 square feet of the UW Tacoma campus, registering more than $15 million in annual sales. The neighborhood has grown into a thriving retail district where shoppers, museum patrons and students intermingle. UW Tacoma’s retail tenants – housed in the same buildings as classrooms and offices – are one sign of the university’s connection to its surrounding community.

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A Hub for Technology (2001)

A Hub for Technology (2001)

In response to a need for more Washington state graduates with math, science and information technology skills, Governor Gary Locke proposed a transformation of UW Tacoma’s fledgling computing and software systems program into an Institute of Technology. The project received a great deal of community support, including an anonymous donation of one million dollars; in the end, significant funding for the Institute came directly from the community, making this a truly home-grown endeavor. 
 
With programs in computer science and systems, computer engineering and systems, and information technology and systems, the Institute of Technology has helped expand a South Sound tech workforce to meet employer needs and ready graduates for expanding career fields, with 656 students. 
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Generous Business (2003)

Generous Business (2003)

In 2003, the Milgard Family Foundation’s gift of $15 million transformed the business educational opportunities at UW Tacoma. The business administration program, established in 1994, was named the Milgard School of Business to honor their generosity, and became UW Tacoma’s first school. The donation remains one of the largest in UW history.
 
Today, the Milgard School of Business educates 573 students with a bachelor’s in business administration and master’s programs in business administration and accounting. The school’s Center for Leadership and Social Responsibility and Center for Information-Based Management were also made possible by this gift, furthering research among business students and faculty.
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Growing Together

Growing Together

Since UW Tacoma opened its doors in 1990, the student population has been on the rise every year, increasing from 5% to 16% annually. This constant state of expansion has pushed the university to innovate new ways to better serve students and shows the ever-expanding desire among students for a UW education in the South Sound. 

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Continuing Opportunities (2003)

Continuing Opportunities (2003)

Established in 2003, the KeyBank Professional Development Center was designed to expand community access to UW Tacoma resources. The center offers advanced educational certificates, seminars, workshops and courses in disciplines like project management, environmental law and digital forensics. A true community partnership, the center was made possible by funding from the Key Foundation and the Dimmer family. Since it opened, the center has served more than 4,500 students.
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Sustainable Learning (2004)

Sustainable Learning (2004)

As UW Tacoma set about remodeling the three warehouses that would become the Cherry Parkes building, administrators were committed to creating an educational space that would go above and beyond in the university’s commitment to sustainability. The resulting design was the first LEED-certified public higher education building in the state, earning a silver certification. (LEED, or Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, ratings celebrate green buildings, homes and neighborhoods around the country.)
 
Among other sustainable design elements, Cherry Parkes reuses existing structures and materials from the original warehouses, using the buildings’ original walls and with staircases made from salvaged timbers. All UW Tacoma buildings since have been built to exceed standards for sustainable buildings.
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Did you know?

Did you know?

Sixty-eight percent of UW Tacoma freshmen starting the 2014-15 school year are first-generation college students.

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The First Year for First-Years (2006)

The First Year for First-Years (2006)

For its first 15 years, UW Tacoma served only transfer and graduate students. In 2006, UW Tacoma opened its doors to freshmen just one year after Gov. Christine Gregoire signed legislation allowing UW Tacoma, UW Bothell and WSU Vancouver to become four-year institutions. Many students in the initial group of about 190 freshmen were attracted to the university’s interdisciplinary core curriculum, small class sizes and the chance to work closely with faculty.

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Global Thinkers (2005)

Global Thinkers (2005)

UW Tacoma launched its academic honors program, Global Honors, in 2005 to encourage students to consider issues in a global context. The program’s challenging seminars give students from all disciplines a better understanding of history, cultures and current events, connecting the global to the local. Many members of the Global Honors cohort study abroad and get involved in the Tacoma community, with broadened worldviews and a civic mentality. 

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Living on Campus (2008)

Living on Campus (2008)

In 2008, UW Tacoma first began to offer on-campus housing and residence life in the Court 17 building, giving students the chance to take taking advantage of events and culture on and around campus while forming a residential community. The program began with just half of a floor for UW Tacoma students. Currently, 122 students participate in the Court 17 residence life program, which offers activities like movie nights and flag football.
 
The 128-unit Court 17 building on the corner of 17th and Market streets is a public/private development, with the building owned and operated by Lorig & Associates and a garage owned and operated by UW Tacoma.
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Sparking New Ideas (2009)

Sparking New Ideas (2009)

The Paulsen Lecture Series brings eminent speakers to UW Tacoma to spark new ideas and public discourse among students. In 2009, the series’ first year, political consultant James Carville spoke on American politics. Later speakers have included author Hanna Rosin and investigative journalist Seymour Hersh. 
 
