Maria Hamilton is intentional about exposing her daughter to an expansive worldview centered on the value of education.
Maria Hamilton attended 13 different schools between the ages of 5 and 18. “I went to one school for a week,” she said. Born in the Philippines, Hamilton’s nomadic school life is a result of her father’s career in the U.S. Air Force. “We lived in Japan and California,” she said. “My dad is originally from Kent, so we moved back to the area after he left the Air Force.”
Contrast that with the fact that Hamilton has (mostly) been affiliated with the University of Washington in one way or another since 1999. She started at UW as a student. A first-generation college student, Hamilton remembers feeling out of place. “There wasn’t really anyone to talk to about what you were supposed to be doing,” she said. Hamilton didn’t get to experience much of that “classic” college life — clubs, football games — because she had to work full-time to afford tuition and books.
Hamilton has always been good with numbers. When it came time to declare a major, she picked math, and not necessarily because she had a passion for the subject. “I looked at my transcript and said, ‘Well, what do I have the most credits in?’ ” she said.
Following graduation, the then-22-year-old Hamilton took a position at UW in the Office of Medical Staff Appointments. “We did the credentialing for all the UW Medical Center, Harborview Medical Center and Seattle Cancer Care Alliance providers,” she said. Hamilton left UW for a while to work for the Washington State Healthcare Authority. She ultimately came back and worked for UW Pediatrics. She’s been with the university ever since.
Hamilton came to UW Tacoma in 2019 when she took a job in the School of Interdisciplinary Arts & Sciences. She is now the School of Education’s director of operations. “We just wanted a change in pace,” said Hamilton. The “we” in that sentence is Hamilton, her husband and their daughter.
Hamilton’s parents divorced when she was in the fourth grade. Hamilton ended up living with her mother but remained close with her father. “Part of the reason we came to Tacoma was to be near my family,” she said. “I take my dad to the Veteran’s Administration for his doctor’s appointments and, living in Brier, the process could take all day by the time I drove down there and drove back up.”
The change of scenery has been good for Hamilton. “I really like this campus,” she said. “My daughter goes to Bellarmine and is much happier there than she was at her previous school.”
Growing up, Hamilton says no one spoke to her about college. “So, when it comes to my daughter, we’ve always talked about how college is just the next step after high school,” she said. “I want her to feel prepared and to know she has options.”
Stability is important to Hamilton. She is a details person, the one behind the scenes who keeps track of budgets and makes sure data is not only entered, but is also where it’s supposed to be. “I’m a spreadsheet person,” she said. These functions often go unnoticed, but they are critical to making sure faculty and students have what they need.
Conformity is not what keeps Hamilton in higher education. “I feel like having more education makes you open to seeing the world from other people’s perspectives,” she said.
Hamilton went to 13 different schools between the ages of 5 and 18 but, these days, there’s only one she calls home.
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