Talking with the chancellor: UW Tacoma as a beacon of hope

While most students, staff and faculty will continue to work and study remotely due to COVID-19 regulations, several aspects of the UW Tacoma campus are continuing to change and expand upon its role as the anchor for the downtown district of Tacoma. Chancellor Mark Pagano, now entering his fifth year as chancellor of UWT, stated that UWT remains a beacon of hope and community for both the members of UWT and the Tacoma area.

“I don’t want to be so bold to say we are the most integral part, but we are a major part,” Pagano said. “We are a key entity in helping the community rebound. We want to rebound to COVID-19 … we are a major [part].”

On the side of the members of the UWT community, Pagano pointed out several new changes that have been made for fall quarter to better promote education and help ensure student success. This includes opening certain spaces around campus up for study use, complete with proper social distancing safety guidelines, sanitary stations, the ability to reserve study stations and the hiring of student employees to act as safety monitors of the spaces. 

For students needing access to WiFi but wanting to still remain separated from others, UWT is expanding their WiFi network in the Cragle parking lot to allow students to work in the security of their car on their laptops. Students using the WiFi in this way will not have to pay for parking, but the regular rate for parking and attending class or using the study spaces still applies.

As for the campus engaging with the greater downtown Tacoma community and the South Sound community, Pagano stated that UWT is an “anchor institution” to the area, and pointed towards an opinion piece by the Tacoma News Tribune’s editorial board titled “University of Washington Tacoma helped save downtown 30 years ago. It can do it again” to further show how intertwined the campus is with the Tacoma community.

“They referenced the successful campaign,” Pagano said, reiterating the Tacoma News Tribune’s article. “The success we’ve had in bringing new degree programs to campus. The success we’ve had in encouraging the legislature to fund this new building … and some new programs to provide access and equity in the South Puget Sound for some of the high-demand degree fields … I believe what they said: that it is our responsibility. We are an anchor institution.”

The campaign Pagano mentioned was the 10-year fundraising goal. Originally, the fundraising goal was $45 million, which was completed two years ago. The fundraising managers then extended the campaign goal to $55 million, and by the end of the campaign on June 30, UWT gained a total of nearly $57 million. This money helps to fund several scholarships and programs around campus.

“We catapulted past that goal in 2018,” Pagano said. “We all decided to stretch it to $55 million. That was a little bit of a risk. We could have sat on our laurels and enjoyed making the goal two years early, and on the … last two days of the campaign we received two major gifts that pushed us past that $55 million.”

Looking forward, the chancellor has stated his excitement for the mechanical and civil engineering programs in which the university is in the process of officially starting. Pagano did note, however, that the future was not without its own challenges. One challenge he explained is that the UWT community still faces a problem of distance, separation and detachment from the physical campus. 

“It’s very quiet [and] it’s not full of people,” Pagano said, describing the current atmosphere of the campus. “People, I think, are struggling with the loss of connection with each other … with our students, with our faculty, we’re all eager to go back and see the people that we work with. Most people that work at UW Tacoma enjoy working here and enjoy the comradery of their fellow workers and fellow students.”

Pagano ended on a note of positivity, saying that he hopes the campus can return back to a semblance of normality soon and safely so that everyone can have a chance to succeed in their studies and in building their communities.