Fairhaven College of Interdisciplinary Studies

The Collins Family: A dedication to community service and a lifelong passion for education

Over the last 30 years, the Collins family has collected college degrees the way some people collect postage stamps or rare coins.

The family of four has racked up nine degrees in total including two doctorates; seven of the degrees are from Western. Today, three members of the family also have careers at Western. While their long list of academic and professional accomplishments are undoubtedly impressive, the Collinses aren’t in it for the accolades; instead, they say they strive each day to serve as a success story for other families of color.

“We wanted to come to Bellingham and be the best example of an educated nuclear black family that we could be,” Frederick Collins Sr. said. “I think we’ve surpassed all expectations.”

Frederick Collins Sr. serves as Western’s assistant director for the Viking Union and provides leadership to the department of Outdoor Recreation, while his wife, Renee, is the associate dean of students. Their youngest, Frederick Jr., has worked as an admissions counselor since he graduated with his bachelor’s degree in Engineering in 2015. Their oldest, LaShawn Morgan, is a Western aluma working as a corporate recruiter in Seattle. Both Renee and Frederick Sr. received undergraduate and graduate degrees from Woodring College of Education, before going on to earn their doctorates in education through Seattle University.

Frederick Sr. and Renee were both raised in New York City, where they were taught from a young age to value higher education. As parents, they consciously made an effort to instill the same values in LaShawn and Frederick Jr.

“When we graduated high school, my sister and I knew that attending college was our only option,” Frederick Jr. said with a laugh. “And how could we not? We saw our parents and grandparents work so hard to achieve their educational goals. We couldn’t let them down.”

The Collinses have been living in Bellingham since 1989, after relocating from Atlanta. Frederick Sr. and Renee had both taken college courses in the past, but neither had received a degree.

“Finally, I said, ‘Enough is enough. I’m going to get a degree,’” Renee said. “Bellingham came highly recommended to us by my husband’s brother, who was living in the area. That and the excellent reputation of Western’s teaching school for Frederick Sr. made Bellingham a great choice.”

The transition from Atlanta to Bellingham was not an easy one. LaShawn recalls making the cheer team at her old school right before her parents told her they were moving.

“I was so upset,” LaShawn said. “Thirteen is a hard age to move. Then coming to Bellingham from Atlanta and seeing maybe five other black kids in my school, that was really difficult.”

Frederick Sr. remembers his first time walking into Western’s Office of Admissions, very shortly after the family’s big move. The first person to greet Frederick Sr. was current dean of students, Ted Pratt, who was working as an admissions counselor at the time.

“Even all these years later, I can remember how kind and welcoming Ted was to myself and my family,” Frederick Sr. said. “He has always had our back, helping us to better ourselves.”

While many faculty and staff members like Ted Pratt and Fairhaven College’s Larry Estrada welcomed the Collins family with open arms, Renee remembers the culture shock she felt stepping onto Western’s campus. At the time, there were only a handful of people of color at Western. While it would have been easy to feel discouraged, Renee took this as an opportunity to take the small community of people of color that existed at the time, and help it grow into something much larger. One example of her efforts was her role in the creation of the Northern Puget Sound Chapter of the NAACP, one of the country’s oldest civil rights organizations.

 Both Renee and LaShawn played an integral part in the founding of the Ethnic Student Center in 1991. Today, the ESC has grown to encompass nearly two dozen student clubs. The ESC offers support to staff and faculty as well.

“I have always felt that faculty and staff need the ESC just as much as students, if not more,” Renee said. “It’s such a vital resource for anyone involved.”

Both LaShawn and Frederick Jr. were involved in the ESC throughout their years at Western. Frederick Jr. says he appreciates the intersectional nature of the ESC that allowed him to build relationships with other cultural groups on campus. The community he found within the center played an integral role in his success at Western, he says.

“One of the main reasons I was able to graduate was the sense of community I felt with the Ethnic Students Center,” Frederick Jr. said. “As a student of color, there were times when I needed people to vent to who I knew could empathize with me and relate to me.”

Though each member of the family has had a unique educational experience, all four Collinses agree on one ultimate key to their success: seeking out community with like-minded individuals.

