Northern Exposure

Tool Time

By Sandra Hines

It's a shame when yesterday's technology, today's red tape or tomorrow's job demands block efforts to teach and conduct research in new ways.

To help, Provost Lee Huntsman's office launched "Tools for Transformation" in 1998. As of Fall 1999, the UW had funded 54 proposals from departments and units through a special pool of money pulled from existing funds—and without asking the state for an extra dime. Debra Friedman, associate provost for academic planning, administers the Tools program. After awarding all of the initial $5 million set aside as Tools funding, President Richard L. McCormick and Huntsman, in consultation with the regents and deans, decided to make another $5 million available because of the program's documented success.

Friedman says departments are taking advantage of the Tools program in many ways, including:

  • Changing the way classes are taught, sometimes by changing the subject matter, the approach or by using new technologies.
  • Giving students and researchers a chance to use the latest equipment and try the most-up-to-date techniques in their fields.
  • Preparing materials and supporting UW faculty and students who go into the public schools under collaborative programs between the UW and the K-12 system.
  • Making it easier for industry and civic organizations to take advantage of UW expertise.
  • Setting up additional ways for students to be involved in research or volunteer-service activities that relate to their majors.

Tools money, for example, made it possible for the College of Ocean and Fishery Sciences and the Department of Zoology to establish research apprenticeships at Friday Harbor Laboratories.

For the School of Fisheries, Tools funding was used in part to help pay the salaries of two faculty and one teaching assistant involved with the pilot course for undergraduates in Alaska, according to David Armstrong, the school's director.

Far from just conducting a handful of apprenticeships or a single new course, however, the School of Fisheries and other units receiving Tools money have made plans to continue their activities or apply what has been learned even after the Tools money is spent. For example, the School of Fisheries plans to "transform" additional research programs. "The school has other unique field research stations, such as the one at Big Beef Creek on Hood Canal, as well as the campus hatchery research complex that could provide opportunities to study a wide spectrum of salmonid topics by blending research and teaching," Armstrong says.

The UW Summer Arts Festival is also being funded in part by Tools resources (see "UW Launches Major Summer Arts Festival"). More examples are found at the Tools for Transformation web site.

"The leaders of these programs have come up with new ways to inspire change, allow units to realize their goals and contribute to the innovative spirit of the UW," Friedman says. "The Tools for Transformation program provides the infusion of resources to enable these changes to happen."

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