The Division of Student Affairs has many unique and fun traditions - from programs to get students connected and engaged when they first arrive, to celebrating their successes and completion of a degree. Here are a few of our traditions for you to learn about!
Orientation Challenge Coins
History: Challenge coins are an established military tradition and UW challenge coins have been issued among military-connected communities on all three campuses for a long time. Since 2018, a new undergraduate orientation challenge coin has been issued annually, celebrating the strong representation of military-connected students in Tacoma, acknowledging that each new student brings important strengths and assets that enrich the learning environment, and honoring the community approach to supporting new students through graduation.
Description: The undergraduate orientation challenge coin is gifted to a new undergraduate Husky from current students, staff, and faculty through a traditional handshake at orientation. The coin represents coming together from different walks of life, pride in the journey toward a degree, and is only gifted to a student if they commit to supporting the success of fellow Huskies. The coin can be kept by students as a reminder of obstacles overcome, or gifted to someone who was instrumental in supporting a successful journey to graduation.
History: The “W” Photo was originally started in 2013 through a collaboration with the Office of Advancement and TacPack, a RSO focused on “bringing school spirit, supporting Husky Athletic Events, and partaking in awesome school activities.” In 2015, it was inherited by the Department of Student Engagement and integrated into the Fall Welcome Days schedule.
Description: A Welcome Days staple, all students, faculty, and staff are invited to meet on the Court 17 Green during common hour. The Center for Student Involvement distributes exclusive purple shirts at this event, asks all participants to wear them (or purple in general) for the picture. Participants are arranged into the shape of a W for pictures. Hendrix the Husky is also always featured in these pictures. Once taken, the CSI will also distribute pizza and other foods for a social hang-out. The pictures are shared on social media for participants to save, and a hard pass is printed and hung in the CSI each year.
History: The Block Party has been held on campus since at least 2008, and started as a way to allow RSOs to showcase their organization in a creative way while celebrating the end of the school year. Each year a student committee picks a different theme for the RSO booths to be centered on, and a panel of judges rewards the best booth with a pizza party from the Center for Student Involvement.
Description: Block Party is an end-of-the-year celebration for Registered Student Organizations. Participating RSOs receive funding from the Center for Student Involvement to create an interactive booth based around the year’s theme. Students can earn tickets by playing games at each booth and enter them to win a variety of prizes. The event is also a great recruitment and showcase opportunity for student organizations.
History: Started in 2011 to celebrate Hendrix's “birthday” or creation on campus, the event has always been hosted by SAB. It has occurred every year since. The event is meant to instill school spirit. SAB has hosted this event since Hendrix the Husky was created by this organization in 2008.
Description: The Student Activities Board hosts this event, with planning led by the Staple Events Coordinator. Traditionally hosted in Spring Quarter, the event generally is modeled on a really great backyard birthday party, with cake provided. SAB will usually also bring in inflatables, games, and other carnival/fair style activities. Hendrix attends, and a toast to our mascot is given.
History: In 2016, a cross-campus team of faculty and staff serving on the first-gen work group in the Student Success Task Force collaborated with student leaders from the Student Support Programs to develop an awareness and pride campaign that featured the personal, inspirational stories of first-generation college students, staff and faculty at UW Tacoma. Aligned with the campus’ urban-serving mission to increase access to higher education, this initiative was carried forward by student leadership, and adopted as part of the work of the Office of First Generation Student Initiatives. This office was launched in 2019 thanks to the support of first-generation student leadership and advocacy.
Description: UW Tacoma takes pride in serving students who are the first in their family to attend college, and many UW Tacoma staff, faculty and alumni are also first generation. Every year, First Gen Fellows gather stories of first-generation UW Tacoma community members to celebrate the diverse experiences and strengths that first-gen students and graduates bring to our community. The multi-media campaign photos and stories are revealed and celebrated at the National First-Generation College Celebration in November.
History: The regalia, or ceremonial garments, worn at graduation ceremonies are connected to customs that formed during the beginnings of European universities in the 12th Century. As of Spring 2020, 38 unique stoles have been approved for wearing during Commencement.
Description: A stole is a decorative cloth scarf-like garment that is worn over the shoulders. Stoles can symbolize academic achievement, dedication, involvement, and cultural pride. A stole must be approved by the Vice Chancellor of Student Affairs in order to be worn during Commencement. Most stoles are submitted by registered student organizations, but groups and programs are also able to submit requests.
History: This ceremony started in the Spring of 2018, thanks to the initiative of the First Gen Fellows Registered Student Organization and the support of first-generation faculty and staff at UW Tacoma. During the celebration each graduating senior is honored and recognized for their accomplishments and contributions. This is an event where all of those who have been part of the collegiate journey of the students will be there to celebrate and show support, including family members, community partners and UW Tacoma campus faculty and staff.
Description: Every Spring the office of First Generation Student Initiatives hosts an End of the Year Celebration where all First-gen graduating seniors are recognized for being the first in their families to graduate from college. As part of this recognition the graduates receive a graduation stole representing First Gen Fellows. Traditionally a family member, a mentor, or a friend who has supported the graduating senior during their academic journey places the stole on the student during the celebration. Students are able to proudly wear their stole during the UW Tacoma Commencement ceremonies. This stole has the official emblem of the University of Washington and the First Gen Fellows emblem.
Graduation Issue of the Ledger
History: The Ledger has published a graduation issue at the end of the academic year since it’s first year of publication in 1997. Before that, the Independent, UW Tacoma’s first newspaper, published graduation issues for the entirety of its history. So, technically, the tradition actually precedes the Ledger and has persisted for most of the campus’s 31-year history!
The Ledger’s first graduation issue can be viewed in the University Libraries digital collections archive. UW Tacoma was still in its early stages of growth at that time: with fewer than 450 graduating students, the editorial staff were able to spread the names out onto pages devoted to each of the business, education, liberal studies and nursing programs, with ample room for farewell messages from each program’s faculty. In 2020, the Graduation Issue was the only issue of the Ledger to be printed in Spring Quarter, due to the university’s closure of in-person operations in response to COVID-19. The issue was distributed to graduating seniors via curbside pick-up and mail delivery.
Description: The last issue of the Ledger to be published in each academic year is dedicated to that year’s graduating class. The centerpiece of the issue is a list of all graduating students, organized by academic school, as well as by whether they are earning a baccalaureate, master, or doctorate. The first graduation issue of the Ledger was a special edition comprised almost solely of this list of names, but the issue has since expanded to include farewell columns from graduating news staff and a “summer picks” guide to movies, music, books, and other pop cultural recommendations.