“You can find community just about anywhere,” Frederick Sr. said. “Community can be something as simple as finding like-minded friends in your classes. Just find people who support you and have your best interests at heart. I’m certain that is what has kept us here all these years: finding our own ‘campus family.’”

Thursday, January 10, 2019 - 10:02am

Western Reads looking for recommendations for next year's selection by Jan. 16

Western Reads would like to invite members of the campus community to recommend texts for next year's Western Reads selection by Wednesday, Jan. 16! We welcome the diverse voices and perspectives of the WWU campus community in selecting a text for the coming year.

Also, copies of this year's Western Reads book Octavia's Brood: Science Fiction Stories from Social Justice Movements are available to any member of our campus community. Get your free copy at the Wilson Library Main Circulation Desk today! And join us to learn and dialogue at these Winter & Spring 2019 Western Reads events:


Winter 2019

  •  Octavia's Cinema: The Science Fiction of Film Part II - Alien Perspectives
    • Arrival (Denis Villeneuve, 2016)- Thursday, January 24, 6:00 p.m. – Fraser 102
    • Avatar (James Cameron, 2009)- Thursday, February 14, 6:00 p.m. – Fraser 102
    • District 9 (Neill Blomkamp, 2009)- Thursday, March 7, 6:00 p.m. – Fraser 102
  • Octavia's Brood themed Teaching-Learning Academy dialogues - 12:00-12:50 in Haggard Hall 222
    • How does resistance to change & fear of the unknown influence academia & your life? Related to Octavia's Brood themes in Small & Bright. Wednesday, January 30, 2019 & Thursday, January 31, 2019
    • In what ways do we uphold & combat systems of racial inequality & “token”ization? Related to Octavia's Brood themes in Token Superhero. Wednesday, February 27, 2019 & Thursday, February 28, 2019
  • Octavia's Brood themed courses for first-year students
    • ENG 110 (2 credits) - Science Fiction & Social Justice - Tuesdays from 2:00-4:00
    • EDUC 197D (1 credit) - Octavia's Cinema: Alien Perspectives - Thursday, January 10 & 24, February 14, March 7 & 14 - beginning at 6:00 p.m.


Spring 2019

  • Octavia's Brood author visit, workshops & student lunch - Thursday, April 18, 2019


Western Reads logo

Monday, January 7, 2019 - 1:28pm

Final Call for Honors Seminar Proposals

The Honors Program invites proposals for not fewer than 18 seminars to be offered during the 2019-2020 academic year. Honors Seminars are junior/senior-level courses and may be on any subject; interdisciplinary proposals are strongly encouraged. Seminars are small, highly interactive, with a limit of 15 students, focusing on discussion, paper writing, problem solving, or group projects. ­Unfortunately, the program cannot accept proposals for team-taught classes. The Honors Board (faculty/student) will rank proposals in February and the Director will contact successful applicants and their department chairs to discuss schedules.

Proposals should not exceed two type-written, double-spaced pages but may include in addition, sample syllabi, bibliographies, or other attachments. Instructors who have taught in Honors previously must include class evaluations for those classes or a representative sample.  Faculty who have not previously taught an Honors class should include evaluations for similar classes, e.g., small, discussion oriented or problem-solving classes. 


WHERE:  Send proposals in electronic form only to Honors@wwu.edu.

WHEN:  Proposals are due not later than 5 pm on Friday, January 18, 2019.


PLEASE NOTE:  An Honors Seminar is an excellent way to try out a new class and to teach a group of highly motivated, high-achieving students. Many Honors Seminars are born from the ideas of faculty who have always wanted to teach an experimental class, sometimes in the faculty member’s department, and sometimes in another, allied area, but the opportunity has not been available.  In many instances, Honors seminars become part of the faculty member’s suite of permanent course offerings. Faculty are limited to one seminar proposal per year, and no seminar will be taught in consecutive years, though a faculty member may teach different seminars in consecutive years.


QUESTIONS?  E-mail or phone the Director at scott.linneman@wwu.edu or (360) 650-3446.

