UW Tacoma 2015: The Year in Review

Main page content

Stories of the myriad ways the people of UW Tacoma came together in 2015 for a greater Tacoma.

As 2015 draws to a close, we take a moment to reflect on the year gone by. The hard work done by the UW Tacoma community—faculty, students, staff, alumni and friends –is demonstrated in the stories below.

These stories are just a sample of the myriad of ways people contribute to the mission of UW Tacoma as an urban-serving institution for a greater Tacoma.

UW Tacoma Turns 25

2015 marked the 25th anniversary of the founding of UW Tacoma, which opened its doors in 1990 in leased downtown space (moving to the current 46-acre campus in 1997). A scrolling history timeline tells the tale.

Throughout the course of the year, the quarter-century milestone was heralded: for example, by the Washington State Legislature and Gov. Jay Inslee, in the News Tribune, and in a self-produced video showcasing the amazing visual cornucopia that emerges from 25 eventful years.

The celebration of the anniversary was bookended by UW Tacoma’s 25th annual Commencement (read profiles of graduates such as Wesley McIntosh, Ganita Musa, Tia Squires, Nick Stillman, Inteus Taylor and Alana Zautner), and our 4th annual Convocation (read about first-year students such as Christie Peralta, Lorenzo Giampietro, Chalaya Miller and Chris Minnish).

Laying the Foundation

While we spent part of 2015 honoring where we came from, there was lots happening during the year laying the foundation for the future. The University of Washington hired its 33rd president, Dr. Ana Mari Cauce. UW Tacoma welcomed its fourth Chancellor, Mark A. Pagano. The 2015-16 academic year kicked off with record enrollment and Chancellor Pagano launched a strategic planning process.

Campus Developments

Continual growth in student enrollments means new academic programs and more faculty and staff to support the new students. In addition to accommodating growth, UW Tacoma has a responsibility to steward sustainably a spectacular campus and to leverage its impact on downtown Tacoma. In 2015, the campus worked with the City of Tacoma to realign 17th Street along the northern edge of campus, and installed plaques explaining how the new Prairie Line Trail stormwater treatment facility works. We reconfigured the end of 19th Street as it descends the hill to the top of our Grand Staircase, adding bollards and a giant W, which has become the latest “must have” photo op on campus.

The award-winning University Y Student Center opened in 2015. The campus’s Pacific Avenue retail spaces were 100% leased for the first time since the campus opened, with new tenants including Elemental Pizza in the Pagni & Lenti building. The state agreed to provide $16-million for the refurbishment of the last historic warehouse structure on the UW Tacoma campus, the Tacoma Paper & Stationery building.


2015 brought a number of firsts to UW Tacoma: our first Fulbright student scholar, Lizeth Garcia; our first Udall Scholarship recipient, Faith Ramos; and our first Rangel scholar, Omer Adam.

Social Work students were honored with the national Influencing State Policy Award for their work on behalf of Alzheimer’s patients. Journalists at The Ledger, the UW Tacoma student newspaper, received a national award for their work on The Justice Project, a multi-part series examining a Tacoma murder case.


Geoscientist Dan Shugar co-authored a paper on the Nepal earthquake published in Science magazine. Peter Selkin, Julie Masura and Cheryl Greengrove commented on the likely impact of The Really Big One on the South Sound. Ellen Moore and Peter Horak received distinguished teaching and research awards, respectively. Katie Haerling was named a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Nurse Faculty Scholar. Founding faculty members Robert Crawford and Claudia Gorbman looked back at a quarter-century at UW Tacoma.

Greater Tacoma

Teams of faculty and students carried out community-engaged scientific studies. Bonnie Becker and her students worked on endangered native Olympia oysters, while Jim Gawel and his students developed novel ways to clean contaminated lakes. Bob Landowski led students in developing technology to remotely sense forest fires.

UW Tacoma’s work with Tacoma Public Schools on the Whole Child Initiative brought Gov. Jay Inslee to campus, and the Pathways to Promise college-going-culture initiative entered its third year.

The Puyallup Tribe provided support for infusing Native ways of knowing into UW Tacoma teaching, learning and research; the Children’s Museum of Tacoma collaborated in opening a new child care center for the children of UW Tacoma students, faculty and staff; and Chancellor Pagano signed a three-way agreement with Joint Base Lewis-McChord and the U.S. Army’s I Corps.

The Arts

UW Tacoma alumni and faculty played a role in the spectacular premier of a rediscovered 1927 film made in Tacoma, Eyes of the Totem. Students and community members, under the watchful eyes of Michael Kula, mounted the first full-scale staged theatrical presentation on campus, Anon(ymous). And, a group of students came together on a sunny day in March to build a sculpture overlooking the Thea Foss Waterway, inspired by the book The Boys in the Boat.


Ever-present in the Greater Tacoma region, UW Tacoma alumni made their mark. Michael Fitzgerald, ’14, shared the lessons he’s learned from opening his Spaceworks-supported Destiny City Comics shop. Tacoma Public Schools principal Justina Johnson, ’94, ’00, was named 2015 Distinguished Alumni Award recipient, as was Kathy Bressler, ’82, ’00, president of St. Clare Hospital in Lakewood. Injured firefighter Daniel Lyon, ’13, made a remarkable recovery at Harborview Hospital. Steve Buchanan, ’13, ’14, founded a company and was a guest of Rep. Derek Kilmer at the State of the Union address in Washington, D.C.

Want to be in-the-know about all the great 2016 UW Tacoma stories? Stay in touch via our Facebook page or our Twitter feed.

Written by: 
John Burkhardt / December 18, 2015
Media contact: 

John Burkhardt, UW Tacoma Communications, 253-692-4536 or johnbjr@uw.edu