Main page content
Below is a story written for the April kick-off for our storytelling project:
“Although there are so many people who have had an influence in my life over the 8 years I’ve spent on the UW Tacoma campus—including faculty like Nicole who was not even one of my professors but encouraged me in my educational goals and let me know she cared about me as a person; there were advisers, librarians, and TLC staff who helped me re-learn the ropes of academia after a VERY long time away from college; and fellow students who, even though most were easily half my age, became colleagues and forever friends.
Although we don’t have enough time tonight for me to tell you about all of them, I can, however, point to three people without whom I would not be standing here today.
I arrived on this campus for the first time in 2011, for what was supposed to be an information session for prospective students. But that meeting ended up a conversation between Karin Dalesky and me—just the two of us in a room full of empty desks on the main floor of WCG. The session had been cancelled or moved to another day—I was never sure which—but either way, I was the only person who showed up.
But Karin still came down from her office to talk to me.
Perching herself on the sill of a window overlooking the courthouse on Pac Ave, Karin spent nearly an hour telling me about the campus and answering my questions about my program. When I left that day, I knew I’d found the place I wanted to be. If people on this campus were willing to go out of their way to accommodate a person who showed up on the wrong day, I had a feeling I just might fit in.
I wouldn’t be here today without Karin.
The second person who had a big impact on my time as a UW Tacoma student was Divya McMillin.
I first met Divya during an interview for Global Honors after I’d read about the program online and decided to apply. But gaining entrance to the program required a face-to-face interview, so I came down to campus and nervously sat in a tiny office with Divya and then-program coordinator Linda Gilbert, hoping to convince them I was a worthy candidate.
Wonder of wonders, in spite of my nerves and occasionally stumbled answers to their questions, I was admitted, and thus began a two year adventure that stretched my thinking, challenged my understanding of the world I thought I knew, and set me on the road to an internship at an international conference in Munich, a study abroad trip to Rome, a senior thesis that 6 years later is still among the top downloads on the Digital Commons, and my first thoughts of someday attending graduate school. And behind all of those things was Divya’s encouragement and support. Although as a non-traditional student, I thought that things like study abroad trips and internships were only for the young, Divya not only pointed me in the direction of opportunities that she felt I could benefit from but gave me the push I needed to reach for them. She agreed to become my thesis advisor, and then pushed me to write the best paper I’ve written to date. She also wrote one of the glowing recommendations that got me into graduate school.
I wouldn’t be here today without Divya.
The third person who has made a big difference in my educational journey is Anna Salyer. My first memory of Anna is at new student orientation in September of 2011. A tiny lady with long white hair and a blinding smile, she almost glows in the spotlight of my memory as she stands at the front of a room filled with computers (the Science building, I think), walking a brand-new UWT students through the process of signing into the online library system for the first time. I met Anna again a few months later as she sat at the research desk. I had come for help in figuring out how to find the sources I needed for a paper, and her familiar face eased my nerves a bit. Her patience with my questions not only led me to the sources I needed to be successful in that paper—but through many projects that followed, including the paper that won me a UW library research award, my senior thesis, and a slew of graduate school papers. Anna’s assistance and wonderful letter of recommendation also helped me win a graduate research award, but most important, it’s brought me someone who has become a valued friend and colleague.
I wouldn’t be here today without Anna.
As a UWTacoma alumni and a current staff member, I think about these three people—and all the rest who have had a major impact on my life over the last 8 years—and I hope that one day, other students will be able to tell similar stories about me. I hope they’ll remember me as willing to listen and answer questions. I hope they’ll remember me as interested in their papers or projects. I hope they’ll say that my extension of friendship made a difference in their lives.
That they wouldn’t be here today without me.
Then, and only then, will I know that all I received here at UW Tacoma has been passed on, and I will have succeeded in what I set out to do.
April 24, 2019
Kim Davenport, a part-time lecturer at UW Tacoma in Culture, Arts and Communication–a division of the School of Interdisciplinary Arts and Sciences–recently filled out an online writing prompt as part of our storytelling project. Below is the story she shared in response to the question:
If you could tell one story about your time here at UWT, what would it be?