Monday, January 7, 2019 - 11:38am

Western Washington University to Hold Fall Commencement Dec. 15

BELLINGHAM – Alaska attorney Mark Choate, a Western Washington University alumnus, will address WWU graduates and their families at the fall commencement ceremony Dec. 15 at 9:45 a.m. in Carver Gymnasium.

About 758 undergraduate and 32 master’s students are expected to graduate from Western fall quarter. There will be one ceremony for all graduates and each graduate will receive four tickets for guests. Overflow seating will be available on campus.

Choate, the ceremony’s main speaker, is a tort attorney based in Juneau, Alaska. He practices law in Alaska, Washington, California and Hawaii and specializes in personal injury law. Choate says he’s drawn to difficult cases that provide opportunities to redress imbalances of power. He attended Western as a VISTA volunteer, working as a paralegal for low-income clients. He earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in human services in 1977 and graduated from Seattle University School of Law in 1980.

Also speaking at the ceremony will be Candice Trusty, who is earning a Bachelor of Science in environmental science with a freshwater ecology emphasis. Trusty grew up in Minnesota and completed an associate degree at Portland Community College. While at Western, she gathered data for Olympia oyster restoration and monitored shellfish beds on public lands for the Skagit County Marine Resources Committee’s Salish Sea Stewards Program. She also interned with the Nooksack Salmon Enhancement Association and collected data in Idaho for National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration biologists.

Overflow seating for the ceremony will be available adjacent to Carver in Western’s Science Math and Technology Education building, where the ceremony will be shown on large screens. The ceremony will also be streamed live at http://www.ustream.tv/channel/wwu-live-events1.

Following the ceremony, graduates will have the opportunity to follow WWU tradition and deposit their Western identification cards in a box that is later cemented into Memory Walk in front of Old Main.

Doors open at 9 a.m. and all guests should be seated five minutes before the scheduled start. When the ceremony begins, the procession will start and all guest entrances are closed. Doors will reopen when the procession is complete.

Guest parking is free on Commencement day and available in most lots. Visitors must observe regulations for handicapped and individually reserved spaces. Visitors are also advised to arrive early to avoid traffic congestion and to allow for travel time between the parking lots and Carver.

Shuttle bus service will be available from the 12A parking lot off South College Drive from 8 a.m. to noon or until there is no demand. One of the shuttle buses will be ADA-equipped and will accommodate two wheelchairs. Guests who use wheelchairs may also park in lot 17G or 11G, which will be reserved for accessible parking.

Parking attendants will be available to assist guests with special parking needs.

For more information or for disability accommodations contact the Registrar’s Office, (360) 650-3701 or email Commencement@wwu.edu.

Monday, December 10, 2018 - 4:46pm

Huxley Speaker Series to host cultural geographer and WWU alumna Carolyn Finney Dec. 6

The Huxley Speaker Series will host a lecture by cultural geographer, performer, and author Carolyn Finney at 4:30 p.m. on Thursday, Dec. 6 in Arntzen Hall 100, when she will present "Ten Thousand Recollections: Black Faces, White Spaces & the Possibility of US." 

Carolyn Finney photo and book cover image
The lecture is free and open to the public.

Finney’s book "Black Faces, White Spaces: Reimagining the Relationship of African Americans to the Great Outdoors" examines the representation, participation, and history of African Americans in U.S. parks and public lands. Her work asks us to reconsider public lands as racialized spaces and to explore the implications of this for the environmental movement. Further, she aims to “develop greater cultural competency within environmental organizations and institutions, challenge media outlets on their representation of difference, and increase awareness of how privilege shapes who gets to speak to environmental issues and determine policy and action”. She has served on the U.S. National Parks Advisory Board and was part of The Next 100 Coalition, a group aimed at improving diversity and inclusion in public lands and management. She recently left academia to pursue a full-time career of writing, speaking and consulting.

Upon publication in 2014, "Black Faces, White Spaces" encouraged nationwide conversations about the racialization of public lands. 

