Professor Spotlight: Meet Julie Nicoletta

Meet Professor Julie Nicoletta, who has been teaching history, art and architecture classes at UW Tacoma since 1996. Nicoletta has held many titles and responsibilities around the campus, including being the first adviser for the current iteration of The Ledger. Going on her 24th year here at UWT, Nicoletta continues to share her love for history, architecture and art with students and the community, and finds herself learning more from those she teaches, too.

What classes do you teach?

“I teach a variety of courses in American history and art and architectural history. I usually teach the American history survey courses — THIST 200 and 201 — and the History Capstone course each year. My favorite courses, though, are the art and architectural history courses, including American Architecture, Art of the Americas, and The Material World: Art and Artifacts, because they are closest to my more specific teaching and research interests.”

Where did you attend college for your degrees?

“I earned my B.A. in Art History from Pomona College and my Ph.D. in Art History from Yale University.”

When did you know you wanted to pursue your field of study? 

“It took me a while to settle on a major in college. I actually started out as a business major at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, because I thought I needed to study something practical. A part-time job at the University Museum  — now called the Penn Museum — cataloguing ancient Near Eastern objects made me realize I should follow my passion for studying history and art history. Also, I was homesick for southern California, where I grew up, so I transferred to Pomona College my sophomore year. At first, I was going to do a self-designed major in art and economics, but I loved taking art history courses so much, I just decided to major in art history. It wasn’t the most practical major, but it was the right one for me.”

What projects are you currently working on?

“One project I have been working on for a while is on the art and architecture of the New York World’s Fair of 1964–1965. The other is studying the architecture of the Pacific Northwest, specifically in the Puget Sound region. I am especially interested in the role architecture plays in shaping the built environment and how we can learn about the history of a place from its buildings and landscapes.”

What has been the biggest change you’ve seen on the UWT campus/around the UWT campus?

“I have been at UWT since August 1996! The campus on Pacific Avenue didn’t open until a year later, in September 1997. The biggest change I have seen at UWT is just the sheer pace of growth of the campus and the impact it has had on downtown Tacoma, especially in the Union Station Historic District. When I first arrived at UWT, I heard a lot of hopes and dreams about how the university would help transform and revitalize Tacoma. Looking back over the past two decades, that positive change really has happened and has exceeded the community’s expectations.”

What do you like to do outside of university work?

“I like to cook, play tennis, and spend time with my husband and teenage son. I love going on architectural pilgrimages to see great works of architecture, such as Frank Lloyd Wright’s Fallingwater, Julia Morgan’s Hearst Castle, and the ruins of Chichen Itza in Mexico. Lately, because of the state’s coronavirus shelter-in-place order, I have been taking lots of walks around my neighborhood in Seattle and rediscovering things, like interesting details on old houses and beautiful gardens.”

What general advice do you have for students?

“My biggest piece of advice for students is don’t be afraid to take risks while you are in college. I know that going to college is expensive and time-consuming, and worrying about school work and grades is stressful, but this is also a time to explore. Take some courses in areas outside your comfort zone. Challenge yourself to do some extracurricular activities you might not do otherwise. You might discover a major you hadn’t thought of doing before. There will likely never be another time in your life when you have so much freedom to stretch yourself intellectually and creatively. In other words, make the most of your time here. You will be rewarded for it far into the future.”

Fun Facts:

  • Recently, she has enjoyed watching shows like Ali Wong’s one-woman comedies on Netflix and Phoebe Waller-Bridge’s “Fleabag.” She watched two episodes of “Tiger King,” but just could not get into it.
  • She took up downhill skiing a few years ago because: “It is a great way to get outdoors in the winter.”
  • When she was in high school, she bought a beat-up 1966 Ford Mustang convertible and mostly restored it with a lot of help from a family friend. She still likes fixing cars and other mechanical things.