“I have been a part of the UWT community for nearly 20 years, and it’s possible I’ve worn almost as many hats in those years. In early November of 1999, I set foot on campus for the first time as a half-time Office Assistant in the Education Program. I was 23 and fresh out of grad school, eager for a stable day job so that I could pursue my interests as a musician. The average age of the student body back then was 37. Trains still ran through campus, Science and Keystone were yet to be built, and from my very first day on campus, I felt at home. As compared to my own student experience on the Seattle campus, UWT felt so much more intimate, and the caring dedication from faculty and staff was palpable.
In the years since, I have worked as a program administrator and/or adviser in several different academic units – IAS, Urban Studies, International Programs, and the Institute of Technology. And I had the unique experience of serving as the administrator to start-up UWT’s first off-campus research center, at the beautiful Center for Urban Waters on the Foss Waterway. I have served on innumerable committees, task forces, and work groups. And I have made some of the best friends I’ve ever had.
If one thing is constant at UWT, it is change, and I have had the pleasure of witnessing and being part of so many of these changes. In my own opinion, some have been positive, some negative, and some – well, just different. But one of the biggest was the transition to a four-year campus with the admission of the first freshman class in 2006. I was fortunate enough to be asked to teach as part of the Core curriculum that first year, and it was an experience that would gradually transform my professional life.
For a while, I maintained administrative positions and taught ‘on the side’. Eventually, my overriding love of teaching made this impossible, and in 2013, I jumped at the chance to teach full time. It was risky – a temporary position which might not be extended more than one year at a time. But now, six years later, I’ve had the opportunity to teach hundreds of UWT students, develop several new courses, and be recognized for my work with honors from both inside and outside the UW system.
For some reason, that fact I mentioned from my first year at UW Tacoma – that when I was 23, the average age of our students was 37 – has stuck with me over the years. When I turned 37 just a few days into Autumn Quarter of 2013, my first quarter holding the title of ‘Lecturer’, I happened to glance at those campus stats again. Wouldn’t you know it – the average age of our students was 23. If that doesn’t illustrate the profound changes as our campus grows, I don’t know what does.
What has kept me at UWT so long? Two simple things. First, I love Tacoma, and I remain committed to this experiment dreamed up by movers and shakers back in the 1980s, to bring a UW campus to our great little city. And second, our students. The diverse range of students we serve have taught me so much, and I’m honored to be able to teach them.”
If you have a UW Tacoma story to share, you can contact us at email@example.com or post your response through our online form. We look forward to hearing from you!
Margaret and I recently had the opportunity to interview Rebecca Dickson, a UW Tacoma Alumni who recently graduated with her degree in Politics, Philosophy, and Economics. Throughout her interview, Dickson spoke often about the unexpected opportunities she received during her two years attending UW Tacoma.
When asked about her decision to attend UW Tacoma, Dickson admitted that it was more of a financial decision and she, along with her advisors from the Pierce College Running Start Program, were concerned that there wouldn’t be enough opportunities to help her reach her career goals. “A lot of people were hesitant about me coming to this school; my advisors were concerned about my coming here to a local public university. Would I be able to get enough opportunities to get and reach my goals?” After two years at UW Tacoma, Dickson now admits that her initial doubts were wrong, and she was in fact given countless opportunities for future success.
“When I came here, I realized that there were so many hidden opportunities that you can access. You’d be surprised what you can get done within 2-4 years. Whether you’re a transfer student who spent a few years at university and you’re coming here for the first time, or you’re a returning student, or if you’re starting here as a freshman, there are so many different opportunities that you can have, that you would never expect that you could have. If you are interested in anything, be it academic or non-academic interests, you have the opportunity to explore and study that in a deep way on this campus, not just in the classroom, but also outside the classroom. UW Tacoma really does provide that for their students. I’ve never been told no. I’ve always had someone say ‘Well how can we do that?’ People have always helped me with that, which is very rare. ”
There are four opportunities that stand out to Dickson during her time here. The first is the opportunity she had to explore different majors by enrolling in a wide variety of classes. She mentioned the learning community she found when she was given the opportunity to take 400-level business classes. “Students are willing to welcome you with open arms and teach you what they know. They will sit with you before class and teach you basic economic principles or they’ll talk to you about how they do presentations.” Dickson understands how important these interdisciplinary interactions are to the overall success of every student in every field, and UW Tacoma is well-known for making room for those kinds of connections and interactions.