Julian Agyeman of Tufts University wrote a review of "Black Faces, White Spaces," and has these thoughts about the importance of the book:

“Why are African Americans so underrepresented when it comes to interest in nature, outdoor recreation, and environmentalism? In this thought-provoking study, Carolyn Finney looks beyond the discourse of the environmental justice movement to examine how the natural environment has been understood, commodified, and represented by both white and black Americans. Bridging the fields of environmental history, cultural studies, critical race studies, and geography, Finney argues that the legacies of slavery, Jim Crow, and racial violence have shaped cultural understandings of the "great outdoors" and determined who should and can have access to natural spaces.

"Drawing on a variety of sources from film, literature, and popular culture, and analyzing different historical moments, including the establishment of the Wilderness Act in 1964 and the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, Finney reveals the perceived and real ways in which nature and the environment are racialized in America. Looking toward the future, she also highlights the work of African Americans who are opening doors to greater participation in environmental and conservation concerns.”

Carolyn Finney is a writer, performer and cultural geographer. As a professor in Geography at the University of Kentucky, she became interested in issues related to identity, difference, creativity, and resilience.  In particular, how issues of difference impacts participation in decision-making processes designed to address environmental issues.   More broadly she likes to trouble our theoretical and methodological edges that shape knowledge production and determine whose knowledge counts.

Finney is grounded in both artistic and intellectual ways of knowing - she pursed an acting career for 11 years, but a backpacking trip around the world and living in Nepal changed the course of her life. Motivated by these experiences, she returned to school after a 15-year absence to complete a bachelor's degree, master's degree, and doctorate.  Finney is an alumna of WWU's Fairhaven College of Interdisciplinary Studies.

Tuesday, December 4, 2018 - 9:59am

WWU's Energy Tool Lending Library Now Open

With a desire to create a tool lending option on campus that students and faculty could use for energy/engineering related projects, Aden Nevler, Patrick Shive, and Max Schneider wrote and submitted a grant through the Sustainable Action Fund Grant Program (now the Sustainability, Equity, and Justice Fund Grant Program). The Energy Tool Lending Library offers free access to professional equipment for research and energy related projects, while not burdening professors with the cost of providing critical materials to enhance their classes.

“It is our goal for this equipment to be used to enhance learning in relevant courses,” said Nevler. “In addition, we want to provide hands-on demonstrations and training, to enable students who may end up using these same tools in their professional careers. Lastly, many student live in shoddy off-campus housing and having access to this equipment is a way to reduce their utility bills and improve their control of their home environment. “

The funds from this grant paid for the equipment and one years’ worth of funding for student employees. You can learn more and check out the tools in the SMATE Library, from the front desk. Energy Tool Lending Library hours are Monday, Wednesday, and Friday from 1-4 p.m. 

“We hope this resource will allow students from all disciplines to further their energy education, better understand how they use energy, and therefore reduce their personal carbon footprint,” said Shive.

Thursday, November 1, 2018 - 9:44am

Student-led effort to bring composting to the residence halls starts in November

Western Washington University will launch one of the first residence hall compost programs in the country in the first week of November.

Lidded and ventilated compost buckets will arrive to every residence hall room across campus. In future quarters, all residence hall rooms will have the bins as standard furnishing. Each bin comes with an instructional sticker, providing students with guidelines to successfully compost their organic waste. Residents will receive a roll of compostable bags that will last through the quarter.

This is a student-led project in collaboration with University Residences by Western juniors Risa Askerooth of Haleiwa, Hawaii; Jessica Loveland of Portland, Ore.; and Abby Severns of Issaquah. This project is completed through the Sustainability, Equity and Justice Fund, formerly known as the Sustainable Action Fund.

All three students lived in the residence halls their freshman years and two of them during their sophomore years. They all had jobs as Sustainability Rep Mentors last year, where they were tasked with doing a project. Askerooth said increasing accessibility in composting felt like the right fit.

“We saw such a missed opportunity in the lack of accessible compost buckets for students in the residence halls,” Askerooth said. “We realized that this program would be one of the first of its kind in the country and were determined to make it happen.”

This initiative is designed to be an educational program to instill lifelong sustainability practices and increase awareness of the ecological, social and economic benefits of composting.

“We realized that this program would be one of the first of its kind in the country and were determined to make it happen.”

Composting reduces landfill waste, noxious greenhouse gases and the impact on communities near landfills.

