Conversations on Diversity is a public forum within the College where we — all of us — can explore the issues, roadblocks, challenges, and opportunities our College faces, as the first step towards brainstorming solutions.

The College Diversity Committee is working hard to create new events for the 2020-21 academic year. For information on upcoming events and to subscribe for updates, please visit the DEI events page.

Past Conversations on Diversity topics

Being From ‘Away’ and Finding a Home at UW
Thursday, April 6, 2017

Is UW a welcoming place for international and other students who consider themselves from ‘away’’? If so, what resources, programs, and/or people make it that way? If not, what can be done better to be welcoming?  At present, xenophobia seems to be on the rise and words that marginalize or inspire fear among those perceived to be from ‘away’ are more common. What will make UW a more welcoming place for all of our students, staff and faculty?


  • Elisa Bonnin, Graduate Student, Oceanography
  • Yashwant Meghare, Junior, Oceanography
  • Isabel Carrera Zamanillo, Graduate Student, Environmental & Forest Science
  • Ricardo Gomez, Associate Professor, Information School

Inclusive Mentorship
Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Perhaps your research group meets at night or in a bar, something you can’t do or aren’t comfortable with. Or maybe you’re the only URM faculty in your department, forging a path with no role models to look to.

From freshmen to faculty, mentorship can play a big role in the success—and struggle—in academia. And mentorship is an even bigger factor in whether an underrepresented student, staff or faculty persists in their degree or career.

But what does inclusive mentorship look like? And what are the resources that both mentors and mentees—from all backgrounds—need to succeed?

Please join us for a special workshop-style Conversations on Diversity to discuss the challenges both mentors and mentees experience and to develop tips and tools for successful inclusive mentorship.

If you want some background before the discussion, the Graduate School offers a series of Mentor Memos penned by UW faculty and staff. Check out their memo on finding mentors on their website, plus a few examples of the scholarly work on the importance of mentoring:

Update: Participants shared best practices and questions to consider when thinking about successful, inclusive mentorship.

Under Pressure
Tuesday, November 17, 2015

All students feel pressure. Some students feel more. In Washington, nearly 20 percent of students work full-time, year-round to afford college, and more than 26,000 low-income high school students graduate from our schools annually.

Thousands of students are walking a tightrope. They’re balancing a job, a full course load and the pressure to get the grades, the career, and the earning potential.

But isn’t college a time to explore? To take electives, discover new passions and even change your major?

Do low-income students have the freedom to explore, or is the pressure too great? And what can we—faculty, advisors, mentors—do to support them?


  • Eva Alvarado, Senior in the Department of Earth & Space Sciences
  • Viviana Castillo, Senior in the School of Oceanography
  • Dylan Creed, Junior in the School of Environmental & Forest Sciences
  • Kesia Ceniceros, Academic Counselor, STEM, TRiO Student Support Services

Student Parents
Wednesday, May 20, 2015

The pressures on students are great. To learn, to know, to get the grade, to succeed. The pursuit of knowledge as a means to a career and a future is a right, and a huge responsibility. But what happens when that student is also a parent, faced with the daily struggle of choosing between time allotted to self and to the family? And what is the responsibility—if any—of the teacher, advisor or mentor to make room for students with children?


  • Daniel Schindler, Professor, Aquatic & Fishery Sciences, Biology
  • Melissa St. Jean, Senior, Earth and Space Sciences
  • Hansi Singh, Graduate Student, Atmospheric Sciences

Update: On April 23, 2015, the Faculty Senate passed a resolution endorsing the University’s appointment of a director and a permanent advisory committee on Childcare Development and Access. Read the full resolution here.

Dare to Dream?
Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Does everyone have the right to education? Can any student who qualifies go to college? Should immigration status be the deciding factor, instead of ability and commitment? Undocumented. Illegal. Alien. Words that say no; words that mean marginalized, second class; words that inspire fear. Brought to the U.S. as children and raised here, “Dreamers” under the DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals)  Act entered the U.S. before age 16. Many have obtained a high school degree and seek to enter college without the threat of deportation. By some estimates, Washington State has over 40,000 undocumented individuals under the age of 18. As many as 10,000 undocumented students enroll in higher education institutions nationally, many here at the UW.