She also told us about an opportunity she had through the Global Honors Program and the Institute for Global Engagement. The program offers a $1,000 scholarship for a study abroad opportunity, which is something Dickson didn’t think would be available to her until her career was well-established. After looking through the current opportunities, she came across the “Doing More With Less – Healthcare in Remote Southern Bolivia” program. While technically a capstone course for Biomedical Science majors, Dickson was allowed the opportunity to attend with the permission of the program advisor and formal acceptance into the program.
With the support and assistance of the Global Honors Program, she was also given the opportunity to complete a year-long interdisciplinary research project on climate change and environmental decision-making. What really stood out about this opportunity was the vital leadership role assigned to the students: the students were the principal investigators who designed the project and worked with various individuals under the guidance of an advisor. Traditionally, these roles are reversed and students will work as interns under the guidance of a lead principal investigator. Aside from the unique opportunity to lead an undergraduate research project, Dickson was given the chance to interact with individuals cross-culturally and across majors, which is going to be incredibly useful in her future career.
Dickson also shared with us her experience getting invited to attend the Corporate Social Responsibility Case Competition through the School of Business.
“We were able to explore real-world issues in an academic environment. One thing that
we did through that is explore the issue of housing insecurity and how it’s affected, and how corporations, specifically companies, can work towards ending housing insecurity or improving that. We also had the opportunity to explore issues surrounding big data and data security. As a person who wants to work in Civil Service and in Public Policy, that’s something I’m very concerned about.”
In just two short years at UW Tacoma, Rebecca Dickson was given some truly life-changing and career-altering opportunities. While she didn’t come to UW Tacoma believing that these types of opportunities would be available to her, she graduated with some truly incredible experiences that will help her greatly in her career going forward.
We are a little more than half-way through with our Storytelling Project, and so far we’ve had countless interviews, numerous story submissions, and tons of questions about what we are trying to accomplish with our project. We’ve had the incredible experience of hearing stories not just from students, but also members of the faculty and staff.
These stories have really highlighted what I have always known and felt to be true about this campus and this community: that it is a place to find yourself, a place where you feel like you belong, a place that gives you every opportunity for success.
We have heard stories about the dedication and commitment of our faculty and staff across numerous departments on campus.
We have heard about the achievements of not only students, but also faculty and staff that have been given life-changing opportunities because of this university.
We have been given first hand experiences of those who have seen and witnessed the changes this university has gone through, and how hard this university works to create the best possible outcomes for its students.
We have heard stories about how they found a sense of belonging and community on this campus, which is something they didn’t expect and or even think was possible.
All of the stories we’ve heard have been unique and personal, not one story has started the same or had the same ending.
Listening to the stories and the experiences of my peers has been an incredibly humbling experience, and it has given me the opportunity to reflect on my own journey as a UW Tacoma student, and to appreciate the opportunities and experiences that I had because of this university. As we finish the last few weeks of this project, I am excited to hear the last few stories, to see how else UW Tacoma has made its mark. As always, I encourage you to submit your own story so that we can continue to create a community of students who are connected to each other through experience and opportunity.
Margaret and I recently had the opportunity to interview Anna Salyer, a part-time librarian, recipient of the Distinguished Service Award, and UW Seattle Alumni. As a student at UW Seattle, Salyer was in the first class for the Master’s of Library Science to have a computer lab and was part of the first presentation class with the GEACK program. She has been with the UW-Tacoma Library full-time for almost sixteen years, and has only recently transitioned to part-time.
One of the common themes throughout her interview was the idea of opportunity and the countless opportunities that UW Tacoma offers not only its students, but also its staff and faculty. Salyer notes that
“Everybody who walks onto this campus, whether they want to pursue the journey that they’re on at the moment or something completely different – for every student who wants to do the work, there is that opportunity for them because the staff, and a lot of the faculty, are here for them, to do that. You just have to ask, because we can’t read your mind.The staff here, we walk that talk for our students. We want to be the resources, we want to save you time and save you energy. We want to save you stressing, to make sure that you have what you need to succeed.”
