Maggie Walker Dean Maya Tolstoy
Maya Tolstoy, Maggie Walker Dean of the College of the Environment

Welcome to the start of our academic year! For those of you joining us for the first time, I’d like to give a special welcome to our College of the Environment community, where our work has never been more important or more urgent. I hope all of you had a rejuvenating summer and managed to get outdoors to enjoy the spectacular Pacific Northwest sunshine. I had my first hike in the foothills of Mt Rainier, and it took my breath away in multiple ways!

It is such a privilege for me to start my first full academic year at the College of the Environment. I’m enjoying the hum of activity as our outstanding students return to campus and our amazing scholars and scientists return from field work across the globe, carrying the knowledge they have gathered to better understand our planet and its inhabitants.

In partnership with you, I am eager to use this year to further elevate our College’s tremendous reputation as a home of essential and impactful research and education, and continue building a culture that is welcoming, collaborative and inclusive. To that end, I have two items central to our work that I would particularly like to share with you.

Diversity, equity and inclusion

First, we are beginning our search for an Assistant or Associate Dean of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (ADDEI), a critical role that will help us develop deliberate and meaningful pathways for our College to become a more inclusive and equitable place. We have work to do in this arena; our College community — undergraduate and graduate students, postdocs, faculty, researchers and staff — is not as diverse as our broader community, both regionally and nationally. Our operational practices and physical spaces, both on campus and in the field, are not accessible to all. And we need to continue challenging our cultural norms to make more space for everyone to truly feel welcome, regardless of their identity.

We have the opportunity to chart a better course forward with dedicated leadership, to hold ourselves accountable, and to truly become the College we aspire to be. We are excited by the possibilities of what the ADDEI can help us achieve together. I encourage you to help us spread the word so that we can find the right candidate for this important role.

Strategic planning

Second, work continues on a College-wide strategic planning effort, and this quarter is going to be an important opportunity for more internal and external input. We have worked to create a process that is inclusive across all levels of the College, and will ultimately help us sharpen our focus, build on our strengths and attract the resources and support it will take to further cement our place as a research powerhouse for the 21st century.

As the largest environmental college in the country, we are in a unique position to shape not only the lives of our students, but the future of our entire planet. We face numerous parallel crises: climate change, declining biodiversity and worsening health outcomes for those who bear the brunt of pollution and environmental degradation, to name a few. It is critical that we generate meaningful research and train the next generation of environmental scientists and policymakers to meet these challenges fearlessly. We must approach our work with strategic clarity; when we do, our foundational and solutions-focused research can flourish. Strategic planning will help get us there and truly become more than the sum of our parts.

A bright future

While these two efforts will help us take our impact to the next level, rest assured that we continue to excel as one of the leading environmental research institutions in the world. We continue to innovate and break down barriers, create partnerships focused on solutions and develop new ways to engage and prepare our students to be successful in an increasingly complex work environment. We continue to pursue high-caliber research that spans from the Arctic to the Antarctic, from beneath the Earth’s surface and our oceans out into the cosmos. We have a real impact on lives in and around Washington and across the globe.

There are challenges ahead, to be sure, but I see a bright future. And that’s because of you, and the vibrancy of our community. As we always have, let’s roll up our sleeves and do what we do best as we embark on another year of teaching, learning, scholarship and research. With all of us working together, our positive impact on people and the planet will be profound.

Thank you for your support and partnership with the College of the Environment.


Maya Tolstoy
Maggie Walker Dean
UW College of the Environment