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From the Dean

In 2008, for the first time in world history, the number of people living in cities outstripped those in rural areas.  The UW’s “Next City: Sustainable Urbanization” initiative is creating a conversation about the risks and opportunities that come with urbanization. Not surprisingly, these conversations have led us to reflect on the role of urban universities like ours.

  Dean Ana Mari Cauce
  Dean Ana Mari Cauce. Photo by Mary Levin.

There was a time, not that long ago it seems, when we believed that deep thinking required isolation from the hurly-burly of city life.  Universities were viewed as, and often functioned like, ivory towers—disconnected from the petty concerns of everyday people and everyday life.  While this stereotypical view of universities, and especially the liberal arts, has not totally disappeared from the public imagination, it could not be further from the reality of what today’s College of Arts and Sciences is all about.

As you will see in this issue of Perspectives, in stories about our Dance Program in Yakima, our ever popular Math Day, and the Campus Collaborative Theatre Project, we are a university and college unbound, both reaching out into the world around us and bringing that world onto our campus. There’s the Burkemobile, offering a museum experience to classrooms throughout the state; educator events at the Henry Art Gallery; and the scores of area schoolchildren who get to watch and interact with music and dance performers from all over the world either in their classrooms or on campus, courtesy of the UW World Series. And faculty, staff, and students in virtually every one of our academic departments are engaged in University-related activities off campus.    

This interconnection between the UW and Seattle was brought home to me when I took a break from writing this letter and headed over to the Seattle Asian Art Museum to see a new exhibit of 18th and 19th century Japanese woodblock prints.  Far from leaving A&S behind, the College seemed to trail alongside me.

The exhibit I’d come to see was a gift to the Seattle Art Museum from Mary and Allan Kollar, both Arts and Sciences alums, whose generosity has benefitted both our college and our city. (Mary’s neighborhood “poetry box” was featured in Perspectives in 2008.) Near the museum entrance, there was a list of upcoming lectures about Asian culture and art, in which A&S faculty were prominently featured. Upon exiting the exhibit, I stopped at a table hosted by our very own Jackson School of International Studies, providing resources for K-12 teachers as part of an “educator’s day” workshop. Now that I’m attuned to it, I seem to run into A&S everywhere. And that’s a good thing.

While our first responsibility must be to our current students, our obligations extend to those who might be our students in the future and to those who may never set foot upon campus. Far from being an ivory tower, the College welcomes its connections with the community—around the Northwest and around the globe.

Ana Mari Cauce
Dean, College of Arts and Sciences
Earl R. Carlson Professor of Psychology and Professor of American Ethnic Studies
casdean@u.washington.edu

Return to Table of Contents, May 2010 issue

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