As a librarian, Salyer has a strong love for the UW Libraries system and is a firm believer that its vast network of resources provides endless opportunities to students, faculty, and staff.
“The UW Libraries is one library on three campuses, so everything that the Seattle students have access to, so do our students. It’s truly a world-class research library and I am so thankful and humble that I have gotten to be part of that, and talk about the resources, and teach people how to use them effectively and efficiently, and to be part of the journey’s people take.”
Salyer has seen and experienced some of these opportunities and experiences first-hand during her sixteen years at UW Tacoma. She told of us of one experience that tied in with her work with local non-profit organizations. Over the past few years, Salyer has been invited to the Puget Sound Grantwriters Association to discuss resources for community members, the online Foundation Directory, and even provide workshops. After one presentation, she was approached by a student from the Social Work program at UW-Seattle who expressed an interest in having Salyer give her presentation at a yearly fundraising grant writing class for students in the social work program. With the use of remote log-ins, Salyer has had the opportunity to give this presentation in Seattle for the past six years.
Salyer’s role in the Library has allowed her the opportunity to interact with students one-on-one, which is something that she has truly come to value during her time here. After giving a demonstration at an Orientation Session, Salyer recalled a woman coming to the Reference Desk looking for help on the research process. “She says to me, ‘I just got back to school after forever and I’m so excited to be here, can you show me some stuff today? I know school hasn’t started yet or anything.’ So we worked and worked, and she was the first UW Tacoma student to win the Undergraduate Research Award.”
For Salyer, the joy of interacting with students and helping them succeed in their goals is one of the main reasons she has stayed with UW Tacoma for so many years. “I think things are unexpected. It seems that when things are unexpected that’s when you need them the most.”
A perfect example of this happened when Salyer was admitted to St. Joe’s hospital for pneumonia. During the second day of her stay she had the opportunity to connect with a current student, who just happened to be her nurse. What was supposed to be a ‘normal’ hospital stay provided the two with the opportunity to connect and form a friendship.
“Here comes this lovely young woman, and she’s doing all this stuff and she says to me, ‘Gee you know you look familiar.” So I told her who I was and what I do and she goes, ‘That’s where I know you! I’m in the BSN program!’ So when I got better, and got back to work, we met and did a follow up on how to do research, and that was really fun!”
Later on in the interview, Salyer told us of another student who had come to her earlier that day, someone she hadn’t seen in awhile, who thanked her now that she is graduating and has a job lined up. “She said, ‘You did it all,’ and I said, ‘No I didn’t do any of it. I pointed you to the resources and that’s all I did, you did all the rest.” She was in tears and I’m just so humbled, and I love it. You, you the students, are why I’m still here.”
As much as UW Tacoma is all about creating and fostering opportunities for its students, it also provides fellow staff and faculty members unique opportunities as well. There are countless opportunities available for research, mentorship, and professional as well as social development. Anna Salyer’s story is just one of many that highlight the unique experiences of every one who sets foot on our campus.
We are celebrating the end of finals with our Jelly Bean Drawing! Throughout the month of May students, faculty, and staff have had the opportunity to enter our drawing by guessing the number of jellybeans in our jar, submitting a story (in-person and online), or participating in an interview. We will be holding our drawing Friday June 14th at 1 pm in the TLC, so be sure to check-in! Prizes include a $15 Anthem gift card, moleskin journals, and a fountain pen. If you haven’t had a chance to enter, we are still taking submissions! Head over to our Facebook page to make a guess about the number of jelly beans, fill out our online story form or stop by the TLC to submit a story!
Karin Dalesky is a UW-Tacoma Alumni and staff member. She has been affiliated with the University for 23 years – three as a student and the rest advising graduate and undergraduate students, as well as recruiting and program administration for the Master’s of Arts in Interdisciplinary Studies.
Back in the fall of 1996, after a rather inspiring meeting with Marcily Brown, she decided to enroll at UW Tacoma. Looking back on her experience with Brown, Dalesky says, “she was my first point of contact and she was awesome. Very encouraging. She liked the fact that I had been one of these sort of not very successful students in the past and I wanted to redeem myself.” This idea of redemption was something that Dalesky continued to take note of throughout her time at UW-Tacoma, first as a student and later as an SIAS adviser.