By getting endorsements from every residence hall council, the students were able to build consensus and support for the initiative.

“Change takes time,” Askerooth said. “But student voices can have a lot of power.”

This program is accessible to all students and creates a consistent culture of sustainable waste management across campus, and will build long term success through student turnover. Residence Hall Composting empowers students to engage with sustainable waste sorting practices and change preconceived biases about composting.

Western residents will contribute by converting potential landfill waste into a useful product that can be sold in local communities. This program will save university funds, as organic waste is cheaper to dispose of than landfill waste.

For more information on the project, visit Western’s Office of Sustainability website at sustain.wwu.edu.

Thursday, October 25, 2018 - 9:56am

Western Reads Announces Trio of Fall Events

Western Reads Announces Fall Events

This fall, there are several opportunities for the Western community to explore how themes in this year’s text Octavia’s Brood: Science Fiction Stories from Social Justice Movements can help us use issues like racial injustice and climate change to imagine and create bold responses to today’s challenges. Also, free, hard copies of Octavia’s Brood are available at the Western Libraries Main Circulation desk, in the residence halls & AS bookstore for first year students, as an e-copy through the library, and at all Western Reads events. Class sets are also available upon request. Email molly.Ware@wwu.edu for additional information.

Octavia's Cinema - On Thursday, Nov. 1 and 29, we are screening films that are part of the year-long Western Reads film series, Octavia’s Cinema: The Science Fiction of Film. We started off the year with Denis Villeneuve’s Blade Runner 2049. Continuing under the fall film series theme of Dystopian Dreams, we will screen Bong Joon-Ho’s Snow Piercer (November 1) and George Miller’s Mad Max: Fury Road (November 29) in Fraser Hall 102 at 6:00 pm. Each of the films will be followed by a brief post-film discussion curated by Susanne Seales, for those who are interested. This event is co-sponsored by the Vice Provost of Undergraduate Education.

Building Future Worlds Author Panel - Join Afro and Latina futurist authors of Octavia’s Brood and Lunar Braceros for the Building Future Worlds author panel. We will explore the power of visionary fiction in helping us imagine & create the future we want to see. Five authors will join our campus remotely for the panel on November 8 from 3:00-4:30 in Arntzen 100. An in-person forum with several workshops will be held early spring quarter with Octavia’s Brood authors & editor Walidah Imarisha. WWU English faculty Lysa Rivera will moderate the panel. This event is co-sponsored by the WWU English Department.

Marvel Exhibit @ MoPOP - Travel with faculty, staff, and other WWU students to celebrate the world premiere of “MARVEL: Universe of Super Heroes” at the Museum of Popular Culture in Seattle. Together, we’ll explore how super heroes connect to and impact real world issues like gender, race, and mental illness, and how science fiction and utopian worlds can help us build the future we want. All participants will receive a free ticket, free meal, free ride to & from Seattle, & a free copy of this year’s Western Reads book Octavia’s Brood. Visits will take place on Tuesday, November 13 from 8:00-2:00, Thursday, 15 from 12:00-6:00, and Saturday, November 17 from 9:00-3:00. Register here by November 5 to participate. Event sponsored by WWU Equity & Inclusion Forum & Western Reads.

Tuesday, October 23, 2018 - 2:34pm

Compass 2 Campus Brings 1,100 Fifth Graders to WWU Campus Oct. 16

About 1,100 fifth graders from Skagit and Whatcom counties will be visiting Western Washington University on Tuesday, Oct. 16, to see firsthand what a university campus is like. The tour kicks off the 10th year of Compass 2 Campus, a proactive effort that sends trained WWU student mentors into schools in order to get more kids to see themselves as lifelong learners.

The annual tour of campus is just the beginning of a long-term relationship between the fifth graders and WWU mentors.  As the fifth graders progress through middle and high school, Western Compass 2 Campus (C2C) mentors continue to serve these students to offer encouragement and support to graduate from high school and pursue higher education.

