Sneak Peek of the Founding Stories Oral History Collection

Image of facade of a brick warehouse building undergoing renovation.
The Garretson Woodruff & Pratt building (GWP) during renovation in 1996.

UW Tacoma Oral History: Founding Stories is a project that inquires into the founding history of UW Tacoma and how its establishment has impacted the individuals who helped to build and shape it. Each oral history in this collection includes full descriptions and transcripts and will be archived by UW Libraries. We’re pleased to make a selection of these interviews available today. More are slated to be released over the coming months.

Check out oral history interviews from the UW Tacoma Oral History: Founding Stories project on UW Libraries Digital Collections

UW Tacoma materialized and grew thanks to strong and persistent community support. Circumstances seemed to align for Tacoma in the 1980s: Pierce County had powerful representation in Congress, “branch campus” was a burgeoning model in public higher education, and business leaders were actively seeking a future for Tacoma’s economy. Use the sample search “South Puget Sound Higher Education Council” to refine your search and listen to these specific oral histories. 

Founding faculty of the initial Liberal Studies program (now the School of Interdisciplinary Arts and Sciences, or IAS) had a focused vision on interdisciplinarity; they were committed toward a new model of education that departed from rigid departmentalized structures. Oral histories with founding faculty illuminate the different approaches to these original ideas.

The resulting educational and employment opportunities touched and changed the lives of individuals in the UW Tacoma community—community college graduates, student parents, veterans, school teachers who needed a master’s degree in education, and others. This impact has extended beyond the campus parameters as well.

Oral history reveals patterns that make up a broader narrative, but when we zoom in and magnify the finer details of individual stories, we also detect unique experiences and perspectives that evoke the time and place of an emerging university. The individual experiences captured in these oral histories, I believe, are the strongest testament to the value of a college education and the remarkable impact of this collective effort.

To follow the development of the Founding Stories project—

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