Tacoma native and UW alum Arthur Paulsen was so inspired by a lecture by British socialist Harold Laski in 1939 that he began a career in law and became deeply involved in public affairs. Nearly 70 years later, Paulsen, now a retired judge and state legislator, endowed the lecture series to bring the same sort of thought-provoking speakers to UW Tacoma’s students, simultaneously giving back to his hometown and alma mater.
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Clear Seas (2010)

Clear Seas (2010)

UW Tacoma has long been involved in improving the environmental health and water quality of the region. That connection deepened in 2010 with the opening of the Center for Urban Waters, a research center dedicated to tackling problems faced by bay cities like Tacoma. The center looks for creative solutions using a cross-disciplinary approach, with environmental scientists, engineers, analysts and policymakers working side-by-side on common problems. The center is a collaboration between the City of Tacoma, UW Tacoma and the Puget Sound Partnership.
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Saluting Students (2011)

Saluting Students (2011)

UW Tacoma has always had a strong military contingent on campus, thanks in large part to its proximity to several bases, including Joint Base Lewis-McChord. Veterans and military families are often drawn to the quality education, flexible course schedule and proximity to home offered by UW Tacoma. 
 
In 2011, the university was recognized by the Washington State Department of Veterans Affairs as a “vet-friendly campus,” celebrating this connection. Today, 14% percent of UW Tacoma’s student population is active-duty military, veterans or military spouses and dependents.
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Did you know?

Did you know?

In 2014, UW Tacoma's overall economic impact on the state of Washington was $211.7 million.

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Supporting the Future (2012)

Supporting the Future (2012)

As part of UW Tacoma’s commitment to education in the South Sound, the Center for Strong Schools created a unique partnership with Tacoma Public Schools to help K-12 students succeed. The ten-year collaboration, called the Tacoma Whole Child Initiative, is implementing a district-wide system of supports for students – not just academic supports, but social, emotional and behavioral supports as well. 
 
UW Tacoma’s Center for Strong Schools assists with implementation and provides best-practices advice to the school district, working hand-in-hand with local leaders and educators to make sure this work is built to last.
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Taking It Further (2013)

Taking It Further (2013)

In response to a local need for more educational leaders, UW Tacoma began offering its first doctoral degree in 2013 with the Doctor of Education (Ed.D.). The three-year program, designed to meet the needs of working educational leaders, is a cross-disciplinary partnership between the Education program and the Nursing program, offering students three tracks: Primary-12 Superintendent, Nursing Education or Higher Education.

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A 21st Century Degree (2014)

A 21st Century Degree (2014)

In autumn 2014, UW Tacoma launched its first entirely online degree program, in Criminal Justice. The offering matches the on-campus criminal justice major, established in 2010. Both of UW Tacoma’s criminal justice programs take a broader look, considering the impact of crime on perpetrators and victims, with a focus on harm reduction, rehabilitative and restorative approaches to crime and justice. To that end, UW Tacoma’s criminal justice degree was created and administered by social work faculty and taught by social-justice minded criminal justice faculty members, emphasizing the human aspects of the criminal justice system.

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Riding the Rails (2014)

Riding the Rails (2014)

The Prairie Line Trail at UWT Station is a linear park running like a vein through campus, built along the historic tracks of the Northern Pacific Railway. The rail line, American’s second transcontinental railroad, traveled through Tacoma and down to its terminus on Commencement Bay. UW Tacoma’s section of the Prairie Line Trail opened in 2014, the first of several proposed sections to the linear park that will connect UW Tacoma to the surrounding community. The park looks back at our region’s past and ahead to a vision of a future Tacoma. 

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A Campus Taking Shape (2015)

A Campus Taking Shape (2015)

The newest building on the UW Tacoma campus, the University Y Student Center opened Jan. 1, 2015, fulfilling a long-held campus goal of a dedicated student center with space exclusively for student organizations, recreation and exercise facilities. The light-filled, three story building houses a NCAA regulation-sized basketball court, 1/12-mile running track, climbing wall, game room, meeting and recreational spaces.
 
The building is a partnership between UW Tacoma, which owns the building, and the YMCA of Pierce & Kitsap Counties, which operates the facility. Student-supported and open to the community, the facility simultaneously reaches into the heart of campus life and bridges out into Tacoma.
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You!

You!

Throughout our 25 years, UW Tacoma has always been a community effort through and through. We are driven to serve you, and you have, time and again, made UW Tacoma what it is today.

Look how much we’ve grown – together.

What are we going to do next?

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