“Many of our C2C fifth graders do not know a single person who has attended the university. Tour day allows them to see themselves as a college student in the future. Exploring campus with college mentors helps them understand how university life is more than just classes – it is about possible futures. Students will ask our college mentors about HOW they can attend college or what living on campus is like, questions that they would never ask an adult. Our mentors help them see how education can help them achieve their goals and that there are many people on Western’s campus who will support them to pursue their dreams,” said Maria Timmons Flores, interim director of the C2C program.

Mentors spend at least four hours a week in schools, engaged where teachers and administrators feel they’re needed most; some help with after-school activities while others lead small group projects or provide one-on-one academic support to students in need.

Working with elementary through high school teachers, the WWU students learn about the students’ aspirations and talk to them about how going to college can help them reach those dreams. 

A number of WWU student mentors are providing mentoring in schools they attended when younger, giving back to the schools that helped them in their educational journey.

While many mentoring programs focus their efforts on students who have already shown academic promise or interest, Compass 2 Campus works primarily with students who face many barriers to educational opportunity. For these students, having mentors who grew up in their communities provides an inspiration and sense of possibility. All C2C mentors work with students with an assets orientation, helping them recognize the strengths they possess and how their language and culture are assets in achieving their dreams.

The program, launched in 2009 at Western, includes 13 area elementary schools and 10 middle schools and nine high schools as well as partners from four community and technical colleges and Communities in Schools. (Participating schools are listed at the end of this release). Funding for the program primarily is from grants and private sources.

The Washington State Legislature established legislative support for the program in 2009 with the passage of HB 1986 with the goal of increasing the number of low-income students, diverse and first-generation college students in higher education.

Several years ago, Central Washington University opened Compass 2 Campus, encouraging their local youth to consider college in their futures, as well.  CWU partnered with Western to adopt the program. 

C2C has won several prominent awards. Previous C2C Executive Director and Founder Cyndie Shepard was nationally recognized with a Daily Point of Light Award, which honors individuals and groups creating meaningful change in communities across America. The award was founded by former President George H. W. Bush during his presidency to engage individuals, families, businesses and groups to solve community problems through voluntary service.

Several scholarships– including from Cyndie Shepard and her husband Bruce Shepard, former Western president – have been established to support public school students mentored in the program who go on to attend Western.

For more information, please visit the Compass 2 Campus Web site.

Compass 2 Campus is a partnership among Western and four community and technical colleges:

  • Whatcom Community College
  • Bellingham Technical College
  • Northwest Indian College
  • Skagit Valley College

The elementary, middle and high schools participating in the program are:

  • Alderwood Elementary, Shuksan Middle and Squalicum High in Bellingham
  • Blaine Elementary, Blaine Middle and Blaine High
  • Central Elementary, Vista Middle and Ferndale High in Ferndale
  • Fisher Elementary,  Lynden Middle and Lynden High in Lynden
  • Harmony Elementary and Mount Baker Junior High in Mount Baker
  • Irene Reither Elementary, Meridian Middle and Meridian High in Meridian
  • Everson, Nooksack and Sumas Elementary schools, Nooksack Valley Middle and Nooksack Valley High in the Nooksack School District
  • Lummi Nation School
  • Mary Purcell Elementary, Cascade Middle and Sedro-Woolley High in Sedro-Woolley
  • Centennial Elementary, La Venture Middle and Mount Vernon High in Mount Vernon
  • Lucille Umbarger and Burlington-Edison High in Burlington
Wednesday, October 10, 2018 - 2:20pm

Western Ranked Among Nation’s 25 Best Green Colleges

Western Washington University was recently ranked 15th in the “25 Best Green Colleges in The United States” list by Collegeconsensus.com, and was the top-ranked institution in the Pacific Northwest.

The Environmental Protection Agency recognizes those ranked on the list as higher education institutions using the largest amount of green power. Ranked institutions also share values such as environmental stewardship, respect for human impact on the planet and reputation for sustainability.

Western students were recognized as being the primary motivation for the university’s use of renewable energy, having successfully organized a grassroots campaign in 2004 to power the institution wholly through renewable energy sources through its annual Green Energy Fee.

The complete rankings are available at https://www.collegeconsensus.com/rankings/best-green-universities/. For more information, contact Western’s Office of University Communications and Marketing at (360) 650-3350.

Friday, October 5, 2018 - 9:22am
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