In the Media

Thursday, January 26, 2023 - The Province (B.C.)

The Salish Sea is truly a wonder. On a daily basis, we see orcas, salmon, eagles and many other species travel up and down its coasts, taking advantage of the remaining healthy habitats for feeding and refuge. None of them take notice of the international boundary running through the middle of the sea and the different governments managing these waters. Just as these species travel freely across the border, so does the water and any pollutants they may be carrying.

(op-ed co-written by Ginny Broadhurst, director of WWU's Salish Sean Institute; click the link at right to read the entire article)

Thursday, January 26, 2023 - The Conversation

Fossilized bones help tell the story of what human beings and our predecessors were doing hundreds of thousands of years ago. But how can you learn about important parts of our ancestors’ life cycle – like pregnancy or gestation – that leave no obvious trace in the fossil record?

The large brains, relative to overall body size, that are a defining characteristic of our species make pregnancy and gestation particularly interesting to paleoanthropologists like meHomo sapiens’ big skulls contribute to our difficult labor and delivery. But the big brains inside are what let our species really take off.

My colleagues and I especially wanted to know how fast our ancestors’ brains grew before birth. Was it comparable to fetal brain growth today? Investigating when prenatal growth and pregnancy became humanlike can help reveal when and how our ancestors’ brains became more like ours than like our ape relatives’.

(click the link at right to read the entire article in The Conversation written by WWU's Tesla Monson)

Wednesday, January 25, 2023 - Whatcom Talk

People associate libraries with books, of course, but they are increasingly known for much more than just what lines their shelves. Take a peek inside Western Washington University Libraries Special Collections and learn how and why staff and faculty help make the unusual available to the public.

Sylvia Tag recently gave me a tour of the library. A librarian and faculty member, she takes on multiple roles at Western Libraries; one is to curate the Children’s Literature Interdisciplinary Collection, housed on the library’s fourth floor. She and I first stop by the circulating collection where historic photos ring the space, showing the campus’ former on-site school.

Sylvia explains that the WWU collection supports research and scholarship. “Distinct from a public library or school library, our collection contains a wide range of publications that reflect the breadth, depth, controversy, continuing evolution, and complexity of literature written for children and young adults.”

Wednesday, January 25, 2023 - Wall Street Journal

Last month a professor at Weber State University in Utah asked a new artificial-intelligence chatbot to write a tweet in his voice.

Within a few minutes the application, called ChatGPT, had spit out a dozen messages that captured Alex Lawrence’s tone and personality. His first reaction: “Holy Cow!” His second: “This is the greatest cheating tool ever invented.”

Tuesday, January 24, 2023 - Cascadia Daily News

Rep. Rick Larsen secured an additional $450,000 in federal funding for Western Washington University to use for its planned Coast Salish-style Longhouse. University President Sabah Randhawa said they plan to use the funding to build a kitchen in the House of Healing. 

"The kitchen for the longhouse both will provide the opportunity for tribes to share culture, but also to practice what's called food sovereignty — that is the ability to create those recipes and eat those foods that have historically been a staple of the local, Indigenous people's diets," Larsen said.

<click the link at right to read the full article>

Thursday, January 19, 2023 - Axios Seattle

Some government agencies and universities in Washington state continue to hold the remains of Indigenous people, despite a 1990 law that requires them to work to return those remains to tribes.

By the numbers: According to ProPublica's database, 10 institutions in Washington state still had the remains of Indigenous people in their possession as of December.

  • Of those, some have made the vast majority available to tribes for repatriation. For instance, the University of Washington had only one Indigenous person's remains, after making the remains of 281 others available for return to tribes, according to ProPublica's data. UW didn't provide details about why that last set of remains was still in its collection.

Meanwhile, Western Washington University had returned only 3 sets of Indigenous remains, while 89 remained in its collection, per the database.

Tuesday, January 17, 2023 - Bellingham Herald

Western Washington University has a new chief of police, as Katryne Potts was sworn in this week, WWU said in its email newsletter, Western Today. Potts is a 22-year veteran of law enforcement, WWU said. She takes over from former Bellingham Police Department Chief Cliff Cook, who was the campus interim chief during a national search after former WWU Chief Darin Rasmussen was named WWU’s assistant vice president for risk, ethics, safety and resilience.

Thursday, January 12, 2023 - Inside Higher Ed

Remind Students to Think.

Johann N. Neem, professor of history, Western Washington University

With ChatGPT, a student can turn in a passable assignment without reading a book, writing a word or having a thought. But reading and writing are essential to learning. They are also capacities we expect of college graduates.

ChatGPT cannot replace thinking. Students who turn in assignments using ChatGPT have not done the hard work of taking inchoate fragments and, through the cognitively complex process of finding words, crafting thoughts of their own.

With an hour or so of work, a student could turn an AI-generated draft into a pretty good paper and receive credit for an assignment they did not complete. But I worry more that students will not read closely what I assign. I fear that they will not be inspired, or challenged, by the material. If the humanities grew out of the study—and love of—words, what happens when words don’t matter to our students?

Professors should find new ways to help students learn to read and write well and to help them make the connection between doing so and their own growth. I anticipate offering more opportunities for students to write in class. In-class writing should not just be additive; hopefully, my classes will in time look and feel different as students learn to approach writing as a practice of learning as well as a demonstration of it.

Wednesday, January 11, 2023 - Newsweek

I distinctly remember the day my younger brother, Wayne, first came home from the hospital. I was 4 years old and sitting on my front steps when my mom laid that little baby in my arms, and I thought: He's mine. Wayne and I were close our whole lives. I could talk to him about anything.

I was there with Wayne when he passed away from complications of a severe spinal cord injury in September, 2021. The assisted living facility where he lived only allowed one person to be there at a time, due to the pandemic. In the middle of the night, while I sat with my brother, there was this terrible silence and I knew he had stopped breathing. When the spirit leaves the body, it is so profoundly silent. I called Wayne's husband, Larry, and we called the rest of the family.

Wayne and I had talked about what he wanted to happen to his body years previously. I'm a volunteer at the Palliative Care Institute at Western Washington University, which was how I first heard about a cutting-edge body disposition alternative to cremation or traditional burial. Katrina Spade, founder of Recompose, came to the Institute to give a presentation on her company, which composts bodies and turns them into soil.

Tuesday, January 10, 2023 - Cascadia Daily News

Lack of access has stymied Western Washington University students from conducting research projects or taking field trips to the park. 

“Access to the forest supports the commitment to hands-on experiential learning via course-based field trips, group projects, and faculty-guided individual graduate and undergraduate research opportunities,” said Teena Gabrielson, dean of the university’s College of the Environment.

She said the biodiversity of the forest and alpine wetlands offer opportunities for invaluable research, including comparative studies of the climate impact of old-growth and regenerated logged trees.