From her first moments as an undergrad, Dalesky was aware that UW-Tacoma was offering something different for its students: “I loved that fact that so many different types of people were here at the time. It was only juniors and seniors. Only 300 and 400 level courses. I was really proud of the fact that the University had put a campus here, and they were allowing this opportunity for people to finished unfinished business. I had a lot of respect for the campus at the time. It was really amazing.” She reflected on her New Student Orientation, and the fact that the entire faculty had shown up to welcome them. She realized from that moment that UW-Tacoma was a small institution with the ambition and desire to grow and change. When freshmen and sophomore students were first welcomed in 2006, Dalesky really felt like the campus solidified as an institution.
After finishing her degree, she began working in the library, then with the Tacoma Public School District, before finally settling into her current position in SIAS. Given the memorable experience she had with Brown during her time as an undergraduate, Dalesky tries to continue offering that feeling of redemption in her present position. “If I can help any student, even through admissions, academic advising, the graduate program, if I can do anything to help them along the way, why wouldn’t I? That’s why we are here. That’s why I’m here.”
In 2000 Dalesky made the decision to enroll in the MAIS program. For Dalesky, one of the constants of UW Tacoma is the feeling of inclusivity, and this was made achingly apparent immediately after Hurricane Katrina. After seeing the devastation and the loss faced by the residents of New Orleans and the surrounding areas, Dalesky “felt compelled to go down and do something.” Little did she know that her experiences there would form the basis of her thesis and she would earn her Master’s Degree from the experience.
As she was solidifying plans for her trip, word soon spread across campus about what she was doing, and the UW Tacoma community rallied around her to help. “I remember it as the ‘Spirit of UWT’. Everybody’s like ‘You’re going down there. Wow, you’re so brave. Do you need money? Do you need this? Do you want to borrow anything?’ Everybody was so willing to contribute.” On the day of her departure, Dalesky left with a combined total of $700 cash which had been donated from friends, family, and the UW-Tacoma community. She was incredibly impressed and humbled by the actions of her fellow community members, noting “people were really interested and I was really humbled and touched by that.”
Dalesky feels that this sense of redemption even extends to the the city and campus itself. She reflected multiple times on the changes that have been made to the campus since her arrival as a student. As a student in high school, she remembers, “you didn’t come downtown for any other reason except to change busses. That was it. It was desolate, and not very many people were around. Back in the 70s and 80s these buildings were vacant and filled with dead rats and pigeons, and God only knows what else.”
This stands in stark contrast to one of her memorable experiences on campus. “I remember walking down the stairs and going “Oh my God this campus is beautiful. I walked through the front doors down by GWP and I was just floored, I really was. I thought, what a magnificent place.” She was impressed with the dedication to renovation and how it was placed so appropriately in the center of the city. She has had the privilege of seeing and experiencing the changes in the city she grew up in, which has had its own kind of redemption. “Something is happening in this city and the university is a big driving part of that. It’s gonna be one of the catalysts that leads to changing this city. And I want to be part of that. “
When directly asked about this theme of redemption, Dalesky had quite a bit to say:
This idea about redemption, I think, is a powerful theme here. I always think of the campus and how it was sort of forgotten and abandoned. Then it was revised, and vigorously so. It reminds me a lot of what happens when our students come here. Maybe they don’t have great GPAs. Maybe they are uncertain and don’t know if they can do it. But we know they are smart, and they just need a little encouragement and to be told they matter. A lot of our students come to us and they may have struggled for whatever reason, and they want to learn, and they want to better themselves. They want a better life for themselves and their families.
Asked if she had one last thing to share with current and future students, Dalesky said it would be that UW-Tacoma “is a place to start over and realize that you are somebody. You are worth something and somebody cares. That we care. And you are going to go out and be successful.”