Update: The College now accepts the Washington Application for State Financial Aid (WAFSA) as well as the FAFSA for undergraduate scholarship applications, meaning that undocumented students can apply for these opportunities. For more information, check out our Scholarships & Funding page.

Want to learn how to be an ally for undocumented students?  The Leadership Without Borders Center (LWB) offers training to raise awareness and increase the number of allies to undocumented students.

Power and Privilege in the Classroom
Monday, February 9, 2015

She wore tight tops and ripped jeans. Her hair was in dreads. She had a pierced tongue. When she came, she sat in the back with her racial clique and never raised her hand. She didn’t linger to ask questions but always hurried out of the classroom.

He sat in front and paid attention. I knew he was a student senator. When I posed questions, he was always ready with an answer so of course I called on him. He dressed nicely without being too fussy. And yes, he was white, but that doesn’t really matter, does it?

What they wear. Where they sit. How fast they respond. Whether they look at you, or away from you. If they are late, or miss class. Whether they slouch. If they stay after to ask questions. Whether they volunteer. If they smile. When they raise their hand first. Because they look interested. When the socio-cultural landscape comes into the classroom, what is the responsibility of the instructor to level the playing field? Who do you spend time on? What is an affirmation of the status quo and what pushes back?

Join a special Meet, Greet, Teach and combined Conversation on Diversity as we examine our role, our power and our responsibility to create a learning environment that says no to bias, stereotypes and micro-aggressions.


  • Megan Bang, Assistant Professor, Education
  • JW Harrington, Professor, Urban Studies, Geography
  • Billie Swalla, Professor, Biology; Director, Friday Harbor Laboratories
  • Anu Taranath, Senior Lecturer, English, Comparative History of Ideas

Not Separate and Unequal?
Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Stateline tenure-track, research, without tenure, clinical, of practice. A long list of equal positions? Or tenure-track and everybody else? Do non-tenure track faculty have the same rights and resources as our stateline faculty? And if not, did they walk into those positions with their eyes wide shut? Can a non-tenure track position actually confer advantages a tenure-track faculty member can’t realize?

On June 3, 2014, faculty from across the College of the Environment gave us an honest look into the bright side, and the dark side, of positional equity of UW faculty.


  • Ivan Eastin, Professor WOT, Environmental & Forest Sciences; Director, Center for International Trade in Forest Products
  • Parker MacCready, Professor WOT, Oceanography
  • Jim Seeb, Research Professor, Aquatic & Fishery Sciences
  • Robert WoodAssociate Professor, Atmospheric Sciences; President, UW Chapter of American Association of University Professors (AAUP)

The Young—and the Old—and the Restless
Thursday, February 6, 2014

College. The defining learning and social experience of our lives. Or, is it? An 18 year old walks into her first UW lecture course—Human Sexuality—along with hundreds of others her age. A 20 year old junior goes on a field course camping trip and spends the night in a tent with 2 other students. A graduating senior participates in a two-quarter team-based capstone requiring members to work evenings and weekends. What if the student is 15? Or 35, with children? As we seek to create rich, deep experiential learning for the 18-21 YO majority, what is the effect on the younger, and older, students? How do non-traditionally aged students experience college?

On February 6, 2014, we heard from 3 students about their college experience.


  • Justin Brooks, Junior, Earth & Space Science
  • Kelsey Gibbons, Freshman, Academy for Young Scholars
  • Thomas Jenkins, Senior, Environmental Studies

Transfer Rights
Wednesday, May 15, 2013

For years, UW has dedicated 30 percent of its new undergrad spaces to Washington community college students. Older and more ethnically diverse, transfer students make up a quarter of the College of the Environment undergraduate population. Are transfers richer in life experience and more apt to make wise choices about their career paths? Or are transfer students coming from academic backgrounds that suffer from inferior intro-STEM course series taught by less than stellar faculty? Or, are we kidding ourselves in thinking that a 4-year experience on the main campus is always a superior one? Who are transfer students and how do they add to the mix?

In the final Conversations on Diversity of the 2012-13 academic year, wear heard from those who facilitate transfers out of the community college system and into the UW, and from the students themselves.


