While I was biking into work this past Monday, the air was incredibly cool and crisp, and the sky was actually somewhat blue for a change. I remember thinking, “What a perfect way to start another work week in January.” Then, as I walked into Anderson Hall I heard the sound of someone playing piano up in the Forest Club Room. Those notes reinforced my optimistic feeling for the week and made me think of our wonderful community at SEFS—and, in many ways, how much of it revolves around that room.
When Agnes Anderson donated the financial support to build Anderson Hall in the early 1920s, she stipulated that the large room on the second floor was to be known as the Forest Club Room, and that it would forever be dedicated to students within our School. Her intent was to create a reading room and a common space where students could gather, discuss, study, invent, reflect, forecast and celebrate. The room also happens to be visually impressive, as it has a vaulted gabled ceiling with chandelier lights, a balcony, a large fireplace that we use at annual events, and tall multi-paneled windows that create a cozy, naturally lit atmosphere. It has picked up a few other more eclectic features over the years—such as the elk head mounted on the balcony railing—yet is has remained a warm and inviting space.
For us, as well, it means so much more. Since coming to the University of Washington in 2012, I have emphasized the importance of community within the School, and the Forest Club Room plays a key role in uniting us as friends and colleagues. Sure, the couches are a bit tattered and the tables wobbly—and the carpet seems to attract a remarkable assortment of crumbs—but the room represents so much that is great about our programs, our history, our integrity, our enthusiasm and dedication to our science. It’s the staging ground for scores of meetings and social events, and a catalyst for interdisciplinary activities. Just in the past few months, the room has hosted receptions after SEFS graduate seminars; it was the site of the SEFS Holiday party, a Pecha Kucha night with the International Forestry Students’ Association, and a couple Dead Elk parties that echoed laughter through Anderson Hall late into the evening. In the next few months, the room will be home to a Natural Resources Career Fair, the Graduate Student Symposium and prospective graduate student weekend, a Capstone Poster Session to showcase undergraduate research, thesis and dissertation defenses, and so many other solo and group work sessions. The secret is out, too, as just last year the UW Daily ranked the room as one of the best study spots on campus.
Even as we plan for Anderson Hall to get a major refurbishment in the next several years, we will make sure the Forest Club Room remains almost exactly as it is today, just with updated lighting, insulation and windows. After all, the room is like so much of what we offer in our School—unpretentious, welcoming and enriching. On chilly and rainy winter days, especially, it is both a place of retreat and the platform for an advance. It is part of the very fabric that makes us such a special and cohesive program. So, as the piano softly plays in the Forest Club Room, I welcome you as students, colleagues, alumni and friends to come and enjoy this warm and wonderful space during the cold, dark months of winter—and any other time you find yourself in these halls.
School of Environmental and Forest Sciences