Photos (top to bottom): Karin in her MAIS office, Karin and Henry, Karin with Dr. Carolyn West, her MAIS adviser, mentor and good friend
Yesterday, we held our second pop-up story collection event, with our third and final event coming up next Wednesday (noon to 1:30 pm) in the atrium of the Birmingham Building (BBB). We hope many of you will stop by, pick up a writing prompt (or two!) and share your UW Tacoma stories with us. Rachel and I will be there–with goody bags for those who stop and say hello, as well as our Jelly Bean Jar for you to look over and hazard a guess at how many it holds. We’ll be awarding a $15 Anthem gift card on Friday, May 31st to whoever comes closest to the actual number–so be sure to stop by and give us your best guess. We’ll also be holding a prize drawing on the 31st, for those who’ve submitted a story–either at one of our events, through our online Google form, on our Facebook page, or by dropping your completed prompt/consent form at the front desk in the TLC!
But in the meantime, I thought I’d share one of the stories that came to us at our kick-off event. The “speaker” is Dani Combs, a UW Tacoma senior; the author is our project intern Rachel Howe.
Introducing Dani Combs….
For many people, family support plays a crucial role in higher education success. Dani Combs, a senior in Writing Studies at UW Tacoma, attributes her success to her mother: “ My mom has been the most supportive person when in school.”
Through her unique academic challenges including dropping out of high school, only to come back and actually graduate a semester early, and then her decision to pursue higher education, Combs claims her mother has been with her through it all. “Coming from so much doubt and uncertainty” about whether she would succeed, she added, “I can say that my mother has been one of the biggest helps to my success.”
After completing her General Education requirements at community college, her mother asked her the all-important “What now?” question. Her mother mentioned UW-Tacoma because of its proximity to home and the option to stay at home and continue to work: “I could stay at home and not pay housing and everything that ties into that.”
For Combs, the hardest part was the actual transition from community college to university. “For me, the most challenging thing is the time needed to actually study and get work done well.” She felt the challenges and the pressure to succeed, and part of her solution to this was to find and create a designated study space. “I still live with my parents, so I had to ask my mom if this transition would be okay. She was more than happy to help!”
Together, they turned her sister’s old room into a study room, and filled it with a plethora of supplies to help Combs be as successful as possible: bookshelves, a desk, pens, notebook, and even notecards. It may seem like a small gesture, but it has made a huge impact on Dani’s academic success, helping her to achieve high grades, and repeated Dean’s List Awards.
Speaking of her mother, Combs said “Her support has gone beyond supporting giving me a place to study. She’s helping my mental health by giving me an outlet to rand and unwind to, without judgement. She repeatedly asks how my classes are going, not because she is helping me pay for them, but she cares about if I’m growing as a person because I have come so far.”
~ Rachel Howe
Last Wednesday, April 24th, marked the start of our campus-wide storytelling project, We are UWTacoma. Sponsored by a grant from the Strategic Initiative Fund, the project kick-off event, held at Anthem Coffee and Tea, featured interviews and storytelling shared by all who attended. Our project intern, graduating senior and Writing Studies major Rachel Howe, interviewed project designers—senior lecturer Nicole Blair and Margaret Lundberg, TLC staff writing instructor—about the inspiration and origins of the project, and all three shared their own stories about UW Tacoma: Blair, who has been teaching at UW Tacoma since 1995, spoke about what brought her to Tacoma, via Hays, KS, from her home in Laurel, MS, as well as her earliest days teaching in the Perkins Building—the original downtown home of UW Tacoma; Howe remembered her first visit to the Tacoma campus before she decided to become a student here; finally, Lundberg read her story about three people on campus who impacted her success as a UW Tacoma undergraduate. Other attendees also shared stories, including Dwayne Chambers, the Associate Director of the Quantitative Center in the TLC, Chan Ly, a 2018 BSN alumni and current Doctor of Nursing Practice student at UW Seattle, and Dani Combs, a Writing Studies major and graduating senior.
The We are UWTacoma project will continue to collect stories of students, staff and faculty throughout the rest of spring quarter, through pop-up events held around campus through the month of May—including the chance to set up interviews for those who would rather tell their story than write it. All of the stories shared, whether in writing or through interviews will be curated and shared on this blog.
If you have a story about your own UW Tacoma experience that you’d like to share, you can do so through this form, during one of our pop-up events (see below for dates and locations), or you can contact Margaret Lundberg (firstname.lastname@example.org) to arrange an interview.
Pop-up dates and locations:
May 8th – The Dawghouse
May 22nd – WCG Atrium
May 29th – BB Atrium
All events will be held 12:15- 1:30 pm