  • Ali Albrecht, Program Manager, First Year Programs
  • Benjamin Cram,  Junior, Aquatic & Fishery Sciences
  • Daniel Poux, Director, Ready, Set, Transfer! Program, Seattle Community Colleges
  • Mika Usher, Senior, Earth & Space Sciences

Should Diversity be Required?
Monday, March 4, 2013

If a university is a bastion of academic freedom, can the students be required to take diversity courses? If a university is a bastion of academic freedom, isn’t it just the place where students can, and should, learn about diverse ideas, cultures, approaches, disciplines, languages, experiences and people? In 2012, the UW Student Diversity Coalition proposed to establish a diversity course requirement for all students. They stated that such a requirement is central to a core value of the University — to produce educated global citizens.

  • What’s important  enough to be a requirement for all UW students?
  • What do general education requirements say about the university’s values?
  • Who gets to (should) decide what’s core to a student’s basic education?
  • What difference would one course make?

And, should the College of the Environment wait until a requirement is passed, or should we proactively institute our own courses and course requirements? This Conversation on Diversity event from the College of the Environment looked at all sides of this issue.


  • Enrico Abadesco, Senior in Civil Engineering, member of UW Student Diversity Coalition
  • Nives Dolšak, Associate Professor, School of Marine and Environmental Affairs
  • Helen Fillmore, Senior in School of Environmental and Forest Sciences, member of UW Student Diversity Coalition
  • Kerry Naish, Associate Professor, Aquatic and Fishery Sciences
  • Kristen Rasmussen, Graduate Student, Atmospheric Sciences

Student Soldiers
Tuesday, November 13, 2012

How are choosing to study the environment and choosing to serve in the military compatible? Does military service change a student’s perspective? Does it change how others see her/him? Can the reality of a military experience enhance, or impede, learning? Should instructors engage the soldiers among their students?


  • Aaron Anderson, Senior, Oceanography, Navy
  • Leanna Cox, Senior, Oceanography, Navy
  • Kevin Dillon, Graduate Student, Environmental and Forest Sciences, Army
  • Nadine Harrison, Senior, Oceanography, NROTC

Accommodation is More Than Just a Word
Tuesday, May 29, 2012

A learning disability can keep you from reading. A physical disability can keep you from fieldwork. Truth or historical baggage? Students with disabilities are underrepresented in STEM. Does environmental science select against them? What if a disability resulted in unique insights, extending our perceptions of what is environment and how to study it?

Get some answers. This dialog between students and instructors looked at how the College of the Environment can go beyond accommodation to make classrooms, field trips, labs, and learning more accessible.


  • Darrel S. Cowan, Professor, Earth and Space Sciences
  • Kelsey Byers, Graduate Student, Biology
  • Lisa Hannon, Graduate Student, Environmental and Forest Sciences
  • Francoise Papillon, Fifth Year, Oceanography

Update: Based on this panel’s input, the College wrote created a disability accommodation statement that faculty can tailor to their courses to include a detailed description of the course and its requirements. To see the roles and responsibilities of students and the instructional team regarding disability accommodation, click here.

Recruitment and Retention in the Graduate Community
Tuesday, February 7, 2012

What makes a graduate school program attractive and what doesn’t? Can the College harness “environment” to recruit students of diverse backgrounds? Are the challenges and opportunities new students face unit, or student population, specific? What systems are needed to support and retain diverse students — and are they different from what majority students require?


  • Charles Plummer, Graduate Student, Earth and Space Sciences
  • Daniel Hernandez, Graduate Student, Aquatic and Fishery Sciences
  • Diana Pietri, Graduate Student, Environmental and Forest Sciences

Teaching and Family Planning
Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Should professionals keep their family plans private? What would happen if a chair or director engaged in a conversation with a young faculty member about how to adapt a teaching plan to a potentially planned pregnancy? Is our strict separation of teaching and family planning empowering to women? Is there a “best time” to have a family when planning an academic career?


  • Kate Huntington, Assistant Professor, Earth and Space Sciences
  • David Armstrong, Director, School of Aquatic and Fishery Sciences

Update: With the guidance from assistant professors, the College has created a family-friendly tenure clock extension policy and set of guidelines for those reviewing tenure packets. Assistant professors can now request a tenure clock extension for the birth/adoption of a child via a secure Catalyst Tenure Extension Request form.

Bias Incident, Non-discrimination and Sexual Harassment Resources

The College of the Environment and the UW are committed to protecting the rights and dignity of each individual in the university community.

Find tools and resources