With students flooding in and out of classes every day, and researchers cycling in for various projects and seminars, we’re accustomed to seeing unfamiliar faces around the School of Environmental and Forest Sciences (SEFS). But thanks to a handful of hires in the past month, a few of those new faces will soon be regular fixtures in our halls and memories!
One of the newest additions is Wendy Star, who started as SEFS administrator on Monday, November 25. While Star is new to SEFS, she’s been connected to the University of Washington for much of her life, from when she studied business at UW as an undergrad, to her most recent position as administrator for the Department of Sociology.
There’s so much more to her story, of course, and we sat down with Star at the end of her second week to learn a little more and help introduce her to the SEFS community.
Star was born in Wisconsin, but her family moved to Seattle when she was still a baby. Her grandparents had a home in Ballard, and Star grew up playing around the Hiram M. Chittenden Locks, and spending hours exploring the Washington Park Arboretum. “We have lots of pictures of this skinny little kid running around outside,” she says.
These days, though, the tables have turned, and now Star’s shelves and walls are filled with photos of her two young granddaughters. Both of her daughters live in Seattle and work for UW: Jennifer as the curriculum coordinator for the university, and JoAnn as a nurse in labor and delivery at the UW Medical Center. They each have a daughter, and Star says her free time generally revolves around what her granddaughters want to do.
They both started Girl Scouts this year, and Star says she especially loves taking them out on local adventures. “When the weather is nice, we’ll go out in nature and explore,” she says. “One of our favorite things to do is take trips over to Sequim and visit the Olympic Game Farm. You drive through in your car, and you get to see all these animals, buffalo and elk and llamas and yaks, and they come right up to you.”
Next to the grandkids, one of the easiest ways to get Star gushing is to ask her about what she’s reading. Most mornings, she carpools to campus from Everett with her daughter Jennifer, and then she takes the bus home. That gives her plenty of time to devour all sorts of nonfiction.
She recently finished Last Child in the Woods, which addresses some of the nature deficit many kids are experiencing today, when it’s harder to find open spaces to play outdoors. She doesn’t necessarily recommend that one, but she loved the book before it, The Girl With No Name, by Marina Chapman.
It’s about a 6-year-old girl who grew up in Colombia and was kidnapped. Her abductors ended up leaving her alone into the jungle, where she miraculously survived, in part through the company and protection of monkeys. She’s now grown and has her own daughters, who helped her tell her incredible story. “I couldn’t put it down,” says Star. “It was so fascinating.”
Part of the appeal of the administrator position for Star was the connection to her childhood, and those early days trekking through the Arboretum. She grew up loving these parks and facilities, and now she gets to work on behalf on them.
It’s a daunting learning curve, she says, but her first two weeks have been fun, and she’s felt very welcome and at ease. As she familiarizes herself with all the new people and programs in the SEFS community, the hardest part actually might be reminding herself she can’t learn everything overnight—and that all the new science and professors and students are precisely what make the job so exciting. “I’m so tickled to be a part of it!”
You can find Star in Anderson 107D, so feel free to stop by or shoot her an email to introduce yourself!
Photo © SEFS.